The term “white-collar crime” was allegedly introduced in 1939 and has been associated with many different forms of fraud practices done by government and business professionals. White-collar crimes are non-violent crimes, but those charged will need the expertise of a white-collar crime lawyer.
What are the White-Collar Crimes?
White-collar crime is, in nature, a non-violent crime. It refers to offenses that generate financial gain to the offender through deception.
Government employees and business professionals often commit White-color crimes. Due to their corporate positions, they can access vast amounts of other people’s or their clients’ money.
White-collar crimes can ruin companies or cost investors to lose billions of dollars. They can also wipe out the life savings of families.
With the advances in technology, white-collar crimes are more complex than ever. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is tasked to track down white-collar crime offenders before they can start with their schemes.
White-collar crimes may also involve international business covered by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA also applies to money laundering, bribery, and even foreign companies operating within the US and those listed on the U.S. Stock Exchange.
Types of White-Collar Crimes
White-collar crimes are typically fraudulent scams.
• Money Laundering. This is done by illegally taking money through a series of transactions, making it appear that the money was legitimately gained. An example can be drug money transferred to a business to make it look that the money is the business’s income and not from the sale of drugs.
• Fraud. This involves deceiving someone for monetary gain. Fraud usually focuses on financial transactions in a corporate setting. An example of this crime is the Ponzi Scheme. The fraudulent person entices other people to invest money with the promise of a high return of investment within a short period.
In the beginning, the investors will receive the promised ROI and, thus, will entice more investors. The money distributed as ROIs comes from the funds of new investors. The system eventually collapses when the original promoter disappears with all the money or when no new investors come in.
The Pyramid Scheme works in the same manner as the Ponzi Scheme, except that this is often a legitimate business such as in Network Marketing.
• Bank Fraud. This is one of the most common white-collar crimes against a banking institution for financial gain. Defrauding a bank includes using fraudulent checks, mortgage fraud, deposit and use of counterfeit money, commercial loan fraud for economic profit.
• Securities Fraud. This involves bonds, securities, and stocks. This type of white-collar crime is also called insider trading, where someone who has confidential information about the investments of the company shares this or trades information. Insider trading is an example of this crime.
• Bankruptcy Fraud. This involves the misrepresentation of a business or corporation to creditors about their debts and assets to avoid paying creditors or for creditors to cease their assets.
• Tax Evasion. This is when a person avoids paying the right taxes to the IRS.
• Bribery. This is the act of offering property or money to a person to influence his actions.
• Embezzlement. This is the act of improperly taking money or property that has been legally entrusted to a person for their personal gain. This happens when, for example, the sales of a store are deposited to the personal account of the employee or manager.
• Misrepresentation. This is a type of securities fraud wherein a person intentionally misrepresents or misstates confidential information about the company’s finances and investments to lure investors. Investors then make financial and business decisions based on false information.
Are White-Collar Crimes Common?
The FBI says there is about $300 billion worth of white-collar crimes each year with tax evasion, money laundering, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, and fraud topping the list.
Some white-collar crimes are small in scale, such as not disclosing certain assets in a bankruptcy proceeding. Others are large in size, such as the wide-scale misappropriation and collection of investors’ money.
Penalties for White-Collar Crimes
The penalties for white-collar crimes depend on the degree or nature of the offense. It also depends on whether it was against state or federal laws. Most white-collar crime penalties, however, are severe because most of them are against federal laws.
The penalties for white-collar crimes include:
• Restitution and fines
• Lengthy probation terms
• Community Service
• Home detention
• Forfeiture of any financial gains and profits derived from the crime
• Potential forfeiture of assets and properties
• Huge monetary fines
• Potential forfeiture of some fundamental civil rights
• A civil suit for crimes involving damage to properties and injuries
If the defendant cooperates and assists the authorities in investigating the crime, some state and federal crimes are met with lower penalties.
Prosecution of White-Collar Crimes
Most white-collar crimes are prosecuted and investigated by federal authorities because they often involve mail fraud and wire fraud, which cross state lines. Conviction rates on the federal level are typically high because the Office of US The District Attorney has enormous resources to prosecute white-collar crimes strongly.
What Does a White-Collar Crime Lawyer do?
The investigation for a white-collar crime can take months or even years before the defendant is arrested. A skilled lawyer is required for these cases because of the complexities of the offenses.
White-collar is a specific area of law specialization. This area of practice involves a lot of research, factual development, drafting, and argument. The day-to-day practice of this area of law is like civil litigation, except that it entails more client contact.
Since most white-collar crimes are investigated and prosecuted by federal authorities (white-collar/FCPA lawyers), the defense lawyer must always appear in court against the government.
• Government white- collar/FCPA attorney
• Ensures corporate protocols and policies are compliant with policies and regulations defined by the government and their regulatory agencies.
• Conducts internal investigations that include drafting and implementing investigation protocols and policies.
• Manages resource issues including compliance resources and government’s regulatory expectations.
• Creates an ombuds program to deal with the impartial and confidential assistance for communication, complaint resolution, and problem-solving.
• Responds to the complaints to the whistleblower of the white-collar crime.
• Defense White-Collar Crime Attorney
• Protects the legal rights of the defendant during a trial.
• Negotiate to have charges against the defendant dismissed or dropped.
• Negotiate for a possible diversion program (a rehabilitation program for the criminal offender aimed to hide a criminal record or avoid conviction)
• Negotiate for reduced charges.
• Negotiate for probation instead of jail time.
White-collar crime lawyers are part of a small community where they all know each other.
Common White-Collar Crime Defenses
White-collar defense lawyers commonly use these two defenses to get their clients off the hook:
• Absence of intent. This is one of the primary defenses white-collar crime lawyers use to defend their clients. This means that the defendant did not intentionally commit the white-collar crime for financial and personal gain.
• Entrapment. This occurs when the defendant did not intend to commit the white-collar crime but was forced by law enforcement officials to do the criminal activity.
The prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit the crime. The defendant’s actual intent can be challenging to prove; thus, most prosecutors need to prove the state of mind of the defendant while presenting complicated financial information to the jury or judge and to understand what the prosecutor tries to prove.
On the other hand, white-collar criminal defense lawyers can use many strategies to defend their clients charged with a white-collar crime. All defenses available to criminal defendants are also available to white-collar crime defendants, including insanity, and many more.
How to become a White-Collar Crime Lawyer
Any criminal defense lawyer who understands the mechanics of white-collar crimes can be a good white-collar crime lawyer.
Litigation of white-collar crimes is often fast-paced. White-collar crime lawyers need to have investigative skills to uncover financial records patterns and track money trails.
A white-collar crime lawyer needs to be extremely curious, willing to dig deep into the facts of the case, and can approach internal investigations critically. More importantly, white-collar crime lawyers need to thoroughly understand the industry’s ins and outs to understand the jobs of the people involved in white-collar crimes.
Many lawyers take this route when they want to specialize in being white-collar criminal defense lawyers.
• Work with the US Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office, the US Securities, and Exchange Commission (SEC), or Assistant United States Attorney’s (AUSA) office. Working in these offices will not only be good for your resume and add value to yourself as a lawyer but more importantly, you will learn how the prosecution side of the white-collar crime litigation works.
• Work as an Assistant Federal Public Defender (AFPD). Being an AFPD will allow you to learn criminal defense in a federal court, mainly so that most white-collar crimes are litigated in federal courts.
• Work for a big law firm because they handle a lot of white-collar crime cases. Working in a big law firm will allow you to meet associates in this area of practice and learn what they exactly do and will give you a lot of training. Additionally, working with a big law firm is an excellent way to ensure you know the right way of practicing law.
• Work on representing clients accused of general crimes. They will help you earn a good reputation in criminal law. To be an excellent white-collar crime lawyer, you need to be a great criminal defense lawyer.
Qualities Every White-Collar Crime Lawyer Should Have
Of course, it is essential to have relevant experience in criminal defense. If you want to be a great white-collar crime lawyer, you need to focus solely on white-collar crimes because these are incredibly complex cases.
To be a great white-collar crime lawyer, you need to have the skills and the character for the job.
• Good Personal Skills
A good white-collar crime lawyer should have excellent data analysis skills, an eye for detail, and should be able to draw up the right legal strategies.
• Ability to Deal with Pressure
The ability to remain confident and calm is essential because white-collar crime defendants are often anxious, and under a lot of pressure.
• Unwavering and Strong-willed
A client charged with a white-collar crime is faced with a life-changing legal problem. Therefore, it is essential that as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, you will never falter and fight tenaciously to get positive results. You should always have in mind the best interest of your client.
A white-collar crime lawyer should be intelligent enough to research thoroughly, know the white-collar crime cases, and is willing to learn new skills. You should be able to work through the difficulties of a white-collar crime trial.
• Resilient and Flexible
No matter how prepared you are with your clients’ defense, there is always a possibility that something will go wrong throughout the trial. Something unexpected is still bound to happen.
A good white-collar crime lawyer is unshakable, resilient, and flexible in dealing with any unexpected circumstances.
• Creative in Finding Solutions
A good white-collar crime lawyer should be creative in drawing-up defense strategies. Defense lawyers should tailor defenses to suit a client’s circumstances instead of using what has worked in the past.
• Good Communication Skills
White-collar crime defendants need to know updates about the case at any point in the trial. You should be able to provide your client with clear answers, and excellent communication skills are essential to do just that.
Cooperating with investigators without first consulting a lawyer is often one of the most common mistakes of white-collar crime defendants. While it is an instinct to answer questions of law enforcement authorities without a lawyer’s guidance, this should not be the case.
Cooperating with investigators is advisable, but it should only be done with a defense lawyer’s presence. A white-collar crime lawyer can negotiate with prosecutors what the defendant can expect in return for his cooperation.
Good white-collar crime lawyers can advise defendants on what actions to pursue and not pursue throughout the criminal process. As a white-collar crime lawyer, on the other hand, you need to clearly view all the sides of the story relevant to the case to get the best results your clients need.