Sample Sociology Coursework Paper on Social Perspective of White Collar Crime

Social Perspective of White Collar Crime


It can be argued that the current society revolves its corporate status around money. Consequently, honesty in the global business environment has steadily deteriorated, which has led to ‘an increase in White Crime.’ According to Zagaris (2015), due to the frequency of crimes, lack of violence during criminality and limited impact on the majority of the society, there are individuals who dismiss White Collar Crime as a criminal offense. The first ever case that was considered as a White Collar crime was recorded in the mid-1920s. As indicated by Salinger (2015), such cases were considered as significant social evils considering the negative impacts they had on the society. Nevertheless, Simpson (2009) indicates that money and greed have overpowered the civilian view on honesty, as well as hard work. The premise presented by Salinger (2015) indicates that the social outlook on what is considered White Crime is evolving to precarious positions, a factor that is of significant concern to criminologists, psychologists, as well as Public Administrators.


Concepts of White-Collar Crime and Corporate Crime

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, White Collar crimes are defined as the unlawful actions that are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust that are not dependent upon the application or threat of force or violence (Salinger, 2015). Nevertheless, in understanding the social and not criminal perception of White Collar crime, it is vital to analyze its origin. Edwin H. Sutherland first coined the term ‘White Collar’ crime in the 1940s (Payne, 2013). Sutherland, in his presentation, sought to dismiss the notion that crime was a phenomenon only existing in the lower classes of society. Additionally, some crimes were committed at organizational levels by characters societies perceived to be highly ethical and special. Payne (2013) indicates that Sutherland defined White Collar crime as illegalities committed by the elite at an organization level through wit and the society’s lack of understanding of the corporate framework. Sutherland held the belief that some crimes could be explained on an individual level indicating a need for research at an organization level. His premise indicated that flaw of character was not the cause but the result of a situation, as well as the relationship within an organization that fashions an environment that encourages White Collar crimes. When analyzing the model provided by Sutherland using a sociological approach, White Crime is best analyzed and described by the Conflict theory in that provides to an explanation of the society relates to deviant associations over conventional ones.

Conflict Theory

Friedrichs (2010) indicates that the Social Conflict theory is the best possible philosophical model that can be used to explain White Collar crimes. The model is a Marxist-based social concept, which argues that individuals, as well as groups within the society, interact on the foundation of conflict other than concern (Gottschalk, 2017). The model indicates that various forms of conflicts or social classes incline and tend to approve evils against each other. White Collar crimes are often committed by the privileged and in high positions. Their criminal actions affect the lower classes of the societies, for instance average employees; nevertheless, the offences are worst felt by the wealthy investors. Subsequent to the limited negative effect of the middle class, the White Collar crimes are not considered as crimes. According to Gottschalk (2017), the analysis of the Enron Scandal indicated that though there was a high number of employees who were affected by the collapse, the capital losses were felt by the high-end investors.

Figure 1: Table indicating White Collar Criminal Activity within the U.S. between 2002 and 2015

Forgery/CounterfeitingNumber of ArrestsPercent Change
FraudNumber of ArrestsPercent Change
EmbezzlementNumber of ArrestsPercent Change


Table 1 provides data that is indicative of the reducing number of arrests made against White Collar crimes. Zagaris (2015) indicates since the turn of the century White Collar crimes have been on the increase. According to Andersen and Taylor (2012), the numbers presented in figure 1 numbers are an indication of a society that is contented or not paying attention to White Collar crimes as it does not affect them extensively

Correlative Features of Corporate Crime

White Collar crime or corporate crimes cover a wide range of offenses, including those committed against an organization, consumers, as well as the society in general. These crimes are often non-violent and are committed to gain substantial financial expansion, which can be executed by an individual or a company. This form of crime incurs costs on individuals, the society, the environment, as well as the economy, which can cause major disadvantages and even psychological injury as well as death.

Enron Saga

    In 1986, Enron was formed after a merger between Kenneth Lay and Houston Natural Gas. At this time, little was known that due to legislation deregulating the sale of natural gas would make Enron the largest seller of natural gas in North America by 1992. As indicated by Ferguson (2010) by the end of the 1990s, Enron capitalized on their position and made an excess $60 Billion dollars in sales within half a decade .According to Gottschalk (2017) was viewed as the most innovative large company in America at the time. Nevertheless, by December 2, 2001, the company filed for bankruptcy a factor that was unprecedented based on the fact that the company had presented their facial documents that indicated positive financial health. Additionally, the stock prices then were high at the time a good sign to investors. After investigation, it was found out that the top executives had sold their stocks before the cash, in turn, making high profits in the process. The losers at the time were the thousands of employees as well as investors a factor that instigated the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the executives in order to unearth the depth of the scandal. As indicated by Ferguson (2010), the Enron saga remains the most recognized form of White-Collar crime in the 21st century. The social outlook when the Enron sage were indicative of a society that was outraged by such criminal acts. It was these social outcries that led to the U.S. Department of Justice to crack down on the executives who were well served with deserving justice. However, after the Enron saga, there has been an increase in the different crimes that are considered as White Collar crime yet the society seems to be content with the outcome.

Worldcom accounting scandal

The Worldcom accounting scandal was a financial case that involved the MCI Worldcom telecommunications company. Canadian Entrepreneur and MCI Worldcom’s Chief Operations Officer (CEO) Bernard Ebbers earned a large amount of capital in addition to a vast amount of company stock after his company merged with Sprint Telecommunications Company. However, the merger resulted in the disbursement of stocks and assets resulting in Bernard Ebbers remaining a primary shareholder and CEO. Consequent to the decline of the of the MCI Worldcom stock in reference to the commercial market, Ebbers begun to lose a vast amount of capital. He later went ahead to request for a loan of $400 million in order to provide him with the financial relief necessary to upkeep his peripheral expenses and investments; the executive board agreed to provide. The loan provided was set to stop Ebbers for selling his entire shares avoiding a hostile takeover. Subsequent to the release of the loan to the Chief Operations Officer (CEO), the executive board witnessed the steady insolubility of the company to the point of filing for bankruptcy. The investigation into the scandal it was discovered that in lieu of informing the investors of the actual status of the company, the executives purposefully misrepresented the company’s earnings and spending indicating value in upwards of $11 billion that the company did not have.

Adelphia collapse

As indicated earlier Corporate and White-Collar crime is often nonviolent illegalities that are committed with the intent of substantial financial gain. In a society that is fixated on money, actions such as forgery, counterfeiting, fraud, or embezzlement are an affirmation of cultural norms and values. To the current societies, the individuals who commit White-Collar crimes are in pursuit of similar goals as anyone else. Additionally, as indicated by Salinger (2015), when an individual is punished for deviant acts, the society gets to understand what is acceptable and what is not. For example, sentencing a thief to prison affirms the culturally held values that stealing is forbidden. However, White Collar crimes are not clear-cut and as indicated in a number of cases, lack of substantial evidence has led to a number of accusers to have either reduced sentences or no penalties presented by the courts. Therefore, a lack of conviction tends to show the society that White Crimes are acceptable as they are not punishable. Moreover, due to the conflict theory presented it is clear that the majority of the society (middle and lower) class would deviance considering the remain unaffected themselves.


In 1940, Edwin H. Sutherland came up with the term “white collar crime”. He indicated that situations, as well as relationships within society or organizations, created environs that endorseWhite Collar crime. Sutherland additionally held that crimes could not be analyzed at the individual level. Therefore, there is a need for research at the organizational level. The article offers an indicative concept of how the society has become acceptable to the society through the conflict theory. The cases of Enron saga, Adelphia collapse, and Worldcom accounting scandal have been used to authenticate the Social perspectives offered in the paper.


Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2012). Sociology: the essentials. Nelson Education.

Ferguson, J. E. (2010). White-collar crime. New York: Chelsea House.,+M.+L.,+%26+Taylor,+H.+F.+(2012).+Sociology:+the+essentials&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi-z_OXkarXAhXHWhQKHQJlC58Q6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=Andersen%2C%20M.%20L.%2C%20%26%20Taylor%2C%20H.%20F.%20(2012).%20Sociology%3A%20the%20essentials&f=false

Friedrichs, D. O. (2010). Trusted criminals: White collar crime in contemporary society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Gottschalk, P. (2017). Understanding white-collar crime: A convenience perspective. Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press, 2017.

Payne, B. K. (2013). White-collar crime: The essentials. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.,+B.+K.+(2013).+White-collar+crime:+The+essentials&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj37ODgkarXAhXLORQKHRYrAo0Q6AEIJjAA

Salinger, L. M. (2015). Encyclopedia of white-collar & corporate crime. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.,+L.+M.+(2015).+Encyclopedia+of+white-collar+%26+corporate+crime.&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWyrr1karXAhWJ7BQKHSgHCp4Q6AEILTAB

Simpson, S. (2009). White Collar Crime: An Opportunity Perspective. Criminology and Justice Studies. Taylor & Francis.,+S.+(2009).+White+Collar+Crime:+An+Opportunity+Perspective.+Criminology+and+Justice+Studies.&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjArZ2NkqrXAhUIvxQKHQzOCZIQ6AEIJjAA            

Zagaris, B. (2015). International white collar crime: cases and materials. Cambridge University Press.,+B.+(2015).+International+white+collar+crime:+cases+and+materials.&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjNirmjkqrXAhUL1RQKHZVhDZcQ6AEIKjAB