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How Does Corporate Crime Challenge Conventional Definitions of Crime?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1992 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Corporate crimes are categorised as a beneficiary conflict of interest rather than harmful. Erin Sheley (2018) approaches the types of corporate crime as ‘over inclusive and under inclusive’. An ‘’employee engaging in sexual violence, and intending to benefit the corporation lets the corporation off the hook for liability for sexual violence’’ according to Erin Sheley (2018). I will be examining corporate crime in Canada and US. After, how corporate crime should not be handled by deterrence but by increasing social responsiveness and whistle-blowers. Also, exploring theorists like Baucus and Dworking, with involvement of some famous cases of Enron, WorldCom and Bernad Madoff known as ponzi scheme. Lastly, cyber-crime fraud and bribery themes will be explored by numerous case studies.

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Corporate crime is becoming ‘’less criminal and more lucrative in Canada’’ according to Patricia Adams (2017) and the main one is corruption crimes. The method of approach to be applied by the federal government is to introduce deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) under which corporations agree to pay fines and promise to fix their harm. This method is also widespread in the U.S. under the Obama administration, whose Department of Justice had selected it as a preferred method of dealing with corporate crime. The deferred prosecution agreements allows the government to avoid costly trials and instead make the companies pay fines for the harm caused and the government departments get to keep the money, and track other illegal action takers. This method helps the government to punish companies effectively, but it also indicates how they should focus on punishing the individuals criminally at fault, instead of the whole corporation. On the other hand, the government is aiming to decriminalize corporate crime by exchanging criminal charges for cash and compliance. (Patricia Adams, 2017)

Furthermore, Milton Friedman’s theory on corporate crime about how crime can still occur even where an organisation is achieving its targeted goals, individually or in groups indicates how, it’s difficult to decide whether to punish the members or the whole corporation. This creates a connection to his theory, on how corporate crime should not be handled by deterrence through negative sanctions or by training in organisation ethics but by increasing social responsiveness. As the spread of social responsiveness would enable people to care for the environment and their organisations code of practice and obey by the policies and legislations. In addition, the well-known theory of Merton about whistle-blowers should be increased as it would help the members of the organisation to easily report any criminal issues in the organisation. (H.G. van de Bunt.,1994: 11-20)

Moreover, a written whistle-blower policy would protect the organisation from civil and criminal lawsuits. Therefore, actively encouraging whistleblowing from all employees in their organisations. Also, all organisations should be independently investigated, and whistle-blowers should be given the option to remain anonymous. (Dominic Peltier-Rivest., 2018: 784-794)

Baucus and Dworkin’s theory on corporate crime in 1991, defines it as ‘’trust violators’’ and refers to crimes committed either by a corporation, i.e. a business entity having individuals or groups acting on behalf of a corporation. There is also a connection with this theory and the Ponzi scheme and Enron, WorldCom and Bernad Madoff are the types of some famous cases of the Ponzi scheme involved in corporate crime. The case on Bernad Madoff is the main one and it’s about an individual who misrepresented himself and his company to commit corporate crime known as Ponzi scheme. Lastly, Ponzi scheme is a type of corporate crime that traps victims to investment funds and then pays those victims a premium or interest from the money that is paid by successive investors. (Normah Omar., 2016: 257-272)

Moreover, the numerous cases involved in corporate crime include serious cyber-crime fraud cases that occurred in the UK and the first reported conviction in the UK is based on a phishing scam that involved David Levi, who was convicted of fraud at Preston Crown Court in 2005. Levi had obtained £200,000 by auction account details and bank details and was sentenced to a term of three years’ imprisonment for fraud. After, Levi was sentenced for 12 months for perverting the course of justice for targeting customers and persuading them to disclose their bank account details. This case was than reported to Daily Telegraph and Levi and his gang sent emails purporting to come from the auction site and advertised high-value items for sale and took the proceeds of such sales. (Jonathan Fisher QC., 2008: 198)

The other case is a type of bribery and it’s a method of making a payment or giving a reward to a person in office or a position of power to induce them to act in a corrupt manner for the benefit of the person making the payment or giving the reward. The solution created for bribery in the corporate sector, is the BA method and the effectiveness of the BA is likely to be enhanced by its extraterritorial reach such that UK companies committing bribery overseas would face prosecution back in the UK. Moreover, there seems to be two categories of bribery which is public and private companies and there seems to be a differentiating approach between the two in the old laws in the UK. Furthermore, Stuart Green argues that public and private are distinguished on grounds that those who hold public office have duties that are qualitatively different from those held by employees of private firms. (Jonathan Mukwiri., 2015: 16-27)

Additionally, in a 2013 study of corporate crime by Steffensmeier, Schwartz and Roche, gender differences in terms of the magnitude of damages and character involvement were examined by the gendered crime framework. This study had taken place on 7 geographic regions, Canada, China, the European Union, Oceania, Middle East, the UK and the USA. The study was based on 5,441 reported fraud cases by Certified Fraud Examiners over a 10-year period time from 93 nations, using ordinal logistic regression methods to test the likelihood of women committing corporate crimes when controlling age, position, compensation levels and education. The results highlighted that women are three times as likely than men to engage in crimes of asset misappropriation and the most prevalent corporate crimes. It involved 87% of all frauds internationally and awaiting investigations of specific geographic regions, Canada (OR3 = 3.26), China (OR3 = 4.8), the European Union (OR3 = 2.18), Middle East (OR3 = 3.83), Oceania (OR3 = 4.11), UK (OR3 = 8.05) and the USA (OR3 = 2.2). The outcome provided the women with the opportunity to get a place professional careers, but also to engage in corporate crime and the Uniform Crime Report data indicated a narrowing gap of genders offending in financially motivated crimes. (Theresa Hilliard., 2018: 811-837)

On the other hand, corporate crime is seen to be considered as a dysfunction of value networks and how they are seen as neutral factors in the way corporate crimes are committed. Clinard and Yeager 1980, believes that economic pressures and other sector-based and institutional factors is likely to have a key role in the corporate environment that attracts unethical and illegal practices. According to Yeager 1986, it is also thought that organizations mirror the basic elements of their environments and the perspective adopted by DiMaggio and Powell 1991, in their institutional theory is based on the same principles and viewpoints. (Michel Dion., 2009: 436-445)

Finally, several authors like Vaughan emphasizes that in order to clearly understand corporate crime, there are three levels to be considered and those are (macro-meso-micro). This theoretical framework distinguishes between three categories motivation, opportunity and controlling. The other authors that that supports this theoretical framework include Coleman, Shover, Bryant, Kramer and Michalowski. The macro level is when motivation and the culture of the organisation is examined; on the meso level, economic pressure on corporations to set ambitious targets is measured, on the micro level, individual managers with neutralizations to break rules to attain these goals are challenged. (Br J Criminol., 2012: 1033-1050)

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To conclude, the findings suggest that corporate crime can be due to ambition and organisation competitions, therefore deterrence is considered not to be an appropriate method. The employees should instead be motivated through social responsiveness and whistle-blowing policy as this would enable the whole corporation to ensure their organisations operate ethically and in accordance to the laws and regulation procedures. 


Reference List


Journal article:

  • Br J Criminol. (2012) The oven Builders of the Holocaust. 52(6) pp. 1033-1050.
  • Dominic Peltier-Rivest. (2018) The battle against fraud: do reporting mechanisms work?. 25(3) pp. 784–794.
  • H.G. van de Bunt. (1994) Corporate crime. 2(1) pp. 11-20.
  • Jonathan Fisher QC. (2008) The UK’s faster cheque payment project: a bonanza for cyber-crime fraudsters. 23(4) pp. 198.
  • Jonathan Mukwiri. (2015) British law on corporate bribery. 22(1) pp. 16-27.
  • Michel Dion. (2009) Corporate crime and the dysfunction of value networks. 16(4) pp. 436-445.
  • Normah Omar. (2016) Corporate crimes in Malaysia: a profile analysis. 23(2) pp. 257–272.
  • Theresa Hilliard. (2018) The gendering of fraud: an international investigation. 25(3) pp. 811-837.



  • Gobert, J. J. & Punch, M. (2014) Rethinking corporate crime. Cambridge: CUP: Originally published; London: Butterworths, 2003.
  • Said, R. (2014) Ethics, governance and corporate crime: challenges and consequences. (1st edn.) s.l.: Bingley, England: Emerald.
  • Slapper, G. & Tombs, S. (1999) Mapping and Measuring the Extent of Corporate Crime in Corporate crime. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Longman.
  • Tombs, S. & Whyte, D. (2015) The corporate criminal: why corporations must be abolished. London: Routledge.


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