Thinking Allowed – White Collar Crime

The link below will take you to the ‘Thinking Allowed’ archive for Crime and Deviance – if you scroll down you will find three programmes on ‘White Collar Crime’ – The programmes look at the culture, practice and prosecution of white collar crime, with Laurie speaking to leading academic experts and professionals on both sides of the law.

A summary of these three programmes can be found at 

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You should listen to these programmes for yourselves. Some of the key findings are as follows –


Point 1 – Evidence that Corporate Crime is harmful

Criminologist Garry Slapper, argues that Corporate and white collar crime cause considerable harm

Some dreadful deaths happen as a result of corporate negligence – Workers have been buried alive, eloctocuted, fallen into vats of chemicals. However,  breaches of health and safety law are often considered to be ‘not really crime’ (Croal). Those who commit the corporate crimes which maim and kill are hidden from view.

Steph Tombs and Dave White – criticise the lack of moral compulsion. Base line figure – HS executive – about 200 people die each year, 500-600 if you dig into it, max estimate is that up to 50 000 die each year because of a result of exposure to substances at work

At one point the programme interviews an accountant called John who worked for a local authority and who illeagally siphoned £360 000 from client’s accounts over a four year period. This amount barely registers compared to other Frauds, but £360 000 would make the top ten list of amounts stolen in face to face robberies.  

Mark Levi assesses the amount of damage done by fraud – (despite the obvious problems) – a conservative estimate was that it costs the UK economy £11.5 billion – £20 billion if one includes income tax fraud -2005 figures.

Former senior police officers who worked on White Collar Crime – argue that unreported white collar crime represents a ‘serious economic attack on the country’

A city insider argues that systemic fraud is built into the very structure of a market place (think big city stock broking firms.) He argues that many at the top of these companies are fuelled on cocaine and  points out that you only reach these organisations by being dominating – and once you get to the top, you will do what is necessary to stay there – if Fraud is necessary you will commit Fraud.

He argues that city types justify their crimes by talking of ‘being in a war’ with other companies, or being in ‘a battle of survival’ he also argues that they talk in aggressive macho language – when taking over other companies – ‘ we’ve got to bust or rape that company’



Point 2 – White Collar and Corporate Crimes have a very low prosecution and clear up rate

Q – The clear up rate – the proportion of detected fraud is 5% – why so low???

Reason 1 – While the opportunities for fraud have increased exponentially because of the growth of the internet. You don’t have to look far to witness them – the Nigerian Government fraud squads have been stripped and declined over the last ten to fifteen years

Reason 2 – Garry Slapper – argues these agencies are too under resourced to actually regulate let alone prosecute –  there is 1 building inspector for every 3000 building sites

Reason 3 – There is also a culture of negligence towards crime and fraud prevention – The Financial Services Authority or the Health and Safety Authority (who are the bodies who prosecute corporate and financial criminals) do not see the same moral compulsion to prosecute as ordinary Police Officers tackling Gun Crime.

70% of deaths at work are caused by violation of law – the average fine for a worker death is about  £50 000 even where you cans show where the director of a company is responsible

Record Health and Safety fine was in Runcorn in the NW against ICI – due to a mercury leek – £300 000 fine, -0.1% of profit for that year.

HSE –46% decline in Health and Safety Prosecutions over the last 6 years, even though the number of deaths and accidents have remained roughly the same.

Very complex array of agencies – and it is easy to defend against, also used to

Corporate Manslaughter act (2008) should make this easier.

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