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white-collar crime‘a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation’. This is the definition which Edwin H. Sutherland gave in his book which started systematic sociological interest in this area: White-collar Crime (1949). Sutherland argues that criminal behaviour is not confined to working-class people. It is frequently, even routinely, found among people of high social status and respectability, but white-collar crimes are rarely treated as such.
Sutherland's focus was on crimes committed by managers and others in the course of their occupations, though the usage has often been broadened to include other areas of middle-class crime. In a study of 70 US corporations Sutherland found a large number of crimes including fraud, misrepresentation, infringe-ments of patents, and others. Much of his evidence did not come from criminal statistics but from the investigations of independent commissions, because very few of the offenders had been prosecuted. Even though the total amounts of money lost to companies, banks, etc., runs into many millions of pounds, it is still the case that white-collar crimes are very much under-represented in the CRIMINAL STATISTICS and are not stigmatized in the way that violent crimes or thefts from individuals are. The importance of Sutherland's work is in correcting common assumptions about the distribution of crime and in qualifying some arguments which have linked crime exclusively to deprivation.