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White Collar Crime and Organized Crime

White Collar Crime and Organized Crime

Author: Paul Hannan

Distinguish between white-collar crime, corporate crime, and organized crime.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on white collar crime and organized crime. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today is kind of a strange tutorial. We're looking at three really other types of crime. The tutorial itself is going to be kind of brief, but I'm trying to leave you with a kind of a rhetorical question to answer for each of these three different types of crime that something that sociologists are really interested in. But I'm to going to get you started on it, and hopefully it's something that you're going to continue processing long after the tutorial is done.

The first one we're going to look at is white collar crime. Now, white collar crime are just crimes committed by people in high social standing in the course of their occupation. A great example of this would be, the Bernie Madoff scandal.

He's someone, he's a wealthy person. He is well known. He's well respected. And he has this Ponzi scheme, where he's actually promising investors a 10% return on their money, and he is just flat out lying to them.

He's actually not even investing money. He's just taking it for himself. That is an example of white collar crime.

Now, one thing sociologists are really interested in is, does the punishment fit the crime? Often, their punishment for stealing a million dollars might be less than or equal to that of someone who stole a TV from a house. And there is some differences in maybe the way that crime is done, and who is physically in danger doing that crime. But when you look at the financial amount being stolen, often people would argue that white collar crime, the people in those-- in those situations are getting off easy, and they're saying that the punishment really doesn't fit the crime.

Now, another type of crime very similar to white collar crime is corporate crime. Now, corporate crime is specifically illegal actions by corporations or people working for them that are for the corporation. So if I steal money from my job, that is not a corporate crime. Now, that would be more like a white collar crime.

And now, if I were to steal-- if I were on behalf of my company to steal money from our investors, that would be a corporate crime. Another example of that would be violations, especially corporate crime happens in the realm of environmental protection. So when a giant oil company cut some corners to make more money in the shipping of their oil and they have an oil spill, that's an example of a corporate crime. So it's an illegal action thereby the corporation as a whole, or as individual people acting for them, and they're acting for best-- what's best for the company is who they're really committing this crime for.

And again, I'm going to ask, does the punishment fit the crime? You can look at the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or the Exxon Valdez spill. Those crimes cost millions of dollars, billions of dollars to the ecosystems, and some people would like to argue that those punishments don't really fit the crime, that the small fine that Exxon Valdez had to pay, Exxon Mobil had to pay for the crash of the Valdez, that doesn't really punish them enough for what they did. It's just a slap on the wrist.

Now, the last type of crime I'm going to talk about today is organized crime. Now, organized crime is something that you drop images in your head of maybe the mafia, or gangsters, or even just gangs, and they're really in the business of supplying illegal goods and services. Now, one thing that's interesting about organized crime that sociologists look at is organized crime, there are willing buyers for these goods and services.

Not saying that makes it OK or makes their means to sell those goods or services OK, but that's something that's kind of interesting about the idea of organized crime. The reason it exists is because there's a want by consumers for that good, and maybe it's illegal gambling. There's a want for it, so people go to organized crime groups to have a chance to gamble. But it's interesting, because there are willing buyers for that, and so there's kind of a weird interplay between organized crime, and it kind of rises up when the market is demanding something, but society says that that is wrong.

So today's takeaway message, we just looked at white collar crime, which are crimes committed by people in high standing in the course of their job, and corporate crime, which is illegal actions by corporations or people working for them, and then organized crime, where a business is supplying illegal goods and services. Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Corporate Crime

Actions on behalf of corporations that are illegal and socially adverse in their effects.

Organized Crime

The complex and businesslike provision of illegal goods and services such as sex, drugs, and guns.

White Collar Crime

Profession-based crimes of the elite that are often highly sophisticated.