Criminal law is mostly associated with drugs and murder, but it applies in business too. Here’s a guide to financial and business crimes in the U.S.
When we think of criminal law, we usually think of the grisly stuff: murder, theft, armed robbery, and all those kinds of dark behaviors. But the truth is, white-collar crime can be just, if not more, damaging than the most commonly thought of crimes.
Business crimes are crimes typically committed by those with more power and privilege than other types of crimes. They are nonviolent in nature but get pursued just as intently by law enforcement as other types of criminal activity. And some categories of business-related crimes are not always obvious. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it is always important to check with your legal counsel if you think any of your actions may be unethical or illegal.
The idea of white-collar crime has been discussed in the media a lot lately. But how do these crimes work, and how are they prosecuted? Read on, and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
Various Types Of Business Crimes
One of the reasons people don’t understand the concept of business crimes is because there are so many different varieties. Most involve the taking of money or property through illicit means or the use of those resources in an illicit fashion.
In breaking down the various charges one could face, you’ll notice this common through-line through most.
One subset of business crime that you may be familiar with is bribery. We become familiar with the concept of bribery at a young age: giving someone what they want so that we can get what we want.
In a criminal sense, bribery is when a person gives money or property to an individual in exchange for power or position. For example, a person paying off a public official in order to obtain a seat in government would be an extreme form of bribery. A public figure paying off a police officer to drop charges against them would be another example.
Bribery does not have to be successful to be criminal. Just the attempt at bribery is often enough to convict an individual.
You might know about embezzlement from the headline-grabbing stories about Enron and other companies. Embezzlement is the theft of money or property that a person has been entrusted to manage.
A CEO diverting a company’s profits into their own personal bank account is the prime example of what embezzlement could look like. This is a crime that often is found at the highest ranks of society, where powerful people use their influence to increase their wealth without detection. Often, this crime goes hand in hand with fraud.
There are many different types of criminally fraudulent behavior. In a broad sense, fraud is the misrepresentation of information. For example, an embezzling CEO might lie about the amount of profit a company has made so that the money they’ve stolen isn’t seen as ‘missing ‘.
This misrepresentation in and of itself would be its own crime and would get charged as fraud. Any sort of lying about official accounting and similar subjects could get charged in this way.
Many people are familiar with money laundering thanks to shows like Breaking Bad. Money laundering is the ‘hiding’ of illegally obtained money through ‘legal’ sources.
Running a business and then integrating money from outside illicit means is illegal. This is a process designed to ‘clean’ money and make it appear to the outside world that it was obtained legally.
We all pay what we owe to the government each year. That’s part of being an American. However, some powerful people in this country don’t want to give that money up. They may avoid or hide money from the government to prevent having to pay their fair share.
This kind of hiding from the IRS is known commonly as tax evasion. This is a crime that is taken very seriously and can get punished quite severely.
There are a lot of factors that can control the stock market. The ability to control the stock market is also a tool of only the most powerful and influential. That’s why attempts to shift stocks favorably are closely monitored.
Misrepresentation of a company’s profits or any sort of behavior intended to shift stock market trends is known as securities fraud. It is illegal to lie or disclose private material with the goal of impacting the sale of stocks in the US market.
How Business Crimes Are Prosecuted
Even being charged with a crime can be devastating to a person’s reputation. The severity of punishment for these crimes if convicted can be immense. It goes without saying that conviction of a crime like this can be the end of one’s career and public life.
Those who are facing charges should seek help from establishments like this service in order to mitigate damage to their future.
Prosecutors work very hard in order to convict those suspected of white-collar crime. In most cases, a person convicted of one of the above crimes can expect to spend a large amount of time behind bars. They also will likely have to pay high penalty fees.
Criminal law is extremely complex. Typically these crimes are prosecuted with huge teams of federal lawyers. Depending on the evidence at hand, coming up with a strong defense can be very difficult.
Avoiding Life-Altering Consequences
There’s a lot to understand about business crimes whether you’re facing a conviction yourself or not. These crimes are very serious and varied in nature, and the above guide touches only on the basics.
If you want to learn more about justice in the business world, check out our legal insights page for more.