One of the reasons for why there is so much public concern over substance abuse is the link between this behavior and crime. Those who become addicted to alcohol or drugs will often be forced to turn to illegal activities in order to support their habit. The stereotypical image of the drug addict is someone who will turn to violent crime in order to get a fix. There is less attention given in the media to high functioning addicts who support their habit through white collar crime.
The American Sociologist Edwin Sutherland is credited with inventing the term white collar crime in 1939. He used it as a means of describing crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation. The term white collar is in reference to the dress shirts that are commonly worn by office workers. It is used as a contrast to blue collar workers who are involved in manual labor and will usually come from the working classes.
White collar crime is always financially motivated and does not usually involve violence. It can include illegal activities such as:
* Money laundering
* Identity theft
* Insider trading
* Tax evasion
* Weights and measures fraud
* Cellular phone fraud
* Insurance fraud
* Currency schemes
* Health care fraud
* Ponzi schemes
* Forging money or documents
* Embezzlement – dishonestly holding onto assets in order to steal them.
* Copyright infringement
* Telemarketing fraud
It is suggested that there is a 12 Step path to white collar crime that involves:
* Step 1 occurs when the individual is given a position of power.
* Step 2 happens when the person realizes they have power that they can use for their own financial benefit.
* Step 3 occurs when other powerful people in the organization (referred to as drivers) turn a blind eye or condone the abuse of power.
* In step 4 other passive observers become caught up in the activity because they realize that it offers them an opportunity.
* Other more reluctant participants are drawn in by their superior at step 5.
* Step 6 is when distrust of those involved in the activity starts to arise.
* The perpetrator recognizes his ability to exploit those in a vulnerable position within the company – this is step 7.
* The group uses bullying tactics in step 8 in order to protect their illegal activities.
* By step 9 the perpetrator is addicted to the illegality of their activities. They become willing to take bigger and bigger risks.
* At step 10 participants in the illegal activity begin to have ethical doubts about their behavior.
* Step 11 is reached when a whistleblower has the courage to reveal what has been going on. The perpetrator loses their control over the situation.
* The final step is reached with the perpetrator either admitting to their illegal actions, and asking for forgiveness, or trying to deny their involvement despite mounting evidence.
Not only can participants of white collar crime become addicted to the excitement of their illegal activity, but it can also be addiction to alcohol or drugs that drives them to such crime in the first place.
White collar crime tends to be looked upon more favorably than other criminal activities. This is because those engaging in it tend to be respected individuals with good careers. There is also less public concern about it because of the absence of violence in these illegal activities. There is no doubt that white collar crime leads to serious consequences such as:
* This type of illegal activity is estimated to cost $300 billion a year in the United States alone. This causes great harm to the economy and large organizations have gone out of business because of such activity.
* One study in the UK found that the minimum amount stole by fraudsters was £65,000 ($101,000) and the maximum was £25m (almost $39 million).
* The financial gain from white collar crime is far more than the money made from blue collar crime. Despite this blue collar crime gets punished more harshly by the courts.
* Most white collar crime goes undetected.
* There have been plenty of instances where this type of crime did involve physical violence and even murder.
* Those people who get caught up in this type of illegal activity can be driven to suicide because they are unable to see another way out of the mess.
* Some of those involved in white collar crime will be pressurized into it by their superiors. The ethical dilemma they are then caught up in can lead to symptoms of depression.
* The federal government is forced to invest a large amount of resources into fighting this type of criminal activity.
* The reputation and worth of a whole organization can be harmed by the actions of just one white collar criminal. It could mean that the employment of thousands of people may be put in jeopardy – as well as leading to a loss for investors.
One reason for why people become caught up in white collar crime is alcohol or drug addiction. Those individuals who abuse substances such as cocaine develop a tolerance for the drug, and this means that they have to spend increasing amounts of money in order to feed their habit. Even those people who have a good job can find themselves struggling financially as they attempt to pay for the next fix. The temptation to turn to illegal money making schemes is high and the effects of the drug can mean that the individual is unable to make good decisions. It is also easy for perpetrators of cooperate fraud to recruit substance abusers into their cause. If the drug user doesn’t want to get involved the superior can use the illegal drug use as leverage to force the individual to comply with their scheme.
High functioning addicts can easily tempted by the financial gains of white collar crime. Despite their outward show of respectability these individuals will be driven by their need for alcohol or drugs. Their success allows them to hide their difficulties and their relative affluence means that they do not have to resort to extreme measures to get their hands on mind altering substances. The only real difference between a high functioning addict and other addicts is that they are better at disguising their dependency on these chemicals. This individual can still cause a great deal of suffering for themselves and those around them. Their corporate crimes could also negatively impact their employers and colleagues.