White Collar Crime

White collar crime is not a category of offences defined in the Criminal Code. It is a term used primarily to describe offences occurring in the business, financial and government sectors.

The principal white collar crimes involved in the business and financial areas are usually theft and fraud but offences relating to false documents are often included. In the government sector the term encompasses offences such as bribery, corruption and breach of trust by public officials including civil servants and judicial officers.

Another related category of offences are stock market offences which are not technically crimes since they fall under provincial securities exchange legislation.

Recently widespread publicity has been generated by a type of white collar crime which involves both federal and provincial offences, namely, so-called Ponzi schemes, of which Earl Jones in Canada and Bernie Madoff in the United States are the best known convicted perpetrators. In these complex crimes investors’ funds are operated in which money from subsequent investors is used to generate profits for the perpetrator and false financial statements are compiled in order to give the impression that investments in the financial markets are producing exceptional profits for the fund. The greed of investors who believe their savings are growing at a rate exceeding normal market returns blinds them to the suspicious activities of the criminal and prevents them from making inquiries as to the use of their funds until it is too late and the scheme collapses.

Other well publicized white collar crimes often involve misappropriation of corporate funds by their executive officers. The case of Conrad Black is perhaps the best known recent example of this type of offence.