A white-collar crime is a non-violent one, usually motivated by greed. A white-collar criminal, rather than holding up a bank or burgling a house, will instead look to secure an advantage using more subtle means. Think insider trading, embezzlement, and fraud.
If you have potential white-collar criminals in your business, then you’ve vulnerable to suffering the losses that come with these crimes. This might mean being directly targeted or having your reputation tarnished through association.
So what drives people to white-collar crime, and how can we set up businesses in such a way that these activities are disincentivised?
The financial reward of white-collar crime can often be considerable. If this isn’t sufficiently offset by risk, then the act might become that much more tempting. While it’s tempting to look for a deeper root cause, perhaps for ethical reasons, it’s far simpler (and more importantly, effective) for an organisation to look at the symptoms.
Psychopathy & Narcissism
Certain kinds of personalities are more likely to commit white-collar crimes. These are people who see others as means to an end, or who feel that the rules which govern everyone else don’t apply to them. To avoid these personalities from finding their way into sensitive positions, some measure of psychological evaluation is often valuable.
Lack of procedure
If a workplace implements procedures to prevent a certain kind of risk from arising, then a white-collar criminal might seek to get around those procedures. They might try to charm auditors into not inspecting a particular file, or they might persuade security guards that they need to be let into the office late at night. Reinforce to the entire organisation that certain steps are mandatory, and you’ll provide less wriggle-room for this kind of behaviour.
If a given industry is widely perceived as being morally deficient, then morally deficient people will be more likely to try to enter it. Moreover, those already within the industry might come to reassess their own behaviour and decide that they’ve been trying too hard. This is something that the banking sector has had to struggle with since the financial crisis, and even long before it. Having an ethical code for your business, and emphasising ethics, in general, might help you to fight against this kind of thing.
Perception that crime is Victimless
It’s difficult to identify an individual victim of white-collar crime. This means that it’s easier to justify to yourself. A mugger might have to see the pain and fear in their eyes, but someone who steals an entire pension fund is having to deal with a more diffuse web of causes and effects, and the direct harm might be more difficult to see. Pro-active education about why these sorts of crimes are not victimless will help to limit this perception.