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White collar criminal law and corporations

There is a general consensus among those who routinely follow the actions of large corporations that white collar criminals are not prosecuted often enough in New York and the rest of the United States. A new book by a law professor, "Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age," attempts to provide an explanation.

The author asserts the part of the problem is that the structure of a corporation limits the personal responsibility of the individual owners or shareholders. The large sizes of corporations also provide executive managers with an avenue to claim that any wrongdoing that occurred was outside of their notice.

An example provided to demonstrate the lack of culpability of the top managers was Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the company often credited with initiating the 2008 financial disaster. The Justice Department failed to charge the company's chief executive with a crime. According to the author, it was not because the officer did not participate in dubious financial transactions, such as borrowing vast amounts of money without referring to it as debt. The fact that the transactions occurred with the approval of accounting and legal specialists and just within regulations made it difficult to prosecute the chief executive.

Another issue was the inability to identify victims who were directly affected by the financial fraud. In order to prosecute, the criminal justice system requires a clear connection between a fraudulent act and its victim.

White collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlement or money laundering can sometimes be difficult to prosecute. The legal structure of a corporation can also make it very difficult to assign blame correctly. However, individuals who are stakeholders in large corporations may be still subjected to legal scrutiny. An attorney might be able to provide effective legal guidance to such individuals.

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