White Collar Crime

This report summarizes the government's recent efforts when it comes to combating white collar crime -- the number of such cases, the investigative agencies involved, the laws cited, the busiest federal districts and the busiest federal judges.

At first glance, the job of deciding who will be categorized as a white collar crime and who will not seems fairly simple. According to the government's rule book, a white-collar crime is "a non-violent event involving deceit, concealment, subterfuge and other fraudulent activity." So the corporate executive who manipulates the stock market, the tax cheat and the doctor who sets up an operation to swindle the medicaid program are all fairly obvious candidates.

And from the other end of the scale, most Americans would agree that the small time-heroin dealer, the professional killer working for organized crime, the bank robber and the car thief are not obvious members of the white-collar crime club.

But partly because the government, Congress and the American people want to better understand what the government is doing, a number of sub-categories have been created. This is where it gets difficult. Although the government official stuffing an illegal payoff in his pocket may have been wearing a white collar, for example, he probably will be counted under another category: official corruption. And while the high-level corporate executive who orders his workers to dump illegal toxic materials in a nearby river also may be wearing a white collar, he probably will be classified as an environmental violator.

Sorting out crime types has always been a difficult challenge and certainly the Justice Department approach is not perfect. But because the classification system used by U.S. Attorneys all over the country has been reasonably consistent for the last three decades, the white collar crime counts presented here are thought to provide a useful measure of this important work.