If you asked someone to describe a criminal they’d likely think of your stereotypical bank robber. Dressed in all black or carrying a novelty money sack, ready to clean out a safe. They certainly wouldn’t think of corporate crime.
In reality, criminals come in all shapes and sizes, and commit all manner of crimes. Some, like burglary or assault can be very shocking. This is due to the violent nature of the crime. But others crimes, like fraud or corporate crimes, usually elicit less emotion from the general public.
This doesn’t mean these crimes aren’t serious or damaging however. They inflict a lot of harm on society and crimes of this nature must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
There have been recent calls for tougher sentences and laws in relation to corporate crime. This is to better reflect the damage it can cause to society and to deter potential criminals from engaging in illegal activity.
This article will look at what corporate crime is, who is campaigning for tougher laws in relation to corporate crime and what they want to see changed about the offence.
What is corporate crime?
Corporate crime is an umbrella term for a range of different offences. Fraud, money laundering and insider trading are all a part corporate crime. It normally relates to the financial sector. But you don’t necessarily need to work in that sector to be charged with a corporate crime offence.
If you’re engaged in any form of insider trading or business fraud you fall under the umbrella of corporate crime. Generally speaking, corporate crime deals with offences related to business practices. Anyone individual from a company, the CEO or even the entire board could be charged with an offence. In some cases, the company entity could be prosecuted with a corporate crime offence.
Why is it sometimes called white collar crime?
The term “white collar” refers to a person who works in a respectable field like finance or medicine. It can also mean someone who holds a high position within a company. The name is a reference to the suits and white shirts people wear working in business or the financial sector. The term is used to refer to people working within a professional sector who commit crimes like fraud usually for financial gain.
Who is calling for tougher corporate crime laws?
In September 2021 Robert Buckland, the former Lord Chancellor called for stronger laws against companies that facilitate economic crime.
He was speaking at the International Symposium of Economic Crime in Cambridge where he said the current law on criminal corporate liability is not fit for purpose, especially where large corporations are concerned.
‘Reform may indeed be needed to ensure that organisations of all sizes can be held to account and serious crimes can be punished appropriately,’ he said.
But he was quick to add that any changes to the laws must be done without burdening law-abiding corporations. These burdens could be additional compliance measures.
‘At the same time, it is of course important to ensure that any reform does not impose an undue burden of compliance on companies – so it must also take account of the impact of increased costs on law-abiding corporations to ensure they are not overburdened by processes they are expected to follow.’ – Robert Buckland
He went on to explain corporate criminal liability laws are currently based on the ‘identification principle’. This principle requires prosecutors prove that the ‘directing mind and will’ of a company was involved in the alleged criminality.
This can be difficult to prove. The ‘directing mind’ may be an individual, a group of people or the board. The directing mind is within a company depends on how the company is structured. This can make it difficult for prosecutors to hold large companies to account. This is because their lines of control are often blurred.
In 2020 the Law Commission began a review into the laws relating to corporate crime. It started by considering whether new offences should be created to make it easier for enforcement agencies to prosecute corporate crimes.
Buckland mentioned in his speech that he was very grateful that the commission had decided to look into corporate crime. He hoped his suggestions along with other legal professionals were considered thoroughly before the Law Commission provided the government with an options paper in 2022.
Can Burton Copeland help you with a corporate crime case?
If you or your company is facing an investigation for criminal or fraudulent activity, you need to make sure that you have the right team fighting on your side. Get in touch with Burton Copeland today by calling 0161 827 9500 to speak to one of our dedicated and experienced solicitors. If you’re calling out of office hours, use 0161 832 7834 to speak to us, or complete our online form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.