What is white-collar crime?
White-collar crime is not a crime in and of itself (i.e. there is no Criminal Code offence called “white-collar crime”). Instead, white-collar crime is a broad category used to describe occupational and corporate crimes. The category consists of crimes that are committed either behind the desk at work or in the corporate boardroom. These offences are often committed through deceit and for financial gain. White-collar crime ranges from offences such as an under $5,000 fraud charge to a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.
White-collar crimes usually involve people in businesses that have a position of authority and access to sensitive information. This position of authority often gives them the means to commit the offence.
White-crimes are just as severe and serious as any other criminal charge. The stakes are often very high, and a lawyer’s expertise is often integral to combat these charges.
What does white-collar crime include?
As mentioned, white-collar crime is an umbrella term. Not only are there prohibitions on these offences in the Criminal Code, many fall under other regulatory frameworks. White-collar crime includes, but is not limited to:
- Criminal embezzlement
- “Criminal embezzlement” is not named in the Criminal Code. Instead, it is usually prosecuted through the offences of fraud and theft. A person is guilty of embezzlement of corporate funds when they withhold assets (such as money) for the purpose of theft or to be used elsewhere for a purpose other than what it was intended for.
For more information on fraud, please visit X.
- Money laundering
- A person commits money laundering, also known as laundering the proceeds of crime, when they transfer money in order to conceal the fact that it was obtained through a criminal act.
- Tax fraud and evasion
- A person commits tax evasion when they (individually or through their business) intentionally ignore Canadian tax laws and attempt to avoid taxes that they otherwise would owe. You can be prosecuted under the fraud provisions in the Criminal Code. It is important to note that the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act also outline penalties for tax evasion.
- Manipulation of stocks and insider trading
- There are specific Criminal Code provisions against the manipulation of stocks and insider trading (found at section 382 and onwards). Insider trading is buying or selling stock by knowingly using information that you possess by virtue of your position and/or professional relationship. You can also be held liable for “tipping” (i.e. conveying inside information to a person, knowing there is a risk they will use it). It is important to note that the Ontario Securities Act also has prohibitions on insider trading.
It’s vital to hire a lawyer
Being charged with a white-collar crime is a stressful and tolling experience. Crimes that are considered to be white-collar can carry serious sentences and can have long-standing repercussions. They can be complex and include documents that are difficult to understand. A lawyer is best placed to review these documents and decide whether outside expertise is needed. It is important to seek professional advice from a lawyer about your rights from the beginning.
A lawyer can also do much more. They can:
- Work to secure your release with the most favourable conditions;
- Help you navigate the criminal justice system;
- Ensure that the Crown meets its disclosure obligations;
- Identify systematic or administrative errors in the criminal process, including Charter rights violations;
- Speak to the Crown on your behalf, negotiate, and advise you of your options;
- Assess all the evidence against you and build a strong defence, so the charges are withdrawn or you are acquitted;
- Gather further evidence to support your version of the events and consult financial professionals;
- Obtain a more lenient sentence in the event a guilty plea or conviction is entered.
All criminal cases are complex and fact specific. We have provided general information about white-collar crimes. Hiring a lawyer provides your best chance at mounting a successful defence. For more information about how we can help, please contact our team.