White-Collar Crime consists of occupational crime and corporate crime. Occupational crime refers to offences committed against legitimate institutions (businesses or government) by those with “respectable” social status. It includes the embezzlement of corporate funds, tax evasion, computer crime and expense-account fraud. Corporate crime refers to offences committed by legitimate institutions to further their own interests and includes conspiring to fix the prices of goods or services, the dumping of pollutants, the payment of kickbacks by manufacturers to retailers, misleading advertising, selling unsafe drugs, etc.
In Canada, most occupational crime is prohibited under the Canadian Criminal Code, which is enforced by municipal or provincial police, a complicated procedure because the suspects are often employees of the institutions from which they are stealing, and the employers either do not discover the theft quickly or prefer to avoid publicity by not reporting the loss. The culprit may be fired or asked to make restitution. Corporate crimes are prohibited by a wide variety of federal, provincial and municipal laws. Enforcement is the responsibility of government inspectors who generally have fewer powers than police to detain suspects and search for evidence. Contrary to common belief, corporate crimes cause far more financial harm, and many more personal injuries (some leading to death) than do traditional crimes such as theft, robbery and assault.
Other laws directed at corporate crime include the Food and Drugs Act (preventing the sale of contaminated food and drugs); Hazardous Products Act (preventing the sale of dangerous items); Weights and Measures Act (preventing dishonest scales); Environmental Protection Acts, both federal and provincial; laws to protect the investor against unscrupulous promoters and brokers; and laws to ensure that workers are not exploited, eg, by being forced to work 18-hour days in unventilated facilities. However, these laws are not always stringently enforced; in general, authorities use persuasion first, and criminal sanctions as a last resort; when cases do go to court, they take longer, are more likely to be appealed by the defendant and to lead to an acquittal or withdrawal by the Crown, and are less likely to lead to imprisonment than comparable Criminal Code cases; both judges and laymen are uncertain whether individuals and corporations convicted for acts against consumers, employees, rivals or the environment are truly criminals.
Laws against occupational crime do not include most kinds of computer crime, such as breaking computer codes and copying confidential records. However, the Copyright Act is at present being amended so that it will cover computer software.