TTC – White Collar Criminal Law Explained


Published on: May 12, 2021
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White collar crime is, by all accounts, a booming industry. Even pop culture crams its movies and television shows with stories of fraud, insider trading, and political corruption. We are fascinated by-and seemingly surrounded by-white collar crime and white collar criminals.

Consider the rash of white collar crimes we are experiencing today, with

Titans of Wall Street prosecuted for insider trading and securities fraud;
Parents and coaches indicted for bribery in connection with college admissions; and
Senior government officials charged with political corruption.

Located at the intersection of law, business, and politics, white collar crime is a critical area of criminal law in the United States. Yet despite how prevalent it is, one of the most surprising aspects of white collar crime is just how legally uncertain its boundaries are. Unlike more clear-cut crimes such as robbery, burglary, or homicide, white collar crimes often raise difficult issues about where to draw the lines between conduct that is merely sleazy or unethical and conduct that is truly criminal. A lot of actions may look like white collar crimes, but are not prosecuted because they are, in fact, not crimes at all. This constant process of definition-and redefinition-is one thing that makes white collar criminal law so fascinating and challenging for prosecutors, defense attorneys, law students, and even laypeople just trying to make sense of major criminal cases in the media.

In White Collar Criminal Law Explained, join former federal prosecutor and law professor Randall D. Eliason of The George Washington University Law School for an in-depth investigation of how federal white collar crime prosecutions work-and why they sometimes don’t. Over 24 lessons, you’ll consider the characteristics of white collar crime that set it apart from other areas of criminal law. You will also study the federal criminal justice system, the federal grand jury, and the tools prosecutors use to pursue these cases. Along the way, examine leading white collar criminal statutes such as mail and wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and money laundering; and go inside landmark cases involving infamous figures such as financial fraudster Bernie Madoff and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. Accessible, insightful, and eye-opening, this course is a first-rate legal education into an area of criminal law that reveals uncomfortable truths about human nature.

The Nature of White Collar Crime

Search the US Criminal Code for a section titled ‘white collar crimes,’ and you’ll come up empty. If you look there for a definition of white collar crime, you won’t have any luck either. So, what exactly is it?

One of the first things Professor Eliason tells students in his classes is that the term ‘white collar crime’ is something of a misnomer. While it sounds like it refers to the nature of the offender (a ‘white collar’ executive of high social status), its focus actually is on the nature of the offense. White collar crime refers to a category of criminal offenses that share certain characteristics.

While there’s no ‘official’ definition of a white collar crime, legal experts tend to define it as a non-violent illegal activity that principally uses deceit, fraud, deception, or misrepresentation to obtain money, property, or some other advantage, or to conceal other wrongdoing. The central issue is frequently intent: What was going on in the minds of the actors at the time of the alleged crime. Criminal intent may transform many otherwise lawful acts into white collar crimes.

Get Detailed Looks at White Collar Investigations

So how does a federal criminal prosecution begin and how is it conducted? How does a particular case work its way through the federal criminal justice system and what are the roles of the different players involved?

White collar Criminal Law Explained offers a


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