What is white collar crime?White Collar Crime and Corporate Crime

White collar crime is a colloquial term which typically refers to non-violent crimes committed against corporate or government entities for financial gain. These crimes are referred to as “white collar” because they are often committed by well-off individuals, or companies with access and influence in corporate spheres. White collar crime includes:

  • Fraud – occurs where deception or dishonesty is used to obtain an unjust advantage. Includes financial fraud, mortgage fraud, and corporate fraud.
  • Embezzlement – occurs where someone in a position of trust (such as an employee) receives property on behalf of an employer and steals this property before the employer obtains possession of it.
  • Insider Trading – occurs where a person or company utilises information that is not generally available to the public to obtain an advantage for themselves or others through trading financial products.
  • Market manipulation – involves intentionally increasing or decreasing the value of a financial product, including stocks, or influencing the behaviour of the market to do so.
  • Domestic and foreign bribery – the act of offering a gift or advantage in order to induce someone to act in a way that breaches the law or is dishonest.
  • Money Laundering – the process of obscuring the origin of illegally obtained profits, also known as “proceeds of crime”, so that they appear legitimate.
  • Tax fraud and tax evasion – involves illegally reducing or eliminating tax liability.
  • Share sale fraud (securities fraud) – the fraudulent activity of a person who is not who they claim to be, selling shares that do not belong to them.
  • Corporate regulatory offences.

“Corporate crime” and “cartel conduct” are terms often used synonymously with white collar crime, but can be classified as sub-categories of this type of crime.


Corporate Crime

Corporate crime refers to crimes committed by or on behalf of corporations, for the benefit of that corporation. There is substantial overlap between white collar crime and corporate crime; however corporate crime might also refer to:

  • False advertising.
  • Non-payment of worker entitlements.
  • Causing environmental harm.
  • Cartel conduct.


Cartel conduct

A “cartel” occurs when businesses agree to act together instead of competing with each other. The agreement is designed to increase the profits of cartel members. Cartels are prohibited under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Under this Act, businesses and individuals participating in cartels may be committing both civil and criminal offences.

Cartel conduct may include:

  • Price fixing: when competitors agree on the price of a product.
  • Sharing markets: when competitors agree to divide or allocate customers and markets.
  • Rigging bids: where suppliers agree among themselves who will win and at what price.
  • Output restrictions: Controlling the amount of goods and services available to buyers.

Learn more about cartel conduct.


Key law enforcement and regulatory bodies

The State Police or the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will typically be involved in the investigation of white collar and corporate crime offences. Other specialised agencies include the Australian Tax Office (ATO), the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Commonwealth DPP (CDPP), the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).


The role of ASIC

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) regulates many aspects of Australia’s corporate, market and financial sectors, exercising its powers under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) in investigating allegations of white collar crime.

ASIC exercises its investigative powers to prevent and deter unlawful conduct, and in some instances to recover money.

Learn more about ASIC investigations.


Complex international white collar crime investigations

Complex white collar crime investigations are becoming increasingly international. Such investigations often raise issues concerning jurisdiction, the applicability of national and international laws, and the legal rights of those being investigated. It is therefore important to obtain advice from an experienced white collar crime lawyer as early as possible.


Our white collar crime lawyers in Sydney

Nyman Gibson Miralis has been involved in some of the most significant and high-profile criminal litigation relating to cross-border white collar crime in Australia. Our white collar crime lawyers are based in Sydney, but provide strategic advice relating to both domestic and international investigations, including responding to regulators, law enforcement and prosecutors.

We have expert knowledge of the substantive laws under which all key law enforcement and regulatory bodies operate, and the practice and procedure of investigations and prosecutions.

Our white collar crime lawyers are widely recognised as experts in defending transnational white collar crimes such as money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and corruption, and have acted and advised in investigations involving the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Cambodia, Cyprus, Russia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Europe, where there has been an Australian connection.

We also have specialist capabilities in extradition and mutual assistance law and are experienced in having INTERPOL Red Notices removed.

The world is witnessing times of increased legislative and policy reform in the areas of corporate crime and global investigations. Our white collar crime lawyers outline some of the key considerations in the Australian chapter of The Law Review’s International Investigations Review.


Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I don’t comply with a request from a regulatory body?

The Australian regulatory agencies have extensive investigative powers.

ICAC and ASIC for example can apply for search warrants, conduct interviews and hold public inquires. They can also conduct compulsory examinations, where you must attend and must truthfully answer all questions asked.

There can be serious consequences for failing to comply with a request from a regulatory body. Under both the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 and the Australian Securities and Investments Act 2001, you can be fined or imprisoned if you fail to comply with a notice or request issued by one of these agencies.

If you receive a request to produce evidence, it is important to seek legal advice and representation as early as possible.

Can a corporation be liable for a criminal offence?

Yes. Under Part 2.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, corporate bodies are liable for criminal breaches of the code in the same way as individuals. To show that a corporation committed a crime, it must be shown that an employee, agent or officer of a body corporate committed the physical element, and the fault element must be satisfied by showing that the body corporate authorised or permitted the commission of the offence.

What are the consequences of white collar crime?

White collar crime and corporate crime can cause serious harm, both to individuals and the community.

Such crimes can ruin companies, destroy life savings, deprive people and communities of valuable resources and assets, and distort the legitimate economy. They can also facilitate the commission of other serious criminal activity, including organised crime and terrorism.

How can our white collar crime lawyers help?

We have over 55 years of experience in successfully defending complex white collar and corporate crimes.

Contact us if you require assistance.

White Collar Crime & Corporate Crime Articles