White Collar Crime
White collar crime refers to crime perpetrated in the upper class by respectable professionals, businesses, and even governments in the course of their legitimate occupation, activities, or responsibilities, which are capable of causing widespread social harm on the people they are expected to advance their wellbeing. For example, the Ford Motor Company was indicted on three counts of reckless homicide for the death of the Ulrich sisters on August 10, 1978, as it had designed the car’s fuel tank system in a way that made the car a death trap (Becker, Jipson, & Bruce, 2000, p. 307-308).
The Ford Motor’s case indicates that it is possible for a company to commit reckless homicide. One way through which a company can commit reckless homicide is through the manufacture of substandard products that are widely used by the people (Spurgeon & Fagan, 2010, p. 402-403). For example, a cement manufacturing company can produce cement with wrong ingredient ratios, which can result in the construction of weak buildings that are homes and workplaces for thousands of people. The crumbling of buildings made from such cement may result in the death of its occupants that had perceived it to be strong and safe, considering that it was built using cement supplied by well respected company. Since the problem originates from the company’s inability to ensure the cement is manufactured using the right ingredient ratios, its indictment in committing reckless homicide is justifiable.
A company can also commit reckless homicide by failing to provide the right information regarding the products or services it is selling to the people. For instance, tobacco product manufacturers have a duty of care in informing tobacco product users the possible health risks that can arise from the consumption of its products (McCann, Haltom, & Fisher, 2013, p. 296-297). Their failure to provide information on the product’s package that its consumption can cause cancer that can eventually lead to death would actually increase the consumption of the products. Deaths resulting from tobacco-related cancers in which the consumers were not well informed of such dangers, and could have avoided it if they were informed early enough, can result in the company’s indictment in committing reckless homicide.
A company’s policies and practices can considerably influence the death of its employees while on duty, or the death of others while the employee is attempting to meet the job requirements or target. For example, a delivery company can set targets for a number of deliveries to be made in a day. Some of these targets are quite high such that they cannot be realistically achieved without compelling the driver to breach traffic regulations, or any other health and safety regulations, thereby resulting in the death of the delivery driver or other road users (Marriott, 2008, p. 27). In such a case, it is justifiable to prosecute the delivery company for committing reckless homicide.
Finally, companies that release toxic emissions and effluents into the environment, thereby resulting in the death of people due to cancer and other infections, can also be said to be committing reckless homicide (Katz, 2012, p. 98-99). The reason for this is that these companies have a duty of care to ensuring that its waste materials and toxic emissions does not compromise the safety or health of its employees or community members within the geographical location it operates. A company can only be charged with committing reckless homicide if investigations reveal that its workplace had existing serious safety hazards that the company or its top management team were aware of, but failed to make feasible corrections, thereby allowing the same hazardous condition cause the death of a worker or other visiting individual (Bixby, 1990, p. 417).
Becker, P. J., Jipson, A. J., & Bruce, A. (2000). The pinto legacy: the community as an indirect victim of corporate deviance. Justice Professional, 12(3), 305.
Bixby, M. B. (1990). Was It and Accident or Murder? New Thrusts in Corporate Criminal Liability for Workplace Deaths. Labor Law Journal, 41(7), 417-423.
Katz, R. S. (2012). Environmental pollution: corporate crime and cancer mortality. Contemporary Justice Review, 15(1), 97-125.
Marriott, A. (2008). The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Manager: British Journal Of Administrative Management, (62), 26-27.
McCann, M., Haltom, W., & Fisher, S. (2013). Criminalizing Big Tobacco: Legal Mobilization and the Politics of Responsibility for Health Risks in the United States. Law & Social Inquiry, 38(2), 288-321.
Spurgeon, W., & Fagan, T. P. (2010). Criminal liability for life-endangering corporate conduct. Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology, 100(2), 400-433.
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