Rarely does a direct order lead to white collar crime

Perhaps you are a successful analyst at an investment firm, and you are among the employees facing investigation for alleged insider trading.

There was no direct order given. You work in an environment that maintains a certain nonchalance about ethics, one of many motivating factors that can lead to involvement in white-collar crime.

What it means

White-collar crime is a term that refers to various nonviolent crimes that employees commit. Their type of work may put them in a position to engage in embezzlement, bribery, fraud, money laundering, identity theft, cybercrime and other criminal activities, including insider trading. Employers rarely give a direct order to break the law, but they may open the door a bit. For example, in the MCI-WorldCom scandal, the accountants cooked the books when management told them to “make the debt go away.” To do so, they inflated reserves to meet Wall Street’s expectations. In the end, the company had to revise its financial statements from 1999 to 2002 and lost tens of billions of dollars. The former CFO and controller faced charges of various counts of corporate misconduct, including securities fraud, and received a 25-year prison sentence.

Weighing ethical choices

Sometimes, mixed signals appear in the corporate environment that cause employees to lean toward making unethical choices. Given certain kinds of incentives, such as performance-based compensation, some employees may compromise their values, which can lead to criminal behavior. Furthermore, in committing white-collar crime of one sort or another, perpetrators feel removed from the eventual results of their activities because they never face those affected.

Seeking help

No matter your level of involvement in insider trading—if any at all—the best time to explore your legal options is when you first become aware of an imminent investigation. Giving your legal team an early lead helps them construct the most effective defense strategy. A white-collar crime can have a debilitating effect on your career and reputation, and you want every advantage available that will help produce a successful outcome for your case.