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Public Perceptions of White Collar Crime Culpability: Bribery, Perjury, and Fraud


Stuart P. Green


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Law-Newark

Matthew B. Kugler


University of Chicago - Law School

February 27, 2012

Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 74, No. 4, 2011
Rutgers School of Law-Newark Research Paper No. 103

Abstract:     
Although we are accustomed to thinking of “crime” as involving the most unambiguously blameworthy sorts of conduct in which citizens can engage, the reality is more complex, especially when we look at certain kinds of “white collar” behavior. In this set of empirical studies, participants were asked to assess a series of scenarios that presented potentially criminal white collar behavior. Lay persons made fairly fine-grained distinctions when deciding which behaviors they thought worthy of criminalization. In some cases, the distinctions made by respondents were consistent with current law. For example, in the case of fraud, participants distinguished between misrepresentations that went to the heart of the bargain and misrepresentations that were extraneous. In other cases, however, there were significant divergences between lay subjects’ views and current law. In the case of perjury, for example, participants drew a weaker distinction between lying in court under oath and lying to police while not under oath, and between literally false statements and literally true but misleading statements, than does the law. There were also divergences with respect to bribery: respondents sought to criminalize both commercial bribery and payments accepted by an office-holder in return for performing a non-official act, while American federal law typically criminalizes neither.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 27

Keywords: white collar crime, bribery, perjury, fraud

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Accepted Paper Series


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Date posted: July 28, 2011 ; Last revised: March 13, 2012

Suggested Citation

Green, Stuart P. and Kugler, Matthew B., Public Perceptions of White Collar Crime Culpability: Bribery, Perjury, and Fraud (February 27, 2012). Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 74, No. 4, 2011; Rutgers School of Law-Newark Research Paper No. 103. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1896405

Contact Information

Stuart P. Green (Contact Author)
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Law-Newark ( email )
123 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
United States
973-353-3006 (Phone)
Matthew B. Kugler
University of Chicago - Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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