Public Perceptions of White Collar Crime Culpability: Bribery, Perjury, and Fraud
27 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2011 Last revised: 13 Mar 2012
Date Written: February 27, 2012
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.
Keywords: white collar crime, bribery, perjury, fraud
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation