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The DNA of White Collar Crime (Book Review)

32 Pages Posted: 9 May 2007 Last revised: 10 Jun 2008

Peter J. Henning

Wayne State University Law School


This article is a Review of Professor Stuart Green's recently published book, Lying, Cheating, and Stealing: A Moral Theory of White-Collar Crime (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Professor Green is one of the leading scholars in the field of criminal law theory, and his book is the first systemic review of white collar crimes that provides a coherent view of the reason why these acts are properly the subject of criminal prosecution. Green's book fills a critical gap in legal scholarship by analyzing the moral norms that underlie the prosecution of white collar crimes, an approach never attempted in any systematic way in the criminal law literature. It provides a framework for explaining how the law reflects morality in white collar crime cases.

He begins by considering the fundamental ambiguity in the term "white-collar crime," which is not subject to any clear definition yet is a term used commonly to describe certain types of conduct. To explain why certain acts that might otherwise be legitimate should be subject to criminal prosecution, Green analyzes ten moral norms that help explain the rationale for certain prosecuting certain types of conduct. By looking at these shared moral understandings, he explains how crimes such as fraud, perjury, obstruction of justice, blackmail, and insider trading should be understood as reflecting the community's norms.

The key to white collar crime cases is proving the intent of the defendant to commit a crime. Unlike street crimes, there are no alibi defenses in white collar cases, nor the classic criminal defenses of justification or excuse. Instead, defenses offered include the "ignorant CEO" defense offered by Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom or the "fundamentally sound company" defense in the Enron conspiracy trial. The DNA of White Collar Crime considers how this analysis of the moral norms illuminates the critical assessment of intent. In the Review, I analyze how Green's moral theory of white collar crime makes it possible to understand the focal point on the defendant's mind in these types of cases. Green's insightful analysis of white collar crime provides a valuable tool to address why such prosecutions should even be brought.

Keywords: White Collar Crime, Criminal Law, Criminal Theory

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Henning, Peter J., The DNA of White Collar Crime (Book Review). Buffalo Criminal Law Review, Vol. 11, 2008; Wayne State University Law School Research Paper No. 07-19. Available at SSRN:

Peter J. Henning (Contact Author)

Wayne State University Law School ( email )

471 West Palmer Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202
United States

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