Print this page Bookmark and Share

White Collar Crime

Attitudes toward white collar crime fluctuate in accordance with the business cycle.  With the mortgage crisis, collapse and scandal of Enron and the dot com crash, mistrust of big companies, corporate executives and professionals is high.  The media has had a hand in influencing this cycle by focusing public attention on a few key stories.  This publicity causes unique situations to seem more common than they may be.  For example, whenever there is a financial fraud trial, it will be a top headline for weeks.  The corrupt practices of the defendant's company arouse suspicion of all big businesses because the repetitive nature of headline news makes their practices seem common.

The financial crises and mortgage meltdown scandal has also shocked the American public into recognizing that corporate conduct and white collar crime can have a significant negative impact on ordinary people as never before.  When most Americans had pensions, the bad conduct of business executives made for interesting reading but didn’t seem to be all that important.  Now, with most dependent on 401(k) stock plans for retirement, bad behavior by executives can wipe out people’s retirement in a day.  Even jurors who normally believe in “buyer beware” have been shocked into realizing that due diligence is hard to do when executives lie and conceal information.

However, there are no timeless perceptual "norms" regarding white collar crime.  Attitudes fluctuate as events change and different cultural perspectives come into play.  In the go-go 1980s and during the dot-com boom, where the perception was that everyone had a chance to get rich, people were more tolerant of "creative" business practices, inflated rhetoric about business possibilities and investment returns, and questionable business behavior.

It is therefore important to have current jury research to understand how a jury in your venue will perceive your case and to develop critical questions for jury selection.  Mock trials, community surveys and focus groups are all good ways to get feedback and find out jurors' current attitudes toward key issues in your case.


U.S. v. Banco Industrial de Venezuela

Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster, & Russell, P.A.

CA-Orange County