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They begin by noting that the formulation of white-collar crime usually stands the crime-employment equation on its head. Many classical theories of crime contended, at least in part, that crime was caused by lack of employment or, at least, adequate employment. White-collar crime theories, they note, tend to reverse this equation and argue that it is precisely the fact of high-level, or relatively high-level, employment that creates both the opportunity and the means to commit these types of offenses. Given this apparent paradox, they then contend that both sets of theories have logical weaknesses:
In short, a finding that the employed are more likely to steal because of their employment no more justifies a unique theory of theft (white-collar crime) than a finding that the unemployed are more likely to steal justifies a theory focusing exclusively on the lower class (deprivation or strain theory).30
Since, in their view, employment is off the board as a causal factor, some other factor(s) must explain the causation of white-collar crime. They are likewise dismissive of concepts that attempt to treat corporate crime (crime committed by those with high organizational standing, but ostensibly on behalf of the organization) as a unique animal, contending that such theories lack the theoretical coherence and methodological support to provide them with viability.31
Gottfredson and Hirschi then examine whether white-collar crimes are essentially different from other forms of crime. On the surface, they might appear to be. Certainly, one must be employed in a bank, probably in a relatively high position, to commit mortgage loan fraud. Likewise, one must have access to the Medicaid system to commit Medicaid fraud. They ask, however, what is the essential difference—from the perspective of a theory of crime causation— between a pharmacist stealing drugs from a hospital pharmacy and a carpenter stealing lumber from a job site? What, they posit, is the difference between a bank manager embezzling and a gas station attendant doing the same thing?
In pursuing this line of inquiry, they recognize the conventional position that white-collar criminals are more damaging to society because they have betrayed a position of higher social standing and trust, and therefore, the causal motivation may be different. They see two problems with this line of analysis: (1) Are the causes of the offenses really the same? and (2) Is the seriousness of the offense compatible? Gottfredson and Hirschi take the position that many theories of crime causation in general and of white-collar offenses in particular create some linkage between these two issues, positing that if the offense of the white-collar criminal is more serious on societal terms, then the motivation must be different or more powerful. They contend there is no reason the seriousness of the offense must have an equally serious motivation, and they believe there is ample empirical evidence on this point. Further, they contend, there are good theoretical reasons why seriousness of offense and power of motivation should not be linked. While they recognize that a study of the varying types of white-collar crime may hold some utility in at least methods of investigating it, they argue that there is no theoretical or methodological benefit to be derived from thinking about different varieties of white-collar crime as distinct from one another. They argue that there is no point to thinking about white-collar crime as different from crime in general.32
They begin this line of argument by tying white-collar crimes back to the general population of criminal offenses:
White-collar crimes satisfy the defining conditions of crime.... They provide relatively quick and relatively certain benefit with minimal effort. They require
THEORIES OF OCCUPATIONAL FRAUD
no motivation or pressure that is not present in any other form of human behavior.
Since crimes involve goods, services, or victims, they have other constituent properties as well: they all require opportunity, and they are thought to result in punishment of the offender if he or she is detected. Yet such properties cannot account for the general tendency of particular individuals to engage in crime, and they are therefore not central to a theory of criminality.33
Having established this conceptual predicate, Gottfredson and Hirschi then apply their general theory of crime to white-collar crime. They begin by acknowledging that some aspects of the white-collar offender, at least in its most classic formulation, tend to be different from the norm most associated with general, or street, crime. Among these different characteristics are that the white-collar offender is more likely to be tied to a location in place and time (the workplace), is more likely to have some level of educational attainment, is required by the dynamics of the workplace to defer to some degree to the wishes and interests of others, and usually has to conform to some level of conventional appearance. Accordingly, they note, the demands of the white-collar environment tend to attract people with a markedly different set of personal attributes than the normal offender. The selection processes and criteria for upper-level positions make these distinctions from the normal offender even more pronounced.