BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
White-Collar and Corporate Crime

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM31142
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Criminological theory and research are often preoccupied with ‘crimes on the streets’, i.e., volume crimes such as theft, interpersonal violence, illicit drugs, criminal gangs, anti-social behaviour etc, rather than ‘crimes in the suites’, i.e., corporate frauds, bribery and corruption, price-fixing, tax evasion etc. Yet the behaviours of those in elite political and economic positions, such as bankers, MPs, and corporations and their executives, among others, have the potential to significantly harm and undermine both society and individuals. There are a range of crimes and harms related to the financial system, commerce, health and safety, consumer experiences, as well as the environment, that are relatively understudied and researched within criminology. This unit, drawing upon perspectives especially from criminology, addresses this gap and will be attractive to students from across the School.

White-collar and corporate crimes represent a diverse array of activities – including financial crime, crimes against workers, crimes against consumers, and environmental crime. For example, the leaking of the FinCEN Files and Pandora Papers have exposed how deviant behaviour and misconduct by leading financial institutions and elite actors have adversely affected national economies and individual livelihoods throughout the world. In addition, the recent FIFA World Cup 2022 held in Qatar has been heavily criticised for the poor safety conditions of migrant workers developing key infrastructure, not to mention allegations of bribery and corruption to facilitate the award of the tournament to the region. A key question that emerges from such cases is whether corporations and organisations, or the individuals acting on their behalf, have done anything wrong? In many cases companies comply with all legal requirements, but nonetheless attract stringent criticism of their ‘ethical’ behaviours.

This unit provides analysis of such white-collar and corporate crimes and deviance. Such acts (or omissions) often occur within the context of international commerce and business, and may be facilitated at the transnational level through the use of offshore financial centres and ‘shell’ firms or third parties in other jurisdictions. This unit will therefore critically examine the nature and organisation of these crimes (e.g., the processes and practices necessary to carry them out), the key social actors involved (e.g., who are the ‘criminals’, why do they do it, and who is being victimised?), and the mixture of responses to such crimes (e.g., enforcement, self-regulation, prevention/reduction, disruption/intervention) at the local, national, and transnational levels. To explore these issues, the unit will examine a number of relevant in-depth case studies such as corporate corruption and bribery, tax avoidance/evasion, and modern slavery.


-To provide students with knowledge of different aspects of white-collar and corporate crimes and the organisation of such crimes;
-To explore theoretical insights underpinning white-collar crimes, including context, historical development, and modern criminal justice policy at the national and international level;
-To introduce key aspects of debates around alternative concepts of criminality (i.e., crime vs. immoral or deviant behaviour), given the location and framing of many white-collar and corporate crimes as misconduct as opposed to crime.
-To discuss, through case studies, contemporary examples of white-collar and corporate crime;
- To promote critical awareness of the balance between regulating business activity and ensuring financial integrity.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning across course units consists of: (1) preparatory work to be completed prior to teaching sessions, including readings, pre-recorded subject material and online activities; (2) a weekly whole-class lecture or workshop; (3) a tutorial; and (4) one-to-one support via subject specific office hours.

Knowledge and understanding

- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key rules and principles within the criminal justice process as they relate to white-collar and corporate crime.

Intellectual skills

- Apply criminological theory to explain and understand white-collar and corporate crimes of a financial, social, and environmental nature.
- Demonstrate knowledge of the purposes and functions of criminal and regulatory law in dealing with white-collar and corporate crime.
- Identify and analyse legal, policy, and ethical issues pertaining to white-collar and corporate crime.

Practical skills

- A capacity to provide reasoned and critical analysis of contemporary business and criminological issues.
- An ability to carry out independent library-based research.
- An ability to present argument coherently and fluently.
- An ability to structure argument and analysis.
- An ability to work in groups.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- Engage in structured oral discussions.
- Collect information from sources, including electronic resources.
- Manage personal study time and meet deadlines.
- Discern between the merits or otherwise of competing arguments.
- Present material orally in front of a group.

Assessment methods

Summative (100%): 3,000-word essay

Students choose one form/type of white-collar or corporate crime (not one of the analysed case studies) and provide a critical analysis of:

- Its nature and organisation,

- Who the offenders are and why they might commit such crimes,

- How it is (or could be) regulated and controlled by any means, e.g., criminal, administrative, or other law, and/or other social and business mechanisms.

In the essay students must draw upon evidence from theory, policy, and practice using both academic and official materials to substantiate their arguments.

Formative: 500-word non-assessed essay

- Students will have the opportunity to complete a 500-word non-assessed essay plan on their proposed essay topic, which should be based on one form/type of white-collar or corporate crime.

Recommended reading

There is no set textbook for this course unit. Online links will be provided to all resources for both lectures and tutorials.

However, the following texts provide excellent introductions to key issues around white-collar and corporate crime or demonstrate key issues through relevant case studies:

  • Benson, M. and Simpson, S. (2023) White-Collar Crimes: An Opportunity Perspective, 4th Ed., London: Routledge.
  • Gobert, J. and Punch, M. (2003) Rethinking corporate crime, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Lord, N. and Levi, M. (2023) Organising White-Collar and Corporate Crimes, London: Routledge.
  • Lord, N., Inzelt, E., Huisman, W and Faria, R. (2022) European White-Collar Crime: Exploring the Nature of European Realities, Bristol: BUP.
  • Slapper, G. and Tombs, S. (1999) Corporate Crime, London: Pearson Longman.
  • Sutherland, E. (1983) White Collar Crime, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • van Erp, J., Huisman, W., Vande Walle, G. (eds.) (2015) The Routledge Handbook of White-Collar and Corporate Crime in Europe. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Davies Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Restricted to: available to all Year 3 students university wide

Pre-requisites: none

Co-requisites: none

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