Characteristics of white‐collar criminals: a Norwegian study

Publication Date04 May 2012
AuthorCathrine Filstad,Petter Gottschalk
SubjectAccounting & finance
Characteristics of white-collar
criminals: a Norwegian study
Cathrine Filstad and Petter Gottschalk
Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour,
BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway
Purpose – This article aims to address the research question: “What are the characteristics of
white-collar criminals in Norway?”.
Design/methodology/approach The research is based on data from articles in Norwegian
financial newspapers for one year where a total of 67 white-collar criminals convicted to jail sentence
were identified. The sample is analysed and presented in comparison with US literature especially on
characteristics of white-collar criminals, which is believed to be both general and limited.
Findings – The paper’s contribution is important, as studies of white-collar criminals so far have
focused on case studies rather than statistical analysis of a larger sample. The paper finds that the
typically white-collar criminal is male, 46 years old, involved with first time crime of the amount of
30 million US dollars and convicted to three years of imprisonment. As a contradiction to previous
literature on white-collar crime, the paper also finds that they are not part of the upper-class and highly
educated. On the contrary, even though mostly being leaders, they are not highly educated, but have a
position that gives them access to money. Consequently, the paper also finds that manipulation and
fraud is the most common form of white-collar crime in Norway.
Originality/value – The results are in opposition to existing literature and offer a fresh perspective
on the characteristics of white-collar criminals in Norway.
Keywords White-collar crime, C haracteristics of white-collar crimi nals, Categories of business crime,
Descriptive statistics, Jail sentences,Archival analysis, Crime research,White collar workers, Norway
Paper type Research paper
Sensational white-collar crime cases are regularly told in the international business
press and studied in journals of ethics and crime. White-collar crime is financial crime
committed by upper class members of society for personal or organizational gain.
White-collar criminals are individuals who tend to be wealthy, highly educated, and
socially connected, and they are typically employed by and in legitimate organizations.
Ever since Edwin Sutherland introduced the concept of “white-collar” crime in 1939,
researchers have discussed what might be included in and what might be excluded from
this concept. The discussion is summarized by scholars such as Benson and Simpson
(2009), Bookman (2008), Brightman (2009), Bucy et al. (2008), Eicher (2009), Garoupa
(2007), Hansen (2009), Heath (2008), Kempa (2010), McKay et al. (2010), Pickett and
Pickett (2002), Podgor (2007), Robson (2010) and Schnatterly (2003).
Most of these scholars apply anecdotal evidence to suggest what might be included in
and what might be excluded from the concepts of white-collar crime and white-collar
criminals. Examples of anecdotal evidence in the USA are famous white-collar criminals
such as Bernard Madoff, Raj Rajaratnam, and Jeffrey K. Skilling. While being relevant
and interesting case studies, the generalizability of such case studies is questionable as
done by some of the scholars mentioned above. What seems to be needed is a larger
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Journal of Money Laundering Control
Vol. 15 No. 2, 2012
pp. 175-187
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/13685201211218199

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