Like many of you I have been a victim of white-collar crime on different occasions and I have fought hard to successfully bring the perpetrators to justice. Everyone I talked to in each instance always gave me all the reasons why I couldn’t reclaim my loss. This is unfortunately a common problem. Most people are either intimidated by complex alien legal systems and are at a loss on how to seek justice, simply lack the initiative after the shock of their loss, naturally lack the funds to fight following their ordeal, or they simply don’t want to come forward for fear of embarrassment or exposure to taxes. Nations like Switzerland and other so called tax havens are such traps which feed on peoples paranoia and therefore attract white-collar crime. Most of us are touched and suffer from these types of crimes at one point in our lives. The degree of the loss and suffering due to the crime varies but the problem is very real. If one’s economic resources are well diversified then the damage can be minimized. If not then the surprise is quite painful. Also depending on one’s age and the capacity to recreate wealth it can be a devastating experience. I know many whose lives will never be the same for they have lost their security, their self esteem, better possibilities for their children, better medical care and finally just basic simple peace of mind. For many do not have the time or the energy to start over. As a society we have come to accept too readily that white collar criminals or “whicons” as I call them are not as harmful to society as blue collar criminals. We and our legal system fail to come to terms with the fact that one whicon can inflict more damage and suffering to more lives in one sweep than the average blue collar criminal ever could. We always talk about how a blue collar criminal who premeditates a crime must get a harsher penalty. Whicons premeditate their crime every step of the way, daily without shame, while unscrupulously betraying the people and society which have entrusted them with their lifesaving’s and therefore with their lives. Furthermore, the average blue collar criminal has a lower level of education and often a more difficult life to contend with, which can lead to extreme frustrations, which can then leads to crime. In the whicon scenario we are dealing with people who have relatively high levels of education and often higher material wealth than the people they actually usurp. Just because they don’t directly hold a gun to one’s head and kill them shouldn’t let them off the hook. The crime should be looked at as a whole package in terms of the extent of the premeditation, the level of greed, the people their hurt in the process and to what degree. Something must also be said for a system of education which doesn’t put enough value on teaching people ethics and compassion, for it is one thing to get technical training but quite another to instill compassion and common sense. These are aspect which are not emphasized in our education systems, be it in business, law, or medicine. On the contrary, our ultimate capitalist society has often elevated these whicons to levels of adulation and respect for some young executives to aspire to. I remember once when some people were organizing a party to celebrate the release of an executive who served a short jail term for embezzlement. His coworkers and friends seemed to view him as some sort of capitalist rogue hero. When these whicons end up taking away the lifesaving’s of retirees who no longer have the means of recreating their economic base and need their hard earned money to take care of their basic survival needs like food, housing, and medical care, it is as if they had murdered them, for they not only cut off their economic life support, rendering them helpless, but also rob them of their trust and self esteem by betraying and humiliating them. This is an argument I had in court once when I exposed the fact that two septuagenarians had died as a direct result of their lifesaving’s being taken from them by their portfolio managers in a complex case of embezzlement. It shouldn’t come much as a surprise that these crimes are not taken that seriously, when in our warped society murderers get their sentences reduced by more than half, and couples getting divorced end up successfully usurping the other’s livelihood, including even their airline miles in some cases, after being married at times for as little as a year. It is high time that we as a so called civilized society take steps against these crimes and seriously begin to evaluate the suffering these whicons inflict on hard working, honest individuals. Our institutions should prevent them from painlessly reintegrating the society they betrayed with such ease. In Europe for example one must think twice before declaring bankruptcy and not living up to one’s obligations, because it’s effects are long lasting. There one is pushed into the financial back lot for more than a decade. In countries governed by Roman law where one is guilty until proven innocent, assets are frozen immediately so as to secure future retributions once the trials have been won. But then again in certain parts of the world and close knit countries like Switzerland, if one lacks the experience or determination these crimes are conveniently swept under the rug. In the US on the other hand the legal system makes it very costly and by the time one wins the case the disappeared money has usually completely vanished. Our systems of justice and government must therefore become more aware and responsible by establishing two degrees of white-collar criminality: into higher and lower offenders. For higher offenders involved in outright premeditated fraud against clients, the punishment should fit the crime and sentences should be handed down like the ones handed down for higher blue-collar crimes. That is according to the degree of suffering caused by the crime. For lower offenders who created a problem due to incompetence they must also be punished but of course according to the degree and premeditation of their crime. It basically goes back to the criminal code of degrees of involvement. It is not enough to attribute these crimes to the greed of investors who want higher returns, but governments must do more to protect innocent people from con artists who can disappear and resurface every seven years. It would then be beneficial for our government to establish a commission on white-collar crime to layout the ground-work for such reforms in our society. It is increasingly evident that our legal system needs massive reforms in order to readapt itself to the present as we enter the next millennium. This is one crucial reform which must be made. Only then will a valid message be sent out that these crimes which affect the lives of so many will no longer be tolerated. It is time to make the punishment fit the crime with regards to white-collar criminality and to stop letting the perpetrators get away with just a slap on the wrist. As a civilized society we must do much more in evaluating the suffering these whicons inflict not only on individuals but on our values and to prevent them from painlessly reintegrating the society they so comfortably betrayed. This can be done by creating mandatory sentencing guidelines as harsh as those handed down to blue-collar criminals. Only then will it send out a valid message. We must treat Whicons as devious criminals who are motivated by greed and total disregard for the society in which they function and must therefore receive the full punishment they deserve. As in the case of blue collar criminals they must, depending on the premeditation in conjunction with the suffering they inflict, receive the appropriate punishment. The End.
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