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Ethical Lessons for Accountants

ccording to the Dictionary of Criminal Justice Data Terminology, white-collar crime is nonviolent crime for financial gain committed by means of deception by persons whose occupational status is entrepreneurial, professional, or semi-professional and utilizing their special occupational skills and opportunities. For decades, the legal system has been relatively easy on whitecollar criminals. When compared to traditional street criminals, white-collar criminals have been the least likely to be incarcerated; only 20% receive prison time. They also receive the shortest sentences, an average of 1.8 months (2007 F raud Examiners Manual, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, page 4.312). Recently, however, the tide has turned against white-collar criminals. This is due in part to the well-publicized stream of corporate frauds that cost investors billions of dollars. Consider the following Department of Justice statistics in corporate fraud cases brought by prosecutors from July 2002 through July 2007 (www.usdoj.gov/ opa/pr/2007/July/07_odag_507.html): CEOs and presidents: 214 Vice presidents: 129 CFOs: 53 Corporate counsels or attorneys: 23 Other corporate officers: 817 Total corporate fraud convictions 1,236 The

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