Federal White-Collar Crime Laws, Investigation, Prosecution, and Legal Defense: A Comprehensive Overview


White-collar crime is a term that represents non-violent illegal actions, typically committed by individuals in the business or professional world. These crimes involve deceit, breach of trust, or concealment, and are often committed for economic gain. Federal white-collar crimes are a serious matter, with cases including corporate fraud, money laundering, and insider trading, among others.

Federal White-Collar Crime Laws

Federal white-collar crime laws typically fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 63 encompasses the laws regarding mail fraud, a severe form of white-collar crime (United States Code, Title 18). Similarly, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act 2002 came up to combat white-collar crime after a series of major corporate and accounting scandals such as Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom.

FBI White-Collar Crime Investigation

The FBI has devoted significant resources to investigating white-collar crimes, often with an international scope. The FBI collaborates with other agencies, focusing on money laundering, corporate fraud, assets declaration discrepancies, and more (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2019). 

Prosecution of Federal Financial Crimes

Federal financial crimes are prosecuted by U.S Attorneys' Offices within the Department of Justice. In some high-profile instances, crimes may also be prosecuted by the Fraud Section or the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ's Criminal Division. Federal prosecutors use various techniques, such as hard drive forensics, to gather substantial evidence against defendants (U.S. Department of Justice, 2020).

Legal Defense Strategies for White-Collar Crimes

Defence strategies for white-collar crime can vary depending on the nature of the crime and circumstances of the case, but routinely involve challenging the evidence, contesting prosecutorial actions, negotiating plea deals, and more. An experienced white-collar crime attorney is essential to navigate this complex process (American Bar Association, 2020).

Impact of Corporate Fraud on Economy

Corporate fraud can result in a massive loss of investor, employee, and public confidence, impacting not just the offending entities but also the broader economy. Consider the Enron case, where the excessive debt hidden from shareholders and public led to the company's abrupt downfall, wiping out billions from the stock market and leading to significant job losses. Such incidents can trigger tighter regulations, impact the macroeconomic environment, and create a ripple effect of mistrust across the financial system.

Money Laundering and Its Effect on Businesses

Businesses can unknowingly become conduits for money laundering operations implanted by external entities or internal rogues. For instance, a retail business might be used to process illicit funds through its legitimate systems, creating an illusion of legitimate income. Large-scale money laundering can cause severe financial damage, reputational losses, and potential legal ramifications for businesses themselves.

Insider Trading Charges and Penalties

Insider trading, the unfair advantage from non-public information for trading, attracts severe penalties. The charges range from large fines to imprisonment. Notably, Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison and two years of supervised release for insider trading, indicating that no one is immune from prosecution.

Federal Laws for Securities and Commodities Fraud

Securities and commodities fraud are serious offenses under US federal law. Violators can be prosecuted under several statues, including the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Commodity Exchange Act. The latter was famously applied in the successful prosecution of the Enron executives who manipulated the California's energy market. 

How to Report White-Collar Crime in the U.S.

Reporting white-collar crime in the U.S can be done through numerous official channels. These organizations include the Federal Trade Commission for customer fraud, the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission for securities fraud, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center for internet-enabled fraud. Unusual financial activities in banks can also be reported through the Bank Secrecy Act.

Strategies for Defending White-Collar Crimes in Court

When defending against white-collar charges in court, several strategies might prove effective. Legal counsel may argue lack of intent to commit fraudulent actions, or challenge the legality of the evidence collected. At times, entering a plea agreement with the prosecution might be the best strategy, reducing potential penalties in exchange for cooperating with investigators.


While white-collar crime often appears less destructive than violent crime, the economic and social impacts can be devastating. The federal government takes such offenses very seriously, employing robust investigative resources and stringent laws to combat these offenses. 


American Bar Association. (2020). Defending White Collar Crime: A Portrait of Attorneys at Work. ABA Publishing.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2019). White-Collar Crime. FBI. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

U.S. Department of Justice. (2020). Investigative Techniques. U.S. DOJ.

United States Code. Title 18. Part I. Chapter 63.

Kolsrud Law Officess. (2023).  Phoenix White Collar Crime Lawyer. https://kolsrudlawoffices.com/white-collar-crime-lawyer/