Embezzlement. Corporate espionage. Violence against copy machines
. These are all white collar crimes, the sort executed by the White Collar Worker. They tend to be non-violent and money-driven. The Enron scandal in Real Life raised awareness about these sort of criminals. If the perpetrators are caught, fiction will often portray them as going to a Luxury Prison Suite
. How often this happens in Real Life
(and to what degree) varies.
The supertrope of Stealing from the Till
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- In Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Warren White is on trial for a massive investment scheme. He gets his trial transferred to Gotham for an easier insanity defense, which was probably the biggest mistake of his life.
- Office Space revolves around this concept as the main characters try to steal money from their employers via a computer algorithm.
- Figures into The Other Guys, which makes a conspicuous point of making the real villains not gangsters or drug dealers but wealthy businessmen.
- The focus of the drama/thriller Margin Call, a fictionalized account of the 2008 Wall Street financial crisis.
- Not a straight case. A major point of the film is that their actions, while certainly deceptive and unethical, aren't actually illegal. Technically, no crimes were committed.
- The focus of Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere.
- Mad Money does this when a group of Federal Reserve workers steal old $1 bills which are supposed to be destroyed from the mint. They end up getting away with it as well.
- Side Effects opens with Emily's husband getting out of jail after doing four years for insider trading. Also, it is possible to make money on the stock exchange by betting that a company's shares will go down, rather than up. If you know that a pharmaceutical company's new anti-depressant is going to get some very bad publicity for its side effects, then it's a pretty safe bet.
- Enron The Smartest Guys In The Room was largely about this trope.
- Walter Jon Williams' Hardwired is rife with this. It's pretty violent, though; one episode of corporate sabotage involves murdering an executive to get access to the company's intranet.
- Going Postal and Making Money deal with the finances of the Grand Trunks company cheating the inventor of the system out of his company and property, and crooked bank managers playing their own games with the banks, respectively. Boxed Crook Moist Von Lipwig is the hero of the two books, and probably one of the most honest people in those two books.
- As it seems he's been set up to reform Ankh-Morpork's tax system, we can only wonder who has been stealing from whom.
- One of the X-Wing Series novels has Wraith Squadron pretending to be the crew of a warship touring planets aligned with Warlord Zsinj; they killed the captain and will later start impersonating him with the help of his full-holo Captain's Log, but in this particular instance a planetary governor wants to talk to the captain. Improvising, Face pretends to be a lieutenant and says that the captain is in the bath, dictating his memoirs. He has to budget his time; he's not some planetary governor who can skim taxes with one hand and pick his nose with the other! (It helps that the late captain was a massive narcissist who dictated his personal log in full holo—the equivalent of recording a video journal using a cinema-quality camera—so him dictating his memoirs in the bath was almost plausible.)
- Chapter 21 of The Pale King is a conversation between an IRS auditor and a businessman trying to falsify his tax report. He is given two options: jail, or filing a new report with the correct information and paying the late fees.
- Claude suspects that the higher-ups at Post 047 are doctoring the records so that the site has a perfectly averaged productivity rate, which would make them appear less suspicious.
- On Brothers and Sisters, William Walker embezzled his company's pension plan in order to buy a plot of land in the desert. Because the Army wanted the land, the Walker children were able to sell it to them at a profit before anyone noticed the money was gone.
- And in the third season, William's son Tommy tried a similar scheme. It didn't work so well for him.
- Leverage is all about getting revenge for these.
- George Bluth's arrest for "creative accounting" at his development company is what starts off the plot of Arrested Development.
- Ryan is arrested for fraud in The Office.
- Earlier, one of the Stamford transfers was a white collar ex-con.
- As the name suggests, White Collar is about a Boxed Crook brought in by the FBI to investigate this sort of crime.
- Life has Ted Earley, who lives in Charlie's garage and manages his assets. Luxury Prison Suite averted— Ted was in with Charlie, who was in for murder. Whatever.
- An episode of Castle dealt with someone murdered while engaged in corporate espionage.
- In Highway To Heaven, one character uses insider trading, including stealing the company's trash and hiring a disgruntled former employee for his insider information to start a series of deals so he can manipulate two companies' stock prices, gain control over the company's voting shares, and get rid of his enemies. This is all done in the name of "good" by the shows protagonist, an angel, who in other episodes, has an ethical dilemma over much simpler things, but white collar crime is apparently okay.
- In one episode of Burn Notice, Michael pretends to join a group of executives planning a robbery, assuming they're going to steal some funds over the computer. Completely averted when they instead take a dozen hostages and plan on forcing a millionaire to transfer his money at gunpoint.
- This sets off the plot to 2 Broke Girls: Caroline's father is arrested for running a Ponzi Scheme.
- On Boardwalk Empire most of the characters are straight up blue collar bootleggers and/or gangsters but Nucky Thompson started out as a crooked politician and is not adverse to some white collar crime like crooked land deals. Gangster Arnold Rothstein falls victim to a real estate company running a pump-and-dump scheme and plans to revenge by running a reverse scam on them. One of Nucky's associates was ruined when he invested in the original Ponzi Scheme.
- The Corporations in Shadowrun engage in a variety of hiring shadowrunners to do their dirty deeds ranging from small things like stealing the lunch orders of the rival's corporate meeting to ordering the murder of a rival CEO.
- This is what Gianna Parasini deals with in the Mass Effect series. You can help her out on a few occasions. The planet of Noveria where she works in the first game seems to suffer from this endemically.
- While the actual investigations in Ace Attorney are Always Murder, the smuggling ring Lang is chasing after is engaged in a number of white collar illegal operations. Of note is the forging of money using the embassy printing press that has damaged Zheng Fa's economy.
- This is the main motivation of Captain Planet villian Luten Plunder.
- In The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob is convicted of voter fraud for fixing the mayoral election - and is sentenced to Springwood Minimum Security Prison and joins the prison rowing team to race against Princeton.
- The Enron scandal raised a lot of awareness about accounting fraud.
- Martha Stewart was found guilty of lying about receiving a legal stock tip, but the founder of the company selling the stock was itself guilty of insider trading. Stewart sold because she saw the founder selling.
- Insider trading itself is a complicated (yet oddly simple) crime: if you trade on a stock knowing what the stock is going to do, then you're guilty* . The thing that makes it complicated, however, is that proving prior knowledge is difficult at best; without written records or witness testimony, it is almost impossible, in fact. The Securities and Exchange Commission will prosecute to the full extent of the law, though.
- Subversion: Al Capone went to Alcatraz for tax evasion officially. Being a well known Chicago mobster helped get him a less cushy sentence.
- There was no solid evidence that he was guilty of anything other than tax evasion, so that was what they charged him with and convicted him of. Also, his cushy time only lasted until he was transferred to Alcatraz, where he spent most of his sentence. He got the same treatment as everybody else while there, and the only reason they released him early was due to rapidly declining health brought on by syphilis.
- This was kind of a Catch-22 for Capone. There's a line on the tax form for "other" income. The problem is that wages, salaries, tips, interest income, capital gains, self-employment, and most other legal sources of income are accounted for already. So including a large amount on the "other" line opens you up for some rather pointed questions, and not including it is tax evasion.
- Bernie Madoff ran a decades-long Ponzi scheme that defrauded 4,800 people and organizations (including charities and hospitals) of nearly $65 Billion. At least three suicides have been attributed to his crime, including his son's.
- Some scandals, particularly the Norbourg affair, in Quebec have led to the expression "criminels à cravate" ("tie-wearing criminals").
- The famed computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, in his autobiography Ghost in the Wires, describes the surreal feeling of being the only white-collar criminal in a juvenile hall full of murderers and rapists after one of his earliest arrests.