White-collar deviance entails all unethical practices including legally delineated crimes that high-ranking workers commit in their work. Many people mistake white-collar deviance for white-collar crime; however, white-collar deviance encompasses more factors than white-collar crime. In addition, white-collar deviance covers deviances in government, corporate world, and private industry as well.
The measurable constructs of deviance include moral, physical, and financial harms that the elite class might cause in the course of their duty. Nevertheless, it is important to note that, white-collar deviance covers all white-collar workers, even though the attention mostly centers on the elites in society. The fact that the elite in any society own and control the most resources underscores the reason why people perceive white-collar deviance as a deviance by the elites.
As aforementioned, the white-collar deviance usually gives the impression of the elite and this highlights the relationship between white-collar deviance and social class. Well, even though white-collar deviance does not explicitly refer to deviance amongst the elites in the society, there is a strong positive correlation between white-collar deviance and social class.
The underprivileged people in any society lack a feasible means to improve their living standards and thus they stand less exposed to practices that can lead to white-collar deviance. On the other hand, the elites are influential and they can influence decision making at all levels as opposed to the underprivileged that have little or no influence in decision-making.
Given the fact that the elite own power, they are likely to make decisions that would favor their well-being, even if it means deviating from the norms. The effects of such made decisions remain felt across the society thus linking the high social class with white-collar deviance. In most cases, the elites involved in white-collar deviance work in the government or have strong links with those in the government thus government has been implicated in white-collar deviance cases for a long time.
After committing white-collar deviances, influential government officials are known to interfere with law enforcement to protect their interests or those of their close allies. Government officials in this context represent government, for without people there can never be government.
Despite the continued claims that judiciary is an autonomous body that carries the mandate to prosecute law-breakers independently, influential government officials still influence judicial processes in some ways. Such interference of judicial processes is a white-collar deviance in itself. Elites in the government are foxy and even if they do not alter judicial processes, they can influence the interpretation of law to suit their personal interests.
From another perspective, governments can formulate and implement regulations that do not allow fair and free business practices. Regrettably, even when some policies, implemented by senior government officials fail to bear fruits or lead to disaster, the government tolerates these officials.
The case of Brooksley Born, the former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairperson, shows how government can tolerate white-collar deviance. In 1998, Brooksley sought to regulate Over-the-Counter (OTC) derivatives in the financial market only to face stiff opposition from Alan Greenspan, Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin, the then Federal Reserve chair, and Treasury Secretaries respectively.
Even after the economy plunged into crisis from early 2007 due to failure to implement Born’s provisions among other reasons, no legal action has been taken towards Greenspan and his colleagues. This phenomenon illustrates white-collar deviance at its best.