Crimes committed by businessmen, politicians and government employees are common to both developed and developing countries. They include: embezzlement and tax evasion; violations of import and export laws; deliberate deception in labelling and packaging; food adulteration; misappropriation of funds in trust; breaches of monopoly regulations; insurance fraud; arson-for-profit; toxic waste violations; labour racketeering and bribery. Corruption, and more specifically political corruption, involves economic and social costs of serious proportions. White collar crime may also be referred to, after the fact, by euphemisms such as "inappropriate behaviour" and "judgemental lapse".
Illicit gains from white collar crime far exceed those from all other crime combined. One corporate price-fixing conspiracy may criminally convert more money each year than hundreds of burglaries, larcenies or thefts. In fact, these are the most pervasive, most pernicious and most costly crimes of all in society. The likelihood of getting caught is relatively small, the likelihood of getting convicted is even smaller and sentences for white collar crimes are lower than for example for bank robberies.
The 1980s saw a major increase in white-collar crime. One reason is that the opportunities became easier. Just as shoplifters do not think that large organizations are real victims, stockbrokers and merchant bankers think much the same of financial institutions when they rig share prices. Another is the destabilization of the market economy and job security, coupled with a decline in identification with a corporate community and rise in anonymity. Frequent job changers do not know who they work with. Their responsibility is to themselves alone.