The term “white collar crime” actually describes a wide range of criminal offenses. Ultimately, however, they all describe the same general type of activity: one engaging in deceptive practices for financial gain. Given the amount of money that may be at stake in professional transactions, it may be easy to understand why stakeholders may be so quick to accuse one of wrongdoing when a deal fails. Yet as we here at the office of Neil S. Ruskin can attest to, not every failed venture is due to deception. Thus, the potential of being accused of a white collar crime should not dissuade you from doing business.
At the heart of almost every type of white collar crime is an element of fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (the agency tasked with investigating such offenses) defines fraud as “the intentional perversion of the truth for the purpose of inducing another person or other entity in reliance upon it to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.” It also goes on to include the obtaining money through false pretenses within this definition. Notice, however, that the word “intentional” is used here. That is because intent must be present for claims of fraud to be substantiated.
If, for example, you held an honest opinion that a proposed venture was sound, and used that opinion to convince others to invest resources in it, the failure of that venture does not necessarily constitute fraud. You may cite your own good faith if you do end up being accused of wrongdoing. The burden of proof then shifts to your accusers to show evidence that you knowingly deceived them.
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