White collar crime is defined as lying, cheating, or stealing in a business environment, and costs the US economy an estimated $300 billion every year. While the most publicized examples happen on a large scale, small businesses can also be affected, sometimes unintentionally. As a small business owner, a criminal investigation could have devastating effects for your company in the form of penalties, fines, and other criminal charges.
White Collar Crime in Small Businesses
In small businesses, white collar crime most commonly occurs when one or more employees take advantage of access to record keeping. While this can still happen in a business of any size, small businesses often rely on a single person to handle the bookkeeping, signing of checks, and preparing of financial statements. This leaves small businesses more exposed to white collar crime, as it is easier to supply false information on financial records. This can land the employee(s) involved, or even the owner and entire company, in serious legal trouble.
How Can I Prevent White Collar Crime in My Business?
If you are the owner of a small business, whether you handle the bookkeeping or not, you should take steps to protect yourself from a possible criminal investigation. Make sure you have more than one signature required for checks, and change your access information periodically, especially whenever employees leave the company. It’s also a good idea to have a third party accountant review your books every few years, to ensure that all the finances are accounted for. Most importantly, you should seek the advice of an attorney if you are ever unsure about the legality of a procedure.
What Should I Do if My Company Is Being Investigated?
If your business is being investigated by authorities, it is in your best interest to be cooperative. However, that does not mean that you should waive your rights – you have a right against making self incriminating statements. Contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible before making any statements.