Corporate Crime

"Obviously crime pays, or there'd be no crime."

G Gordon Liddy (1930 – 2021), American lawyer, FBI agent, and Watergate conspirator
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This Business English ESL lesson plan on corporate crime has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Unfortunately, the desire and desperation to make profits pushes some businesses or their employees to act outside the law. This type of crime is usually financial in nature, and can include anything from tax evasion to securities fraud, and from corruption to manslaughter. The money involved in corporate crime very often eclipses that involved in blue collar crime, which in turn can run the risk of threatening the very existence of the business and can even bring down an economy. In this Business English lesson plan on white-collar crime, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the different types of crimes businesses commit and why these happen.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

CNN Money | 7 of the biggest corporate scandals

The article looks at some of the most famous cases of corporate crime, including illegal accounting practices at Enron, emissions rigging at Volkswagen, and the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any other examples of corporate scandals?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is called “A Globalized Corporate Crime Wave Is on The Rise” by The Ring of Fire which looks at how some companies will do anything, including funding terrorism, to make money in developing counties.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the difference between white-collar and blue-collar crimes, suitable punishments for criminal companies, and unethical behaviour that businesses engage in.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with corporate crime such as embezzlement, price fixing> and whistleblower. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about white-collar crime. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the connection between corporate crime, corruption and organised crime, which whistleblower policies exist, and what should be done to protect whistleblowers.


After the class, students will write a case study of a crime committed by a company including motives and the law that was broken. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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