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Illegal Business Procedures, Part I

Watch out! More and more business decisions can land you behind bars. Here are a few to avoid.

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Here are four scenarios that could be prosecuted as crimes:

Securities violations. If you have a small public company, the federal government requires as many forms and reports to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) as it does from a large corporation. If you fail to file the proper forms at the proper time, or file a document with inaccurate information, you could be prosecuted.

Insider trading. Suppose you're playing golf with a business associate who mentions he's getting a million-dollar severance package because his company will soon be acquired by a larger company. Smelling a windfall on the stock market, you quickly buy shares in his company just before the price soars. That's insider trading. Under SEC rules, if you learn of information that could affect stock prices by means that aren't available to the general public, such as your associate's off-hand remark on the golf course, you must abstain from trading or face criminal sanctions.

Currency transactions. If you're doing business overseas and deposit more than $10,000 in a foreign bank, you're required to file a currency report with the Commission of Internal Revenue. The Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act requires reporting the movement of $10,000 or more of currency into or out of the United States as well as disclosing any interest in a foreign financial account on federal income tax returns.

Bank fraud. Suppose you're so eager to get a loan that you fluff up your financial statements to help persuade the loan committee to take a chance on you. It's a crime to make false statements for the purpose of influencing any action by a federally insured institution. It doesn't matter whether or not the loan committee was actually influenced by the fluff, the bank actually lost money or the loan officer knew what you were doing. It's still illegal.