In a fascinating piece written for The Atlantic, Eugene Soltes writes about his experience interviewing 50 white-collar criminals for his new book Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal.
He started out his research hoping to prove or disprove some theories about why fraud, embezzlement, insider trading, and bribery are the norm in the businesses industry.
Are white-collar criminals just greedier than everyone else? Are they just the bad apples of the business world?
Or were they blinded by their need to get ahead and couldn’t see that what they were doing was wrong?
Soltes’ answers are somewhat unexpected and surprising.
The Prevalence of White-collar Crime
In a new study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) – the 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational fraud and Abuse – more than 2,400 cases of white collar crime were reported from more than 100 countries.
Almost half of those cases – 1,000 of them – involved U.S. organizations.
The lesson to be learned by 20 years of fraud investigation by the ACFE is that no organization is immune to white-collar crime.
A typical organization loses 5% of its revenue each year to various kinds of fraud. For every $1 million any given business takes in, a baseline for how much you might have lost in occupational fraud would be $50,000.
It happens in every kind of business – small businesses and global businesses. In addition, the ACFE reports that many frauds go undetected or unmeasured or are unmeasurable: lost productivity, reputational damage, and loss of future business.
Because fraud investigations can be expensive, organizations often terminate those offenders and don’t prosecute them. Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear about white-collar crime as much as we hear about murders, robberies, and other violent crimes.
What is Different About White-collar Criminals?
The surprising answer that seems to come from this article is: nothing.
Eugene Soltes started his research hoping to find the theories of University of Chicago economist, and Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker to be plausible.
Becker had theorized that white-collar criminals aren’t psychologically aberrant, they just weigh costs and benefits differently than other people.
The problem Soltes found was that while many of the men he interviewed didn’t show remorse – although some did, and many recognized what they did was wrong – they also didn’t always have rational explanations for why they did what they did.
Many of these convicted criminals just got caught up in their own worlds. They didn’t think about it as being wrong at the time. They weren’t calculating at all. Additionally, they were just reacting.
Does that sound like any other kind of “criminal mind” you can think of?
Does it sound like any other kind of criminal: the mugger intent on paying his bills, the car thief trying to make a better living or the husband blinded by anger. In other words, it sounds like people?
Given the prevalence of white-collar crime in this country, does it seem like this is all that different from other types of crime? When it comes to making bad decisions, do smart people really win, or is human nature the same everywhere you go?
In conclusion, If you or someone you know has been charged with white-collar crime, it is imperative that an experienced criminal defense attorney be consulted. Please reach out today. Let’s start fighting for your freedom.