(Bloomberg) Why do business executives—people who already possess status and wealth—commit financial crimes?
Eugene Soltes offers some interesting theories in his new book, Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal, including the notion that many senior business people operate in a moral “gray zone.” An associate professor at Harvard Business School, Soltes posits that they step over the line—breaking accounting rules or making illegal insider trades—in part because they rely on intuition. And, it turns out, their instincts stink.
More compelling than his analytical efforts, the author’s unusual research method ought to draw a large audience to his book. With an admirably naive eagerness, Soltes wrote letters to some four dozen convicted criminals, ranging from Ponzi scheme legend Bernard Madoff to Andrew Fastow, late of Enron Corp., to Dennis Kozlowski, once the chief executive of Tyco International Ltd. Lo and behold, many of them wrote back.