Rarely does a week go by without a well-known executive being indicted for engaging in a white-collar crime. Perplexed as to what drives successful, wealthy people to risk it all, Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes spent seven years in the company of the men behind the largest corporate crimes in history - from the financial fraudsters of Enron, to the embezzlers at Tyco, to the Ponzi schemers Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford.
Soltes refutes popular explanations of why seemingly successful executives engage in crime. White-collar criminals, he shows, are not merely driven by excessive greed or hubris, nor do they usually carefully calculate the costs and benefits before breaking the law. Instead, he shows that most of these executives make decisions the way we all do - on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings.
Based on extensive interaction with nearly 50 former executives, Soltes provides insights into why some saw the immediate effects of misconduct as positive, why executives often don't feel the emotions most people would expect, and how acceptable norms in the business community can differ from those of the broader society.
©2016 Eugene Soltes (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
the book provides an insight into some of the biggest fraud cases of recent history. but more importantly it describes how these executives fell into the clutches of fraud before they realized it was too late
This work covers quite a wide swath of business ethics, paired often and deftly with laws and case histories. It starts with a treatise on "why they do it," i.e., why humans do aberrant and illegal things, that is plodding in a few passages though always alright at least (or better), and improves as it moves to case histories. The cherry on top is the writings of various of the infamous perps on their motives and perceptions, paired with nice capsule recountings of their companies' stories. The assembled perp letters vary from (in my opinion) catalogs of energetic blame deflection and flagrant pilings-on of yet more self-aggrandizing and righteously aggrieved, dubious "realities" (Stanford), to echoes of the thrill of the clever whiz-kid unveiling ever-more abstruse financial tricks to accolades of the world, as they plunge onward (Fastow, and, to some degree, in his earlier trades-and-exchanges-innovating career phase, Madoff). We get to see step by step and often in their own words, just how these figures moved from ambitious performers to criminals. This transition is of central importance to me, as a professor teaching business ethics. It is not the headline, but the little incremental shifts that add up to the turnoff onto the wrong road. It was smart of the author to intuit that these personalities, shunted off their former glory-platforms into ill-repute, would have strong motives to again alight on a platform (the correspondence behind this book) to get attention and explain themselves. Parts of this will be familiar to readers with a history of studying the fraud and ethics genres and the financial press. But the whole is a good refresher with some fresh angles on things and people I have already scrutinized. The perps in all cases shed bits of light I hadn't seen elsewhere. The author is quite thoughtful in exploring the fuzzy edges of laws as these play out in fast-breaking business situations. The distance between an innovative solution that is lawful or not, can be narrow, and this is masterfully walked through.
The person reading this book does a terrible job annunciating words. It's a shame because this book sounds interesting but I can't actually fall into the story line because of him mispronouncing words.
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