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Publisher's Summary

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

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insight into the slippery slope of fraud

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

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Phil O.
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 10-22-16

Wide ranging, from psych studies to perps' words

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.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Overall an informative look at white collar crime

The best thing that this book provided me with was a better understanding of the complexities and issues with studying white collar crime. The only issue I found with the book was the harsh characterization of other forms of crime.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An interesting look at white collar crime

Eugene Soltes examines the problem of white collar crime--what makes some of the most successful and respected businessmen in the country (and the world, but his focus is mainly on the US) commit financial crimes that destroy their careers and land them in jail. He takes a hard and detailed look at how our views of white collar crime have evolved, as well as why white collar criminals do it.

The most fascinating parts of the book are the profiles of major white collar criminals, and the ways in which they justified their crimes to themselves. What I found a bit hard to swallow is the Enron story, in which the company officers are presented as succumbing to the desire to be clever and successful, with no sense that they were going to be hurting anyone. This would be easier to take if we didn't have audio of Enron traders laughing about "Grandma Millie."

So, please. I think there's a lot of good work here that Sontes has done. I think he does add a lot to our understanding of what lets successful businessmen (and he says that even now it really is almost all men who get caught in this trap) get drawn into white collar crime when they have no need to do it. I don't regret at all any of the time I spent listening to this audiobook, or the money spent on it.

But I'd like to sit down with him for a long chat about some parts of it.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not as sold

This book was very dissapointing. More than half of the book is financial history not at all about the companies and people referred to in the summary. It was difficult to listen to. Finally late in the book came the interesting studies. I wouldn't pay to purchase this book. if you do you may want to skip to the back chapters .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fuzzy World of Fraud

First off this book isn't for everyone. While there are anecdotes explaining rather well known perpetrators (e.g. Andrew Fastow, Bernie Madoff, etc.), the book is really so much more.

The book starts off looking at why they did it. It is surprising that the general consensus from the perps was that they did no wrong. "I'm innocent!", they claim. Yeah. Yeah.

But then book takes a turn and goes back to the early days of business; about the time of the robber barons in the late 1800's. Back then there were very few laws regulating business. Business became the last wild frontier.

It is this last wild frontier that created the situation that still exists today. Survival of the fittest became the norm. Creativity and power could determine who would win and lose in the business world. Decisions were made in the interest of advancing their businesses. Sometimes there was collateral damage; that is when regulation began.

There is one other aspect to consider as well. That is the one of impressions. Dress for success was another side of the business. Successful business people needed to not only "walk-the-talk" but also portray themselves as being successful. This is an important point in understanding why so many incidents took so long to become public knowledge. The "perps" cannot bring themselves to accept failure as they have developed a mindset focused only on success. "If only we can make one more deal, then..."

There is an irony built in to career of business professionals. To get to the top they have to be creative and forceful. Creativity is great until it crosses the line of legality. But, here is the problem: some would have you believe what is legal and illegal is mere fixed, thin line and that it should be obvious which is which. Then when the situation is reviewed by regulators this line could move left or right of where the business man think he is (i.e. the regulations can be interpreted in more than one way). Oops!

Finally, when you have waded through the history of business through the 20th century and gain perspective of how things have played out over the last 100 years, the anecdotes about real crimes are explained. I think the author set this up so the reader will reflect that understanding of the crimes is not as clear cut as one thought before reading this book.

I learned a lot from this book; more than I expected to. I highly recommend this book to those interested in business; particularly if they happen to be business leaders. It will provide a nice sanity check.

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Interesting

So, do you buy into another person's reasoning for their thinking that led to their criminal behavior? This is an interesting look at how people and society think. Worth the read.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Nails it

Had a situation that is heavily documented. 18 chapters. This book explains the story in how they got away with it.
Very good. Highly recommended.

7 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Moderator issues

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.

20 of 41 people found this review helpful