Why They Do It

Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal
Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
4 out of 5 stars (336 ratings)

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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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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

15 people found this helpful

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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.

25 people found this 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.

2 people found this 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 .

2 people found this helpful

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Difficult to listen to

I listened to the first 36 minutes and then forwarded to a few minutes of other chapters in the book to see if it would ever get interesting. Some of this material might be a little more tolerable reading it in a short newspaper article. I definitely did not like the narration but the portions that I heard lacked insights and were just uninteresting storytelling. There was not any new ideas I had not heard before. Some white collar criminals commit their crimes because they rationalize they can get away with actions that are socially acceptable in their peer groups and they are motivated by personality traits that avoid common sense and lead them to believe they can transcend obstacles to getting caught. I wanted interesting storytelling that would further my ideas on the topic and I could not find that in this book.

1 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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  • MJ
  • 05-24-20

For the criminal justice and business professional

This is a book that should be in the hands of every criminal justice and business student.

The first part of the book explains the criminology of how white collar crime started. It brought back memories of studying Sutherland in my criminology class.

The last part of the book gives details and examples on some famous white color criminals. For example, Bernie Madoff was explained as a psychopath. He didn't have any empathy even when his son committed suicide. After his second son died of cancer, he was speaking on the phone with the author. After Madoff asked him to read the obituary, he then wanted to know what the daily interest rates are. The true makings of a psychopath.

The last chapter in the book is one of the best. It explains how business ethics studied in class differs and doesn't help in real life situations. This is because executives in the office do not have conflicting viewpoints to help them think through decisions as students in the classroom do.

Lastly, the author gives some examples of what could be done to companies when employees involves themselves in white-collar criminal activity.

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When given the option...skip ahead.

the narrator sums up the book in the beginning saying that the first chapters are about background and the last chapters are more about with the book's title is referencing. You are given the option to skip ahead definitely take this option. The first part of the book is meandering and slow and at times very brief times partially interesting the second half of the book is much more interesting when you're talking about specific cases specific stories and interviews. The narrator paused and spoke to slowly I listen to this story on 1.7 speed. although I did like the narrator's voice tone and overall reading I just felt you was slow.

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Interesting Book

Why They Do It was a fascinating read. I especially liked when the author interviewed convicted criminals about why they made the decisions they did and how they justified those decisions to themselves. It also was an interesting look into the white collar crimes that have happened in America. There was a lot more that I wished was in the book, and I don’t always think that the author was accurate in his assessment on the motivations for some of the convicted criminals (he seemed to give quite a few convicted criminals the benefit of the doubt when it came to them making bad mistakes which lead to their crimes), but overall I found this book extremely interesting and great learning tool.

Overall Rating: 4.25 Stars. The writing and narration was good and made it easy to listen to the book. Johnny Heller was a good narrator and his reading of this book was smooth. I liked the case studies the author presented, but I think he didn’t quite get to the true heart of why people commit white collar crimes. All in all, I recommend this book.

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Outstanding

An important and insightful book on business ethics. Well researched and clearly written. Also well narrated by Johnny Heller. Outstanding. Highly recommend this book for those interested in ethics.

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  • john anderson
  • 03-24-19

Good listen.

interesting insight into the life and reasons of a fraudster. very Informative well read. well worth a listen.

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  • rikki
  • 07-10-18

a great insight to white collar crime

"it did not seem like a bad crime when I started doing it, not like I mugged an old lady for her handbag" seems to be the general excuse of these guys who fiddled accounts/stocks etc for millions. some really honest chats with people who moved over the line into a grey area and then found they could not stop digging a hole for themselves

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  • Leon
  • 05-24-18

A very well done book.

Well read, well written, very thoughtfully done. Not preachy or holier than thou and wanting to find legitimate answers.