Saturday, March 14, 2009

On Fraud

Yesterday I was catching up with the BBC's Business Daily podcasts that I missed this week, and there was one on financial fraud. First they talked about this corporation that recently has been accused of fraud (sorry, the name escapes me, and I already deleted the podcast, so I can't find it). If you follow the news, you would have probably heard about it, it was a really big scandal. I believe the company was an investment one, but I could be wrong.

Anyways, after analyzing why this company could get away with fraud for so long, they talked to someone who worked as an investor and bribed a friend, one of the members of the government of the state (Oklahoma, I think), so that this friend would invest the state's money through this person's company. This man got caught and had to serve 4 years in prison. The interview was about how this all happened, why he decided to take these illegal actions, and whether he stopped to think of what's going to happen if he gets caught. He was analyzing what drove him to give bribes, and one thing he said was, "In prison I learned that most of us here did what we did because we thought we won't get caught. Even if you face a death penalty for your actions, if you think you won't get caught, you'll still do it."

I thought this was interesting. Of course we all know that this is how we, humans work, we think, "this happens to others, but it won't happen to me". For example, "other people are going to get into car accidents, other people are going to loose their jobs, other people are going to get hay fever, but not me". I never really thought much about criminal activities though, so I guess it was a little unexpected for me to realize that criminals would be driven by the same kind of motivation as regular people.

After reading so much about various pathologies, such as psychopathy for example, or manias, etc., I always thought of criminals as having some kind of pathalogic mentality, where they don't have a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong, so that's why they do things that other people won't do. Or, that they understand what is right and wrong to do, but do not have cognitive mechanisms to stop themselves from doing something that's wrong. Kind of like people who do impulsive buying or eating. You know you shouldn't, but you still do it. I guess this applies to very few special cases though, like serial killers or robbers, but with most criminals perhaps it really is just that, they don't think they'll get caught. Kind of like a cost-benifit analysis...

Well, I don't know much on the subject, I have not done too many readings in criminal psychology unfortunately, the most I read was from Dr. Peterson's work, "Maps of Meaning", that deals with why humans step over the border and commit artrocities (I suppose I am more interested in that than criminal psychology). So I am curious what everyone thinks about this.

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