“Groundbreaking…[an] impressive debut…A forcefully developed and documented contribution to our further understanding of high-level criminality in lightly regulated free markets.”

– Kirkus Reviews

Perplexed as to why executives who seemingly had it all would risk everything just to acquire more, Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes began an investigation into the mind of the corporate criminal. What started with short questionnaires sent to penitentiary addresses grew to intense and fascinating personal interactions with the famous (Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford, executives from Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco) as well as lesser-known figures—all of whom traded places of privilege for prison and disgrace. Based on intimate details stemming from letters, personal visits, and phone calls and filled with fascinating psychological, sociological and historical insight, Why They Do It is a breakthrough look at what made these former “pillars of the community” fall so far.

As Soltes acknowledges, had this book been written just a few decades earlier, much of the misconduct making headlines today would not even have been illegal. But throughout the twentieth century, white-collar crimes have not simply become more prevalent, but more discernable in the public, not to mention legal realms. Why They Do It provides insights into how acceptable norms in the business community have often differed from those of the broader society, and Soltes pushes beyond the explanation that these criminals were driven by psychological aberration or excessive greed. Nor did they rationally calculate the costs and benefits of their crimes. Instead, he reveals how they were working in a “grey zone”—stepping over the line, often without careful calculation, and letting their intuition decide what was right and wrong. All of these are practices Soltes calls “poor guides in the modern business world.”

Brimming with innovative research and candid conversations with close to 50 former executives—many of whom have never spoken publicly about their crimes—Why They Do It provides the first complete picture of this complex, disturbing trend—one that, with the ever-increasing globalization of business, only has the potential to worsen. By addressing their errors in judgment within his own MBA curriculum, and sharing new understandings of how we are all be susceptible to making similar errors in our own spheres, Soltes is beginning a modern, much-needed dialogue about how to turn the tide.


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