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A new report by two noted experts on corporate crime reinforces my contention in the previously posted four part series called Is Wall Street a Gang?” The report is White Collar Criminology and the Occupy Wall Street Movement” co-authored by Henry Pontell and William Black. It has just been published in the latest issue of The Criminologist, the newsletter of the American Society of Criminology. 

Pontell and Black argue that the frauds committed by some of the largest financial institutions were intricate and arcane business practices that were difficult to fully understand and to portray in sound bites — and therefore they tended to become trivialized in regard to their criminal components.” Pontell and Black quote fellow criminologist Stephen Rosoff who what happened as psychopathic wealth.” By this he means that a new corporate culture aspires to a different wealth.” This term is borrowed from the field of psychiatry that describes people who are very selfish, lacking in human empathy, and unable to delay gratification. Rosoff writes that We entered an Age of psychopathic wealth’ — and the press hardly seemed to notice.” 

Rosoff is not alone in characterizing corporations as psychopathic.” In a book by Joel Bakan called The Corporation an expert on psychopathy reviews all of the characteristics of a psychopath and finds that all of them apply very well to the modern corporation. In fact, the subtitle tells it all: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.” One summary of corporate psychopathy is described here.

As Pontell and Black note, there are two schools of thought on how to define white-collar crime” and each one contains different ideological perspectives. The populist” perspective uses social inequality as a framework to examine the issue, while the patrician” view looks at the issue from a legal-technical” perspective that minimizes the crimes of corporations and instead focus on those who break specific laws. 

The authors also note that within mainstream criminology and economics fraud has been trivialized; the patrician” view has been dominant. Most criminologists have focused on all persons who broke specified laws, including those who passed insufficient-fund checks and a considerable corps of unemployed women arrested for petty offenses.” Apparently these criminologists found it difficult to conceive of corporate CEOs as burglars or robbers.” 

Pontell and Black castigate mainstream economists who are so in love with the free market” that they minimize the issue of fraud entirely, and assume that it is of little or no consequence in financial markets.” This is largely because they assume that fraud should not exist because it would make markets inefficient — and neo-classical economists know that markets are efficient because they start with the assumption that markets are efficient.” 

Pontell and Black conclude that the use of pepper spray and the like against protesters gets the publicity from the mainstream press, while there is a virtual absence of indignation, moral outrage, and effective law enforcement that would have stopped those whose real crimes have led many law-abiding citizens around the world into the streets.” 

Meanwhile, here’s two recent examples of the systemic criminality on Wall Street: U.S. prosecutors charged seven people, described as a circle of friends who formed a criminal club, with running a $62 million insider trading scheme — the latest salvo in a years-long probe of suspicious trading at hedge funds.” U.S. charges 7 in $62 million Dell insider-trading case. And this one concerning $50 million mortgage fraud: On the Trail of Mortgage Fraud.