Summary of Why They Do It

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Rating

9 Overall

9 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


Recommendation

Financial fraud in the United States costs nearly $400 billion annually. The executives responsible for this corporate duplicity usually earn excellent salaries. So why do they become criminals? Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes shares his findings after years of extensive research. His numerous case histories make for fascinating reading. He speaks almost exclusively about men so don’t look for gender-neutral pronouns. As Soltes explains, “Women are conspicuously absent from the ranks of prominent white-collar criminals.” getAbstract recommends his compelling study to business students and professors, executives, business pundits, financial law enforcement officials and anyone who handles the money.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What attitudes colonial Americans held toward those who committed business fraud,
  • How executives can avoid making unethical decisions, and
  • How questions of right and wrong differ between business school case studies and real life.
 

About the Author

Eugene Soltes is the Jakurski Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. The Wall Street JournalFinancial TimesEconomist, USA Today and Bloomberg News have cited his research on corporate malfeasance.

 

Summary

Public Disgrace

In 1639, a court in Great Britain’s North American colonies fined merchant Robert Keayne £200, about $42,228 in 2016 dollars. The Bostonian’s crime was selling thread, buttons and nails at jacked-up prices that earned him 50% to 100% profits. Today, firms like Apple routinely earn such profits. But in the 17th century, earning that much profit by hiking up the prices on household items was seen as the morally unsound crime of “oppression.”  


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