Pathways Into White-Collar Crime

Maurice Punch, London School of Economics

Based on published sources and current research in financial services the author wishes to focus on the pathways into crime, the motives and the rationalizations of white-collar criminals. Using primary sources and published interviews with white-collar criminals, the paper will investigate the context for crime (opportunity structures), the moral career of the offender ( the socio-psychological path into deviance), the mechanisms involved in camouflaging the deviance, and the vocabularies of motive that they give on exposure. He will construct a typology of white-collar criminals to capture the range of paths into crime involved; some do it ostensibly for the company, others seem to revel in dirty work, some speak almost in terms of addiction regarding risk and "kicks" ( echoing the rhetoric of violent criminals), and others employ the metaphor of a "slippery slope". The analytical insights can be applied to published cases - Leeson and Barings Bank, the A.I.B. in Baltimore, and Anderson/Enron - as well as to cases from the author`s research. This paper contributes to examining the variety of trajectories by which white-collar criminals enter crime as well as eliciting the diversity of their motivations and expressed rationalizations.

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Updated 05/20/2006