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The pathology of greed

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Postby admin » Wed Aug 10, 2005 4:34 pm

it strikes this writer that when two top executives recently leave CIBC, each with over $50 million personally, and then the firm agrees to pay out $2.4 bil for its part in Enron, that someone (don't know who, don't care) in the firm has been using their position (s) at the corporation to enrich themselves at the expense of shareholders. It certainly looks bad.

That is just my opinion.
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Postby Guest » Thu Aug 04, 2005 8:09 am

Globe and Mail National, Editorial,
Thursday, August 4, 2005

How CIBC pays for its Enron file
CIBC has made its peace with Enron's investors. Now it has its own shareholders to answer to.
The country's fifth-largest bank agreed Tuesday to pay $2.4-billion (U.S.) to settle its part of a class-action lawsuit filed by investors in the energy-trading giant, which collapsed under a scandalous mountain of fraudulent accounting in 2001. The settlement allows the bank to avoid any outright admission of guilt, but the sheer size of it stands as silent acknowledgment of CIBC's complicity as one of the bankers that helped finance Enron's corporate web of deception.
The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is the University of California, a stark reminder of who was really hurt by Enron's collapse. The university had invested funds earmarked for its employees' pensions. Many other pension funds, and mutual funds investing private investors' retirement savings, saw their money evaporate.
CIBC, too, counts the country's largest pension funds and mutual funds among its biggest shareholders. The bank, like all Canada's big banks, is considered a blue chip stock, the kind of strong, stable investment that any major portfolio would want to own. Yet CIBC went overboard in pursuing an aggressive, reckless investment strategy with Enron that exposed the bank to massive risks not in keeping with the kind of safe, reliable stock its shareholders reasonably believed they owned.
For a time" those shareholders benefited from the bank's approach. CIBC's stock price has doubled in the past three years, and its dividend payments have doubled since the end of2000. But the massive Enron settlement stands to undo all that. The cash drain will likely put a stop to dividend increases, and has cut the bank's growth prospects off at the knees. Shareholders are already paying. CIBC's stock lost almost 8 per cent yesterday, wiping out more than $2-billion (Canadian) of shareholder value in a single day.
And where is the man responsible? John Hunkin, who was at the helm when CIBC jumped into bed with Enron, announced his retirement five weeks ago; last Friday was his last day. Conveniently, he wasn't around to face the music when his successor, Gerry McCaughey, announced the settlement.
Mr. Hunkin has retired a very wealthy man, thanks in part to his aggressive business approach that has now cost the bank, and its investors, dearly. In his six years in charge, his average annual compensation was $7.3-million, including more than $13 - million last year. In 20QO and 2001, the two years in which CIBC was embroiled with Enron, Mr. Hunkin pulled down $6million in bonuses and another $5-million in CIBC stock awards.
It's unfortunate that Mr. Hunkin didn't stick around to face his shareholders and own up to the costly mistakes made on his watch. And it's unacceptable that he should profit so handsomely from a strategy that may have crippled the bank for years to come. He can't undo what has been done, but he can at least do the right thing: return the bonuses for the years when his leadership led the bank to its disastrous dance with Enron.
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Postby Guest » Wed Aug 03, 2005 11:27 am

http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=1881


Joel Bakan's seminal anti-corporate work, The Corporation -- probably the most read book in our office since David Korten's When Corporations Rule the World -- has been re-released in a new revised and expanded edition (*now with added Chomsky*).

Where Korten's book examined the way in which corporations control and shape the world around them, Bakan inquires into the nature of the corporation itself, and how that gives rise to the kind of behaviour we have come to loathe. If a corporation is a person, as legally it is, what kind of a person is it? Wholly self-centred and indifferent to the needs of others, opportunistic, dishonest and with a wildly exaggerated sense of its own importance: it is a psychopath. He criticises not just the current laissez faire paradigm of corporate capitalism, but also the very legitimacy of the corporate form.
Bakan chooses some original examples to illustrate his points -- an attempted coup in 1930s USA led by captains of industry with fascist sympathies; marketing techniques that employ children's power to pester their parents; and many other examples of shameless corporate arrogance. What really makes his research stand out however are the interviews that form an essential part of it. He interviews the economist Milton Friedman, Mark Moody-Stuart (former CEO of Shell), Noam Chomsky and other pro and anti-corporate movers and shakers. The genius of it is how much they all seem to agree on what a corporation is. The difference is that the capitalists believe that overall the system works well, in spite of its evident flaws.

Bakan's insights always seem fresh, especially where he contrasts the corporate person with human beings, 'no one would seriously suggest that individuals should regulate themselves, that laws against murder assault and theft are unnecessary because people are socially responsible. Yet oddly, we are asked to believe that corporate persons... should be free to govern themselves.' His prescriptions for dealing with the problem, which are likely to challenge and/or disappoint both radicals and moderates, are sadly rather brief; little more than a sketch of a program to contain and perhaps dismantle corporate rule. Perhaps we can expect more on this in future works.

Revisions to the text for this new edition are relatively minor. What distinguishes it from the first edition is the appendix: an October 2000 interview with Noam Chomsky. Although a cynic might say that the interviewer, Mark Achbar, is not so much interviewing as providing a form of punctuation for Chomsky's extended train of thought, it is a real gem, chatty and yet incisive and illuminating. Few people can criticise 'the system' without sounding like a cliche, but Chomsky pulls it off in his typically low-key style. It is an excellent companion to the book; an examination of the corporation's role in the modern economic and political environment.

The Corporationis superbly researched and referenced, but also relatively short (165 pages) and extremely readable. Read this book, and encourage others to do likewise. You may also enjoy Corporate Watch's similar report Corporate law and Structures: Exposing the Roots of the Problem.
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Postby Guest » Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:14 pm

With thanks to "the market guy" who blends a career in psychology with a fascination and a sideline with investing and studying investments:


There is a journal published by the American Psychological Association called PsycCritiques that offers reviews of books and films. The June 22, 2005 edition includes an article titled, “Psychopathy or Sociopathy? A Review of The Corporation.” It’s authored by Bradley Smith and Eric Green. Have a look:

This documentary is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit, written by one of the film's coauthors, Joel Bakan (2004). The documentary has won some prestigious awards, including the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, one of the top honors at this well-regarded film festival. Overall, it may be worth the 145 min to watch this film, but consistent with its very long running time, much of this movie is excessive and would have been improved by some greater restraint. Indeed, if we were required to select a single word to describe The Corporation, we would chose the word overdone.

The opening of The Corporation is the first of several instances in which the movie is overdone. Specifically, in the first few minutes the audience is bombarded with a litany of corporate logos one after another. At first this is dazzling, then interesting, but ultimately annoying. Basically, the filmmakers overdid this effect. When the barrage of logos stops, The Corporation presents some examples of corporations recently in the news for their bad behavior, such as Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Arthur Andersen. The filmmakers splice together a montage of CEOs and other corporate executives who have been charged with or indicted on a variety of civil and/or criminal charges and paraded in handcuffs in front of national media. This gets rather tedious after a few cases, and once again a potentially stimulating part of the movie is overdone and becomes rather numbing. However, the documentary improves as the filmmakers present an interesting collection of narrative interviews with 40 CEOs and executives from a variety of industries, economists, academics, and a host of other corporate critics.

Perhaps the main question posed in the documentary is “Are these deviant corporations and their leaders truly representative of the business world today, or are they just a few bad apples?” The bad apples concept provides another opportunity for the filmmakers to go over the top. They present a barrage of TV, movie, and graphic art footage that addresses the notion of bad apples. As with the opening, we found this to be initially amusing but ultimately tedious and banal. In the words of the great quantitative psychologist Jacob Cohen (1990), sometimes less is more.

The relevance of The Corporation to psychologists, other than its intriguing social justice concepts, is the application of the concept of psychopathy in the formal diagnostic sense to corporations. The filmmakers suggest that individual psychodiagnostic criteria are relevant because legal jurisprudence in the United States has led to corporations having similar legal status to persons. The Corporation presents this legal status of corporate personhood as an abuse of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: The State is prevented from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or “equal protection of the laws” (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pac. R. Co., 1886). This decision, according to the filmmakers, allowed corporations to stray from what were once limited—both in time and breadth—incorporation charters based on the promotion of public welfare (e.g., railroad construction).

Expanding on this idea of corporations as legal persons, the film takes extreme liberty in answering the question, “What type of person is the corporation?” In addressing this question, four case studies are presented as evidence that corporations meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ([DSM-IV] 4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems ([ICD-10] 10th ed.; World Health Organization, 1992) diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder, including reckless disregard for safety of self or others, deceitfulness, failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, callous unconcern for the feelings of others, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, and incapacity to experience guilt. Thus, The Corporation presents the pseudoscientific conclusion that American corporations can be diagnosed as psychopaths, a conclusion we think that most second-year clinical psychology students know to be improper use of DSM-IV criteria.

One of the problems with The Corporation's diagnostic process is that symptoms are taken from separate individual corporations, then applied to corporations as a whole. This is the intellectual equivalent of labeling all teenagers as conduct disordered on the basis of identifying three individual teens who exhibit symptoms of this disorder (i.e., a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel). Not only is it incorrect to label all corporations as psychopaths, it is not internally consistent in the movie because the filmmakers present at least one case study of a corporation that is not psychopathic (and could have presented more). Thus, from a methodological standpoint, the biased sampling of corporations presents a potentially misleading view of corporations in general.

But there are some interesting ideas here. The notion of viewing corporations as psychopaths on a case-by-case basis is intriguing. As we shall argue below, psychopathy may not be the appropriate psychological construct for describing corporate behavior. That is, although the psychopathic designation might be a useful tool in confronting corporations in legal venues, in a discussion of diagnostic and treatment issues it might be more appropriate to consider some corporate behavior as sociopathic. Our government and corporate culture should be able to come up with standards that encourage prosocial behavior and punish sociopathic behavior that is exhibited by individual corporations.

On the surface, the overt behavioral expression of psychopathy and sociopathy may look similar, but there are presumably underlying etiological differences that would have divergent implications for prevention and treatment. Basically, psychopaths are thought to possess unique temperaments or personalities characterized by organic, emotional, or cognitive deficits that resist adaptive socialization, whereas the behavior of sociopaths is thought to result from poor socialization by maladaptive environments. Thus, the roots of psychopathic behavior may be primarily endogenous, whereas that of sociopathic behavior may be primarily environmental (Smith, in press).

Understanding the distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy could have made the film's portrayal of corporate behavior more interesting and technically appropriate. For instance, the filmmakers point out that the conditions that contribute to many corporate misdeeds are a direct result of the legal requirement that the only legitimate goal of a corporation is to make money for stockholders. Presumably it is illegal for corporations to consider other outcomes, such as employee welfare or a healthy environment, as corporate performance goals. If this is the case, then corporations are not inherently deviant; rather, our society has created social and legal constraints on corporations that reinforce the single-minded pursuit of profit. From this perspective, corporations are fitting a social niche that could be removed or corrected by changing laws and roles of corporations in our society (e.g., returning to more limited incorporation charters). Moreover, we should remind the audience that not all corporations can be described as sociopaths.

Psychopathy, Sociopathy, and the Corporation
The Corporation hints at some potential solutions to the bad behavior of corporations but does so in a rather pessimistic manner. Such pessimism might be appropriate given the poor prognosis of psychopaths. However, we are optimistic given our propensity to describe corporation behavior as sociopathic rather than psychopathic.

The notion of sociopathy suggests some possible insights and solutions to corporate misbehavior that are missing from The Corporation. As cited in Smith (in press), psychopathy expert David Lykken (1995) sorts criminal behavior into a three-part framework on the basis of the offender's psychological health. According to this framework, criminal behavior can be unrelated (or at least not directly related) to an offender's existing psychological condition, directly related to the psychotic state of an offender at the time of the crime, or directly related to the offender's diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). It is important to note (because the filmmakers did not) that the DSM-IV does not consider psychopathy or sociopathy to be a distinct diagnostic classification. From this perspective, individuals considered to be psychopaths or sociopaths should meet criteria for ASPD but not necessarily the other way around. But this is a picky point about nomenclature; some more interesting implications follow.

Psychopaths are thought to be one of two types, representing differences in their ability to express genuine empathy and remorse (Smith, in press). Primary psychopaths, for instance, do not exhibit the ability to express empathy or concern for other people that is not rooted in self-gain. In this sense, a psychopath could be charming and convey empathy to others but only as means to a selfish end. In this film, corporations are portrayed as primary psychopaths. The filmmakers highlight examples of corporate greed at the expense of individuals and communities, attempting to demonstrate that corporations act with reckless disregard for the safety of self or others and callous unconcern for the feelings of others.

Unlike primary psychopaths, secondary psychopaths may be capable of genuine concern for others but tend to overfocus on rewards rather than on punishments. Newman (1987) referred to this type of behavior as the “reward-dominant” response. Citing Cleckley's proposition that the behavior of psychopaths is not due to an intellectual deficiency, Wallace and Newman (2004) emphasized that psychopaths understand what is considered adaptive behavior in most situations. However, they argued that an information-processing deficiency hinders psychopaths from being able to automatically shift their attention from a particular goal-directed behavior to secondary cues in the environment, thereby preventing them from engaging in self-regulation (control process).

Compared with primary psychopathy, this concept of secondary psychopathy may better represent the link between individual and corporate behavior that the filmmakers attempt to create. But as we will argue, it is not the best. Just as Wallace and Newman (2004) found that psychopaths have difficulty shifting their attention from goal-directed behaviors to secondary environmental cues, the filmmakers also make a case for corporate information-processing deficiencies that lead to maladaptive behavior. For example, the film presents a strong case for the single-minded focus corporations have when it comes to profit making. According to the Wallace and Newman (2004) perspective on psychopathy, corporations overfocus on producing dividends for investors to the point that they cannot perceive ongoing or potential damage to the environment, the community, and/or its workforce.

But even this connection in the area of overfocusing does not make the case for psychopathy. Instead, we would have preferred that the filmmakers presented some corporate behavior—or corporations on a case-by-case basis—as sociopathic rather than psychopathic. As previously mentioned, psychopathy is believed to have predominantly endogenous roots, whereas sociopathy is believed to have predominantly environmental roots. Searching for a causal social factor responsible for sociopathic behavior, Lykken (1998) passed on common indicators such as poverty and joblessness and settled on parental malfeasance. Patterson, Reid, and Dishion (as cited in Smith, in press) agreed. They claimed that insufficient parental monitoring and discipline could lead children to develop conduct problems that hinder adaptive socialization and result in associations with deviant peer groups such as gangs. Lykken (1998) presented a similar argument, pointing to what he called a “contagion model” of sociopathy whereby children of ineffective (or absent) parents are more at risk of adopting the beliefs and practices of peers, typically deviant peers.

Concluding Thoughts
Our point is that “bad parenting” is probably a better explanation of inappropriate corporate behavior as opposed to psychopathy. As presented by the filmmakers, corporations in general suffer from poor parental monitoring. That is, what were once limited incorporation charters have been expanded over the years via legislative action and judicial decisions, thus creating a corporate environment that solely rewards profit-seeking behavior with relatively few restrictions. Corporations now face temptation to join a race to the bottom to ship jobs overseas and to less regulated zones in search of reduced costs, sometimes at the expense of workers at home and abroad. This is reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies (Allen & Hook, 1990) in which unsupervised children run amok on a deserted island. However, the corporate culture is actually encouraged by the legal and social climate.

Thus, the solution here is not changing the individual; rather, the solution is to create a healthier, prosocial business climate. Perhaps some consultation from the societal managers in Walden Two (Skinner, 1976) would be appropriate. Given that these mythological managers are not available, maybe concerned citizens can take action and attempt to change the deviant environment that currently steers corporations toward the dark side. Lykken (1998) suggested three possible measures for preventing human sociopathy that may apply to the prevention or reduction of corporate sociopathy: parental guidance (i.e., improved regulation), alternative rearing environments (i.e., introduce multiple performance outcomes rather than a sole focus on maximizing share holder earnings), and incapacitation of deviant individuals (i.e., revocation of charters for offending corporations that show callous disregard for others).


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References
Allen, L. M. (Producer), & Hook, H. (Director) (1990). Lord of the flies [Motion picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Bakan, J. (2004). The corporation: The pathological pursuit of power and profit. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Cohen, J. (1990). Things I have learned (so far). American Psychologist, 45, 1304-1312.

Lykken, D. T. (1995). The antisocial personalities. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Lykken, D. T. (1998). The case for parental licensure. In T. Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, and R. D. Davis (Eds.), Psychopathy: Antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior (pp. 122-143). New York: Guilford Press.

Newman, J. P. (1987). Reaction to punishment in extroverts and psychopaths: Implications for the impulsive behavior of disinhibited individuals. Journal of Research in Personality, 21, 464-480.

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pac. R. Co., 118 U.S. 394. (1886).

Skinner, B. F. (1976). Walden two. New York: MacMillan.

Smith, B. H. (in press) Psychopathy and crime. In Encyclopedia of criminology. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Wallace, J. F., & Newman, J. P. (2004). A theory-based treatment model for psychopathy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 11, 178-189.

World Health Organization. (1992). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (10th ed.). Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
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Postby Guest » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:47 pm

conrad black is in the globe the other day, unable to be allowed to be a director of a calgary oil company

The board of Hollinger, the last company he controlled accused him of conducting a "corporate Kleptocracy".

Is it just me or does anyone out there smell a connection between power and money mad types and an identifiable form of mental illness?
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Postby Guest » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:38 pm

the July 2005 issue of the national post business magazine said it right when it staes, (page 40) "Bay Street and Wall Street are now synonomous with manipulation and false representation".

How many bay street millionaires do you know of? How many sit on charitable boards and maintain status as a pillar of the community? How many raped and pillaged during their financial days to get there? If the secrets could be told, we might find out that some of those pilalrs of the community just might be the ones responsible for completely trashing the ethical reputation of some of Canada's top corporations during the last two decades. The nex time one of these "gentlemen" is seen writing a cheque for another $100,000 to a favorite charity, seeking the publicity that goes along, try and imagine what they ahd to do to get that money. Did they get it the old fashioned way?
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Postby admin » Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:59 am

thanks for the post, I will trya nd find the book you mention

I have read a few things by Dr. Robert Hare, who seems to travel between the UBC and Australia. He is said by some to be the world's foremost expert on psychopaths, and I think has a book out called "WITHOUT CONSCIENCE" The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us.
He writes at least a chapter on the topics of psychopaths who wear suits and go to work every day claiming to serve clients. Good reading.

When are we going to wise up as a society and identify this kind of predator behavior?

best regards
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Postby Guest » Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:04 am

I read the book and I agree that corporate "psychopaths" are probably naturally attracted to the financial industry due to their obsession with money and their lack of remorse for what they do to people. But then, I've worked in unrelated fields, and I've seen some pretty unethical behaviors which were always motivated by money. The victim was usually the government and Canadian taxpayers. It seems that evil-doers & corruption exist everywhere but maybe more so in this business. Supposedly, we're all born evil but most of us are socialized to know right from wrong. Some white-collar crooks seem to justify their actions as acceptable because everyone else is doing the same.

Another good book on the topic (with a humorous take): Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington.
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The pathology of greed

Postby advocate » Sat Jul 02, 2005 12:41 am

Does anyone care to discuss the movie, THE CORPORATION, or the topic of corporate pathological behavior?

In a nutshell, the movie attempts to subject the characteristics of a typical corporate body to a personality test............and the result looks a lot like a corporation has the traits of a psychopath. It is well worth watching whatever your position on the matter.

I am beginning to wonder, what with all the corporate (and government) greed, corruption and scandal whether or not this will eventually become a topic of study or curiosity, or if there is even a connection between certain personality types and corporate climbers.

For example, it was at one time fairly common knowledge that pedophiles often tended to work or volunteer in places where contact with children was likely............(no disrespect to legitimate workers and volunteers intended)

On that same or similar rationalle, will it be someday discovered that "socially adjusted psychopaths" are likely to be found in positions where tremendous money, power or influence are available?

It has been suggested to me by some in the psychology field that this is indeed the case. I don't know but my thinking is heading in that direction and it is certainly being assisted by world experience. Anyone care to comment?
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