When it comes to corporate fraud in America, men are almost always to blame
Recently we shared the results of a study on gender and corruption. That study showed that both genders were capable of corruption and that corrupt behavior depended upon context. Researchers at Penn State recently released a study completed in America and looking at gender and corporate crime/fraud.
If you read the title of this post, you will not be surprised to learn that men lead the charge to corporate corruption. The researchers developed a database of 83 corporate frauds which involved a total of 436 defendants. After extensive data analysis, here is what they found:
Less than 1 out of 10 defendants was female (91% were male and 9% were female).
Whenever crimes were committed by a single person, that person was a male.
Almost 3/4 of the crimes committed by groups of people involved groups entirely composed of males. (Less than 1/3 of the groups contained both men and women. There were no all female conspiracy groups.)
All male conspiracies were concentrated in professional/scientific/technical and management services (where female employment is lower) while mixed-sex conspiracies were higher in finance/insurance, real estate and healthcare. In the latter areas, women make up more than half of the employees.
Female defendants were likely “to play minor roles in schemes”.
When you are female and involved in corporate conspiracies, you tend to profit significantly less than men (or not at all). You are often included in conspiracies because you have access to funds (through your job responsibilities) or because you are dating or partnered with a primary conspirator. You may be pressured to participate by your male significant other (who is involved in or initiating the activity). Yes. Women are marginalized even when committing corporate crimes! This is the only benefit to the ‘glass ceiling’ we have yet encountered.
The researchers say that if more women were in higher positions in American corporations we might have less corporate crime. They believe women might be more ethical decision-makers, more risk-averse, and less likely to foster a “criminogenic organization”. Alternately, say the researchers, more woman “would not make any difference because of organizational inertia and because women who move up the corporate ladder will be socialized into the ethos of commercial interests and market dominance at all costs”. In other words, “leaning in” might corrupt successful women.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, there is much to help Defense attorneys mitigate blame placed on female defendants charged with corporate fraud. Women who participate in these crimes are often pressured by men leading the effort. They are often recruited due to their “utility”–they have access to funds, they sign off on the reports or accounting statements. In short, the men directing the crimes need the woman’s access to sensitive information in order to be successful. Jurors would likely understand the pressure placed on these women to participate and would also understand the idea that the women were just being used for what they could offer.
If your female defendant was not only used but offered little to no profit for her activity (as was the case with most women defendants in this study), jurors may have additional sympathy for her. Your female defendant might be seen as a pawn in a master plan, or ensnared due to being the intimate partner of a man driving the effort. It is perhaps the only time when marginalization of a woman’s role works for her (in the larger cosmic picture).
Steffensmeier, DM, Schwartz, J, & Roche, M (2013). Gender and Twenty-First-Century corporate crime: Female involvement and the gender gap in Enron-era corporate frauds. American Sociological Review. DOI: 10.1177/0003122413484150