Why we don’t have a criminal sorority

I was brought up in a particularly egalitarian household: my father told me that I could do anything I wanted (except, perhaps, following my uncle into the steamrollering business, which was my ambition when I was five), while my mother encouraged me to make and save my own money so that I would be independent.  I have always assumed that men and women are equal – but I am rather pleased to read that there is one area in which men are much more active than women: the commission of white collar crime.

A study published in the June 2013 edition of the American Sociological Review (I assume you all subscribe) and based on seven years of data from the federal Corporate Fraud Task Force has revealed that only 9% of those involved in high-level corporate frauds are women.  Moreover, female corporate fraudsters steal less than their male counterparts: in the study, more than half of the women made only a trivial amount from their schemes, while a third of the men made more than US$1 million.  Indeed, at all levels of crime, women profit less than men: a female CEO will steal less than a male CEO, a female middle manager will steal less than her counterpart, and so on down the organisation.

However (according to a 2012 survey of nearly 1,400 global fraud cases from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) when it comes to lower-level corporate crime – often committed by individual bookkeepers, bank tellers, and accountants rather than by groups – women make up about 45% of culprits.  John Warren, vice president and general counsel of the ACFE, suggests that “when women commit fraud, they tend to do it for immediate financial need – maybe they were going through a messy divorce or had to cover large health-care bills – but whatever the reason, these women tapered their embezzling once their needs were met”.

Women are also, on average, more risk-averse than men.  Even before they were accused of a crime, 20% of male fraudsters had been observed by colleagues to have a “wheeler-dealer attitude”, to be aggressive in deal-making and good at schmoozing, compared with only 5% of female fraudsters.  As the authors of the American Sociological Review study put it, women are socialised “to an ethic of care”, meaning that they are less likely to engage in behaviour that hurts others.  Unless you take the last square of chocolate, of course.  Then it’s Miss Piggy all the way – haaaa-YAH!

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8 Responses to Why we don’t have a criminal sorority

  1. Victoria Wilkinson says:

    Hi Susan

    I hope you are well! I have a query and wondered if you had come across a board of directors who feel it is their duty to actually see the contents of a SAR, obviously I’ve advised against this because of tipping off etc.., but I wondered if there are any cases about this, I’ve not come across one?



    Victoria Wilkinson
    Compliance Support Officer
    DOMINION | expertsinwealth.com
    P.O. Box 603, 3rd Floor, Charter Place, 23-27 Seaton Place, St. Helier, Jersey, JE4 0WH
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    • Dear Vicky
      I am not aware of any cases (as such situations are rarely made public), but I always advise MLROs that it is their decision. If you feel that the board needs to see the details of the SAR – perhaps to make a decision on whether to exit the relationship – then that’s fine: give them the details, and keep careful notes about why you did it. But they do not have a duty or right to see all SARs automatically – they can ask for overviews (e.g. three SARS from this department, one concerning a new client and two about existing ones) but should not see details unless you, as MLRO, deem it necessary. And tread very carefully if there is any possibility that a member of the board might be involved…!
      Best wishes from Susan

  2. Gifta Dujon-Francois says:

    Dear Susan,

    I am a recent follower of your blog (very interesting) and note that you provide AML training. At present I am preparing annual training and was wondering whether you can direct me to some worthy videos for front line and the back office (human resource, information technology etc.) staff. Videos relating to the banking industry would be preferable. I have been surfing the internet but was hoping that based on your background you would have some interesting and relevant suggestions/recommendations.

    Thanks in advance for your kind consideration.


    [new signature]

    Email: gifta.francois@ecfh.com
    Website: http://www.ecfh.com

    • Dear Gifta
      Welcome! And I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.
      As for videos, I always recommend the suite of training products offered by this company: http://www.mlro.net/products/medium/dvds They write their scripts very cleverly so that they talk about money laundering principles and offences, rather than referencing specific pieces of legislation (so it works internationally). And all of their DVDs come in several “flavours”, so you can get the banking version. And they offer review copies, so you can check before you buy.
      Best wishes from Susan

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    Don’t those figures simply reflect the fact that there is still an excess of male CEOs (95.8% of Fortune 500 companies) whereas it’s much more representative in middle management?

  4. Dear Roy
    I’m sure that plays a part in it – and perhaps is a rather good argument for having more women at high levels. If we’re more risk-averse and less greedy….!
    Best wishes from Susan

  5. Graham Thomas says:

    Dear Susan

    It’s nice to see that the blog has attracted a rush of post-holiday season comments.
    Just to say that, in my view, your sad loss to the world of steamrollering has been more than offset by the gain to the world of all things AML. It’s interesting to think though, if you had followed a different career path, would we still have met Samuel Plank and, if so, would he have been working as a steamrollerer (if that is the correct technical term) rather than in law enforcement?

    Best Wishes


  6. Dear Graham
    I am now kicking myself that I did not think to make Samuel a steamrollerer. But he’s years away from retirement, so it’s not impossible… After all, by Sam’s time, steam-powered vehicles were becoming all the rage.
    And you’re right: it’s great to see everyone coming back after their summer break from AML.
    Best wishes from Susan

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