Bernard Madoff was well respected, white collar criminals are harder to spot than what we might refer to as ‘real criminals’ If Madoff had not been so well respected there would have been more suspicion and an investigation would have been issued but because he was an ex-chairman of NASDAQ he was not suspected of any wrong doing.
What Madoff did was exceptional in terms of financial because of his status but financial crime on a smaller scale happens routinely
Today we find it hard to believe that we are suffering a recession when there are people in the corporate sector with incomes into the six figure bracket, but it’s because of corporate greed and institutionalized corruption at the highest levels of banking, health care and insurance companies.
The recession was caused by unregulated capitalism; Karl Marx once stated that capitalism sowed the seeds of its own destruction because the greed of the bourgeoisie would be too great to ever be regulated fairly.
I think Reintegrative shaming is effective in regards to an individual corporate criminal like Madoff, because they effectively lose all that respect they had and are completely powerless from that point on in terms of committing further financial crimes because those crimes were based on his respectability.
On the other hand it may work as a general deterrent for individual criminals but for big business short cutters or whole corporations engaged in fraud it becomes completely ineffectual because you may be able to shame one but the company still stands, it can keep committing these crimes and presenting scapegoats to take the blame.
“News papers protect corporate reputations by failing to provide frequent, prominent and criminally orientated Coverage of common corporate crimes”
Sandra Evans and Richard Lundman (1983)
Business crime is in different newspapers, it’s not for the public eye, or at least packaged away from the other crime it is considered different by papers, less newsworthy so does not deserve the same coverage, and reports on such matters are only found in specialist newspapers. Separated from “real” crime. (Barak 1994, 2003; Tombs and Whyte 2001)
‘Who is able to tell the truth, about what, with what consequences and with what relation to the power” (Foucault 2001)
The main problem in terms of Reintegrative shaming when it comes to big
Corporations is; truth. All the ‘truth’ we have is produced by power; they justify this truth by the constant hunt for and evaluation of the truth (Foucault 1980)
Many news channels are backed by corporations so there will always be a “Pro-
Corporate” tilt in the news room may be “conveyed by editors at a daily news conference by silence, or it may take the form of self censorship” (Morton Mintz 1991). News forms part of the public’s “general politics of truth” so this effectively becomes true as there is no other point of reference.
So in terms of Reintegrative shaming and its effect on different white collar crime models it will not be a one size fits all solution because it’s focused more on an individual’s feeling of shame when in fact a multinational corporation is a machine and a machine feels no shame whatsoever, so as a deterrent it will not work.
Look at instances of disaster caused by corporate negligence like in the Westray disaster in which twenty six miners were killed in a gas explosion when safety precautions were ignored.
In this particular debate human suffering transfers into a legal disaster, distancing corporations from the harm done, it becomes less about the corporations committing crime and more about the law failing to regulate their actions.
The next focus in the human side, the accident is dubbed a “natural” accident, the blame of corporations is lifted by the fact that coal mining is still a dangerous job but it’s the corporation that put them in that danger of which they were aware.
Political economy is the next topic touched on; reporters claim Westray was a disaster in the making, conditioned by economic forces and by state action and inaction. The economy is blamed in terms implying that the corporation had no choice financially other than risking the lives of its employees to make a profit.
Furthermore blame falls on the state for a failure in regulatory concerns in the opinion of the news, the state is incompetent and negligent, and it’s their responsibility to regulate the actions of corporations.
When in actual facts corporations are almost states unto themselves with their own laws and regulations that fit them and it should be their responsibility not to risk the lives of their employees and/or engage in unethical practices to raise profits.
The reports on Westray were found to be much less likely to fall on moral judgements; only 6% of the coverage fell on outrage of the loss of life and the failure of legal proceeding. Only 1 in 10 news stories on Westray relayed criminal culpability on the event, focusing on offender/victim relationships. They don’t judge it as a crime because it’s an accident but if you put someone under a piano hanging by a thin thread you are responsible for what happens next.
Voices of the workers at the event were overshadowed by legal and political professional’s voices, so the actual people involved were pushed aside for supposed experts on the subject.
Inanimate natural forces are always blamed first rather than organizational decisions. Mobilization of safety issues questioned rather than the avoidance of danger.
Corporate wrong doing was drowned in issues emphasising the anonymity and unpredictability of the explosion.
So you see there are many mechanisms for which blame can be spread or displaced away from its actual cause, so Reintegrative shaming may prevent individual white collar criminals but in terms of disasters caused by corporate negligence or large scale fraud committed by banks, we not only can’t focus on a singular person to blame within the company but also confusion is raised through practices of denial to displace blame to outside forces, which further muddies the water.
When you talk about someone like Bernard Madoff, you’ll hear it presented as a one off. “Bad people” in a “good system” but the problem is intrinsic, it’s just not talked about because common place, it’s the natural evolution of capitalist greed. There is no unified response to the Enron scandal, because there is no discourse? Some say “bad apples” others say institutionalized courruption, capitalism followed to its inevitable conclusion is crime, you can’t have a system orientated around financial growth without producing inequality.
Anthony E. Bottoms from Garlend, D and Young, P (1983)
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Cohen, Stanley. (2001) States of Denial, knowing about atrocities and suffering,
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