VW and Corporate Crime

business_ethics_highlights_2Anyone else out there looking forward to the criminal charges that ought to result from the VW scandal? The piece linked below (by philosopher and top business ethicist Joe Heath) makes at least three important contributions. First, it points out that, like many important scandals, the VW emissions scandal has more to do with corporate crime than with business ethics. Second, it points out that our “folk” understandings of corporate crime are generally inadequate. Third, it points out that the business press generally does a lousy job of investigative journalism. >>>

LINK: The VW scandal and corporate crime (by Joseph Heath for In Due Course)

…over the part few weeks, various commentators have been trotting out the usually “folk” theories of criminal motivation, in order to account for VW’s actions. I’ve spent some time in my academic work criticizing these theories (particularly in my paper, Business Ethics and Moral Motivation: A Criminological Perspective). Take, for example, the suggestion that these actions are motivated by “greed” or the pursuit of “profit.” The problem with this, as an explanation of corporate crime, is that these motives are too common. It therefore fails to explain why this firm, or this individual, turns to crime, when many other firms or individuals, facing roughly the same incentives and possessing roughly the same motives, do not turn to crime.

Furthermore, these “folk” theories are weak when it comes to accounting for the social character of crime. Corporate crime, for instance, tends to be concentrated in particular industries and firms…..

What do you think?


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