Profit without Honor: White Collar Crime and the Looting of America (2nd Edition)

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9780130286857: Profit without Honor: White Collar Crime and the Looting of America (2nd Edition)

The second edition of Profit Without Honor discusses and explains various types of white collar crimes. Using case histories and references, the book also looks at the damage that white collar crime inflicts upon its victims. Written in an engaging and entertaining manner, it covers such topics as Crimes Against Consumers, Unsafe Products, Crimes by the Government, Corruption of Public Officials, Medical Crime, and Computer Crime. For people in investigations, law enforcement, or any legal professions.

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About the Author:

Stephen M. Rosoff is associate professor of sociology and Director of the Graduate Criminology Program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He received his Ph.D. in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine. He has written extensively on white-collar crime and professional deviance, particularly in the areas of medical fraud and computer crime. He is co-author of two forthcoming books: Contemporary Legal Issues: Whose Rights? Who's Right? (Roxbury Press) and Deviance and Deviants (Prentice Hall).

Henry N. Pontell is professor of criminology, law and society in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. A widely recognized authority on white-collar crime, including financial institution fraud and crime in the health care industry, and writer in a number of areas of criminology and sociology, in 2001 he received the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Cressey Award for major lifetime contributions to the study, detection and deterrence of fraud. His recent books include: Big Money Crime: Fraud and Politics in the Savings and Loan Crisis, and Contemporary Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice: Essays in Honor of Gilbert Geis.

Robert H. Tillman is associate professor of sociology at St. John's University in New York City. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Davis. He is the author and co-author of several books on white-collar crime, including: Global Pirates: Fraud in the Offshore Insurance Industry (Northeastern University Press, forthcoming); Broken Promises: Fraud by Small Business Health Insurers (Northeastern University Press); and Big Money Crime: Fraud and Politics in the Savings and Loan Crisis (University of California Press).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

In the short time that has passed since the first edition of this book was published in 1998, there have been—as one surely would expect—significant new developments in the study of white-collar crime. Promissory note sales scams, hardly a blip on the radar a few years ago, are now being called the number one fraud in the United States. Congressional hearings have exposed the flagrant deceit of the sweepstakes industry. The biggest embezzlement in American history and the biggest swindle ever uncovered have both occurred, as well as the largest price-fixing fine ever meted out. New environmental horror stories have surfaced involving an obscure deadly substance, beryllium. The disastrous Firestone tire debacle has outraged the nation, and a major bribery scandal has clouded the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Computer crime has continued to emerge as the nation's fastest growing category of crime. Two recent cyber-attacks have brought the Internet to its knees. One damaged an estimated 45 million PCs; the other crippled most of the major e-commerce sites, and each attack was launched by a 15-year-old boy. "Pump and dump" schemes have exploded on the Internet, and "identity theft" has become part of the popular lexicon. Perhaps most ominous, organized crime has smelled the "new economy" and has forced its way to the feeding trough. The first edition described Wall Street brokers acting like organized criminals. This edition depicts organized criminals acting like Wall Street brokers.

The late 1990s also witnessed a resurgence of insider trading along with the merger-mania that characterized the so-called greed decade of the 1980s. Of course, one of the biggest and most important antitrust cases in American history—U.S. v Microsoft—has been tried and has yielded a stunning verdict. All of these cases and many others are considered in this updated edition.

So, once again, Profit Without Honor seeks to elucidate a very broad subject that only seems to get broader: white-collar crime. How broad? Its domain stretches from the small price-gouging merchant to the huge price-fixing cartel. It can breed in an antiseptic hospital or a toxic dump. It is at home on Main Street, Wall Street, Madison Avenue—sometimes even 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Yet, as Americans demonize the Crips and the Bloods, recoil at the Unabomber, and obsess over O. J. Simpson, white-collar crime still remains the "other" crime problem. The reason for this relative indifference is that the true costs of upperworld misconduct are largely unrecognized. Compared with murderers, terrorists, and urban gangsters, white-collar criminals do not seem to scare the public very much.

Even the economic expense—by far the most identifiable cost—is typically underestimated by the average citizen. Annual losses from white-collar crime are probably 50 times greater than losses from ordinary property crime. For example, the price of bailing out a single corrupt savings and loan (S & L) institution surpassed the total losses of all the bank robberies in American history. The bill for the entire S & L bailout ultimately may exceed a trillion dollars. (To put that figure in perspective, consider that a million seconds is about 11 days; a trillion seconds is about 30,000 years.) Indeed, the price-tags attached to some white-collar crimes are so staggering that they are difficult to comprehend. They evoke memories of the late Senator Everett McKinley Dirkson's wry quip: "A billion here, a billion there; and pretty soon you're talking about real money!"

Monetary expenditures are only the tip of the topic. The "looting" in the subtitle of this book refers to more than larceny; it implies destruction, too. This book argues for an expanded definition of white-collar crime because such crime is not just property crime on a grand scale. It entails higher and more enduring levels of costs—particularly physical and social costs. These less conspicuous effects carry a heavy payment that cannot be measured with a calculator.

White-collar crimes do not leave a chalk outline on the sidewalk or a blood spatter on the wall, so the American public, in its understandable preoccupation with street crime, often has overlooked the violent aspects of elite deviance. In his polemic book, Thinking About Crime, James Q. Wilson marginalizes white-collar crime, lumping it together with "victimless" crimes such as gambling and prostitution. He states that most citizens (including himself) do not consider white-collar offenses to be very serious compared with street crime. Wilson's intuition about the predominance of such a belief is quite correct. The belief itself, however, is utterly wrong. White-collar criminals cause more pain and death than all "common criminals" combined.

A likely explanation for the inadequate attention can be derived from a cognitive rule-of-thumb known as the availability heuristic. It stipulates that there is a common human tendency to judge the likelihood of occurrences in terms of how readily instances come to mind. Vivid events stick in our memories, and their greater ease of recall misleads us to overrate their frequency relative to less dramatic, but actually more pervasive events. The physical harm wrought by some forms of white-collar crime can be slow and cumulative—like the mythic "death of a thousand cuts." In other words, the human suffering caused by corporate cupidity frequently can take years to materialize, in contrast to the graphic suddenness which usually characterizes street violence. Consequently, it is easy for people to misperceive the extent of the injuries caused. As this book will delineate, environmental crime, hazardous workplaces, medical malfeasance, and unsafe products are lethal manifestations of what Ralph Nader calls "postponed violence."

As for social costs, they are the most insidious and difficult to measure. The victims here are not limited to endangered employees, mistreated patients, or injured consumers, but include all of society—from its component institutions to its transcendent culture. Indeed, a case could easily be made that every category of white-collar crime depicted in this book manifests a deleterious effect on some social institution and thereby inflicts damage on society as a whole. To cite just two instances, the insider trading scandals detailed in Chapter 6 have eroded public faith in the American economy; and the crimes by the government described in Chapter 8 have devalued the democratic process.

It should also be noted that much of the existing white-collar crime literature focuses on offenders—those who commit these crimes, their motives and methods. This is certainly an illuminating perspective, but not the only perspective. This book seeks to shed light on the victims of white-collar crime as well. Victimology is a critical element because it helps give the problem the personal relevance it has sometimes lacked. The more predatory white-collar crime is perceived to be, the less likely it will continue to be dismissed as a mere appendix to the crime problem.

One additional preliminary comment seems appropriate, and it concerns the style of the chapters that follow. We have chosen to present our material in an occasionally flippant and hopefully engaging manner. But despite its intermittent irreverence, this is a serious book on an important subject. It is not difficult to write mordantly about con artists charging people $30 for a "solar clothes dryer," then mailing them a piece of rope and some clothespins (Chapter 2), or greedy doctors billing Medicare for pregnancy tests performed on elderly males (Chapter 10), or religious charlatans peddling trashy "holy shower caps" to thousands of devout proselytes (Chapter 5). It is likewise easy for readers to ridicule those who are duped by such flagrant deceit. Thus, it is worthwhile to bear in mind an old maxim: when you slip on a banana peel it is tragedy; only when someone else slips does it become comedy. A reiterate lesson of this book is that white-collar crime spares no one. Everybody reading this sentence (or writing it, for that matter) has been somebody's victim. Each of us would do well to remember just how much alike a window and a mirror can be.

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