Public Affairs
Hardcover $29.99
Why They Do It
Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal


From the financial fraudsters of Enron, to the embezzlers at Tyco, to the insider traders at McKinsey, to the Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, the failings of corporate titans are regular fixtures in the news. But what drives wealthy and powerful people to white-collar crime? Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes draws from extensive personal interaction and correspondence with nearly fifty former executives as well as the latest research in psychology, criminology, and economics to investigate how once-celebrated executives become white-collar criminals. The product of seven years in the company of the men behind the largest corporate crimes in history, Why They Do It is a breakthrough look at the dark side of the business world.

Soltes reveals how the usual explanations fail to tell the whole story of why many seemingly successful people go over the line. White-collar criminals are not merely driven by excessive greed or hubris, nor do they usually carefully calculate costs and benefits before breaking the law. Instead, Soltes shows that most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do—on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. The trouble is that these gut feelings are often poorly suited for the modern business world where leaders are increasingly distanced from the consequences of their decisions and the individuals they impact.

The extraordinary costs of corporate misconduct are clear to its victims. Yet, never before have we been able to peer so deeply into the minds of the many prominent perpetrators of white-collar crime. With the increasing globalization of business threatening us with even more devastating corporate misconduct, the lessons Soltes draws in Why They Do It are needed more urgently than ever.

about Eugene Soltes

  • Eugene Soltes is the Jakurski Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. His research focuses on financial fraud and corporate malfeasance and has been cited by the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, and Bloomberg News. Professor Soltes teaches in Harvard Business School's executive education programs and is the recipient of the Charles M. Williams Award for Outstanding Teaching. He received his PhD and MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and degrees in statistics and economics from Harvard University.


"This is a must-read... I was fascinated by Soltes' book. He interviewed four dozen prisoners – including Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford (Ponzi schemes), Scott London and Sam Waksal (insider trading).... I think the contrast that Soltes paints about empathy is powerful." —Neil Senturia, San Diego Union-Tribune

"A groundbreaking book... Engaging, precisely researched, and well argued, this is a spectacular achievement in business ethics, corporate culture, and true crime. Highly recommended for all audiences." —Library Journal, starred review

“Groundbreaking...[an] impressive debut...a forcefully developed and documented contribution to our further understanding of high-level criminality in lightly regulated free markets.” —Kirkus Reviews

"By showing us how well-educated and well-meaning businessmen come to commit terrible crimes, Eugene Soltes has done a great service to the business community and society. This landmark study of business gone wrong should be required reading for all people in business, MBA students, business school faculty and staff, and regulators and policymakers." —Andrew Lo, MIT Sloan School of Management

other editions

  • Hardcover | ISBN 9781610395366
    Pub date: 10/11/2016 | Price: $29.99 / 38.99 Canada
    Publisher: PublicAffairs
    6.500 x 9.963 | 464 Pages
    BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Business Ethics
    TRUE CRIME / White Collar Crime
    BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture
  • eBook | ISBN 9781610395373
    Pub date: 10/11/2016 | Price: $19.99 / 24.99 Canada
    Publisher: PublicAffairs
    464 Pages
    BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Business Ethics
    TRUE CRIME / White Collar Crime
    BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture