Corporate Psychopathy: The Root of the Global Financial Crisis?

21 Nov

We’ve excerpted quite a bit of this article from here because there is so much important information in it – however, it is not the complete article. You will find the link to the full article at in the headline and again at the foot of the piece. Additionally, we have included the research paper “The Corporate Psychopaths Theory
of the Global Financial Crisis Clive R. Boddy  as an uploaded media file at the foot of the article for further reading. It is this paper which inspired the article.

While this article may be disturbing to many; it can also be seen as a first breath of fresh air and hope, if the underlying research is to be seriously considered. After all, it suggests that not only SHOULD we be disturbed, but we have a clear call to action to address this crisis if we expect to see any improvement in the global financial and political picture.
Interesting to note the corrolary between the 99% and the 1% – as pointed out in the article:

The Occupy Wall Street protesters demanding an end to the reign of the “one per cent” may have unwittingly stumbled on the crux of the issue. Science tells us that 99 per cent of humans have normal emotional function. One per cent are psychopaths. We ignore that truth at our peril.

Perhaps it is time, as suggested here, that routine screening for the genetic markers for Psychopathy be required for all levels of corporate and/or political office.

Time to Test Corporate Leaders to Weed out Psychopaths

Mitchell Anderson
The Tyee
Mon, 21 Nov 2011 11:43 CST


One per cent of humans: Not murderously insane, just devoid of empathy and ultimately destructive.

Shark-like, they rise fast but risk killing the world economy, concludes a business professor.

Given the state of the global economy, it might not surprise you to learn that psychopaths may be controlling the world. Not violent criminals, but corporate psychopaths who nonetheless have a genetically-inherited biochemical condition that prevents them from feeling normal human empathy.

Scientific research is revealing that 21st century financial institutions with a high rate of turnover and expanding global power have become highly attractive to psychopathic individuals to enrich themselves at the expense of others, and the companies they work for.

A peer-reviewed theoretical paper from 2011 titled “The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis” details how highly-placed psychopaths in the banking sector may have nearly brought down the world economy through their own inherent inability to care about the consequences of their actions.

The author of this paper, Clive Boddy, previously of Nottingham Trent University, believes this theory would go a long way to explain how senior managers acted in ways that were disastrous for the institutions they worked for, the investors they represented and the global economy at large.

If true, this also means the astronomically expensive public bailouts will not solve the problem since many of the morally impaired individuals who caused this mess likely remain in positions of power. Worse, they may be the same people advising governments on how to resolve this crisis.

To tackle this problem, we must instead examine this rare and curious condition, and why recent corporate history may have elevated precisely the wrong type of people to positions of great power and public trust.

Unfeeling, but not insane

Psychopathy should not be confused with insanity. It is best described by Robert Hare, global expert and psychologist, as “emotional deafness” — a biochemical inability to experience normal feelings of empathy for others.

This shark-like fixation on self-interest means that psychopaths often feel a clear detachment from other people, viewing them more as sheep to be preyed upon than fellow humans to relate to. For instance, psychopaths in prison often use group therapy sessions not as a healing process, but as an opportunity to learn how to simulate normal human emotions.

Studies on twins have revealed that psychopathy shows a strong genetic signature and there remains no effective treatment. Recent research has linked the condition to physical abnormalities in the amygdala region of the brain.

Only a small subset of psychopaths become the violent criminals so often fictionalized in film. Most simply seek to blend in and conceal their difference in order to more effectively manipulate others. This frightening condition has existed throughout human history, though likely in a marginal and socially parasitic way.

And here, at the conclusion of the piece, the serious call is made:

Time has come for testing

Boddy’s last statement contains a kernel of hope. If our world has become chaotic due to institutionalized psychopathy, imagine how much better it could be if such dangerously impaired individuals were excluded from positions of power and influence.

Precedence exists for dealing with such situations. Randomized workplace drug testing became the norm in the 1980s. At the time, civil libertarians strongly objected on the basis that it violated personal privacy protections. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1989 that such testing was constitutional and now about 25 per cent of Fortune 500 companies routinely require their employees to submit to such tests.

Perhaps investors at major financial institutions should require that senior level managers submit to established tests to ensure they are not psychopathic. This is not an issue of civil liberties since the precedent has already been well established regarding drug impairment in the workplace. Likewise, it is not a regulatory issue since private shareholders have every right to demand that executives demonstrate they are not biochemically impaired and therefore unable to carry out their fiduciary duties on behalf of investors. If corporate boards are hiring psychopaths as executive management, they are not carrying out their due diligence and could be held legally liable for their oversight.

Companies should also consider providing employees with specific whistleblower provisions to expose potential psychopaths in the workplace. A 2010 study by Boddy showed that corporate psychopaths caused more than one quarter of all workplace bullying, though they accounted for only one per cent of the workforce.

Besides being traumatic and humiliating to other workers, this bullying is also very expensive. Boddy calculated that bullying by corporate psychopaths cost companies in the U.K. more than £3.5 billion per year in lost productivity and attrition. Extrapolating these results to the United States, these deviant individuals are responsible for more than $35 billion in direct annual losses to U.S. businesses.

Politicians, too?

And what about elected officials? There is no higher standard of trust in our society than standing for public office. Campaigning politicians are expected to submit to almost absurd levels of scrutiny about their private lives, character and personal relationships. Should not candidates begin providing voters proof that they are medically capable of acting in the interests of the public that may elect them?

The Occupy Wall Street protesters demanding an end to the reign of the “one per cent” may have unwittingly stumbled on the crux of the issue. Science tells us that 99 per cent of humans have normal emotional function. One per cent are psychopaths. We ignore that truth at our peril.




Corporate Psychopaths
The Corporate Psychopaths Theory
of the Global Financial Crisis – Clive R. Boddy


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  1. S. Quade

    December 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    What do sociopaths do?
    They seek power.
    What’s the epicenter of power in the world?
    Washington D.C.
    How do sociopaths attain power over people?
    They convince people to do what the sociopath wants them to do.

  2. admin

    January 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    We note that as of January 2, 2012 that Bloomberg and Washington’s Blog are picking up on this story line…