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Jan 7, 2012               

Crisis: Corporate psychopaths - part A

Previous crisis

Not that I want to hurt them.
Don't get that please cause that's just not who I am.  (Laughter)
I am soft, I am lovable, but what I really want to do is I want to reach in, rip out their hearts, and eat it before they die.
-- Richard Fuld, Jr, CEO of Lehman Brothers


1. Introduction
2. Corporate psychopaths

3. Dr Robert Hare on psychopaths

1. Introduction

The opening quote by Dick Fuld, Jr. is from this video, where you can also see it is not spoken in anger, but deliberately, from a prepared speech:


The above video (1 min 8 sec) shows Richard Fuld, Jr., then CEO of the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers, who at the time he spoke had received, himself, nearly half a billion dollars - that is: nearly 500 millon dollars - in the previous 12 or 14 years, in pay, because of his personal excellencies, as illustrated in the video. Indeed, Mr. Fuld is - of course - himself not bankrupt, and seems to be thriving quite happily, in excellent physical health and in great personal wealth (although he has "sold" part of his many millions to his own wife Katherine, for $ 100, just to make sure she and he remain exceedingly rich whatever happens in court-cases relating to Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy).

"So it goes..."

I found the above video on the following site, all thanks to a reference on Suzy Chapmans excellent Dx Revision Watch, that I wrote about in Is the American Psychiatric Association a terrorist organization?, namely in an article on Health Care Renewal (*) entitled

New York - Presbyterian Hospital Trustee Advocated Novel Cardiac Procedure - "Reach In, Rip Out Their Heart, and Eat It Before They Die"

It appears that the MD who wrote the article thinks that a man who talks like Mr Fuld does is not quite the right sort of person to be a trustee of a medical hospital.

As I said, I found the article thanks to Suzy Chapman's website, and that because her story is related on that same Health Care Renewal above the article touting Mr. Fuld's personality:


where it should be noted that the title refers not to Ms Chapman's actions, but to the American Psychiatric Association's actions against Ms Chapman's site.

And above that article there is another article on this very interesting Health Care Renewal site - medical doctors with functioning hearts, brains and courage: There's hope! - that in part was inspired by the video of Mr. Fuld, Jr:

The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of Health Care Dysfunction

This is what motivates my title. It refers to an article by C.R. Boddy in the Journal of Business Ethics, which is unfortunately behind a pay wall, that also has inspired a very interesting, clear and brief article by Brian Bansham in The Independent:

  Beware corporate psychopaths - they are still
  occupying positions of power

Here are its first six paragraphs, for your edification and education - and I note that Mr. Bansham is described under his article as "a veteran City PR man, entrepreneur and journalist", so in a position to know:

Over the years I've met my fair share of monsters – rogue individuals, for the most part. But as regulation in the UK and the US has loosened its restraints, the monsters have proliferated.

In a paper recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics entitled "The Corporate Psychopaths: Theory of the Global Financial Crisis", Clive R Boddy identifies these people as psychopaths.

"They are," he says, "simply the 1 per cent of people who have no conscience or empathy." And he argues: "Psychopaths, rising to key senior positions within modern financial corporations, where they are able to influence the moral climate of the whole organisation and yield considerable power, have largely caused the [banking] crisis'.

And Mr Boddy is not alone. In Jon Ronson's widely acclaimed book The Psychopath Test, Professor Robert Hare told the author: "I should have spent some time inside the Stock Exchange as well. Serial killer psychopaths ruin families. Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies."

Cut to a pleasantly warm evening in Bahrain. My companion, a senior UK investment banker and I, are discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees.

He then makes an astonishing confession: "At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles."

As Mr Basham says at the end of his article:

Regarding Messrs Hare, Ronson, Boddy and others, I've realised that some psychopaths "forge careers in corporations. The group is called Corporate Psychopaths". They are polished and plausible, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous.

In attempting to understand the complexities of what went wrong in the years leading to 2008, I've developed a rule: "In an unregulated world, the least-principled people rise to the top." And there are none who are less principled than corporate psychopaths.

Need I add that this also applies to some psychiatrists I know of; some directors of universities I have known; some mayors and aldermen of Amsterdam; some leaders of the Dutch drugsmafia; some parliamentarians and indeed also well-known "humanist geniuses" like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? (**)

2. Corporate psychopaths

Let's start with some definitions:

Psychopathy (..) is a personality disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deception. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are disproportionately responsible for violent crime when in a violent emotional state or situation. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as average individuals by feigning emotions and lying about their past.

This is from Wikipedia as is the following, minus its note-numbers:

A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter (i.e. by an ad hoc act passed by a parliament or legislature). Most jurisdictions now allow the creation of new corporations through registration.

An important (but not universal) contemporary feature of a corporation is limited liability. If a corporation fails, shareholders may lose their investments, and employees may lose their jobs, but neither will be liable for debts to the corporation's creditors.

Despite not being natural persons, corporations are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like natural persons ("people"). Corporations can exercise human rights against real individuals and the state, and they can themselves be responsible for human rights violations. Corporations are conceptually immortal but they can "die" when they are "dissolved" either by statutory operation, order of court, or voluntary action on the part of shareholders.

Clearly - I would say - it is rather crazy to consider corporations as "people", not only because they are not, but also because giving human rights in the ways persons have them to abstracta or to groups of people, and notably to groups of individual people who by being incorporated are not personally liable,  is to allow for vehicles of abuse and terrorism: That is precisely what allows private persons like Mr Fuld to acquire excessive power; destroy the economy; and get off themselves with many millions after having also destroyed the corporation they used as a tool for their personal enrichment.

As Hazlitt put it, long ago, but with his usual incisiveness and great mental clarity, in his essay "On Corporate Bodies", also on my site:

Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill. The principle of private or natural conscience is extinguished in each individual (we have no moral sense in the breasts of others), and nothing is considered but how the united efforts of the whole (released from idle scruples) may be best directed to the obtaining of political advantages and privileges to be shared as common spoil. Each member reaps the benefit, and lays the blame, if there is any, upon the rest. The esprit de corps becomes the ruling passion of every corporate body, compared with which the motives of delicacy or decorum towards others are looked upon as being both impertinent and improper.

The above I quoted earlier at the start of my series on the crisis, in september 2008: Over corporatisme (in Dutch, but with a series of relevant quotes in English), that I translated in 2010 to English: On Corporatism.

The present text - Corporate psychopaths - part A - is is part of that series on the crisis, of which it is number 98, since September 2008, and is intended to be the first of a sub-series on the subject of corporate psychopaths.

3. Dr Robert Hare on psychopaths

Since I can only do so much, having ME, I will have to portion it in doses, so to speak, but in case you're interested (and you should be, if you want to understand the social and personal backgrounds of the current crisis), I'll provide some more links:

It seems much of the academic work that Mr Boddy and Mr Basham based their articles on is the work of the Canadian professor emeritus in psychology

Dr Robert Hare (<- Wikipedia)

whose website you find here

"Without Conscience"

and who studied psychopathology for 35 years, and wrote several books and many academic papers on the subject, and also wrote a book about psychopaths in business named and reviewed here:

Snakes in Suits-reviewed on Health Care Renewal" in 2006
Snakes in Suits-reviewed by Doug Geivett

There is a site with much information on Dr Hare that starts here:

Dr. Robert Hare: Expert on the Psychopath

This is by Katherine Ramsfeld and is in 11 pages (chapters) and seems very well done. Here is a quotation from the last chapter, that also has references:

Presenting a compelling portrait of these dangerous men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life.  Are psychopaths mad, or simply bad? How can they be recognized? And how can we protect ourselves? This book provides solid information and surprising insights for anyone seeking to understand this devastating condition.

"A fascinating, if terrifying, look at psychopaths....Hare makes a strong case for the view that psychopaths are born, not made....A chilling, eye-opening report--and a call to action."

-Kirkus Reviews

For that last quote, also see my About "Evil Genes". Finally, since you probably have met psychopaths, as I have (there are quite a few in Amsterdam, in business, in law, in politics, and in the drugs mafia), here is some learned advice by Ms Ramsfeld and dr. Hare, from the former's chapter 10 in the above linked series by Ms Ramsfeld:

Cognizant of the fact that there are few formal survivor groups for victims of psychopaths—although there are several chat groups online—he believes that people need to know what to do to protect themselves in the event they find themselves involved or associated with a psychopath.  Among his steps are the following:

- Try not to be influenced by "props" – the winning smile, the promises, the fast talk, and the gifts meant to deflect you from the manipulation and exploitation that may be occurring.  "Any of these characteristics," he writes, "can have enormous sleight-of-hand value, serving to distract you from the individual's real message."  Close your eyes, look away and concentrate on what's really going on.

- Don't wear blinkers – Anyone who seems too perfect, is likely far from it.  Psychopaths hide their dark sides until they get their target person deeply involved.  Too much flattery, feigned kindness, and cracks in grandiose stories should provide clues and put you on your guard.  Make reasonable inquiries.

- Know yourself – or you might be vulnerable at your blind spots.  Psychopaths know how to find and use your triggers, so the more you realize what you tend to fall for, the more closely you can guard against manipulation.

- Set firm ground rules, and thus avoid some power struggles that you can't win.  Psychopaths tend to like control, so if the rules are unclear or weak, they'll take advantage.  Be clear, and establish and maintain firm boundaries.

- If necessary, get professional advice.  Too often people wonder if they're just seeing something that's not real, or they dismiss the lies because they don't know what else to do.  Listening to an expert may not only support their suspicions but provide a way out.

Hare admits that even he, with all his experience, can still be duped—at least temporarily--by a psychopath.  "In short interactions," he says, "anyone can be duped."

In a related publication, Hare notes, "We must find ways of studying psychopaths in the community if we are ever to provide some relief for their victims—which is to say, all of us."

General backgrounds:

                   Crisis: On some of the roots of the crisis
             Crisis: All files in the series

Previous crisis

(*) Which motivates it's title "Health Care Renewal" thus:

"Addressing threats to health care's core values, especially those stemming from concentration and abuse of power. Advocating for accountability, integrity, transparency, honesty and ethics in leadership and governance of health care."

and seems to be written by MDs.

(**) Perhaps I also should add not all leaders are psychopaths, just as not all psychopaths become leaders: In fact, as to the last group, most certainly don't. As to the first group, the problem is that "all power corrupts" and that the corrupt most want power and are most prone to use any means to achieve their ends.

Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later. 
-- Jan 8, 2012: Straightened out some formatting.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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