Journal of Business Economics

, Volume 87, Issue 9, pp 1193–1227 | Cite as

The influence of psychopathic traits on the acceptance of white-collar crime: do corporate psychopaths cook the books and misuse the news?

  • Volker Lingnau
  • Florian Fuchs
  • Till E. Dehne-NiemannEmail author
Original Paper


Due to several empirical shortcomings in the research of personality characteristics in ethical decision making, we address in this paper the concept of corporate psychopathy in the organizational context. Corporate psychopaths are individuals successfully working in organizations, but are selfish, manipulative, and exhibit a lack of empathy, remorse, and conscience; therefore, they may be viewed as risk factors for organizations. While there is abundant literature on the connection between clinical psychopathy and criminal behavior, such research is scarce in the business context where successful psychopaths operate. Thus, we examine if the malevolent traits of corporate psychopaths predict the acceptance of different forms of white-collar crime. In doing so, we conduct two survey studies in which we first measure participants’ psychopathic tendencies and then assess their acceptance of either an accounting fraud or an insider-trading situation. Consistent with our hypotheses and across both studies, we find a highly significant relationship between personality traits that are associated with corporate psychopathy and the acceptance of white-collar crime. This paper discusses the implications of these findings and identifies some potentially useful approaches for excluding corporate psychopaths from organizations.


Corporate psychopathy Successful psychopaths White-collar crime Accounting fraud Insider trading Ethical decision making Ethical climate 

JEL Classification

D01 K42 M40 



The authors would like to thank Jenna Flogeras for proof-reading the manuscript, Vanessa Fontaine for help during the data-gathering process and Franziska Schmidt for writing assistance. We also thank the editors of the special issue and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

The influence of psychopathic traits on the acceptance of white-collar crime: Do corporate psychopaths cook the books and misuse the news?

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Volker Lingnau
    • 1
  • Florian Fuchs
    • 1
  • Till E. Dehne-Niemann
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Chair of Management Accounting and Management Control SystemsTechnical University of KaiserslauternKaiserslauternGermany

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