Since the early 1980s, I have practiced as a licensed New York psychologist and psychoanalyst, specializing in the treatment of financial services executives, and their families. I have witnessed the dramatic evolution and cyclical implosion of our modern financial sector. Inevitably this has drawn me into close range with a significant number of Financial Psychopaths.
Based on my expertise in this field, I was recently interviewed by a writer from CFA Magazine—a distinguished, well-respected source for financial professionals distributed by the CFA Institute—that just published “The Financial Psychopath Next Door: Rogue Traders are Disturbingly Common” (March 1, 2012).
In this piece, award winning financial writer Sherree DeCovny cited my work many times.
The article was immediately “picked up” by a variety of websites, platforms, blogs and news services, including:
ForEx & Stock Markets News
BK Forex Advisor
Wall Street Trading
Trend Following Trader
scott.net SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Decline of the Empire
Self-interest, power, and control are the central lubricants and dominant character features that drive the Financial Psychopath. The core of this type of individual is lacquered in a thick veneer of shamelessness, as he possesses a distinct lack of empathy and/or interest in other people (especially in terms of what they feel or think). Financial Psychopaths frequently possess abundant charm, charisma, intellect, credentials, unparalleled capacity and talent for lying and deception, and a drive for thrill seeking.
Mega Ponzi scheme perpetrator Bernie Madoff, Enron ringmaster Ken Lay, nefarious Park Avenue lawyer Marc Drier—are these modern day villains actually undiagnosed cases of Financial Psychopathy? I will leave that to the reader’s common sense, intuition, and judgment.
How could so few do so much damage to so many? How does our culture absorb, and even seemingly sanction, this behavior? Why are these actions repeatedly facilitated by our passivity, denial, and cognitive dissonance vis-à-vis the Great Recession that we, at last, appear to be emerging from?
These issues and many others are fully discussed in my book which will be published later this year. An intriguing section focuses on the neuroscience studies of psychopathy. Financial Psychopaths are indeed wired differently than “normals.”
Leading researchers on the psychology of psychopathy contend that at 4-5% of the business world’s employee base are psychopaths (Robert Hare: “The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us,” Paul Babiak: “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work,” and many other research papers). Paul Babiak also notes that 15% of top executives misrepresent their education, and that more than 30% of all resumes contain lies. Jonathan Zap, author of “Foxes & Reptiles: Psychopathy and the Financial Meltdown,” contends that 10% of this population has severe psychopathic tendencies; they are sub-clinical psychopaths. A recent report by The Accounts Receivable Network which is affiliated with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners contends in their 2010 Report to the Nations that 5% of annual business revenue is embezzled in one form or another each year. This is an alarming statistic. Their studies have found that Owners and Executives account for nearly 17% of the fraud. Clive Brody, in a recent book published by Macmillan, “Corporate Psychopaths: Organizational Destroyers” contends that “corporate psychopaths” who manage financial institutions in the United States are to blame for the global financial crisis.
On a human, spiritual level the central issue here involves morality and virtue, or a lack thereof. Trust & Money are among the two most important operational constructs in our country, in the world for that matter. Trust is essential in any relationship, or enterprise. Without it, betrayal, self-interest, and deception can run rampant, and ultimately poison a culture (or a corporation) from within. Fiduciary duty is one of the highest “callings” in the land. It can never be minimized or taken for granted.
Behavioral finance and neuroeconomics are burgeoning fields of study. Many astute and talented financial writers are gaining momentum reporting and investigating these topics.
Expect to see more posts from me on this fascinating topic. As always, I welcome your comments.
To contact Christopher Bayer directly, please email Christopher.Bayer@TheShareholderActivist.com.