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Introduction

has not changed much over the years. Cressey pointed out that for the trust violator, it is necessary that he believe his financial situation can be resolved in secret. Cressey said:

In all cases [in the study] there was a distinct feeling that, because of activity prior to the defalcation, the approval of groups important to the trusted person had been lost, or a dis- tinct feeling that present group approval would be lost if certain activity were revealed [the nonsharable financial problem], with the result that the trusted person was effectively iso- lated from persons who could assist him in solving problems arising from that activity.

Although the clear conception of a financial problem as nonsharable does not invari- ably result in trust violation, it does establish in trusted persons a desire for a specific kind of solution to their problems. The results desired in the cases encountered were uniform: the solution or partial solution of the problem by the use of funds which can be obtained in an independent, relatively secret, safe, and sure method in keeping with the ‘rationaliza- tions’ available to the person at the time.20

Cressey pointed out that many of his subjects in the study mentioned the importance of resolving the problem secretly.

Cressey also discovered, by talking to his trust violators, that they did not see their po- sitions as a point of possible abuse until after they were confronted with the nonsharable financial problem. They used words such as “it occurred to me” or “it dawned on me” that the entrusted moneys could be used to cure their vexing situations. In Cressey’s view, the trust violator must have two prerequisites: general information and technical skill. With respect to general information, the fiduciary capacity of an employee in and of itself im- plies that, since it is a position of trust (read: no one is checking), it can be violated.

Cressey said that in addition to general information, the trust violator must have the technical skills required to pull off the fraud in secret. He observed:

It is the next step which is significant to violation: the application of the general informa- tion to the specific situation, and conjointly, the perception of the fact that in addition to having general possibilities for violation, a specific position of trust can be used for the specific purpose of solving a nonsharable problem. . . . The statement that trusted persons must be cognizant of the fact that the entrusted funds can be used secretly to solve the non- sharable problem is based upon observations of such applications of general information to specific situations.21

Cressey believed that based on observations, it was difficult to distinguish which came first: the need for the funds, or the realization that they could be secretly used. In other words, did the person have a “legitimate” need for the funds before figuring out how to get his or her hands on them secretly? Or did the person see secret access to funds and find a justification to use them?

Next, Cressey delved into the inner workings of the offenders’ minds: How were they able to convince themselves that stealing was okay? He found they were able to excuse their actions to themselves by viewing their crimes in one of three ways:

  • 1.

    As noncriminal

  • 2.

    As justified

  • 3.

    As part of a situation that the offenders do not control

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