CORPORATE FRAUD HANDBOOK
and Herrnstein.) Sutherland was able to explain crime’s environmental considerations through the theory of differential association. The theory’s basic tenet is that crime is learned, much as we learn math, English, or guitar playing.10
Sutherland believed this learning of criminal behavior occurred with other persons in a process of communication. Therefore, he reasoned, criminality cannot occur without the assistance of other people. Sutherland further theorized that the learning of criminal activity usually occurred within intimate personal groups. In his view, this explains how a dysfunctional parent is more likely to produce dysfunctional offspring. Sutherland be- lieved that the learning process involved two specific areas: the techniques to commit the crime; and the attitudes, drives, rationalizations, and motives of the criminal mind. It is clear how Sutherland’s differential association theory fits with occupational offenders. In organizations, dishonest employees eventually will infect a portion of honest ones. It also goes the other way: Honest employees eventually will have an influence on some of those who are dishonest.
Donald R. Cressey
One of Sutherland’s brightest students at Indiana University during the 1940s was Donald R. Cressey (1919–1987). While much of Sutherland’s research concentrated on upper-world criminality, Cressey took his own studies in a different direction. Working on his doctorate in criminology, he decided to concentrate on embezzlers. Accordingly, Cressey arranged the necessary permission at prisons in the Midwest and eventually in- terviewed about 200 incarcerated inmates.
Cressey was intrigued by embezzlers, whom he called “trust violators.” He was espe- cially interested in the circumstances that led them to be overcome by temptation. For that reason, he excluded from his research those employees who took their jobs for the purpose of stealing—a relatively minor number of offenders at that time. Upon comple- tion of his interviews, he developed what still remains the classic model for the occupa- tional offender. His research was published in Other People’s Money: A Study in the Social Psychology of Embezzlement.
Cressey’s final hypothesis was: “Trusted persons become trust violators when they conceive of themselves as having a financial problem which is nonsharable, are aware this problem can be secretly resolved by violation of the position of financial trust, and are able to apply to their own conduct in that situation verbalizations which enable them to adjust their conceptions of themselves as trusted persons with their conceptions of themselves as users of the entrusted funds or property.”11
Over the years, the hypothesis has become better known as the fraud triangle. (See Exhibit 1.1.) One leg of the triangle represents a perceived nonsharable financial need; the second leg is for perceived opportunity; and the final is for rationalization. The role of the nonsharable problem is important. Cressey said, “When the trust violators were asked to explain why they refrained from violation of other positions of trust they might have held at previous times, or why they had not violated the subject position at an