White collar-crime is a crime of persuasion and deceit. Since the white-collar criminal uses persuasion and deceit to commit their crimes, it follows that such felons are artful liars.
People often ask me what characteristics I look for in other people that alert me to possible criminal activity or at least unethical and deceitful people.
Not all questionable conduct is illegal. A person can be unethical or deceitful (however they are defined) without committing any illegal acts as defined under the law.
However, most criminals use tools like spinning (see below) in the conduct of their crimes.
The Art of Spinning
Sell people hope. My cousin ‘Crazy Eddie’ Antar taught me that “people live on hope” and their hopes and dreams must be fed through our spin and lies. In any situation, if possible, accentuate the positive.
Make excuses as long as you can. Try to have your excuses based on at least one truthful fact even if the fact is unrelated to your actions and argument.
When you cannot dispute the underlying facts, accept them as true but rationalize your actions. You are allowed to make mistakes as long as you have no wrongful intent. Being stupid is not a crime.
Always say in words you “take responsibility” but try to indirectly shift the blame on other people and factors. You need to portray yourself as a “stand up” person.
When you cannot defend your actions or arguments attack the messenger to detract attention from your questionable actions.
Always show your kindness by doing people favors. You will require the gratitude of such people to come to your aid and defend you.
Build up your stature, integrity, and credibility by publicizing the good deeds you have done in areas unrelated to the subject of scrutiny.
Build a strong base of support. Try to have surrogates and the beneficiaries of your largess stand up for you and defend you.
If you can, appear to take the “high road” and have your surrogates do the “dirty work” for you. After all, you cannot control the actions of your zealots.
When you can no longer spin, shut up. For example, offer no guidance to investors or resign for “personal reasons.” Your surrogates and so-called friends can still speak on your behalf and defend you.
If you are under investigation always say you will “cooperate.” However, use all means necessary legal or otherwise to stifle the investigators. Remember that “people live on hope” and their inclination is to believe you.
When called to testify under oath (if you do not exercise your 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination) have selective memory about your questionable actions. It is harder to be charged with perjury if you cannot remember what you have done rather than testify and lie about it.
However, before you testify have other friendly witnesses testify before you to defend you. You need to “lock in” their stories first (before they change their minds) so your testimony does not conflict with their testimony and your story will appear to be more truthful.
Try not to have your actions at least appear to rise to the level of criminal conduct or a litigable action. Being stupid or being unethical is not always a crime or a tortious action.
One last rule, to be a most effective spinner always keep your friends close and your enemies closer. The kindness you show your enemies will reduce their propensity to be skeptical of you.
If you see some of the above similarities in people who are in authority such as executives, politicians, and others, you are forewarned to watch out. Before a person can be a white collar criminal, they must be deceitful and be able to follow most of the above rules of spinning.
Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO and convicted felon)
I used to tell and write financial fairy tales as a white collar criminal.