Corporate sharks may be psychos

March 26, 2004

An authority on psychopathic behaviour has turned his attention to corporate types who share personality traits with his criminal subjects.

Robert Hare, renowned in law enforcement circles for developing a diagnostic tool that assesses the psychopathic criminal personality, is helping identify those whose lack of remorse, arrogance, bullying and parasitic nature extend to the boardroom.

The emeritus professor at the University of British Columbia, who is a consultant to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, has studied criminal psychopathic personalities for 40 years.

Professor Hare turned his attention to corporate psychopaths after a friend lost his life savings to a white-collar criminal, the imbroglios at WorldCom, Tyco and Enron and the inadequate tools available to assess corporate personality.

"These kind of people defraud pensioners. They say they're sorry but still have $100 million [£54 million] in an offshore account. They seem able to compartmentalise their lives.

"We have been missing out on a large portion of the population that gets away with horrific crimes," Professor Hare added.

He estimated that psychopathy affected 1 per cent of the population and likened psychopaths to the colour blind but on an emotional scale. In his brain-imaging research, psychopaths who were shown disturbing graphic images had little activity in areas of the brain that were activated in non-psychopaths.

Dr Hare and colleague Paul Babiak are adapting the diagnostic tool to educate companies in spotting psychopathic behaviour in executives. They are writing a book called Snakes in Suits.

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