Corporate Fraud is the New Black
It is timely — perhaps almost too coincidental — that on the same day that Conrad Black is about to be sentenced to six to eight years of prison for corporate fraud, the Toronto Police are hosting the 2007 International Fraud Investigators Conference at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. After all, Black did go to school up the street at Upper Canada College, and has a storied history in the Toronto business community.
While Toronto may not be known as a hotbed for corporate fraud, the Toronto Police Fraud Squad is gaining prominence as one of the premiere fraud eradication agencies in North America. But why is fraud on everyone's mind these days?
I went to high school near a minimum security prison that mainly housed white-collar offenders. Back then, we weren't enthralled (or even threatened) by the fact that the guys next door had embezzled millions of dollars. Corporate fraud just wasn't "cool" back then.
These days, however, it seems as though fraud is the media's darling: for months, the nightly news has led with stories about the sponsorship scandal or the Airbus affair. The Conrad Black trial is getting more coverage than OJ's trial did thirteen years ago.
Which leads me to the question: why and how has corporate fraud become the glamorized crime in media today? The Enron scandal has already led to blockbuster movie deals, the BBC has a highly-rated show that tracks organizational crime (soon to be televised on the CBC, if I'm not mistaken), and names like Jeff Skilling and Karlheinz Schreiber are already as recognizable as some famous musicians.
What's next? A CSI-style police drama on HBO modeled after the Toronto Fraud Squad? As much as I think that the exposure for our excellent police would be welcome, that still doesn't answer the one question that still bothers me: when did corporate fraud all of a sudden become sexy? And why?
I can't offer any answers to these questions, because to be honest I don't know much about the field at all, but I thought I'd ask some of you for your insights: after all, if Toronto is going to host an international fraud prevention conference, it only makes sense that Torontonians know a thing or two about fraud.