Loyalty and crime in organizations – Towards an explanation of bribery and manipulation in industrial companies and transplant centers

The starting points of this interdisciplinary research project are the recurrence of corruption scandals in industry (for example, Siemens, MAN, Strabag etc.) and the current manipulation scandals in transplantation medicine. Were the perpetrators selfishly maximizing their personal advantages? The focus of our project is on the deviance of highly qualified personnel of organizations, the reasons that lay claim to the legitimacy of criminal activities, and on the question of how to fight them. The study will combine both "cross-sectional" (Industry and transplantation medicine) and "cross-cultural" (Germany and USA) comparisons of deviant activities.
By drawing on the concept of "useful illegality", we assume that organizations depend on useful forms of deviant behavior of their staff. Against this background, we examine whether there is an effect of normalization by informal rules, which fosters such activities even if there is no personal advantage to gain and the personal risks and penalties are very high. Is it the most loyal employees who commit this kind of "useful illegality"? This exploratory study has its goal in finding preliminary evidence and first answers to these questions in order to prepare the implementation of an empirically broader research project.

To this end, two methods of analyzing "useful illegality" are to be further tested:

  • document analyses of court cases and Commission reports and
  • the collective mindset analysis (CMA) of qualitative interviews with the actors involved in investigations or trials (offenders, defense lawyers, judges, prosecutors, managers, transplant doctors etc.).

The value of this project is to test the explanatory power of the analysis of 'useful illegality. It will further generate impulses by reviewing the existing tools in the fight against corruption and fraud, and for their future development.