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Archive for May, 2006

Enron and corporate sociopaths

Last week former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy. Lay was convicted of six counts, including conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud. Skilling was convicted of 19 counts of conspiracy and fraud.

On the same day, the verdict was announced in Ken Lay’s separate non-jury trial related to his personal finances. He was found guilty of bank fraud.

In January, 2004, Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former finance chief, accepted a 10-year prison sentence in a plea-bargain deal in which he agreed to testify against his former bosses. Had he not cut the deal, he would have faced 98 counts of fraud, money laundering, insider trading and other charges.

Naming the problem

All of these guys have been called sociopaths or psychopaths.

Small town sociopaths

My first blog article back in January, How many sociopaths are in your town?, was about the fact that sociopaths can be found in any community. Experts estimate that 1% of the people in North America are sociopaths. This personality disorder is not defined by demographics. Sociopaths are male and female, rich and poor, any nationality, race or religion.

In that post I talked about the Lovefraud Risk Calculator, which estimates how many sociopaths are in a given community. (Click on the Risk Calculator link on Lovefraud.com.) I gave examples of a few cities—New York, Phoenix, and tiny Skippack, Pennsylvania. I was a bit nervous about including Skippack, population 706. I’ve driven through this cute country town many times—could there really be seven sociopaths living there?

It’s impossible to know for sure, but the behavior of some people a few miles down the road in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, is certainly shocking.

The amazing audacity of sociopaths

Last week, Ed Hicks was sentenced by a Virginia court to a year in jail for bigamy. He had been married seven times, with four of his marriages overlapping. The bigamy charge was for marrying wife number six, Julie Flint, while still married to wife number five, Rose Marie Sewell. He has already served four months, so he’ll be locked up for approximately eight more months.

Wife number seven, Sandra Phipps, originally pressed the bigamy charge—Hicks married her while still married to Julie. Her case was not prosecuted due to a loophole in Virginia law. Still, the fact that Hicks was sentenced at all is a victory for the women—most bigamists get off with a slap on the hand.

Both Sandra and Julie testified at the trial. Observing the proceedings were two other women that Hicks dated while married, Lorraine and Marissa. The four women got together for dinner the evening before the trial—and exchanged stories about the audacity of Ed Hicks.

Sociopaths, children and the legal system

Robert from Illinois has sent a few e-mails to Lovefraud. He was married to a woman who he believes is a sociopath—he describes the relationship as non-emotional and loveless, with constant financial and verbal attacks. Robert is now divorced, but has a five-year-old son with the woman.

Here’s what Robert wrote in a recent e-mail:

“Even though I told my divorce lawyer that my ex was a sociopath, he said, all you’re doing is giving her a label. You still have to have evidence she is unfit to your son. I told her once that my son wants to live with me and guess what she said ?. She said, You’re not getting my son. Typical sociopath response.”

The response of Robert’s lawyer is common in divorce and custody situations involving sociopaths. Many lawyers don’t understand what a sociopath is, how they operate and the damage they cause. Neither do the courts.