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Pick at least one study discussed in the chapter per relevant methodology (case study, different experiments, survey, observational research, secondary data analysis, event history analysis, archival data analysis, historical ethnography, content analysis) and retrieve the full text.  (For convenience, select studies published as journal articles, rather than research monographs).

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Summarize the purpose of the study as identified by the author(s) and the methodology chosen for it in a 2 – 3 page essay

Pick at least one study discussed in the chapter per relevant methodology (case study, different experiments, survey, observational research, secondary data analysis, event history analysis, archival data analysis, historical ethnography, content analysis) and retrieve the full text.  (For convenience, select studies published as journal articles, rather than research monographs).

Summarize the purpose of the study as identified by the author(s) and the methodology chosen for it in a 2 – 3 page essay

Box 2.1   A Case Study: The Revco Medicaid Fraud Case

A clearer idea of the challenges confronting the white collar crime researcher can be acquired by looking at one specific example of such research. Diane Vaughan’s Controlling Unlawful Organizational Behavior (1983) studied the Revco Medicaid fraud case in which a large drugstore chain in Ohio initiated a computer-generated double-billing scheme that cost the government $500,000 in Medicaid funds. Company officials, however, believed they were entitled to these funds because of perceived inequities they attributed to inefficient or unfair reimbursement practices.

Vaughan first developed a file on this case by “snowballing” bits and pieces of information, which led in turn to further leads. But Vaughan, trained as a sociologist, was confronted with an early obstacle posed by the need to master the many specialized languages involved in the case: the computer language of the Welfare Department’s Division of Data Services, that department’s “Medicaid language,” and the financial language of the corporation (Vaughan 1983).

Conversely, Vaughan’s tendency to use sociological language had to be “translated” to become comprehensible to the personnel of these different organizations.

A second challenge involved the Revco Corporation’s concerns about revealing secrets that would be useful to its competitors, as well as affecting employee morale and generating undesirable publicity. Thus, it resisted Vaughan’s requests for access despite the fact that Revco was essentially claiming to be the victim in the case. Means of gaining cooperation from the various investigatory and prosecutorial agencies involved in the case also had to be negotiated; individual bureaucrats were reluctant to assume responsibility for providing access.

This led to a third basic challenge. The involvement of eight large, complex organizations in this single case required Vaughan to face difficult strategic and ethical choices: how to gain the trust and confidence of the various parties involved without revealing confidences, becoming intrusive, or becoming an advocate for any particular party. In analyzing the mass of often-conflicting information collected, researchers must be conscious of and resistant to different possible biases. Despite all these obstacles, Vaughan was able to produce an informative study of one corporation’s encounter with and control of criminal conduct.

The difficulties involved in studying the Revco case failed to deter Vaughan (1996) from taking on the far more daunting task of studying the process involved in the decision to launch the space shuttle Challenger on an unusually cold day in 1986, resulting in the explosive destruction of the shuttle shortly after the launching and the death of all who were aboard.

Case Studies

The case study has been especially important in the field of white collar crime scholarship. The case study can be described quite simply as the in-depth study of a single case (or set of related cases), drawing upon a wide range of sources and resources, including court records, news reports, and interviews. A case study attempts to provide a relatively comprehensive exploration of the chosen case, going beyond the specific sequence of events involved in the case to identify the most convincing form of explanation for it as well. Within criminology, case studies were importantly featured by the “Chicago School” (associated with descriptive, qualitative research) of the 1920s, and Edwin Sutherland himself produced a classical criminological case study, The Professional Thief (1937). The subject of this book was a professional thief, however, not a white collar offender.

The importance of case studies in the white collar crime field can be attributed, in part, to the relative paucity of data cutting across many cases. Perhaps, as well, the complexity of white collar crime renders an in-depth study of a single case especially appropriate. Journalists have played a disproportionately large role in the study of white collar crime, and journalism is especially drawn to the case approach because such a focus is more likely to produce colorful and dramatic copy. Case studies have also been a central feature of the business school curriculum, although here the emphasis is typically on successful businesses.

Gilbert Geis’s (1967) “The Heavy Electrical Equipment Antitrust Cases of 1961” examined the prosecution of price fixing within a single industry; it has been widely cited in subsequent discussions of this form of crime (e.g., Faulkner, Cheney, Fisher, and Baker 2003). In a research project directly inspired by Geis’s work, Sally S. Simpson and Nicole Leeper Piquero (2001) undertook a case study of a more recent price-fixing conspiracy: that of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and competitors in the 1990s, involving the animal-feed protein additive, lysine. Such an approach has been applied to other forms of corporate crime. For example, Cullen and colleagues’ (1987, 2006) study of the Ford Pinto case has been an important contribution to the literature on corporate violence, and Ronald Kramer’s (1992) study of the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion has illustrated basic dimensions of state corporate crime. James Gobert and Maurice Punch (2003) explore a number of corporate crime cases as a means of demonstrating the complexities involved in prosecuting corporate crime. Steve Tombs and Dave Whyte (2007a) review a series of cases to illustrate the immensely harmful consequences of compromises of safety at the workplace.

The overriding advantage of the case study is that it can provide us with a concrete, rich understanding of the dynamics and realities of a particular white collar crime case. As Simpson and Piquero (2001) note, “The case study is a useful tool to assess what is known about a phenomenon, to develop empirical generalizations from observations that may be explored by others, to inform theory, and to identify new areas of research” (p. 186). Sometimes, however, the case study removes cases from their historical context (Croall 2001; Punch 1996). The principal limitation of the case study approach generally is that the particular case addressed may be quite atypical.

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