Even though they wear thousand dollar suits, sit behind expensive desks and make ridiculous money, rich businessmen can still be criminals and steal your money. White collar crime is a type of crime that has been taking place for decades and still runs rampant in the modern day.
Some of the people that will appear on this list are responsible for stealing/losing millions and sometimes even billions of dollars that don’t belong to them. Read on and check out 10 of the worst white collar criminals in history.
10. Michael Milken
Starting off our list is Michael Milken, who was the head of the high-yield bond department of Drexel Burnham Lambert, which was a large investment banking firm in the USA. He rose to the public eye for his involvement in popularizing the market for high-yield “junk” bonds. “Junk” bonds are bonds that have a higher risk of default or other adverse credit events, but typically pay higher yields than actual quality bonds in order to make them attractive to investors. He was caught after a colleague outed him for making fraudulent transactions such as insider trading and stock manipulation. He was fined $600 million and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but served only two. He was also responsible for Drexel Burnham Lambert filing for bankruptcy in 1990.
9. Jerome Kerviel
Kerviel was a former employee of Société Générale, which is a large multinational banking and financial services company that is headquartered in Paris. Kerviel rose to fame in the financial industry in 2008 as a rogue trader, which means he administered trades that were not approved by his employer and kind of “did his own thing.” However, this went horribly wrong over a three day period when Kerviel lost his company around $5.5 billion. In 2012, he was sentenced to three years in prison as a result of this crime.
8. Dennis Kozlowski
Kozlowski was a former CEO of Tyco International, which is a security systems company headquartered in the USA. As the CEO, Kozlowski was well known for his extravagant lifestyle and spending habits, including paying a staggering $1 million for a single birthday party. He was thrown into the public eye in 2005 when he was charged with crimes related to the fact that he received $81 million in unauthorized bonuses from the company, and even used company money to purchase a $30 million New York City apartment. He ended up serving nearly 10 years in prison and was recently released in January of 2014.
7. Nick Leeson
Leeson was a former derivatives trader with Barings Bank, which was the UK’s oldest merchant bank. When his trades weren’t going well with losses of about $2 million, Leeson made a mistake that would change his life and the UK financial industry forever. On the eve of January 16th, 1995, he essentially bet that the Japanese stock market wouldn’t move that much overnight. But, in the early hours of January 17th, the Kobe earthquake hit and sent the markets plummeting. He tried to quickly rectify these losses with a couple of increasingly risky trades that didn’t pay off. By the end, about a month later, Leeson’s losses totaled $1.4 billion, which was twice the available trading capital of the company, which sent it under. He was sentenced to six and a half years for his crimes.
6. Jack Abramoff
Jack Abramoff was originally a college Republican who eventually became a lobbyist. As a lobbyist, he would wind up being at the center of one of the biggest political corruption scandals in U.S. history. In his heyday, Abramoff had access to the Bush administration and several other top Republicans and was very powerful in his role. His crimes came to light when he was working on Native American casino gambling interests, when it was revealed that he and his partner, Michael Scanlon, grossly overbilled their clients and pocketed the money. Overall, they charged $85 million for their services, which is much more than it should have been. He was sentenced to a prison term of six years for his part in the scandal.
5. Allen Stanford
Stanford is the former chairman of his own financial company called the Stanford Financial Group of companies. He was also a prominent financier and professional sports sponsor. He found himself in some major hot water when, in 2009, it was revealed that his entire company was nothing but a Ponzi scheme and was responsible for a huge ongoing fraud involving around $7 billion. A Ponzi scheme is basically a fraudulent investment operation where the operator pays returns to its investors from new money brought in by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator. For this horrible crime, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
4. Charles Ponzi
Speaking of Ponzi schemes, this man is the originator of the term. Charles Ponzi was an Italian businessman who was made famous for his cons in the USA and Canada. He promised his poor clients a 50% profit within 45 days, or 100% profit within 90 days, by buying discounted postal reply coupons in other countries and selling them back at face value in the United States as a form of arbitrage, which is taking advantage of the price difference between two or more markets. His scheme ran for about a year and cost his investors about $20 million in 1920, which equals about $250 million in terms of 2015 dollars.
3. Kenneth Lay
Lay was an American businessman and the CEO of Enron during their monumental scandal, and played a leading role in the corruption taking place. Enron was a public energy company and their crash was one of the biggest scandals of all time. Despite seeming like it was thriving as a company, Enron wasn’t actually doing very well. In order to hide this fact, they took advantage of lax accounting regulations, tax loopholes and all sorts of unethical practices. By hiding their true worth, everyone and their grandmother believed the company was doing fantastic and wanted to invest. But once the truth came out, they lost everything and the company went under. Lay was expected to be sentenced to around 10 years in prison but actually died on a vacation in Colorado a few months before his sentencing.
2. Bernie Ebbers
Ebbers is a Canadian businessman who co-founded and was the former CEO of the telecommunications company, WorldCom. Similar to the Enron scandal, WorldCom was found to have been fudging their numbers to make the company appear more valuable in order to entice investors. Ebbers himself was a billionaire and was making a killing from his fraudulent activities. At the time, this was the largest accounting scandal in US history, as they inflated their company’s worth by about $11 billion. For his role in this mess, Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
1. Bernie Madoff
There must be something about the name Bernie. Bernie Madoff is well known as the founder of his own Wall Street firm, and also known as a big time swindler and Ponzi scheme operator. In fact, Madoff was behind the single biggest financial fraud scandal in U.S history. Essentially, his whole operation was nothing but a huge lie and he was able to scam thousands of people out of billions of dollars. It is estimated that the final amount missing from client accounts was around $65 billion. As a result, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison, the maximum that was allowed.