Identifying risk factors for corporate financial fraud

By J. Adrian Aumen, College of Arts & Sciences

Schwartz-80PULLMAN, Wash. – In the wake of the global financial crisis, Jennifer Schwartz, a Washington State University associate professor of sociology and expert in crime trends, has secured a grant for more than a half-million dollars to study the risk factors for corporate financial fraud.

The three-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Justice promises to deliver the first comprehensive, multilevel dataset on major white-collar crime. It will help policymakers and stakeholders in many arenas – government, business, law, accounting, auditing and enforcement – understand corporate illegality and develop preventive strategies.

“Our most recent financial crisis and others before were prompted in no small part by corporate financial misdeeds,” Schwartz said. Identifying the antecedent conditions, or risk factors, is important for preventing misdeeds – and crises – in the future, she said.

With a research collaborator at Penn State University, Schwartz is creating statistical portraits of firms and their top-level executives involved in fraud. The professors also are identifying the associated risk and protective factors, such as corporate organizational structures, board compositions and individual attributes of CEOs/CFOs related to severe financial crime.

From this information, they will create a rich database for analyzing public companies and executive involvement in fraud.

The research is especially timely after JP Morgan recently was ordered to pay $64 million to a whistleblower in a mortgage fraud case:



Jennifer Schwartz, WSU Department of Sociology (,, 509-335-2657

Adriana Aumen, WSU College of Arts and Sciences ( communications,, 509-335-5671