The Favorite Business Term Shared by Cosmo Kramer and Corporate Fraudsters
Religion & Liberty Online

The Favorite Business Term Shared by Cosmo Kramer and Corporate Fraudsters

In one of my favorite exchanges on the sitcom Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer and Jerry Seinfeld have the following discussion about tax write-offs:

kramerKramer: “It’s a write-off for them.”
Jerry: “How is it a write-off?”
Kramer: “They just write it off.”
Jerry: “Write it off what?”
Kramer: “Jerry, all these big companies, they write off everything.”
Jerry: “You don’t even know what a write-off is.”
Kramer: “Do you?”
Jerry: “No, I don’t.”
Kramer: “But they do. And they’re the ones writing it off.”
Jerry: “I wish I had the last twenty seconds of my life back.”

Fortunately, Jerry and Kramer were talking in person. If this had been an email exchange they might have been flagged for being in the “fraud triangle”—the nexus where rationalization, pressure, and opportunity meet.

Software developed by the FBI and Ernst & Young reveals that Kramer’s favorite business term is on the most common words and phrases used in email conversations among employees engaged in corporate fraud:

1. Cover up
2. Write off
3. Illegal
4. Failed investment
5. Nobody will find out
6. Grey area
7. They owe it to me
8. Do not volunteer information
9. Not ethical
10. Off the books

The analytics software also scans for “out of band” events such as “call my mobile” or “come by my office.” So if you get an email from your accountant saying that you owe it her to come by her office to talk about the illegal write-off on your off-the-books failed investment, you might as well save yourself the trouble and turn yourself in.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).