Both corporate theory and sex discrimination law start with presumptions that CEOs seek to advance legitimate ends and design the internal organization of business enterprises to achieve such ends. Yet, a growing literature questions why CEOs and boards of directors nonetheless select for Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and toxic masculinity, despite the downsides associated with these traits. Three scholarly literatures—economics, criminology, and gender theory—draw on advances in psychology to shed new light on the construction of seemingly dysfunctional corporate cultures. They start by questioning the assumption that CEOs—even CEOs of seemingly mainstream businesses—necessarily seek to advance “legitimate” ends. Instead, they suggest that a persistent issue is predation: the exploitation of asymmetries in information and power to the disadvantage of shareholders, creditors, customers, or employees. These literatures then explore how such CEOs may rationally choose to employ seemingly dysfunctional practices, such as “masculinity contests,” which reward employees more likely to buy into ethically dubious activities that range from predatory lending to sexual harassment. This Article maintains that questioning the presumption of legitimacy has profound and largely unexplored implications for corporate theory and anti-discrimination law. It extends the theory of “control fraud” central to white-collar criminology to a new concept of “control predation” that includes conduct that is ethically objectionable, if not necessarily illegal. This Article concludes that only by questioning the legitimacy of these practices in business terms can gender theory adequately address women’s workplace equality.
June Carbone and William K. Black, The Problem with Predators, 43 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 441 (2020).