Halls of fame exist for everything from baseball to rock and roll. Now there’s a place to take stock of our most memorable crooks: the Con Artist Hall of Infamy.
Talent and charisma made legends out of Joe DiMaggio and Chuck Berry. But heroes aren’t the only ones to capture our collective imagination. Outlaws, who achieve fame outside the borders of morality, also leave a mark on our society. Of all outlaws, the con artist - who lies through a smile and exploits trust for profit - holds a special fascination. What drives a person to such amoral greed and deceit? Why didn't anyone see through the lies?
The Hall of Infamy is a collection of con artists from across the globe and over time – from 18th century France to Wall Street today. Our inductees are actors and liars, greedy CEOS and manipulative religious leaders. In nominating inductees to the Hall of Infamy, we chose individuals who met one or more of the following criteria:
Fraudsters and con artists have always existed. They flourish in a booming market, where free-flowing cash stops up caution like a cork in a bottle. But when the cash dries up, the fraud is exposed – or, as Warren Buffet put it: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”
The tide has gone out. As new Ponzi schemers and white collar criminals wash up to shore, it's useful to put their crimes into context - to see how they fit into a long tradition of recurrent blind faith and oversight that might be prevented in the future.
We kicked the idea around for several years. It started out as an observation: there's no one place to go for the big picture on fraudsters and con artists. We know that waves of cons occur at peaks in the market - but who are these crooks? How did they get away with their scams?
In the summer of 2008, we decided to create a "Who's Who" of the most audacious financial con artists - a collection of interest to a wide audience, from business schools eager to impress the importance of ethics on their students to any person who reads of the latest financial scandal and shakes his or her head in wonder and disgust.
The Con Artist Hall of Infamy will grow, both in shape and scope. Certainly, there is a nearly limitless supply of potential inductees from history and the modern day. We’re eager to diversify the Hall of Infamy; we imagine that doors opening up in the business world have helped to create new opportunities to practice con artistry. We’re also eager to make this collection as far-reaching through time and place as possible, with inductees from a variety of eras and countries.
In fact, we imagine a path for the con artists working amongst us today: they gain notoriety on the roster of our wealthiest and most powerful; their names then take a well-worn path in newspaper headlines, court transcripts and prison rolls. Finally, they are inducted into the Con Artist Hall of Infamy.
Of course, the most brilliant con artists are never caught…
- Warren Hellman and Arthur Rock
There‘s a huge pool of individuals who deserve to be inducted to the Hall of Infamy. To help us keep up with these crooks, and share information with others interested in con artistry, send in your nominations.