The cost of not wanting to know –
the professions, money laundering
and organised crime
Forensic Accountancy, Police Scotland, Glasgow, UK
Purpose –This paper aims to advocatethe development and re-emphasis of “epistemic virtue”inrelevant
professional ethical codes so that attention is re-focussed on the responsibility of relevant professionals to
close windows of opportunityfor ﬁnancial wrongdoing and money laundering that are left openthrough the
widespreadpractice of “wilful blindness”.
Design/methodology/approach –This study is an exploration of the duty to knowor ﬁnd out in the
accountancyprofession via discussion and illustration of how failures in this ﬁeld contributed to the ﬁnancial
crash; a relation of these failures to “seek the truth”to the conceptof “epistemic virtue”; and a discussion of
how a lack of epistemicvirtue is a necessary condition for the successfulpractice of money laundering.
Findings –This paper considers the case for establishing a new framework for recalibrating the
professionalethic model so that the primacy of outward looking attitudesto knowledge is re-established at the
heart of professionalethics.
Research limitations/implications –The paper advocates the adoption of speciﬁc training on
outward lookingepistemic values in all ﬁnancially related professional bodies.
Practical implications –Review of ethical standards in the professionsis required to ensure epistemic
virtuesare given due weight and prominence within them.
Social implications –The accumulation ofcriminal capital under legitimate guises by seriousorganised
crime requiresposes an ongoing threat to the integrity of economic markets.A key step to improving defences
againstthis threat is the elevation of epistemic virtue in the professions.
Originality/value –To raise awareness and prominence of epistemicvirtue as a necessary component of
Keywords Money laundering, Epistemic virtue, The professions
Paper type Viewpoint
The global ﬁnancial crisis of 2008 exposed an attitude to knowledge throughout ﬁnancial
services which proved calamitous. This attitude was not only conﬁnedto opportunistic and
unscrupulous tradersbut also professionals whose service offeringwas delivered and costed
on the basis that it embodied obligations of conﬁdence and trust traditionally associated in
the public eye with those claimingprofessional status. The reasons why that happened can
be explained in facile termsby a collective inability to exert professional judgementagainst
prevailing perceptions of commercial advantage, which ultimately turned out to be false
perceptions. A recent study has contended that to blame it all on greed is to misrepresent
what occurred, because at core, the principal reason for what occurred was a lack of
competence, not in terms of capabilities or technical expertise, but in terms of ability or
The views expressed are those of the author alone and should not be read as representing those of
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.25 No. 1, 2018
© Emerald Publishing Limited
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