The Criminal Bug: Volkswagen's Middle Management

27 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2016 Last revised: 26 Apr 2016

See all articles by J.S. Nelson

J.S. Nelson

Harvard Business School; Villanova Law School (on leave 2021-22); Villanova School of Business; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Institute for Corruption Studies

Date Written: April 19, 2016


Not only does the 2015-16 Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal have the potential to destroy a $227 billion-dollar multinational company, but it contains eerie echoes of other recent white collar scandals that have claimed lives and cost the public trillions of dollars. Through a case study of Volkswagen, this Essay pioneers a new way to look at these scandals by focusing on their common element: the growing insulation and entrenchment of middle management to coordinate such large-scale wrongdoing.

Keywords: Volkswagen, VW, scandal, emissions, defeat device, emissions-control, case study, middle management, management, insulation, entrenchment, coordination, fraud, large-scale wrongdoing, disclosure-based regulation, drive, suppress, dissent, patterns, multinational, cat-and-mouse game, repeat behavior

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Josephine (J.S.), The Criminal Bug: Volkswagen's Middle Management (April 19, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Josephine (J.S.) Nelson (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

Villanova Law School (on leave 2021-22) ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Villanova School of Business ( email )

800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085-1678
United States

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3730 Walnut Street
Room 668 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Institute for Corruption Studies

Stevenson Hall 425
Normal, IL 61790-4200
United States

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