It may be counterintuitive but the research has been done and the results are now in ai??i?? and itai??i??s as weai??i??ve been saying for almost five years. Fraud in crowdfunding is not just almost non-existent ai??i?? Ai??so much so as to be hard to measure, even proportionally itai??i??s a tiny fraction of the fraud in the city and the mainstream economy . And thatai??i??s for a very good reason.
In fact, by the most pessimistic (for crowdfunding) measure fraud is well over 1,000 times less prevalent in crowdfunding than in the traditional economy ai??i?? among the ai???gold standardai??i?? of the city: Listed companies, regulated by the financial regulator.
In his paper ai???Disentangling Crowdfunding from Fraudfundingai??? Douglas Cumming, Professor of Finance and Entrepreneurship and Ontario Research Chair in Economics and Public Policy Schulich School of Business (Toronto, Canada) found that ai???up to 14% of publicly listed firms engage in fraud each yearai??? while in crowdfunding it is ai???less than 0.01% of initiated projects per yearai???.
In the city ai???this equates to hundreds of billions of dollarsai??? each year ai??i?? in crowdfunding it is barely measurable, it is so low.
This is Ai??counterintuitive.
Almost everyone Iai??i??ve met over the last five years have on first encountering crowdfunding said something to the effect of ai???It will soon be rife with fraudai??? or ai???thereai??i??ll be one big scandal and the party will be overai???.
So why does crowdfunding seem to be repellent to fraudsters and and almost entirely immune to fraud ai??i?? especially as compared with the city and the mainstream economy?
Itai??i??s for the very reasons we have been citing ai??i?? in representation to our regulator, the FCA, and parliament for several years now:
- An open environment, created by social media, deters fraudsters ai??i?? so itai??i??s not worth even trying. It takes just one person, among the crowd, to ask a question, or recognise a fraud or fraudster and the jig is up.
- Identifying yourself publicly makes ai???getting away with itai??i?? impossible. Itai??i??s only a matter of time before youai??i??ll be discovered ai??i?? and fraud carries the same penalties here as elsewhere ai??i?? plus another: Prof. Cummingai??i??s paper notes that ai???backers can easily screen creatorsai??i?? social media activities on the Internetai???, which are hard and costly to fake, and also adds another related reason:
- Self perception: ai???when people are being dishonest, they nevertheless remain concerned with maintaining a positive self-conceptai??? noting that researchers have found Ai??ai???that internal sanctions provided the strongest deterrent to such crimes. The effect of legal sanctions was weaker, and varied across countries.ai???
He and his co-researchers also found, on analysis, that:
ai???Having a personal Facebook page associated with a campaign decreases the probability of fraudulent activity by 50%ai???
ai???The number of external links provided on the campaign website (e.g., a link to a YouTube video associated with the campaign, a LinkedIn profile, a startupai??i??s web page, etc.) has a strongly negative effect on the probability of a campaign being fraudulent.ai???
ai???One more external link provided on a campaign website decreases the probability of fraud by 34%ai???
These findings come as no surprise whatsoever to those of us who have been collecting the data, examining the evidence and arguing that the social web creates and provides a new kind and level of transparency that can be more effective than traditional regulation ai??i?? in at least some circumstances.
With city fraud among regulated companies at such a high level as 14% itai??i??s had to argue that existing approaches are working adequately ai??i?? and harder still to ignore research, and evidence such as this, that offers additional tools and approaches that have been proven to work.
Are Regulators Increasing Risk?
Not to mention that restricting the free flow of information is counter-productive, increases risk and, in fact, facilitates fraud.
The lessons for regulators are profound and immediate. Creating the right, open, culture and environment ai??i?? in which people are obliged, as the norm, to take responsibility for their actions can be far more powerful and effective than a policed regime, no matter how draconian or heavy-handed.
The regulators have failed and are failing to rein in both fraud and bad behaviour by bankers and fraudsters. Crowdfunding, based in an open environment where personal responsibility is the norm is clearly doing so par-excellence with no need for heavy-handed policing ai??i?? and all the heavy costs and friction, explicit and hidden, that go with it.
This has lessons for regulators in China too, where fraud is a major problem in the new economy. Notably there the social media is much more anonymous ai??i?? based largely in ai???screen-namesai??i?? rather than real-names. This research provides the missing link that explains how and why this is ai??i?? and what can be done about it.
That this is the case is, of course, another strong indicator (if such were needed) that the identification of participants acts as sufficient deterrent.
Both government and regulators need to learn these lessons, take them to heart AND apply them ai??i?? not just in re-thinking the approach to crowdfunding ai??i?? especially equity crowdfunding ai??i?? but in applying them to the city and the traditional economy.
In, historically, creating ai???non-personai??i?? persons ai??i?? the legal entities we call limited companies which have some (or all) the rights of real (so called ai???natural personsai??i??) ai??i?? we setup a sequence of events and developments that allows bad actors to operate unimpeded behind the scenes so created ai??i?? not just once but over and over again.
This is the environment ai??i?? and the main reason ai??i?? city fraud and calamitous misbehaviour has been able to become widespread.
Itai??i??s pretty clear that such misbehavior was held in-check by other societal forces, perhaps most notably religious belief (and the societal and ethical forces associated), until the latter part of the 20th century ai??i?? until Freedmanai??i??s ai???greed-is-goodai??i?? took hold. Ever bigger fines and heavier policing have not solved this problem.
But here, in the immune system that has been developed and that has now been demonstrated by Crowdfunding, is something that can. We must take note ai??i?? and Ai??act on it.
Barry JamesAi??is a serial entrepreneur and technologist, writer and conference creator who foundedAi??TheCrowdfundingCenter, now a global resource for #Crowdfunding, & FundingHubs an innovation to support entrepreneurs globally. He has a long history in #Fintech stretching back to the late 1970s. Founder of the UKai??i??s first national conference, Crowdfunding:Deep Impact, he has been at the forefront of the development of Fintech and crowdfunding in the UK, and internationally, since its earliest days helping found the UKai??i??s All-Party-Parliamentary-Group on the subject and, founding #RegTech, influencing the nature and direction of regulation. As a pioneering systems and ecosystem architect, he and his team remain active in creating new models and new technology, including the creation of more than 100 funding hubs worldwide.