Psychopaths Caused the Financial Crisis … And They Will Do It Again and Again Unless They Are Removed From Power

Psychopaths Caused the Financial Crisis

Bloomberg notes:

The “corporate psychopaths” at the helm of our financial institutions are to blame [for the financial crisis].

Clive R. Boddy, most recently a professor at the Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University, says psychopaths are the 1 percent of “people who, perhaps due to physical factors to do with abnormal brain connectivity and chemistry” lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings, sympathy or empathy for other people.”

As a result, Boddy argues in a recent issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, such people are “extraordinarily cold, much more calculating and ruthless towards others than most people are and therefore a menace to the companies they work for and to society.”

How do people with such obvious personality flaws make it to the top of seemingly successful corporations? Boddy says psychopaths take advantage of the “relative chaotic nature of the modern corporation,” including “rapid change, constant renewal” and high turnover of “key personnel.” Such circumstances allow them to ascend through a combination of “charm” and “charisma,” which makes “their behaviour invisible” and “makes them appear normal and even to be ideal leaders.”


Until the last third of the 20th century, he writes, companies were mostly stable and slow to change. Lifetime employment was a reasonable expectation and people rose through the ranks.

This stable environment meant corporate psychopaths “would be noticeable and identifiable as undesirable managers because of their selfish egotistical personalities and other ethical defects.”

For Wall Street — a rapidly changing and highly dynamic corporate environment if there ever was one, especially when the firms transformed themselves from private partnerships into public companies with quarterly reporting requirements — the trouble started when these charmers made their way to corner offices of important financial institutions.

Then, according to Boddy’s “Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis,” these men were “able to influence the moral climate of the whole organization” to wield “considerable power.”

They “largely caused the crisis” because their “single- minded pursuit of their own self-enrichment and self- aggrandizement to the exclusion of all other considerations has led to an abandonment of the old-fashioned concept of noblesse oblige, equality, fairness, or of any real notion of corporate social responsibility.”


He says the unnamed “they” seem “to be unaffected by the corporate collapses they cause. These psychopaths “present themselves as glibly unbothered by the chaos around them, unconcerned about those who have lost their jobs, savings and investments, and as lacking any regrets about what they have done. They cheerfully lie about their involvement in events, are very convincing in blaming others for what has happened and have no doubts about their own worth and value. They are happy to walk away from the economic disaster that they have managed to bring about, with huge payoffs and with new roles advising governments how to prevent such economic disasters.”

The Independent reports:

Mr Boddy is not alone. In Jon Ronson’s widely acclaimed book The Psychopath Test, Professor Robert Hare [the world’s leading expert on psychopathy] told the author: “I should have spent some time inside the Stock Exchange as well. Serial killer psychopaths ruin families. Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.”


A senior UK investment banker and I [were] discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees.

He then makes an astonishing confession: “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.”

Here was one of the biggest investment banks in the world seeking psychopaths as recruits.


A 2,200-page report by Anton Valukas, the Chicago-based lawyer hired by a US court to investigate Lehman’s failure … revealed systemic chicanery within the bank; he described management failures and a destructive, internal culture of reckless risk-taking worthy of any psychopath.

So why wasn’t Mr Fuld spotted and stopped? I’ve concluded it’s the good old question of nature and nurture but with a new interpretation. As I see it, in its search for never-ending growth, the financial services sector has actively sought out monsters with natures like Mr Fuld and nurtured them with bonuses and praise.


Take Sir Fred Goodwin of RBS, for example. Before he racked up a corporate loss of £24.1bn, the highest in UK history, he was idolised by the City. In recognition of his work in ruthlessly cutting costs at Clydesdale Bank he got the nickname “Fred the Shred”, and he played that for all it was worth. He was later described as “a corporate Attila”, a title of which any psychopath would be proud.

Psychopaths Have Different Brain Chemistry from the Rest of Us

In October, we observed:

I noted last year:

Vanderbilt researchers have found that the brains of psychopaths have a dopamine abnormality which creates a drive for rewards at any cost, and causes them to ignore risks.

As PhysOrg writes:

Abnormalities in how the nucleus accumbens, highlighted here, processes dopamine have been found in individuals with psychopathic traits and may be linked to violent, criminal behavior. Credit: Gregory R.Samanez-Larkin and Joshua W. Buckholtz

The brains of psychopaths appear to be wired to keep seeking a reward at any cost, new research from Vanderbilt University finds. The research uncovers the role of the brain’s reward system in psychopathy and opens a new area of study for understanding what drives these individuals.

“This study underscores the importance of neurological research as it relates to behavior,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said. “The findings may help us find new ways to intervene before a personality trait becomes antisocial behavior.”

The results were published March 14, 2010, in .

“Psychopaths are often thought of as cold-blooded criminals who take what they want without thinking about consequences,” Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the new study, said. “We found that a hyper-reactive dopamine reward system may be the foundation for some of the most problematic behaviors associated with psychopathy, such as violent crime, recidivism and substance abuse.”

Previous research on psychopathy has focused on what these individuals lack—fear, empathy and interpersonal skills. The new research, however, examines what they have in abundance—impulsivity, heightened attraction to rewards and risk taking. Importantly, it is these latter traits that are most closely linked with the violent and criminal aspects of psychopathy.

“There has been a long tradition of research on psychopathy that has focused on the lack of sensitivity to punishment and a lack of fear, but those traits are not particularly good predictors of violence or criminal behavior,” David Zald, associate professor of psychology and of psychiatry and co-author of the study, said. “Our data is suggesting that something might be happening on the other side of things. These individuals appear to have such a strong draw to reward—to the carrot—that it overwhelms the sense of risk or concern about the stick.”

To examine the relationship between dopamine and psychopathy, the researchers used positron emission tomography, or PET, imaging of the brain to measure dopamine release, in concert with a functional magnetic imaging, or fMRI, probe of the brain’s reward system.

“The really striking thing is with these two very different techniques we saw a very similar pattern—both were heightened in individuals with psychopathic traits,” Zald said.

Study volunteers were given a personality test to determine their level of psychopathic traits. These traits exist on a spectrum, with violent criminals falling at the extreme end of the spectrum. However, a normally functioning person can also have the traits, which include manipulativeness, egocentricity, aggression and risk taking.

In the first portion of the experiment, the researchers gave the volunteers a dose of amphetamine, or speed, and then scanned their brains using PET to view dopamine release in response to the stimulant. Substance abuse has been shown in the past to be associated with alterations in dopamine responses. Psychopathy is strongly associated with substance abuse.

“Our hypothesis was that psychopathic traits are also linked to dysfunction in dopamine reward circuitry,” Buckholtz said. “Consistent with what we thought, we found people with high levels of psychopathic traits had almost four times the amount of dopamine released in response to amphetamine.”

In the second portion of the experiment, the research subjects were told they would receive a monetary reward for completing a simple task. Their brains were scanned with fMRI while they were performing the task. The researchers found in those individuals with elevated psychopathic traits the dopamine reward area of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, was much more active while they were anticipating the monetary reward than in the other volunteers.

“It may be that because of these exaggerated dopamine responses, once they focus on the chance to get a reward, psychopaths are unable to alter their attention until they get what they’re after,” Buckholtz said. Added Zald, “It’s not just that they don’t appreciate the potential threat, but that the anticipation or motivation for reward overwhelms those concerns.”

Has anyone tested the heads of the too big to fails for this dopamine abnormality?

What are the odds that they have it? And if they have it, what are the odds that they will voluntarily start acting responsibly, especially given the broken incentive system?

Experts also tell us that many politicians also share traits with serial killers. Specifically, the Los Angeles Times noted in 2009:

Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.

Kouri, who’s a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.

These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.

But — and here’s the part that may spark some controversy and defensive discussion — these traits are also common to American politicians. (Maybe you already suspected.)

Yup. Violent homicide aside, our elected officials often show many of the exact same character traits as criminal nut-jobs, who run from police but not for office.

Kouri notes that these criminals are psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse.

“This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want,” he wrote. “Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.”


”While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government.”


Studies also show that the wealthy are less empathic than those with more modest wealth, and so:

The idea of nobless oblige or trickle-down economics, certain versions of it, is bull,” Keltner added. “Our data say you cannot rely on the wealthy to give back. The ‘thousand points of light’—this rise of compassion in the wealthy to fix all the problems of society—is improbable, psychologically.”

Given that many in Congress and top government posts are multi-millionaires, the study might help explain why politicians seem only to work to make themselves wealthier and to help their wealthy buddies.

We will remain disempowered if we assume that the super-elites are “like us”. Unless we learn to spot “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, we will continue to fall prey to their scams.

Unless We Remove the Psychopaths from Power, They Will Cause More and More Destruction

The inmates are still running the asylum.

Anyone who knows Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein or the other Wall Street “leaders” can tell you that they haven’t changed a bit since 2008. They are not repentent for their role in the financial crisis. They don’t feel bad that the taxpayers have had to bail them out again and again … and that they have used that money to enrich themselves and stick it to the little guy.

As the Independent notes:

Mr Ronson reports: “Justice departments and parole boards all over the world have accepted Hare’s contention that psychopaths are quite simply incurable and everyone should concentrate their energies instead on learning how to root them out.”

But, far from being rooted out, they are still in place and often in positions of even greater power.

As Mr Boddy warns: “The very same corporate psychopaths, who probably caused the crisis by their self-seeking greed and avarice, are now advising governments on how to get out of the crisis. Further, if the corporate psychopaths theory of the global financial crisis is correct, then we are now far from the end of the crisis. Indeed, it is only the end of the beginning.”

I’ve been saying the same thing since 2008:

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Its like a thief who has been arrested 5 times for burglary. Even though he says all the right things to the judge at sentencing, the judge is still going to throw the book at him.

If the thief is appointed to head a government commission on corruption, do you think people will have confidence in the commission or its proposed actions?


[Those in power] may be saying nice things about fixing the economy, shoring up the financial system and helping American citizens, but people don’t believe them anymore. They’ve been proven liars one too many times.


The only thing that can restore confidence in the economy and the financial system is to replace the whole lot of them (tar and feather them) with honest leaders who will do what’s best for the people.

Forget the “toxic debt” that the talking heads keep referring to. The only way to restore confidence is to get rid of the “toxic leaders” who caused the mess.

I noted in October:

The main demand of the Egyptian protesters was that Hosni Mubarak and his cronies leave power.

Why should the demands of the American protesters be held to a higher standard?

As former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson notes, the American finance industry has effectively captured our government in a “quiet coup”, a state of affairs that is at the center of many emerging-market crises, and that recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform.


The U.S. has become a kleptocracy, an oligarchy, a banana republic, a socialist or fascist state … which acts without the consent of the governed. There is a malignant symbiotic relationship between the governmental leaders and their cronies, which makes a handful rich at the public trough (in the same way that the Mubarak family raked in between U.S. $40 and $70 billion dollars through bribes and cronyism).

Remember, Mubarak pretended that he was going to offer concessions or negotiate several times. But the protesters would have none of it. They demanded Mubarak leave.

The same government despots (Bernanke and the rest of the knuckleheads at the Fed, Geithner, and various other Goldman alums and proteges of Robert Rubin) and the same Wall Street manipulators (Blankfein, Dimon, etc.) are still on their thrones causing mischief. Nothing will change while these guys are still in charge.

Why can’t Americans – like the Egyptians – demand that the bums be thrown out?

While America’s protesters don’t need to give any list of official demands (see this, this and this), breaking up the unholy alliance which is destroying our country and removing vampires from both government and Wall Street who are most responsible for blocking reform is a perfectly good demand all by itself. As Gordon Duff – senior editor at Veterans Today – says, it’s “time for regime change” in the U.S.


Postscript: The fact – as discussed above – that top leaders may have psychopathic characteristics may be helpful in assessing questions such as:

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  • Denny

    I will repeat myself:
    As far as I can tell most people are avoiding the most obvious reality of not only the past year, but the past decade. Capitalism is now an anachronism. It is dead. I am not a Marxist, socialist or any other ‘ist’, simply an objective observer who understands from what I see what’s working and what’s not. The elites understand that capitalism as practiced historically in this nation is inapplicable now. In case you haven’t noticed – this isn’t capitalism at work anymore. It’s something, but certainly NOT capitalism, not even neo-capitalism. They made it this way. That’s why they are engaging in the most egregious schemes to accumulate what wealth still remains. Jon Corzine anyone? They control not only the means of looting our wealth, but the media necessary to redirect our attention to other seemingly important ‘issues’. They are sociopaths with lots of power. They are cunning instead of wise, ruthless instead of practical and contemptuous (of those of us us who still possess a semblance of morality and human virtues) instead of discerning. They consider the art of human relations as warfare, strategically and tactically. It is as simple as that. All and I mean ALL of their convoluted ‘explanations’ concerning daily life, world events, global finance are simply created to keep us confused and vaguely hopeful that the capitalist system still works. Most of the decent people intimately involved in the finance system now understand that the tipping point has been passed and that if you’re NOT engaged in illegal and furtive activities to ‘Get Some’ then you will most certainly be left in the dust. The system does not work anymore for the larger majority of US. Corzine is simply the teeniest tip of the iceberg. A simple question – where can a trusting person put their money, assets, wealth anymore? There are answers, but they involve radical diversions from what have been traditionally safe options for almost all Americans. These answers involve the human virtues of trust, compassion, yeah, LOVE, accommodation (as in stepping up to create alternatives to the world that these madmen have created for us), fortitude, honesty, respect for life, all life. They want it all and will do ANYTHING to get it. Now they are preparing to kill Iranians and there is more than a good chance that nuclear weapons will be involved. These radical authoritarians are, indeed, insane and the defining danger of their madness is that they ultimately hold our lives in their hands. Want to affect it? I do and I know I will have to seriously, very seriously change my life and accept the truth that if I want sanity to return to earth then I will have to be prepared to make some sacrifices. BIG SACRIFICES. I hate having to involve myself in this kind of truth, reality, whatever, write about it, discuss it. It sounds kind of hopeless, but a day(s) of reckoning is(are) approaching and the maniacs soldier on into the jaws of certain destruction, a destruction which will involve ALL of us. This will become a pivotal year, a make or break time which will either lead to an ongoing darkness or the first shreds of light. Good fortune in the new year!

    • cindy

      Your absolutely right in everything you say however no money or power in the world are worth what they are

  • I teach Advanced Placement Economics and agree that the most accurate term of economic “leadership” is that they are psychopaths by definition.

  • This is an urgent message regarding the existence of a book which was released mere hours ago, whose contents are of your utmost interest. Your website has been referenced in this book.

    Click on the following link to access an electronic copy the book:

    Send a request to the email address: in order to receive a PDF file that you are fully authorized to post on your website. Do not dismiss these instructions.

  • jo6pac

    Thanks GW

  • I personally knew psychopaths at E.F. Hutton, Lehman Brothers, PaineWebber & UBS. If I counted obvious-at-a-glance psychopathic arrogance, then I would include even more psychopaths and firms on every trading floor I ever walked across.

    Nice post, I think I’ll steal it . . . I mean borrow portions . . . you know, fair use and all that.

  • Is joeli averni’s “urgent message” a satirical piece? Anyone else read it or browse it? Seems to offer a lot of information but I can’t tell if the narrator is manufactured or “the manufacturer of your ethos”. Must be a satirical p.o.v.

    • groo

      can’t figure it out yet.
      but agree with him that the Americans on average are the most dumbed down populace currently inhabiting planet earth.
      I would tone it down a bit.

      It is not the average conspiracy.
      Sort of a hyper-Huxley or -Orwell.
      If you watch this 1958 Huxley interview, I linked to above, you see the point he is trying to make.
      Huxley definitely was not a nutcase, and I interpret Joeli so, that he wants to point to the accumulated evidence since the last 50 or so years.

      He is definitely angry, and if one looks at the old men like Wallerstein or Habermas or Hessel, who warn of a fundamental crisis, it is not completeley unreasonable to evaluate a more farout option.

      I agree with GWashington, that a lot of big Corporacy, Finance and Politics is defunct, and that sociopaths play a decisive role.

      The interesting part is, how it can be, that the ‘conspiracy’ can span over many generations.

      The standard conspiracy nut believes, that this follows a script.

      It is not. It is a tradition of tools, which have proven themselves to be effective, and are optimized over time.
      Huxley mentions that: the tools of control and propaganda have a time-constant, which is similar to legislative periods.
      So over a timespan of 50years you have some 12 optimization-periods.

      The accumulating dominance of corporate sociopaths has been augmented by a corporate culture of hire-fire, quarterly reporting, bonus-systems, derivatives, discounting the future and such.

      These seem all harmless in isolation, but develop a devastating dynamics.

      To close the story:
      Joely has definitely quite some points, and it seems worth to evaluate them.
      He is not an idiot conspiracy nut.

      My personal assessment is somewhat more measured and hopefully more up to the point.
      Easy to say, because it is not published.

      The issue is diffuse. Beliefs never are precise.
      One has to listen and assess.

      Joeli’s is a bold statement, and definitely has its flaws, but as far as I can see, he deserves to be listened.


  • Very good article. I wish I could have read this kind of material years ago. I worked around these kinds of people, like so many of you have, all my life. They always seemed so certain about everything, always right–you are wrong: believe me, follow me, trust me, I have all the answers and all the truth.
    I used to wonder what happend to me? Why don’t I have all these qualities? Now I know.

  • For sure. All bs aside, of course he’s bringing up all poignant issues. I don’t dismiss anyone as a conspiracy nut because I am one (ha). But I was mainly asking about the author, who he is. After thinking about it today I realized it must just be the voice he chose to adopt to broadcast the issues. Just my guess. Peace.

  • Mark

    Here’s a partial list of the alien’s who control our finance and government:

    These are just a handful of dual citisens that allow the pillaging and raping of our economy and the bombing of non-federal reserve banking countries.
    Until these types of foreigners are charged and exiled from America. We can expect a rather dim and substandard future. Much like their Bolshevik ancesters did to Russia.

    • eve

      Someone is wide awake in dreamland.
      Now if the rest of the US will wake up and get past their religious conditioning and superstitious programming, maybe we can confront the obvious elephant in the room.

  • G. B. Ash

    The Labor Unions and the liberal government are as much if not more to blame than the corporations, for sending manufacturing jobs over seas.

  • G. B. Ash

    If you dont like the comment dont ask for it

  • capnjack

    The USA unlike Egypt is run by a highly sophisticated cabal of “psychopaths” that have been spinning lies about the JFK assassination, 9/11 and half a dozen other “conspiracies” for the past 50 years. And sadly, the American public remains too cowed and/or too mentally befuddled to stand up and demand the perps be brought to justice. Americans simply sit back and yawn while the President Killers and Tower Demolishers get their way…. more wealth for them… and less wealth for the listless American milk cow.

  • dumb as soup

    Um…….we know that psychopathy can be seen on an mri set up to check for it, right? I mean, it’s nothing more than the way these peoples brains function. Soooooo, can’t we just do this? Require mri’s before hiring all top positions, government positions, doctors, lawyers etc? And we also know that a serial killers (psychopaths) top picks for jobs would be cop, minister or counselor (this info from John Douglass who did a ten year study on serial killers) so we could start here screening out and preventing the hiring of psychopaths in these positions. Oh, another thing? It’s a genetic trait so many of us, thinking we’re making good and wise choices by marrying and reproducing with well-educated, socially adept people, are actually providing them cover and adding to the psychopathic population by raising more of them up, and unwittingly giving them the “right response.” Hard earned wisdom. Could you point me to the “cash for wisdom” window as I’m wanting to cash out about now.

  • therooster

    A removal from power may not be what most think. Th truth may be that we need to evolve out of the hierarchical paradigm to create a “rounder world” where the apex has dissolved itself. It’s a process that is ongoing since the birth of the information age. Much of this revolves around everyday people becoming integrated into the marketing/distribution supply chains as power shifts toward the grass roots.

  • Amen

    Amen above!

    “For every thousand there are hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the roots” H.D. Thoreau. & The forgotten ‘true’ definition of a lie; Any thought, action, look, gesture OR word (or absence of) intended to deceive is a lie! Anonymous. — All sins & transgressions begin with a lie to ourselves first and then to others.

    Let’s be aware that many corrupted and compromised individuals at the top of corporate, political and religious organizations may not exactly fit the technical definitions of being ‘psychopathic”, they are rather, ‘psychopathic like’. They are likewise behind a façade of goodness, yet diabolical and deceitful. Here, ‘psychopathic like’, simply means that their corrupted & compromised actions and characters are in most ways indistinguishable from a true psychopaths. They may in fact have “feelings, sympathy and empathy” for others, but it has been so compromised for so long, by their choices lies and actions, that their consciences and characters have become numbed and darkened. Indeed, they become progressively evil.

    Furthermore, in total numbers, this category of merely corrupted and comprimised individuals far exceeds the 1% who have actual clinical psychosis. A true hallmark of both groups is that they would both outwardly profess free agency while in fact their actions and deeds ALWAYS lead to the theft from, control of, and enslavement of others. To one who has a semblance of discernment, their actions, and the results of those actions, can never be reconciled with what they profess to believe. Typically, those in society who also have vested interests in the spoils and values of compromised leaders, are also morally compromised to such a degree that they have not the discernment to see, let alone any interest in change. Thus they become accomplices the likes of any gang or cartel member, striving to vote for and protect the status quo.

    Root causes: Remember that the violation of free agency is Satan’s plan, commonly seen in practice as; Free agency and how to enforce it! It is also noteworthy to remember that “free agency” is THE root foundation and divinely inspired principal underlying the United States constitution and Declaration of Independence. May God help us.

  • Barbara Kelly

    We need all the names of these buggers so we can oust them out. And make the names available for everyone to see. We need easy access to ever one to see the shadow people who are ruining us. IT IS TIME TO GIVE THEM THE BOOT. NO MORE PEOPLE. And one other thing PLEASE.!!! We need to ask GOD to help us recover. That will people is a tall order for all of us. We have said GOD Bless America will people wake us and say—-AMERICA BLESS GOD.!!! Think about it. ?????

  • Circle Dog

    Dear readers…. we don’t need to simply oust these criminal types. We need them in orange jumpsuits wearing manacles & leg irons and doing hard labor. I would relish seeing many of them cleaning out porta-potties and busting rocks into gravel on a chain gang. Until we make them pay the true price of their crimes, nothing will change.

  • iamwhoiam

    If the people voted tomorrow on the hanging of all these scumbag politicians at the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Washington monument it would be an overwhelming majority

  • McMike

    I wish you wouldn’t call this system “socialist.” It is a severe misuse of the term. A system that enriches the elite at the expense of everyone else is not “socialism for the rich,” it is kleptocracy.

    • Heyoka

      Its only called socialist to confuse the people whom are being the victims. They clamor for more equality and believe that socialism is the key to that equality. Socialism only benefits those who have convinced others that they are the “elite” few who can safely effect change to benefit the common people.

      • Ricardo Ruiz

        You guys didn’t understand, “socialism for the rich” means that it is free, equitable and just, while everybody pays for in the case of the rich, there’s an entire record of public subsidies in the military-industrial complex to support high-tech industry. The general population, in contrast, has to face the harsh and brutal capitalist regime, while having their benefits cut.