What Is a Leprechaun Leader?

A leprechaun leader is a derogatory term for a corporate manager or an executive who, like the fabled Irish elf, is a mischievous and elusive creature said to possess buried treasure of money and gold. In the case of a leprechaun leader, an executive or other corporate leader embezzles money from the firm he runs and then stashes the ill-gotten gains in offshore bank accounts to hide his crimes. Just like the fabled leprechaun of lore, the unscrupulous executive hides his "pot of gold" where it will not be found until he is caught (in this case, by the police).

Key Takeaways

  • A leprechaun leader is a term that refers to a corporate manager who embezzles money from the firm they operate.
  • The term is derived from the fabled Irish leprechaun that hides his "pot of gold" where it will not be found until he is caught.
  • The executives of Enron, Worldcom, and Bernie Madoff were leader leprechauns who stole millions in corporate funds using fraudulent accounting schemes.


Understanding a Leprechaun Leader

The term is sometimes also spelled "lepre-con" leader to emphasize the illegal or unethical activities of the individual.

According to Irish folklore, a leprechaun is typically a small-statured, bearded man who wears a green suit and green hat and who partakes in mischief, including petty theft from local villagers. Yet, they are solitary and elusive sprites who avoid capture—and people seek to capture them since they are fabled to keep a pot of gold and treasure at the end of a rainbow.

If captured by a person, the leprechaun is obliged to reveal the location of his treasure and grant wishes to the captor. Thus, the location of hidden treasure is revealed only when the leprechaun is caught. In the case of a leprechaun leader, the "buried treasure" is not literally buried, but protected in an offshore account or another obscure financial vehicle.

Embezzlement Facts

A survey of chief financial officers, controllers, and accountants, commissioned by a New York insurance company Hiscox, found that 85% of embezzlement cases were committed by someone at the manager level or above. However, a manager often needs accomplices to commit fraud.

Employees also fall victim to temptation and can become involved in fraudulent schemes. The Hiscox study found that a third of perpetrators worked in accounting or finance departments, and 80% of the embezzlements included more than one person.

Often, employees steal because they are in a financial crisis or because they might consider the money a loan and fully intend to pay it back. Others may be disgruntled with the company and their salary.

Examples of Leprechaun Leaders

Examples of leprechaun leaders are the executives of Enron or of Worldcom, who famously stowed away millions of dollars of corporate funds until they were finally caught. The Enron and Worldcom cases showed how accounting scandals can rock Wall Street and how corporate leaders can hide financial crimes and staggering losses from shareholders and regulators.

Other examples of leprechaun leaders may include the heads of illegal Ponzi schemes, who can walk away with millions or even billions of dollars of fraudulent gains. This was the case with Bernie Madoff's fake investment company. Leprechaun (or lepre-"con") leader has become a popular term to describe those who engage in such activities.