The Great Escape: The Unaddressed Ethical Issue of Investor Responsibility for Corporate Malfeasance

Business Ethics Quarterly 23 (3):443-475 (2013)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT:Corporate governance scholarship focuses on executive malfeasance, specifically its antecedents and consequences. Academic efforts primarily focus on prevention while practitioners are often left to hold firms and executives (including directors) accountable through a variety of sanctions. Even so, executive malfeasance still occurs even in the face of the vast resources used to monitor, control, and penalize firms and executives. In this paper, we posit equity markets do not adequately penalize firms for inaccurate earnings reports. Using a sample of 129 firms identified by the U.S. General Accounting Office for reporting fraudulent earnings in 10K filings, we found support for our assertion. Consequently, the one party who may benefit but escape accountability is firm shareholders. Moreover, we find little empirical evidence that the subset of firms sanctioned by the SEC is penalized more heavily than the full sample by markets at the time they report and correct their 10K filings. Our results raise serious questions whether such managerial opportunism can be eradicated given the apparent lack of consequences in equity markets for investors. We also question whether the SEC is able to discern between fraud and error in financial reporting and its implications.

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References found in this work

Business Ethics and Stakeholder Analysis.Kenneth E. Goodpaster - 1991 - Business Ethics Quarterly 1 (1):53-73.
Business Ethics Without Stakeholders.Joseph Heath - 2006 - Business Ethics Quarterly 16 (4):533-558.
Fiduciary Duties and the Shareholder-Management Relation.John R. Boatright - 1994 - Business Ethics Quarterly 4 (4):393-407.
Fiduciary Duties and the Shareholder-Management Relation.John R. Boatright - 1994 - Business Ethics Quarterly 4 (4):393-407.

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