Many firms that were involved in large-scale corporate frauds had strong corporate codes of ethics and values statements. These firms were also subject to considerable social pressures to be mindful of their reputations; frauds are “negative reputational events.” Notably, the frauds not infrequently involved possible, or even outright, illegality. Why didn’t these strong forces—strong codes of ethics and firms’ clear interest in maintaining a good reputation, as well as the fear of legal liability—do more to prevent the frauds? It seems hard to imagine that serious misdeeds could occur if the top management was committed to preventing them. But top management, especially the CEOs, are sending messages declaring precisely such a commitment. Might they be sending, verbally or nonverbally, other, countermanding or dilutive, messages? Our aim here is to raise this issue and consider how it might be explored.
Alfredo Contreras, Aiyesha Dey, and Claire Hill, "Tone at the Top" and the Communication of Corporate Values: Lost in Translation?, 43 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 497 (2020).