Informal Sanctions and White-Collar Offenders: Does Corporate Status Affect Offending Decisions?

Sean P. Rosenmerkel, University of Maryland at College Park

The present work will seek to answer the following two questions in relation to white-collar criminals and the threat of informal sanction threats. (1) Individuals will indeed be mindful of informal sanctions threats in the form of losing the respect of friends, colleagues, and family if their illegal acts would be discovered. This will occur over and above any formal sanction threats that the firm might face if caught. (2) Individuals in the higher levels of management will be more strongly impacted than those individuals in either the middle or lower levels of management as a result of their increased status within both their personal and professional communities, leaving them with more to lose should any deviance be discovered. The sample is derived from a factorial designed vignette study collected by Sally Simpson on MBA students (N=102) and corporate executives (N=132) in an executive education program and asks individuals to respond to a situation in which a corporate manager commits a crime and asks whether the individual would commit the same crime. Initial results indicate support for both research questions.

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Updated 05/20/2006