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Schnatterly, Karen; Gangloff, K. Ashley and Tuschke, Anja (2018): CEO Wrongdoing: A Review of Pressure, Opportunity, and Rationalization. In: Journal of Management, Vol. 44, No. 6: pp. 2405-2432 [PDF, 180kB]


Wrongdoing, and specifically that which is committed by top executives, has attracted scholars for decades for a number of reasons. Among them, the consequences of wrongdoing are widespread for organizations and the people in and around them. Due to the vast array of consequences, there continues to be new questions and additional scholarly attempts to uncover why it occurs. In this review, we build upon previous efforts to synthesize the body of literature regarding the antecedents of CEO wrongdoing utilizing a framework that sheds light on the status of the literature and where unanswered questions remain. We apply the Fraud Triangle, a framework drawn from the accounting literature, to derive conclusions about what we know about the pressures faced by CEOs, the opportunities afforded to CEOs to commit wrongdoing, and contributing factors to a CEO's ability to rationalize misbehavior. We organize the literature on these conceptual antecedents of CEO wrongdoing around internal (e.g., compensation structure and organizational culture) and external (e.g., shareholder pressure and social aspirations) forces. In doing so, we integrate findings from a variety of disciplines (i.e., accounting, finance, and sociology) but remain focused on management scholarship since the last review of organizational wrongdoing to provide an updated state of the literature. This review offers a clear framework and a common language;it highlights gaps in the literature and specific directions for future research with the ultimate goal of understanding why CEOs engage in wrongdoing.

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