Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2004

Center/Program

Center for Law and Economic Studies

Center/Program

Center for Contract and Economic Organization

Abstract

The sudden explosion of corporate accounting scandals and related financial irregularities that burst over the financial markets between late 2001 and the first half of 2002-Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia and others-raises an obvious question: Why now? What explains the concentration of financial scandals at this moment in time? Much commentary has rounded up the usual suspects and placed the blame on a decline in business morality,1 an increase in "infectious greed,"2 or other similarly subjective trends that cannot be reliably measured. Although none of these possibilities can be dismissed out of hand, approaches that simply reason backwards, proceeding from the observation that the number of scandals has increased to the conclusion that a decline in business morality has therefore occurred, merely assume what is to be proven.

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