Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 115–126

The effectiveness of a complaint-based ethics enforcement system: Evidence from the accounting profession

  • S. Douglas Beets
  • Larry N. Killough

DOI: 10.1007/BF00382661

Cite this article as:
Beets, S.D. & Killough, L.N. J Bus Ethics (1990) 9: 115. doi:10.1007/BF00382661


Many professions, in order to enforce their ethics codes, rely on a complaint-based system, whereby persons who observe or discover ethics violations may file a complaint with an authoritative body. The authors assume that this type of system may encourage ethical behavior when practitioners believe that a punishment is likely to result from a failure to adhere to the rules. This perceived likelihood of punishment has three components: detection risk, reporting risk, and sanction risk. A survey of potential violation witnesses related to the accounting profession revealed that the profession's complaint-based enforcement system may not provide practitioners with the necessary disincentive to refrain from code violations.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Douglas Beets
    • 1
  • Larry N. Killough
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Business and AccountancyWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of Accounting, The R.B. Pamplin College of BusinessVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA