Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 115–126 | Cite as

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

  • S. Douglas Beets
  • Larry N. Killough


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.


Economic Growth Ethical Behavior Ethic Code Accounting Profession Enforcement System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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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

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