Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 112, Issue 4, pp 609–626 | Cite as

Corporate Ethics and Compliance Programs: A Report, Analysis and Critique

  • James WeberEmail author
  • David M. Wasieleski


This research reports on the current state of ethics and compliance programs among business organizations in the United States. Members of the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association (ECOA), the premier professional association for managers working in this field, were asked to provide in-depth responses to a series of questions covering various elements of their corporate ethics and compliance programs. The findings from this analysis indicate that ethics and compliance programs have multiple components that are implemented developmentally, are influenced by regulatory and legal efforts and have evolved into more sophisticated approaches that include risk assessment and employee performance appraisal. However, these programs remain vulnerable to sufficient resource allocation by the organization to be fully effective.


Compliance Ethics programs Regulation 



The authors thank Dr. Virginia Gerde of Duquesne University for her contribution in developing the questionnaire, Tushar Koshaley of Duquesne University for his assistance in preparing the data for analysis, Ethics and Compliance Officer Association’s Chief Operating Officer, Timothy Mazur, for his help in contacting our survey participants and Jack Radke for his invaluable practical review of this manuscript.


  1. Barney, J. B., & Hansen, M. H. (1994). Trustworthiness as a source of competitive advantage. Strategic Management Journal, 15, 175–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernardi, R. A., & Guptill, S. T. (2008). Social desirability response bias, gender, and factors influencing organizational commitment: An international study. Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 797–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Canary, H. E., & Jennings, M. M. (2008). Principles and influence in codes of ethics: A centering resonance analysis comparing pre- and post-Sarbanes-Oxley codes of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 80, 263–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carris, R., & Duska, R. (2003). Ethics and the risk manager. Risk Management, 50(4), 28–31.Google Scholar
  5. Center for Business Ethics. (1986). Are corporations institutionalizing ethics? Journal of Business Ethics, 5, 85–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Center for Business Ethics. (1992). Instilling ethical values in large corporations. Journal of Business Ethics, 11, 863–867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Daly, B. D., & Morris, P. (2010, September 13). Amendments to Sentencing Guidelines to Become Effective November 1, 2010, Government Contracts Blog
  8. Darrough, M. N. (2010). The FCPA and OECD convention: Some lessons from U.S. experience. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 255–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DeSmet, A., McGurk, M., & Schwartz, E. (2010). Getting more from your training programs. McKinsey Quarterly, 4, 101–107.Google Scholar
  10. Ethics Resources Center: (1994). Ethics in American Business: Policies, programs and perceptions. Washington, DC: Ethics Resource Center.Google Scholar
  11. Ethics Resource Center. (2000). 2000 National Business Ethics Survey Volume I: How employees perceive ethics at work (Ethics Resource Center: Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  12. Ethics Resource Center. (2005). National Business Ethics Survey: How employees view ethics in their organizations 19942005 (Ethics Resource Center: Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  13. Ethics Resource Center. (2007). National Business Ethics Survey: An inside view of private sector ethics (Ethics Resource Center: Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  14. Ethics Resource Center. (2009). 2009 National Business Ethics Survey: Ethics in the recession (Ethics Resource Center: Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  15. Foster, M., Loughran, T., & McDonald, B. (2009). Commonality in codes of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 90, 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frederick, W. C. (1995). Values, nature and culture in the American corporation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Frederick, W. C. (2008). The business schools’ moral dilemma. In D. L. Swanson & D. G. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education (pp. 25–42). Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Friedman, M. (1970, September 13). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine, 32–33, 122, 124, 126.Google Scholar
  19. Greater Omaha Alliance for Business Ethics. (2008). Greater Omaha Organizational Ethics Survey, 2008 (Omaha, NE: Creighton University).Google Scholar
  20. Hess, D., McWhorter, R. S., & Fort, T. L. (2006). The 2004 Amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and their implicit call for a symbiotic integration of business ethics. Fordham Journal of Corporate and Financial Law, 11(4), 725–763.Google Scholar
  21. Holzl, W. (2006). Convergence of financial systems: Towards an evolutionary perspective. Journal of Institutional Economics, 2(1), 67–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hunt, E. (2010, September ). Corporate compliance training: Business ethics education leads to sustained success—Values vs. rules: The goal of ethics education. Corporate Compliance Insights
  23. Kaplan, J. M. (2004). The Ethics Officer Association’s Risk Assessment Survey. Ethikos, November/December, 1–3, 10.Google Scholar
  24. Kaplan, J. M., & Walker, R. (2008). Thinking about training. Ethikos, March/April, 7–10, 13.Google Scholar
  25. Kaptein, M. (2009). Ethics programs and ethical culture: A next step in unraveling their multi-faceted relationship. Journal of Business Ethics, 89, 261–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kurland, N. B. (1993). The defense industry initiative: Ethics, self-regulation, and accountability. Journal of Business Ethics, 12(2), 137–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lamendola, M. (1998, July 1). Ten tips for an effective training program. EC&M Magazine online,
  28. Logsdon, J. M., & Wood, D. J. (2005). Global business citizenship and voluntary ethical codes of conduct. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 55–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Margolis, J. D., & Walsh, J. P. (2003). Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48, 268–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Martens, L. T., & Barry, M. (2006). Has compliance killed ethics? Ethikos, July/August, 1–4, 19–20.Google Scholar
  31. Masood, O., Aktan, B., & Pariente, G. (2010). A discussion of financial regulations, impact on the subprime crisis: Implications for financial markets. International Journal of Business, 15(1), 51–69.Google Scholar
  32. Michael, M. L. (2006). Business ethics: The law of rules. Business Ethics Quarterly, 16(4), 475–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miller, W. (2003). Preparing managers to conduct business ethics training. International Business Ethics Review, Summer, 3–8.Google Scholar
  34. Murphy, J. (2009). Training and communications: 24 ideas for reaching your people. Ethikos, January/February, 6–9.Google Scholar
  35. Murphy, J., & Swenson, W. (2003). 20 questions to ask about your code of conduct. Ethikos, July/August, 7–9.Google Scholar
  36. Muse, D. (2007). Hotlines must adapt to an ever-changing global environment. Ethikos, January/February, 11–13, 20.Google Scholar
  37. Oxley, M. (2003). Rebuilding Investor Confidence, Protecting U.S. Capital Markets: The Sarbanes-Oxley ActThe First Year (Washington, DC: House Committee on Financial Services).Google Scholar
  38. Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G. R. (1978). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  39. Renshaw, P. (1995). Excellence in teaching and learning. In B. Lingard & F. Rizva (Eds.), External environment scan (pp. 27–33). Queensland: Department of Education.Google Scholar
  40. Sarbanes-Oxley Act. (2002). Public Law 107-204July 30, 2002,
  41. Schwartz, M. S. (2004). Effective corporate codes of ethics: Perceptions of code users. Journal of Business Ethics, 55, 323–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schwartz, M. S. (2005). Universal moral values for corporate codes of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 27–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Singer, A. (2008). Typing ethics to evaluations at nationwide insurance. Ethikos, March/April, 4–6, 13.Google Scholar
  44. SmartPros. (2006). Ethics training becomes standard practice. SmartPros, October 20, Scholar
  45. Thelen, L. L. P. (2004, July 8). Proposed Amendments to U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Portend Significant Changes to Corporate Compliance Programs. FindLaw for Legal Professionals,
  46. U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines. (1991, August 30). Supplementary Report on Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations,
  47. Walker, R. S. (2004). The effect of recent US legislation and rule making on corporate compliance and ethics programmes. International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, 1(2), 138–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Weaver, G. R., & Trevino, L. K. (1999). Compliance and value oriented ethics programs: Influences on employees’ attitudes and behavior. Business Ethics Quarterly, 9, 315–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Weaver, G. R., Trevino, L. K., & Cochran, P. L. (1999). Corporate ethics practices in the mid-1990s: An empirical study of the Fortune 1000. Journal of Business Ethics, 18, 283–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weber, J., Gerde, V. W., & Wasieleski, D. M. (2008). A blueprint for designing an ethics program in an academic setting. In D. L. Swanson & D. G. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education (pp. 85–101). Charlotte: Information Age.Google Scholar
  51. Weber, J., & Gillespie, J. (1998). Ethics initiatives in southwestern Pennsylvania: A benchmark report. Pittsburgh: Beard Center for Leadership in Ethics.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Palumbo-Donahue School of BusinessDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations