Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 152, Issue 4, pp 917–929 | Cite as

On the Unethical Use of Privileged Information in Strategic Decision-Making: The Effects of Peers’ Ethicality, Perceived Cohesion, and Team Performance

  • Kevin J. JohnsonEmail author
  • Joé T. Martineau
  • Saouré Kouamé
  • Gokhan Turgut
  • Serge Poisson-de-Haro
Original Paper


In order to make strategic decisions and improve their firm’s performance, top management teams must have information on the competitive context in general, and the firm’s competitors in particular. During the decision-making process, top managers can have access to “privileged information”—i.e., information of a confidential and potentially strategic nature that could ultimately confer a decisional advantage over competing parties. However, obtaining and using privileged information in a business context is often illegal—and if not, is usually deemed unethical or “against the rules.” Using a quasi-experimental design, this study explores the reasons why an individual might engage in such unethical behavior. We assess the extent to which managers use privileged information with respect to perceived team cohesion and peers’ ethicality. More specifically, our results show that the use of privileged information is predicted by the decision-maker’s perceptions of their team cohesion and their peers’ ethicality. Moreover, we find that team performance, as a group-level nonself-reported factor (measured by the firm’s share price in our simulation), moderates the relationship between cohesion and the use of privileged information. The relationship between cohesion, ethical behavior, and team performance is also discussed. We draw on these findings to make some practical suggestions on how to incorporate practices that could better prevent the unethical use of privileged information in strategic decision-making processes.


Cohesion Unethical behavior Strategic decision-making Top management team Firm performance Simulation 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin J. Johnson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joé T. Martineau
    • 1
  • Saouré Kouamé
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gokhan Turgut
    • 1
  • Serge Poisson-de-Haro
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ManagementHEC MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Telfer School of ManagementUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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