White collars, dirty hands: A grounded neo - institutional theory of misconduct in professional service firms

We develop a grounded neo-institutional theory explaining the occurrence of misconduct in professional service firms. The theory harbors two novel insights. First, parallel governance structures, which are presently the norm in many professional fields, aggravate rather than dampen misconduct. Second, decoupling and institutional disruption are both necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for the emergence of misconduct. The empirical evidence supporting our theory derives from in-depth interviews with 65 professionals working for Dutch auditing, law, and consultancy firms and corroboratory data sources.
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