Agency theory, reasoning and culture at enron: In search of a solution

Journal of Business Ethics 59 (4):347 - 360 (2005)
Abstract
Applying evidence from recently available public information on Enron, I defined Enron’s culture as one rooted in agency theory by asserting that Enron’s members were predominantly agency-reasoning individuals. I then identified conditions present at Enron’s collapse: a strong agency culture with collectively non-compliant norms, a munificent rare-failure environment, and new hires with little business ethics training. Turning to four possible antidotes (selection, objectivist integrity, integrity capacity, and stewardship reasoning) to an agency culture under these conditions, I argued that the currently available ethics literature would have made little difference toward averting Enron’s collapse if any of the recommendations from the relevant ethics literature had been implemented. I conclude by identifying new directions for business ethics literature in order to make it more implementable under the conditions identified at Enron. Essentially, we need a way to clearly determine (1) the difference between connivance and commitment, (2) what is meant by balance with regard to the multiple dimensions of ethics and legal theories, and (3) the proper balance between agency and stewardship reasoning.
Keywords agency theory  Enron  integrity  integrity capacity  organizational culture  stewardship theory  unethical behavior
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    Joseph Heath (2009). The Uses and Abuses of Agency Theory. Business Ethics Quarterly 19 (4):497-528.
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