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 (2):263-278 (2008)
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Abstract

This study examines the similarities and differences in pre- and post-Sarbanes-Oxley corporate ethics codes and codes of conduct using the framework of structuration theory. Following the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) legislation in 2002 in the United States, publicly traded companies there undertook development and revision of their codes of ethics in response to new regulatory requirements as well as incentives under the U.S. Corporate Sentencing Guidelines, which were also revised as part of the SOX mandates. Questions that remain are whether these new or revised codes are effective means of communicating changed ethical foci and attitudes in organizations. Centering resonance analysis (CRA) is used to identify differences and similarities across time and industries by analyzing word networks of 46 pre- and post-SOX corporate codes of ethics. Analyses focus on content and structure of generated word networks as well as resulting factors that emerged from the texts. Results are interpreted from the structuration perspective that content and structure of codes are constrained and enabled by system structures while they function to produce and reproduce those structures. Results indicate that corporate codes of ethics are formal discourses of ethics, laws, and control. Code structure has changed across time, with an increased emphasis on compliance in post-SOX codes. Implications for research and practice are discussed in light of findings

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