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This experimental study tests the effects on budgetary slack of two potential controls for opportunistic self-interestóreputation and ethics. I manipulate the level of information asymmetry between the subordinate and the superior regarding productive capability and measure the subordinateís reputation and ethical concerns regarding budgetary slack. In this setting, I examine how information asymmetry affects reputation and ethical concerns, and test the effects of these concerns on budgetary slack. Consistent with prior findings, subordinates restrict the slack in their budgets to well below the maximum under a slackinducing pay scheme, even after five periods of experience. Budgetary slack is negatively associated with a measure of ethical responsibility from a pre-experiment personality questionnaire as well as reputation and ethical concerns expressed in an exit questionnaire. Subordinates express lower reputation concerns as information asymmetry regarding productive capability increases, thereby reducing the superiorís ability to monitor the slack in their budget. Ethical concerns, however, are not diminished with increases in information asymmetry. These results suggest that reputation is a socially mediated control, whereas ethics is an internally mediated control for opportunistic self-interest.


Originally published in:

Stevens D. The Effects of Reputation and Ethics on Budgetary Slack. Journal Of Management Accounting Research. September 2002;14:153-171.

(c) American Accounting Association. Posted by permission.

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