This paper aims to examine the impact of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) on the academic business ethics literature with the intent of making this research more accessible to those researchers and practitioners working in business ethics and other related fields. Specifically, the authors outline the types and scope of SOX-related research, examine the extent of reliance on SOX, identify which theoretical frameworks and research approaches are used and point out under-researched areas.
Using a descriptive approach, the authors examine the theoretical perspectives, classifying these perspectives into four groupings (economics, ethics/moral, psychological and sociological). Using counts, categorization and content analyses, the authors provide an overview of 115 articles with further analysis provided for articles relying heavily (n = 14) or moderately (n = 42) on SOX.
Whistleblowing and codes of ethics are well-researched topics. However, employment of some theories (e.g. signaling theory and stakeholder theory) and qualitative approaches are used less often. Other under-researched issues in the sample include CEO/CFO certifications, cost of compliance, auditor disclosures and empirical investigation of SOX and auditor independence (or corporate culture).
The authors’ decision to use certain databases, search terms and research methods, and to focus on business ethics journals and English language articles are possible limitations.
The authors’ contributions comprise an examination of the scope of SOX topics and detailing how reliant the research is on SOX. The authors identify trends in this literature and provide evidence of the broad theoretical frameworks to better understand the breadth and depth of theories used.
The authors would like to thank Craig Emby, Stephen Spector, participants in our paper presentation at the 2017 CAAA Annual Conference in Montreal and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. They also acknowledge the research assistance of Gary Ngan.
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