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Making Crime Pay: Timing of External Whistleblowing

Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting

ISBN: 978-1-78973-370-9, eISBN: 978-1-78973-369-3

ISSN: 1574-0765

Publication date: 30 September 2019


With the increasing prevalence of awards for reporting fraudulent activity, it is important to learn if there are unintended consequences associated with the language offering such awards. Aside from issues regarding submitting unsubstantiated claims of fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Section 922 of the Dodd–Frank Act may inadvertently encourage would-be whistleblowers to delay reporting fraud. Potential whistleblowers may choose to delay reporting due to the consideration of alternatives to external reporting, in a misguided attempt to increase the size of an award, or due to their ethical stance on the issues. Using a three-stage mixed methods (experiment, open-ended interviews, and experiment) approach, this study provides evidence that increased knowledge of statutes involving external whistleblowing may result in reporting delays. The data suggest that despite statements from the SEC forbidding this, managers may choose to delay reporting when under the threshold necessary to receive an award. In such a manner, managers may be allowing the fraud to grow to a necessary perceived level over time. As might be expected, the accountants in this study were more cautious, checking to see if internal reporting worked first. Of particular note, 16 individuals indicated that they would never report, with the motivation apparently driven by fear of job loss and/or retaliation. Lastly, the intention to delay or speed up reporting may be very different based on the perception of ethics involved in the decision.




We would like to thank the faculty and visitors at Case Western Reserve University for their constructive feedback regarding this paper.


Scheetz, A.M. and Wall, J. (2019), "Making Crime Pay: Timing of External Whistleblowing", Baker, C.R. (Ed.) Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting (Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-30.



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