Creating a corporate pirate code: an empirical study of corruption rationalization

Autor principal:
Caio Coelho Rodrigues (Fundação Getulio Vargas)
Sesión 2, Sesión 2
Día: miércoles, 7 de julio de 2021
Hora: 11:00 a 12:45
Lugar: Online

Rationalization of corruption is the reasoning that creates excuses for wrongdoing. Is the act of relieving oneself from moral imperatives, gaining ethical distance. Rationalization of corruption comes from the concept of moral disengagement, the cognitive misperception that some inhumanity or immoral activity is not wrong or against the moral principles of the agent. The literature defines eight categories of corruption rationalization. However, they are empirically understudied due to the difficulties of acquiring qualitative reliable data on corruption directly from corrupt agents. The research question that underlies this study is: How corruption perpetrators rationalize corruption? We aim to empirically explain these mechanisms but also understand how organizations can foster or prevent corruption rationalization. To achieve these goals, we conduct a content analysis of the testimony of 55 Odebrecht executives, a large Brazilian construction company, who plead guilty to an international corruption scheme. These executives made award-winning collaborations, and, during their video testimonies, they describe and deconstruct the rationalization approach they used to commit the crimes over the years. We found empirical evidence for all eight forms of rationalization. We also confirmed that executives in different hierarchical levels use different mechanisms, which impacts how organizations may prevent rationalization in their culture. Finally, the analysis demonstrates how schematic and long-term corruption lead to the creation of a pirate code, “moral codes” within the corrupt structure that leads to rationalization and corruption perpetuation.

Palabras clave: corruption, corruption rationalization, moral disengagement, organizational culture.