The (In)effectiveness of Voluntarily Produced Transparency Reports

[We’re pleased to welcome author Christopher Parsons of Rice University. Parsons recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The (In)effectiveness of Voluntarily Produced Transparency Reports,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Parsons reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

More and more private companies are voluntarily releasing statistics concerning how often they receive requests for their subscribers’ information, on what grounds the requests are made, and how many subscribers’ data has been disclosed. These statistics are bundled in transparency reports and their release has generally been seen as shedding light on otherwise secretive government activity, be it surveillance practices undertaken by intelligence agencies, by security intelligence agencies, or by law enforcement agencies. I wanted to understand a few things in my course of research: would companies that were not facing intense socio-economic pressures produce voluntary transparency reports that robustly revealed government surveillance practices? How effective are voluntarily produced transparency reports, generally, in shedding light on corporate and government activity? And what might be the impacts of standardizing these sorts of voluntary reports, and how might such standardization come about?

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Countries around the world are grappling with the issue of government access to telecommunications data. The issue has become particularly poignant given revelations of international spying undertaken by Western countries, as well as a range of existing and proposed laws in Europe and North America that would facilitate police and security services’ access to communications information. However, governments have tended to be deeply secretive in how they use existing powers or how they would actually use proposed powers. Private companies’ voluntarily produced transparency reports, which provide statistics and narrative accounts of how often and on what grounds governments request access to companies’ data, act as a novel way of shining a light upon government practice. I was motivated to understand just how much these reports genuinely shed light on government practice and how much they cast shadows over the politics and policies of communications surveillance.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
There is an extensive literature on corporate social responsibility documents and the extent to which those documents make private firms transparent, as well as a literature discussing the importance of rendering government surveillance transparent to the public. What is novel about my research is it explores how private firms’ reports are produced in contravention of state desires or interests and, thus, how transparency reporting can happen outside of situations where the market or government are clamoring for revelations of firm behavior. Core to my findings is that voluntarily produced reports could potentially be standardized to enhance comparability across firms and the reports’ revelatory nature, but that any such standardization may conceal as much about firm behavior as it reveals. Ultimately, this research advances the scholarly and public policy debate over how (in)effective private firms’ reports’ are in advancing the state of knowledge of government surveillance activities versus concealing some aspects of such activities.

 

 

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Corporate Political Transparency: Challenging Assumptions

[We’re pleased to welcome author Murad Mithani of the Stevens Institute of Technology. Mithani recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “Corporate Political Transparency.” Below, Mithani explains the inspiration for conducting this research:]words-1752968_1280

The idea for this study came during a preliminary investigation of managers’ thinking patterns when they are making campaign contributions. It appeared that regulatory and social implications of disclosure were one of their major concerns. This led me to think if legal enforcement regarding mandatory disclosure of political contributions can make firms fully transparent. Further exploration made it clearer that neither executives nor legislators wanted transparency. They were willing to do whatever was possible to discourage such a regulation, and when that would fail, they were likely to reframe campaign contributions as non-political giving such as charity. In sum, I was expecting that legal enforcement of corporate campaign disclosure may have limited effect. When I found the context of India and compared the ratio of disclosures due to purely legal enforcement and then subsequently when the legal enforcement was coupled with a regulatory incentive, I was surprised by the difference. There was a dramatic increase in the proportion of disclosures suggesting that most firms were unwilling to declare their political ties in the absence of an economic benefit.

I hope my findings can encourage a more informed discussion on the regulatory aspects of corporate campaign contributions. With so much at stake for corporations, legislators and the society, it may be worth discussing the mechanisms that can make it easier for firms to disclose their political choices. Although economic incentives may not reveal all political contributions, the findings of my study suggest that they can be an important step towards transparency.

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Read Public Finance Review’s Special Issue on Replications in Public Finance for Free!

money-issues-1035776-mWere Krause and Méndez correct that voters punish corrupt political candidates? Do Toya and Skidmore’s economic variables actually make a difference in the number of deaths and damages from natural disasters? Does the millionaires’ tax really have no effect on the migration of the wealthy as reported by Young and Varner? These studies and more were closely examined and replicated in Public Finance Review‘s Special Issue on Replications in Public Finance.

Editor James Alm and Replication Editor W. Robert Reed discuss the need for replications in their introduction to the Special Issue:

One of the main principles of the ‘‘scientific method’’ is the necessity of PFR_72ppiRGB_powerpointreplicating research results. However, replication has seldom been a valued part of economic research, despite the presence of some articles that have highlighted the need for replications (Dewald, Thursby, and Anderson 1986; Mirowski and Sklivas 1991; McCullough and Vinod 1999; Hamermesh 2007). There is hardly an important area in economics that is not characterized by disparate findings on the same subject. With the growth in empirical methods in economics—using data from naturally occurring studies, field experiments, and laboratory experiments and applying increasingly sophisticated econometric methods—the absence of replication studies has become even more troubling, raising questions about the robustness of many of the published findings and so about its true value to policy makers.

You can read Public Finance Review‘s Special Issue on Replications in Public Finance for free for the next 30 days! Click here to access the Table of Contents. Want to know about all the least research and replications from Public Finance Review? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

New Podcast! Can Mobile Tablet Menus Help Millennials Make Healthier Choices?

cqx coverIn the latest podcast from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, author Maryam F. Yepes of Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland discusses her recent article entitled “Mobile Tablet Menus: Attractiveness and Impact of Nutrition Labeling Formats on Millennials’ Food Choices” which compared menu selections by millennial-age respondents to test the effects of five different menu nutrition labeling formats for attractiveness, perceived influence, and actual influence on the students’ food choices using mobile tablet technology.

The podcast can be downloaded by clicking here. You can also read the article for free by clicking here and subscribe to SAGE Management podcasts on iTunes by clicking here. You can click here to sign up for e-alerts and learn about all the latest news and research from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.

70c2977b8360d3e6fbef5f2a4b5d78deMaryam F. Yepes a professor of nutrition at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, is also a consultant and director at Myravan, specialising in bringing nutrition and health related solutions for hospitality professionals.

How Should Businesses Respond to Bad Online Reviews?

paper-emotions---aggressive-1158072-mAccording to Forbes, 72% of people trust online reviews just as much as they would trust the opinion of a friend or family member. Furthermore, 4 out of 5 consumers admitted in a survey that they changed their mind about a purchase after reading online reviews. With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that many businesses have chosen to start responding to bad reviews in hopes of atoning for the customer’s bad experience. But how can businesses successfully respond to these reviews online? Authors Beverley A. Sparks and Graham L. Bradley recently explored this topic and developed a typology of managerial responses to negative online reviews in their article “A ‘Triple A’ Typology of Responding to Negative Consumer-Generated Online Reviews” from Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research.

The abstract:

Increasingly, consumers are posting online reviews about hotels, restaurants, and other tourism and hospitality providers. While some managers are responding to these reviews, little is2JHTR07_Covers.pdf known about how to respond and how to do so effectively. Drawing on the service recovery, justice, and electronic word-of-mouth literatures, we developed a typology of management responses to negative online reviews of hotel accommodation. An initial version of the typology was verified through interviews with eight industry experts. The final “Triple A” typology comprised 19 specific forms of managerial responses subsumed within the three higher-level categories of acknowledgements, accounts, and actions. The typology was tested on a sample of 150 conversations drawn from the website, TripAdvisor. Most responses included an acknowledgement of the dissatisfying event, an account (explanation) for its occurrence, and a reference to action taken. Responses differed between top- and bottom-ranked hotels. Propositions for extending this area of research are provided.

Click here to read “A ‘Triple A’ Typology of Responding to Negative Consumer-Generated Online Reviews” from Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research for free! Want to get notifications about all the latest research from Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research sent straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Listen to the Latest Podcast from Journal of Management on “The Chrysalis Effect”

jom coverIn the latest podcast from Journal of Management, Ernest Hugh O’Boyle Jr, lead author of the article “The Chrysalis Effect: How Ugly Initial Results Metamorphosize Into Beautiful Articles” speaks with Journal of Management Associate Editor Fred Oswald about the article’s findings concerning questionable research practices.

The podcast can be downloaded by clicking here and the article can be read for free by clicking here. Follow this link to subscribe on iTunes.

o'boyleeErnest Hugh O’Boyle Jr is an assistant professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Iowa. His research interests include questionable research practices, outcome reporting bias, publication bias, structural equation modeling, meta-analysis, “dark” personality traits, and superstar effects. He has been published in such journals as Journal of Management, Organizational Psychology Review, Family Business Review and International Business Review.

FredOswaldFred Oswald currently serves the Rice University Department of Psychology as Chair, and he is a Professor in the Industrial/Organizational Psychology program. His published research addresses the reliability and validity of tests administered to applicants in organizational, education and military settings. Substantively, his work deals with defining, modeling and predicting societally relevant outcomes (e.g., job performance, academic performance, satisfaction, turnover) from psychological measures that are based on cognitive and motivational constructs (e.g., cognitive abilities, personality traits, situational judgment tests, job knowledge and skill, and biographical data). His statistical work in meta-analysis, structural equation modeling, and adverse impact also informs personnel selection issues and psychological testing in the research, practice and legal arenas.

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How Much is the Organizational Power Structure to Blame for Corrupt Behavior?

Is ittake-the-buck-1-1096837-m easier for someone to be corrupt at different levels within an organization? Does corruption depend on the resources available? Authors István Jávor and David Jancsics discuss this topic in their article from Administration and Society  entitled “The Role of Power in Organizational Corruption: An Empirical Study,” winner of the 2014 Best Article Award from the Public and Nonprofit Division of Academy of Management!

The abstract:

This article concerns the extent to which corrupt behavior is dependent on the organizational power structure and the resources available for illegal exchange. This A&S_72ppiRGB_powerpointqualitative study is based on 42 in-depth interviews with organizational actors in different organizations in Hungary. Four core themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews: (a) isolated corruption at the bottom, (b) the middle level’s own corruption, (c) “technicization” when middle-level professionals and expert groups are used to legalize the corruption of the dominant coalition, and (d) “turning-off controls” when organizational elites intentionally deactivate internal and external controls to avoid detection.

Click here to read “The Role of Power in Organizational Corruption: An Empirical Study from Administration and Society for free! Make sure to sign up for e-alerts and stay up to date on all the latest news and research from Administration and Society!