We examine how executives' behavior outside the workplace, as measured by their ownership of luxury goods (low "frugality") and prior legal infractions, is related to financial reporting risk. We predict and find that chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief financial officers (CFOs) with a legal record are more likely to perpetrate fraud. In contrast, we do not find a relation between executives' frugality and the propensity to perpetrate fraud. However, as predicted, we find that unfrugal CEOs oversee a relatively loose control environment characterized by relatively high and increasing probabilities of other insiders perpetrating fraud and unintentional material reporting errors during their tenure. Further, cultural changes associated with an increase in fraud risk are more likely during unfrugal (vs. frugal) CEOs' reigns, including the appointment of an unfrugal CFO, an increase in executives' equity-based incentives to misreport, and a decline in measures of board monitoring intensity.
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We appreciate the helpful comments of William Schwert (the editor), Luigi Guiso (the referee), David Cooper, Harry Davis, Patricia Dechow, Adam Galinsky, Alan Jagolinzer, Sunil Kumar, Andy Leone, Thomas Lys, Brian Miller, Stewart Myers, and the seminar participants at Harvard Business School, University of British Columbia, the George Mason Conference on Investor Protection, Corporate Governance, and Fraud Prevention, James Madison University, University of Minnesota, the Stanford Summer Accounting Conference, the Washington, DC Summer Accounting Conference, the University of Washington, and the 2011 NBER conference, Causes and Consequences of Corporate Culture. We thank Brian Miller for sharing data on reporting errors with us. We also benefited from discussions with Scott Turow and from the financial support from the Fama-Miller Center for Research in Finance and the Accounting Research Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Institute for Fraud Prevention.
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- Corporate culture
- Executive frugality
- Financial reporting risk
- Legal infractions