SYNOPSIS

In this study, we investigate the relation between accounting failure and innovation at multiple levels in an organization by developing and testing a model for how top executives and functional managers might change their risk preferences and their innovation investments in response to public disclosures of financial misconduct. At the firm level, we find that accounting failures reduce subsequent investments in R&D, as predicted by a threat rigidity (“play it safe”) psychological response among top executives. At the project level, accounting failures have the opposite effect, resulting in an increase in the number of exploratory projects, as predicted by a failure trap (“swing for the fences”) psychological response among functional managers. Unpacking this relation at multiple levels of analysis helps us to understand the complex ways in which financial misconduct shapes a firm's innovation activities and appreciate the far-reaching consequences of accounting failure.

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