SUMMARY

Recently, policy makers have focused significant attention on the use of financial rewards as a means of encouraging whistleblower reporting, e.g., the Dodd-Frank Act (U.S. House of Representatives 2010). While such incentives are meant to increase the likelihood that fraud will be reported in a timely manner, the psychological theory of motivational crowding calls this proposition into question. Motivational crowding warns that the application of financial rewards (an extrinsic motivator) can unintentionally hijack a person's moral motivation to “do the right thing” (an intrinsic motivator). Applying this theory, we conducted an experiment and found that, in certain contexts, incentive programs can inhibit whistleblower reporting to a greater extent than had no incentives been offered at all. We discuss the implications of our results for auditors, audit committees, regulators, and others charged with corporate governance.

Data Availability: Available from the authors upon request.

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