Commonality in Codes of Ethics
27 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008 Last revised: 14 May 2014
Date Written: January 30, 2009
We create a database of company codes of ethics from firms listed on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and, separately, a sample of small firms. The SEC believes that “ethics codes do, and should, vary from company to company.” Using textual analysis techniques, we measure the extent of commonality across the documents. We find substantial levels of common sentences used by the firms, including a few cases where the codes of ethics are essentially identical. We consider these results in the context of legal statements versus value statements. While legal writing often mandates duplication, we argue that value-based statements should be held to a higher standard of originality. Our evidence is consistent with isomorphic pressures on smaller firms to conform.
Keywords: Code of Ethics, Textual Analysis, Plagiarism, Regulation
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