Building the Legitimacy of Whistleblowers: A Multi-Case Discourse Analysis

94 Pages Posted: 13 May 2018 Last revised: 4 Jun 2018

See all articles by Hervé Stolowy

Hervé Stolowy

HEC Paris - Accounting and Management Control Department

Yves Gendron

Université Laval

Jodie Moll

University of Manchester - Alliance Manchester Business School

Luc Paugam

HEC Paris, Accounting and Management Control Department

Date Written: April 26, 2018

Abstract

Evidence suggests society still does not view whistleblowers as wholly legitimate – despite legal protections now offered in some jurisdictions, such as the United States. Drawing on a discourse analysis, (i.e., an examination of statements), we investigate the well-publicized stories of seven whistleblowers from 69 sources, including books, first- and second-hand interviews, websites and videos. Our focus is to examine how whistleblower discourses can build legitimacy by more tightly defining the whistleblower role and demonstrating its alignment with social norms. Using whistleblower self-narratives, we identify four narrative patterns: (1) Trigger(s): the event(s) leading to whistleblowing; (2) Personality traits: whistleblower’s morality, resourcefulness, and determination; (3) Constraints: barriers requiring regulatory and organizational change; and (4) Consequences: the longer-term positive impact of the whistleblowing act. These patterns rely on symbolic, analogical, and metaphorical framing to allow others to better understand the role of whistleblowers and enlist their support. Exploring a data-set of 1,621 press articles, we find indications that these narrative patterns resonate in the media – which provide a form of support and may be instrumental in legitimizing the whistleblower role. Grounded on these results, we develop a legitimacy construction model of the whistleblower role, i.e., a representation of how role legitimacy is produced and sustained. From this model, we identify a number of important areas for future research.

Keywords: Whistleblowing, Fraud Detection, Role Definition, Discourse Analysis, Legitimacy, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)

JEL Classification: G3, M4, P1

Suggested Citation

Stolowy, Hervé and Gendron, Yves and Moll, Jodie and Paugam, Luc, Building the Legitimacy of Whistleblowers: A Multi-Case Discourse Analysis (April 26, 2018). Contemporary Accounting Research, Forthcoming; HEC Paris Research Paper No. ACC-2018-1277. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3171837

Hervé Stolowy (Contact Author)

HEC Paris - Accounting and Management Control Department ( email )

Jouy-en-Josas Cedex
France
+33 1 39 67 94 42 (Phone)
+33 1 39 67 70 86 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hec.fr/stolowy

Yves Gendron

Université Laval ( email )

Faculte des sciences de l'administration
2325 rue de la Terrasse, Local 2636
Quebec City, Quebec G1V 0A6
Canada
418-656-2131 ext. 2431 (Phone)
418-656-7746 (Fax)

Jodie Moll

University of Manchester - Alliance Manchester Business School ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

Luc Paugam

HEC Paris, Accounting and Management Control Department ( email )

1 avenue de la libération
Jouy-en-Josas, 78350
France

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