Financial misconduct and employee mistreatment: evidence from wage theft

Review of Accounting Studies, Forthcoming

54 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2019 Last revised: 9 Apr 2021

Date Written: April 9, 2021


I examine the relation between firms' financial conduct and wage theft. Wage theft represents the single largest form of theft committed in the United States and primarily affects firms' most vulnerable employees. I show that wage theft is more prevalent (i) when firms just meet or beat earnings targets and (ii) when executives' personal liability for wage theft decreases. Wage theft precedes financial misconduct while the theft is undetected, but once firms are caught engaging in wage theft they are more likely to shift to engaging in financial misconduct. My findings highlight an economically meaningful yet previously undocumented way in which firms' financial incentives relate to employee treatment.

Keywords: wage theft; real earnings management; financial misconduct; labor practices

JEL Classification: J31, J83, K31, M14, M41

Suggested Citation

Raghunandan, Aneesh, Financial misconduct and employee mistreatment: evidence from wage theft (April 9, 2021). Review of Accounting Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Aneesh Raghunandan (Contact Author)

London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom

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