Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Benson Wier


ABSTRACT THE IMPACT OF MATERIALITY, PERSONALITY TRAITS, AND ETHICAL POSITION ON WHISTLE-BLOWING INTENTIONS By Karl Bryan Menk A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Business at Virginia Commonwealth University Virginia Commonwealth University, 2011 Dissertation Director: Dr. Benson Wier, Ph.D. Professor of Accounting, School of Business Throughout the previous decade, numerous scandals have been reported through employees engaging in whistle-blowing activities. The importance of whistle-blowing in a corporate environment is encouraged through the protections provided to employees engaging in whistle-blowing activities and has been identified as a significant factor in fraud prevention. Despite the importance of the role of whistle-blowing, employees are often hesitant to report a problem due to potential repercussions and retaliations. This study was motivated by the importance of whistle-blowing actions on businesses and the environment in which businesses operate as well as a desire to better understand the underlying causes of an individual’s decision to engage in whistle-blowing practices. This study examines the impact of personality traits, ethical position, and the materiality of a problem on an individual’s decision to engage in whistle-blowing activities. Participants were asked to evaluate a scenario involving the improper recording of revenues. In the high materiality scenario, the inappropriate revenues represented 10 percent of the annual revenues of the firm. Only 1 percent of the annual revenues were incorrectly reported in the low materiality scenario. The study tested multiple hypotheses using survey data collected from upper level accounting students attending a 4 year university. The results of this study indicate that the ethical position of an individual is the most strongly related to an individual’s intention to engage in whistle-blowing activities. The presence of more pro-social personality traits in the decision maker is also positively related to the decision to whistle-blow but not as significantly as ethical position.


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