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Conflicts of Interest, Disclosure, and (Costly) Sanctions: Experimental Evidence

Bryan K. Church and Xi (Jason) Kuang

The Journal of Legal Studies, 2009, vol. 38, issue 2, pages 505-532

Abstract: Conflicts of interest may compromise individuals' independence in providing advisory services. Full disclosure is a commonly recommended remedy for the adverse effect of conflicts of interest. Yet prior study shows that disclosure may not have the intended effect because it provides individuals with moral license to engage in self-interested behavior, thereby exacerbating biases. We follow up on this research and seek to determine whether other institutional factors may negate the potentially harmful effects of disclosure. We conduct a laboratory experiment, focusing on behavior in an investor/financial adviser dyad, including important representative features in this setting. Our results suggest that disclosure is not necessarily detrimental. We find that investors are better off when conflicts of interest are disclosed and sanctions are available, even though initiating sanctions is costly to investors. Under such conditions, advisers' bias is dampened markedly. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Date: 2009
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