Objective. We analyze the process of changing ethical attitudes over time by focusing on a specific set of “natural experiments” that occurred over an 18-month period, namely, the accounting scandals that occurred involving Enron/Arthur Andersen and insider-trader allegations related to ImClone.
Methods. Given the amount of media attention devoted to these ethical scandals, we test whether respondents in a cross-sectional sample taken over 18 months become less accepting of ethically charged vignettes dealing with “accounting tricks” and “insider trading” over time.
Results. We find a significant and gradual decline in the acceptance of the vignettes over the 18-month period.
Conclusions. Findings presented here may provide valuable insight into potential triggers of changing ethical attitudes. An intriguing implication of these results is that recent highly publicized ethical breaches may not be only a symptom, but also a cause of changing attitudes.