Corporate values of the 25 largest European banks: Exploring the ambiguous link with corporate scandals

Abstract

Corporate value statements communicate what a firm aspires for and what drives their value creation. In addition, corporate values often also define which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Ideally, corporate values are representations of a firm's informal corporate values and organizational culture. However, in practice, there is an inherent tension between the aspirations and actual values and ensuing behaviors of and within a firm—let alone the potentially different interpretations of abstract corporate value statements. In this paper, we set out to provide more clarity on what corporate values are, how they are inherently ambiguous, and how in practice they compare to firm involvement in scandals. For this purpose, we study the corporate values of the 25 largest European banks after the financial crisis. “Integrity” appeared to be the most common value among the 25 banks, followed by “customer focus.” Nonetheless, over the past 6 years, 15 out of the 25 studied banks were involved in one or more scandals. Scandals can be systematic or caused by rogue employees, and benefitting the firm or their customers—in the latter case, providing an interesting interpretation of the customer focus value. Additionally, we found that courage or its synonyms were barely mentioned among banks' corporate values, potentially providing an additional explanation for the fast size of the financial crisis. Finally, we found that banks that had inclusive social principles such as respect, solidarity, and equality did not face large-scale scandals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1700
JournalJournal of public affairs
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018

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bank
scandal
firm
customer
financial crisis
statement
organizational culture
behavior
solidarity
integrity
equality
practice
employee
systematics
involvement
explanation
representation

Cite this

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title = "Corporate values of the 25 largest European banks: Exploring the ambiguous link with corporate scandals",
abstract = "Corporate value statements communicate what a firm aspires for and what drives their value creation. In addition, corporate values often also define which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Ideally, corporate values are representations of a firm's informal corporate values and organizational culture. However, in practice, there is an inherent tension between the aspirations and actual values and ensuing behaviors of and within a firm—let alone the potentially different interpretations of abstract corporate value statements. In this paper, we set out to provide more clarity on what corporate values are, how they are inherently ambiguous, and how in practice they compare to firm involvement in scandals. For this purpose, we study the corporate values of the 25 largest European banks after the financial crisis. “Integrity” appeared to be the most common value among the 25 banks, followed by “customer focus.” Nonetheless, over the past 6 years, 15 out of the 25 studied banks were involved in one or more scandals. Scandals can be systematic or caused by rogue employees, and benefitting the firm or their customers—in the latter case, providing an interesting interpretation of the customer focus value. Additionally, we found that courage or its synonyms were barely mentioned among banks' corporate values, potentially providing an additional explanation for the fast size of the financial crisis. Finally, we found that banks that had inclusive social principles such as respect, solidarity, and equality did not face large-scale scandals.",
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