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

Michel L. Ehrenhard* (Corresponding Author), Timo L. Fiorito

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)
    658 Downloads (Pure)


    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
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of public affairs
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


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