Sinja Leonelli, PhD Candidate in Accounting

Working Papers

Minority Whistleblowers: Evidence from the LGBTQ+ Community

Abstract: I examine how public attention affects whistleblowing activity by minorities, specifically the LGBTQ+ community. I find that, compared with counties that have high protection for LGBTQ+ employees, whistleblowing increases during Pride Month (June) in counties that have low protection for LGBTQ+ employees. In addition, those whistleblowers are more likely to disclose their identity. To provide more direct evidence, I conduct a complementary survey experiment and find that LGBTQ+ respondents’ willingness to report misconduct increases during Pride Month. The survey responses suggest that the increase in the willingness to report misconduct arises through reduced concerns about retaliation, reputational effects, and adverse responses from the general public. Overall, my analyses provide evidence that public attention on minorities can increase whistleblowing by reducing the expected cost. My findings are important because systematic under-reporting of misconduct in the workplace can have detrimental consequences for minority employees and exacerbate inequality in the labor market.


Are Newspaper Deserts an Oasis for Leniency? The Effect of Information Dissemination on Regulator Activity

Abstract: In this paper, I show that regulators react to a decrease in local information dissemination by decreasing their activity. Specifically, I find that a local newspaper closure decreases the inspection rate in a given county-industry by 8%, compared to the same industry in a neighboring county. I also find that regulators react on the intensive margin by decreasing the extent of inspections and that the effect is stronger when regulators have more discretion over the enforcement activity. A decrease in information dissemination decreases the deterrence effects of inspections, and thus the effectiveness of the regulator’s activity. I show that regulators take the effectiveness of their activity into account and react more strongly when newspaper closures have a larger effect on deterrence and are more salient. In addition, I do not find strong evidence for the regulator’s response being driven by a change in reputational concerns. Overall, I find robust evidence that regulators decrease their activity after a decrease in information dissemination. My results show that information dissemination can be an integral part of regulators’ enforcement choices due to the inherent deterrence effects.


You Rate Me and I’ll Rate You: Mutual Rating Relationships in Multi-Rater Performance Evaluation Systems (with Martin Artz and Carolyn Deller)

We examine rating behavior in multi-rater performance evaluation systems. Specifically, we study mutual rating relationships, where two employees rate each other contemporaneously. We use proprietary data from an online retailer and show that demographic similarity and organizational proximity are positively associated with the likelihood of a mutual rating relationship. Mutual ratings are higher on average than one-sided ratings; this premium is driven by both selection effects in relationship formation and reciprocal uprating. While rater nominations are more likely to be approved by supervisors if they would result in a mutual rating relationship, we find more discerning supervisors nonetheless appear to be cognizant of the fact that mutual ratings may not provide a balanced assessment. We find that they place less (implicit) weight on mutual ratings vis-à-vis one-sided ratings when arriving at their employee assessments. Overall, our study offers novel evidence on a phenomenon inherent in multi-rater systems: mutual rating relationships.


Works in Progress

Disclosure Consumers: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment (with Maxi Muhn, Thomas Rauter, and Gurpal Sran)

Informed Whistleblowers and Retaliation (with Jonas Heese)

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