Alexandra A. Scherf

How Do Online Conflict Disclosures Support Enforcement? Evidence from Personal Financial Disclosures and Public Corruption

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Finance
  • Accounting

ABSTRACT Public corruption is a concern for democracies around the world. In the U.S., states have responded to this issue by publishing personal financial disclosures (PFDs) for public officials online. PFDs are a conflict-of-interest disclosure designed to relieve agency conflicts between private citizens and government officials by documenting overlaps between officials’ financial interests and public responsibilities. This paper explores whether and how online PFD supports anticorruption enforcement. I present a stylized model illustrating how online PFD leads investigators to increase case referral volume and quality. Empirically, I find that online PFD for local officials is associated with increased referral rates and greater likelihoods of prosecution conditional on referral. I conduct 126 field interviews of federal prosecutors, journalists, and ethics commissions to understand the mechanisms behind these results. I conclude that online PFD supports the enforcement of local corruption by reducing disclosure acquisition costs for enforcement agents.

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