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Coming Clean and Cleaning Up: Does Voluntary Self-Reporting Indicate Effective Self-Policing?

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  • Michael W. Toffel
  • Jodi L. Short

Abstract

Regulatory agencies are increasingly establishing voluntary self-reporting programs both as an investigative tool and to encourage regulated firms to commit to policing themselves. We investigate whether voluntary self-reporting can reliably indicate effective self-policing efforts that might provide opportunities for enforcement efficiencies. We find that regulators used self-reports of legal violations as a heuristic for identifying firms that are effectively policing their own operations, shifting enforcement resources away from those that voluntarily disclose. We also find that these firms that voluntarily disclosed regulatory violations and committed to self-policing improved their regulatory compliance and environmental performance, which suggests that the enforcement relief they received was warranted. Collectively, our results suggest that self-reporting can be a useful tool for reliably identifying and leveraging the voluntary self-policing efforts of regulated companies.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael W. Toffel & Jodi L. Short, 2011. "Coming Clean and Cleaning Up: Does Voluntary Self-Reporting Indicate Effective Self-Policing?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 609-649.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/658494
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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy Simcoe & Michael W. Toffel, 2012. "Public Procurement and the Private Supply of Green Buildings," NBER Working Papers 18385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Friesen, Lana & Gangadharan, Lata, 2013. "Designing self-reporting regimes to encourage truth telling: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 90-102.
    3. Allen Blackman, 2012. "Does eco-certification boost regulatory compliance in developing countries? ISO 14001 in Mexico," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 242-263, December.
    4. Alm, James & Shimshack, Jay, 2014. "Environmental Enforcement and Compliance: Lessons from Pollution, Safety, and Tax Settings," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 10(4), pages 209-274, December.
    5. Simcoe, Timothy & Toffel, Michael W., 2014. "Government green procurement spillovers: Evidence from municipal building policies in California," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 411-434.
    6. Earnhart, Dietrich H. & Glicksman, Robert L., 2015. "Coercive vs. cooperative enforcement: Effect of enforcement approach on environmental management," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 135-146.
    7. Michael W. Toffel & Jodi L. Short & Melissa Ouellet, 2012. "Codes in Context: How States, Markets, and Civil Society Shape Adherence to Global Labor Standards," Harvard Business School Working Papers 13-045, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2014.
    8. Anil R. Doshi & Glen W.S. Dowell & Michael W. Toffel, 2011. "How Firms Respond to Mandatory Information Disclosure," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-001, Harvard Business School, revised Jun 2012.
    9. Mungan, Murat C., 2012. "Don’t Say You’re Sorry Unless You Mean It: Pricing apologies to achieve credibility," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 178-187.
    10. Jodi L. Short & Michael W. Toffel & Andrea Read Hugill, 2013. "Monitoring Global Supply Chains," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-032, Harvard Business School, revised Jun 2015.
    11. repec:kap:regeco:v:52:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11149-017-9329-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Xiaoyang Li & Yue M. Zhou, 2016. "Offshoring Production while Offshoring Pollution?," Working Papers 16-09, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    13. Earnhart, Dietrich & Harrington, Donna Ramirez, 2014. "Effect of audits on the extent of compliance with wastewater discharge limits," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 243-261.

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