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Truth-telling by Third-party Auditors and the Response of Polluting Firms: Experimental Evidence from India

  • Esther Duflo
  • Michael Greenstone
  • Rohini Pande
  • Nicholas Ryan

In many regulated markets, private, third-party auditors are chosen and paid by the firms that they audit, potentially creating a conflict of interest. This paper reports on a two-year field experiment in the Indian state of Gujarat that sought to curb such a conflict by altering the market structure for environmental audits of industrial plants to incentivize accurate reporting. There are three main results. First, the status quo system was largely corrupted, with auditors systematically reporting plant emissions just below the standard, although true emissions were typically higher. Second, the treatment caused auditors to report more truthfully and very significantly lowered the fraction of plants that were falsely reported as compliant with pollution standards. Third, treatment plants, in turn, reduced their pollution emissions. The results suggest reformed incentives for third-party auditors can improve their reporting and make regulation more effective.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19259.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Publication status: published as Esther Duflo & Michael Greenstone & Nicholas Ryan, 2013. "Truth-telling by Third-party Auditors and the Response of Polluting Firms: Experimental Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(4), pages 1499-1545.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19259
Note: DEV EEE IO LE PE
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  1. Rauch, James E & Evans, Peter B., 1999. "Bureaucratic Structure and Bureaucratic Performance in Less Developed Countries," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt0sb0w38d, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
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  12. Joshua Ronen, 2010. "Corporate Audits and How to Fix Them," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 189-210, Spring.
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  15. Esther Duflo & Michael Greenstone & Rohini Pande & Nicholas Ryan, 2013. "What Does Reputation Buy? Differentiation in a Market for Third-Party Auditors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 314-19, May.
  16. Rema Hanna & Paulina Oliva, 2011. "The Effect of Pollution on Labor Supply: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Mexico City," NBER Working Papers 17302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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