Research / BFI Working PaperFeb 27, 2022

Punish One, Teach A Hundred: The Sobering Effect of Punishment on the Unpunished

Francesco D'Acunto, Michael Weber, Jin Xie

Direct experience of a peer’s punishment might have a sobering effect above and beyond deterrence (information about punishments). We test this mechanism in China studying the reactions to listed state-owned enterprises’ (SOEs) punishments for fraudulent loan guarantees by firms in the same location or industry (peers) and non-peer firms, across SOEs and non-SOEs. After experiencing SOEs’ punishments, peer SOEs cut their loan guarantees by more than non-peer SOEs and peer non-SOEs, even if information is common to all firms. The reaction is stronger for peer SOEs whose CEOs have higher career concerns or face lower costs of cutting guarantees.

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