Richard Swedberg

Teoria dell'agenzia e sociologia economica: un'applicazione al caso Arthur Andersen (2001-2002)

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It is sometimes argued that economics and sociology should complement one another rather than be used separately, as is typically the case today. One reason for this would be that economics understands the interplay of material interests much better than what sociology does, while sociology is better at analyzing social relations and social structures. In this article I will try supply an example of cooperation between the two disciplines, letting agency theory represent economic theory. The article tries to show this by way of a concrete example, namely the role of accounting in the corporate scandals that took place in the United States in 2001-2002. Special attention will be payed to the fate of Arthur Andersen - one of the world's largest accounting firms that was closed down in 2002 because of various wrongdoings. The paper will first illustrate the general background to the corporate scandals, especially the boom in the stock exchange during the 1990s and the development of the accounting industry during this period. Then it will focus on the case of Arthur Andersen as well as attempts to solve the conflicts of interest that emerged in the accounting industry.

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