Although the benefits of high status are well documented, in this research we explore the potential hazards associated with high status that have increasingly been implicated in recent studies. Organizational research suggests two such hazards: (1) opportunistic behaviors by elites that eventually lead to sanctions and (2) the targeting of elites by various audiences such that they are held more accountable than their lower-status counterparts for similar offenses. Our objective was to disentangle these two explanations in the context of an organizational scandal involving the Members of the British Parliament (MPs) whose annual expense claims were unexpectedly exposed in a well-known 2009 scandal. We find that high-status MPs were not more likely to abuse the expense system than were lower-status MPs, but they were more likely to be targeted by the press and voters for their inappropriate expense claims. As a consequence, high-status MPs were significantly more likely than non-elite MPs to exit Parliament when they had high levels of inappropriate expense claims. Elite MPs who were not implicated in the scandal, however, were far more likely to remain in Parliament than their lower-status counterparts. Our results also suggest that media coverage of the expense incident by British newspapers played a significant role in shaping social reactions to the scandal.
- media attention
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Public Administration