Strategies of Resistance to Internal Control Regulation



Date of this version


Document Type



Accounting, Internal Control, Institutional Theory, History, Sociology


This paper applies the institutional concepts of resource dependence, power, resistance, and dramaturgical exchange to the legislative history of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of 1977, internal control proposals and regulations from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, and the internal control requirements under the Sarbanes -Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002. The analysis documents that from 1976 to 2001 powerful organizations and individuals employed active strategies of avoidance, defiance, and manipulation to successfully defeat proposals that would have required all public companies to assess and publicly report on their internal controls over financial reporting. During this same period, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) vacillated between actively advocating mandatory internal control reporting and passively acquiescing to industry and White House demands for voluntary internal control reporting. The resulting dramaturgical exchange between the SEC and its regulatees made it appear as if the voluntary initiatives were reasonably effective, but subsequent accounting and financial scandals challenged this view and eventually precipitated mandatory internal control assessment and reporting. The paper also considers how the ongoing dramaturgical exchange between regulators and regulatees could significantly weaken the internal control requirements of SOX (2002) [Sarbanes -Oxley Act of 2002 (2002). Public Law 107 -204, 116 Stat. 745], and discusses implications for future research and recent critiques of neoinstitutional theory.

Published in

Accounting, Organizations and Society

Citation/Other Information


Accounting, Organizations and Society, 2008, vol. 33, pp. 199-228.