An important area of business ethics research focuses on how otherwise normal and law-abiding individuals can engage in acts of corruption. Key in this literature is the concept of rationalization. This is where individuals attempt to justify past and future corrupt deeds to themselves and others. In this article, we argue that rationalization often entails a process of overcompensation whereby the justification forwarded is excessive in relation to the actual act. Such over-rationalization provides an impetus for further and more serious acts of illegality. Using a number of high profile cases, it is argued that this dynamic gap between the act and excessive rationalization can explain why corruption often escalates in severity and scope in the organization.

Publication Date



DOI: 10.1007/s1055-1-008-9685-4Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Accounting (SCB)


RIT – Main Campus