Date of Conferral







Teresa Lao


White collar corporate corruption continues to be prevalent in the United States, costing shareholders billions of dollars annually. This study of the collapse of Coudersport, PA firm, Adelphia Communications, explored how and why leadership of this prominent and successful company made unethical decisions, created an atmosphere of moral disengagement, and led to the downfall of the company. Taped interviews with 10 executives who were employed at the company during the years of its rise and demise (1996-2006) were transcribed, hand coded, and analyzed to explore the ethical culture and leadership practices at Adelphia. These insights offer a possible explanation for the behavior that resulted in the collapse of the company. The theoretical framework for this qualitative case study included ethical work climate, moral cognitive theory, and the theory of moral disengagement. Results showed that the collapse of Adelphia was enabled by intense family control, low empowerment, and extreme greed and entitlement on the part of the founders who never made a clear business transition from being family-owned to a publicly-traded corporation. Additionally, proper oversight by the board and outside auditors was lacking. These findings may contribute to positive social change in the areas of ethical training and in creating and operationalizing corporate values in day-to-day decision making in the corporate environment. These findings also suggest further need for new legislative issues beyond existing law to hold external consultants involved in fiduciary responsibility more accountable.