Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Legal Studies & Business Ethics

First Advisor

Alan Strudler

Abstract

What is the place of secrecy in economic life? Using concepts from business ethics, organizational theory, legal theory, and normative political economy, this dissertation presents novel arguments concerning corporate and individual moral privileges to conceal information within firms and markets. Essay 1 addresses a range of theoretical issues in secrecy, transparency, and moral theory. Essay 2 considers a particular contested case of corporate secrecy—pay secrecy. This essay’s applied discussion also generates several additional insights for a more general ethics of corporate secrecy and self-regulation. Essay 3 shifts away from the corporate perspective toward the market actor’s perspective, investigating the moral-economic justifications we may have for refusing to transact with certain other actors in markets. It illustrates how secrecy and information asymmetries can serve as core, morally beneficial features of markets.

In total, this dissertation represents a significant step toward a more nuanced ethical perspective on secrecy: its role and value in markets; the reasons market actors may have to advance or thwart it; and the associated duties and privileges that attach to managers in relation to stakeholders and larger society.

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