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What is Tone At The Top?

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Tone at the top is a term for the ethical climate of an organization's senior managers, board of directors and audit committee. It includes prevailing attitudes towards fiduciary duty, financial diligence, risk, compliance to the law, employees, communities and the environment.

Tone at the Top & Risk

A poor ethical climate at the top of an organization tends to create risks across an organization as this tends to translate downwards. If executive managers are extremely aggressive about timing good news and bad news to maximize their compensation, the organization may do the same. If executive managers are only interested in short term gains and bury all future risks, the organization may do the same. If executive managers are out of step with the ethics of the community, organizations may be as well. As such, tone at the top may be a good predictor of the long term performance of an organization and likelihood for financial scandals, compliance violations and other failures.
Overview: Tone At The Top
The ethical climate amongst an organization's board of directors, executive management and audit committee.
Related Concepts

Business Ethics

This is the complete list of articles we have written about business ethics.
Agency Cost
Conflict Of Interest
Crony Capitalism
Do No Harm
Dual Agency
Environmental Issues
Ethical Climate
Ethical Issues
Fee Splitting
Fiduciary Duty
Professional Ethics
Reputational Risk
Right To Know
Self Dealing
Technology Ethics
More ...
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Business Ethics

A list of issues and principles related to business ethics.

Trade Secrets vs Right To Know

Two legal concepts that commonly collide.

Conflict Of Interest

A few examples of conflict of interest.

Fiduciary Duty

An overview of fiduciary duty.

Precautionary Principle

An overview of the precautionary principle.

Professional Conduct

The primary elements of professional conduct.


The definition of accountability with examples.


Examples of common business and personal values.


The definition of agency with examples.

Gaming The System

The definition of gaming the system with examples.


A few basic examples of compliance.

Independent Knowledge

A definition of independent knowledge with an example.

Segregation Of Duties

A definition of segregation of duties with examples.

Internal Controls

A definition of internal controls with examples.

Conformance vs Compliance

The difference between conformance and compliance.

Administrative Burden

A definition of administrative burden with examples.

Fair Competition

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Insider Information

The definition of insider information with examples.
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