When are Whistleblowers Effective? The Dual Influence of Dissent in the Judicial Hierarchy, with Deborah Beim

Abstract: Whistleblowing can generate greater compliance in a hierarchical organization in two ways. First, the potential for whistleblowing may cause ex ante compliance by an agent who would defy a superior in the absence of a whistleblower. Second, whistleblowing may lead to ex post review of an agent's action by a principal. We leverage the institutional features of the federal judiciary to study both the ex ante and ex post effects of whistleblowing. Using an original dataset of death penalty decisions on the Courts of Appeals, we find that the threat of dissent by a potential whistleblower on a three-judge panel increases the likelihood of compliance. We then show that whistleblowing dissents are more likely to lead to en banc review on the Courts of Appeals. These results have important implications for the study of compliance and in the federal judicial hierarchy and for assessing the uniformity of the law.

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