Falls from Grace and the Hazards of High Status: The 2009 British MP Expense Scandal and Its Impact on Parliamentary Elites

Scott D. Graffin, Jonathan Bundy, Joseph F. Porac, James B. Wade, Dennis P. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Although the benefits of high status are well documented, in this research we explore the potential hazards associated with high status that have increasingly been implicated in recent studies. Organizational research suggests two such hazards: (1) opportunistic behaviors by elites that eventually lead to sanctions and (2) the targeting of elites by various audiences such that they are held more accountable than their lower-status counterparts for similar offenses. Our objective was to disentangle these two explanations in the context of an organizational scandal involving the Members of the British Parliament (MPs) whose annual expense claims were unexpectedly exposed in a well-known 2009 scandal. We find that high-status MPs were not more likely to abuse the expense system than were lower-status MPs, but they were more likely to be targeted by the press and voters for their inappropriate expense claims. As a consequence, high-status MPs were significantly more likely than non-elite MPs to exit Parliament when they had high levels of inappropriate expense claims. Elite MPs who were not implicated in the scandal, however, were far more likely to remain in Parliament than their lower-status counterparts. Our results also suggest that media coverage of the expense incident by British newspapers played a significant role in shaping social reactions to the scandal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-345
Number of pages33
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • media attention
  • opportunism
  • scandal
  • status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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