Moral Attribution of Money Laundering Transgressions : Do the layperson blame the bank?
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- Master Thesis 
This master thesis reports the result of an experiment on laypersons attribution of blame and evaluation of moral wrongness in the aftermath of money laundering transgressions by a bank. We manipulate two key variables of theoretical and practical interest. First, we manipulate whether the bank choose to self-report the transgressions, or a newspaper discovers the activity and report it. Second, we manipulate whether the money laundering transgressions took place close to the participants home (low social distance) or in a foreign country (high social distance). To test our hypotheses, we conduct a survey-experiment on Amazon Mechanical Turk with 181 US citizens. We find that the bank’s reporting choice significantly impacts attribution of blame through its effect on attribution of intent to the bank for the money laundering transgressions. However, we do not find that social distance impacts either attribution of blame or evaluation of the moral wrongness of the money laundering transgressions. Furthermore, we find that participants prior attitudes towards the harm of money laundering significantly impacts both attribution of blame directly and through their effect on attribution of intent and causation to the bank for the transgressions. In addition, we find that participants’ willingness to change their bank affiliation after revelation of the bank’s role in the money laundering activity is significantly impacted by their moral identity. Of further interest is the finding that the bank’s reporting choice (Selfreporting the transgressions, or the later discovery and reporting of journalists) also impacted the willingness to change bank affiliation. Banks who choose to come clean receive substantial credit in the public both when blame is attributed and when the layperson choose whether they want to continue the customer relationship.