Information leaks before CEO change: financial gain and ethical cost

Gregor Halff, Anne Gregory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether there are information leaks immediately before CEOs change and – if so – whether some investors take financial advantage of such prior knowledge. It thirdly investigates the ethical, practical and professional options for communication managers to deal with such situations.
Design/methodology/approach – Working from sentiment theory of financial markets, the authors studied Internet search patterns for incoming CEO names and stock market movements immediately prior to the public mention or speculation of CEO change.
Findings – The authors find that in nearly a quarter of CEO changes at Fortune 500 companies, the name of the future CEO seems to have been leaked. Additionally, nearly half of those companies also experience extreme, otherwise unexplainable movements in the stock market.
Originality/value – This paper discovers the prevalence of extreme stock market movements for a company when the name of that company’s next CEO has likely been leaked. Such leaks are an opportunity for unscrupulous investors, but they create ethical dilemmas for organizations. Communication managers typically respond by organizing tighter governance. However, to keep up with the speed of information and investments traveling through algorithms, organizing radical transparency could become an alternative instead.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number1
Early online date23 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


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