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Biography

Marc Lepere is a PhD student in Political Economy. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and serves as a visiting lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is an Economics graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and holds a MSc from King’s.

Marc has published in leading journals including Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Financial Times and Discovering Truth (series 1) which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Professionally, Marc has been an employee, entrepreneur and social entrepreneur. In 2021, he founded ESGgen which builds on his doctoral research. ESGgen.com is a new online solution designed to make it simple and meaningful for SMEs and Startups to get annual, audited ESG accounts (to complement financial accounts). By making ESG accessible to SMEs and Startups ESGgen helps the most innovative 50% of the global economy get to work on solving the world’s most burning problems.

Marc has served as Chief Marketing Officer for Havas Worldwide; Executive Vice President for McCann Erickson WorldGroup and Deputy Chairman of Dentsu in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Research

Thesis title: 'Corporate crises: what they reveal about CEOs and corporate responsibility'

In Room 2123 of Rayburn House, Washington the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of BP, Volkswagen, Equifax and Facebook each testify to Congress. Three stops along the Capitol subway system to Room 2538 of the Dirksen Senate Office building and the CEO of Wells Fargo testifies to the Senate and nine days later to the House Financial Services Committee. All are accepting personal responsibility, under oath, for some of the biggest corporate scandals of the past decade; and committing to take the necessary steps to ensure ‘this can never happen again’.

This thesis asks, ‘To what extent does holding CEOs to account personally for crises effect corporate responsibility?’. Do companies become more responsible as a result of a crisis? Does holding management to account improve responsibility? Are changes meaningful and long-lasting?

Deep case studies examine: BP’s Deepwater Horizon crisis (2010), VW’s Emissions crisis (2015), Wells Fargo’s opening of Unauthorised accounts (2016), Equifax’s Data breach (2017) and Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal (2018). Content analysis of Congressional records; corporate communications; Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) disclosures; Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings and stock market data are analysed to examine the accountability of 14 CEOs.

Data is analysed in a five-year framework: two years ex-ante to examine antecedent conditions, the period of the crisis in which the company and Congress signals its intentions to make the company more responsible and two years ex-post to assess change in corporate responsibility and to monitor persistency. Changes in responsibility are externally validated using Refinitiv Eikon ESG metrics.

The study is motivated by and contributes to corporate responsibility literature, crisis management studies and institutional change theory. The thesis’s primary theoretical contribution is ‘the tragedy of public accountability’. The tragedy of public accountability occurs when regulators hold company leaders to account personally for irresponsible behaviour. Penalties remediate public harm and enforcement actions reduce the risk of recurrence but ultimately companies are not incentivised to become more responsible, to the public’s detriment.

PhD supervision

Further details

See Marc's research profile