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Power, Corruption and Lies: Mis-selling and the Production of Culture in Financial Services

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matthew Brannan



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd., 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The extent of recent misconduct in retail financial services questions assumptions that mis-selling is perpetrated by rogue traders dealing in sub-prime markets. Yet we know little about the organizational dimensions of mis-selling and specifically how new employees are introduced to and subsequently enact mis-selling behaviour when not explicitly encouraged to do so. This article seeks to understand the mechanics of mis-selling through an ethnographic account of the opening of a new retail financial services call centre, and analysis of the ritual nature of the sales interaction. The study documents the training, induction and initial work of direct sales agents to better understand the complexity, social relations and organization of mis-selling, together with the way in which regulation and management regimes shape sales practice and consequent employee behaviour. The critical analysis of sales rituals allows us to explain how mis-selling becomes embedded in organizational practice and contributes to our understanding of the everydayness of mis-selling in contrast to approaches that focus either on individual decision-making or on cultural explanations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brannan MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Relations

Year: 2017

Volume: 70

Issue: 6

Pages: 641-667

Print publication date: 01/06/2017

Online publication date: 01/11/2016

Acceptance date: 30/09/2016

Date deposited: 27/09/2019

ISSN (print): 0018-7267

ISSN (electronic): 1741-282X

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0018726716673441


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