Accountants 'not so squeaky clean', claims new research

The target-driven nature of the accounting profession has compromised ethical behaviour in favour of commercial results, according to a global survey of accounting professionals.

The Audit & Risk Recruitment Industry Survey 2015, conducted by global job board careersinaudit.com, collected responses from 1,700 auditors and tax agents, with 43 per cent of those surveyed revealing they have witnessed senior management leave ethics by the wayside in the hope of achieving a commercial result.

Nearly half of respondents (49 per cent) claimed they know of a specific situation where a colleague has been pressured by a line manager or partner to ignore an adjustment that should have been made to a set of accounts.

Furthermore, 20 per cent of respondents believed that between 10 and 20 per cent of those within the profession have helped their clients create a set of accounts that were deliberately misleading.

Simon Wright, sales and marketing director of careersinaudit.com, told AccountantsDaily he was surprised to uncover that accountants were “not that squeaky clean”.

“I think generally the accounting profession as a whole is always thought of as very clean, very down the line, professional, when it seems like it’s not as honest as we think, based on the research,” he said.

When asked what he thought had prompted ethics to take a back-seat to achieving commercial results, Mr Wright pointed to the target-driven nature of the profession.

“Partners are under a lot of pressure to hit their targets, and to bring a commercial result to their own clients they may actually be inclined to look the other way – and that’s what the research has pointed out.”

Respondents also indicated a desire for industry bodies to up the ante on punishments, with 55 per cent believing that industry bodies are currently not doing enough to promote awareness of the ethical standards of the profession.

A further 85 per cent of those surveyed claimed they would take the prospect of punishment from their industry body seriously. Fifty-five per cent also stated that offenders should be banned from practising for life.

“I think the integrity of accountants needs to be of the utmost importance for accountancy firms to be taken seriously professionally, individually and as a business,” said Mr Wright.

“At the end of the day, huge corporations are trusting the accountants to do a good job, and do an ethical job, and their entire businesses at the end of the day will count on these results.

“The concerning thing is that if results are being skewed or decisions are being made for commercial rather than ethical reasons, where do they draw the line?”

 

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