تجزیه و تحلیل اقتصادی از استانداردهای اخلاقی حسابداران : موردی از نظر حسابرسی مراکز خرید
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|28164||1999||25 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Volume 18, Issues 4–5, Winter 1999, Pages 339–363
The public accounting profession presently employs a strict system of ethical standards that relies upon explicit rules plus monitoring and enforcement procedures that penalize violations of the rules. An alternative approach to ethical standards that the public accounting profession may wish to consider is a laissez faire approach. Instead of rules and penalties to enforce desired behaviors, the laissez faire approach utilizes moral training and leadership to motivate professional accountants to act in the public interest, for the sake of the profession as a whole. The theoretical basis for the laissez faire approach is a growing body of evidence in economics and related disciplines that people often take actions to further the collective welfare of a group despite a detrimental effect on their own selfish interests. This paper offers a framework for examining the relative economic merits of the strict and laissez faire approaches to ethical standards within the accounting profession. The framework is based on game theory, and the setting employed in the paper involves opinion shopping by audit clients. The paper finds that the effectiveness of a laissez faire approach to ethical standards, at least in the opinion-shopping scenario, is related to (a) the ethical climate, which refers to the likelihood a given independent auditor will choose the ethical action, (b) the frequency of independent auditor rotation, which reduces the economic advantage of being the incumbent auditor, (c) the explicitness of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which reduces uncertainty over whether or not a particular act is ethical, (d) the availability of opportunities to discuss ethical choices with rival auditors, and (e) disclosure requirements associated with auditor–client disputes over material accounting issues.
According to a recent Special Report of the Public Oversight Board (POB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)'s SEC Practice Section, “The accounting profession has suffered a serious erosion of public confidence: confidence in its standards, in the relevance of its work and in the financial reporting process” ( Advisory Panel on Auditor Independence, 1994, p. 31). To address this problem, the POB report made numerous recommendations for changes in financial reporting, SEC disclosure requirements, auditing practices, corporate governance by public companies, and accounting self-regulation, including changes in the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct. Some of these recommendations have been implemented, while others are still under review. The effort spawned by the POB report raises some fundamental questions for the public accounting profession, as follows. What is the most effective way to achieve public confidence in the public accounting profession? What is the most efficient way? Is there a way that might be more effective or efficient than the public accounting profession's present approach, which incorporates CPA education and licensing requirements, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS), and the ethical standards promulgated in the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct ( American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 1988)? My paper uses economic analysis to examine these questions, especially as they pertain to the ethical standards of the accounting profession. The paper takes a utilitarian view of ethics; this is the view that a person's action is right or moral if its consequences result in the greatest good for everyone concerned (Thiroux, 1990, p. 44). This view is consistent with Article II of the Principles of the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct, which states that “[m]embers should accept the obligation to act in a way that will serve the public interest, honor the public trust, and demonstrate commitment to professionalism” ( American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 1994, p. 5). For purposes of this paper the words ethical and moral are regarded as equivalent and are used interchangeably. The primary objective of this paper is to enhance our understanding of the economic basis for the current system of ethical standards in the US public accounting profession. A secondary objective is to raise (though not necessarily to answer) the question of whether some other system of ethical standards might be more efficient. These objectives are accomplished by examining a model of auditor2 behavior in a setting that has ethical implications. The setting employed in the paper involves opinion shopping by clients. This is taken to be a representative ethical dilemma in the following sense. The auditor who does the right thing, which is to deny the client's request to approve a dubious accounting method, suffers the loss of an audit fee if the client switches to another, less scrupulous, auditor. Meanwhile, the auditor who does the wrong thing, which is to consent to the client's request, will avoid losing the audit fee, but will cause the accounting profession to incur a loss of credibility or status, which is presumed to have an adverse pecuniary effect on all auditors. Hence, the auditor's personal pecuniary incentive conflicts with what is both right in an ethical sense and best for all auditors in general. While this setting admittedly does not encompass all possible ethical issues, it does incorporate elements of such crucial ethical principles as integrity, objectivity and independence. In addition, the issue of auditor support for dubious accounting methods used by clients is among the POB's primary concerns. For example, while serving as Chief Accountant of the SEC in 1994, Walter Schuetze gave “a speech in which he called into question the independence of accounting firms in situations where they condoned `incredible' accounting principles in financial statements, or advocated such principles before the staff of the SEC” and mentioned “four specific cases argued before the Cheif Accountant are examples of the national offices of major firms advocating accounting contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of GAAP” (Advisory Panel on Auditor Independence, 1994, p. 35). In response, less than one year after publishing its Special Report containing three recommendations to strengthen auditor independence and professionalism, the POB appointed an advisory panel to determine whether further steps should be taken “to better assure the independence of auditors and the integrity and objectivity of their judgments on the appropriate application of generally accepted accounting principles to financial statements”. ( Advisory Panel on Auditor Independence, 1994, p. 1.) The remainder of my paper is organized as follows. The following section develops a simple opinion-shopping model in a laissez faire setting that involves no formal ethical standards, and examines the equilibrium solutions to this model under various assumptions about the auditors' ethical preferences and exposure to risk. Section 3uses a cost-benefit perspective to examine the effects of introducing ethical standards and related regulatory mechanisms into this setting. Section 4offers concluding remarks.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The expectation that auditors will act in the public interest is an important element of the value of audit services. According to the Public Oversight Board, however, public confidence in the accounting profession may have declined in recent years (Public Oversight Board, 1993, p. 1). As a result, various proposals have been made for modifications in the profession's ethical standards and other regulatory mechanisms. Many of these proposals are still under consideration. At present, the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct is a focal point of the profession's efforts to induce auditors to act in the public interest. The ethical standards promulgated in the present Code are interpreted here as strict in that they include detailed rules proscribing certain behaviors, and they are upheld through various monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. A less strict system of ethical standards might include no detailed rules and no monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and might or might not include broad ethical standards such as the principles in Section I of the present Code. This paper offers a framework for thinking about the costs and benefits of these alternative approaches to ethical standards. Since a strict system of ethical standards is likely to be more costly than a less strict system, the public accounting profession's preference for a strict system must reflect a presumption that it is more effective in some way. But the analysis in my paper suggests that the benefits of stricter enforcement (e.g., reduction in the cost of ethical lapses relative to a less strict approach) do not necessarily outweigh the incremental costs of an ethical monitoring and enforcement mechanism. A less strict system might attain a satisfactory degree of effectiveness by cultivating a strong ethical climate under which entrants to the profession are conditioned to act in an ethical manner. Furthermore, the effectiveness of less strict ethical standards might be enhanced by selected regulatory mechanisms such as mandatory auditor rotation, formal procedures for obtaining rulings on accounting methods proposed by audit clients, and disclosure requirements associated with auditor–client disputes. The limitations of the analysis in my paper must be acknowledged. First, the model is based on an audit opinion-shopping scenario, so the analysis may not apply to other ethical dilemmas faced by auditors. Second, the social value of ethical behavior does not arise endogenously from the models employed in this paper; it is merely assumed. In response to these caveats, however, the analysis in my paper is based on the prisoner's dilemma game, which is often used to examine the ethical dimensions of collective action problems in other fields such as economics, political science and psychology. The proposed auditor utility function incorporating a moral cost is a novel contribution of this paper. This formulation may be a useful tool in developing more refined models of auditor behavior that have higher predictive power. It may also be useful in more general economic settings, such moral hazard models in which employees may have an incentive to shirk or adverse selection models that involve disclosure of private information. Some economists have recently suggested a need to incorporate moral incentives into economic models. This paper may be viewed as a preliminary attempt to respond to these suggestions.