برای گفتن حقیقت : بحث در مورد مسائل مربوط به حقیقت و اخلاق در حسابداری
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|1635||2011||16 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 36, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 109–124
Such major scandals as the savings and loan failures in the late 1980s and 1990s, the Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom and Tyco corporate scandals, Arthur Andersen’s demise, and the current crisis of the financial system have all been linked directly or indirectly to false, misleading, or untruthful accounting. Thus, in a pragmatic sense the question of the veracity of accounting or what it could mean for accounting to be true seems to exist. The assertion of a false or misleading financial report implies some belief that there could exist a true or not-misleading report. Accounting-standard setters have finessed this issue by agreeing that “decision usefulness,” not truth, is financial reporting’s ultimate objective. Over time they have gravitated to a coherence notion of truth to provide rationales for accounting policy. The result has been a serious conflict between the content of financial accounting and the auditing of that content. In this paper we describe this conflict and its consequences and, relying on John McCumber’s work, provide an argument about how accounting scholars and practitioners might begin to think more cogently about what a truthful type of corporate reporting might be. We suggest that accounting-standard setters have too narrowly construed what accounting’s role in democratic society is and how the contradictions of current standard-setting jeopardize the essential professional franchise of accountants, the audit function.
The accounting profession continues to struggle with the problem of the veracity of accounting reports, in light of the different needs of various financial statement readers for truthful reports. The savings and loan failures in the late 1980s and 1990s, the Enron, Global Crossing and Tyco corporate scandals, Andersen’s demise, and the sub-prime mortgage crisis all relate to deception. All such scandals involved to varying degrees the telling of accounting untruths, which raises the question: what possible meaning(s) can be given to accounting being true? West (2003, p. 172) trenchantly enunciates why accountants should be concerned with the truth: “It is on grounds of its claimed expertise that the accounting profession has been granted an exclusive responsibility for independently pronouncing on the truth and fairness of financial reports. Responsibility to define “true and fair” runs parallel to this privilege.”3 All 50 US states give CPAs a monopoly to fulfill the public’s expectations by assuring that financial reports are not misleading or fraudulent. But to claim something is misleading presumes that some idea exists about what is a truthful versus untruthful financial report. Accounting-standard setters have finessed this issue by asserting in SFAC #1 (FASB, 1978) that only decision usefulness, not truth, is financial reporting’s ultimate objective.4 The question of true accounting creates a problem that the profession couches largely as a technical, economic measurement matter, wholly ignoring the problem’s profoundly ethical ramifications. Using McCumber’s (2005) work on the question of truth, we provide some perspective on the inter-relatedness of truth and ethics in accounting by arguing that: (1) truth represents a genuine problem for the profession and for financial statement preparers and users; (2) the apparent inadequacy of the current financial reporting system arises partially from misconstruing the nature of the term truth; (3) accounting truth inescapably has a significant ethical dimension; and (4) understanding all this implies a different perspective to decide public policy on corporate reporting issues especially including what are the reporting issues. The section following this introduction examines everyday language usage to illustrate the presence of peoples’ expectation that accounting reports convey something truthful. The third section discusses the dilemma of truth in accounting created by standard-setters’ reliance on the decision usefulness criterion to justify accounting standards. The fourth section describes the essentially ideological origins of decision usefulness. The fifth section discusses truth to provide a more pragmatic way to consider truth in the context of accounting reports. It describes an alternative formulation of the concept of truth and discusses the essentially ethical nature of accounting as a practice whose function is to relate particularly important narratives (accounts) about social relationships. We also present a summary and conclusions.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Truth poses a genuine problem for accounting, one that cannot be so easily finessed by appeals to decision usefulness. McCumber’s (2005) reformulating the concept of truth helps explain how truth and ethics are interrelated. Accounting’s effort to provide the structured narrative to situate us vis-à-vis the public corporation is regulative, implying that the accountants’ relationship to management is not as an enabler but that of persons engaged in conflict. Independent auditor/Corporate-management conflict involves two powers: the pecuniary temptation of management to induce the auditor to sanction Ignobility versus the integrity of auditors to resist such temptation. To escape (rather than solve) this dilemma, accounting-standard setters have replaced a responsibility for truth with decision usefulness, which, given the ambiguity of decision usefulness, effectively absolves them of responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Major corporate scandals such as the savings and loan failures over the last 30 years have raised public disappointment so much that the SOX Act of 2002 sought to limit corporate management’s power over the auditor and strengthen the latter’s weakening will-power to oppose corporate malfeasance. Because decision usefulness power to guide ethical conduct is so weak the law has stepped into protect society from the monopoly granted to the profession. We seek to provide fresh perspectives on how to think appropriately about truth and accounting. Popularly, people still refer to false, misleading, or fraudulent financial statements as if there could exist true, not misleading, and not fraudulent ones. Yet the current regime for producing financial statements, with its decision usefulness justification, virtually guarantees financial reports will be a hodge-podge of ersatz representations unconnected to any correspondence to a genuine story being told about an entity (West, 2003). We used McCumber’s (2005) temporality of truth to argue that the truthfulness that inheres in accounting is the comprehensiveness and reliability of the narrative it provides about any entity’s past. Historically, accounting’s claim to be truthful has lain in the narrative structure it provides for giving a verifiable account of historical, remembered acts taken to bring an entity from its past to its now. We also argue that the increasing hegemony that neoclassical economic ideology has gained over accounting thought has led to the decision usefulness discourse that has made standard-setting increasingly incoherent and, thus, the act of verification (the CPAs claim to professional status) nearly impossible (Williams & Ravenscroft, 2010). Finally, we introduce the notion of the “edge-of-ethics” as the sites where accounting needs to situate its ethical focus. Accounting is an institution, not merely an industry self-contained by its own economic interests. The accounting profession is deemed to perform an important social function by providing assurance that what powerful institutions say about themselves is true. Harkening to McSweeney’s “possibility of objectivity,” the philosopher Michael Lynch notes the importance of truth as a political value: Just having the concept of objective truth opens up a certain possibility. It allows us to think that something might be correct even if those in power disagree. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between what those in power say is the case and what is the case (Lynch, 2004, p. 3). The important social function of accounting, particularly in democracies, is informing on the affairs of powerful institutions, i.e., situating them in the present so that decisions may be made about them. As the current owners of the accounting function, professional accountants–auditors should consider whether the goal of more Noble narratives is not a more ethically defensible one for a profession than providing dubiously predictive data only to creditors and investors.