for publishing Arthur R. Wyatt’s insightful analysis of the
history of the accountancy profession over the past 40 years and
his expression of concern for the future (In Focus, “Accountants’
Responsibilities and Morality,” March 2004).
the Profession to the Public Trust
is absolutely right in concluding “The survival of the accounting
profession as an important facet of our society cannot rely on
the effectiveness of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. The leaders
of the profession … need to embrace policies that …
once again meet the public’s expectations.”
hearings in the mid-1980s, John Dingell, chairman of the Oversight
and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, reminded us that our economic system works on trust.
Those who use financial information must trust that it is relevant
and reliable: “If we absolve accountants from blame,
perhaps we should absolve ourselves of the need for accountants
and save ourselves a lot of money. If they are providing a useful
service, it should be one on which the public can rely.”
self-regulatory programs were expanded in an effort to improve
the quality of practice: peer review, CPE, and additional academic
education all were required. Regrettably, in the ensuing 20 years
there have been far too many instances in which the profession
fell short and the public was not well served. Congress passed
the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the hope that federal regulation will
accomplish what self-regulation could not. History, however, has
a way of repeating itself. What action will Congress take in the
future if there is yet another wave of failures?
In the early
days of the SEC, Congress considered the question of whether to
rely on the private sector or create a national corps of government
auditors. Congress opted to rely on the profession and, for the
present, continues to do so. But I fear patience is wearing thin.
We have been
given a franchise to express opinions on the fairness of financial
statements because of a concern about the potential for harm if
the public acts on misleading information. If we fail to meet
our responsibilities, the outcome could be disastrous.
All of us
must rededicate ourselves to our obligation to serve the public
interest, even at the sacrifice of personal gain. When we encounter
conflicting pressures, we must fulfill our obligation to the public.
When we serve the public interest, we best serve our clients and
Professor of Accounting
note: Philip B. Chenok, CPA (Retired), was AICPA President
and CEO from 1980 to 1995.
“The First Course: Students’ Perceptions of Intro-
ductory Accounting” (March 2004) was very thought provoking.
We are always trying to improve our introductory accounting courses
here, and this article gave me some ideas for addressing our own
students. Thank you for a very timely and useful article.
B. Anders, PhD, CPA
Associate Professor of Accounting, St. Bonaventure University,
School of Business, St. Bonaventure, N.Y.
note: Anders is a frequent CPA Journal contributor,
including the monthly ”What to Bookmark.”
Front on Outsourcing
“The Ethical Dilemmas of Outsourcing” (Perspectives,
March 2004) was positioned just where it should have been: up
His succinct and to-the-point article said, “From an ethical
perspective, a client must be informed that personal and tax information
is being transmitted electronically overseas for processing.”
After all the dithering for the last several years, a few more
firm stances like this one and I will become convinced we are
finally starting to reclaim our profession.