Conscience of the Profession: A Personal Journey

By Eli Mason

Softcover edition published by the author in 2004. $19.95 (s/h included); mail check to Eli Mason; 1212 Avenue of the Americas, 24th floor; New York, N.Y. 10036.

Reviewed by Robert L. Israeloff

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MAY 2005 - Eli Mason, during testimony in 1978 to a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee investigating the accounting profession, recognized that he ran “the risk of being called a gadfly or a dissenter.”

For 25 years before that testimony, and for 25 years after, thousands of CPAs no doubt agreed that Mason was exactly as characterized, a dissenter. On the other hand, many passionate followers lauded his willingness to comment on the profession’s issues of the day and to criticize the established order, the AICPA, the large international firms, and anyone who disagreed with his firmly held beliefs.

In Conscience of the Profession: A Personal Journey, Mason presents a history of the accounting profession over its first 100 years in the United States as he sees it. The book is a series of commentaries and personal stories, comprising 90 pages and a 180-page appendix of reprints of Mason’s articles, opinions, and letters.

One does not have to agree with Mason to find his book informative and interesting. The sections on the founding of the profession, on the Congressional hearings of the 1970s, on tax shelters, and on auditor rotation all provide meaningful reading. His decades-old calls for a national CPA certificate, for restrictions on consulting services to protect auditor independence, for auditor rotation, and for peer review certainly resonate with the reader in the light of the corporate accounting scandals of the past five years.

Mason has been a prolific contributor to the accounting press over the years, and the reproduction of hundreds of his writings in this book provides clear evidence of that. The writing is lucid, provocative, and challenging, but always with a strong personal viewpoint. A first-time reader of his prose might conclude that nothing was ever right in the accounting profession. If you agree with him on an issue, you are reading the work of a courageous champion. If you disagree, you may question why you devoted your time to his book.

Keeping this last caveat in mind, Conscience of the Profession is one of the few places where one can find thoughtful opposition to many of the decisions and initiatives of the leadership of the accounting profession over the past decades.

Robert L. Israeloff, CPA, of Israeloff Trattner & Co., is a past president of the NYSSCPA and a past chairman of the AICPA.




















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