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Following Our Ethical Compass Forward

Louis Grumet

Now that the new accountancy reform law has gone into effect in New York State, it would be easy to wipe our hands and say, “Our work is done here.” Our work is not done—not when the new law may nearly double the number of CPAs (currently 35,000) who are required to register with the state.

No, our work here at the NYSSCPA has only just begun, and with the expansion of the definition of public accountancy to include CPAs in industry, government, nonprofits, and academia, one of the next key goals of the Society must be to make sure its Code of Professional Conduct reflects the changing nature of the profession.

The question is whether the code is sufficient to meet the regulations and requirements of the new law. I'm happy to report that Society President David J. Moynihan has appointed a task force, headed by former NYSSCPA President Brian Caswell, to determine the answer. I'm also pleased to report that the state has appointed Rona Cherno, a former chair of the Society's Ethics Committee, to head a task force of the State Board for Public Accountancy to look into the impact of the new law on the existing Rules of the Board of Regents and on the state's professional regulations.

One of the next key goals of the Society must be to make sure its Code of Professional Conduct reflects the changing nature of the profession.

The code has always been an important element of the Society. It is part of our bylaws, and it must be upheld by all of our members. The Code of Professional Conduct distinguishes accounting as a profession rather than a trade. It holds our members to a higher standard and guides them in putting the public interest before their own. It is the bible by which our members perform their ethical and professional responsibilities.

Quality Matters

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote about ethics, “We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.” This ties in quite nicely with the theme of Moynihan's presidency, which began on June 1: “Quality Matters.” Quality should be something we all strive to achieve—a continuing process that leads to both sustained success for CPAs and public satisfaction with the services CPAs provide. His theme and the Code of Professional Conduct go hand in hand. Adherence to the code helps the profession to shape, define, and achieve quality.

I believe this is not only a crucial time for the profession in New York State, but also an exciting time. In many respects, the profession has become more complex, as have the needs of the users of CPAs' services. The new law acknowledges the reality of the current environment; the Code of Professional Conduct must also change to do the same.

Preserving the great ethical compass by which CPAs work can only be accomplished by drawing upon the values and beliefs of the very members the code governs. Without the convictions of our members, the code is merely words.

So now let's all roll up our sleeves and get to work. Tell the Society leadership what you think. What needs to be added to the code? What needs to be removed from it? Your participation will help ensure that the Code of Professional Conduct represents an emphatic recommitment by the profession to maintaining the public trust.

Louis Grumet. Publisher. The CPA Journal, Executive Director, NYSSCPA, lgrumet@nysscpa.org.

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