Arthur Andersen and the capital punishment debate

Thomas T. Amlie (SUNY Institute of Technology Utica/Rome, Department of Accounting, School of Management, Marcy, New York, USA)
Mark C. Mitschow (SUNY College at Geneseo, School of Business, Geneseo, New York, USA)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Publication date: 1 December 2004


The paper may provide policy makers with another tool for analyzing the impact of disciplinary actions against public accounting firms. It analyzes the termination of US public accounting firm Arthur Andersen using arguments developed in the capital punishment debate and develops a paradigm for examining future actions against public accounting firms. The authors reviewed major arguments for and against capital punishment and assessed their usefulness as a tool in examining the Andersen case. A paradigm was then developed to assess the propriety of the action against Andersen and possible future cases. Most arguments regarding capital punishment were applicable to the Andersen case, allowing the authors to develop a template for assessing future disciplinary actions against public accounting firms. The “death penalty”, as applied to Arthur Andersen, was justified. While corporations are “legal persons”, they are obviously not human. This weakens (or renders moot) some of the most powerful arguments against capital punishment. Furthermore, this paradigm may be less useful in societies that prohibit capital punishment. Provides a unique way of examining the impact of disciplinary action against public accounting firms.



Amlie, T. and Mitschow, M. (2004), "Arthur Andersen and the capital punishment debate", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 19 No. 9, pp. 1160-1172.

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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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