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Pathways to accountant fraud: Australian evidence and analysis

Paul Andon (UNSW Business School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Clinton Free (UNSW Business School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Benjamin Scard (Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Accounting Research Journal

ISSN: 1030-9616

Article publication date: 6 July 2015

12620

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore pathways to fraud perpetrated in accounting-related roles, focusing both on situationally driven attitudes and contextual elements.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on an anomie-based criminological taxonomy developed by Waring et al. (1995) and Weisburd and Waring (2001), which highlights individual attitudes and situational elements and their connection to illegitimate behaviour, the authors perform a qualitative content analysis of available media and court-reported information on a hand-collected database of 192 accountant frauds in Australia during the period 2001-2011.

Findings

The analysis highlights four distinct pathways to accountant fraud – crisis responders, opportunity takers, opportunity seekers and deviance seekers – and the relative distribution of identified cases among these pathways. It also identifies the prevalence of gambling, female offenders, small and medium enterprises as victims, as factors in fraud, as well as the relatively unsophisticated methods in much accountant fraud. In addition, it establishes the importance of situational attitude in moderating inherent character as it relates to fraudulent behaviour and the variable importance of the fraud triangle elements across the pathways to accountant fraud.

Originality/value

This paper provides direct evidence on the nature and pathways to accountant fraud, thus improving understanding of a significant category of occupational fraud. The evidence challenges conventional characterisations of accountant fraud offenders in prior research.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand Research Grant scheme, the assistance of Brett Warfield with data collection, and the participants of the Third National Forensic Accounting Teaching and Research Symposium for their helpful comments.

Citation

Andon, P., Free, C. and Scard, B. (2015), "Pathways to accountant fraud: Australian evidence and analysis", Accounting Research Journal, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 10-44. https://doi.org/10.1108/ARJ-06-2014-0058

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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