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A Post-SOX History of U.S. Public Accountancy. The History of Deprofessionalization in U.S. Public Accountancy: Part III

Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting

ISBN: 978-1-78560-974-9, eISBN: 978-1-78560-973-2

ISSN: 1574-0765

Publication date: 27 October 2016


This article is the third in a trilogy of articles that discuss the professionalism (or deprofessionalism) of the accounting profession. The first examines the slow uphill climb of accounting and auditing practice to the level of being recognized as a highly trusted profession. The second examines the stagnation in professionalism leading to deprofessionalization of the accounting profession. This third article looks at the resulting directionless efforts of accounting and auditing firms in the wake of major deprofessionalization events. The interest in this study is the time period immediately following the passage of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 which is described in this paper as the “Post-SOX” history of public accountancy in the United States. During this time period, nearly equally mixed activities of professionalism and deprofessionalism have resulted in a status quo with directionless efforts doing little if anything to reverse decline in professionalism. Public accountants continued to experience conflict with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over independence rules. The large Certified Public Accountant firms generated controversies and squabbles concerning “auditing and consulting,” while at the same time they faced questions regarding the marketing and selling of aggressive tax shelters. In addition, most of the self-regulating aspects of the profession declined dramatically following passage of SOX. While initially both tax fees and audit fees of CPA firms increased during this time period, concerns are again arising as the large CPA firms more recently have renewed the emphasis on advisory services. While revenues have both increased and changed in composition during the post-SOX era, public opinion has maintained a status quo. The post-SOX era has also seen a weakening in the Code of Conduct, providing more liberties for CPAs to maximize self-interest. Meanwhile, the PCAOB faced constitutional challenges, while at the same time the AICPA experienced strong divisions in its membership. To provide some sense to these directionless efforts, this study, similar to the prior two articles in this trilogy, concludes with a summary analysis based on the nine SOCRECELIST criteria, and the question whether public accountants have learned their history lesson.




The authors gratefully acknowledge the quality feedback, experience, commitment, and other significant contributions made by the anonymous reviewers, the editor, and in particular, Vicky Arnold and Steve Sutton in seeing this paper through to publication. The support provided was crucial to the completion of this research.


Lampe, J.C., Garcia, A. and Tassin, K.L. (2016), "A Post-SOX History of U.S. Public Accountancy. The History of Deprofessionalization in U.S. Public Accountancy: Part III", Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting (Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting, Vol. 20), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-29.



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