Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting: Volume 22

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(8 chapters)


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With the increasing prevalence of awards for reporting fraudulent activity, it is important to learn if there are unintended consequences associated with the language offering such awards. Aside from issues regarding submitting unsubstantiated claims of fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Section 922 of the Dodd–Frank Act may inadvertently encourage would-be whistleblowers to delay reporting fraud. Potential whistleblowers may choose to delay reporting due to the consideration of alternatives to external reporting, in a misguided attempt to increase the size of an award, or due to their ethical stance on the issues. Using a three-stage mixed methods (experiment, open-ended interviews, and experiment) approach, this study provides evidence that increased knowledge of statutes involving external whistleblowing may result in reporting delays. The data suggest that despite statements from the SEC forbidding this, managers may choose to delay reporting when under the threshold necessary to receive an award. In such a manner, managers may be allowing the fraud to grow to a necessary perceived level over time. As might be expected, the accountants in this study were more cautious, checking to see if internal reporting worked first. Of particular note, 16 individuals indicated that they would never report, with the motivation apparently driven by fear of job loss and/or retaliation. Lastly, the intention to delay or speed up reporting may be very different based on the perception of ethics involved in the decision.


This study examines how Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), as tax practitioners, interpret and apply the ethical tax standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), using a hypothetical situation. Although the authors attempt to determine if CPAs are more likely to apply the substantial authority standard given certain factors affecting both the CPAs and their tax clients, one-dimensional standard threshold applications leave us to interpret only whether these factors affect the CPAs’ decision to sign a tax return upholding an ambiguous position. The authors find that an aggressive CPA (self-reported) is more inclined to sign the return than an unaggressive CPA. The authors also find that favorable prior dealings with the IRS, and awareness that the IRS is not pursuing a contrary position to a certain tax position, both contribute significantly to the CPA’s willingness to sign the return. While an aggressive tax client also fosters willingness to sign, it appears that tax clients with a refund pending (as opposed to a payment pending) are more apt to trigger a signed return. Study results indicate that ambiguities in the tax code, in concert with mitigating CPA/client factors, may lead to significant discrepancies in interpretation and application.


The study examines sustainability reporting in the government and not-for-profit organizations (GNFPs). Using a descriptive approach, data from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are utilized to identify GNFP’s sustainability reporting trends and incentives over the period from 2001 to 2016. The study shows improvement in the GNFPs’ sustainability reporting over the analysis period, especially by larger organizations. In specific, results show that the number of GNFPs that reported has increased over the analysis period, and the number of social, economic, and environmental issues that are reported on has also increased although fragmentally across different GNFPs. In addition, a few GNFPs integrate their sustainability report with their financial report or obtain external assurance. The study shows that GNFPs’ sustainability reporting is motivated by meeting stakeholders’ needs and achieving business goals. Based on these findings, the study identifies future reporting opportunities for GNFPs to improve informativeness and reliability of sustainability reporting with the ultimate goals of improving transparency and accountability. The data used in this study capture only the GNFPs that reported or registered in the GRI database. Thus, future studies may use other data sets or conduct field and case analyses to obtain further insights into the process of adopting and reporting on sustainability and the roles that different stakeholders play in pursuing such efforts. In addition, the study identifies other future research opportunities. The study contributes to the extant literature on sustainability and social responsibility during periods of changing regulatory framework in less-researched organizations that contributes significantly to society.


A psychological contract (PC) reflects the relationship(s) between employees and their employers and involves a personal interpretation of the obligations and rewards between those parties. Within the auditing profession, while the actual “employers” of auditors are the auditing firms that pay the auditor’s salary, auditors engage in multiple functionally interdependent affiliations in which PCs are developed: auditor to auditor; auditor to the profession and its overseers; and auditors to the company being audited. Unfortunately, another party (society), which should be viewed as a critical part of the audit relationship, is often ignored. This paper poses the idea that the PCs existing between employees within auditing firms and between auditing firms and external parties may be important, but less recognized, underlying causes of the profession’s problems. Current auditor PCs appear to be internally contradictory and out-of-sync with the demands of the investing public and society in general. Suggestions are made about how PCs and relationships may be modified to be more attune to societal needs.


This study focuses on a survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) in public firms in Japan concerning the following six points: the importance of the definition earnings quality; higher quality earnings; the determinants of earnings quality; prevalence, magnitude, and motivation of earnings management; accounting that influences earnings quality; and misrepresenting of earnings. The results are following: first, Japanese CFOs define earnings quality as earnings accurately reflecting economic reality, earnings accurately reflecting the results of operations, and earnings backed by cash flows, earnings sustainability, recurring, and consistent, and earnings reflecting long-term trend importance. Second, Japanese firms consider earnings that reflect consistent reporting choices over time as higher quality. They do not consider that earnings having accruals that are eventually realized as cash flow as higher earnings quality. Third, Japanese CFOs indicate that 30% of earnings quality is impacted by firm characteristics such as firm’s business model, industry, and macroeconomic conditions. Surprisingly, the influence of the board of directors is greater than the impact of their internal controls. Fourth, as for the determinants of earnings quality, CFOs consider that more than 70% of Japanese CFOs do not allow the discretion and that accounting standards limit their ability to report higher earning quality. Fifth, Japanese CFOs consider that higher earnings are influenced by accounting principles such as policies that match expenses with revenues and policies that rely on fair value accounting as much as possible. Sixth, CFOs themselves predict that 50% of Japanese firms use discretions and that they use 20% of earnings per share (EPS). Since there is inside and outside pressure to hit earnings benchmarks, Japanese firms possess the motivation to use earnings to misrepresent economic performance, Japanese managers see a red flag when generally accepted accounting principle’s earnings do not correlate with cash flow from operations.


Currently, there is no formal recommended structure, particularly regarding the client’s ethics, for determining whether an external auditor should continue the business relationship with an audit client. This statement is not meant as a criticism, but rather as the backdrop for proposing that (1) a structure is needed that will assist auditors in evaluating client ethics and (2) such a structure should be institutionalized as an integral part of the continuance decision. Auditors will never be able to guarantee that a client is ethical – even those clients with detailed codes of ethics – but auditors could benefit from a more comprehensive and established process to assess a client’s commitment to ethical behavior. This paper begins by discussing some of the psychological aspects of the audit client continuance decision. Then, reviews existing, professional guidance related to evaluating client ethics. This is followed by the authors’ baseline model and client ethics evaluation checklist designed to assist external auditors in institutionalizing the evaluation of client ethics as part of the continuance decision.


Pages 151-156
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Cover of Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting
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Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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