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'Accountants have no moral compass'

Unethical practices are worryingly rife in the accountancy profession, despite corporate scandals such as WorldCom and Enron and concerted efforts to tighten professional standards.

February 2016

Latest research conducted by CareersinAudit recently revealed nearly half of accountants (48%) had either been pressurised (or knew someone that had) by a manger or partner to ignore an adjustment that should have been made to a set of accounts.
In addition, 40% were aware of a senior colleague who deliberately chose a commercial result for the company or client even though the decision could be unethical. The majority of those surveyed believe that their managers do not appear to be able to act independently from these commercial pressures.
A significant number of accountants believe those in the profession are helping clients create a set of accounts that are deliberately misleading, but are worried about coming forward because whistleblowers are not protected. Worryingly, three- quarters of accountants said that if an employee reported the conduct of a colleague their organisation wouldn’t support the whistleblower against victimisation or dismissal.
Some 54% of respondents believe their boss should be doing more to promote awareness of ethical standards.
CareerinAudit’s Simon Wright said that simply identifying and articulating ethics is not enough. He went on: “There is a school of thought that accountants tend to focus on the technical issues and lack ethical sensitivity to recognise ethical dilemmas involved with their work, which could ultimately lead to making wrong decisions.
“Perhaps accountants could be trained or guided to identify the moral dimension of seemingly technical issues.”

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