The practices of accountants and auditors who have violated the trust


The research paper of Pflugrath, Martinov-Bennie & Chen (2007) aims to analyze the impact of organizational codes of ethics on the accountants' and auditors' judgments and professional decision making skills. The research which was conducted on a sample of 112 professional accountants and auditing students, indicates that the codes of ethics positively influence the judgments of professional accountants but do not affect the students' judgments. On the other hand, the paper by Shafer, Morrid & Ketchand (2001) is based on the research that was carried out with professional auditors regarding the impact of their personal values on their ethical judgments and behavioral intentions. The study concludes that personal values do not affect the ethical considerations and judgments of professional auditors. However, the knowledge and the understanding of moral intensity exert an impact on the judgment ability of the professional accountants.

Pfflugrath, Martinov-Bennie & Chen (2007) conducted the study basing their discussion on the new International Standard on Quality Controls 1's (ISQC1) requirements for all organizations and accounting firms to implement policies and regulations that support the ethical and technical independence of the professional accountants. According to the authors "the presence of a code of ethics appears to have a significant influence on the quality audit judgments of professional accountants'' (Pfflugrath, Martinov-Bennie & Chen, 2007). In terms of aggressive client preferences, the code of ethics may help in better judgment by the professional auditors and accountants. In contrast Shafer, Morrid & Ketchand (2001) suggest that in case of clients' pressure on aggressive financial reporting, "auditors' ethical behavior is influenced by economic or utilitarian considerations". Shafer, (2001) suggest that strong organizational norms should result in the standardization of behaviors. In this regard, the results of Pflugrath et. al. (2007) may be judged as fairly consistent: organizational codes of ethics may help in ethical decision making of employees and professionals in auditing and accounting fields. Unitary codes of ethics may help in standardization for the accounting and auditing professionals and may result in similar findings for the similar scenarios or situations that prevail in different companies or businesses.

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Furthermore, Pflugrath et al (2007) suggest that code of ethics (rules and guidelines designed to outline acceptable behaviors in an organisation) has a significantly positive impact on the quality of judgment made by professional auditors and accountants in an organisation. Adversely, Shafer et al (2001) assert that personal value preferences (a belief that a personal mode of conduct is preferable to an opposite mode of conduct) does not influence or have any significant effect on an accountant's or auditor's perception of a situation

Pflugrath et. al. (2007) give arguments which are more persuasive and compatible with the existing literature. The research methodology of both papers provides reasonable assurance of the validity of their judgments. However, the analysis Shafer et. al., (2001) suffers from the homogeneity of the values of the sample that was used for the research. The results, hence, may not be reliable for the diversified population of today's business environment where people with different personal values and social norms are working together. For such a diversified population in the business environment we may rely on the results of Pflugrath et. al, according to which codes of ethics may end up affecting the professional judgment in a positive manner. Moreover, the respondents in the study of Shafer et. al had not graduated. Also, most of the respondents had an experience of almost 20 years in public accounting. People with similar personal values, as stated by the Shafer's study, may choose similar fields. Thus, the results produced are biased and rely upon a majority of people with similar values.

Both journals provide a wide number of studies to support their arguments. The supporting details of every argument belong to reliable sources and articles. The arguments in Shafer et. al.'s survey, however, provide insight into the impact of personal values in different fields. The conclusion is not as straightforward as in the research of Pflugrath et. al. The study of Shafer et. al. (2001) leaves enough space for the reader to judge whether the personal values or organizational norms affect ethical judgments and the decision making of accountants and auditors. On the other hand , Pflugrath et. al. provide much information on the argument and in support of auditors and accountants. Moreover, unlike the study of Shafer et. al., Pflugrath et. al include much research and literature in support of their conclusion rather than providing the contrary information.

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Concisely, the journals under review provide an in depth analysis of the two factors that may affect ethical judgment and decision making of accountant and auditors. The first factor is the presence or absence of codes of ethics and the second is the impact of personal values and norms in ethical decision making of professionals. The dilemma of lack of ethical decision making which has abandoned the public confidence and trust is dependent on the codes of ethics which are being set and exercised within the business environment and the perceptions of moral intensity which affect the judgments of the auditors. There are other determinants, as discussed by the articles, like the clients' pressure and personal interest which may affect the quality of judgments and decision making in the fields of accounting and auditing but it would be shortsighted to ignore the 2 factors that are being discussed. Ethical judgment largely depends on the exercise of codes of ethics which provide autonomy to the auditors and accountants to work in the best interest of the business and not at the discretion of the client's orders. Moreover, such codes of ethics, if exercised appropriately, may affect the values of auditors and accountants leading to the better and more independent from financial considerations business judgments.