Title: In whose interest? A critical examination of public interest appeals made by the public accounting profession in the USA

Authors: Steven Thornburg; Robin W. Roberts

Addresses: Department of Accounting, College of Business, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA ' Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816, USA

Abstract: This paper presents a critical analysis of public interest arguments employed by the USA public accounting profession. We build on prior research that deals with the public accounting profession's public interest commitments, specifically Willmott (1990), Parker (1994), Robson et al. (1994), Roberts and Dwyer (1998), and Cooper and Robson (2006), by focusing more specifically on an analysis of the logic, authority, and emotional appeals of the profession's rhetoric. In addition, we engage more extensively with functionalist arguments concerning market control over auditor independence and quality. Relying principally on an Aristotelian (Aristotle, Trans. 1954) definition of rhetoric and Toulmin's (1969) model of argument, we evaluate the logic, authority and emotional appeal of these claims and present arguments and evidence in rebuttal. Our analysis indicates that, although, public interest claims are not totally void of merit, without consistent ethical performance by accounting professionals, their public interest rhetoric rings hollow, damaging the reputation of the profession as a whole and laying the foundation for further regulatory restrictions.

Keywords: public accounting profession; public interest appeals; professional regulation; critical analysis; USA; United States; market control; auditor independence; auditor quality; public interest claims; ethics; ethical performance; auditing.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCA.2013.053356

International Journal of Critical Accounting, 2013 Vol.5 No.1, pp.81 - 95

Published online: 28 Nov 2013 *

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