April 1999 Issue


By Charles H. Calhoun, Mary Ellen Oliverio, and Philip Wolitzer

John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999, 257 pp., $85, cloth

Reviewed by Charles H. Zwicker, CPA

Newspapers these days are full of accounts of lapses in integrity and ethics in the business world. Even the most prestigious accounting firms, in many instances, have strayed from their century-old code of professional conduct, although the profession manages to maintain its public aura of responsibility.

This excellent volume by three knowledgeable practitioners arrives at an opportune time and should be studied by all those interested in the validity of financial statements and the good repute of public and private enterprises.

The authors examine the worrisome situation that exists today. They note the decline in industry's perceived obligation to the public, with codes of ethics observed in the breech or not at all. The defects
are pointed out and remedies prescribed.

On the positive side, the book provides an illustration of a code of ethics from an established corporation that meets the criteria of excellence. The authors describe how to establish such a code, what it should contain in today's environment, and how it should be effected for the good of the organization. Procedures illustrate how to accomplish this despite litigation lurking in every direction. The authors explain the use of hotlines through which customers, employees, and others may report to management particular violations and diverse concerns, together with an admonition that prompt attention be given by responsible officials.

While the codes are publicized to the benefit of the organization, the public may be suspicious of what it perceives as a public relations ploy. The authors suggest a method of securing general acceptance and furthering esteem for the company's products and its reputation for integrity as a producer, employer, purchaser, seller, environmentalist, and concerned member of the community.

The authors suggest that, to provide assurance of validity, the codes should be examined by independent accountants, thus establishing trust for the organization and creating value-added services for the accounting profession.

The appendix includes the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct, the Institute of Management's Standard of Ethical Conduct, the Institute of Internal Auditors' Code of Ethics, codes of conduct from two major corporations, and a model code suggested by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

With the ethical climate being what it is, this volume should be read by every accounting professional and corporate executive who values the reputation and responsibility of corporate reports. *

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