Time for CPAs to Take a Stand

BY GILBERT F. NOBLE

The letter, “ Sees Profession as Scapegoat ” ( JofA, Dec.02, page 15), suggested Congress should shoulder part of the blame for not providing the SEC with enough resources to actually review public-company reports submitted to it and that management perpetrates the fraud in these companies. It also claimed the integrity of internal auditors, the ones most capable of detecting fraud, was being compromised by management.

To a large extent, I agree with the letter. However, the bottom line is that the people most important to investors are the CPAs. They attest to the fairness of the financial statements, and unless they perform that duty with confidence, competency and integrity, they are not doing their job.

If the current investing environment is corrupt, it is up to the accounting profession to demand the SEC be sufficiently funded so it can perform its intended function of regulating companies. We should insist that management act in an ethical manner. If it doesn’t, Congress should establish severe consequences—civil and criminal—for companies and individuals alike.

If the accounting profession is a scapegoat, it is because it has compromised its core values and has become a weakling. That’s not what I was taught when I began working at an accounting firm in 1973. My partner and manager impressed upon me that the CPA is the final gatekeeper, the hero, if you will, for the investor and that the CPA does not sign off on the financial statements until he or she is satisfied they fairly and accurately represent what happened.

The accounting profession has always been the most respected of all, until recently. It’s time for us to fight back to regain that coveted position.

Gilbert F. Noble, CPA, MBA
Vista, California

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