A third of accountants think that as much a half of their peers in the profession may be acting unethically, according to a recent survey.

The survey of over 1,700 accountants from around the world by CareersinAudit.com found that 20 percent of respondents believe that 10-20 percent of their peers have helped clients create a set of accounts that are “deliberately misleading,” while a further 10 percent believe that more than a quarter of their peers have been acting unethically, and 5 percent believe that half of the profession is not acting with integrity over client accounts.

Furthermore, the report added, 49 percent of auditors, analysts, controllers, CFOs, partners and others who replied knew of a specific instance where a colleague had been pressured to ignore an adjustment that should not have been made to a set of accounts.

Worse yet, more than two-thirds of respondents believe that reporting misconduct would leave an employee vulnerable to victimization or dismissal, and 57 percent said that they might be targeted or lose their job if they were to report a client’s wrongdoing.

The solution may lie with industry organizations: while 55 percent of respondents said that those who deliberately sign off on a misleading set of accounts should be banned from the profession, an overwhelming majority of 85 percent said that they would take the prospect of punishment by their industry organization seriously.

Unfortunately, 55 percent believe that those organizations aren’t doing enough to promote awareness of ethical standards.

The full report, including a separate section on respondents’ career plans (highlight: nearly two-thirds are actively searching for a different role), is available here.

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