The American Accounting Association has retracted 25 articles written or co-authored by a former accounting professor who was forced to resign after his university uncovered a “pattern of misconduct.”
The articles, from Dr. James E. Hunton, formerly of Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., were written between 1996 and 2013. The retractions followed on the heels of a report by Bentley University ethics officer Judith A. Malone, who originally investigated allegations that Hunton engaged in research misconduct and fabrication of data in connection with two papers that he published while a faculty member at the Bentley: “A Field Experiment Comparing the Outcomes of Three Fraud Brainstorming Procedures: Nominal Group, Round Robin, and Open Discussion,” which appeared in The Accounting Review, and “The Relationship between Perceived Tone at the Top and Earnings Quality,” which appeared in Contemporary Accounting Research, and concerns were later raised about other articles.
“Because of concerns regarding Fraud Brainstorming that the editors at The Accounting Review had been discussing with Dr. Hunton since May 2012, the editors withdrew that paper in November 2012,” she wrote. “Bentley received the allegation of research misconduct from the confidential reporter later that month. The confidential reporter also raised questions about ten other articles that Dr. Hunton published or provided data for while he was at Bentley, which, the reporter alleged, raised similar questions of research integrity.”
Among the problems were the data and sources that Hunton cited for his research. “The investigation revealed many copies of summary spreadsheets—the kind of summary information that Dr. Hunton had shared with his co-authors—but nothing that could reasonably be described as original data,” Malone wrote. “There were no copies of completed questionnaires or other raw data that one might have expected to find.
“With respect to the sources of the data, the investigators mined his files for the identity of any major accounting firm that might reasonably have supplied the data reported in Fraud Brainstorming, and any training or consulting firm that might reasonably have supplied the data reported in Tone at the Top,” she added. “Each of the accounting firms that, based on the review, might have partnered with Dr. Hunton on the Fraud Brainstorming study was contacted and each willingly conducted an internal review to answer our inquiries. None was able to find any evidence that it had a research relationship with Dr. Hunton or any evidence that it had been the source of the data. No training or consulting firms (the supposed sources of the data in the Tone at the Top paper) were contacted because none could be identified in Dr. Hunton’s files.”
In an announcement last week, the American Accounting Association said it had retracted 25 articles and a section of another article based on the “pattern of misconduct identified in the investigation summary.”
“Consistent with the findings in the Bentley University investigation summary, the Association review team found no evidence that Dr. Hunton’s co-authors were aware of or complicit in Dr. Hunton’s actions,” said the AAA.
According to the Washington Post, Hunton was once considered a renowned scholar and used to be ranked as one of the top accounting researchers in the U.S. on the ethics and responsibility of corporate auditing.
The retractions were originally reported by the blog Retraction Watch, which noted that Hunton had a total of 31 retractions of his academic articles. Hunton resigned from Bentley in 2012 after the first two retractions were issued. Further retractions followed last December and then last week in the AAA’s announcement.
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