I read with interest Cynthia Fornelli's letter in Accounting Today ("No lack of ethics at big firms," July 7-20, 2008, page 6).
There are two worlds in the accountancy profession. There are big firms and independent firms. The ethics practiced in the two are indeed quite different.
The real issue is that 48,000 firms practice accountancy in one way and fewer than 20 practice another. The profession has dropped the ball. Between the 1920s and the 1940s, there wasn't that big a difference. But beginning about 1960 the spread began to really appear. By 1980 or so, there was one whale of a difference. But there was a benefit to the big firms to have the numbers of local firms when they fought legislative battles, so they maintained their "affiliation" (even though they dropped "CPA" from their letterheads).
The small firms were never well-enough organized to make the break. Reality is, there is no similarity and precious little common ground among the two types of firms. Even an audit is, well, not an audit when it's General Motors versus the local car dealer. Making the same principles and standards apply is more than an impossible task. It's a joke.
You should really focus on what's true.
Big firms have some wonderful people. They're bright, extremely skilled and work harder than any other profession, providing truly superior service to their clients. They're innovative and add a lot to the party. They're impeccably honest but they have had a serious ongoing problem with the code of ethics when it got in the way of their making money.
In the meantime, I find an emotional rant about how "ethical" the big firms are is simply silly.
Charles B. Larson, CPA
St Joseph, Mo.
Who is Cindy Fornelli kidding?
Asking the audit committee members to review the outside auditors' work is like asking someone to review their own performance. Do you think the audit committee members at Enron were ever unhappy with Arthur Andersen's work?
The Big Four could not recognize ethics if it were a dog and bit them on the ass.
Gordon L. Cannoles, CPA/PFS
Dalworthington Gardens, Texas
Kudos to Aquila
What a great article by August Aquila: "Survival techniques for small firms" (June 16-July 6, 2008, page 23). Two things really jumped out to me:
1. Don't procrastinate, because the problems facing many firms are huge.
2. Be innovative. Easier said than done, for sure, but there is a fine example given of the Kellogg & Andelson firm in California.
What can you do to be innovative? Here are a few suggestions:
* Be an active reader of trade publications such as Accounting Today, CPA Practice Management Forum and your state society magazine or newspaper. These sources are full of ideas and examples of what other firms have done.
* If you are not a member of one of the accounting associations, research them and join one. You can share directly in what other firms are doing in other parts of the country.
The real culprit? Not having these issues at the top of the to-do list.
Robert Fligel, CPA
RF Resources LLC
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