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First center to study accounting ethics opens.

The first center in the United States devoted to the study of ethics in the accounting profession launched its major programs this term at Binghamton University of the State University of New York.

"We're cosponsoring the first research conference in accounting ethics with Ernst & Young, we're developing unique training programs to foster the ethical reasoning skills practitioners need and we've just launched Research on Accounting Ethics, the first ethics journal in accounting," said Lawrence Poneman, director of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Behavior in Accounting (CEBA).

CEBA is needed, asserted Poneman, also an associate professor of accounting and Arthur Andersen Teaching Fellow at Binghamton University, because the "ethical core" of the accounting profession has come under close scrutiny in the wake of the explosion of litigation targeting accounting firms, the recession, the demise of Laventhol and Horwath, the savings and loan crisis and similar developments.

Misleading perceptions. To overcome the often misguided public perception of accountants' culpability in these developments, the profession is modifying and improving its ethical standards for practitioners and CPA firms. The increased emphasis on ethics has resulted in revised codes of professional conduct for auditors and management accountants as well as new internal and external auditing standards.

As businesses become more complex," Poneman said, "the likelihood of ethics, integrity and credibility problems grows. As a result, accounting professionals increasingly are expected to be not only technical experts but ethical experts as well."

But what does being an ethical expert mean in the real world? "It's not just being an ethical person," Poneman explained. "It's also being able to detect ethical problems in client organizations. This applies not only to auditors but also, for instance, to tax practitioners who must evaluate whether the information clients provide is reasonable and sufficient to take a tax position."

Aims supported. The American Institute of CPAs and other professional bodies, along with leading public accounting firms, strongly support efforts to integrate ethics education throughout the accounting curriculum. The profession also has encouraged efforts to develop firm training programs that foster professional staff members' and partners' ethical reasoning skills.

"CEBA is a significant step toward improving the awareness and understanding of ethics rules in the profession," said Raymond L. Dever, chairman of the AICPA professional ethics executive committee and a partner of Coopers & Lybrand in New York City. "It's long overdue," he added.

Coming events. CEBA'S major conference, the Research on Accounting Ethics Symposium, will be held at Binghamton University on June 11-12,1994. In addition, a oneday "Ethics Means Good Business" conference, the first in a series of training programs sponsored by CEBA, will take place at Binghamton on October 29 of this year.

For information on CEBA, its publications, conferences and Programs, contact Larry Poneman, Center for the Study of Ethics and Behavior in Accounting, School of Management, Binghamton University Binghamton, New York 13902-6000; phone: (607) 777-2306; fax: (607) 777-4422.
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Title Annotation:Binghamton University of the State University of New York
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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