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Website of the month: Accountability Central.

Accountability Central, at www.accountability-central.com, is a collection of resources that address corporate governance, globalization, ethics, and other related topics. Sponsored by the Governance & Accountability Institute Inc., whose mission is to provide education and guidance to leaders to do the right thing for the right reasons, the website is presented as a central resource for many free materials, such as news, research papers, external links, and commentary, as well as customized services and subscription-based publications.

Accountability Central is organized around three major categories: environmental and energy issues, social issues and concerns, and corporate governance. Each category houses specific topics, or channels, that are detailed in the main menu and consistently appear on the left side of the home and main pages. The center of the homepage presents a rather busy selection of featured resources. The main pages for each topic, however, are easier to navigate; the content is categorized under news and updates, research and insights, and commentary and opinion. Users can access relevant links in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Another menu bar, running along the top of every webpage, provides links to special features that include commentaries, blogs, and a navigational dashboard.

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The website brings together resources from a large number of original sources that would be very difficult for an individual user to gather. Current events, news, articles, and reports are collected from a variety of Internet sources, such as USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Journal of Accountancy, as well as international sources and Governance & Accountability Institute staff. Although frequent overlap between the content and topic groupings can be overwhelming, it does increase the likelihood of locating desired materials. The resources are updated daily, and several years of archives are also accessible.

Because one of the Governance & Accountability institute's missions is educational, many topic pages provide brief background information on the subject at hand. For example, the accounting/disclosure/financial reporting webpages provide an interesting introduction to the history of accounting and accountability. The shareholder activism section includes an introduction that discusses its origins; the concept of corporate ownership; current actors, such as faith-based investors; and comments on the topic from several sources, including MarketWatch and CNN Money.

Corporate Governance

The corporate governance section, as a whole, addresses policies and practices of corporate boards and executives, as well as their relationships with stakeholders. The corporate governance section includes subcategories for general corporate governance; government/political governance; accounting, disclosure, and financial reporting; shareholder activism; capital markets; enterprise risk management; and investor relations. Under the corporate governance subsection, a brief overview, "News and Updates on Corporate Governance," discusses historical information, the current state of corporate governance, burning issues, and commentaries from a variety of sources.

Recent corporate governance resources, under the research and insights subcategory, include an article from the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch that addressed the release of an Ernst & Young LLP study that reported strengthened corporate governance and improved audit quality in the 10 years following the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). A Journal of Accountancy article summarized the impact of SOX section 404 on the internal control environment, and a USA Today article followed up on security failures at LinkedIn and eHarmony; the article recommended updating passwords, along with several specific password guidelines.

The capital markets section features a New York Times article summarizing a Financial Stability Oversight Council report that identifies several threats to the United States' market stability and calls for money market fund reforms, greater consumer protection standards, and regulation of high-speed trading. A summary of a U.S. Treasury Department survey of foreign portfolio holding of U.S. securities, located under the research and insights category, includes tables of holdings by type of security and country, along with links to the original report. The capital markets connection center, found in the navigation box in the upper right-hand corner, provides readers with a useful collection of links to membership organizations, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and Financial Executives International, as well as links to major stock and mercantile exchanges.

The enterprise risk management section features articles that cover a wide range of topics, including natural disasters, financial disasters, and hydraulic fracturing. Under the commentary and opinion subcategory, an interesting article on supply chain sustainability summarized lessons from the past--for example, companies being held accountable for suppliers' labor practices must look beyond the first tier of vendors. The author recommends that supply chain sustainability should be aligned with an organization's goals and objectives. A Washington Post article examined the recent debates concerning outsourcing, the reasons behind the trends, and the benefits and detriments. The relevant web links tab, located in the upper right-hand corner, offers a collection of sites for business continuity and disaster recovery planning, emergency management, family disaster planning, and hurricane preparedness.

Articles featured in the investor relations section encompass the specific corporate function of that name along with the relationship between the corporation and key stakeholders. Located under the news and updates subcategory, the Fox Business News article, "What to Do with Proxies that You Get in the Mail," explained what proxy statements are, how shareholders can vote or submit proxy ballots, how shareholders can submit their own initiatives, and why shareholder participation matters. "Climate Spectator: Separating Good Companies from Bad," from Business Spectator, discussed evidence that environmental, social, and governance indicators positively correlate with stock price and return on equity. Several articles make connections between sustainability and profits, performance, and growth as well.

Social Issues and Concerns

The ethics subcategory, under the social issues and concerns section, offers a collection of current events items; articles; and reports on business ethics, fraud, tax evasion, and other similar topics. Several articles--such as those from AccountingWeb, Law.com, and MarketWatch--summarize the findings of a joint AICPA and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants study on global business ethics. The AccountingWeb piece even adds actual accounting firm ethical policies. In the research and insights subcategory, a summary of the most recent Ethics Resource Center's biannual survey is available and reports some disturbing findings, such as an increased percentage of employees suffering negative consequences from reporting violations and an increased percentage of companies with weak ethics cultures. The list of relevant web links is extensive and covers a variety of institutions, organizations, and publications.

The globalization section focuses on world trade issues and current events, with China and Europe receiving significant coverage. A summary of a World Bank study, from the Toronto Globe and Mail, under the research and insights subcategory, reports that more than half of all global growth is expected to come from six emerging economies by the year 2025: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and South Korea. Furthermore, the relevant web links contain a small, but useful, selection that includes the U.S. Department of Commerce, Federal Reserve banks, United Nations resources, and China.org.

Special Features

The featured commentators and bloggers sections of the website, accessed from the top menu bar, collect and organize columns authored by nearly two dozen commentators, making it easier for users to follow a particular author. The special sections drop-down menu, also located along the top bar, provides access to the Accountability Matters blog and the Sustainability HQ website. Hot topics are news articles and commentaries flagged as emerging, controversial, and thought provoking on areas such as executive compensation, global warming, and healthcare.

Another useful feature in the special sections tab is the news and information dashboard. It provides links to groupings of website news and articles beyond the main menu categories, as well as connections to external news media websites. The dashboard also offers links to outside organizations, such as the Brookings Institution, found under the think tanks subcategory, and U.S. government agency the news pages, including the Department of the Treasury and the SEC.

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, is a professor of accounting at St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, N.Y.
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Title Annotation:what to bookmark
Author:Anders, Susan B.
Publication:The CPA Journal
Article Type:Website overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
Words:1320
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