Finance should be a servant, but never a master. So when accountants and auditors become the story because of systemic failures and corporate malfeasance you know something has gone badly wrong. As big accountancy firms are increasingly embroiled in corporate scandals, how do we clearly define their role so they actually serve society instead of continually maximising profit for private and personal gain?
How much credence can shareholders of public companies safely attach to financial statements that carry a “true and fair” imprimatur from their auditors? Big-4 firms hold the lion’s share of public company audit appointments, yet they are regularly found to have issued “clean” reports on accounts that grossly misrepresent the results and financial position of client companies, causing severe damage to shareholders’ interests.
Long before the Paradise Papers, or the Panama Papers, the Enron scandal, Savings and Loan crisis, WorldCom, and the Global Financial Crisis, governments in the US, UK and Australia were colluding with the world’s biggest banks and their clients using aggressions dynamics not to defeat but to suborn the controls of the supposedly independent professionals: The accountants.