Cook the books: third of accountants know of senior staff filing misleading accounts

Half of accountants surveyed being pressured to turn a blind eye

More than one third of accountants know of a senior staff member deliberately going along with misleading accounts.

Half of the accountants surveyed by job board CareersinAudit.com have either been pressured by a senior manager or partner to turn a blind eye to unethical and inaccurate reporting.

What is eyepopping is how widespread the practice is.

Nearly a quarter of accountants (22 per cent) believe that more than 25 per cent of the profession have helped clients create a set of deliberately misleading accounts.

Accountants who wished to remain anonymous supplied the jobs board with a litany of misdemeanours.

One said: “I pointed out serious accounting/legal violation by a senior executive and was penalised for doing it”, while another said he knew of misleading reports being presented to the board. Another accountant said that a senior manager was advised how to wriggle out of paying tax.

Accountants surveyed were resolute about wanting to stay within the law. More than half (51 per cent) said that anybody who signs off a deliberately misleading set of financial statements should be banned from the profession. Nearly one fifth said miscreants should be fired from their job and 10 per cent said that prison should be punishment.

Yet two thirds (65 per cent) of accountants believe that businesses do not do enough to protect whistle blowers. They are afraid of being pushed out of companies if they do report misconduct.

Simon Wright, managing director of CareersinAudit.com, said: “There is to some degree an underlying concern about the repercussions for towing the ethical line; whether this is about losing their job, losing a client for speaking up, a risk in promotion or damaging their career reputation.

“More has to be done, not only at the company but industry level to create a code of practices which encourages the right working culture to report fairly and without fear.”