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TEACHING ETHICS


Honesty. The public good. Hot topics in today’s corporate world. In what ways do business schools teach the next generation of accountants the basics of professional integrity?


by Mary Teresa Bitti illustration by Richard Mia T


HIS FALL, Volkswagen posted its first decline in quarterly profits in more than a decade — a direct result of its emissions-cheating scandal. Quebec-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals suf-


fered a double-digit share price free fall aſter a research firm likened its accounting practices to those of Enron. Meanwhile, Starbucks and Fiat were told to pay tens of millions of euros in back taxes aſter the European Union determined the companies made illegal tax deals. And Toshiba disclosed it had overstated profits by more than $1.5 billion over the past seven years. Small wonder that the big themes of morality, the


public good and what it means to act with integrity are hot topics for business schools charged with teaching ethics and professional judgment to the next generation of accountants. The Sauder School of Business is in the process of recruiting an executive director for its new


$7.5-million Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics. So what is the next generation of business leaders


being taught about ethics and professional judgment? Traditionally, at the undergraduate level, they were taught only what is required by the profession’s code of conduct. Newer courses at some schools involve critical/ ethical decision-making frameworks; students learn what not to do using case studies of old and new ethical breaches that highlight what can happen when judg- ment/ethics is lacking; they learn about the pressures they’ll face to stay quiet and do nothing if they want to keep a job, protect a gold-standard brand or maintain a steady revenue flow for the company. Is this enough, particularly when in many cases pro-


fessional judgment and ethics don’t become a key focus until students have entered a master’s degree or a CPA professional education program?


JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 | CPA MAGAZINE | XX JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 | CPA MAGAZINE | 47


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