As one does in trying times, I spent the weekend perusing some literature in a bid to make sense of the hysteria that has catapulted the auditing profession into the court of public opinion recently. Every day, there’s a new headline suggesting that KPMG’s current woes are the inevitable result of a corrupted system that has failed to protect the public. It’s a misguided perception — but that doesn’t mean our profession doesn’t have issues to address. In The Balanced Company: A Theory of Corporate Integrity, ethics experts Muel Kaptein and Johan Wempe write: "The attention corporations are paying to ethics is driven by more than idealism and a sense of duty: it is often also motivated by enlightened self-interest." (It’s somewhat ironic that Kaptein and Wempe once worked at KPMG.) "Sound corporate ethics can improve a corporation’s public image, empower stakeholders and boost profits. It is possible to conceive of situations where ethical decisions come at a cost of profits." At the...

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