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Confidentiality decisions: The reasoning process of CPAS in resolving ethical dilemmas

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Abstract

As in other professions, such as law and medicine, accounting has a Code of Professional Conduct (Code) that members are expected to abide by. In today's legalistic society, however, the question of “what is the right thing to do,” is often confused with “what is legal?” In many instances, this may present a conflict between adhering to the Code and doing what some may perceive as proper ethical behavior. This paper examines (1) the reasoning process that CPAs use in resolving ethical issues related to confidentiality; and, (2) whether or not there is a perceived conflict in adhering to the Code and the moral values of some CPAs. The results indicate that although most CPAs sampled resolve ethical issues in accordance with the Code, such decisions do not always reflect their belief of what is morally right. Although the results are useful in understanding how some CPAs reason in making moral choices involving confidentiality decisions, care should be exercised in drawing further inferences from this study due to the limited sample size.

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Barbara L. Adams is a Professor of Accounting and Interim Dean of School of Business at South Carolina State University; a member of the AICPA and AAA. She has published inThe Practical Accountant, The CPA Journal and several other professional and academic journals.

Fannie L. Malone is a Professor of Accounting at Texas Southern University; a member of the AICPA, AAA and Texas Society of CPAs. She has published inNational Public Accountant, The CPA Journal and other professional journals.

Woodrow James is an Entrepreneurial Counselor and Adjunct Professor at South Carolina State University. He has published in The CPA Journal and The Southern Business and Economics Journal.

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Adams, B.L., Malone, F.L. & James, W. Confidentiality decisions: The reasoning process of CPAS in resolving ethical dilemmas. J Bus Ethics 14, 1015–1020 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00872117

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00872117

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