Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 567–583 | Cite as

Disciplinary Actions by State Professional Licensing Boards: Are They Fair?

  • Cynthia L. KromEmail author
Original Paper


This study examines 14,900 disciplinary actions by the professional licensing boards for attorneys, CPAs, and physicians in four states from 2008 through 2014. It was found that both attorneys and physicians are disciplined at a rate at least seven times that of CPAs. While the majority of disciplinary actions are for misconduct directly related to the professional practice, nearly 14% of sanctions were the result of “social crimes” such as failure to pay child support or student loans, driving under the influence, and general unprofessional conduct. The severity of licensure sanctions varied with the cause for discipline, but was inconsistent both within and between jurisdictions. These results raise important questions about the purpose and performance of state licensing boards and possible reasons for inequitable treatment. Additionally, the widespread and severe sanctions for conduct not related to the professional practice suggest that moral turpitude clauses may violate both equal protection and prohibitions on excessive fines.


Professional licensure Attorney CPA physician discipline Moral turpitude 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author, Cynthia Krom, declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights Statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Franklin & Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA

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