People believe accountants and certified public accountants (CPAs) a lot. Our jobs are to serve our businesses, our clients, and everyone else.

People believe accountants and certified public accountants (CPAs) a lot. Our jobs are to serve our businesses, our clients, and everyone else.

Lewis Sharpstone says in the above AICPA Podcast, “Accounting is a high calling. It is our self-regulation and ethical standards, especially in this area of integrity and objectivity, that is one of the cornerstones that allow us to serve the public.”  

Business Scenario:

You are working as the controller of a small clothing manufacturing business in the Midwest, DownHome Outerwear, Inc.  DownHome uses a FIFO inventory valuation system.  On Dec 31, 2021, ending inventories were determined to be $5.3 million based on physical counts.  On Jan 20,2022 you discover an error was made in the physical counts and the actual ending inventory balance should be $4.6 million. 

DownHome’s major investors require audited financial statements each year.  As of Jan 16, the financial statements have been audited by a local CPA firm which did not discover the error after reviewing the financial statements.  They will be issuing an unqualified opinion on Jan 26 on the original financial results.  Financial Statements have not been issued as of Jan 20 when the error was discovered.

Your bonus and several key management employee bonus pools are tied to profit sharing plans based on the business results and you are unsure how this error will impact those results.

What do you do?  Where do you go for guidance?

Within a maximum 3-4 page paper, describe your final decision based on the “Analytical Model for Ethical Decision Making” listed above. Your analysis should include a definition of ethics, how it impacts professionalism in the Accounting Field, and how a violation of ethics impacts business society from an financial/fiduciary perspective.  Include the US GAAP and Code of Professional Conduct requirements which apply to this situation.  What are the steps that you are required to take?  What happens if you do not follow the guidance in the Codes? (Include professional, business, personal, and business societal impacts in your analysis).

Ethical Model for Decision Making (Spiceland, Intermediate Accounting Text 10e).

1) Determine the facts of the situation.  This involves determining who, what, where, when, and how.

2) Identify the ethical issues and the stakeholders.  Stakeholders might include shareholders, creditors, management, employees and the community. 

3) Identify the values related to the situation, For example, in some situation’s confidentiality might be an important value that might conflict with the right to know.

4) Specify alternative courses of action.

5) Evaluate the courses of action specified in step 4 in terms of their consistency with the values listed in step 3.  This step may or may not lead you to your recommended course of action.

6) Identify the possible consequences of each course of action.

7) Make your decision and take any indicated course of action.

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