Ethical Attitudes of Accounting Practitioners: Are Rank and Ethical Attitudes Related?

Journal of Business Ethics 91 (2):183-194 (2010)
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Abstract

We address a previous finding in the business ethics literature in which accounting professionals in higher rank levels, i.e., “manager” or “partner” of auditing firms, appear to have lower moral reasoning ability than their junior counterparts. Prior investigations have relied upon a similar methodology for estimating ethical beliefs, namely testing “moral reasoning ability” using either the Moral Judgment Interview or Defining Issues Test. In the present study, we use a multiple vignettes approach to test for the existence of the inverse rank-ethical beliefs effect. With only 2 of the 30 vignettes resulting in both managers and partners being more accepting of the ethically charged behaviors, the results presented here using this alternative methodology are generally not supportive of the inverse rank-ethical beliefs phenomenon. We also use a multivariate analysis in order to control for demographic characteristics. Our results suggest that the most robust predictor of ethical attitudes among accounting practitioners is age, not rank within a firm.

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