An examination of the virtues of accounting exemplars

Authored by: Patrick T. Kelly , Timothy J. Louwers , John M. Thornton

The Routledge Handbook of Accounting Ethics

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138591967
eBook ISBN: 9780429490224
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, we describe the work of accountants and other individuals who have been proactive in promoting financial statement transparency and accountability, leading to decreased fraud in a variety of settings. Gentile’s (2009) seminal work on giving voice to values is predicated on the idea that those who have gone before us by acting on their values encourage and empower others to do the same. Among the accounting exemplars we profile is Frank Wilson, considered by many to be the first forensic accountant, who was instrumental in bringing Chicago mobster Al Capone and Lindbergh baby murderer Bruno Hauptmann to justice in the 1930s. Industry exemplars profiled include WorldCom’s Cynthia Cooper and AIG’s Joseph St. Denis, who exhibited great courage in the performance of their responsibilities. In the education profession, Albert Meyer exposed a massive fraud at the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy that targeted nonprofit educational institutions and museums, and Abraham Briloff was an outspoken critic of “CRAP” (cleverly rigged accounting ploys) that differed from GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) associated with corporate financial statements. Lastly, we include Arthur Levitt, Jr., the longest-serving Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman, who made positive contributions to accounting regulation that led to increased transparency and reduced fraud in corporate financial statements. Following are their stories and the virtues of competency and character they exhibited.

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