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Volume 68, Issue 105, Thursday, February 27, 2003

News

Accountants still getting respect

President of institute says trust remains after Enron

By Matt Dulin
The Daily Cougar

A leader of the American Institute of Certified Accountants told an audience of students and fellow bookkeepers that despite a "tumultuous" year in the world of accounting, including the fall of Enron and the blunders of Arthur Andersen, "ours is still a highly respected profession."


Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the American Institute of Certified Accountants, said the reputation of accountants is still high despite a "tumultuous" year at a lecture Wednesday.

Lorrie Novosad/The Daily Cougar

"While on the macro level of sort of general attitudes towards accountants is somewhat lower, more people still turn to their personal accountants with great trust and admiration," Barry Melancon, the president and CEO of the accounting society, said at the lecture Wednesday in Melcher Hall.

"We are second on the list of most respected professions, just below physicians," he said.

He also commended the C.T. Bauer College of Business for its reporting a 40 percent increase in accounting enrollment over two years, a trend he said is developing nationwide.

"Itis a positive sign," he said.

Melancon explained how four giant accounting firms fulfill nearly 90 percent of the demand for maintaining the financial records of public companies ­ the "few bad apples" of which have cast scrutiny on the profession. However, he added that a collective mass of 350,000 certified public accountants populate the industry in more than 45,000 firms.

"We serve business, industries, the government and education," he said. "We make up a very diverse industry."

Melancon stressed the need for individual accountants to continue living up to the trust they receive.

Without directly mentioning Enron, Melancon said that, "despite what you got from the 24-hour news media whirlwind, the vast majority of accountants are ethical and honest people."

Based on this belief, Melancon argued that intensified pressures from the government and managers overseeing auditors would create an adversarial relationship.

"If the manager comes in and says, ‘Look, this is how it is so find a way to make it work,i thatis going to make relationships suffer," he said.

"There needs to be a cooperative relationship when it comes to auditing," he said, emphasizing later that audits need to be promoted as a "reliable product."

The government, on state and federal levels, will likely continue to address the fallout from the likes of Enron and WorldCom, scandals that were exacerbated by media attention, Melancon said. 

"New laws that try to impose rules meant for large businesses … upon small businesses … are a major concern of ours," he said.

He admitted that he thinks the current financial system has its flaws but that Americais is still "the best system in the world."
 

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