Interpretations 'f the rules and rulings issued by the AICPA to answer specific questions regarding members' ethical conduct supplement the principles and rules and, in combination, provide guidance to auditors making decisions about ethical dilemmas. The model 'f the decision-making process implied by the combination 'f these Code elements is conservative, however, and may not fully capture all the actual influences on auditors' decisions. This study proposes and tests an alternative model in comparison with the AICPA Code-implied model. (Jeffrey 2004, 553-579)
When faced with an ethical dilemma, an auditor must gather and analyze data from many sources. It is likely that auditors gather and analyze these data in many different ways. One benefit 'f a model 'f auditors' ethical decision making is that the model elements can be identified and tested to better understand how and why the decisions are made. In this section the decision model implied by the AICPA Code is delineated and compared with other existing models. (Martin 2007, 5-14)
Numerous professional accounting, financial, and auditing organizations have separately adopted codes 'f ethics. Most practicing internal, public, and governmental auditors are associated with one or more 'f these organizations and have voluntarily submitted to the respective codes 'f conduct which restrict activities beyond the legal statutes binding the general citizenry. Comparisons 'f these codes indicate that there are significant common components across many 'f them, but also that omissions and potential conflicts exist Unlike most other codes, the AICPA Code provides specific guidance in using both rules and principles to conservatively resolve conflicts. The chairman 'f the committee drafting the restructured Code described the application 'f principles in the following manner:
'guided by the basic principles in the Standards of
Professional Conduct, members must exercise professional
and moral judgments in all their activities.
Within the added principles section 'f the AICPA Code, members are called 10 an "unswerving commitment to honourable behaviour, even at the sacrifice 'f personal advantage" (AICPA 1988).
This description 'f the AICPA Code implies an exceptionally conservative decision model. According to the Code-implied model, an accountant or auditor must be aware 'f the principles, rules, interpretations, and rulings promulgated by the AICPA. When facing an ethical dilemma, an auditor compares the dilemma situation with these elements 'f the Code and makes a decision to avoid any possible violation. To follow this decision model without exception would lead to increasingly conservative decisions in which the gray area calling for auditor judgment is reduced. That is, when an ethical dilemma situation is addressed within the Code each new level 'f guidance adds restrictions which require auditors to follow promulgated rules and principles without deviation. This model is illustrated in figure 1 and discussed below.
At the legal level, CPAs are constrained from complete decision-making freedom. For example, a CPA