Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting Text and Cases Third Edition

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Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting Text and Cases Third Edition

Steven M. Mintz, DBA, CPA Professor of Accounting California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Roselyn E. Morris, Ph.D., CPA Professor of Accounting Texas State University–San Marcos

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Published by McGraw-Hill Education, 2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121. Copyright © 2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Previous editions © 2011 and 2008. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of McGraw-Hill Education, including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.

Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

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ISBN 978–0–07–786221–3 MHID 0–07–786221–X

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Mintz, Steven M. Ethical obligations and decision making in accounting: text and cases / Steven M. Mintz, DBA, CPA, Professor of Accounting California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Roselyn E. Morris, PhD, CPA, Professor of Accounting Texas State University-San Marcos. — Third edition. pages cm ISBN 978-0-07-786221-3—ISBN 0-07-786221-X 1. Accountants—Professional ethics—United States— Case studies. I. Morris, Roselyn E. II. Title. HF5616.U5M535 2014 174′.4—dc23


The Internet addresses listed in the text were accurate at the time of publication. The inclusion of a website does not indicate an endorsement by the authors or McGraw-Hill Education, and McGraw-Hill Education does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented at these sites.

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“Whatever we learn to do, we learn by doing it.” — Aristotle

We hope this book inspires students to engage in the learning process, to make ethical choices in their lives, and always strive for excellence in whatever they do.


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About the Authors STEVEN M. MINTZ, DBA, CPA, is a professor of accounting in the Orfalea College of Business at the California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obsipo. Dr. Mintz received his DBA from George Washington University. His first book, titled Cases in Accounting Ethics and Professionalism, was also published by McGraw-Hill. Dr. Mintz develops individual courses in professional accounting ethics for Bisk Education that meet each state’s board of accountancy mandatory requirements for continuing education in ethics. He also writes two popular ethics blogs under the names “ethicssage” and “work- placeethicsadvice.” Dr. Mintz has received the Faculty Excellence Award of the California Society of CPAs and Service Award from the California Board of Accountancy for his work on the Advisory Committee on Accounting Ethics Curriculum.

ROSELYN E. MORRIS, PH.D., CPA, is a professor of accounting in the Accounting Department at the McCoy College of Business, Texas State University–San Marcos. Dr. Morris received her Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Houston. She is a past president of the Accounting Education Foundation and a member of the Qualifications Committee of the Texas Board of Public Accountancy. Dr. Morris has received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Texas Society of CPAs.

Both Professors Mintz and Morris have developed and teach an accounting ethics course at their respective universities.

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Preface Why Did We Write This Book?

The first edition of Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting: Text and Cases was written in the wake of the bubble and accounting scandals at companies such as Enron and WorldCom. The second edition was written in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2007–2008 that was due to high-risk lending and borrowing practices. The result of these scandals has been an increased call by professional and regulatory bodies for ethics education of accounting students in values, ethics, and attitudes to support pro- fessional and ethical judgments and act in the public interest. We dedicate ourselves to this goal through our book.

Several states now require their accounting students to complete an ethics course prior to certification. Texas was first state to do so, and it requires accounting students in Texas and those moving into the state to complete an ethics course at a Texas uni- versity or in their home institution. California and Colorado require separate account- ing ethics courses; states such as Maryland, New York, and West Virginia also have separate ethics course requirements. This book is written to enable instructors to address the content material that state boards typically expect to be covered in qualify- ing courses.

Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting was written to guide students through the minefields of ethical conflict in meeting their responsibilities under the pro- fessions’ codes of conduct. Our book is devoted to helping students cultivate the ethical commitment needed to ensure that their work meets the highest standards of integrity, independence, and objectivity. We hope that this book and classroom instruction will work together to provide the tools to help you make ethical judgments and carry through with ethical actions.

Our book blends ethical reasoning, components of behavioral ethics, reflection, and the principles of ethical conduct that embody the values of the accounting profession. We incorporate these elements into a framework to consider the ethical obligations of accountants and auditors and how to make ethical decisions that address the following material:

• The role of moral and cognitive development in ethical reasoning, ethical judgment, and ethical orientation

• Professional codes of conduct in accounting • Ethical corporate governance systems • Fraud detection and prevention • Legal and regulatory obligations of auditors • Whistleblowing obligations of accountants and auditors • Earnings management issues and the quality of financial reporting • Ethical systems, global ethics standards, and corporate governance considerations in

doing business worldwide

Attributes of This Textbook Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting is designed to provide the instructor with comprehensive coverage of ethical and professional issues encountered by accounting professionals. Our material provides the best flexibility and pedagogical

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viii Preface

effectiveness of any book on the market. To that end, it includes numerous features designed to make both learning and teaching easier, such as:

• Ethical reflections that set the tone for each chapter • 160 discussion questions • 76 cases (10 per Chapters 1–7 and 6 in Chapter 8), about one-third of which are from the

SEC enforcement files • 6 additional major cases that can be used for comprehensive testing, a group project, a

research assignment, or a capstone to the book • Dozens of additional cases and instructional resources, which are available to enrich

student learning • Links to videos for instructors

Pedagogical approach:

• The book is comprehensive enough to serve as a stand-alone text, yet flexible enough to act as a co-text or supplementary text across the accounting curricula or within an auditing or financial accounting course.

• There is sufficient case and supplementary material to allow the instructor to vary the course over at least two to three terms.

• The writing style is pitched specifically to students, making the material easy to follow and absorb.

• Group discussions and role-play opportunities using case studies • Video links to bring case material to life

The Instructor Edition of the Online Learning Center,, offers materials to support the efforts of first-time and seasoned instructors of accounting ethics. A comprehensive Instructor’s Manual provides teaching notes, grading sugges- tions and rubrics, sample syllabi, extra cases and projects, and guidelines for incorporating writing into the accounting ethics course; a Test Bank that provides a variety of multiple- choice, short answer, and essay questions for building quizzes and tests; additional cases that can be assigned, including some that were not carried over from the first and second editions; links to videos to enhance the learning experience and bring case discussions to life; and PowerPoint presentations for every chapter make a convenient and powerful lecture tool.

Changes in This Edition The behavioral approach to ethics leads to understanding and explaining moral behavior in a systematic way. We have expanded our discussion of ethics beyond the traditional philosophical moral reasoning methods that teach students how they should behave when facing ethical dilemmas and now also engage them to understand their own behavior better and compare it to how they would ideally like to behave. We incorporate those discussions in addressing ethical obligations of accountants and auditors under professional codes of conduct and in areas such as whistleblowing considerations under Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act.

This revision also includes:

• Emphasis on values, ethics, and behaviors in a professional setting • Expanded coverage of professional codes of conduct and failure to maintain indepen-

dence, integrity, objectivity, and professional skepticism • New audit requirements and clarified Statements on Auditing Standards effective in

2014 that collectively better address financial statement fraud and the risk of material misstatements

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Preface ix

• Broadened perspective on earnings management, including the role of earnings expec- tations, the use of accruals, income smoothing, risk assessment and materiality, and financial restatements

• Public interest and ethical considerations in developing international financial report- ing standards, cultural considerations when operating overseas, corporate governance systems, and global bribery

• Restoring public trust and confidence in the accounting profession

This edition of Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting has dozens of new discussion questions. The material that was replaced to keep the book fresh is avail- able to instructors in the Instructor’s Manual for testing purposes. For the first time, we provide video links to many of the cases in the book in the IM.

In a project of this kind, errors are bound to occur. As authors, we accept full responsi- bility for all errors and omissions. We welcome feedback on the book and suggestions for improvements. The authors have collectively had more than 30 years of experience teach- ing accounting ethics and welcome the opportunity to share our insights with you on how best to use the book and teach ethics to accounting students.


The authors want to express their sincere gratitude to these reviewers for their comments and guidance. Their insights were invaluable in developing this edition of the book.

Russell Calk New Mexico State University Jeffrey Cohen Boston College Dan Hubbard University of Mary Washington

Lorraine Lee University of North Carolina–Wilimington Stephen A. McNett Texas A&M University–Central Texas Barbara Porco Fordham University

We also appreciate the assistance and guidance given us on this project by the staff of Mc-Graw-Hill Education, including Tim Vertovec, Managing Director; James Heine, Executive Brand Manager; Michelle Nolte, Marketing Manager; Lori Bradshaw, develop- ment editor; Judi David, project manager; Jennifer Pickel, buyer; Studio Montage, design coordinator; and Prashanthi Nadipalli, media project manager. We greatly appreciate the role of Shyam Ramasubramony, project manager, and Susan McClung, copyeditor of the book.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of our students, who have pro- vided invaluable comments and suggestions on the content and use of these cases.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions concerning Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting, please send them to us at and

Steve Mintz

Rosie Morris

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Case Descriptions

Case # Case Name/Description

1-1 Harvard Cheating Scandal Student cheating at Harvard raises questions about responsibilities of instructors and student personal responsibilities

1-2 Giles and Regas Dating relationship between employees of a CPA firm jeopardizes completion of the audit.

1-3 NYC Subway Death: Bystander Effect or Moral Blindness Real-life situation where onlookers did nothing while a man was pushed to his death off a subway platform.

1-4 Lone Star School District Failure to produce documents to support travel expenditures raises questions about the justifiability of reimbursement claims.

1-5 Reneging on a Promise Ethical dilemma of a student who receives an offer of employment from a firm that he wants to work for, but only after accepting an offer from another firm.

1-6 Capitalization versus Expensing Ethical obligations of a controller when pressured by the CFO to capitalize costs that should be expensed.

1-7 Eating Time Ethical considerations of a new auditor who is asked to cut down on the amount of time that he takes to complete audit work.

1-8 A Faulty Budget Ethical and professional responsibilities of an accountant after discovering an error in his sales budget.

1-9 Cleveland Custom Cabinets Ethical and professional responsibilities of an accountant who is asked to “tweak” overhead to improve reported earnings.

1-10 Telecommunications, Inc. Concerns about the ethics of engineers who accept free travel and lodging from a foreign entity after establishing the criteria for a contract awarded to that entity.

Case # Case Name/Description

2-1 WorldCom Persistence of internal auditor, Cynthia Cooper, to correct accounting fraud and implications for Betty Vinson, a midlevel accountant, who went along with the fraud

2-2 Better Boston Beans Conflict between wanting to do the right thing and a confidentiality obligation to a coworker.

2-3 The Tax Return Tax accountant’s ethical dilemma when asked by her supervisor to ignore reportable lottery winnings.

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2-4 Shifty Industries Depreciation calculations and cash outflow considerations in a tax engagement.

2-5 Blues Brothers Identifying enablers and disablers of ethical action and ways to convince others of one’s point of view.

2-6 Supreme Designs, Inc. Ethical dilemma of an accountant who uncovers questionable payments to his supervisor.

2-7 Milton Manufacturing Company Dilemma for top management on how best to deal with a plant manager who violated company policy but at the same time saved it $1.5 million.

2-8 Juggyfroot Pressure imposed by a CEO on external accountants to change financial statement classification of investments in securities to report a market gain in earnings.

2-9 Phar-Mor SEC investigation of Phar-Mor for overstating inventory and misuse of corporate funds by the COO.

2-10 Gateway Hospital Behavioral ethics considerations in developing a position on unsubstantiated expense reimbursement claims.

Case # Case Name/Description

3-1 The Parable of the Sadhu Classic Harvard case about ethical dissonance and the disconnect between individual and group ethics.

3-2 Amgen Whistleblowing Case Whistleblower’s termination after raising issues about the company’s underreporting of complaints and problems with pharmaceutical drugs.

3-3 United Thermostatic Controls Acceptability of accelerating the recording of revenue to meet financial analysts’ earnings estimates and increase bonus payments.

3-4 Hewlett-Packard Use of false and fraudulent means to obtain confidential information from members of the board of directors.

3-5 IRS Whistleblower and Informing on Tax Cheats Ethics of gathering sensitive information about wrongdoing to qualify for whistleblower payouts.

3-6 Bennie and the Jets Ethical and professional obligations in reporting accounting wrongdoing to higher-ups in the organization.

3-7 Exxon-XTO Merger Alleged breach of fiduciary duties of the board of directors of XTO Energy that arose from ExxonMobil’s takeover of XTO.

3-8 Disclosure of Steve Jobs’s Health as Apple CEO: A Public or Private Matter? Shareholder rights to receive negative information about the health of its CEO.

Case Descriptions xi

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3-9 Bhopal, India: A Tragedy of Massive Proportions Evaluation of the decision-making process before, during, and after the leak of a toxic chemical that killed or injured thousands.

3-10 Accountability of Ex-HP CEO in Conflict of Interest Charges Sexual harassment charges stemming from conflict of interest between CEO/board chair and outside contractor.

Case # Case Name/Description

4-1 America Online (AOL) Internet-based company’s improper capitalization of advertising costs and the use of “round-trip” transactions to inflate revenue and earnings.

4-2 Beauda Medical Center Confidentiality obligation of an auditor to a client after discovering a defect in a product that may be purchased by a second client.

4-3 Family Games, Inc. Ethical dilemma for a controller being asked to backdate a revenue transaction to increase performance bonuses in order to cover the CEO’s personal losses.

4-4 First Community Church Misappropriation of church funds and subsequent cover-up by a member of the board of trustees.

4-5 Lee & Han, LLC Alteration of work papers and ethical obligations of auditors.

4-6 Gee Wiz Ethics of working for employer’s customer on the side and evaluating the customer’s receivable account.

4-7 Family Outreach Questions about validity of expense accounts and ethical obligations of the state auditor.

4-8 HealthSouth Corporation Manipulation of contractual allowances to overstate net revenues, and auditors’ inability to gather the evidence needed to stop the fraud.

4-9 Healthcare Fraud and Accountants’ Ethical Obligations Stakeholder considerations and ethical obligations upon discovering Medicare fraud.

4-10 Independence Violations at PwC Investigation of PwC independence procedures after self-regulatory peer review fails to identify violations.

Case # Case Name/Description

5-1 Computer Associates Audit committee’s role in identifying premature revenue recognized on software contracts.

5-2 ZZZZ Best Fraudster Barry Minkow uses fictitious revenue transactions from nonexistent business to falsify financial statements.

5-3 Imperial Valley Thrift & Loan Role of professional skepticism in evaluating audit evidence on collectability of loans and going concern assessment.

xii Case Descriptions

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5-4 Audit Client Considerations and Risk Assessment Risk assessment procedures prior to deciding whether to submit a competitive bid for an audit engagement.

5-5 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. “Round-trip” transactions used to inflate revenues and earnings to meet or exceed financial analysts’ EPS guidance.

5-6 Dunco Industries Role and ethical responsibilities of accounting professionals in assessing the validity of audit evidence.

5-7 First Community Bank Valuation of loan loss impairment and risk assessment.

5-8 Fannie Mae: The Government’s Enron Comprehensive case covers manipulation in four areas to project stable earnings—derivatives, loan fees, loan loss reserves, and marketable securities.

5-9 Royal Ahold N.V. (Ahold) U.S. subsidiary of a Dutch company that used improper accounting for promotional allowances to meet or exceed budgeted earnings targets.

5-10 Groupon Competitive pressures on social media pioneer leads to internal control weakness and financial restatements.

Case # Case Name/Description

6-1 SEC v. Halliburton Company and KBR, Inc. Bribery allegations against Halliburton and the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

6-2 Con-way Inc. Facilitating payments and internal control requirements under the FCPA.

6-3 Insider Trading and Accounting Professionals Insider trading by accounting professionals and providing tips to friends.

6-4 Anjoorian et al.: Third-Party Liability Application of the foreseeability test, near-privity, and the Restatement approach in deciding negligence claims against the auditor.

6-5 Vertical Pharmaceuticals Inc. et al. v. Deloitte & Touche LLP Fiduciary duties and audit withdrawal considerations when suspecting fraud at a client.

6-6 SEC v. DHB Industries, Inc., n/k/a Point Blank Solutions, Inc. SEC action against independent directors and audit committee members in a securities fraud case.

6-7 Livingston & Haynes, P. C. Evaluation of ordinary negligence, gross negligence, and fraud in a securities violation.

6-8 Kay & Lee LLP Auditor legal liability when foreseen third party relies on financial statements

6-9 Reznor v. J. Artist Management (JAM), Inc. Legal liability of manager of lead singer of Nine Inch Nails based on allegations of mismanagement.

6-10 SEC v. Zurich Financial Services Complex accounting for reinsurance transactions and transfer of economic risk.

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