Legitimacy claims of the auditing profession vis-a-vis the behaviour of its members: An empirical examination

William R. Pasewark, Randolph A. Shockley, Jack E. Wilkerson

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20 Scopus citations


Accounting and auditing practice in the US and other advanced capitalist societies is an institutional mechanism for mediating and arbitrating social choices. This role places the auditing profession in the position of functioning as a legitimating institution within a society’s framework of legitimate authority. However, in order to retain this role, the profession must comply with the “code of legitimate conduct” established by society for auditors. Current events and circumstances are symptomatic of a legitimation crisis facing the auditing professions-the profession has violated, or is perceived to have violated, this code. Empirical evidence is provided in this paper that such a situation currently exists, specifically with respect to the profession’s “objectivity” claim. This study’s results suggest that in-charge auditors, when confronted with “powerful” client employees, will, with some likelihood, compromise the profession’s objectivity claim. If the auditing profession is to maintain its role society, it must first clearly understand societal expectation (i.e. it must clearly understand its code of legitimate conduct). Second, it must be prepared to take whatever steps are required to comply with these expectations. Anything less than careful, reflective self-examination and a thoroughgoing commitment to change cannot, in the long run, further the interest of the profession and will, in all likelihood, have the opposite effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1995


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