While it is generally acknowledged that the key to the recent spate of corporate collapses lies in the lack of effective corporate governance, there are a number of other factors that need to be considered in understanding this phenomenon. These include the new age of materialism that developed during the 1990s and the consequent corporate and investor greed, which contributed to the spiral that led to the demise of corporations such as Enron, WorldCom, HIH, One.Tel and the global accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Compounding these developments in the corporate environment was the behaviour of the traditional gatekeepers, including accountants in particular, who betrayed the public trust. The accounting profession is now paying the price, with increased government regulation and a credibility crisis that will take many years to resolve.
A fairytale
Looking back to 1999, it was inconceivable at the time that probably the world’s most respected accounting firm was predicting its demise; the stuff of fairytales– which leads us to the well-known ‘fairytale’ of Alice in Wonderland:
As observed by Leung and Cooper (2003), the tea party of corporate greed has been exposed with a vengeance in recent times, with the CEOs and directors (the March Hare and the Mad Hatter) having their fill, the regulators (the Dormouse) caught sleeping, and the accountants and auditors (Alice) joining the fray at the surreal event. The party seems to come around every decade or so, until the bubble seems to expand another size in absurdity and cost to the community, before it finally implodes once again. Whatever the reasons, this time an increasingly angry public have seen their superannuation and pension savings savagely mauled, and respect for corporate managers, regulators and the accounting profession has arguably sunk to an all-time low (Leung & Cooper 2003).
Management and stewardship issues:
The new age of materialism could also help explain why, in recent years,...