Accounting Ethics and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct: A View Through the Lens of Ethical Theory


A great deal of attention has been paid in the last several decades to improving the ethical decisions of public accountants. A variety of approaches to meeting this goal have been advanced, from increasing the coverage of ethics in the classroom, to improving the effectiveness of regulatory responses to breaches in ethical conduct. Little attention has been paid to researching accounting ethics from the perspective of ethical theory. This thesis adds to the relatively thin body of research in that area. Chapter one briefly covers the history of accounting ethics in the United States, from the organization of the American Association of Public Accountants in the early 20th century, to the relatively recent scandals surrounding Enron, WorldCom, and Arthur Andersen. This brief history is followed by an overview of the regulatory approach to improving ethical conduct, which leads into a discussion of the study of professional ethics in accounting and the importance of professional codes of ethics in regulating behavior. The background of the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct and several criticisms of the Code are then discussed. Chapter two offers a rationale for applying a framework of ethical theory to the study of accounting ethics, and discusses an important limitation of that approach. Chapter three presents an overview of those ethical theories most directly applicable to the study of accounting ethics, which will serve as a foundation for the analysis presented in chapter four. Chapter four analyzes the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct from the perspective of the ethical theories presented in chapter three. Finally, chapter five offers several suggestions for enhancing the moral reasoning skills of public accountants and accounting students.


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Thesis Completion





Roberts, Robin


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Business Administration

Degree Program



Business Administration -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Business Administration







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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