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Type: Journal article
Title: What is the 'good' forensic accountant? A virtue ethics perspective
Author: Howieson, B.
Citation: Pacific Accounting Review, 2018; 30(2):155-167
Publisher: Emerald
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 0114-0582
Statement of
Bryan Howieson
Abstract: Purpose – The aim of this paper is to explore how virtue ethics might inform our understanding about what constitutes “good” practice in forensic accounting. In particular, the paper explores the concept of phronesis (or practical wisdom) as a basis for guiding the application of professional judgement in forensic accounting practice. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on a review of relevant literature. Findings – Prior literature has identified a number of technical and personal characteristics and attributes that are desirable in forensic accounting practitioners. Although being ethical is identified as an important characteristic, the question of what constitutes a “good” forensic accountant has not hitherto been investigated. Because of the profession’s multi-disciplinary and highly technical nature, forensic accountants are significantly at risk of conflating ethics with compliance with the law. The paper suggests that an understanding of virtue ethics and especially the virtue of “phronesis” or practical wisdom will help forensic accountants maintain public confidence and quality in their services and provide practical guidance on the exercise of professional judgement. Practical implications – The paper suggests that the primacy currently given in forensic accounting literature and practice to a commercial logic, technical competencies and legal compliance risks damaging the professional standing of forensic accountants and, over time, reduces the ability of forensic accountants to exercise professional judgement in complex unstructured situations. Virtue ethics can act as a useful counter point to these threats. Social implications – A recognition of the need for the forensic accounting profession to collectively develop phronesis would re-establish the primacy of the profession’s public interest logic and maintain public trust and quality in forensic accounting services. Originality/value – There appears to be no prior literature in forensic accounting which explores the application of virtue ethics in this field. In addition, although virtue ethics has been the subject of some prior papers in accounting per se, the importance of phronesis as a basis for understanding the nature and application of professional judgement has not been addressed.
Keywords: Virtue ethics; Forensic accounting; Phronesis; Professional judgement
Rights: © Emerald Publishing Limited
RMID: 0030086295
DOI: 10.1108/PAR-01-2017-0005
Appears in Collections:Business School publications

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