Latest News

Ethical responsibility critical in evolving business landscape

Written on Mar 28, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

While accounting professionals wear many hats as trusted business advisers, there is one that is paramount, according to a CPA thought leader.  

“You always need to have that ethical hat or that professional responsibilities hat on,” said Justin Breidenbach, assistant professor of accounting at Capital University. “We have to think about the public good, not just about being a salesperson in terms of the work we're doing.”   


Breidenbach will present “Professional standards and responsibilities” at the CORECon  Core Skills Conference on May 23rd. He said when approaching a situation ethically, it’s critical to understand individual facts and circumstances based on individual situations, and to avoid applying blanket rules because you might miss important details.  

The outcome of your decision could change based on the field of services, if the company is public or private and what governing bodies are involved. Once those facts are understood, Breidenbach said that should offer more guidance on what rules to follow.  

He said he never wants a professional to feel they are alone in a tough ethical matter with no one to go to for advice, but it’s prudent to consider who needs to know the relevant information and who does not.  

“You might have to go to the next level of seniority, in which case, may be your board or the internal audit committee,” he said. “And in some cases, maybe you’ll need to acquire legal counsel to assist you in navigating the situation.”  

One of the most common mistakes he sees when professionals are presented with ethical dilemmas is not doing the required due diligence. Don’t assume “everything is going to be okay,” Breidenbach said, without investigating and understanding the facts surrounding the situation.  

“Sometimes that complacency will kick in,” he said. “And sometimes you go to an individual in which you're trusting their advice, even though maybe it's not sound advice, just because you know them personally. Sometimes that kind of advice can steer you wrong.”  

Professional skepticism is critical here, Breidenbach said, especially as the profession deals with new ethical dilemmas in AI and a shift in the supply and demand of work, putting more pressure on fewer people.  

“A lot of us have that gut feeling when something feels wrong. Listen to that, because there may be a situation you need to report yourself or report somebody else because of an ethical issue,” he said, “Stay educated and stay up to date, because the environment is always evolving.  

Related Upcoming Events