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Top Columbus speaker urges CPAs to keep ethics at the forefront

Written on Jul 31, 2020

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

Ethical dilemmas are not to be taken lightly, and they’re something CPAs have to learn how to handle to do their job well and serve their clients.

Attendees at the November Columbus Accounting Show got the opportunity to think about what ethics means to them now, and in the future.

Jerry Esselstein, CPA, presented “Professional Standards and Responsibilities – Ethical Shifts: Interpretations & Actions,” on managing ethical expectations in an accounting career and how it impacts business. He was one of the highest-rated presenters of the event, and encouraged the crowd to reflect on their responsibilities within the accounting profession.

Jerry Esselstein“To help them do that we discuss what’s changed in the culture, what’s changed in the field and what’s changed in their clients that they need to be more tuned into,” he said.

He cited social media and political correctness as prevalent topics of 2016, things that accountants might not think directly affects them but can indirectly impact their judgement.

“Interpretation and application is a responsibility we have. And that can apply to anything,” he said. “How do I interpret the rules? How do I interpret the environment? It comes down to judgment.”

Esselstein said many of the questions he receives from attendees are on what does and does not count for CPE credit, in addition to more situational inquiries about ethical issues they’re facing. He stressed it’s not enough to just bury yourself in work, that CPAs must remain proactive in their field and be able to “read the tea leaves,” to best serve the profession and their clients.

“CPAs have to be more visible, more vocal and more influential in influencing an ethical culture before something goes bad,” he said.

Human behavior changes under pressure, and Esselstein cited different shifts in business situations such as problems with partners or losing key employees as issues that can alter behavior. Despite the outside pressures and influences, he urged CPAs to be vigilant of what’s going on around them.

“This course is really a reminder and refresher about what it means to be a CPA,” he said. “A CPA is a responsibility outside of your client as well, it’s a responsibility to the profession, laws, rules and regulations.”