Accountability

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Accounting, Organizations and Society 34 (2009) 797–802

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Accounting, Organizations and Society
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/aos

The economic crisis and accounting: Implications for the research community Anthony G. Hopwood *
Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HP, United Kingdom

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
Introducing a group of essays and articles on the implications of the current economic and financial crisis for accounting practice and research, this article provides an overview of some of the principal issues and themes. Noting that very little research has been done on the management accounting implications of such crises, particular consideration is given to exploring the significance of and potential for research on this topic. Drawing on unpublished research and personal experiences, the importance of having a wider understanding of an organization’s information environment is stressed. Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

The current economic and financial crisis has significant implications for accounting, both for practice and for the research community. In the areas of financial accounting, auditing, management accounting and the regulatory institutions that oversee accounting and auditing practices there are genuine worries that the crisis has revealed numerous problems and inadequacies. In the academic and research community it certainly has illuminated issues that are in need of serious research attention. More than that, however, the crisis also points to the rather limited focus of much current accounting research. Too much intellectual inquiry in the area of accounting seems to operate within the parameters set by practice rather than questioning and challenging these, at least from time to time. Although the implications for research in accounting may not be so great as that within the finance research community where the serious lack of critical research is much more visible, a more detailed consideration of the implications of the crisis for accounting research nevertheless points to the need for a more rigorous investment in diverse research perspectives rather than an unquestioned following of a singular mainstream view. So, for example, the move to fair value accounting is already being hotly debated, embroiling not only national * Tel.: +44 1865 228 472; fax: +44 1865 288 651. E-mail address: Anthony.Hopwood@sbs.ox.ac.uk 0361-3682/$ - see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.aos.2009.07.004

accounting regulators but also the already increasingly challenged International Accounting Standards Board. Whilst one strand of research has most certainly encouraged moves in this direction, there is now an emerging interest in looking at the actual ways in which the changes were realised. How, in other words, have very abstract conceptual ideas been realised in practice, how have the inherent ambiguities been operationalised in calculative terms, and with what wider consequences? This is indeed an area where focussed empirical investigation, both quantitative and qualitative, has the possibility of casting some light on an issue of current policy significance. The apparent failure of the audit industry to identify any of the emerging banking crises and failures is also resulting in serious embarrassment in the sector. Regardless of any more private communications with regulators and others, in the United Kingdom at least there is now an explicit but very private acknowledgement of the problem in the upper reaches of the professional institutes and a few of the major firms. Moreover the latter are still wondering and worrying if their failures are likely to result in any costly legal challenges – creating a genuine worry that the Big Four could still become the Big Three. For that reason the British audit industry is currently in the midst of intensifying...
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