Accounting

Your company's best corporate customer needs help. Earnings are down. You could help that company's revenues look rosier with a sham transaction. And, why wouldn't you? After all, it's not your company's financial statements you're sweetening.

Marianne Jennings, a professor of legal and ethical studies in business at W. P. Carey School of Business, recently noted that major business scandals used to be spaced about 10 years apart. Unfortunately, the cycle now appears to be compressing. In a recent talk before W. P. Carey MBA Executive students, Bradley Preber, the partner-in-charge of Grant Thornton's Forensic Accounting and Investigative Services practice, said that any company that continues having pervasive and systematic behavior problems with its employees must look at its culture to see if it could be partly what drives that unethical behavior.

Like ripples from a pebble pitched into a pond, the federal law passed to combat white-collar crime has resulted in booming demand for the specialists who can comb through financial records and follow a trail of evidence. Once simply a component part of audit courses, forensic accounting is being offered as a standalone class at many colleges, including the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Can the government control corporate fraud? Probably not, according to Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul Atkins, and besides, ever-escalating regulation likely would hinder a free-market economy. Atkins, who has devoted much of his 20-plus year career to helping law enforcement investigate and rectify investing scams, recently spoke to students at the W. P. Carey School of Business on the subject of business ethics.