An empirical examination of the determinants of auditors' ethical sensitivity
Shaub, Michael K.
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The ethics of certified public accountants (CPAs) operating in a very competitive professional environment are under increasing scrutiny by the federal government. Firms are criticized for perceived conflicts of interest arising from providing a multiplicity of services in addition to audit services. However, the accounting profession has attempted to respond to public criticism through a revision of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct in 1988. This new code is intended to be more proactive in dealing with ethical problems than past codes. Ethics education and other approaches are being suggested to affect auditors' handling of professional ethical situations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of auditors' individual ethical orientations, professional commitment, and organizational commitment on their ability to recognize the ethical issues in a professional situation and on their level of cognitive moral development. Other objectives of the research were: (a) to develop a measure of auditors' ethical sensitivity; (b) to measure auditors' ethical orientation, ethical sensitivity, and the level of cognitive moral development reflected in their ethical judgments; (c) to examine the relationships of various demographic variables to ethical sensitivity and level of cognitive moral development; and (d) to evaluate the effects of ethical orientation on auditors' professional and organizational commitment.