Truth or Profit?

The Ethics and Business of Public Accounting

By Duncan Green and Dean Neu  

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The images will not go away–huge multinational corporations failing, well-dressed executives being led away in handcuffs, and public accounting firms being charged for complicity. How do we make sense of the reality behind these images? Is it, as cynics claim, that public accountants are self-seeking, offering a form of window-dressing for greedy corporate executives? Or is public accounting a profession doing the best it can in the face of difficult circumstances? Are public accountants driven by the profit motive or are they seeking a truth in accounting? Neu and Green argue that it is impossible to answer these questions without examining the historical evolution of public accountancy. Their analysis illustrates that public accountancy is simultaneously a business and a public service–thus to try to understand it in any other way misses the tension that is always present between these two faces of the profession.

  • Economics
  • Co-published with Centre for Public Intrest Accounting
  • ISBN: 9781552661901
  • January 2006
  • 160 Pages
  • $21.95
  • For sale worldwide

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  • The End of Innocence?
  • The Business of Public Accounting
  • Professional Status and Ethics
  • The Birth of a Profession (1905-1920)
  • Good Times (1920-1936)
  • In Service of God and Country (1936-1946)
  • A Matter of Personality (1946-1960)
  • The Public Interest (1960-1973)
  • Globalizing the Public Interest (1973-1992)
  • Globalizing the Public Interest (1973-1992)
  • The Age of Financial Scandal (1992-2005)
  • Regulatory and Professional Responses
  • A Business or a Public Service?


  • Duncan Green

    Duncan Green is a senior accounting instructor in the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. He has published articles about the corporate governance responsibilities of boards of directors and is also researching how the accounting profession reproduces itself through education and recruiting practices.

  • Dean Neu


    Dean Neu became a faculty member in the Haskayne School of Business in 1989. Prior to joining the faculty, he completed a PhD in Accounting and Organizational Theory at Queen’s University. Dean has been a visiting professor at the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto and Universidad de Autonoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico. He is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta

    As an accounting scholar and activist, Dean is committed to unveiling the presence of accounting where we might not otherwise expect to find it, he has in numerous articles and public appearances revealed how accounting plays a mediative role between governments and population segments. His research and writing demonstrate how accounting, working hand in hand with bureaucracies, shapes and constructs societal governance. In this work, the disguise of accounting as a boring benign appendage to business and government is stripped away to reveal how accounting numbers play a crucial role in shaping public policy and the perceptions the public has of those policies.

    Dean has published more than fifty research articles in the leading academic and practitioner journals in the field. His awards include: the 1997 Distinguished Service Award from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta in recognition of academic and activist contributions, the 1997 Research Award for outstanding research achievements in the previous year, the 2000 recipient of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research Leadership, and the 2000 recipient of the MBA society’s award for teaching excellence.

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