Ethical Dilemmas in Auditing: Dishonesty or Unintentional Bias?

Andrés Guiral, Waymond Rodgers, Emiliano Ruiz, José A. Gonzalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Moral Seduction Theory suggests that auditors are morally compromised by the perceived consequences of their opinions. The root of the auditing problem appears to result in an unintentional bias rather than in dishonesty. Although important accounting reforms have been taken to deal with auditors' trustworthiness, their lack of independence has not been adequately addressed. The new regulation (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) is a consequence of an incorrect understanding of the main true source of auditor's biases. We have developed a cognitive approach by connecting the Throughput Model (TM) to the Moral Seduction Theory. This approach allows a better understanding of how conflicts of interest lead auditors to avoid the issuance of warning signals to stakeholders. We have tested our model by conducting a hypothetical scenario with eighty experienced auditors from international accounting firms. Our results confirm auditors' unintentional reluctance to issue qualified audit opinions alerting investors due to their fear of precipitating clients' final bankruptcy. The main implication is that, more than a regulation, effort should be made in monitoring those conflicts of interest to reduce unintentional bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-166
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Waymond Rodgers is a professor at the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Riverside. Professor Rodgers’ studies have been published in various prestigious journals of accounting, management, and psychology in Australia, Europe and the United States. He is the recipient of major research grants from the American Society of Engineering Education, Bra-zilian Research Foundation, Canada Research Foundation, Citibank, Curtin University in Australia, Ford Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center.

Funding Information:
We thank discussants and participants of the 2nd World Business Ethics Forum 2008 in Hong Kong, and the 31st European Accounting Association Annual Congress (EAA 2008) in Amsterdam. We also thank the Spanish Saving Banks Foundation (FUNCAS) for its support on a previous version of this manuscript (Working Paper #348). The authors gratefully acknowledge the support received from the CIFF Foundation. This study has been carried out with the financial support of the Spanish National R&D Plan through research projects ECO2010-17463 (ECON-FEDER), ECO2010-21627, SEJ2007-62215/ECON, SEJ2004-00791ECON, and SEJ2006-14021.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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