Cynthia Cooper wasn’t prepared for a major ethical dilemma while working as Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom. But in 2002, when she and her team of auditors discovered a $3.8-billion accounting scandal at the telecom giant, ethics was central to their decision to blow the whistle on the fraud.
For the James C. Taylor Distinguished Lecture in Finance in Toronto, Cooper gave advice for recognizing and handling ethical dilemmas to an audience of CPAs (Chartered Professional Accountants).
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“I think the more we talk about ethics and character and how we can make these decisions, the more likely we are to recognize an ethical dilemma. Often people don’t recognize it until they are looking in the rear-view mirror and stop to think if they made the right choices,” she said.
Ethics at work in business
Then a panel, including Cooper, discussed how to establish a strong ethical culture, new ethical practices for CPAs and how they affect regulation, and why character-based leadership informs your professional judgment. Panellists included Kelly Gorman, EVP, Regulatory & Standards, CPA Ontario; and Bill Furlong, MBA ’87, ICD.D, an Executive-in-Residence at Ivey’s Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership and former Commissioner at the Ontario Securities Commission.
Gorman discussed how NOCLAR, a new section in the Code of Ethics for CPAs, can help guide professional accountants on what actions to take in the public interest when they become aware of a potential illegal act.
Furlong explained how Leader Character can help organizations when faced with a whistleblowing situation.
Here are some key takeaways:
Balancing professional conduct and the public interest – Kelly Gorman, EVP, Regulatory & Standards, CPA Ontario
Character leads to stronger decision-making – Bill Furlong, MBA ’87, ICD.D, Executive-in-Residence, Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership
The event was organized by the CPA Ontario Centre for Accounting and the Public Interest in partnership with CPA Ontario.