I enjoyed Richard Kravitz’s article in the April issue of the CPA Journal (“Serving the Public Interest,” p. 14). The message’s import deserves some comment.
Kravitz mentioned CPAs’ “critical fiduciary responsibility.” I agree. Every time a company issues a restatement, it injures all CPAs and the system for which they serve as the watchdog. Some do not like to use the word “fiduciary,” since it may mean more and higher legal responsibility for error. The larger picture, though, is that the public trusts the profession’s audit opinion accuracy. “Unmodified opinions” support investors’ belief in the profession’s “good housekeeping” standard of reliable corporate financial statement reporting. The worldwide economy depends in large part on this intangible trust. That is the reason why the word “public” is in the middle of the CPA title—it indicates to which stakeholder the duty is paramount. It is naive to believe that lawyers or regulators can maintain a standard of financial statement accuracy without CPAs’ professional support. That is why many enlightened CPAs and accounting organizations see the auditor’s role as a fiduciary for the public, worldwide capital market that in large part holds this society together.