The Ethics of Creative Accounting: Some Spanish Evidence
Univ. Pompeu Fabra, Economics and Business Working Paper No. 455
15 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2000
Date Written: April 2000
'Creative accounting' involves accountants in making accounting policy choices or manipulating transactions in such a way as to give the impression in the accounts that they prefer. While regarded as unethical by most observers, a defence of creative accounting can be based on the ability of the users of accounts to identify bias in accounting policy choices and make appropriate adjustments.
In this paper we take the example of the Barcelona Football Club where the club management made three key accounting policy choices that presented a favourable position, and a supporters' club presented an alternative report choosing three alternative accounting policies that presented an unfavourable position. We presented each of these financial reports to one of two groups of Spanish bank loan offices, with supporting notes making the impact of the accounting policy choices clear. We found that the more favourable set of accounts was significantly more likely to attract a positive response to a loan request.
This result undermines the defence for creative accounting, based on the ability of users to identify manipulation.
Keywords: Creative accounting; Ethics; Spain
JEL Classification: M41, M43, G21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation