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If Only We Had Listened to Ross S. Skinner!

21 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2005  

Jacques Fortin

HEC Paris (Groupe HEC)

Réal Labelle

HEC Montréal - Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Governance


Ross S. Skinner built his intimate knowledge of the intricacies of the art of accounting through a very long and rich career as an accounting philosopher. This allowed him to both observe, and be part of, the formalisation of today's GAAP. The longevity of his career and the particular moment when it took place allowed him to live the slow evolution of our accounting model from a principles-based approach to more of a rule-based one. The objective of this paper is to look behind the accounting figures, which are the product of more or less rules and judgement, and to discuss some recent events that rocked the auditing and accounting profession. This will be done in light of the views Ross Skinner (henceforth RS) expressed in his Judgment in Jeopardy 1995 article. A perusal of RS's curriculum vitae shows that he had a keen interest in accounting history. Therefore, we have chosen to begin our contribution to this forum by referring to what Pacioli described as venture accounting. We use this notion to introduce our discussion of financial reporting which has since become an important instrument of resource allocation and a challenge for professional judgement. This brings us to consider some of the ideas RS presented in his article on accounting judgement as visionary. Had we listened to him, perhaps we could have avoided some of the costly changes and additions recently imposed on our governance system such as the creation of the Canadian Public Accountability Board and the tightening of several laws and regulations.

Keywords: Financial reporting, principle-based, rule-based, governance

JEL Classification: M41, G18, G38, M44

Suggested Citation

Fortin, Jacques and Labelle, Réal, If Only We Had Listened to Ross S. Skinner!. Canadian Accounting Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 257-268, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Jacques Fortin

HEC Paris (Groupe HEC) ( email )

1 rue de la Liberation
Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351

Réal Labelle (Contact Author)

HEC Montréal - Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Governance ( email )

3000, Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine
Montreal, Quebec H3T 2A7
514 340 6374 (Phone)

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