The Oligopolistic Gatekeeper: The U.S. Accounting Profession

AFTER ENRON: IMPROVING CORPORATE LAW AND MODERNIZING SECURITIES REGULATION IN EUROPE AND THE U.S., Chapter 9, Oxford, Forthcoming

Duke Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 117

49 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2006

See all articles by James D. Cox

James D. Cox

Duke University School of Law

Abstract

The accounting and financial scandals the last few years not only produced the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but have prompted a good deal of debate what forces led to so many dramatic reporting failures. This article is the only work to examine how the competitive structure of the accounting industry contributed to its movement from being a profession to a business that performed auditing. In the article we find not only documentation that the accounting profession is an oligopoly but a sound explanation of how its poor structure contributes significantly to negative social welfare. Throughout the article provides rich support of data to support explanations of the forces that have impacted the accounting profession as well as financial reporting. Most importantly, the article connects how the accounting profession's poor competitive structure likely contributed to the financial and accounting scandals of 2001 and 2002 by making it possible for the mangers of their audit clients to trade off better audits for consulting services. The article also provides insight into weaknesses that continue even after reforms such as those introduced by Sarbanes-Oxley. Several steps to strengthen the accounting industry so that it can return to being a zealous gatekeeper are also proposed in the article.

JEL Classification: M41, M49, G34, G38

Suggested Citation

Cox, James D., The Oligopolistic Gatekeeper: The U.S. Accounting Profession. AFTER ENRON: IMPROVING CORPORATE LAW AND MODERNIZING SECURITIES REGULATION IN EUROPE AND THE U.S., Chapter 9, Oxford, Forthcoming; Duke Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 117. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=926360

James D. Cox (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7056 (Phone)
919-613-7231 (Fax)

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