Accounting Science's Contribution to the Corporate Governance and Executive Accountability Problem
Date of this version
Corporate governance; Accountability; Professional ethics; Positivism
Effective corporate governance and related accountability mechanisms are presumed to mitigate conflicts of interest and provide reasonable assurance that each party observes certain behavioral norms. Among the academic disciplines, one might expect that accounting would be well equipped to examine and prescribe improvements in accountability among agents in capitalist settings. But this article documents that the ``top four'' accounting journals in North America (The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting Research, Journal of Accounting and Economics, and Contemporary Accounting Research; hereafter, ``top'' journals), which reputedly publish premier scientific articles and weigh most heavily in tenure and promotion decisions at U.S. universities, did not publish systematic critiques of ineffective corporate governance practices in the decade before Sarbanes-Oxley (2002). To explain this phenomenon, this article presents arguments and evidence that the top journals' editorial ideology of scientism, fact-value separation, methodological exclusivity, and active denigration of critical and historical reflection have obstructed rather than promoted timely awareness of corporate governance and executive accountability problems. The article then explores post-Sarbanes-Oxley opportunities for critical, institutional, and historical research on corporate accountability and governance, and identifies how they differ from as well as complement traditional positive accounting analyses. The concluding section considers the changes in institutional values that would be necessary for the top accounting journals to adopt a more methodologically inclusive and socially responsible research agenda.
Accounting and the Public Interest