I only heard the interview once. Tiger didn’t directly say that he had been screwing around, but his comments were easy to interpret given their context. I could be mistaken (frequently am) but I think Tiger’s meaning is, “I lied and cheated, causing harm to wife and mother and fans. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” Would you agree this is his message?
There have been a number of spectacular audit failures in recent history. Clean audit opinions to bogus financial statements were followed by bankruptcy (in many cases) and lawsuits. To the extent that audit firms knowingly gave clean audit opinions when they should have blown a whistle and called, “Foul!” I think it a fair summarization in such cases to say the audit firms lied and cheated.
Does anyone ever recall one of the firms making a Woods type of apology? I don’t think so.
A while back, I wrote a post titled, “They Still Don’t Get It.” This was a follow up to a well-known speech by Arthur R. Wyatt on August 3, 2003 to attendees of the American Accounting Association national convention: Accounting Professionalism–They Just Don’t Get it.
He spoke to the annual conference as to why things got so bad that one of the Big 5 went kaput, and it was just happenstance that it did not happen to any of the four survivors.
I think Wyatt considered Arthur Andersen’s fate to be deserved, as he described an historical evolution that resulted in Andersen abandoning its responsibility …
Has the tone at the top changed? Apparently not. I believe the tone at the top of the [large audit firms] is as commercial and greedy as it ever has been. The firms’ personnel have not been changed. It is unlikely that their hearts and desires have changed. And according to anecdotes, it has not.
Said by a good friend of mine, money too frequently trumps morality.
Does Tiger get it? I think so. His current intentions seem clear (although his motivations aren’t). Public confessions have symbolic importance. Baptism and marriage are public statements that don’t need to be made. Being born again is an internal make-over, and cohabitation with benefits is a lifestyle choice. Going on the record with a formal statement is a request for public judgment should you ever fail.
To be sure, Tiger’s statements in the interview are vague, and there is little admission of fault. Never-the-less, his interview is a symbolic admission. Also, he doesn’t seem to be asking for fans to forgive and forget. That is refreshing. When Tiger met privately with wife and then mother, they would not have let him get away with being vague. He would have had to be specific in his confession.
Do the large audit firms get it yet, and are they doing the right thing? Doubtful.
Large audit firms get sued after audit failures, and they sometimes pay out large sums of money in settlement (they seldom let cases get to judgment phase so as to avoid being found at fault). I think that if they really were serving the public interest, they would acknowledge responsibility for their audit failures. Confession is good for the souls of both the confessor and the parties that receive them.
Paul Williams, a North Carolina State University professor, says on AECM,
It isn’t in the nature of public accounting firms to ever say “We’re sorry” since they are so frightened of being sued. Corporations are never sorry; they have no shame.
The subjects in my dissertation done 33 years ago were revealing about the corporate mentality. Moderator variables in the experiment I did with high level managers in various corporations were measures of their values and attitudes. The vast majority of them were morally amorphous, i.e. amoral. They didn’t evaluate things along ethical dimensions. If it was legal, it was okay.
I haven’t been holding my breath waiting for a large audit firm to accept responsibility, but it would be nice if they did. I’d be able to breath easier.
There have been so many audit failures that I feel like a cheated upon spouse. Receiving an apology might not get me to the stage of forgiving and forgetting, but it would help me deal with several issues.
Will the failure of large audit firms to fully get it, never to issue some sort of apology, hurt them?
I think so. For decades I was a trusting accounting professor, teaching my students that auditing is a noble calling. The last time I made such a statement in class, I flinched on the inside.
Students notice. Hey, we all notice. That’s why public statements are so … public.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht