Disciplinary practices in the French auditing profession


Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal

2016, vol. 29, n°1, pp.11-42

Departments: Accounting & Management Control

Keywords: Content analysis, Audit quality, Auditing, Disciplinary practices, Public accounting profession, Public interest

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute to understand the role of the statutory auditing profession in France. The study is theoretically based on distinctions between a functionalist view of professions and a neo-weberian view. Prior research, conducted in Anglo-American countries has shown that the auditing profession has focussed primarily on protecting the private interests of the profession. Hence, there is a need to conduct research on this topic in a code law country where the state is expected to play a significant role in protecting the public interest.Design/methodology/approach – The methodology involves a content analysis of 148 disciplinary decisions issued against statutory auditors in France from 1989 to 2006. This analysis identified 21 types of violations grouped into public interest or private interest offences. Because visible offences are public and are more likely to threaten the reputation of the profession, these types of decisions are also studied with respect to their visibility.Findings – The results reveal that in a code law country such as France the auditing profession tends to defend both the public interest as well as its private interests. The results also support the “visibility” effect.Research limitations/implications – The written disciplinary decisions have been anonymized so that the names of the auditors and the clients cannot be identified.Originality/value – This paper differs from previous studies conducted in the Anglo-American context which show an emphasis on protecting the private interests of the auditing profession. Moreover, this study reveals the existence of “mixed” offences and underlines that a profession primarily focusses on these cases. Thus, the work reconciles in part the functionalist and neo-weberian perspectives. Lastly, this paper confirms the importance of the visibility effect