Reform or renaissance? France's 1966 Companies Act and the problem of the ‘professionalisation’ of the auditing profession in France


Accounting History Review (ex Accounting Business and Financial History)

July 2009, vol. 19, n°2, pp.127-148

Departments: Accounting & Management Control

Keywords: Audit, Professionalisation, France

This paper revisits an episode in the history of the auditing profession in France: the period that saw the ‘professionalisation’ of auditing in the late 1960s, almost 100 years after enactment of the law that had officially created the activity. Despite the existence of practitioners with a reputation for competency and despite the more stringent conditions imposed on the recruitment of these practitioners during the 1930s, certification of accounts had remained a ‘function’ rather than a profession. The reform of France's commercial code in 1966 thus gave auditors a second chance, making them a key component in an ambitious plan to modernise French financial markets. The paper considers this reform from the angle of the problem facing the reformers, that of ‘professionalising the profession’ of auditor. Two aspects of the problems are discussed. The first concerns the need to take into consideration the existence of another profession, the profession of the French chartered accountant (expert-comptable), which in the opinion of its leaders had a legitimate claim to a monopoly on auditing. The second concerns the fate reserved for pre-reform audit practitioners (comissaires de sociétés), not all of whom would be admitted as members of the new auditing profession