Publication Details

Cooper, K. & Roudaki, H. (2013). Politicians as the guardians of the status quo: a demonstration of rank and privilege without responsibility. Seventh Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference (pp. 1-27). Kobe, Japan: APIRA Conference Committee.


Much has been written about corruption and bribery involving major corporations in the United States such as Lockheed. However, most of this lite rature ignores the link between Watergate and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The role of accounting and accountants in disguising the use of corporate funds for illicit purposes has als o not been addressed even though many of the enquiries into Watergate and related activities exp ressed concern that none of the cases of financial misstatement had been discovered or, at l east reported, by auditors. In other words, the accountability system envisaged in the financial re porting and audit requirements of the Securities Exchange Act and professional pronouncem ents had failed. Nonetheless, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has done little to ad dress the accounting and audit failures that gave rise to its enactment. The paper uses post-Watergate investigations and hearings leading to the enactment of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977 to demonstrate the power of interested parties to influence for their own benefit, the outcome of legislation and other forms of regulation. In general, the findings support the observation expressed in the Letter of Transmittal of the Final Report of the Se nate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (1974a, p.1227) that while "ran k has its privileges because rank has its responsibilities", privilege is often used "as a do dge of responsibility". The paper draws largely on historical documents, in particular, rep orts of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, transcripts of he aring of various House of Representatives and Senate Committees and Sub-Committees dealing wi th issues arising from Watergate and Watergate-related activities.

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