The Accountant's Responsibilities to His Client
BY PRESLEY S. FORD, JR. Partner, Tulsa Office
Presented before the University of Arkansas Chapter of Beta Alpha Psi — December 1957
Your Chairman has asked me to speak to you briefly concerning the certified public accountant's responsibilities to his client. This I am pleased to do. Any young person, whether he aspires to a career in public accounting or contemplates a career in the industrial accounting field, should have some understanding of the professional responsibilities which the public practitioner is expected to assume.
The certified public accountant who accepts an engagement from any person accepts at the same time a position of duty or trust. He is thereafter responsible — that is, answerable — to his client for the faithful discharge of the trust which has been placed in him. His responsibility to his client is a legal responsibility and if he fails to discharge it faith-fully, he may be required by law to recompense his client for damages sustained. His responsibility to his client is also an ethical responsibility and if he fails to discharge it faithfully, he may be subjected to discipline by his profession. Legal actions against accountants and disciplinary proceedings by professional bodies, of course, are relatively uncommon. Yet, every independent certified public accountant is keenly aware that the manner in which he faces up to his responsibilities to his clients determines
in the long run how his practice will prosper and whether or not his chosen profession will gain in prestige.
Mr. John L. Carey, in his book Professional Ethics of Certified Public Accountants, has written:
"A client unavoidably puts himself in the hands of the professional practitioner whom he retains to advise or assist him. The client is not equipped to evaluate the quality of technical skill or professional
judgment which the practitioner brings to bear in performing
his work. Therefore the rule of caveat emptor cannot apply. The very nature of the relationship puts the professional practitioner in the position of a fiduciary in the sense of a position
of trust and confidence. The standard of behavior of a fiduciary is commonly assumed to be that he shall exercise no less care in dealing with the affairs of those to whom he is responsible than he would in dealing with his own."