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Would have to be this part of the exam, of course

EY fined $100m after employees cheated on ethics exams
The Big Four accountant admitted that nearly 50 of its auditors cheated on the ethics portion of the CPA exam

An interesting little note for those who would plan everything, have rules for all parts of life. When rules become too onersous – are more than just a nudge in the right direction – then people will cheat. GOSPLAN being the grand example from the past century but we do keep getting more minor reminders as here.

21 thoughts on “Would have to be this part of the exam, of course”

  1. It reminds me of those apocryphal stories about answers to Oxbridge philosophy papers.

    “Q: What’s the worse type of cheating in accountancy?”

    “A: My friend says this is!”

  2. Surely if you score a pass on an ethics exam by cheating then you should still fail because you cheated and that’s unethical.

  3. We did a similar thing. HR had some stupid CBT crap that we were supposed to complete – not on ethics though. The boss got a smack hand because we were doing useful stuff instead of, to us, pointless CBT courses. So I went through one, looking at the html source & found how a pass got registered. Then all the team just went there for 3 or 4 courses. HR changed how it worked a year or so later…

  4. DocBud in Guildford

    Are the rules onerous and unreasonable, ethics is a very important subject in most professions? I’ve had to do numerous corporate governance exams for multi-national companies that operate in developing countries, sometimes with quite complex scenarios around conflicts of interest. Although I found them a distraction from proper work, I never considered them unnecessary or onerous. Both MrsBud and I have quite regularly been amazed at how many professional people just don’t seem to understand their ethical responsibilities to clients, colleagues and employers. I’d rather not have an accountant who couldn’t pass an ethics exam.

    As an example, I had a colleague who was genuinely surprised that there was anything wrong in owning trucks sub-contracted to a trucking firm that had a major contract with his employer.

    One thing that I would never contemplate is cheating.

  5. We had to do dozens of online training courses with the obligatory multiple option tests at the end that needed to be passed. 90% of it was irrelevant to the jobs we did (e.g. why does a person who is managing computer servers have to know the difference between “kiting” and an “abusive squeeze”.
    My boss always skipped through the training so got wrong answers in the test. When failure was looming his head would pop up and he would ask me what the right answer was. It was cheating, and the right way to deal with the stupidity.

  6. ” I had a colleague who was genuinely surprised that there was anything wrong in owning trucks sub-contracted to a trucking firm that had a major contract with his employer”

    On the basis of the information supplied, I don’t see the problem. Unless it is that the employee had a sideline business renting trucks? Was this employee engaged in negotiating the trucking contracts? Was he involved in negotiating the sub-contract?

  7. The joke in my legal studies was that Ethics taught you how to avoid ethical rules.

    @DocBud in Guildford: I’m not convinced that ethics exam results actually correlate with ethics.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    Ethics are, or should be, inherent and unethical people should be routed out as part of the slection process.

    If someone is acting unethically its usually because the company leadership are setting bad examples and/or failing to train and monitor and their employees effectively.

    What DocBud describes sounds to me more like training: you’re going to work in X country/region and this is what you need to know.

  9. BiND, I think you have to accept that ethics are not universal but personal. Eg, it used to be that if you wanted to do business in Brunei you had to pay the Sultan, otherwise he wouldn’t let you into his yard. I suppose these days you would call it a local tax but it’s still unethical. That’s why I laugh at all these high-minded folk who get so upset about, say, BAE paying bribes to the Saudi Government. There are so many levels of unethical behaviour there – on whom will the weapons be used, should we be selling armaments in the first place, should we be doing business with slavers – that the fuss about bribery is disproportionate

  10. Why should EY pay the fine? If they didn’t condone or assist the cheating the fines should be levied on the individual cheats.
    If the management was responsible (and a tasty 2 million quid per exam paper suggests it was) then they should be banned from auditing any public company.

  11. @jgh

    If IQ tests only measured how well people do on IQ tests, why do IQ test results correlate so well with many real-world outcomes?

    Have to admit I’m not convinced an ethics exam would correlate particularly well with how ethically someone behaved. (But as DocBud says, if it shows they have at least had to think a wee bit how ethics apply to a complex real-world scenario, that would at least be something. Not everyone has.)

  12. I remember at BP some of the 24/7 Gas operators were caught on video using the 5th floor sofa for sex during their 4AM (or whatever) lunch break. Nobody actually gave a flying phuq because what you did on your lunch break was your affair and it’s not like they could exactly pop out to Pret a Manger at 4AM.

    It only became a problem when building security sent out a rather coy email to all hands that the 5th floor sofa was directly beneath a video camera that this. Those in the know just laughed and the rest of us just scratched our heads.

    Next thing we knew the email was appearing in The Sun including faked actors canoodling on a leather sofa like it’s some porn audition. BP CEO Lord Brown went apeshit and instituted yet another round of mandatory training on Company Morals and Ethics basically, which was interesting but pretty pointless. What he should have done was just put it down to “One of those things” and moved on.

    This from the same guy who was paying for his Canadian toyboy’s rent on the company dime and ended up with perjury accusations before being given the boot.

    All a bit rich, I thought. Not sure whether Lord Browne ever took his own Morals and Ethics test. I suspect not.

  13. DocBud in Guildford


    The owner of the trucking company, who could afford to buy all the trucks he needed, certainly didn’t invite the employees of clients to buy or lease trucks and sub-contract them to him out of the goodness of his heart. Not only did it create a vested interest for the employees (who would sometimes club together) to ensure that he kept the contract and to not make too much of a fuss about breaches of the contract, it also meant that if he were to lose the contract, he could cancel the sub-contracts and not worry about finding new work for the trucks he did not own.

    Ethics are certainly something that are inherent to a lot of people, and for those people training is not really necessary, but there are those who don’t get that certain behaviours are not acceptable. Companies need to demonstrate that they have ensured that all employees who may have the opportunity to take advantage of their position have undergone ethical training. There will still be some who do the wrong thing because they simple lack ethics and look at any situation as an opportunity for personal gain, but there will be those who recognise a situation as being one that was covered in their ethics training and act accordingly.

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    My comment seems to have disappeared.

    Diogenes (and DocBud), fair points. I was thinking more of bending the rules for personal gain, or colluding with others for them to bend the rules.

  15. Ah, ethics – should Jimmy Carr have stuck to his tax avoiding guns or said he was contrite and re-arrange his affairs so as not be a tax avoider way in the future. The first option puts the problem back on government, the second lets government off the hook.
    Very recently the rules said I could get 10k/hectare for planting trees on land that cost less than that. Would it have been ethical to take advantage of that? Gawd only knows. It was a stupid idea to incentivise not producing food and exploiting stupidity for profit can make the stupid thing stop.
    In snooker people sometimes call push shots on themselves. What a great sportsman, says the commentator, as the frame goes on to be lost. No incentive there to get better technology or referees.
    It’s just so confusing.

  16. @John Galt
    It was their “lunch” time, but the cost of removing the errm “stains” from the sofa had to be met.

  17. @DocBud
    I’m not convinced that ethics exam results actually correlate with ethics

    Indeed, Gov’t civil servant Ethics Advisor had to resign due to unethical drunken partying

    Ethics are, or should be, inherent and unethical people should be routed out

    I agree. That’s 90% of GPs and all the rest of the toxic jab drug pushers gone

    I can see them all at tribunals “I was following orders”

    Best to start sackings at the top

    Jabbed risk of death from Omicron is ~x2 unjabbed and rising daily

    Maybe Jeremy Vile will emit a final croak

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