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Editor's letter: Is greed really good?

Michael Douglas who portrayed Gordon Gekko

Tesco in the UK, Wal-Mart in Mexico, Petrobras in Brazil, FIFA globally, Aero in the UK, Toshiba in Japan, Gowex, Bankia and Pescanova, all three in Spain, Noble Group in Hong Kong, are only a few of the accounting-related scandals that made the headlines in 2015. Behind each of these so-called scandals lies an accounting firm, too often one of the glamorous Big Four.

News travels fast, it is said, but that might be because news almost always takes the same route: first a corporate failure is exposed, then the eternal question is put on the table "where were the auditors?" and finally audit firms armed with PR specialists spin away maintaining that it's not the responsibility of the auditor to uncover fraud - that whatever their client's fault was the firm had no way of knowing or finding out.

This month International Accounting Bulletin held a round table with professionals from international networks and associations. The discussion was meant to centre on innovation but quickly slipped into the corporate culture at firms and a word rarely heard made its way to the debate - greed.

The person who voiced it, later tried to tame it by saying "profit motive". Nevertheless the word had been voiced and one can only but wonder why it should be taboo? Accounting firms after all are corporations and, as such, their rush for growth and profitability seems natural.

As Gordon Gekko, the iconic character in the 1987 film Wall Street said: "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."

Rather than question whether greed is good, a more pressing issue for the accountancy profession is how does one reconcile an innate interest in economic profit with a public interest mandate? It seems the answer is: better communication (see page 6-7).
The time has long passed since greed, along with other motives, drew the Norse out of their Nordic fjords to raid and establish links with most of Europe and sometimes settle there. Now the Nordic countries seem to enjoy relative anonymity in a sometimes overlooked corner of Europe. This month's issue travels north and explores the fiercely competitive markets of the Nordic countries (page 13-16).

In other news International Accounting Bulletin and sister publication The Accountant wish to thank all the delegates at this year's industry forum and award dinner (page 8-9) as well as congratulate all awards winners and nominees.

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