Exploring the forensic accounting practice in the UK: evidence from the profession

Hegazy, Sarah (2015) Exploring the forensic accounting practice in the UK: evidence from the profession. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

Since the recent accounting scandals, policy makers and regulators have been developing strict measures coupled with continuous improvements in corporate governance practices to protect the economy from corruption and fraudulent acts. Forensic accounting has emerged in an effort to detect and prevent these financial crimes.

This research focuses on investigating the practice of forensic accounting in the UK and the role of the accounting profession in the professionalisation of forensic accounting. Drawing from Abbott’s (1988) thesis of a system of professions, the study sets out to examine the problem that has initiated the need for this professional work; how the accounting profession’s subjective interpretation of this problem has impacted their legitimation of the forensic accounting practice; the professional work that the accounting profession has managed to legitimise through such subjective interpretation; the abstract and professional knowledge needed to legitimise, strengthen and extend the accounting profession’s expertise into new jurisdictions of the forensic accounting practice; and the regulatory role to protect the boundaries of professional work from competitors; and, the internal and external disturbances that have shaped the forensic accounting practice. Those disturbances result in professional rivalry, competition and eventual jurisdictional settlement, areas also investigated in this study.

Although recent studies in the field of forensic accounting have focused on issues relating to the emergence of its practice, much literature remains silent with respect to the role of the accounting profession in the professionalisation process of forensic accounting, which has lead to the emergence and recent boom of this area of expertise. Furthermore, the role of social actors such as the big four accounting firms in the professionalisation process is invisible in the accounting literature. This is because very little mainstream accounting research focuses on the social construction of the accounting practice. Therefore, the contribution of this study is two-fold. First, it adds to the rare forensic accounting literature by providing in-depth account of the features and functions of forensic accounting. Second, it provides empirical evidence on the role of the accounting profession in the professionalisation process of forensic accounting.

The author has, therefore, employed an interpretive approach that considers the political and social factors influencing the current outlook of the forensic accounting practice. A multiple case study design was employed, where three subjects of investigation were chosen, namely Big Four firms, specialist forensic investigative firms, and accounting professional bodies. Employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches; interviews, documentation analysis and postal-survey questionnaires were chosen as the appropriate methods for an in-depth investigation of the development of forensic accounting.

The findings of this study highlight that forensic accounting professionalisation has been greatly influenced by the subjective interpretation of the accounting profession, where powerful legitimacy and marketing strategies have been employed by the accounting profession to legitimise the forensic accounting practice. The accounting profession was able to claim, strengthen and extend its legitimacy in almost all practice areas of forensic accounting, thus becoming the main provider of forensic accounting services. The study finds that state regulation, the technological explosion, globalisation and the economic downturn have all contributed to the accounting profession success in claiming such status. The study further finds that intra-professional competition plays a major role in shaping the dynamics of the forensic accounting practice. Such competition, together with the relative lack of regulating standards within the forensic accounting practice, had shed light on a new form of professionalisation, where the big four accounting firms had a major role in regulating the market. This latter point is of importance to policy makers and standard setters.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Accounting and Finance
B. > Theses
Item ID: 18869
Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2016 16:44
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2017 10:42
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/18869

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