In this scenario, Hamilton Wong and his peer Lauren Hutchinson, employees at Sun and Berardo, were two of the independent auditors assigned to the Willie & Lomax engagement. One of Wong’s responsibilities was to hand in the time reported weekly to the senior auditor in charge. During this time, Wong became aware of Hutchinson underreporting her time for the client when he noticed incomplete files the night before and in the morning, the files and memos were complete. Although the subject was considered taboo, the organization encouraged the behavior from upper management down. Wong was sure that Hutchinson was trying to gain recognition and be promoted through her excellent time management skills. When Wong confronted Hutchinson, regarding the 80 hours of unreported time, she became angry and walked away. Wong was irritated and upset, and at the end of the week he reported his hours which were over by up to 25%, and Hutchinson’s hours which appeared to be on budget. Questions
1. Place yourself in Hamilton Wong’s position. Would you report all of your time worked on the Willie & Lomax audit? Why or why not? Do you believe that Lauren Hutchinson behaved unethically by underreporting the time she worked on that engagement? Defend your answer.
Ans. It is unfortunate that independent audit teams have to perform in a broken system where underreported hours are rewarded. Being labeled as “fast-track superstars” for underreporting hours was a common theme at Wong’s organization
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An implicit theme of this case that I want students to recognize is the contrast between the persistent and vigorous efforts of David Sokol to “get to the bottom” of the suspicious items he uncovered in JWP’s accounting records versus what Judge William Conner referred to as the “spinelessness” of JWP’s auditors. The JWP audits were similar to most problem audits in that the auditors encountered numerous red flags and questionable entries in the client’s accounting records but, for whatever reason, apparently failed to thoroughly investigate those items. On the other hand, Sokol refused to be deterred in his investigation of the troubling accounting issues that he discovered. The relationships that existed between members of JWP’s accounting staff and the Ernst & Young audit team apparently influenced the outcome of the JWP audits. Of course, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
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