Ethical Standards: The Bedrock of Our Profession

by Bill Simer, CPA, WSCPA Board Chair for 2015-2016 | Jan 04, 2016

From time to time I receive letters and e-mails from members with concerns about issues facing their practices. Many of them are regarding concerns with recent rules or policies and their implementation, but a recent letter I received was directed at a more important matter, the ethical standards that are the bedrock of our profession and the backbone of our privilege as a self- regulated profession. 

Whether you practice in public accounting, in industry, or even if you’re retired, the ethical standards of our profession convey a higher level of personal responsibility that has resulted in the high level of public trust that we enjoy as CPAs. As our profession develops specific standards for specialized areas of practice, the discussion always starts with the importance that our Code of Professional Conduct be a central part of these standards.

While I’ll concede that specific rules and interpretations are necessary elements of our ethical standards, understanding and being committed to the principles of our Code of Professional Conduct is critical as we navigate in a world of rapid and dynamic change. The preamble to our Code of Professional Conduct reminds us that by accepting membership in the AICPA (or the WSCPA—as referenced in the Bylaws, WSCPA members agree to comply with the Code of Professional Conduct of the AICPA) we assume an obligation for self-discipline above and beyond the requirements of laws and regulations, and that our responsibilities extend to the public, to clients, and to colleagues, and that we should exercise sensitive professional and moral judgments in all activities, even if we sacrifice personal gain as a result.

Our Code of Professional Conduct sets a high bar but the result is that we’re held in high esteem by the public, and other professions worldwide look to our ethics as the standard to be emulated. If you haven’t read our Code of Professional Conduct in a while I would suggest that you take the time to read and contemplate it. You’ll likely find a reminder of why you chose this profession as your life’s work.

In the next few weeks I’ll be taking part in regional meetings of the AICPA, and their fall meeting of Council. You can expect that in our next issue we’ll have an update on the developments that take place at those meetings. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent you.  

Bill SimerWilliam Simer, CPA, is a Partner with Eide Bailly LLP in Spokane. You can contact him at

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