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Stopping the Next Enron

"Listing three systems-natural, social and economic-Dillard sees the natural system as most important. `The social is dependent on the natural..the economic is part of the social,' he siad. `We have inverted that hierar-chy, and privilege economic systems over other systems.'"

By Jered Fisher

[This short article published in the Portland State University Vanguard, June 1, 2004 describes the newly created Center for Professional Integrity and Accountability.]

In the wake of corporate accounting scandals like the Enron collapse, Portland State has established a new business program to examine ethical issues in accounting practices.

Supporting and sustaining democratic society is the goal of the newly created Center for Professional Integrity and Accountability, according to Jesse Dillard, the center's director and the Retzlaff chair in accounting within the School of Business Administration. "With the establishment of this center, we hope to raise the awareness of students, faculty, and the civic and business communities to the importance of acting in the public interest and to collectively explore alternative ways of doing so," Dillard said. The center recently held its first event on May 24, billed as The Enron Collapse: A case study in Business and Regulatory Failure.

The event was co-sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Law School. John Ringer, an assistant professor of law from Lewis and Clark was the feature speaker. Kroger was a prosecutor on the Justice Department's Enron Task Force.

Funding to launch the center was provided by Phil Boque, a retired partner of Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that gained infamy for its handling of Enron accounting files.

"The formation of a center such as this one is important because of the turmoil in the corporate world over the past couple of years," Bogue said in a press release. "The center will be a place to study what happened, what will prevent it from happening again in the future and to create a place where regulatory issues can be debated and worked on."

The initial focus of the center is on accounting and related issues, according to Dillard.

Dillard maintains a distinct perspective on how economics fits within different systems. Listing three systems - natural, social and economic - Dillard sees the natural system as most important. "The social is dependant on the natural... the economic is part of the social," he said. "We have inverted that hierarchy, and privilege economic systems over other systems."

The purpose of business providing goods and services to society is that, according to Dillard. "Management has a responsibility to society, not the other way around." Dillard says that management has been given use of resources by society because it has a responsibility to be "good stewards of those resources."

Dillard concluded that the center's purpose is "to engage in a dialogue on how accounting and management can fulfill this responsibility."

As detailed by the center's mission statement, its goal of promoting action in the public's interests will be "pursued through scholarly investigation, educational innovation and community interaction." The center will pursue scholarly investigation by identifying and taking into account public interest issues faced by accounting and organizational management. Program, course and curricular development will be part of the center's educational innovation. Conceived as a focal point within the metro and regional community, the center will provoke discussion that surrounds the issues of accountability and integrity.

Dillard reiterated that "the economic sectors responsibility is... valuing democratic society."

The center has many upcoming projects and events. More information can be obtained at www.cpia.sba.pdx.edu.

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