As an NBA fan, officials are not high on my favorites list. As a San Antonio Spurs fan, one official, in particular, draws the ire of all Tim Duncan supporters: Joey Crawford. Crawford is famous for throwing Spurs star Tim Duncan out of a late 2007 season game against the Mavericks for laughing at his officiating calls from the bench. But the referee was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs, apparently for challenging Duncan to a fight in the confrontation. Crawford has recently said that the event caused him to reevaluate the way he refereed and to seek more extensive counseling to deal with anger management.
What Crawford, a skilled, veteran referee had lost with respect to Tim Duncan was objectivity. This week a similar incident came to light when former NBA referee Ed Rush, now the supervisor of basketball officials for the Pac 12 Conference, allegedly offered $5000 or a trip to Cancun to any official who would give a technical to or eject Arizona coach Sean Miller during the Pac 12 tournament. It may have been in jest, but according to one official, Rush reiterated the focus on Miller during a meeting on the tournament’s second day. In fact, official Michael Irving called a late-game technical on Miller for yelling about a double-dribble call, and UCLA went on to beat Miller’s Wildcats, 66-64. While Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott agreed that it was “completely inappropriate” and reflected “very, very poor judgment,” he concluded that it was not an offense worthy of Rush being fired. In fact, he concluded that “[t]here was nothing unethical or a breach of integrity.” His conclusion is dead wrong.
Actually, these comments are not unprecedented for Rush. After he finished his NBA officiating career, he served as the league’s director of officials. In January of 2002, Dallas Mavericks owner famously said of Rush’s leadership, “Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating.” Cuban tweeted after the latest incident, “Not surprised…It will get worse.” Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who famously sacrificed his own objectivity and career by gambling on NBA games, accuses Rush of making comments about Cuban to NBA officials similar to the ones he made about Miller. Of course, Donaghy’s own lack of credibility comes into play here.
Whether the comments were made in jest or not, Rush provides strong evidence that he has lost his objectivity. And the power that he wields over Pac 12 officials gives the appearance that his loss of objectivity contributed to unequal treatment in a tournament game. The issue is not that Miller was treated badly; it would have been just as bad if he had been favored by officials, or an insinuation had been given that someone should be helped. What is wrong here, and what drew Larry Scott’s ire, is that Ed Rush was not objective.
It makes no sense for Scott to claim that integrity was not sacrificed; in officiating, integrity and objectivity are inseparable. You cannot be “whole” or “true” in your evaluations as a referee if you are biased, or if you introduce that bias as a person in authority.
The same is true for auditors, the people I train for our profession. It is not enough to be technically competent, as all three referees in this story arguably are, or were. You must also be a person of integrity and objectivity. And, what is critical, you must be objective not just in fact, but in appearance. If you lose the appearance of objectivity, you have lost the trust of those who rely on you for unbiased judgments so that they are not misled, whether in the financial statements or in the final score of a basketball game.
The bigger danger with auditors, and with those who supervise them, is to lose objectivity by becoming cheerleaders for their clients, not by harshly and unfairly judging them. Many accounting firms have found out that juries are apt to punish auditors harshly in the case of audit failures when it is obvious that they have lost objectivity and become their clients’ advocates.
The jury may still be out on Ed Rush’s objectivity. But, if the accusations are true, Commissioner Scott’s conclusion that Rush did not sacrifice his integrity by making those statements may come back to haunt him.
Categories: Athletics, Bottom Line Ethics, Texas A&M
It is amazing how extremely different these two industries are, and yet they provide such a great parallel for maintaining integrity and objectivity. Being a huge basketball fan myself, I have often questioned the refs motives in certain calls, and wondered if they were possibly bribed to make the call. I never really thought this happened, and I was appalled that Rush would make such a comment. The fact that Commissioner Scott did not constitute Rush’s proposition to other refs as a breach of integrity is something I find plainly disturbing. As we talked about the scandal at WorldCom, a similar statement comes to mind from the video on David Myers in which in the beginning he believed it was solely aggressive accounting, nothing he believed constituted criminal charges. Maybe accountants and refs have more in common than I first thought!
I completely agree with you. I have been a huge sports fan for my whole entire life, thanks to my dad! Although I’m not a Spurs fan (Dallas Mavs World Champions 2011 WHOOP!), I do not think this behavior should be tolerated at all. As we talked about this story in class last week, I began to think how hard it would be to referee a sports game with out being objective. Deep down, every person has their favorite team and wants them to win. I agree with Dr. Shaub that this can relate to auditors and their clients. This is why there is a rule that we have to be completely independent from our clients. If we weren’t, we would be motivated to help them make their numbers look good, which is incredibly unethical. For example, if ABC Company was your client, but you also had stock in the company, you would want their earnings to rise every quarter. Being excited for your client for doing well during the year is completely different than rooting for them to make quarterly earnings. You would not be objective in this situation. Although, in this story above, Rush was rooting against a specific team, Dr. Shaub made a good point that it could be other way around. People could make calls so that their favorite team would win a game.
I believe that everyone can learn from this story. Whether you be an auditor, judge, teacher, or referee, we all have an obligation to be objective. Everyone needs to keep their eyes wide open for more issues with objectivity. I will for sure be watching out for the referees during Mavs games and the umpires during the Rangers. This goes to show that being objective does help the public interest. In auditing, if the auditors are objective, we will be able to provide the public with reasonably fairly presented financial statements. In sports, if the referees are objective, then fans will be happy and can trust the calls they make whether it be for or against their own team.
I have umpired high school baseball and my roommate referees/umpires all big three high school sports, so I have heard some of his stories. There was actually one time where we did a game together and had to toss several players from one team and then we somehow got scheduled to call a game with the same team a couple weeks later. Of course, they apologized about how they acted. Honestly though, it was still hard not to be completely objective as they were so out of control the first time. On the other hand, I have had coaches and players be overly nice and it also makes it hard to be completely objective. I remember hearing a NFL player who said he would always talk to the referees before the games and try to become personal with them in order to try to help get away with some holding. The players in this situation are the clients and the officials are the auditors. No matter whether you hate or love the client, you still need to be objective, and that is a harder task to do than it sounds.
Keith, I completely agree with your comments. Even though I have never been a referee for a game, I can see the situation that you are faced with. I think it would be extremely difficult to be objective when a team has been out of control in the past. In the same manner, it’s hard to be objective when people are extremely friendly to you as well. I can think back to the last time I got pulled over for speeding. I wasn’t rude to the police officer and in fact I was extremely nice. I was trying to be so nice that he would feel bad to write me a ticket.
Was I speeding? Yes
Did I get a ticket? No
If I had acted in a more aggressive or rude manner, I fully believe that I would have received a speeding ticket. Therefore, I think it’s fair to say that police officers are not fully objective either. As auditors we need to resist the temptation to be swayed and keep the professionally skeptical mindset with our clients.
Indeed, police are also supposed to be the most objective of anyone as they wield power no one else has. However, I feel like this is not the case most of the time and they pick and choose the people they give out warnings too, etc. Also, they have the power to allow their friends to get away with things or get them out of bad situations. This is the problem with have people police others, which is pretty much what we are doing as auditors. If you would have been rude to the officer, you would have received a ticket. However, you should have since you were speeding. This is comparable, while much less serious, to companies who commit fraud and are always overly friendly and helpful to the auditors. After all, if you are doing something wrong, of course you are going to be nice because being rude gives them more incentive to try to find something that is wrong.
I completely agree with your comments. One of my clients during the internship was extremely rude and a hassle to work with. I found the audit team scrutinizing nearly every move the company made to try and find something wrong, simply because we were tired of feeling mistreated. I would definitely say that our objectivity was in jeopardy.
Mason, I had a similar experience to you. Mine was the opposite though. I was assigned to a client who was extremely nice. The client was in a small town so they loved to work slow and fill most of the day with small talk. We found multiple errors in their accounting procedures, but every time we suggested an adjustments they would make it. Because they didn’t refute the adjustments, we viewed the errors as just that, “errors”. What if the errors were actually intentional though? Instead of questioning whether they were just trying to see what they could and couldn’t get away with, we wrote the errors off as accidents. I feel like this could also be a sticky situation.
I was in the same boat as Mason. After weeks of bickering back and forth, the relationship between the client and the audit team was bitter, at best. It seemed as though many people pulled out a magnifying glass to try and find something wrong with anything that the client submitted. I’m not sure how much time was spent on unnecessary searching for immaterial mistakes, but it doesn’t solve any problems when both sides are constantly pushing back on each other.
I had a similar experience to Mason, however I noticed the opposite effect. Rather than scrutinizing tiny details, there was a larger emphasis placed on figuring it out and avoiding talking to the client. Other than one of the managers on the team, everyone was afraid to confront the client. All in all I think that the only way to be unbiased is to be confident in your knowledge and your relationship with the client. If you have that confidence you will be able to confront them without fear of reproach or fear of being wrong. The client will always have personality, good or bad, and there will always be some sort of relationship there. It’s your personality that will determine your independence.
I had a similar experience last year when I signed up to ref a few intramural games for the rec. During one of the regular season games, a friend of mine was tossed out of a game for a clearly flagrant foul (I wasn’t officiating, just a spectator), and I remember being thankful that I didn’t have to make that call against a buddy. Later on in the season though, I was scheduled to ref one of his games, and I remember the uneasiness I felt, because I knew I would have to watch him closely due to his past behavior in games. Before the game, I had to keep reminding myself that I had to focus on doing my job. When I talked to the head ref about it, he told me to not see faces, just watch the players play. I definitely see where you can apply this to our profession and client relations. It’s very difficult to maintain that balance to keep the client happy, and remaining objective and independent. As auditors though, we have to remain steadfast in these areas in order to protect our true clients, the shareholders.
Jordan, I can see how you would have been thankful to not be the ref for your friend. I personally don’t see how I could be objective to ref a game where a friend is playing. While the head ref said to not see faces, I frankly don’t think that is possible. This really supports the importance of independence rules in the auditing profession. If one is not mentally independent, there is no way one can give an unbiased opinion.
This is so true and happens so often. Friends let their friends slide on a lot of things, not wanting to call them out on minor offenses. This reminds me of the article “The Impossibility of Auditor Independence.” It is hard to make small talk with the client every day without blurring the lines of professional friendship. As auditors it is our duty to maintain independence both in appearance and in fact, which has been shown is difficult to achieve.
First off, being from San Antonio, I am a HUGE Spurs fan (Whoop!). Secondly, I am very surprised that even though the incentives Rush offered have come to light, he has not been reprimanded for his lack of equality in regards to his judgment during the Pac 12 tournament. I remember when I would be watching Spurs games with my dad when I was younger, I would wonder how a referee can remain unbiased or objective in regards to the teams that are playing during a game/tournament. I completely agree with you in terms of how it is absolutely essential for referees to attain integrity and objectivity in all of their games throughout their profession. I think that too often referees make bogus calls because they are not able to keep these two characteristics in-check throughout their profession.
In regards to the audit profession, I think you make a very valid point about how overtime the auditors begin to develop relationships with their clients. Throughout my internship, I was constantly reminded how important it was to maintain relationships with the clients that I worked with. I think a very tough question for students, let alone young auditors to answer is: at what point does the line between a professional relationship become blurred into a personal one?
I commented about the blurred lines below too. Francine Mckenna’s approach of remaining “pleasurable” and never a “pleaser” seems really good to me. Seems like this approach is always easier said than done though.
I agree. It’s never a bad thing to be pleasurable with people. However, when you cross over to being a “pleaser,” you have to take a step back and look at your situation. Like David Duncan and Enron, when you start being a “Yes Man” to avoid any and all confrontation, you have crossed the line. When you start letting your client dictate to you how accounting treatments will be applied and who will work on the engagement, you have lost the battle of objectivity.
I think this was one of the most surprising things that I saw on the internship. Not only are these relationships natural but at times they are essential. When you are on the same client for years, it is natural to get to know the employees you work closely with. When dealing with uncooperative clients, it becomes necessary to connect and develop a working relationship with the employees. Our role as auditors then is to remain objective in building these relationships, however this becomes much more difficult the more you connect and the longer you remain on a client. Would firm rotation be a viable solution to this objectivity issue?
Wow, I never really thought how similar auditors and referees are.
Let me preface my comments by saying that I am not excusing or absolving all referees of any blame, but as I’ve watched more and more basketball games, I have gained a greater respect for referees. They are under such tremendous pressure to make judgment calls objectively. I get annoyed when people blame the outcome of the game only on the ref’s call when there was more to the outcome of the game than just the ref alone. I think it’s the lazy and sometimes uneducated answer to blame the ref.
However, not all referees are objective. Unfortunately, the home crowd can influence the way the referee makes the call. But that’s no excuse. So I am a huge supporter of refs continually getting training.
Both professions can definitely do better and be objective. The best way to be objective is extremely difficult and takes real discipline to execute.
I agree with your statement that blaming the refs is often the easiest answer. When I played basketball in high school, my coach always reminded us that we NEVER lost due to the refs poor calls, as the team always could have played better defense, made more free throws, or minimized turnovers to make up for these points. For me, though, the difference in Rush’s case is his intentions. He didn’t make a bad call in the heat of a high pressure game. Instead, he had time to calculate this decision, which revealed a lack of integrity. Not only had he lost his objectivity by offering a bribe, but he also knowingly helped strip the referees responsible for the game of their objectivity. The fact that no action was taken bothers me the most about this situation. It sends the message that complete objectivity is not a requirement in the referee profession, and therefore, officials do not need to strive to achieve this valuable standard.
Additionally, I think Dr. Shaub makes an excellent point in saying that auditors and referees alike require more than just technical competence. Truthfully, I think the argument could even be made that integrity and objectivity are just as if not more important than technical competence. The auditing profession, like the refereeing industry, adds value because of our ability to remain objective and uphold our integrity to protect shareholders. If we were only technically competent, I believe the argument could be made that a larger majority of the population could be an auditor, and the value of a CPA designation would suffer significantly.
Go Spurs Go! It is nice to know there are more Spurs Fans! But I would just like to say I completely agree with what everyone has said about being objective no matter what profession you are in. I actually remember the 2006 playoffs when the Spurs and Mavs were pitted against each other for the NBA Finals slot. I remember my dad complaining that we wouldn’t make it to the championship, and I was mad at him for saying that because I loved the Spurs. He said it was not the Spurs fault because the Spurs are in a lower market area where the team doesn’t get as many profits compared to the Mavs who are in a higher market area. The NBA wanted the Mavs over the Spurs to win because more money would be made. It was not fair and still isn’t fair how some people or organizations get preferential treatment because of how much they make or how much money they could bring in. The same goes for auditors and their prestigious clients that bring in the big bucks. The firms, as we have learned, will do anything to keep their clients happy.
LOL! Only you, Mike, could draw such a parallel between Account Auditing and Refereeing a Basketball Game! But you have done so masterfully- even as a non-accountant, I enjoyed reading this blog.
And thank goodness Bobby Knight no longer coaches- who knows what the bounty offer would have been (which begs the futher question- did Ed Rush ever work for the Saints…)
Unfortunately, this is not the first time an official has lost their objectivity and succumbed to “behind the scenes” incentives. The loss of objectivity has been seen throughout all professional sports. I believe an interesting correlation to make between sports officials and auditors is the level of importance in their career as well as the level of training/education required to hold their position. Both go through rigorous training and tests to achieve their positions and both can influence an end result substantially. Even with the amount of training/testing required and their importance in regards to the end result, objectivity is lost time and time again. This goes to show that objectivity is not a product of being well trained or being trusted in important situations.
I agree with you that this is not the first, nor the last time objectivity has been lost in professional sports. It is upsetting for everyone who is involved to see professionals give into a bias. It is one of the responsibilities that must be accepted and taken extremely seriously. Although I agree that it is something that can’t only be taught, I think that training reiterates the importance of objectivity and can keep that “gut feeling” from being pushed away.
I am not a big basketball fan, but I can agree that sometimes referees have it “out” for my team when watching any sporting event. That’s easy to blame on personal bias and rightly so. Everyone has personal bias to something in some way or another. It is part of being who we are as humans. For referees and auditors, it is their job to put those biases behind them when on the job. That’s a lot easier said than done. It is like going in for a performance review at any job. You aren’t going to give yourself the completely 100% accurate rating. That’s betting against the home team.
Like auditors, referees should be able to recognize that their personal bias has gotten the better of them. The best way to do that is proper training. I don’t think that referees should go through an ethics class/review every weekend or game, but having some sort of evaluation process semiannually wouldn’t be too much to ask.
Staying objective is a difficult task no matter if you’re going over a company’s financials or managing a game when the client or team is trying to win your favor.
Throughout our lives, we have witnessed officials of all sports make lucrative calls time and time again. As advocates of our favorite team, we are quick to read into the call and become suspicious of any ties the official may have to the opposing team. And unfortunately, the accusations we make that the official is acting subjectively, are far too commonly true in today’s world. From bribery to threats to personal relationships, the motives that ultimately strip officials of their objectivity, and their integrity, are endless. Like already mentioned, this same train of thought can be applied to auditors in the accounting profession. We all know that it is extremely unethical (and against the law) to conduct our audit without remaining completely objective. However, like Dr. Shaub explained in class, when we spend so much time with our client, close friendships are quickly formed and we soon find ourselves asking them, “So how are the kids doing?”. While that is simply a gesture of kindness, I also believe it is a great depiction of how easily the “line of objectivity” could be crossed. When I meet someone, I invest in that person and enjoy getting to know them. Now with that being said, I also take the profession very seriously and understand the importance of remaining objective under all circumstances. However, I believe that as we learn about this in class, some people don’t realize how difficult it really is to apply that in practice. I am in no way saying it is okay to become biased towards your client- but, I believe that remaining objective at all times will require more discipline and focus than many other issues of the accounting profession.
I have pretty extensive experience in yelling myself hoarse at referees that I am convinced are being paid off by the other team. I know that refs are trying to be objective and that I am just a worked up fan, so most of the time I am able to let it go, trusting that they have made the fair decision. This is why it is so disappointing when we actually do hear about referees who are in fact making official calls on the basis of unjust incentives. The public trusts referees to make sure that a game is played fairly in the same way that the public trusts auditors to ensure that companies are fairly presenting their financial statements. In either case, I agree that objectivity is a necessary part of both professionals performing their jobs well. In audit, I understand how difficult it is to be objective when you do spend so much time with the client, and it becomes easier to be on their “side”. This is an important thing that we as auditors need to be aware of so that we are not caught overly sympathizing with the client and failing to uphold our duty to the public.
SIDE NOTE- When Mark Cuban made those comments about Rush being unable to manage a Dairy Queen, the company invited Cuban out to do just that in the Dairy Queen located in my home town. It was a pretty big deal.
Jessie, I almost mentioned his working in the Dairy Queen in my blog. Couldn’t figure out how to do it without getting off subject. I bet it was a big deal!
That is really so interesting about Mark Cuban working in a Dairy Queen after his comment! I just looked it up saw this lovely picture of him, dressed in his Dairy Queen uniform complete with the name “Tony” on his shirt. I am actually impressed that he went through with the request and worked there, even if just for a few hours! http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/news/2002/01/16/cuban_dairyqueen_ap/
In regards to this comparison of refs to auditors, I do have to say that it is a little scary we are able to compare so closely these two professions. Seeing the way people treat (/yell at) refs in just about every sporting game I’ve seen played makes me very weary of the way we could be treated or looked upon as auditors someday. As much as I would like to think that people put a high value on the work we do, I can’t help but see that some will never really trust us or our objectivity. The even scarier part is, I don’t know if I can fully blame their lack of trust, because as seen in the past, refs and auditors both have a very difficult time maintaining objectivity.
True objectivity is one of the most difficult things for humans to achieve. We are emotional beings whose actions are naturally guided more by our hearts than our intellect, and this is one of the many things that sets us apart from other species and makes human beings such amazing creatures. In most aspects of our lives and even in many professions this quality is critical and leads us to the best choices. Our relationships, social and political opinions, likes, dislikes, and passions can lead us to greatness.
However this does not hold true for referees or auditors. For them all of these wonderful human character traits described above, must be checked at the door. In these professions the rules are there for a reason and they must be followed to the letter. It doesn’t matter that the guy dribbling a basketball bought his Mom a house with his first paycheck, or that an auditor’s client takes him fly fishing every summer in Montana, if the basketball player cheats on the court, or your client fiddles with the numbers, the ref and the auditor must call them out.
I believe that as long as people are doing a job that is too be judged by others then there will always be inherent biases. People put in a position of power over others can only hope to maintain objectivity. However, I feel that the way we make decisions is based on how we perceive people. If the decisions impact people based on their work then objectivity can be impaired, even with extreme foundations and strict guidelines for making decisions. Appearing independent is the best we can do because, unfortunately, the majority of the time black and white situations do not exist when judging the work/actions of others.
I complete agree with Jimmy’s comment that “…as long as people are doing a job that is to be judged by others, then there will always be inherent biases.” The true test of ethical behavior and moral compass comes when such biases must be separated in order to maintain objectivity. I believe this is what separates the good from the great in our profession. As auditors, our profession is centered on client service. We are focused on providing the highest quality work, while also maintaining independence and objectivity. What distinguishes this work is an auditor’s ability (or the team’s ability) to develop relationships with the client, provide excellent customer service, and evidence professionalism through adherence to ethical standards. Respect is earned to those who stand by their morals in the face of adversity, and I believe this is the key to reaching the highest standards of professionalism.
I also think therein lies the difference between a referee’s duty to objectivity and an auditor’s duty to objectivity: client service. A basketball ref has the simple duty of providing an objective judgment, while auditors are required to maintain objectivity AND excellent CLIENT service. A basketball referee serves both teams, while auditors only serve one. I suppose a referee serving one team, but officiating for both (the auditors), has a more difficult task of maintaining objectivity.
As a former athlete in high school, our teams were always dealing with biased referees at our school and at other schools. I feel that it was due to a lack of training and rotation of officials. In the professional leagues we as fans all expect a truly unbiased official but that is not always the case. I agree with the other commenters that training and also testing of their ability and current state of independence needs to be consistently updated and reviewed. As humans sometimes we build strong emotional attachments to things we grew up around or enduring memories. Although it may not be intentional in the beginning for these officials over time it develops, that is why I believe that consistent training and testing is a key part in solving this issue.
In another one of my classes, we talk a lot about a key difference in staff and management/leadership being that the leaders in any organization are able to move past being just technically competent (although important) to a point of establishing a wisdom about the organization.
With regard to NBA officials, or any sports official for that matter, working a game with a team you really like (or hate) can be likened to auditing a company that is really cool and cutting edge (or goes against your personal beliefs). It is in these special situations – which happen daily and thus may not qualify as “special” – that it is the duty of the responsible party to shirk their inherent bias and do their job not only with technical competence, but integrity, objectivity, and ultimately wisdom.
People who are required to be objective, such as referees and auditors, will most likely face the temptation to give up their objectivity at some point in their career. There will a number of incentives that will be presented, such as bribes for referees and bringing in more revenue from a successful relationship with a client for auditors. However, no matter how favorable the outcome may seem, it’s important not give in to any incentive that would cause one to lose their objectivity. Auditors have a duty to shareholders and referees have a duty to the sports teams to be impartial and to provide a fair opinion. Standing firm on one’s integrity no matter what the circumstances are will result in auditors and referees being able to resist this temptation to lose their objectivity. However, this is easier said than done.
I was talking about this very issue with my family over Easter weekend– hopefully this post doesn’t draw too much controversy!
Consider the role of the Supreme Court. Whenever legal issues arise, we rely on these nine justices to remain objective in their interpretation of the Constitution, to make sound judgments that align within our Constitutional framework. However, as we’ve learned in class, chances are that over time our justices have not remained objective in their rulings. From Dredd-Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court has a history of making poor decisions that were undoubtedly influenced by the justices’ biases. Unlike the temporary effects of a poor basketball ruling, however, Americans have to live under these decisions for years. With such stakes at hand, is this fair?
Kara, I think you bring up such a good point! It is interesting that we rely on our justices to be objective when we also know that a person’s appointment to the Supreme Court has highly political effects. I am sure that justices sense a duty to be objective, but what happens when they have an overriding sense of duty to a belief, political party, or something else? This makes me wonder about judges, auditors, reporters, and others we trust to be objective, because even when we are seeking to be objective, can we ever truly be? As humans, it seems that we always bring our personal experiences, beliefs, and values to the table.
“And, what is critical, you must be objective not just in fact, but in appearance. If you lose the appearance of objectivity, you have lost the trust of those who rely on you for unbiased judgments so that they are not misled, whether in the financial statements or in the final score of a basketball game.”
I enjoyed reading this line from your blog, and it really reminds me of lessons I learned while being a student leader at A&M. It was impressed upon me that as a leader, people will make judgements about you. But it is up to you to be conscious about your behaviors so that all judgments are without reproach. As an auditor, I feel this is an important principle to continue to follow. If auditors ensure that all of their behaviors will not cause anyone to question, they will be more likely to be free from bias.
I definitely agree with this comparison between auditors and referees. I am a huge sports fans and always wonder if refs/umpires are being bribed or paid off based on the calls they make during a game. I can easily see this being an issue in the audit world. Although being technically competent, I think auditors need to be more objective than ever. It is too easy these days to have auditors lose objectivity based on a bribe or some sort of monetary compensation for providing a certain opinion. For auditors to retain the respect of all the investors in the world, we need to make sure that we appear objective to all third parties. Although it is hard to be objective in appearance, I think now more than ever we as auditors need to uphold this characteristic, or the profession as a whole will drastically suffer.
As a huge sports fan and a future auditor, I find it fun to make the comparison between refs and auditors. In both professions, the professional is called to make judgments that will effect either the outcome of a game or financial statements. The two are also similar in the fact that there are a large number of people following what they do which leads to increased scrutiny and pressure. Although the professions call for complete objectivity, I believe it is hard to remain completely objective in both professions.
On the surface it appears that remaining objective is black and white. However, as humans I think we have a natural tendency to favor those we respect or like. This favoritism doesn’t even have to be a conscious act. For example there was an NBA referee that was caught betting on games. He could correctly predict outcomes in games that he was not officiating. This wasn’t a result of any incentive being offered to the other officials, but rather his understanding of how certain officials called games. He knew that certain officials, like Joey Crawford in this case, favored or disliked certain players(Tim Duncan in this case). He used this knowledge of how other refs officiate certain players to predict the outcomes. In my opinion, this example shows that even when you are trying to be objective sometimes you fall short. Sometimes, subconsciously we impair our objectivity even when there is no incentive on the line.
Ultimately, I do agree that any time you offer an incentive that favors one position or in this case a team, you have lost your objectivity. However, there are times when we subconsciously lose objectivity without even knowing it.
I liked the way you put it when you said, “In both professions, the professional is called to make judgments that will effect either the outcome of a game or financial statements.” I believe it is much more difficult to be objective in situations that can drastically change the outcomes of certain situations. Teachers, for example, should never give better grades just because they favor a certain student. But what if you have a student that has been trying so hard, yet barely failed the test that will allow him to move on to the next grade? In many cases, emotions may play a huge role in our objectivity. In my opinion, I don’t think any human being can be truly objective in all situations and circumstances.
It’s good to hear from some other Spurs fans! I hope they can lock up the number one seed this week. Dr. Shaub has made an interesting comparison between auditors and basketball referees. However, I think auditors have significantly more at stake with their clients, and it is much harder for them to be objective. It’s scary to see independence failures in events as minor as NCAA basketball officiating, because it makes you question the ability of auditors to remain objective.
I’d like to add an interesting experience of my own. For much of my life, I’ve played baseball and tennis, which have greatly affected my personal development. Baseball is a team sport – but is officiated by an umpire and is largely regulated. Tennis, on the other hand, is a sport based on the credibility of your opponent. Points are won by calling the other players’ shot “out,” and this rule is causing serious problems among junior players throughout the country. There is certainly a lack of objectivity in a sport in which one’s self-interest in winning the match greatly influences the line calls on the court. I’ve found that as players grow older, they often learn a greater appreciation for the game and have some sort of moral growth that is created by this self-regulating environment. Perhaps auditors could learn to succeed in a similar situation.
One more addition: In my intramural football games, I’ve often noticed that the REC officials will make favorable calls toward the team that displays better sportsmanship or is losing. I’m not sure if this is a natural human tendency, but I have certainly appreciated the help in games where my team is behind. I think that complete objectivity may be impossible to obtain, as judgments are constantly being formed about a person/thing. However, I believe that the majority of our professional officials do a good job with making unbiased decisions in very small amounts of time. It certainly helps that writers such as ourselves are calling attention to their shortcomings.
I have always enjoyed the sport of Basketball and played all through my junior high and high school years. I played for such a small school in a desolate area that we often had the same refs for a large number of games each year. We had developed relationships with a good number of them, to the extent that we would have conversations while throwing in the ball or shooting free throws. Even though the referees may have been doing their best to call a fair game, they definitely didn’t look independent in appearance. I feel as though many of the referees that we had for years and years had a hard time being objective.
I agree that this is very similar to the audit/client relationship. As auditors, we work along the same clients for years and develop relationships with them. They can very easily become “friends” and make the audit less objective.
Maintaining objectivity and integrity as a referee and as an auditor provide many of the same challenges. I agree with many of the other posts on this blog that more training in both professions could lead to a more bias free environment. In my situation, I feel as though a better rotation of referees could have potentially led to more fair game calling. Maybe this is also the case with auditors??
I agree with your opinion Kate. I think that a better rotation of referees would have helped. This also applies to the auditing world as well. The rotation system for auditors I think is a little bit flawed in the fact that after only a few years you can be back on the client. This doesn’t give enough time to distance the relationship between the previous audit partner and the client and for all we know it could have been developing during this time. It is hard, however, to find a perfect solution to this problem. I think maybe it should be that a partner only gets to be on a client once, or at least has to wait for two rotation periods. The opposing argument to that is that if we were just able to be more unbiased and independent in appearance then none of this would even matter. Confusing stuff…
While I think Cuban overreacts to a majority of calls against his beloved Mavs, I believe his statement brings up a valid point.
I agree that both objectivity and integrity are intertwined. I know we have all watched a game where a referee blatantly missed a call costing our team the game. However, I also believe we are all humans who make mistakes — officials clearly aren’t perfect (I think the Seahawks/Packers game exemplified that in the most horrendous way possible). Just from watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament alone, there have been countless calls I’ve disagreed with. From the spectator’s perspective, the difference between an honest mistake and not being objective is when they lose their appearance of objectivity. Indeed, maintaining this appearance of objectivity is easier said than done. As auditors, we can’t abuse the privileges given to us and we have a duty to uphold integrity and objectivity in our professional relationships with the client. While there is no perfect way to implement this, it is important to train ourselves now and anticipate difficult situations so we can react wisely.
I also believe it’s important that referees maintain objectivity across all levels of the game and not only for professional sports. From officiating a high school football game to the Super Bowl, this same concept of maintaining integrity and objectivity should be applied. In the same way, from auditing small clients to the larger, “more glamorous” clients, we should maintain the same level of objectivity. The more consistent we are in our calls during difficult situations, the more likely we can be trusted.
This blog proves one thing I am definitely learning from our ethics class, which is how we can relate to and learn from all kinds of experiences. I do not think I would have ever compared an auditor to a referee before I read this blog. Our class discussions are opening my eyes to many new ideas and learning opportunities, and I want to take a second to say thank you Dr. Shaub for that.
By growing up playing sports in a small town and on tournament teams every weekend, my friends and I started to know a lot of the refs and umps for our games. I never thought about it then but I am sure objectivity and integrity was in jeopardy at least a little bit there. I want to look back at it and say it was not, but honestly I cannot fully do that. I know I would always hear comments from everyone such as, “Oh good, he is umping our game today.” Maybe those comments were made because that certain ump was objective and able to call plays with integrity but it may also very well be too because that ump was more likely to call in our favor. Either way I can definitely see how this will relate to our role as an auditor. I saw how my teams interacted with the clients and knew them pretty well as individual people. I can definitely see how a person easily if not aware starts to be persuaded by the relationship rather than full objectivity. While I wish some things were black and white in life, they are not and we have to be sure to keep our lives and motives in check. I do wonder what motives were behind Larry Scott’s conclusion stating, “[t]here was nothing unethical or a breach of integrity,” because obviously in that situation Rush’s bribery was not made fully through integrity.
Also, it is kind of interesting for me to think of integrity and objectivity as one especially in the auditor’s role. I know lots of people who have integrity and live great lives, but I can see those same people not being objective in certain situations. In an auditors role though, without the objectivity part your integrity to the public’s view fades really fast.
When I read the article on CBS sports for the first time, I was very quick to go do more research on this Ed Rush fellow. What I was surprised to see is that Ed Rush was also the director of officials during what some people call the “worst officitated NBA game of all time”. That game is the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the LA Lakers and the Sacremento Kings. This terribly officiated game in 2002 is painfully relevant to a conspiracy video I just watched concerning the Lakers’ most recent playoff push in the past 2 weeks. It’s easy to see that the NBA can make more money if the Laker’s are in the playoffs. Is the NBA really independent if it’s financial results depend on the outcome of games that can be influenced by people on it’s payroll? Absolutely not.
Now, I don’t want to come off as a crazy conspirator, and I am aware that correlation does not equal causation, however one would have to be blind not to question the link between the two. I watch virtually every big time regular season NBA game, and almost every playoff game, and am a huge basketball fan in general. In saying that, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surpirsed if the NBA used officials to influence outcomes of these games.
It would be silly to think that there wouldn’t be some sort of outside influence on officials, because aside from players, they are literally the only people on the court who can directly affect and influence a game. And when a lot of money is on the line, people will stop at nothing protect their “investment”. Betting on NCAA tournemant games is wildly popular, and like you said, those casino’s did not just pop up because everyone goes to Vegas and wins.
I actually kind of remember this game between the Kings and Lakers, and how much scrutiny the officials received. As a sports fan it’s hard not to become a little disheartened when you hear about officiating scandals and issues such as these, because it makes you wonder how much of what you watched was called fairly and what was influenced by crooked officials such as Tim Donaghy. I think the NBA is one of the leagues that you have to have the most skepticism. To the avid watcher it sometimes seems as though guys like Kobe get almost every call, and a lot of iffy ones at that. It has to make you think that someone tells officials to give star players star treatment, obviously because they are popular with the fans, and the fans generate the league’s revenue.
In a way this is comparable to the auditor-client-public relationship. The public has to trust that the auditors are being fair, rather than making the decision that delivers the most revenue. This inherent conflict of interest with the realm of auditing is something I have struggled to make sense of so far.
Referees are just one example of the many times that individuals are caught in ethical situations and have to remember to maintain their integrity and objectivity through the situation. I remember a time when I was playing soccer and the ball went out of bounds. My dad was always one of those loud guys on the sideline yelling “Green Ball”(which was our team). The ball had clearly gone out of bounds because of us, but the ref was so overwhelmed by my dad and hadn’t really seen who kicked the ball out of bounds so he gave the ball to our team. Now this example is very small in comparison to an NBA game or being objective when dealing with an audit client, but it shows that in many different instances no matter how big or small, individuals objectivity is challenged.
I believe that being objective is a case all individuals in every profession face. Is it a bigger deal in some professions than others? Of course it is. Preparing a clients financial statements according to how the client wants them to look, rather than showing a misstatement on them that actually occurred is a much bigger deal than being given a free order of french fries at McDonalds because your friend works there. In all instances we are faced with dilemmas like this, that’s why everyone, not just auditors, need to understand the importance and the consequences that involve being objective and maintaining ones integrity.
This is very true, but I think you should also look at the integrity of the official who made the call against coach Sean Miller. By making the call what does this say about his character? Well certainly it can be said that he is easily tempted and persuaded. Just as the Bible reads, Eve was only tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit; she was not forced as it was purely a choice. Same thing here, Ed Rush simply made a comment, whether in jest or not, he did not force or tell the official to eject the Arizona coach. And if the Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott can’t see the situation was a breach of integrity, then maybe someone ought to be questioning his objectivity also.
I agree that objectivity and integrity are inseparable. As auditors we must remember that to be “whole” and “true” with yourself, you cannot always be your client’s greatest champion. This would force you to be bias towards your clients’ wishes. If we are not objective then we may destroy ourselves, or better yet destroy the accounting profession as a whole. And we all know we need to keep and build on every ounce of public confidence as possible.
I agree that the situation makes you want to question the official’s character, whether it was for fun or for the money, the situation should have not taken place. I feel like officials make sports beneficial because they control the outcome of games sometime; officials should feel its their duty to be the most objective person on the court. It would make any sport that much more valuable and enjoyable to watch.
I’m realizing that I might have chosen the wrong profession as long as I have ‘people pleasing’ tendencies…Referees are never loved by everyone in the stadium, and quite often are hated by half of the fans watching, whether or not they are calling a fair game or not. It’s the nature of the game- and the nature of the fans to act out irrationally by yelling at the referee. I think as auditors, referees, or just human beings in general, we need to recognize that there are going to be times in our lives where we have to make an ‘unpopular’ decision. The difficult part, for me at least, is my ability to rationalize my way out of that unpopular decision in the face of adversity. I think the skill that sets good refs and auditors apart from bad ones is the ability to stand alone, in a stadium of thousands of people, or in an audit room full of your coworkers.
I completely understand how you feel. I’m a people pleaser too, and it can be extremely difficult to act as the devil’s advocate and stand on your own. As auditors, it’s important to build and maintain client relationships, but it’s also important to maintain a sense of professional skepticism. Even on my internship, I got to know my client fairly well, and I had to constantly remind myself to stay objective. As I went to work each day, I had to get myself into the right frame of mind in which all of my emotions were checked at the door. It’s important to remember that we’re working on behalf of the shareholders, not the client. No matter how close you may be with your client, we all need to be able do our jobs with a strong sense of objectivity and integrity, even if it involves making unpopular decisions. Just like referees, auditors must make fair and objective calls based on the evidence presented before them, without regard to personal relationships.
I would not have thought to compare auditing to sports in any way but this is a very interesting viewpoint. I’ve heard a lot about superstar athletes getting preferential treatment and having referees try to protect them. Flipped to the audit aspect of this, I would feel safe to bet that audit firms try to do the same for their big name clients to some extent.
My biggest question is how emotions play a role in objectivity. I cannot connivence myself to believe that basketball refs do not have favorite teams. I would assume that the majority of refs grew up loving basketball, and therefore have a team they cheered for for the majority of there life. Becoming a NBA ref does not make this loyalty magically disappear, so how can a ref truly be and/or appear objective.
I think this ties along with what Dr. Shaub said was the biggest danger to auditors. Once you, as an auditor, become a fan of the client, you have lost all objectivity. Your natural inclination will be to side with the client as opposed to looking out for whats best for the shareholders. I realizes the difference in these to objectives may not always conflict, but the fact that you are no longer the number 1 fan of the shareholders is where, in my opinion, objectivity is lost.
I agree with Drew in that basketball refs tend to have been basketball fans growing up. If they didn’t necessarily support a team, they could have supported their with their city, stadium, owner, or other avenue of affiliated fanhood.
To be honest, I have no idea how you could prevent a ref from being slightly biased. But in the end, it’s a game controlled by people who make human mistakes. Just because there might be one biased auditor in a firm, that doesn’t mean you can label the whole profession as being prone to bias.
Dang. I had no idea about this last officiating scam. I personally am just a Texas fan in general, and as long as the Spurs are not playing the Mavs or Rockets, I will be going for them. My dad on the other hand is a huge Spurs fan, and I always had to hear him yelling at the refs through the TV, particularly with some choice words for Mr. Crawford. But as with a few fellow classmates, I have never noticed the similarities between a referee and an auditor before. I do agree that both have to maintain their integrity while being objective, but I also recognize some differences with the consequences. A referee can make one awful call and be blown up on TV the next day, probably fired, where as an auditor can make an awful call, and maybe have some chance to fix it. It’s probably just the environment I surround myself with, but I wont remember which official made the terrible call and ruined a game for someone in a year from now, but we will always be talking about the Enron/World Com debacles.
If I had to choose to trust a referee or an auditor, I would choose the auditor. Refs seem so sketchy.
This post reminds me of the article by Bazerman that questions whether auditors can ever be completely independent. A referee is someone that clearly enjoys sports, and I feel that that right there already hinders their ability to be objective because in most situations, a sports fan will almost always have a preference (as slight as it may be) for which team wins. In Bazerman’s article, he argues that just the fact that the auditors are being paid by the client is reason enough to believe that independence is hindered. An auditor is also bound to develop relationships with the client through regular interaction, which also could potentially hinder independence and allow emotions to get in the way of objectivity.
I think that when comparing a referee and an auditor, it seems to me that an auditor is able to be much more objective than a referee can. I feel that there is more emotion involved for referees due to their love of sports. Not to say that an auditor can’t love accounting, but I feel that there are much less emotional ties to clients then a ref has to a team.
I’m with you, Shelby! I feel that auditors have it a little easier when attempting to make objective/independent calls. Unfortunately for auditors, when we do mess up, it can really reverberate around the world. I’m not the biggest athletic-ly informed person, but I know we’re still hearing about WorldCom/Enron/Dynegy and scandals, with the occasional mention of bad sports calls. Not to say refs aren’t important! But accounting definitely has a more widespread, poisonous effect than a ref call.
This concept of being objective applies to so many things in life. I agree with Drew in questioning what role does emotions play in being objective. I can say honestly for me, it is hard for me to cancel out my emotions entirely. Many decisions I make are based out of what I am feeling at the time, and this at times can get me into trouble. I have to remember to take time to think and sometimes sleep on a decision before I speak or act, so that I know I am making a decision based on wisdom and not emotion.
I can relate to the fact that auditors need to not only be objective but appear objective. When I was in high school, I wasn’t allowed to attend any parties. At the time, I thought my parents were being way to harsh and just completely unfair. I wanted them to trust me that I wasn’t going to do anything wrong at the party and let me go. Their response was always that it didn’t matter what I was actually doing at the party, but that being their compromised my morals. Now I can understand where they were coming from. As I go into a career in auditing, it won’t matter if I am truly objective, if I don’t seem to be. As auditors, we have to live a beyond reproach life style when it comes to our clients. If we do something that could cause someone to assume we aren’t objective, we could lose our appearance of objectivity and investors won’t believe our audits are good.
I never even considered the parallels between auditing and being an NBA referee. However, after reading this I completely agree how much objectivity plays a role in both professions and how difficult it can be to stay objective. It is very difficult to be completely objective as people are emotional and create attachments. This comes true in both professions as referees are working with the same players for many years just as auditors are working with the same clients for years at a time. It can be easy to get caught up in your relationships and try to help out your clients and is something that auditors and referees must be constantly aware of.
Like you were mentioning this evening Dr. Shaub, objectivity will always be lost to some extent once you have met a person. Once you have spoken with somebody and have been able to put a face to a name humans naturally have perceptions of that person, and in an industry such as accounting where most people are good-natured, it will eventually affect how you make some decisions. The main goal is to not let how your objectivity changes affect what the actual outcome of the final product or decision is. It’s a balancing act of how you view somebody and the self will to make decisions and take actions that are not swayed too deeply in one way or the other based solely upon this relationship.
This article reminded me of a game a few years ago between the University of Texas (Vince Young era) and Colorado. Basically, a Texas receiver caught a pass in/near the back of the end zone. The official called the pass a touchdown, then clearly proceeded to fist pump and mouth the words “That’s right baby”. I would include the link, but I’m not sure if it will allow me. Search “UT vs. CU ref fist pump” on youtube to find it.
What was clear was that the official did not possess any degree of objectivity. I imagine officials are just like any other sports fan; they have favorite teams and players, and they probably have teams and players they aren’t too fond of at the same time. However, this particular official made a critical mistake: he had absolutely no business being on the field of play, yet he did it anyway. He knew going into the game that he was a fan, and he knew there was no possible way he could have been objective. How easy would it have been for him to let a supervisor, etc. know this? Something tells me he just would have been re-assigned to a different game. At the end of the day, he wanted his favorite team to win the game, and possibly wanted to do what he could in order to aid them in achieving that outcome.
I think there are definite parallels to this situation in the audit profession. The firms, in a way, are rooting for their clients. After all, the bigger and better the clients are, the more prestigious the firm becomes. It is natural for auditors to build relationships with clients; they are humans, and it is human nature. However, every auditor should know when they have gone too far. They are the referees, and it is important to realize when the time comes to step away from the field of play, and move to a different game.
The example of the fist pumping official was the first thing that came to my mind as well. When you appear to lack objectivity it does not matter if you are actually objective or not. It makes people doubt your objectivity in everything you have ever done. One major example of that was the KPMG partner who got in trouble for insider trading. Regulators have decided that partner lacked objectivity and now all the financials he audited need to be audited again.
I cannot understand how auditors are expected to remain 100% objective when being paid by the people with which they have a natural conflict of interest. In this regard, it is not a matter of ‘people pleasing’, rather common sense – don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The idea of an insurance company, hired by the client, to choose and be responsible for the audit firm sounds like a valid alternative to the current system. The balance required of the auditor-client relationship is both delicate and unnatural. Be appealing enough to obtain the client. Maintain a close client relationship. Do not be afraid to tell the client he/she is doing something wrong/may be committing fraud. Be likeable enough to retain the client. All of this while remaining objective both in fact and according to the public. I agree that, for the public to trust in the auditor’s opinion over the financial statements, auditors must be completely objective. The difficulty of this, however, I believe is understated. Maybe that’s why the partners get the big bucks – maintain that client relationship…then share confidential information to friends for watch discounts. Too soon?
I agree! I think auditors often get carried away trying to be objective in appearance, while sidelining being objective in fact. And I agree that you can’t truly be objective in fact if your client is the one signing the check.
As a Houston Texans and NFL fan I can relate. The calls can become infuriating. I usually do not believe it is a matter of whether they are objective, but every once in a while it comes into play (mainly when it is a heated rivalry game.) I have a hard time believing that every referee is objective, especially if they love the league that employees them. Almost everyone grows up with a favorite sports team. To me, it is impossible to be truly objective, whether in sports or auditing. Like a referee wouldn’t work in the sport’s league he didn’t enjoy, an auditor will not keep a client they do not enjoy. How can one be truly objective when they enjoy the client and build a relationship with them? I don’t think one can.
I agree with the notion that being objective is more important than being merely technically competent, especially for professions such as accounting. There is some leeway between losing objectivity and breaking the rules. However, once the line is crossed, it is very hard to turn back. As we learned from a lot of the financial crimes that ones the accountants were pressured to lose objectivity, it is not far from breaking the laws. Being objective is the best defense we have to prevent things spinning out of control
It’s amazing how auditing can be compared to sports, but from your interesting viewpoint, it is evidenced that the two parallel in regards to maintaining integrity and objectivity. As a sports fan and former athlete, I have many times questioned certain calls made by the refs. A good majority of the time, I assume they have been bribed to make such a call, or have a personal tie with one of the teams. It is disappointing to know that refs do in fact make unjust official calls. Refs have to make decisions that at least one fan will disagree with, but as long as they are doing it with objectivity, it will be understandable.
Just as the public trusts refs to make fair calls, the public trusts auditors to present fair financial statements. In both cases, objectivity is necessary for all professionals to perform their job well. Many challenges arise in regard to maintaining objectivity and integrity, but as many others have stated, I agree with the fact that more intense training is necessary to lead to a bias free environment. It is an important concept that professionals need to be aware of.
Although it is easy to get caught up in your relationships with clients/teams/individuals, every professional needs to be able to do their job with a strong sense of objectivity and integrity.
I grew up on the Spurs, so the strained Joey Crawford, Timmy D relationship is very sore subject. Simply put: Crawford is a jerk..I don’t know how you could ever eject a individual such as Tim Duncan, who happens to be one of the most boring and soft spoken NBA players of all-time, much less when he’s sitting on the bench.
Regardless, at first I wasn’t sure how where the comparison would be drawn between auditors and basketball refs, but I have to say it was pretty articulate. Makes me question every basketball game I ever played in growing up. It definitely would’ve sucked knowing then if the referees officiating were giving the game one way or another based on some fringe benefits or kid they didn’t like. Realistically even though much less is at stake, it ruins the integrity of the game and the desire to play when you know the odds are stacked against you. The same pertains to the auditors and our financial markets. If corporations were cut-throat profit-maximizing entities with no regard for how the game were played, well I wouldn’t want to waste my time investing or allocating capital.
Integrity and Objectivity go hand-in-hand. Even though they are hard to come by, they’re necessary to maintain our financial markets and even a recreational game that millions love to play.
This situation reminds me of the article we read for class a few weeks ago titled, “The Impossibility of Auditor Independence.” The article really made me step back and think, “Is it even possible for us as humans to be 100% independent and objective?” We are so naturally prone to bias regardless of whether we do it consciously or not. So how do we mandate and regulate something that, to some extent, we naturally can’t control?
Some would argue this could be accomplished by finding people who have no connection to the task, team, company, etc., as seen by the proposed solution of auditors being appointed by the government. But in my opinion, the flaw in this idea is that time has a way of slowly but surely shifting objectivity into bias or favor just due to the inevitable relationships built as the clients and auditors interact. I mean, even in looking at the refs in a basketball game, you have to wonder if over the course of the game, they don’t develop at least some desire to root for one team or the other. Even if it’s just because one team is more exciting to watch, is true objectivity really attainable?
I heard countless times during my internship, “We are a client-serving business.” So even though our primary loyalty should be to the shareholders, not the the client, our perspective seems to be skewed. It seems to me that the ideal of independence is what we are all striving for but it is much much harder to actually regulate it in practice.
I completely agree with you on this, Kelsey. As humans, we all have favor towards something one way or another despite our best efforts to stay objective. In the audit profession, we want to keep the client happy so that we can maintain their business. After all, they are the ones paying us. However on the other side, we have our duty to the shareholders to provide assurance that the financial statements are not materially misstated. With these two sides playing tug of war, pure independence is very difficult to obtain. Obviously, our duty should be placed way above our compensation, but in the midst of life, it is easy to see how the priorities can become shifted.
The same seems to be true for referees, and many other professions where emotions are supposed to be completely hidden. Independence is extremely important, yet even someone with the highest of moral standards has the battle to fight. I think that Ed Rush was definitely unethical when he offered incentives to eject the Arizona coach– clearly crossing the line of objectivity. Again, it was plain to see the lack of integrity of Larry Scott in making the completely wrong call to eject the coach. However, in plays where it is truly a close call and could go either way, I must always wonder if the decision made has the ability to be truly objective. Unfortunately, it seems as if underlying biases play a larger factor than we like to believe.
It is human nature to become less objective the more you get to know someone and the more time you spend with them. Whether you like the person or not, you are going to start leaning one way or the other eventually. It is extremely hard not to form biases, especially because many times our first impressions of people are not easy to shake. I think first impressions are the main reason why it is so hard to be objective. Often, we form these ideas about people subconsciously, which makes them dangerous because we don’t realize we have already lost some of our objectivity.
I agree that some sort of third party should hire the auditors for different companies, but I agree with Kelsey that over time auditors will naturally become less objective. I don’t know if this lack of objectivity will ever be solved because it is a natural habit for people to form ideas about others. However, I think as auditors it is our duty to maintain as much objectivity, actual and in appearance, as possible.
Referees, like auditors, have a responsibility to be independent not simply in fact but in appearance as well. Whether or not he really intended what he said, he certainly gave the impression that he held a personal vendetta against one of the coaches in his league. Fairly or not, every time that coach receives a bad or even close call, his fans will be able to legitimately argue that perhaps the ref “just had it out for him.” Just like auditors, once you lose your independence you lose all credibility.
Watching the Scott London case unfold as we speak brings to mind numerous parallels. Although no one is contended that the Herbalife or Skechers financial statements are misstated, the fact that the partner in charge of the audit was no longer independent forced KPMG to withdraw all of their opinions. Although officiating may not be as serious an issue, I believe that the same standard should apply and the official in question should step down.
I completely agree with what you said about remaining independent in appearance as well as in fact, and I think it raises a good point. Both auditors and referees are expected to take the time to step back and look at the situation from the point of view of an outsider, and determine whether our decisions could be viewed as biased or otherwise affected by personal goals. Claiming you “know how it looks” but that you are truly objective in fact is not a valid excuse because there is no way to prove your sincerity.
I didn’t know there is a similarity between referee and auditors before reading this blog. I think the reason why there are rules requiring auditors to be independent in appearance but not for referee is because there are more parties relying on the information provided by auditors. If they do not look objective, even though they are objective in fact, the outside parties will still have a hard time trusting them. Auditors should keep in mind of their independence because once you have spent so many years with your clients, you may tend to have a relationship with them, which may compromise your objectivity.
In these examples it seems as though Joey Crawford and Ed Rush take player/coach actions personally. The solution to this problem seems to be the ability to remain objective. Obviously, this remedy applies to auditing in the same sense. It seems that many people become attached to clients both financially and emotionally. However, auditors need to remember that their personal relations with a particular client or client personnel is not an employment objective. The objective is to be truthful to the public investors. As Francine Mckenna noted, auditors don’t need to be “pleasers”. They simply need to be “pleasurable” during an engagement. Although this seems harsh, this seems to be a good threshold to measure ones qualitative performance. Obviously this is easier said than done and I often wonder how to keep myself from crossing this benchmark. (Any suggestions?)
In less academic terms, I think I will constantly try to keep in mind that business isn’t personal… it’s just business. Unless I operate a sole proprietorship that sells “whatever you want services” I know that my job isn’t always to agree with the client. As I note above, this seems like a harsh approach. However, from the evidence of multiple speakers’ personal testimony this seems like the safest approach.
The examples of both officials and auditors highlight the conflicts in some industries to be both a leader that motivates your workers and one that services your clients. Often times professionals are put in the middle of an internal and external force causing it hard to find a balance between the two. In the NBA referee case, many a time these officials might have to choose between remaining objective or appealing to the emotions of his colleagues. In the example of auditors, you are place between an internal force of your company to remain compliant with accounting standards while externally you are forced to keep your client satisfied with your findings. In this great battle of objectivity versus the expectation to produce certain results, perhaps there could be a better system put into place to ensure that an individual is only face with either external or internal pressures.
I had the chance to play basketball in high school and I have had plenty of experiences with officials. They are in a position where it is very easy to gain from certain calls throughout the game. I have had referees gamble on the very games I was playing in. Whether it is the official paying someone or he is getting paid, objectivity could easily be thrown out the window.
I agree with the comparison of officials and auditors because we could potentially be faced with the same issues. Wanting to see a company in good standing for personal gain no matter what clouds our judgment to be reasonably skeptical and to act in due care.
I’ve thought about being truly objective as a referee, and have debated how possible this really is. Many referees are basketball fans, and growing up, most likely had a favorite team or at least found players that they enjoyed watching. I imagine that at some point, these referees would be asked to referee a game of a team in a city they previously lived in. I’m sure many of these referees have friends or aquantances that are fans of the teams that they officiate, and there may be many instances where they’ve been pressured or persuaded to alter the outcome of the game. I happen to remember the replacement officials in the NFL last year, and one of the officials was working the New Orleans Saints game, and was in fact a Saints fan. I have respect for those referees that are in fact objective, but would be interested to find out how many referees are truly independent. Anyone predicting a study of retired officials’ independence coming?
First off as an avid soccer player I absolutely hate referees, and unlike any of the ones in the story I believe they are all technically incompetent, but I may be a bit biased. In addition to this, like the ones in the story, most are not objective. If you take a look at the stats of the top soccer teams in the world, most are given some preferential treatment. Manchester United (a team I actually support) has been awarded the most penalty kicks in the entire league, and many of those were handed down from one single referee (Howard Webb). Obviously there is not absolute objectivity from these officials. Looking at a broader view of all referees, most of them know these players now, and some even have relationships with them, and it can affect their calls, good or bad. But another huge factor is the fact that these referees are most likely bound to be some sports fan, I mean they are engrossed in that sport. And even though their public allegiance isn’t known, this can also affect their judgement. As I remember there was a replacement ref in the NFL that officiated a saints game, but later on from pictures it was shown that he was clearly a saints fan. I’m not sure what the outcome was, but that doesn’t seem overly objective to me. Can anyone be truely independent? Will there not most of the time be some kind of emotional ties?
I completely agree that auditors are just like referees. Objectivity is something that can be forgotten or lost. On my internship I found this to be a great concern when you are spending your entire time at the client site. When you develop a deep relationship with the client you have begun the road to forgetting what objectivity is. I would find it difficult not to root for one of my friends in his career, or not be bias in refereeing a game where my best friend is the point guard. This same problem exists when your client becomes more than just a “client”. Lately in class we have been reading about all these fraud cases and I am wondering how the auditor didn’t catch it sooner. Well in all of these cases I have noticed that the client-auditor relationship had existed for many years and I am sure that objectivity has decreased each year since they started with the client. I expect this trend to continue and wouldn’t be surprised if there is massive fraud being over looked right now.
The comparison between referees and auditors is an interesting one. I believe these two professions have much in common. However, I see one major difference.
As far as I know, in most professional sports, referees are hired and paid by the league officials, not the individual teams. When an audit is done, the companies themselves pay their auditors directly. Nobody can be completely objective when this is the case. I agree that referees are not always completely objective, but if I were to guess, the problem is worse in the auditing world.
This makes me wonder how much more objectivity could be maintained if the government or some third party hired auditors for companies. I’m not saying I agree with this idea as a whole, but I wonder how much bias would be eliminated. As we can see with referees and other officials, the answer is clearly less than 100%. To supporters of this system, maybe this would not create as much objectivity as we think.
I had a similar thoughts regarding the payments of referees versus auditors. The root of the problem is bias. If there is a model that eliminates bias, then the auditing profession will be capable of being “Objective” and “Independent.”
I also had other thoughts:
This story also makes me think of ‘sympathy’ and how that relates to sports and the auditing profession. Imagine a team getting entirely blown out by another team. This would allow for the ref/ump to be sympathetic to the losing team. Now I do not believe the ref/ump would blow the game entirely (meaning flip the end result entirely), but is it unprofessional to make some calls in order to aid the losing team so they can keep their humility and pride?
On my internship, I had a struggling client where I could see a feeling of sympathy take place. The client was undergoing massive layoffs and had a down in the dumps feel. It was really tough to not be emotionally involved. Could struggling clients be an opportunity for the auditors to not be objective/independent? Is sympathy a bad emotion for a referee/auditor?
I really enjoyed your comparison of the auditors to referees. Both professionals decisions are often questioned and determined unfair. Blatant disregard for standards and rules gets you in trouble in either profession, much like Mr. Crawford. Another comparison I can make between auditors and referees is their decision making process. While an auditor cannot guaruntee validity of audited financials, they can come to an informed conclusion based on the audit process. This is similar to how referees call a basketball game. Every referee is not going to get every “bang-bang” play correct every time. All that the public can ask of them is that they make the best decision that they can make based on their point of view and knowledge of the game. A missed call (similar to a failed audit) is not what I believe upsets the public, it is the referee/auditor’s blantant disregard to follow the standards of their decision making process.
I have never heard of auditors being compared to sports referees, but I definitely see the similarities now. Another side that I think about is the role of the pressures from the environment. For example, when a sports referee is in a game, the stadium is usually full of the home team fans. I believe that referees are influenced to some extent when there are 50,000+ fans yelling at the top of their lungs for a particular set of results. It must be hard for refs to stay objective when you’re in the moment of this pressure. Similarly, as auditors, we are faced with the pressures when we are working with the client, because of their clear interests. This gets harder when we spend so much time at the client site and interact with them so often. Nevertheless, Auditors have to do our best to maintain objectivity despite this, just like how refs do their best to remain objective in the face of crowd pressures.
I couldn’t agree with your point that not being bias as an auditor is somewhat difficult, because over the time we audit our clients, we started a relationship with them which is also necessary for auditing. Here comes the ethical question that where should we draw the line of our relationships? I knew that once people start to build a relationship, or become friends, people tend to start a trust foundation. However, as audit professional, we are still required professional skepticism at work. A judgment of clients’ doing right or wrong is very critical. Thus, the line of trust and suspect becomes blurred gradually. We could not become an advocate of our client even if we will still keep a “trust-and-suspect” relationship. Here comes the difficulty of being 100% objective in doing audit. We need to keep learning this skill and remember that difficulty to concur while working with the clients.
While I think that you are correct in saying there is no difference between objectivity and integrity for a referee, an argument could be made that there is indeed a difference for a director of referees. It goes without saying that in his position, Ed Rush does have influence over the referees, but I think the responsibility lies on those executing the act of refereeing to maintain objectivity and influence. Whether or not Rush was serious in his offer of a $5000 vacation, it’s ultimately up to the “little guys” to be ethical. Because Rush doesn’t have a direct impact on the game, I think it could be argued that he doesn’t necessarily need to maintain complete objectivity so long as those he is responsible for do maintain objectivity.
In terms of the accounting profession, it’s ultimately up to the individual auditors to maintain independence in both fact and appearance. The difference between the basketball and scenario and auditing is that independence and objectivity in appearance must be upheld by the managers/partners of the firms because the public perceives them as being directly responsible for the truthful outcome of a company’s financial statements. In the basketball case, I think an argument could be made that the public doesn’t hold Ed Rush directly responsible for the outcome of any of the basketball games, instead holding individual referees responsible.
I agree that at a certain point losing objectivity in most situations can disqualify someone from adequate service, but where is that line drawn and who is it drawn by. I think in the case of Ed Rush there was a clear violation of objectivity and integrity and that there was a clearly defined individual (his boss) to draw that line, but in the nitty-gritty detail of life how do we judge in our own lives whether or not we are objective in our decision making? I think that, while in most cases it will not have wide-spread societal impacts, it is important to be conscious of our own objectivity and to build into our lives methods of evaluating and adjusting our decision making frameworks.
This story is unbelievably parallel to the auditing profession, I remember hearing different opinions about the situation on ESPN radio and making the connection. I think in this situation Ed Rush absolutely deserves some type of punishment. Personally, I’d fire him. It absolutely diminishes the integrity of the game if you can’t trust the objectivity of the officials. Even though he is not on the court directly affecting the outcome of the game, the officials who are directly affecting the outcome of the game look to Ed Rush as a leader. If he doesn’t take the objectivity of his profession seriously, then neither will the people that are working under him.
As with the auditing profession, as people progress through their careers I think that it can be easy for them to lose sight of how objective they need to be. They can easily become close with their clients and get comfortable with the routine of their work.
I think the important issue is not knowing we have to be objective, but actually being objective. Throughout this semester, we have seen numerous examples where people say they are one thing, but act in a completely different manner. The good ol’ excuse, “do as I say, not as I do,” cannot be tolerated. We need to live out our personal and professional lives in such a way that says “I do as I say, therefore do as I do.”
First off, I have to agree with Tyler’s comment about the amazement of how two completely different industries can be so closely related in their responsibilities to maintain integrity and objectivity. Although I am not a huge basketball fan, I remember ESPN bringing light to the issue of a Pac 12 Conference referee, Ed Rush, supposedly bribing other official to eject Arizona’s coach from a tournament game. Ed Rush was said to be joking, but I couldn’t help to think about our most recent conversation in class about how there is a time and place for joking matters.
After reading more in to the blog, I couldn’t help but think of all the football I have watched in which some refs compromised their objectivity. I’ve search continuously for a particular instance I vaguely remember when a referee made a call that favored the Texas Longhorns. Later that week, pictures of the referee appeared via social media with him wearing a Texas Longhorn sweatshirt with some of his buddies. I never questioned his call, because in sports calls are favorable and unfavorable, but I did wonder whether is objectivity was compromised by his admiration for the team. As a referee, are you able to be a fan while maintaining your integrity and objectivity?
I see one incentive of being a referee as being able to still be a part of a game that one cherishes and enjoys. However, they are bound by the responsibilities of a referee to be objective, which cannot be fully unbiased unless they show no support for the teams in their respective leagues.
While watching different sports games, whether it’s the NFL or college sports, it is clear that referees have a big influence over the game. One “bad” call and a riot may ensue. I have often felt for the refs, as I cannot even begin to understand the pressure they are under to make “good” calls – this blog helps put it into terms I can understand a bit more. As an auditor, there is immense pressure to deal favorably with the client, as a ref may feel pressure to show bias to one team. But refs and auditors are not employed to make their client look better; they are meant to be protect the quality of the job, whether that is certifying the accuracy of financial statements or making sure teams are playing fairly. In order to be the best auditor or referee one can be, it is paramount to stick to what you have learned and what you know to be right, no matter the pressure from the crowd.
It is true that in auditing and in officiating you must be objective;however, I feel like it may be harder for someone to be objective while officiating a professional sport. Referees are required to be very knowledgeable of the game and know the ins and outs of the sport. And if they are that knowledgeable of the game then they are probably most likely fans of the game and have their own personal favorite team or favorite players. Even worse, they might have a team that they absolutely hate (I for one really hate the Yankees). If a person feels so passionately about a team or player it becomes very hard for them to be objective. When I watch a Rockets game I usually think the calls are going against them. I believe it probably takes a lot of self control for referees to remain objective throughout their careers. And even if they do remain objective internally they must also remain objective in appearance. Take to account the NFL replacement referee who posted a picture of himself in Saints attire. Questions began swirling about whether this particular official could remain objective.
Now I understand many people would counter argue saying it is just as hard to be objective during an audit and that may be the case. The more time you spend on a client the more relationships you build and the more confrontations you can have. And because of these relationships it may become harder to be objective. However, I feel because of the emotion and attachment involved in sports it would be quite difficult for a official to remain objective.
Since I am a Rockets fan, and passionately dislike the Spurs, I did not mind Joe Crawford tossing Tim Duncan. However, I completely agree with your statements about integrity and objectivity Dr. Schaub. Being an avid basketball fan, it sickens me to see officials tarnish the integrity of the game with some of the ridiculous calls that they make. The major criterion that referees in any sport have to meet is objectivity that is why they are not allowed to wear a team’s apparel. The essence of a sport is having teams compete on even playing field. This is only achieved through the officials, umpires, refs, etc. being objective. To deny teams, or a few individuals, this objectivity is completely unfair. After learning of what Mr. Rush did, it is outrageous that he was not punished for his actions. This same argument correlates to auditing. Auditors need to be completely objective, just as officials do. In auditing, it can be difficult to be completely objective because you develop a long term relationship with your clients, but this is not an excuse to lose your integrity/objectivity. Though it is sometimes tough, auditors must hold true to their objectivity.
If you think the NBA is out to get your team, you should try being a fan of a Mark Cuban-owned team (2006 finals game three, but I’m not bitter. . .).
In auditing, we talked a lot about independence, both in fact and in appearance. The fact that Rush appears to have lost his objectivity should be enough for him to be removed by the Pac 12, whether or not his comments were serious. The bottom line is, if I were a fan, coach, or student athlete at Arizona (or any other Pac 12 school for that matter), it would be hard for me to respect any controversial call made by officials under Rush’s leadership. This is why I am stunned that the Pac 12 has not fired Rush, or at least made public any corrective action they have taken to make sure this does not happen again.
I’ve always said that I could never be a referee–how hard is it to remain completely objective at all times?! Even in the face of extremely unpopular decisions?! Oh, but wait–I just accepted a full time offer with a public accounting firm to be an auditor, where I will need to do just that.
I’ve never seen the similarities between these two professions before! This blog post has been particularly eye opening. As an auditor, I will need to constantly reevaluate my decisions and “check myself” for biased decision making.
I think being objective has a big influence on whether people will see you as reliable. Once sports fans feel that the referees aren’t maintaining their objectivity, then there will be a loss of value in games, especially title ship games.
I think the same can be said about auditors and investors. Once investors feel that auditors have too close of a relationship with their client, then there will be no value in audit reports. It is important to be honest with yourself to make sure you aren’t compromising your integrity with the relationship you have with your client. Only you can be the judge of how the relationships you form with people can affect your objectivity.
As a Mavericks fan, I have long been accustomed to the NBA being out to get Mark Cuban, or so he claims. I was wondering if you had looked into objectivity issues in the NBA any further? I know every major professional sports league has struggled with referee independence from time to time, but it seems far more prevalent in the NBA than in other leagues. Below are a couple, in my mind, blatant examples from recent years featuring questionable officiating and objectivity issues surrounding the NBA.
2002 Western Conference Finals (Lakers vs. Kings)
I don’t know what else can be said, that isn’t mentioned in this youtube video below, but it was clear, at the time and looking back, how the officiating affected the series and allowed the Lakers to become NBA champs. The video even contains claims that NBA fixed the game from Tim Donaghy (pot calling the kettle black?)
2007 Game 3 (Spurs vs Suns)
As a Spurs fan, I’m sure you remember this series, and you may not want to hear it, but the officials may have won the game and series for the Spurs. And guess who was officiating this game? That’s right, everybody’s favorite dirty referee, Tim Donaghy.
While I can’t definitively prove any shady officiating occurred in these series, it seems more likely than not it occurred in this series, and every year throughout the NBA.
Like auditors, referees in sports must be objective and have integrity. If they lack these, there is a general distrust and the whole system just doesn’t work. Because of recent problems in officiating in the NBA and College Basketball, I find myself being skeptical of referring. As auditors, we should also be wary of losing our objectivity.
Like the referee who was suspended after one mistake, auditors can lose all credibility with just one mistake. Both jobs hinge upon the ability to be objective and once this is in question we lose respect in the professions. As auditors, we won’t have screaming fans and TV camera to check our every mistake, but we have shareholders and the public interest to protect. Luckily, as auditors we have time to process our decisions, think about consequences, and analyze our duties. Referees must act on impulse and are more susceptible to losing their objectivity.
Could it have been for a joke or was it real? That is question that no one can really answer because he or she wasn’t there. The bottom line is that the situation should have never been brought up in the first place, because any sport that requires another person to judge, should, in deed, be objective. When I hear about scenarios like this, it makes me think about the fairness of the game. I also feel that some sports lose value because of these types of situations.
To Denzil’s point, the sports may lose value if the referees are not objective in the same way an audit opinion will lose value if auditors are not objective. It won’t happen immediately, since the public will not have knowledge of the lack of objectivity until something happens to bring it to light, but when that happens, people will rely on auditors opinions less and less.
As a soccer fan, I have to agree that referees are not objective especially in big games. I always see referees joking with their favorite players during the game, but screaming and being mad at those they have no attachments to. This syndrome is also found in auditor-client relationships, in which auditors align more to their clients than the investors.
Nevertheless, there are some things that give me hope. First, unlike referees, auditors have more time and other auditors working with them (the other referees in the court) to help them make the correct decisions. Also, the rise of precise-accounting software/technology (TV replays) is enabling auditors to detect fraud as soon as entries get posted.
However the only difference that worries me is that referees are not paid by the sport team directly, but by the league as a whole. If we were to minimize the independence issues of auditors, we need a different structure, one in which they would get paid perhaps by the PCAOB and not by the company directly.
Finally, I wonder if there is a CPE training that encompasses techniques referees, judges, and other professions use to maintain their objectivity that could be used to increase auditors’ objectivity.
It is interesting to examine the duty of objectivity in the sports industry and compare it with the accounting standards. For me, it is much easier to relate to, mainly because I am a huge sports fan. Referees and other officiating crews are expected by all participating parties to remain objective in games. The main purpose of officials is to keep the flow of the game smooth as well as implementing the rules and guidelines of the sport. However, this can be easier said than done.
One big challenge in being objective that I believe is similar in auditing and officiating is being bias for the “home” team. When you are an auditor you get your paycheck from the client and the better the client is doing, the better the paycheck usually is. In sports, the crowd’s cheering can also influence an official. It is hard to go against the will of 100,000 crazy fans that will boo at you if you make a call for the other team. In these situations it is important for us to remember our duty for our profession. Without our objectivity, our job as auditors as well as sports officials is almost worthless.
It’s funny how NBA officials and auditors objectivity parallel each other. Not being an avid sports fan, I’ve never really thought about NBA officials’ duty to remain objective. Dr. Shaub makes a good point in stating how officials must remain independent in both fact and appearance, just like auditors. If they are biased and it’s clear to the fans they’ve lost their objectivity, no one will trust them. Officials are also similar to auditors in the fact that they don’t want to upset the fans, aka clients. Bribes are used in both professions to sway one party in order to please the other. Intimidation is another tool used in both professions. Although it may be effective, it’s most certainly not the right way to get the desired results.
I believe in both sports and auditing it is essential to be objective, but is very hard to do so. There are so many pressures that try to force your hand in the decision making process of a situation. For example, as a referee, the fans are sometimes able to taunt a referee enough that they are able to control that referee’s future decisions. As an auditor, you may have a close relationship with the client so you are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy, sometimes because you can see the client as being your future employer. The point I guess I’m trying to make is that although these outside influences might try to control what you do, you must be objective and understand who your loyalties are truly devoted to. For auditors, it is to the stockholders and providing them with accurate financial statements. For referees, it is to the league and making sure the games they ref are fair and are officiated in an unbiased manner.
I can sympathize with the difficulty of officiating a basketball game because I have been a referee before. Having played basketball all through high school, I thought I would be prepared to ref but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Merely making judgement calls in a matter of half a second, without hesitation, is extremely difficult. That being said, lack of objectivity makes it so much easier. If you know you want to call a foul on someone or favor a certain team, you can easily justify it with an anticipatory blow of the whistle. And this is why I fully support your comments Mr. Shaub, because you simply cannot claim to be objective when there’s evidence of incentives for making certain calls, whether jokingly or not.
It seems that referees are the most controversial group among the many parts that make up the professional sports industry. In our modern culture, huge amounts of money and other incentives are at stake, which puts referee’s ethical values to the test. There are many things necessary for professional sports referees to remain ethical. First, obviously, their own integrity is crucial. Also, they have to be justly compensated for their work. If a referee is underpaid, they are more likely to do the wrong thing when offered money or other valuables. It is interesting how the fraud triangle can be applied to professional sports too. If a referee is treated badly by players or their organization, they have motivation. If they are underpaid, they can rationalize their actions by saying that they are only getting what they deserve. Last, I’m sure referees have plenty of opportunity to commit unethical acts all the time. I agree that referees maintaining their objectivity is crucial. Without objectivity, players might as well officiate games for themselves. Judging from basketball games played with my family members with self-officiating, we need referees to have fair games!
I am not sure how much money referees make, but I would like to think that they would be underpaid instead of overpaid. We always here about referees making unethical decisions but never ethical ones. I think that we should commend them more often when making the right calls even if fans don’t agree. Maybe incentives should be put in place for them to make the right calls, in essence, changing their calculations if they are consequence calculators. Auditors are not necessarily rewarded for doing the right thing either, only punished and sued if doing the wrong thing. However, acting with integrity and objectivity should be its own reward.
I really like that referees have the option to review calls that are made in the last two minutes of an NBA game. It would be great if there were some type of way this could be done for auditors given that we are not perfect and sometimes have bad judgment.
After reading this article I realized the similarities between an auditors job and a referees job. An auditor is required to be objective to ensure that the accounting for a company is correct to maintain the public’s confidence in the client. A referee is required to objective so they can call a fair game and ensure the best team wins.
I also must say that I am appalled that Ed Rush was able to keep his job after offering to pay for a trip to Cancun if a referee were to eject Sean Miller. I honestly don’t think it would have been a big deal to jokingly offer this reward, but then the article goes on to say that Ed Rush reiterated his desire for Sean Miller to be ejected the next day. This is an obvious sign that Ed Rush has lost his objectivity and needs to be removed from his position immediately to protect the integrity of the basketball game and conference.
Since day one of our accounting courses, emphasis has been placed on being objective and the need for integrity. With these values in place, the public can place complete trust in us, knowing that we will do our best to identify activities that are not in compliance with relevant accounting standards. But, thinking objectively is incredibly difficult because, even if we try to put our emotions and past experiences aside, we cannot escape them entirely. It’s easy to think the referee has a duty to the public, like us auditors, to be objective, but it’s a lot more difficult to follow through with that duty when bias towards a team or attachment to a client subconsciously cloud our judgment.
To me, the struggle lies in teaching people to have integrity and objectivity. Teaching technical competence is not that difficult. This reminds of me one of my favorite quotes from the book Siddhartha: “Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” In this case, wisdom would be integrity and objectivity. They aren’t necessarily things you can just give someone else.
I really like that quote and I believe it has something to do with the fact that we are not necessarily taught to be great listeners. In contrast, public speaking/communication is a required course. Even when we attempt to listen, we must be active to receive wisdom from the messages that are communicated to us. To be wise, one must actively seek wisdom instead of waiting for others to give it to us. There is a reason we have two ears but only one mouth.
If that’s the case, then how do you pick people for positions that require that wisdom? On one hand, they have to pick it up on their own through their experience, but on the other, they shouldn’t be in that job to get that experience without already having that wisdom.
Thinking about it, I guess the best way would be to do what audit profession is currently doing. Essentially, taking in “apprentices” in the staff that work while gaining a sense for the need for independence and objectivity. The system breaks though when the partners and mangers, who are supposed to be doing the teaching, get to cozy with the client personnel they work beside day after day for years though. Definitely a tough problem to try and solve.
I feel that it is nearly impossible to always be 100% objective. I’ve been a referee before, and until I actually participated as one, I never really appreciated how difficult their job was. Whatever call you make, someone is going to disagree with you and let you know about it. I feel like the business world is very similar in that sense.
That being said, I’ve never been a fan of Joey Crawford. Go Rockets!
As a long time spurs fan I remember that game and was super upset when it happened. Objectivity is something that can never be measured or seen. Everyone is upset with the officials when they make a call against their team. The real questions is are we objective when we call the refs out about not being objective. As a volleyball ref, even if I did not know a team member I would not be as objective because I could tell that one team was better than the other. Objectivity is an opinion and most people are not objective, even if they are judging other peoples objectivity.
I think you make a really interesting point, Elyse. I agree that objectivity is something that can’t truly be measured–I don’t think it’s possible for a person to be entirely objective at all times and for others to “measure” their objectivity at any given time. Your question about our objectivity when judging the objectivity of referees really got me thinking. I’m not sure if we really are being objective when we engage in this type of behavior. We could unknowingly be biased by others around us to see the referees as not being objective in their calls. However, going back to my first point, how can we know how objective a referee is being if you’re not able to measure objectivity? Furthermore, who are we to call them out when we ourselves might be the ones subject to bias.
As a die hard Spurs fan, I know for a fact that I am not objective at all when it comes to watching my team play. In other words, Pop is always right and everyone else is always wrong. However, when put in a position of authority where your decisions affect the outcome, it is important to be as objective as you can. Whether it be officiating a professional sports game or auditing a major corporation, it is the responsibility of whoever in charge to be objective in order to achieve the fairest results. As auditors, we have a lot riding on the line when we do our job, and it is extremely important to not lose sight of your true goal.
I have been in San Antonio since 2001 and have been a huge Spurs fan ever since then. I vividly remember the incident with Crawford and Duncan and how upset I was at the time. I lost faith in NBA officiating that still remains today. I wouldn’t doubt that a majority of the games today are influenced by biased officiating.
With all that being said, integrity and objectivity are vital to officials as well as auditors. Once you lose that public trust, you will never be able to gain it back.