My fifteen-year-old son, Nathan, has taken up golf recently. This seems like a relatively healthy balance as a spring sport to complement basketball, which is his primary sport. I also know that it is a great skill to have in the business world, as most rounds of golf involve four or five hours of talking, and 20 minutes of actually hitting the ball. Many deals have been done and relationships forged on the golf course. Unfortunately, every sports headline since he took up golf has been about Tiger Woods. And then, last Sunday, things changed.
Brian Davis is not a household name. He is an outstanding golfer, which is why he plays on the PGA tour. But it would be hard to say that he has been burning it up this year out on the links. Until last week, Davis had played in nine tournaments and finished in the top 40 only once, missing four cuts. The Englishman has never won a PGA event.
On Sunday he made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the Verizon Heritage Classic to force a playoff with Jim Furyk, a veteran with 14 tour victories. On the first playoff hole, Davis’s approach shot hit the green and then caromed into a hazard. In hitting out of the hazard, he thought he saw a reed move in his backswing, a violation of the “loose impediment” rule that results in a two-stroke penalty. He was not certain, however, and called an official over to review the situation. Slow motion replays indicated movement, and the tournament was over.
I have already seen cynical blog posts saying that he had to call it on himself because there were cameras all around. I have also seen comments that the rule is stupid, and they got the rule wrong, and he won $615,000 anyway. But a golfer who respects the game makes that decision to self-report in the moment, without consulting with anybody else, and with almost no time to calculate the consequences. Unfortunately, hindsight provides steroid-level growth for cynicism.
What the world observed on Sunday was the beauty of self-regulation, something largely forgotten in business today. The accounting profession was “self-regulated” for most of my career. The SEC was there to punish egregious behavior, but for the most part CPAs punished each other and tried to root out those who were involved in unethical behavior. There were periodic scandals that led to calls for reform. But CPAs generally were seen as a restraining force reining in the worst impulses of the marketplace.
This is no longer the case. Too often, CPAs have colluded with clients or at least been fraud enablers. At the center of almost every financial scandal is the CFO, almost always a CPAâ€”Andy Fastow of Enron, Mark Swartz of Tyco International, and Scott Sullivan of WorldCom, to name a few. They were the best and the brightest, and they did their very best to bring the profession crashing down.
But they were not real CPAs. They could not have cared less about the public interest, or people’s pension plans, or the hopes and dreams that parents had for their children. They only cared about themselves. And, as I have written elsewhere, we would have been better off without them. Because they could not control themselves, because they were not self-regulated, Congress gave the accounting profession the gift of full outside regulation in the form of Sarbanes-Oxley and the PCAOB.
What we saw in Brian Davis Sunday were the habits and the conscience of a self-regulated man. It was not an accident that he did what he did, and I am confident it was not the first time he had ever told the truth when it was difficult, and expensive, to do so. Brian Davis is a real golfer.
Not everyone is a real golfer, as my son has discovered in his first year playing tournaments. He has been a witness to rampant cheating, tournament after tournament. We are raising up new Andy Fastows on today’s high school golf courses. Kill the conscience, and you kill the habits that go with it.
And not everyone is a real CPA. Some people would rather get rich than tell the truth. There is evidence that this is true on the PGA tour, and I know that it is true in my profession. We used to be a self-regulated profession. But, then, we used to deserve it.
Categories: Bottom Line Ethics
I was very happy to see this story come out. There is no question that Davis faced a tough decision, but what made the moment so great was that it seems that Davis didn’t even have to think about it. Before the ball even stopped rolling he was signaling for a replay, which found that the reed “barely” moved. Davis lost out on over $400,000, but ultimately lost out on the chance of winning a PGA tournament that has been out of his reach his entire career. It is unfortunate that most people, in my opinion, wouldn’t have responded in the same way that Brian did. Thankfully though, we have a great example of integrity in a culture that mostly only cares about results. Best of luck to Brian Davis!
I think an important point you made was that Brian Davis respected the game of golf. He realized that there was much more at stake than his short term success or money. If only there was a way to make sure CPA’s truly respected the profession, rather than seeing it as a means to their personal gain.
This story is very enlightening. It is nice to see that there are people still out there that put their self-interest aside and do what is right, especially in professional sports. The fact that Davis actually admitted to breaking the rules, instead of trying to hide it, sets a good example to younger players. Hopefully many other professionals, despite their profession, can look at this example and uphold it for themselves.
I don’t know too much about golf, but it sounds like Davis’ actions aren’t very common. It was indeed integretous of him to self-report his violation. Golf however is an individual’s sport. As auditors I think that we can sometimes be pressured not to be forthcoming with mistakes because of advice from seniors not to disclose them. Last week in my group we discussed the idea of groupthink being an enabler for unethical behavior. It would seem that individuals have an easier time reasoning through their actions because should something negative result, all of the blame will fall on them. In a group however, the burden of guilt would be spread over multiple people which makes it easier for people not to feel as accountable for their actions. This seemed to be the case with the Engineering team that was responsible for letting Challenger launch. They cleared the shuttle for takeoff despite the fact that Boisjoly and others recommended otherwise.
If it had been Boisjoly’s decision alone, under his moral judgment that tragic event probably wouldn’t have occurred. Had golf been a team sport and Brian Davis was just a player on the team, it is just my guess, but the violation probably wouldn’t have been reported.
As we discussed in class, Dr. Nixon posed the question, “What if 2nd place received $0 rather than the $600,000?” I do not wish to undermine Davis’ integrity and honesty in this situation. I believe it has revived the respect of the game of golf after the Tiger Woods issue, but what if the circumstances truly were different. Would an individual act differently if he/she knew the end result would be nothing. Does the fact that a monetary reward exists, like in the case of the whistleblowers receiving a percentage from the government, motivate people to “do the right thing.” I would like to hope the answers are no but the accounting scandals and individuals discussed above have shown that greed can manipulate people’s moral judgement.
In the article and in class, it was mentioned that people are saying that Brian Davis’ decision was not based on doing what was moral/ethical, but why is that? Can’t people desire to do the right thing even if in a situation where the consequences could be bad for them? Sometimes decisions to do the right thing are purely based on the fact that we have a duty to lead moral/ethical lives. Granted, we do not always make the right decision when in the moment as Brian Davis did, but our duty to do the right thing should still encourage us to fix the problem in the end. Brian Davis, who I had never heard of before this week, is now someone I admire and strive to be more like. Instead of raising Andy Fastows, we need to raise more Brian Davises.
In a way, the stakes were all or nothing for Davis. Voluntarily calling his own penalty cost him what could be his only chance at a PGA event title, which is much more important than the extra $400,000 he could have won. Bottom line, I think in the heat of the moment, he reacted from the honest gut that told him he had committed the penalty. Commendable.
I wonder too how different the outcome would have been if second place received zero winnings. In this particular case, though, I believe that Davis’ actions were completely based on integrity and honesty because of the quickness of his response to the reed moving. He did not have a lot of time to think of the consequences of his actions, but simply acted out of his virtuous nature when he almost imediately told the officials. I too hope that young golfers learn from Davis’ actions, because if the cheating that occurs today continues in the high school golf ranks, I don’t even want to imagine what kind of professionals those high schoolers will one day become.
I think this is a great story of honesty and self control. I understand the concern and skepticism involved with him doing it and still receiving a large amount of money, but honestly if you are a competitive golfer, do you really want to get second? For everyone in the PPA program, I think we are all perfectionists to a degree, competitive, and aggressive in our grades and careers. How many of us would be willing to take the second place? I know that I honestly would have wanted first and would have had trouble admitting that I made a mistake. I think that learning to admit you have messed up or wrong is a big step in self-regulation and is a large part of being in a self-regulated industry. I truly think that he did it to be honest and fair in the game. I hope that people in the business world can learn from these types of actions and implement them into their own daily lives.
Great story. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I don’t think our society can change until stories like Brian Davis are talked about as much as the negative ones. You are right in referring to “habits”. I’m sure that if you ask Mr. Davis about this situation, he would wonder why we are making a big deal about it. This was not a decision that he had to make. It is likely that he has a habit of being honest. It is what we call integrity and is becoming a dying breed. It is nice to see it exemplified on national TV every once in a while.
I disagree with the cynics who say he did it knowing there would be camera replays. Apparently, golf is a sport that holds integrity in high esteem. Therefore, it makes sense that someone who has played golf their whole life would make the right decision and let the official know. Who wants to win knowing they potentially cheated? It seems so clear to say that obviously no one would want to win knowing they had cheated their way to the top. But it doesn’t seem that this always applies to CPA’s. People like Sullivan and Fastow made tons of money and were “at the top” in terms of financial security and business reputation. It doesn’t seem like they minded the fact that they were only “winning” because they were cheating. I think this comes from CPA’s not taking integrity and truth-telling very seriously, and instead solely focusing on being regarded as a sharp business person who brings in a lot of money. It’s almost like they think its a game where the sole purpose is to make money no matter what laws you break or who you hurt. I think they forget it is often people’s well being at stake, and they are stealing and lying from actual people, not just businesses. Because of people like this, I don’t think the accounting profession can ever be self-regulated.
Good comments! I appreciate your thoughts, jnoukas, and I can see the potential impact of groupthink. Of course, if your group holds you accountable, group pressure can be a positive thing as well. I wonder how we transform the dissipation of guilt by spreading it over multiple people into the energizing of ethics by people talking together about what they ought to do ethically?
Immediately upon reading this, I started thinking about how sad it is that just a few people can ruin it for the masses. This is not nearly at the same level as an Enron, but I remember a story from middle school that follows along the same line. When I first started middle school, I remember how excited I was. Our middle school was known for taking lots of field trips, whether it be to the beach, museums, musicals, or wherever. However, my year ended up being the first year that a class did not get to go on a single trip. Why you ask? Because a couple people in the class above us didn’t have any respect for the places they visited and lets just say that we weren’t invited back my year. I remember being so upset that just a couple people had ruined an entire year for me. Yet, since then I’ve watched it happen more and more often. It seems like every new law that gets passed is in response to someone who just couldn’t find it in themselves to follow the rules. Being a recreational pilot, I see it all the time in the aviation industry. One or two people do something incredibly stupid and/or selfish and ruin it for thousands of others. Its stricter and stricter regulations until eventually I’m not even going to be able to fly. The same is true for auditors. I just keep praying everyday that there won’t be another Enron, not because I’m worried as much about the financial implications, but mostly just because if the government gets too upset again, they might over-regulate us all into oblivion.
“We are raising up new Andy Fastows on today’s high school golf courses.”
To comment on this, I remember through my entire high school experience cheating was rampant. It wasn’t the students who caused trouble either – it was a lot of the people in advanced and AP classes with me – our future leaders. I blamed a lot of this on the grade inflation and extreme competitiveness at my school and just ignored it, but looking back now (especially after this ethics class) it’s very worrisome. My first year of college was similar in a way (at a different university). I’m glad to say it’s not as prevalent at A&M.
To tie it all together, the solution had to have been self regulation because whatever preventative framework that was there wasn’t working.
This is a great story! However, after hearing about it I think about Cynthia Cooper( “the Hero”) and the man in the wistleblower article. It is sad to say that the people who we praise and even call a hero are the people who are just doing what is expected by someone in their position. I agree with akoranek that cheating probably is a side effect of the ever growing pressure that is put upon people in the competitive world we live in. But the truth of the matter is that the world is going to continue to become more and more competitive, and if we do not make a serious effort to teach kids to tell the truth and not cheat at a early age we wont have to wait much longer to witness the “Fastow Effect”.
On your point talking about CPAs that chose themselves above the public interest, I can’t help but think about the fallacies of thinking that these professionals must have been living through. For example, Andy Fastow was a typical example of someone who suffered from omniscience and thought that he knew everything without listening to criticism. In watching the video in class it was easy to see from his smug grin that he thought he was the smartest man in the room and didn’t want to be questioned. This type of arrogance leads a CPA down the road directly opposite of following the public good, and in the case of Enron led to dramatic financial failure.
If our society can improve wisdom within the business world and teach ways to avoid the pitfalls of the fallacies of thinking, then there might be a possibility for CPAs to return to their rightful role of protecting interest and regulating their actions to promote integrity, objectivity and honesty above self-interest.
I’m really glad you told us this story in class the other day and that you decided to write an article about it. I am a religous viewer of Sports Center, and I never saw this story, so it was awesome to hear about it in an accounting class! I play golf quite a bit as well- not in any tournaments, but I play a lot with friends. We often have friendly wagers for a few dollars when we play, and just the 5 or 10 dollars we bet has led to cheating or lying about scores. With all of the scandals going on in sports today like steroids in baseball or referees fixing games in basketball, it was very relieving to hear this story about Bryan Davis. I hope that his actions show kids how understanding your duty to the rules of the game are what is most important. No one knows what went through his head or what he calculated the consequences would be before he decided to call a penalty on himself, but everyone saw his actions, and this is what has the lasting impact.
One point I thought was very interesting was when Dr. Nixon asked what Davis’ actions would have been had 2nd place gotten $0. Greed seems to be a huge underlying theme in a majority of the scandals we have discussed, so I also wonder what his actions might have been if 2nd place got nothing…
After reading this story I wonder myself if I would have done the same thing had it been me? So many times you see ethical situations like this and you think that it would be so easy to make the right decision. You don’t even think that there could be any dilemna in what you should do. A lot of times though I don’t think that people realize the different kinds of pressure that are being placed on the individual. Yes, Brian Davis did turn himself in, but were there any real pressures on him to win other than more money and press time? I would say not so much, due to the fact that he still made over $600,000 and is getting press time now anyways. It was quite an honorable thing and I am not trying to take that away from him, but I do think that if more serious pressure was on him it might not have turned out the same way. The professional world is much more cut-throat I feel and the pressures are constantly on, the more successful you get. Maybe CPA’s would turn themselves in more often if they new that they would be rewarded and seen as an honorable person.
The idea that stuck out to me in this story was that Davis chose to â€œself-report in the moment, without consulting with anybody else, and with almost no time to calculate the consequencesâ€. His decision to do the right thing seemed based on instinct. I would argue that at the time it never even crossed his mind NOT to report the movement of the reed. Accordingly, I believe that situations such as Davis’s prove that choosing to do the right thing doesn’t always have to be a struggle or intense ethical dilemma. If you consciously make a habit of doing the right thing, it can become second nature!
A habit is defined as â€œan acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntaryâ€. While I realize that new situations may require you to analyze what the â€œrightâ€ thing to do is, I believe that choosing to do right thing can be learned and practiced to eventually become voluntary and second nature.
I feel that a big part of why Accounting is no longer a self-regulated profession and has no future of ever becoming one again has a lot to do with how we go about audits. As auditors we go into a client and diligently do substantive and control tests to look for misstated accounts and errors the company has made. When we find them we decide that it is immaterial so there is no need to worry about it. We push it aside and move on. I agree with using the materiality aspect to decide on what accounts to test because it is too expensive to test everything, but once we find a mistake, no matter how large, we should require that it be restated. Dr. Shaub once said that if it’s immaterial then why not fix it, and I agree 100% with that. The problem we have as accountants is our Code of Conduct basically says do the best you can in speaking the truth about a company and minimizing the harm as much as you can. However, it just seems we contradict ourselves when we find something and don’t fix it. We’re not minimizing the harm as much as we can; instead, we’re just making sure that it is minimized enough to hopefully not affect outside users. For example what if a restaurant cooked food just long enough that hopefully it wouldn’t give customers food poisoning instead of all the way where it was completely rid of bacteria? Sure, someone still might get food poisoning, but at least they’re doing their very best job to minimize as much as they can so that nobody gets it. It is the same thing in auditing: we have gotten to far away from providing full disclosure on financial statements and hope that we come close enough to not poisoning somebody.
Now I absolutely hope that some day we can get back to a self-regulated profession because I truly do believe that self-regulation produces the best results. However, until we can get back to telling the truth about a company to the best of our abilities and prove that we can take on a huge task such as self-regulation, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
That was a heroic action taken by Brian Davis. I have played many sports in my life, and usually when a referee would make an easy call on a offender, the offender would argue with him. It is hard to imagine that a man could turn him in self in for something like that. The action did not give him an advantage, but he wanted to play by the rules of the game. His action will have a ripple affect on all of golf. By turning himself in, he willl set a good example for future golfers to follow. He gave up a lot of money just to be honest. I suppose that is why golf is called “a gentleman’s game.”
“Kill the conscience, and you kill the habits that go with it.”
I like this quote, and I agree that the general practice of numbing ones conscience makes it much easier to ignore it the next time. But to be honest, I’m not too sure what the habits would look like. So I’d like to ask, what are the habits of a healthy conscience?
Brian Davis’ story is a great story. It’s impossible to speculate, but under the same circumstances, I don’t think many people would have acted the same way he did. It’s unfortunate that accountants and other business professionals have been unable to successfully self-regulate like Brain Davis. This failure to self-regulate has led to an increasing amount of federal regulation. Unfortunately, this the federal regulation has not prevented the greedy and unethical egocentric from playing by their own rules. This leads me to wonder if federal regulation is really the answer to our problems. Does federal regulation do a better job of regulating than self-regulation?
Take the banks for instance. Most political commentators will tell you that financial reform is no longer an issue of if congress will pass it, but when. Congress is attempting to reign in big banks and prevent another financial collapse. While I am not justifying the actions of big banks, I do not think that they caused the financial crisis. The financial crisis was the result of President Clinton’s effort to increase home ownership in America. His administration pressured lenders to lend to lower income individuals. As American’s increasingly began living beyond their means, they defaulted on their loans. This resulted in a domino effect and placed a serious strain on the financial system.
So how do we respond? We create federal regulation that doesn’t even address the root cause and instead punishes big banks. We want to punish big banks when the the problem was us. We began defaulting on loans. Instead of accepting this truth, we say that big banks failed to self-regulate. This is a great example of why I don’t believe that failure to self-regulate should necessarily lead to federal regulation. When we impose federal regulation we run a very high risk of not solving any problems and in fact creating more problems. I firmly believe that self-regulation is much more powerful and effective than federal regulation ever will be. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make people who have been hurt by this financial crisis believe me when all they see in the media is that big banks are bad.
In thinking about this concept of self regulation, I am reminded of watching my older sister in her teenage years. As a 7 year old, I observed my 16 year old sister go through her teen years in a continous cycle:
My parents would grant her the freedom to choose where she hung out or they would extend her curfew with each passing birthday; she would abuse her freedom by going where she wasn’t supposed to or failing to meet her curfew; she would be grounded (sometimes for months at a time); she would eventually be given another opportunity to exercise limited freedoms; she would abide by the rules for a short time and then rebel again…and the cycle would start over.
There eventually came a day when she no longer rebelled. She came to her senses and realized that rebelling against the rules really got her no where.That proverb about disciplining your child for his good proved to be true in this case. So I wonder…will the accounting profession ever come to that point? Will it come to its senses and realize that rebelling against fairness and integrity will get it no where? Will there be a time when the profession will be given another chance to practice self regulation or will it be “grounded” by the PCAOB forever? Theoretically, if the accounting profession is anything like my sister, then there will be a point in time when discipline serves its purpose and the profession can again enter the freedom of self regulation. But I wonder if it really is possible to go back to that point.
p.s. I wish more business deals were forged on the basketball court! I can shoot a three way better than I can hit a golf ball! :/
I have really enjoyed reading all your comments tonight. I think that Jordan’s question is an interesting one to address–what are the habits of a healthy conscience?
Wow, I was amazed by this story. It was refreshing to actually hear a story from the media of a person doing the right thing for once. I am also happy to know that there are still good people in this world, especially in the celebrity/ professional athlete world. I agree with you that being honest is a part of his character and that he didn’t report himself just because there were cameras around. I feel like reporting ourselves would be a very difficult thing to do if it wasn’t already built in to who we are. He gave up a huge amount of money and a chance to be #1 in the tournament. We all need to be more like him.
While reading this blog I was reminded of a recent incident involving my cousin and cheating. I know that when I was in high school there was a lot of cheating going on, and apparently this trend continues today. My cousin, Margueax, witnessed two boys cheating and after class reported this behavior to the teacher. The teacher then addressed the entire class about this incident without mentioning the names of the cheaters or my cousin. However, these boys found out who “ratted” them out and proceeded to threaten my cousin and blame her for the trouble they were in. I find it interesting that these boys blame my cousin for getting them in trouble, when in reality it was there actions that got them in trouble. I find this to also be true in the business world. People complain about the regulation that is imposed on them, but they fail to take responsiblity for the actions that brought upon the regulation. So, to conclude, if you don’t want regulation, then be honest with yourself and others about your mistakes.
I think this story exemplifies that golf is one of the few professional sports where the integrity of the game still holds true. In baseball there was the steroids issue, in basketball there was Tim Donaghy, and for football a mixture of everything. I agree about how a few bad apples can ruin self regulation, causing government intervention, destroying a self regulated industry. Once the frauds and scandals have come to light and the rules and regulations have been put in effect, I think it is impossible for the accounting profession to ever go back to self regulation.
I agree that Brain Davis did a great thing by holding onto his morals, but then again that is his job and he makes hundreds of thousands of dollars by playing a game he loves, so I definitely don’t feel bad for the guy. I believe that there a lot of people in the accounting profession who also do the right thing, but their actions probably go unnoticed because it is not released to the public. It is the few individuals that can ruin it for everyone else.
What I admire about this golfer is his immediate response to self-reporting. I feel that actions such as these are not decided at that moment, but learned and practiced for years. That’s why I believe that even the littlest steps towards ethical behavior will give you courage to take the major leaps of faith later. So if we, as future CPA’s, can begin building up our intolerance for unethical behavior right now, it won’t be as hard to tell someone “No, this is not right”.
The 2nd part of your blog in which you discussed the CPA profession and how we are self-regulating reminded me of my 1st year at A&M, as a freshmen. Coming out of high school, moving out of the house, and having shorter classes in which my teacher’s did not personally monitor my progress felt like the ultimate level of freedom. So what did I do? I squandered my time socializing, procrastinating, and seeing how far my freedom could take me. However, it wasn’t until the end of freshmen year, when i received my GRADES that I felt real consequences for all of my actions. Finally, I realized that I needed to change and mature. This is similar for accountants as well. Changes in our profession are never prospective but due to retrospective consequences. So until we can mature and take on full-responsibility/duty to the public, we need to be regulated.
I think that there should be a good midway point with regulation. I think as human beings we have the intellect and knowledge to self regulate but our greed and pride make us incapable. At the same time, if we are never given the chance to self-regulate or to make mistakes, how can we learn to be wise in the business world?
I do not know an incredible amount about the game of golf, so I initially didn’t understand exactly how big of a sacrifice it was for Brian Davis to report that minuscule movement. And when discussing this in class, someone mentioned how golf is still such a ‘gentleman’s game’ and this sort of self-reporting has been known to happen in situations other than this particular one. I found that fascinating. Of course, and unfortunately so, I know that golf is still never perfectly self-regulated, but perhaps just more so than other sports. And it’s interesting how this aligns so perfectly with public accounting. As students, the only world of public accounting we know is filled with outside regulation. And your comment about how accounting used to be so self-regulated and that CPAs would punish each other astonishes me, as I cannot even imagine how that would be so. I find it sad how our society’s morals have just plunged downhill into a world filled with lies, fraud, and deceit. It seems as if accounting went from being driven by duties to now having to rely on and enforce stiff consequences to keep people from being unethical.
I think this is a refreshing story. Someone in a powerful position who admitted a fault. Bryan Davis is a true golfer and should be admired for his honesty. In a world full of crooks, liers, and cheaters, it is nice for the world to be reminded that there are still honest people out there. We need to take Davis’s example and channel it to our own lives. As the honor code says, “An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.” We need to follow the code and especially focus on the latter part, “…or tolerate those who do.” I think that is the biggest problem in the profession today. Many people know of the crimes but do not report them. This relates back to the lecture on whistleblowing. We studied 3 main whistleblowers, that compared to all of the accounting scandals going on today, is just disappointing. We should stand up for what we were taught and have integrity in the work force.
You say: “[Your son] has been a witness to rampant cheating, tournament after tournament. We are raising up new Andy Fastows on today’s high school golf courses. Kill the conscience, and you kill the habits that go with it.”
My question is: how much of ethical behavior/morality is taught, and how much is innate?
My heart tells me ethical behavior is entirely learned from others. That your conscience is based on the morals and actions of those who raised you. That any decision you make is informed (at least subconsciously) by what you have learned from others.
A quick trip through LiveScience tells me that moral judgments can be altered by electrical impulses to the brain. (http://www.livescience.com/culture/moral-judgments-altered-100329.html) Does that mean we are born with a certain moral compass, and others can only persuade us to veer from our natural course? Is it a combination of learned morals and an innate set of directions?
If you have half an hour, the TED conference discussion by Sam Harris arguing for moral absolutes is interesting: http://www.project-reason.org/newsfeed/item/moral_confusion_in_the_name_of_science3/
I cannot say I agree wholeheartedly, but Harris makes a solid case.
I’ve recently read about something similar to this in my weekly ethics reading, “How Markets Fail” by John Cassidy. Mr. Cassidy refers to the concept of “rational irrationality,” a situation in which individuals make perfectly rational decisions that on a collective level are ultimately self-defeating. The incentive for economic gain is so great as to influence accounting firms to abandon the self-regulation in pursuit of profit. When accounting firms are willing to abandon the duty laid upon them as professionals in order to increase earnings, self-regulation is ultimately unrealizable.
It’s nice to hear that he reported himself and it showed great integrity. Like what Dr. Nixon mentioned in class, I also wonder if he would reacted the same if there was no prize for 2nd place. Most people are blinded by money and would usually go out of their ethical code to achieve it. As humans, we all like to talk about doing the right thing, but the desire for greed will takeover most people. I think regulation/laws are absolute necessary to reduce risks as I believe most people can not self regulate.
What a guy! I’m glad to know golf is sill a gentlemen’s game. Its sad to know what some people are willing to do in order to obtain material things in this world. When did people begin to lie, cheat, steal, etc… in order to become wealthy. I grew up in a nice neighborhood and knew several successful people that were class A citizens and stood by their values. Wanting wealth is fine but take the right roads to get there.
To address your son’s question about a healthy conscience, I believe the first sign is being able to get great sleep. Also, I know when I have made a poor decision I think of it often and get a sickening feeling in my stomach.
I’m not much of a golfer, nor ESPN watcher, so thank you for bringing this to my attention. I wish this story blew up the nightly news instead of the negative stories that currently dominate cable TV, and tend to leave me wondering if there is any good left in the world. It’s amazing how scandal sells…I hope Bryan Davis’ story is able to reach young golfers who, like your son, are being introduced to fraudulent behavior. Others who may be struggling with choosing the ethical high road can hopefully benefit from Mr. Davis’ character as well.
I am glad your son has taken up golf. I played golf in high school and I think the lessons learned on the golf course are better than anywhere else. Those lessons include, as you mentioned, self regulation. But, there is also the lessons of 1) controlling your emotions (it is said that great golfers are not born after great shots, but what they do after their poor shots), 2) taking the blame (there is no one else to blame but yourself on the golf course), and 3) being smart and strategic (just because you can hit the ball far enough, doesn’t always mean you should go for the green). Well, I hope your son sticks with golf and learns these valuable lessons.
I really like this story and appreciate the comments so far about self-regulation, but I think there is another facet of the story that is important. This is also a, somewhat different, example of the potential harms of whistleblowing. It reminds me of something we discussed in class: some whistleblowers become fabulously wealthy for their troubles ( the TAP guy), whereas others are not. This guy sacrificed significant personal and professional gain to do the right thing, and in return he recieved far less than he would have if he kept mum. You really have to respect someone who would do that to himself because it is the right thing.
At the same time, we can’t tell the future and we don’t know how much he will ultimately gain from doing this. Maybe he will get a sponsorship from a company who wants to be associated with ethical behavior. This may, in the end, turn out to be a good thing, even for Brian Davis.
I believe that one has to first decide that they desire a healthy conscience. Once they believe this desire, it then becomes necessary to commit to the pursuit of maintaining personal integrity in all circumstances. Once this decision is made, however, life can get complicated and numerous challenging situations can arise.
I would say the desire to have a healthy conscience is also very similar to the desire for wisdom. Our discussion on wisdom last week finished with the statement that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I think this statement demands a lot of self reflection in determining how one lives out their guiding principles. I would say that surrounding yourself with good people who you can be honest with is critical to developing a healthy conscience. This will allow one to be ready to take on difficult circumstances that life throws their way.
I think Brian Davis is an awesome example of what true integrity looks like. What is even more amazing, is that he probably got more recognition for being ethical, rather than if he won the tournament. Growing up I also played in golf tournaments and I can remember various times when the people whom I was playing with would cheat. What was amazing to me was that those who were cheating were also people whom I had grown up with since elementary school. I was extremely lucky because in almost every tournament, my dad would follow me and make sure that the score I turned in was the one I actually got. Because of my dad, I learned the importance of self-regulation. In order to be a good self regulator, you must surround yourself with people who are willing to lift you up when you fail. This principle does not just apply to the golf course. As CPA’s, it is extremely important to have people who will allow you to self regulate your work, but will also be accountable to correct you when you mess up. For a sport that has so much media surrounding an unethical mistake, it is neat to see a player be an example for all future golfers.
I was actually watching this playoff between Furyk and Davis when I saw Davis call the penalty on himself. While I was watching the events trasnpire, I had a few thoughts: 1) what a stupid rule – in brushing the loose impediment in his backswing, in no way was the shot affected. Watching the shot in real-time, I did not even notice that he had brushed the twig on his backswing. As I saw Davis call Slugger White over after his shot, I assumed the ball had moved in his backswing. My second thought during these events was that despite how stupid the rule may seem, Davis was extremely classy in calling the penalty on himself. I’m sure he too believes the rule is stupid and wouldn’t affect his shot, but he stood by the rules of the game and respected them. Long-term, Davis may gain more recognition for calling the penalty on himself than for winning the tourament.
If everyone in the business world was as self-regulating as Brian Davis, auditors would be out of jobs! That’s a tradeoff I’d be glad to accept, though. It’s sad to me what greed and selfishness can bring an “honest” human being to do. Your ethics class is a great way of enstilling/restating the importance of ethical decision making in the businss world. I hope CPA’s across the business world take your kind of advice to heart.
This story has really had a huge impact on what I am taking away from our ethics class. As Dr. Nixon heard this story being described, he addressed the issue of “what are you going to do when nobody is looking?”. As pointed out, in the case of Brian Davis, millions of viewers were watching his every move, and he could have just gone on to assume that there was no way he committed a golfing penalty. Even if there was any doubt, most people can rationalize that little bit away. Yet, I totally agree with Dr. Shaub that his actions were not motivated by glory, but respect for the game. Every single one of us know that we can choose to commit these minor fouls on a day to day basis, and that for the most part, there really will be no effect. Whether it’s choosing to recycle, wiping your feet at the doorstep, holding a door open for another person, etc. there are hundreds of decisions that can tip the scale in the positive direction. Davis did that for the game of golf, and I hope I can take the lessons of both Davis and our professors to guide me through the rest of my career.
This is such an amazing story about someone truly living up to his morals and personal ethics. I can see how individuals could say that he did that just because he was going to end up getting caught anyways. However, I disagree on that fact. His first reaction after he hit the ball was that he had done something wrong that wasn’t allowed in the game. So he spoke up immediately almost without hesitation and without thinking twice about it and called for a review. That takes a lot of guts to do because he missed out on the opportunity to win in the PGA, which was everything he ever dreamed of. It’s sad that many people now-a-day think that there aren’t any ethical people in this world just because they really do want to be ethical. It is as if the â€œethicalâ€ person doesn’t exist. It is as if the â€œethicalâ€ person is being ethical just out of other self-interest or other gain that has nothing to do with morals. I deeply believe there are good ethical people out there that are just moral and ethical because they want to be good human beings.
Since I do not follow golf, I had not heard this story prior to attending class and reading this blog. It makes me very happy to know that there are still honest individuals in this world that uphold integrity above self-interest. As mentioned, Brian Davis made his decision â€œin the moment, without consulting with anybody else, and with almost no time to calculate the consequences.â€ He made his decision in accordance with his duty to the sport and with his character/values. This example reinforces what we’ve learned in class. It is easier to make quick decisions based on duties and not as easy to make them based on calculations. Assumptions can be altered to make the calculation work while duties and values do not change as easily.
As far as the accounting profession goes, it’s a shame we’ve lost our privilege of self-regulation. We now have strict rules to abide by and watch dogs to beware of due to individuals who did not act like Davis. The individuals that ruined self-regulation acted selfishly and with no respect to our profession. They acted with the million dollar prize in mind and not with integrity or professionalism.
I absolutely love the Brian Davis story. Regardless of how what his motives were or how ridiculous the rule is, it goes to show how an individual can overcome a world of self-gratification and make a bold move for his profession. Golf is a gentlemen’s game and despite the negative press of recent (Tiger Woods) it is usually able to distance itself from the rest of the other sports as one that promotes respect and sportsmanship.
Although Davis’s infraction was quite small (a mere clip of a weed), it is a rule nonetheless, and I think he deserves the positive press that will result. I think this is also a subtle reminder that all rules should be abided by… even when nobody is looking. Auditing is full of little quirks and nuances, it’s not our job to complain, it’s our job to abide by them. Even the smallest issues deserve legitimate attention. We will be confronted with numerous opportunities in which we will be able to take shortcuts, but our profession (and hopefully our CPA title) calls us to be above such things. Brian Davis reminds us all that it’s not always about winning, it’s about doing things right. When you do things right everything else will fall into place.
I was actually watching this golf tournament when this happened. I, like your son, have recently taken up the game of golf and was really confused on the rule because I couldn’t see anything that moved. They to go in SLOW motion to even see the twig move, and it barely even moved. I agree with what you said about him not making that decision intentionally, because like you said, it was really quick. I was proud for the game of golf. The recent publicity that it has been getting lately has made a lot of people forget that it is a gentlemen’s game, and Davis reminded a lot of people of that fact. Really, in most people opinions, the rule that Davis broke was a small one. If he had not told anyone of what he had done, he probably could have gotten away with it because you couldn’t see it without slow motion. Furthermore, he could have easily told people that he didn’t see the movement because it was so small. I firmly believe that even the worst criminals started their criminal lives by doing something that people would consider a small rule to break, but once that started down that path it became a slippery slope. Even criminals like Fastow and Sullivan started with fudging the books just a little. The speakers that came to speak to our class with the FBI presentation both said that it started with something small and then became something much bigger. Davis reminds us that even the rules that we think are small and insignificant are rules none the less and must be followed. Davis played by the rules, and in my opinion, was the one that won in the end.
I agree with Caitlyn above regarding this golfer’s intentions. Of course there were cameras watching, but the footage would not have been so skeptically watched without him speaking up. In addition, the mishap was so slight that in the future he could have claimed that he didn’t realize he had hit anything. Not that golf is exactly a quick paced sport, but Davis still had to decide within a short period of time what he was going to do about the situation. Now this is getting technical, but in comparison to audit, all of the reason to cheat when compared to the fraud triangle (opportunity, pressure, and rationalization) were present for him to make the wrong decision. He didn’t, however, and I hope he continues to receive praise for his difficult choice.
Great analogy! It’s hard for me to imagine the accounting world as self-regulated as you have described and I appreciate you taking an opinion on the “Andy Fastows” of the world. I also like the statement when you write that if CPAs were as self-regulated now, as they were in years past, then we wouldn’t need the extensive government regulations that we have today. I also think that this is applicable to society in general. If we were challenged to be self-regulated and hold each other accountable as just people, not necessarily accountants, we would be in a much better place. I wish we heard more about the “Brian Davises” out there in the news these days.
I agree, along with many of the other comments, that Davis made the decision in that moment because it was the right thing to do. He did not calculate the consequences of his decision nor was he worried about getting caught by the cameras. He chose to report himself because he is an ethical man and it was the ethical choice.
This proves that not all ethical choices are easy; as in this case sometimes they are the hardest to make. In the words of our speakers, Davis definitely chose the harder right over the easier wrong. I think this story can serve as a good lesson for us both personally and professionally. As CPAs, we will be faced with many challenging situations where we will have to decide right from wrong, but we need to remember our moral and ethical duties when making these tough decisions.
One part of this blog I really enjoy is when it says that the golfer had no time to calculate the consequences of his actions; he simply acted. It is an interesting thing when we see individuals make decisions not based off of prolonged consequence calculation but simply based off of who they are as individuals. In this case, a respect for the game of golf and others he plays with seems to run trough his veins to the point that his instant reaction in time of need is both ethical and respectful of others around him. Being this type of individual I don’t believe happens by chance, but rather by practice, hard work, and placing yourself in the company of others who will keep you accountable time and again for your actions. This man seemed to be trained in respect and when the moment arose when it was needed, his training seemed to pay off. Maybe with time, the CPA profession can once again be trained to automatically act ethically and deserve the status of being self regulating.
At this point in the blogging I think it has all been said, but I would like to focus on what the world has become. When a person does something honest and courageous he should not be questioned about whether or not his intentions were pure, that is not relevant. What was relevant was that he took the harder route and lost everything in doing so. The world we live in today has become so cynical that we no longer trust good deeds! This maybe the cause of the culture of Andy Fastows, they understand that people’s expectations are that everybody does things for selfish reasons. â€œWhatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy.â€
As you might guess, I am a little overwhelmed working through the comments, and I am really appreciative of all your insights.
I think FEN06 makes a VERY important point about cynicism and self-fulfilling prophecies. It is a fundamental argument I have with many of my colleagues. In the business school, we repeatedly teach agency theory as a “positive” theory–not in the sense of it being “non-negative”, but in the sense of it being “descriptive” of the real world. Agents will act in their own interest unless the prinicpal does things to force or entice them to do otherwise. We say that this is how people act and, because of that, we have to put incentives in place or they will not act that way. And if you look at the empirical evidence, there is a significant amount that seems to show that, on the whole, it is true.
In fact, we teach that it is RATIONAL to act this way, using terms like “rational expectations.” So it is not only reasonable to expect that people will act this way, but we imply that it is IRRATIONAL if they don’t, and we have to come up with explanations for any act that is not self-interested. Or, we rely on the tautology (the circular reasoning) that you are doing that because you prefer it, because it gives you pleasure (or minimizes pain for you), so all acts are self-interested.
The problem with this approach to teaching is that what we are in fact teaching our students is that agency theory is NORMATIVE, that it is the way things OUGHT to be. We teach that you are irrational if you do not do things this way. And this leads inevitably to cynicism.
I have more to say on this, but I would be interested in examples of when you have been taught this, and of when you have not. I would also be interested in any examples of others who you genuinely believe have acted outside of self-interest. And, as always, I want to hear examples of why my perspective is incomplete, as it inevitably is.
When I heard the story of Brian Davis, my faith in the human population was parilaly restored. I play golf and like your son, I have witnessed people trying to cheat in several ways. In my mind, golf is easily related to life. Some days are great, some terrible. You can always do better, and the more you practice the better you will be. I had the unique experience of learning from some of the best golfers. Two people from my high school golf team have played on the
Texas A&M golf team, and one missed the LPGA by one stroke a couple years back. I learned a lot from these two girls, but the person I learned the most from was a man named Bobby Maxwell. He and his twin brother played on the PGA tour years ago. He is in his 70’s now, but still an excellent golfer that can compete with the best. I would work with Bobby every day. We would meet at sunrise every Saturday morning during school. Bobby always told me its the short game that makes a difference. We would spend hours working on 80 yards and closer. Often, he would make me practice what I would do in difficult situations such as, being right against a tree or a brick wall so that I couldn’t take a normal swing. He would make me hit over sandtraps, out of sandtraps, over hazards, out of hazards, under tree lims, over trees, and even through trees. He would always say that the odds of me having one of these shots in a tournament wasn’t high, but if it happened, I needed to be prepared so that it didn’t totally throw me off. His teaching can easily relate to our class. Some of us will never be involved in an Enron or WorldCom, but each of us will face ethical dilemmas at some point. This class has hopefully served as “practice” of what we should do when the situation arises. Like Bobby said, a perfect round of golf can be ruined on one bad shot; likewise, a perfect career can be ruined with one bad decision.
I think the story of Brian Davis is an incredible story that we need to make sure young athletes all over this country here about. It is very very rare for a professional athlete to turn in himself in like Brian did. Usually, we hear stories of professional athletes cheating, taking steroids, or basically doing whatever it takes to win. Young athletes look up to these professional athletes so much. I can guarantee you that almost every young boy at one time wanted to be a professional football, baseball, golf, soccer, etc. player. So when they see their “heroes” cheating, then they think it is ok to do the same. That is why I think it is so important that we tell kids this story, so they realize that professionals do, at times tell the truth, so the kids can model their behavior after this, and not after the unethical athletes.
I have no doubt that your son will do the same ethical things like Brian Davis, and as I shared with you at the start of this class, I already know of one intense where he did the right thing, even though it cost him a stroke. Hopefully the other guys on his golf team will model their behavior after your son.
Kayla, I am really impressed that Bobby Maxwell invested in you that way. And the parallel you have put before us is very thought provoking. Thanks..
And Carter, my son will learn that he needs grace day by day to do the right thing. We all have to watch for changes in our heart over time. That’s why it is such a treat to hang around people like my students!
Dr. Shaub, you bring up an interesting point regarding the agency theory. You are right that when we are taught this in economics, it is presented that a person acting in their own self interest is rational. This makes sense in the context of examples we are given, so it’s never really questioned. It is interesting to think about how we are all raised in a society that praises any type of ethical behavior as an exception to the norm. We brought this up in class when we talked about Cynthia Cooper. She was called a “hero” and “person of the year” for simply doing her job. Brian Davis is commended for simply following the rules of golf.
I ran a fun run this past weekend and I witnessed two people cut part of the course to get to the finish line faster. I realize that this isn’t that big of a deal. The run was a fund raiser for a church, so the event wasn’t so much about who won. However, it still bothers me to think that one day people might be commended just for “not cutting” and running the entire course.
Akoranek made a comment earlier about how he witnessed cheating both in high school and at another university he attended.
In my group we talked about how in some schools, it can appear at times that cheating is just accepted. Because cheating is so prevalent, you become an exception and are almost at a disadvantage if you don’t. I too witnessed this type of environment both in high school and at the university that I transferred from before coming to Texas A&M. One time I found that entire paragraphs of a paper I had written had been plagiarized verbatim. Needless to say, I reported the cheating to the TA and professor. When nothing happened I forwarded the e-mail to the department head. It’s a horrible feeling to know that you are in an environment where that type of behavior is tolerated by faculty. Cheating not only lowers our standards, it makes the reputation of the school lower and in turn devalues everyone’s degree from that school. It’s a big reason why I felt I had to leave that university.
Habits of a healthy conscience…
I think what we discussed in class this week about temptation lessening as we resist it is applicable. I know many people disagreed on the issue, but I think that resisting (and sometimes running the opposite direction from) temptation is a habit of a healthy conscience. In considering temptation and this story (when asked if maybe he would have made a different decision had the first prize been $1million and second prize been $0), it seems that including the monetary effects of any ethical decision is inviting temptation into your life. From the way Davis’s story is presented, I don’t think he sat there and thought, “Well, I’d better be honest just in case. I’ll at least still get 650k.” If he had, though, would he have acted differently? I don’t know this man, but he might have. I might have. And for that reason, I’d want to be able to consider an issue completely regardless of the money involved.
As you mentioned in the blog, Brian Davis was not well known. The only golfer that I knew about was Tiger Woods and II am grateful that now I know about another golfer for a good reason. Davis is a model to follow; it takes a lot to tell on yourself. He not only did this, he did this even though he knew it would mean he was “settling” for second best. It is self-regulation. I have not made up my mind whether SOX is good or bad. I do believe that it’s a bit harsh to public companies as well as their auditors. I think it’s a good form of regulation because our profession has proved that we do not know how to self-regulate.
After reading the story about Brian Davis, I feel fortunate to be so poor at golf that making his decision would never cost me anything (what difference does it make if you shoot a 209 rather than a 207). Nevertheless, I hope I can make similar decisions in other areas of life. Furthermore, I think it is important that we be placed in situations which require us to make such decisions. The problem with overregulated industries is that their practitioners too often rely on rules rather than judgment (“I followed the literature, so I didn’t do anything wrong.”). If a profession revolving around ethical judgment is transformed into a profession revolving around rulebook interpretations, then we run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater – i.e. throwing the ethics out with the fraud.
When we first talked about this in class and while I was reading this blog, I was reminded of another controversial sports story. One of the play-in games for the World Cup involved what I also considered an ethical dilemma. Thierry Henry, a player for the French national team scored the winning goal to defeat Irish national team, the only problem was he used his hand to control the ball before he kicked it into the net. The referee did not see the handball and awarded the goal to France. Henry said nothing to the referee and celebrated the victory with his teammates. To us in America, we may not care about the outcome of one soccer match, however in Europe and most of the world soccer is essentially their life. Ireland missed the chance to play in the World Cup this summer because Henry’s handball was not called.
I considered the ethical implications of the event and I’ve wrestled back and forth with my mind trying to decide what I would have done in Henry’s shoes. After the game, he made a statement admitting the fact that a handball should have been called but it was too late to affect the outcome that had already been determined. I do not consider Henry’s actions unethical at all, because it is the referee’s job to call the handball, however I also wonder if there were a more ethical path he could have taken. If Henry had run over to the referee and told him his hand touched the ball, would the referee had changed his call? Unlikely, but nevertheless possible. That outcome would have at least led to a fair ending of the game, in terms of competition and sport.
Just another possible scenario to consider “self-regulation” in sports.
It took so much courage for Brian Davis to be able to make such an ethical decision in that short of a period. He felt a duty to his profession to tell the truth. He took the risk of possibly losing money in order to do the right thing. This is a true example of integrity; doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Davis could have easily gotten away with the violation but instead, he showed respect not only for the game but also for his opponent, the viewers, and himself. We have all been put in situations where we have had to make decisions right at that moment. Some people are guided to do the right thing because of the consequences they may suffer. While others are guided by their own personal values; their duty to do what is right. Although Brian Davis may have indeed thought about the consequences of doing the right thing, his respect of the game and duty to his profession led him to act in such a noble way.
This article calls to questions individual ethics and self-regulation. I think it would be interesting to study whether each of the individuals mentioned in this article had others around them that they confided in and held them accountable. I know for a fact that it’s easier to be self-regulated when we place ourselves around others that we trust and that will encourage us to make the ethical decision instead of the self-interested decision. So many times we get caught up in greed and selfishness and forget that our integrity is one of the few things in life that we can completely control. I am the only one who can destroy my own integrity. When it comes down to it each one of us spends many hours worrying about things in life which we can’t control. If we spent that time worrying about things we can control such as our integrity, self-regulation would be expected in our society instead or uncommon.
What most hit me with this particular blog was the comment on how Brian Davis was a “true golfer” because he embraced and followed the rules and spirit of the game. The parallel of what is a true golfer and a true CPA gives me hope. This actually helps me to relieve some of the cynicism I have for the CPA profession. Not only in this class, but in almost every accounting or business class, there has been a focus on ethics. However, the subject is always introduced with the story of Enron, WorldCom, Sunbeam, etc. Studying ethics this semester only furthers this pattern of studying examples of how businesses are corrupt and accountants are not trustworthy. This is quite discouraging to know you are going into a profession to protect the public interest when the public is skeptical of you. However, if you think of what it truly means to be an accountant, a CPA, than my perception changes. True CPA’s do have integrity and are trustworthy. It is a very worthy profession if you adopt the AICPA Code of Conduct and live above reproach. So, I can be proud to join the ranks of CPAs, because those who tarnished the label of CPA were in fact violators of the profession as well. I aspire to be a “true CPA.”
This story really makes me think about one of the core principles guiding my life and ethical decisions. The Golden Rule is most important to me because I think it weeds out the majority of the wrong in a situation. In this situation we don’t know what was going through his head at the time he decided to ask the official if he had made a violation. I like to think that he put himself in the place of the other guy and thought about what he would want if he were that guy. Even if he thought the cameras had caught it and he would suffer the violation he could have still said he didn’t see it. I think he risked more by telling on himself because the violation might not have ever been caught. I believe that a person would do this because they know how they would want to be treated in a situation like this. Rules are rules and if you violate them the consequences will follow.
I am glad to know that there are other people in the world who are willing to risk something to do what is right, especially money. Not many people in today’s society would give up any amount of money because they “thought” they saw something move in their back stroke. Taking a class on ethics has helped me understand better what I would do in a situation. Although I haven’t been faced with a real tough ethical dilemma I still feel confident that I am better prepared to handle that decision, especially hearing cases like this.
Being completely apathetic to the sport of golf allows me to present an unbiased opinion of the matter. I believe he did this for the right reason, that being because it was a violation of the rules. I don’t know how much more money he would have won, but it certainly was a huge chunk of change. Also adding to the fact he has never won a PGA tournament, it would seem that was something swirling through his head those final few strokes (I might actually pull this off today!) He didn’t calculate that this would make him look good or he better do it because he will get caught anyway. I can’t believe that, not that fast.
I think that maybe after all this Tiger Woods stuff a lot of golfers out there probably seriously reevaluated their personal lives as well as their professional lives (as professional golfers). Maybe they saw how important it is to be in honest person, on and off the green, because of how everything can come crashing down like a house of cards over a series (and even just one) stupid decisions. I would love to have a conversation with this man, not just to thank him (again, zero desire or interest in the game) but to ask him what made him do it. It would be a good conversation.
I do not know much about golf or watch the tournaments, but when I heard this story about Brian Davis, I thought of the epitome of honesty and integrity. Very few people would admit a mistake and take second place especially in regards to their career. This probably took him a lot of courage to the right thing, instead of ignoring it, winning the PGA tournament, and receiving more money. It really shows his devotion to the game of golf. It is surprising to me that he was able to make such a quick decision and tell the officials what he saw. The fact they had to go into slow motion to even see it move, shows there was a possibility the violation would have never been caught. I hope that young avid golfers will learn from Brian Davis’ decision that is it always better to uphold your values and take second place than cheat the system in any way.
The courage he showed to make that ethical decision on such a large stage was truly inspiring. There are a couple sides to the argument. As you have stated in class, I do not believe we will ever govern ourselves again. It is quite sad to think the only reason we can not self regulate is because as a profession we can not be trusted completely. It really is not a knock on auditors, so much as it is society as a whole. I may be biased, but I think we still do a good job, relatively speaking, of being ambassadors for truth. But at the same time, we are still not considered to be honest enough to self regulate. It is almost humorous though that the national government is sent in to control our profession. When I think politician, I don’t exactly get a picture of wholesome, truthful individual. It is a curse we have placed upon ourselves and one we shall continue to face as far as I can see. I think Merritt Grimm makes a good point- why do we write mistakes off as immaterial. It is a mistake in the financial statements, and it can be fixed- why not fix it.
Dr. Shaub, in your last comment made you mentioned how using agency theory in the business has become normative thanks to the teaching of the business school. From my experience, professors assume employees will act in their own self interest, and this assumption does impact how my peers and I will think going in to the work force. I would like to add that our self-seeking culture also lends a hand in bringing agency theory to normative thought.
Instead of looking at what went wrong, studying the Andy Fastow’s of the business world, why not study those who have done the right thing? This reminds me of how federal regulations are always reactive not proactive. It seems like we are no better. As we look back at the big corporate scandals, we lower our ethical standards and learn to look for a way around the new regulation. We should actively look forward at how we can live our lives in a positive way.
It’s always good to hear something like this rather than the usual scandals and fraud that we so often talk about. Being able to do the right thing when you know that nobody else is watching is extremely difficult. The tempation to take the easy way out is usually overwhelming for most.
“were the habits and the conscience of a self-regulated man.”
The fact that Bryan Davis didn’t have time to consider the consequences and had to make the decision based on his character and integrity is what makes this story so amazing. Like Dr. Shaub said, I believe this wasn’t the first time he has had to make a decision like that and I believe he will continue to make these kind of decisions. I think our mind, just like in sports, has a sort of muscle memory.The more times we make the ethical decisions the better we become at it, it develops into habit and our mind does it automatically like Bryan Davis did. I think the greatest part of our ethics class is we can walk through some of these ethical situations and “practice” what we would do. That way we can help build this habit of ethical decision making throughout our lives.
I don’t follow golf but I really enjoyed reading the Bryan Davis story. I think out of all the major sports right now, golf is probably the most self regulated. I used to be a big fan of the NBA but now I have lost interest in the game because many of these players “cheat” and makes the game less enjoyable. In the past there used to be less flopping (pretending to get fouled/hit) in the NBA but now it seems like everyone flops to try and get an advantage. Many of these flops can get players in foul trouble (especially Yao) and drastically change the outcome of the game. I think fans would enjoy the game a lot more if the NBA players can self regulate and stop flopping. People want to see who the best team is not which teams have the best actors. Just like in the accounting profession, everyone would be better off if auditors can be honest in their job and show the investors who the best companies are.
I think an important factor that has been mentioned but is often forgotten when in the midst of decision making is the short-term versus the long-term. I think if the bad self-regulators looked more at the long-term effects they may have made different decisions.
A classic situational question, â€œWould you commit fraud because you need money to feed your family?â€ has been asked numerous times. Taking into account the long-run potential consequences, you may be able to feed them now, but what about for those years when you are in prison and there is no income. How will they eat then?
Looking past the here and now would make for better self-regulation. Anticipating long-term consequences of today’s decisions could have a drastic effect. I think that is a vital trait of being a real CPA.
I think that it is not always easy to do the right thing, especially if money or prizes are involved. Yes, it might have been a different outcome if the second place winner didn’t receive anything, but I would like to believe that Brian Davis would still have made the right decision to tell the officials. I also like that someone besides Tiger Woods is in the news for golf. But, it is almost ironic that the honesty of Brian Davis was not as highly publicized as the Tiger Woods scandal. It shows that people, especially in accounting, do the right thing every day but never get their name in the paper; the few people who make bad accounting choices give the profession a bad name which makes the public distrust CPAs as a whole.
Unfortunately, I think this type of person is a rarity in this world and especially in the world of business. As Dr. Shaub mentioned, I think the most impressive point is his how fast he turned himself in and its implications. Disclosing something so significant to your career without sufficient time to weigh the consequences and think it through is extremely admirable. I think his example serves as a great parallel to how we should act in business situations. I compare it to an auto mechanic shop that forgoes extra fees through being truthful and abstaining from recommending superflous adjustments. I think that taking a similar approach to client service will instill loyalty in clients and really take you far in business.
To go along with Jordan Latimers’ question–what are the habits of a healthy conscience? I would think the most important is to first decide what you think is right and wrong, and what you stand for. I think most of us are at a point in our lives we are breaking away from our parent’s mindset and exploring what we think for ourselves about the world and right and wrong.
I think the next thing to do once our values are established is to surround yourself with people and influences that will hold you accountable–whether that is self-reflection, people, scriptures, or other means. If we surround ourselves with goodness, it is easier to combat trials when we are faced with them.
I find the most distinctive sentence in this blog to be: “But a golfer who respects the game makes that decision to self-report in the moment, without consulting with anybody else, and with almost no time to calculate the consequences.”
I think ethical decisions should be in the gut, ethical minds should not have to go home and weigh the pros and cons to decide what the right action to take is. If we would just follow our instinct when we know something is wrong, we would more than likely be making the right choice. I think bad choices are made when we take the decision home and think on it. This usually gives us time to talk ourselves into something and persuading ourselves that something is right when it really isn’t.
The problem is not the individuals who do self regulate, but the minority within the practice that don’t. You won’t ever see the front page of the Journal discussing the Audit manager that kept a firm from misstating its financials, but you will see the Partner who let a firm get away with errors.
There will always be the few giving the many bad reputations
When I learned of this story through the blog and also through class, I was really amazed to hear of it. I think the fact the Brian Davis was willing to turn himself in knowing that he was costing himself his first PGA win is beyond impressive. If the corporate world had more people like this, we would not be hearing of stories like Worldcom and Enron. I also think this sets a great example for younger kids because I feel that if making decisions like these at a young age will only translate into them doing it when they are older.
Like many others, I find this story very refreshing. However, when I stop and think about why, I get a little worried. I cannot believe that it is refreshing to see someone doing the right thing, when it is supposed to be expected. Doing the right thing is not as prevalent as it used to be. I realize I was not alive fifty years ago, but from listening to my grandparents’ stories and even my parents’ stories, I know America is a different place than it used to be.
Our culture is slowly accepting more and allowing things deemed “unethical” by most, be the norm. For example, can you believe that â€œX-ratedâ€ movies were changed to â€œNC-17â€ in 1995 so that people would not associate X with inappropriate material? Also, did you know that up until 1968, all movies followed the Hays Code which said, â€œno picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see itâ€.
I am disappointed at the fact that we are amazed at someone who actually plays by the rules. Davis’ story is a wake up call for America. I hope that his actions will inspire and remind everyone to do what is expected. I know I am.
Quoted material from http://www.artsreformation.com/a001/hays-code.html
As an avid golfer, this story really had my attention. As a former high school golfer, this blog really hit home for me.
One would think that in a golf tournament, with fellow competitors, parents, friends, and fans around, it would be nearly impossible to cheat. While at a crowded PGA tournament in Hilton Head this may be true, in many tournaments, it is way too easy to cheat. I was routinely blown away by how rampant cheating was in the tournaments I played in from the time I was 7 all the way through high school. Whether it was moving the ball a few inches here or there, dropping a ball in bounds that was lost in the creek, or reporting a lower score than what they actually scored that hole, kids are extremely creative in how they cheat. A perfect example was a boy in Dallas that “shot” a 58 as an 11 year-old at a prestigious country club. He played the front nine with his grandfather (shooting a 30) and then played the back nine alone (shooting a 28 for a total of 58). The club was so impressed with the young man that they asked him to play in a local junior qualifier and represent their club. He subsequently shot a 106.
I think accountability in golf has many parallels with accountability in the audit profession. 99% of the tournaments you play in can probably be cheated in, and a lot of the burden on catching the frauds is on the other players.
Whether or not you agree with the rule, I think it should be appreciated what Brian Davis did. Sure, there were people and cameras all around, but who really saw the twig move? Did anyone else see it the first time they watched it? They had to slow it way down to be able to really see it happen. Slow motion replays aren’t really a standard in golf, and it is likely that no one would have ever seen it. Or if they had, it would have been after the tournament was over and it would have been to small to go back and do anything about it. If Davis had been calculating, this is probably the conclusion that he would have come to. However, in a split second decision immediately after the shot, he stuck to his duties to uphold the integrity of the game and gave up the tournament and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I hope we can all maintain our duties in a similar manner throughout our personal and professional lives. As a CPA, your primary duty is to the public. I think this has been stressed a lot throughout this course, and rightfully so. I think we should also remember that we have duties to our families. That may be a little easier for some of us to lose sight of. I am sure that balancing these duties will be difficult, but I urge each of you to do everything you can to balance them appropriately.
I don’t understand why it is necessary to wonder what he would have done if second place resulted in $0. Yes, money and incentives are important and the only way he can continue to play golf is to make a living out of the sport; however, I think that he would have done the same thing if the outcome would have been not receiving any money. I was an athlete all my life, and even though I never received any monetary awards, I still always wanted to win. After all, who ever remembers the person who got 2nd? Brian Davis’ action is commendable, and I think we should leave it at that.
My reading this week was about typical and atypical actions. The media is known for making rare events seem like the norm. As the saying goes, â€œIt takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.â€ Companies and people may act â€˜typical’ for the majority of their career, but one â€˜atypical’ move can ruin a company or a person’s reputation. Tiger Woods is the perfect example of a person who committed an atypical action, and now he is paying for it. Not only have these atypical actions shut companies down and put people in prison, but it has also given auditors and corporate America a bad name. The majority of auditors and companies follow the law and don’t participate in fraudulent activities; however, a few bad apples have given our profession a bad reputation. Brian Davis helped golfers rebuild their reputation, and it’s our job as young professionals to help rebuild Corporate America’s reputation.
Bryan Davis’ actions reflect those of a true professional. It is truly admirable that people can still latch onto integrity while facing costs that outweigh benefits. Although his actions may be rare, as Robert points out, I’d have to agree with Dr. Shaub and say that Bryan was truly acting out of self-regulation and not cynicism. Another detail to consider is that Bryan Davis was still rewarded with the 2nd place prize. While his actions seemed selfless, it could be that Bryan is quite satisfied with what he ended up taking away with him.
Ever since I have started playing golf I have heard,”You will really find out what a man is like out on the golf course.” There is no better example than what happend to Brian Davis. I wouldn’t know him from Adam but after seeing his actions on the golf course I would be willing to be that he is a great man. Golf is a great sport/skill because of the amount of the multiple characteristics it requires a player to have. I have played with countless golfers who have lied about their score, cheated and kicked the ball to a better lie and most importantly it shows how people react to disappointment. You don’t have to be a good golfer to play the game well. All you have to do is have class and obey the rules as Brian did. I believe that this translates very well to what auditors need to do in their industry. They need to follow the rules and have class when they deal with their clients.
I wish we could hear stories like this more often, but like we have said numerous times in class, your true character comes out when no one is looking. I would like to believe that there are lots of people out there doing the right thing when no one is watching, and standing up for what they believe in. We only hear about the traumatic events: stockholder fraud, rampant infidelity, or cheating in an ethics class. I would like to hope that we aren’t hearing about people standing up for what is right because they are doing it where no one can see or stopping others before bad decisions get out of hand.
It would be nice if we could find a way to weed out these people that hold self promotion over public good and are willing to make unethical decisions. The blog talked about how some people aren’t “real CPAs.” If it were possible to successfully identify these people could we go back to the day of self regulation? I hate to be a pessimist but I don’t think we could. I think we have seen examples in class (David Myers) were regular people have made bad decisions. He didn’t have negative and hurtful intentions. I think all that we can do is be responsible for ourselves and know that we are all that we can do to keep ourselves ethical.
I agree that this was the perfect example of self regulation. My hope is that he called the penalty on himself becuase if he hadn’t and he would have won, the victory would have seemed tainted. Even if he was the only one that ever knew about it, the effect it would have had on his conscience would have been too much to handle. I hope that as I transition into my career, I can have the same level of self regulation. I want to be able to take pride in my work and know that I didn’t cheat or take a shortcut that would undermine what I do at my job. Not only is it our sense of duty that helps us to do that, but hopefully our pride in the outcomes of a day’s work will help as well.
Like others who have commented on this blog, I do like to hear about people who do the right thing. When I think about the concept of self regulation, it reminds me of family and close friends. Family and close friends are truly some of the few instances where I see self regulation because people inherently put greed aside to obtain the benefit of the overall group. In a few words, I think self-regulation requires sacrifice. Still on the topic of family, I believe having good character such as Brian Davis starts in the home. Sometimes I believe society concentrates more on punishing bad behavior rather than rewarding good behavior and those characteristics carry over into adulthood.
This story really shows Brian Davis’ honesty and that he is self-regulated. I respect him a lot after reading the story, especially after hearing almost all golf news related to Tiger Woods recently. I remembered Dr. Shaub mentioned in class that we need public regulation when self-regulation failed. During the tournament, the camera serves as the public regulator because self-regulation usually fails and players are very likely to cheat without it. Golf is the top choice for businessman but players would cheat on the game. I can easily picture what would these people do if they were CFO or CEO in a corporation; what kind of choice would they make when facing dilemmas.
I am glad that Brain Davis sets a good example for everyone. In the short term he might just lose the PGA, but he did gain respects and reputation from people, I think it is way more important than just win the game.
After hearing about this story it kind of gave me that on the edge of your seat feeling like in a movie. He was so close to finally winning a PGA tour, and something so small as a piece of grass hitting his club cost him the title and $400,000. The twist is that maybe Davis didn’t fulfill his dream of winning the PGA title, but he did go down in history as a man that somewhat rejuvenated the game of golf by bringing back respect and integrity at a time when the game so desperately needed it. An act so bold as his, defines someones character far greater than numerous PGA titles and will hopefully have a trickle down effect on the game of golf and to potential golfers like your son. This can just go to show that sometimes doing what is right regardless of what it might cost you actually might pay off more in the end. I know for myself, I really am not familiar with golf and had no clue who Brian Davis was before this blog, but now when I hear his name I will remember him as the man that self-regulated himself to retain his morals and integrity, and that is something I would not mind being remembered for.
I wish that more people viewed integrity and reputation as valuable as currency. Sadly, more often than not, one or both of these things is traded in a moment of self-interested, greedy, and ambitious decision-making, and they are not easily retrieved. There is a movie I once heard about, but can’t recall the name of. A married couple is struggling financially, and is faced with an “opportunity” presented to them by a wealthy man: he will give the couple $1 million if this wealthy man can sleep with the poor man’s wife. If they take the money, they solve their financial troubles. But would it be worth it?
What price do you put on your reputation? How much would it cost to buy your integrity?
I really like how Brian Davis is portrayed as a self- regulator. It takes a lot of integrity to come forth and be honest with so much on the line. The example demonstrates just how anyone in society can take responsibility and self regulate situations when appropriate. Its also unfortunate that our profession has lost so much trust in recent years.
Having played golf in high school and still occasionally playing, this story about Brian Davis really felt near to my heart. I can’t even imagine the courage it took to admit to something like that which cost him his first title. Dr. Smith talked about things that people desire in life such as wealth, power, fame, etc. In golf, name recognition is the sure way to know whether you are being successful. Brian Davis was definitely not a house hold name, but by winning that tournament he could have increased his significance on the tour. It’s funny how things work out though. By doing this selfless act, Mr. Davis got more name recognition than he ever would have gotten had he won the tour event.
I also like the comment, â€œKill the conscience, and you kill the habits that go with it.â€ If you think about it, this makes fraud, one third more probable. If you have no conscience then there is no need for rationalization and one corner of the fraud triangle can disappear. We should all strive to be conscientious of our actions and how they affect others.
It really is unfortunate that people are so cynical as to assume that Davis would not have made the same decision had he been certain no one was watching, or if the value of his prize money had been different. I think this relates to one of the ethical principles I came up with for myself, and that is to go beyond expectations. As a society, we generally have such low expectations of people in general, that when someone actually does the right thing, instead of not thinking twice about it, we are either cynical as to his motives or we praise him relentlessly. Why does it not seem possible that Davis is simply a gentleman in the game of golf, with no other reason for his actions than that? Unfortunately, as someone else mentioned, I think we are so focused on those few bad apples, that it creates an overly skeptical society of people who generally belief “guilty until proven innocent”, so to speak, rather than the other way around.
I agree with jnoukas’s post that golf is more an individual sport, while auditing is almost purely a team sport which lends us to pressure from others. I think that concept only bolsters the necessity that we ingrain our beliefs, values, and duties into our mind and into our everyday actions in order that when pressured we may be resilient and stick to our guns.
Does anyone see the profession returning to more self-regulating in nature?
When I first heard this story I called my father. He works on Wall Street and also writes a finance article for the Avid Golfer monthly. He plays golf on a regular basis with partners and clients and has always been a firm believer in â€œyou learn the most about someone on the golf course.â€ Without my mentioning of self regulation he began talking of how golf is the only sport that doesn’t have a rule enforcing person(s), just an official knowledgeable of the rules is enough.
In Wall Street billions of dollars in deals are made every day with the word â€œdone.â€ It is amazing to know that although no contract is signed this is binding. If you sell a security and by accident misinformed the price that causes you a loss, you are still bound to that deal. The people on Wall Street that break their word on these deals loose all credibility and are shunned. Wall Street and Golf have this in common. I believe Brian Davis made his decision without any calculation; he is an honest person like the majority of Wall Street traders. At a time when we are studying the many unethical decisions made by corporations, banks, and high level managers, it is promising to know that the financial trading system runs on billions in trades a day with contracts forged of a trust in the word â€œdoneâ€ from brokers.
Why does it seem like all cynics always question good intentions? Even if he was afraid that the camera’s were going to catch his fault, isn’t it still better that he self-reported himself before he was caught? Going off of Tara Owen’s question about whether or not the profession will return to a more self-regulating; my answer is I don’t think so. I feel like accountants have been caught multiple times in their blunders, and maybe if the firms had acted in a similar fashion to how Brian Davis acted, then things might be much different. However, CPA’s have really given the government no reason to allow us to regulate ourselves.
I really enjoyed how this article took a real-life perspective outside of the business world and compared self-regualtion in both. It must have taken a lot of courage for Brian Davis to confess to his mistakes throughout his golfing career, especially since it would mean that he would earn less money. Unfortunately this is not the case for most business executives, and they tend to rely more on obtaining higher earnings no matter what rules they have to break to get there, hence the lack of self regualtion. Brian Davis is a very fast consequence calculator and seems to rely more on his duties to the profession and himself than the consequences of not getting caught, which is not the trend we normally see. If only there were more people like this in all professions we would have a much more ethically balanced world that is much more safe and comforting to live and work in.
I am very happy that you decided to write a blog on this topic, because I feel it is a story that should be used as a mold for how the game, and life should be lived. I have always looked very highly upon those who play golf, but more importantly those who preserve its sacred rules. It is a sport that, for the most part, has had little change since its development. At its core is a simple truth, it is a gentleman’s game, and as such, only gentleman shall play it. This was discussed in class, but I cannot agree more with the parallel you draw between golf and the accounting industry. I am not naive enough to believe that it is possible to have an accounting industry in which every single CPA’s goal is to keep the public’s best interests in mind, upholding this loyalty to them no matter what. I do, however, believe that through the example of a certain few, we can create an industry that upholds their core beliefs before the interests of the clients that they work for. It has always amazed me how actions, no matter how small they are, can have a chain reaction effect on other people. As we move in to our professional careers, we should all feel a duty to uphold our morals, but more importantly the morals of the professional degree that has been awarded to us by the public. Brian Davis made a decision, not based on his own self interests or that of his checking account, but in the interest of a game that is his life, and one that requires he uphold its sacred beliefs, no matter how difficult that decision may be.
It is refreshing to see someone act with such honesty and integrity like Brian Davis did. I feel that not too many people would have done what he did that day, which is very sad. I hope that if I was in that situation I would have done what Brian did. Although I think the saddest thing, is that people are saying comments as to why he did it, when really it doesn’t matter. Why do people have to pick at others who do the right thing? Are they just insecure with their own values in the fact they may not have acted the same?
All throughout middle school and high school I played competitively on the school tennis team. Like golf, tennis is a mostly self-regulated sport until you get to the very high levels when umpires are brought in. It amazed me throughout the years how willing some players, as well as their coaches, were to lie in order to win a point. Sometimes it is truly hard to make a call because you either didn’t see quite where it bounced or you were focused on another aspect of the game at the time. I understand that sometimes the calls would go the wrong way as pure accident, but usually in these situations the calls would even out. However, a couple of teams we played and one school in particular should not have had the ability to be self-regulated. During my own matches, and watching my teammates, there were many obvious calls which were made wrong and after much disagreement the coach called our team attempted cheaters. This just shows me that these kids were being trained and coached by individuals who had loose morals and ethics and that they did not know any better because that was what surrounds them.
I feel this is similar to public accounting in the fact that at Anderson, the partners and managers were the ones who were telling the staff what to do. It is scary that the people I am going to work for in just over a year could have unethical intentions that they wish for me to carry out during an audit. Could I be like those kids on the high school tennis team who will just be coached to be unethical? I hope and feel confident that my time at A&M and my moral code which has been growing in me sense birth will allow me to stand up to these individuals and assert my ethical values.
What is more precious about Brian Davis’s action is that he gave up a PGA championship trophy he has dreamed of winning in his professional career. It is something bigger than money that was on the line and he chose to let it go. His honesty and respect to the game and his opponent has made a sharp contrast with the alleged trading move from Goldman Sachs. Businesspeople with a high level of ethics are willing to lose money rather than taking advantage of others’ misfortunes. But this is not what we are promoting on the Wall Street or in the business world now. Everything is overweighed by results and gains. Brian’s story came at a right time to show us such value does exit and it is just a matter how we carry it to our career.
I like this story because it helps to point out that even in the era of Tiger Woods, golf is still a “gentleman’s sport” in most aspects. I do like the idea of self regulation, but also believe that unfortunately, it will never work with the extremely high level of efficiency that the public would expect. While most of society in general and CPAs in particular are good, honest people, there will always be those who look to take advantage of the system for personal gain. Everyone experiences greed to some extent, it is part of human nature, and some people will inevitably succumb to their greed. It is unfortunate, but unless we are able to somehow change human nature fundamentally, most professions will require an independent third party regulator to try to catch those who would take advantage of the system and other people’s trust.
Self-regulation is such a beautiful thing, that is if you can trust people in general. I think the argument of whether people are naturally good or not plays a part relying on self-regulation. Self-regulation I believe would work in a perfect world but people have proven time and time again that trust is something to be given lightly. Outside regulation does need to exist even if its only purpose is to regulate the self-regulation. Even when Brian Davis did call his back swing the actions didn’t stop, a judge had to come over and verify and of course the media went to the cameras to verify. There was regulation even of Brian’s self regulatory acts.
It is sad to see how a few unethical acts by a few individuals can tarnish the reputation of an entire group. The accounts named above hurt the profession, Barry Bonds/ Mark McGuire/ steroids hurt baseball, and dirty politicians hurt the country seeming once every other week. But even with these negative examples, the positives shine through. Whistle blowers try and stand up for their values, Brian Davis gives us a reason to keep believing, and some ball players came out and called themselves out for using steroids. And while people and the media like to focus on the negative individuals, I believe that the majority of people try and do what is right, and that is why we are able to keep going. Hopefully in the future we will see more and more of these bright lights come shining through.
It amazes me that in a moment that demonstrates true integrity that there are still people out there that find a way to criticize Brian Davis. It is in those split second decisions that one’s true character is shown. When you only have time to react rather than to think about the consequences, you are acting purely through habit and duty. Davis felt a sense of duty to uphold the game of golf as a gentleman’s sport, which I find very respectable.
I agree with the idea that very few people self-regulate their own mistakes. This I think is in large part due to the fact that people tend to believe nothing is wrong unless you are caught. It is awesome to see a story where the culprit turns themselves in. One of the speakers in “Scared Straight” was a great example of this.
Only about a handful of professional atheletes would make such a call as Bryan Davis’. Most people are so caught up in winning and being the best and doing whatever it takes to get the victory. People have less and less respect for their line of work and that’s what I believe those that caused the downfall of self regulation. They were more concerned with “winning the game.” We have to begin to respect our profession and respect the public’s interest because that is the reason why we do what we do.
I recently took up golf and my friends and I try to make it out to the driving range at least once a week. We use it as a time to catch up and as stress reliever. Not always is it a stress reliever. Golf can be really stress and frustrating when you are first starting out. I have a lot of respect for Brian Davis. He, unlikely many corporate executives, did what was best for the public and not for himself. He knew that telling the officials would lose him money but he did it anyways. Davis should be the golfer getting all the endorsements because most parents would want their children looking up to him and not other golfers. He gave a good name back to the gentlemen’s game that has suffered since the Woods scandal exploded. I wish that the accounting profession could self-regulate like golf (at least in this case). It is kind of sad that we have lost trust from the government and public when we are supposed to be protecting the public investors. We deserve what we get and if we can stand by moral principles, we deserve to have the government regulate and set rules
I was shocked to hear about this story in the professional world of sports today. Professional athletes are becoming less and less ethical by the day and are doing anything to get an edge. By Brian Davis self-regulating himself on something that did not even give him an edge, it shows me that there are still athletes out there that can be role models. I think a lot of people would rationalize this by saying that it would not help them to not tell someone and that it is a stupid rule anyway. I know a lot of people are saying oh well he still won $600,000, but he could have won $400,000 more and given himself a chance for some publicity by not saying anything. To a lot of athletes it is not even about the money, it is about the thrill to compete and one day say you are a champion. Brian Davis gave up this chance by self-regulating and should be praised for doing so.
I agree that there are very few athletes in the world that would call a penalty on themselves. In many sports, athletes can be seen falling down and acting dramatically to have a foul called on their opponent. But, I do believe that golfers, especially those on the PGA Tour, hold themselves to a higher standard. As I learned to play golf at a young age, I can remember my father saying one thing, “Respect the Game”. Golfers have the ability to cheat at several different points on the golf course, but, most know that it will damage the integrity of the tournament and the game to do such a thing. I believe that what we need to do, is to start sending this same message in all aspects of life, particularly the business world. Had Andy Fastow been taught to have a lot of respect for the accounting profession and the impact of the financial statements, perhaps Enron would not have been one of the biggest disappointments in the business world.
In response to Tara’s comment:
I think it highly improbable that our profession will return to self-regulation in the short run. This was a privilege our industry enjoyed for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, and as far as the trend goes, it is unlikely that we have reached the highest level of regulation. Especially considering the recent financial meltdown, which left most of the American public clamoring for tougher regulations on Wall Street.
I doubt an event could ever occur that would motivate Congress to repeal acts such as Sarbanes-Oxley, within our career lifetime. As I see it, our profession will only become more regulated, and if financial scandals keep slashing the public’s trust, we may one day practice within a nationalized industry. Although a nice bureaucratic title and a badge don’t seem like too horrible of an idea.
Coming from a family of intense golfers, this happening was a big deal. I called my dad to ask him his thoughts on it and what he would do, he said to me that he hoped if he were in that situation that he would have been strong enough to do the same. My Father is the boy’s varsity golf coach at my old high school, so, I asked him what he does to make sure his team plays ethically and self regulates. He said he tells his students the rules of the game and the consequences that could happen, he lets them know that he trusts them, but it only takes one time for the trust to be broken and the consequences to kick-in. I thought it was interesting getting a point of view of ethical values from someone who isn’t in the accounting world, and not surprisingly, they are quite similar.
Often people get so wrapped up in the calculation of consequences, they forget what their duties are. Not Bryan Davis. The consequences of not calling the penalty on himself would have been largely positive from the perspective of the outside viewer in terms of financial and career outcomes…no one else noticed.
I think a passage written by Plato in my outside reading book can be applied to this situation. This problems (such as Enron) aren’t created by simple self-interest, but by a want of more than ones own slice of the pie. Enron and Tyco can be stripped down to one issue…vanity.
Regardless of what detractors might say, I agree with Bryan Davis’ decision to report himself. Winning really is not everything, in fact the belief that winning is everything is likely the cause of a majority of unethical behavior. I, and I assume Mr. Davis shares this same feeling, would rather lose than win by cheating or some unfair advantage. It’s very possible that Mr. Davis’ fault would have never been discovered. However, the victory would have been tainted and every time he sees that jacket he will be reminded of those branches.
As accountants, we are often faced with instances in which we can get ahead unfairly and it is unlikely anyone will notice. In order to not fall down this dark path, we must remember that we serve the publics interests. Trust is required for a capatilistic economy to work. In my opinion, that trust starts with us. If investors cannot trust the financial information given to them, then they will simply not invest in corporations. The stock market will crash and mahem insues.
I enjoyed how this article was able to tie together a sport with the business world. I am glad that Brian Davis was self-regulated because it shows good moral character on his part and that will be respected by others along the line whether the rule is thought of to be bogus or not. When it comes to the professional world, I do see how we have become less self-regulated as you see more fraud cases appaearing where the auditor has been covering up for the company to benefit from the client. As professionals we are suppose to act on behalf of the public and the public includes everyone that is dependent on how that ceratin company is doing, not just striving to be profitable from a fraud case working with the client.
I agree with your comparison of the sport of golf and how it relates to the profession of accounting, self-regulation is a key aspect in both. It takes a great deal of self-discipline to improving your golf game, this usually entails remaining committed to some set of values. I believe the same is true to gain long term success in the profession of accounting you must remain committed to a set of values. As a golfer it is your duty to adhere to the rules and give honest results, and in accounting it is your duty to give follow principles and give an honest opinion to the public. There are many players and professionals that due lack integrity and will cheat on their results. Eventually this will hurt them in the long term either with karma or a sense of guilt. The game of golf is a great way to teach youth about fundamental principles of life. There are many rules that must be followed and it is a game in which you respect your opponents throughout competition. In both the accounting profession and the game of golf a person’s character is displayed to others by their ethical behavior.
Bryan Davis’ story is extremely inspirational. He did not take one second to weigh out the potential consequences of his decision to self-regulate. Instead, he sensed an immediate overriding duty to stay true to his values and compete in the most honest and ethical way possible. If I am correct, Dr. Shaub recently mentioned to our class an interesting twist to this story. Jim Furyk, the man who claimed victory due to Davis’ default, was competing sometime after his win against Davis and felt compelled to self-regulate his game in the same way that Davis had done prior. As it turns out, Furyk had not defaulted, and therefore was not penalized. I have every reason to believe that Furyk is just as equally moral and just as Davis. However, this does have me wondering had Davis not behaved in the morally correct way in the past, would Furyk had felt so compelled to do so himself? In any case, it is great to see professional athletes demonstrate character and integrity in the ways that these two men have.