Accounting vs Accountability: Issues in Corporate Personhood
Washburn University. School of Business
Kaw Valley Bank
Accounting practice in multi-national accounting firms focuses to a large extent on providing services to corporate clients. The 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission U.S. Supreme Court Case and subsequent reactions to the case bring into focus vital questions about what it means to be a corporation. Initially, the 2010 case centered on whether it was constitutional for campaign finance laws to restrict films that name specific candidates from being shown during election season. In a re-hearing of the case, the U.S. Supreme court broadened the scope to look at whether independent campaign spending by corporations was a form of free speech protected by the American constitution. By broadening the core issue to consider the extent to which corporations can be views as persons with rights similar to human beings, the case raises questions that should be of central concern for the accounting profession and society at large. This paper considers issues in the Citizens United case in light of the historical origins of the corporate form. From this background the paper draws out issues that parallel the problems inherent i shifting accountants' professional focus from technical accounting tasks to the broader issue of accountability.