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The ‘Big Four’ in the spotlight: Accountability and professional legitimacy in the UK audit market

Whittle, A.; Mueller, F.; Carter, C.

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Authors

A. Whittle

C. Carter



Abstract

This paper seeks to understand how professions are scrutinized, and attempt to justify themselves, in the light of apparent failure. We analyse the interaction between the heads of the Big Four—the four largest accounting firms—and the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee during a recent British parliamentary investigation into the audit market. The paper provides an ethnomethodologically informed discourse analysis of the forms of mundane and professional reason through which ‘reality disjunctures’, that is, conflicting accounts of events, were posed and handled during these interactions. The reality disjunctures exposed by the Committee , we propose, serve to perform ‘holding to account’ and questioning the legitimacy of the Big Four. The candidate resolutions proffered by the Big Four, in turn, sought to perform ‘accountability’, restore legitimacy and trust in the profession, and maintain the status quo . These discursive contests, we argue, were pivotal to the social construction of reality of the UK audit profession and also served to shape the future of the profession, including implications for governance and state regulation.

Citation

Whittle, A., Mueller, F., & Carter, C. (2016). The ‘Big Four’ in the spotlight: Accountability and professional legitimacy in the UK audit market. Journal of Professions and Organization, 3(2), 119-141. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpo/jow001

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 8, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 8, 2016
Publication Date 2016-09
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2020
Journal Journal of Professions and Organization
Print ISSN 2051-8803
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 2
Pages 119-141
DOI https://doi.org/10.1093/jpo/jow001
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1267905

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Copyright Statement
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Professions and Organization following peer review. The version of record Whittle, A., Mueller, F. & Carter, C. (2016). The ‘Big Four’ in the spotlight: Accountability and professional legitimacy in the UK audit market. Journal of Professions and Organization 3(2): 119-141 is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/jpo/jow001




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