Ethics case: Surviving the Year

John, new controller of a small construction company. Jennifer, CEO of the same company

John, a CPA and formerly a staff accountant for a large public accounting firm, is the new controller for a small construction company that employs 60 people. The company is now facing tough times in light of a downturn in the construction industry.

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Both John and the CEO, Jennifer, know the collectibility of a material receivable from Acme Corporation is in doubt. Just before year-end, John goes in to talk to Jennifer. John says, “Acme has real problems. The word on the street is they won’t last the year. We need to adjust the allowance for the Acme receivable.”

Jennifer replies, “If we do that, we’re going to look bad, and the auditor may have to mention our questionable financial position. If we don’t get a clean opinion, we won’t get the bank loan we’re applying for, and we might be out of business, too, by this time next year. This loan is vital to our business. If we can just get through this downturn, I know business will get better.”

Back in the controller’s office, John ponders what can be done to help Jennifer and the company. John remembers the past years working in public accounting and is certain the auditor would want to know about Acme’s difficulties.

Please consider the following and make some notes for each

What are the relevant facts?
What are the ethical issues?
Who are the primary stakeholders?
What are the possible alternatives?
What are the ethics of the alternatives?
What actions should be taken?

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