Given all the recent criticism of accountants, the last thing in the world they would want is to be viewed as "walking conspiracies." Yet that is exactly the label some antitrust scholars have applied to professional accounting associations.
Professional associations unite members so they can better themselves and their profession. By their very nature, they bring competitors and potential competitors together, making both the associations and their individual members particularly vulnerable to antitrust violations that can lead to substantial fines and government supervision.
But associations can protect themselves with policies that show a good faith effort to prevent violations. The New York State Society of CPAs recently approved a model policy on antitrust compliance.
"Compliance policies such as this antitrust policy help an organization heighten the ethical tone of its day-to-day operations," NYSSCPA President Jo Ann Golden said. "At a time when ethics are increasingly highlighted by the profession, the government and in the media, this is a very positive step."
NYSSCPA's policy applies to all members and prohibits Society activities or discussions that might be construed as tending to raise, lower or stabilize prices or otherwise foster unfair trade practices violations.
The policy prohibits the conduct of substantive Society business, except at official meetings, and requires that all board, executive committee and other membership meetings be conducted pursuant to advance agendas. It also requires minutes to be distributed promptly to attendees, and prevents Society leaders and members from making any representations of official Society policy or position without specific authorization.
For more information, see the December issue of "The Trusted Professional."