Standards of Ethical Conduct for Management Accountants

Management accountants should behave ethically. They have an obligation to follow the highest standards of ethical responsibility and maintain good professional image.

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) has developed four standards of ethical conduct for management accountants and financial managers.

These standards has since then been revered as the central code for accounting professionals.

1. Competence

  • Maintain an appropriate level of professional competence by ongoing development of their knowledge and skills.
  • Perform their professional duties in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and technical standards.
  • Prepare complete and clear reports and recommendations after appropriate analyses of relevant and reliable information.

2. Confidentiality

  • Refrain from disclosing confidential information acquired in the course of their work except when authorized, unless legally obligated to do so.
  • Inform subordinates as appropriate regarding the confidentiality of information acquired in the course of their work and monitor their activities to assure the maintenance of that confidentiality.
  • Refrain from using or appearing to use confidential information acquired in the course of their work for unethical or illegal advantage either personally or through third parties.

3. Integrity

  • Avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest and advise all appropriate parties of any potential conflict.
  • Refrain from engaging in any activity that would prejudice their ability to carry out their duties ethically.
  • Refuse any gift, favor, or hospitality that would influence or would appear to influence their actions.
  • Refrain from either actively or passively subverting the attainment of the organization's legitimate and ethical objectives.
  • Recognize and communicate professional limitations or other constraints that would preclude responsible judgment or successful performance of an activity.
  • Communicate unfavorable as well as favorable information and professional judgments or opinions.
  • Refrain from engaging in or supporting any activity that would discredit the profession.

4. Credibility

  • Communicate information fairly and objectively.
  • Disclose fully all relevant information that could reasonably be expected to influence an intended user's understanding of the reports, comments, and recommendations presented.

Resolution of Ethical Conflict

In applying the standards of ethical conduct, practitioners of management accounting and financial management may encounter problems in identifying unethical behavior or in resolving an ethical conflict. When faced with significant ethical issues, practitioners of management accounting and financial management should follow the established policies of the organization bearing on the resolution of such conflict. If these policies do not resolve the ethical conflict, such practitioners should consider the following courses of action.

  • Discuss such problems with the immediate superior except when it appears that the superior is involved, in which case the problem should be presented initially to the next higher managerial level.
  • If a satisfactory resolution cannot be achieved when the problem is initially presented, submit the issues to the next higher managerial level. If the immediate superior is the chief executive officer, or equivalent, the acceptable reviewing authority may be a group such as the audit committee, executive committee, board of directors, board of trustees, or owners. Contact with levels above the immediate superior should be initiated only with the superior's knowledge, assuming the superior is not involved. Except where legally prescribed, communication of such problems to authorities or individuals not employed or engaged by the organization is not considered appropriate.
  • Clarify relevant ethical issues by confidential discussion with an objective advisor to obtain a better understanding of possible courses of action. Consult your own attorney as to legal obligations and rights concerning the ethical conflict.
  • If the ethical conflict still exits after exhausting all levels of internal review, there may be no other recourse on significant matters than to resign from the organization and to submit an informative memorandum to an appropriate representative of the organization. After resignation, depending on the nature of the ethical conflict, it may also be appropriate to notify other parties.
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