News at Smith

Reznick Groups Kurtis Wolff Talks Ethics With Smith School Students

Oct 01, 2007
Experiential / Reality-based Learning

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On Monday, Sept. 17, 2007 the Robert H. Smith School of Business welcomed Kurtis A. Wolff, Principal in Charge of Audit and Assurance at the Reznick Group, to its Business Ethics Lecture Series. Wolff, speaking to a large crowd of Smith School students, shared his thoughts on Ethics Everyday in Public Accounting.

Wolff shared his experiences in accounting and auditing with the group both from his time at Reznick, a top-20 public accounting firm, as well as from his prior experiences within the industry.

He started the lecture by presenting an ethical dilemma that faces just about everyone on a daily basis, the sharing of information on the Internet. He used this example to illustrate how ethical decisions are all around us and factor into our everyday lives. Wolff then launched into how ethical decision-making is critical in the field of auditing. He introduced some of his firms risk management model to illustrate an example of how Reznick evaluates firms to better ensure proper disclosure.

One of Wolff's key points was that people and cultures of a firm are the most important piece of risk management. Firms often have strong internal controls to guide processes, but these are only effective if the principles of compliance are kept in the minds of the people that work there. Many organizations that the Reznick Group advises, Wolff said, are putting more emphasis on the people and culture aspect of their compliance because they have realized that the key to upholding compliance is getting the people on board with it.

In the next part of his presentation, Wolff highlighted some of the things his firm does to ensure ethical behavior. He talked about how he has worked on a code for ethical decisions at the Reznick Group, and how thinking about these types of decisions has legal, moral, ethical and business implications. Auditors are supposed to be independent in fact and appearance, but as Wolff pointed out, this can be harder to achieve than it appears. Business relationships and personal relationships can often inhibit this independence. It is important for auditors to keep these relationships separate from independent judgments. Wolff said many ethical decisions are judgment calls, which brought him back to why people and culture are the most important piece of managing risk.

He closed the lecture by taking questions from Smith students.

Other sessions this fall in the "Business Ethics Lecture Series"

Date: October 15, 2007
Speaker: Nancy Grunberg, Esquire, Venable, LLP.
Topic: Accountants Obligations and Liabilities Under the Federal Securities Laws
Time: 5: 30PM 7 PM
Room: Frank Auditorium, 1524 Van Munching Hall, College Park

Date: November 7, 2007
Speaker: James M. Lager, Deputy Ethics Counselor, GAO
Topic: "Honoring Values in a Compliance-based World"
Time: 5: 30PM 7 PM
Room: Frank Auditorium, 1524 Van Munching Hall, College Park

Related Stories:
Spring 2007 Ethics Experiential Learning Module for MBAs
Fall 2006 Ethics Lecture Series
Spring 2006 Ethics Lecture Series

▓ Adam Weiner, MBA Candidate 2009, Smith Media Group

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