1 Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, SDU2 unknown3 Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, SDU
Abstract Purpose – This paper examines neoliberalism’s supreme ethic of individual competition and its impact on the auditing profession’s social responsibility to independently audit the veracity of corporate disclosure. Design/methodology/approach – First, the paper critically examines neoliberal ideology’s individual competition as a political project evident in state regulated deregulation to construct a competitive market. Second, it analyses the auditing profession after deregulation. Mautz (1988) observed two meanings of professionalism: the entrepreneurial expert competitor whose success is judged in terms of achieving profitability by competing for client business; and, the traditional professional who is concerned about the public welfare and accepts the social contract. Third, an experiment investigates whether these two meanings exist in audit firms as subcultures and whether these subcultures are related to auditors’ moral judgment. Findings - A factor analysis reveals expert competitor, traditional profession and technical subcultures exist in a sample of audit firms in Copenhagen. A multiple regression finds the traditional profession subculture is positively associated with auditors’ moral reasoning. In contrast, moral reasoning is negatively associated with the expert competitor subculture, suggesting these values contradict auditors’ ethicality. Leadership should manage these divergent subcultures to avoid cultural dissonance, which often results in high staff turnover, absenteeism, low staff morale and litigation. A discriminant analysis finds that audit partners valued the expert competitor subculture more highly, suggesting the existence of cultural dissonance in these audit firms. Originality/Value - This study contributes to our knowledge about the social influence of neoliberal competition policy between and within organisations and their employees, specifically the impact of deregulating the auditing profession’s social responsibility.