Change to Acts Discreditable Interpretation

The Acts Discreditable Rule, which applies to all AICPA members, states that a member shall not commit an act discreditable to the profession. Interpretations of the rule appear in three (3) parts of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (Code) for members in public practice (part 1), members in business (part 2), and other members (part 3). Though not all inclusive, the interpretations of the Acts Discreditable Rule address such things as discriminating or harassing employment practices, failure to file one’s tax return or pay taxes, and withholding client records.

At its August 2023 open meeting, the AICPA’s Professional Ethics Executive Committee (PEEC) agreed to expand another interpretation of that rule entitled, Solicitation or Disclosure of CPA Examination Questions and Answers. Renamed Professional Licenses and Credentials, an official release was issued on September 15, 2023. PEEC revised the interpretation to address recent enforcement actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against two big 4 firms and their employees for cheating on continuing professional education (CPE) and internal firm training examinations. The SEC stated that employees shared answer keys with colleagues, manipulated software, or exploited software flaws to pass exams. Subject matters included auditing (including training mandated by a prior SEC order finding audit failures) and ethics (including courses required to obtain or maintain one’s CPA license).  

Though many types of misconduct are not explicitly addressed under the Acts Discreditable Rule, the PEEC decided to amend the interpretation that focuses on the Uniform CPA Examination in light of these occurrences. New language added to the interpretation states that a member shall be considered in violation of the Acts Discreditable Rule if the member engages in false, misleading, or deceptive acts related to professional qualifications or competencies. Examples of false, misleading, or deceptive acts include:

• soliciting or knowingly disclosing questions or answers of any professional education course examination (unless collaboration is expressly permitted);

• falsifying or misrepresenting attendance at a professional education course; or

• tampering with the administration of or examination grading for any professional education or credential.

The revisions are effective on September 15, 2023.

Note: I am a member of the Professional Ethics Executive Committee, which is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, for promulgating new interpretations and rulings, and for monitoring those rules and making revisions as needed. All views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent official positions of either PEEC or the AICPA.