Doing what is right seems to be a challenge for many, even some of the gatekeepers.

Photo by Clayton Robbins on Unsplash

Being a product manager responsible for a slew of IT Certifications, the challenge has always been to ensure that our certifications are designed to validate competencies and skills against the expectations for managers who employ certified individuals.

A big factor is ensuring that the testing to confer the certification is secure, and that candidates don’t skirt the requirements. To do that, we have a team of psyshometricians who do deep analysis of the tests, the responses, and the performance of the takers. A lot of statistics go into their analysis. It is not just to find potential cheating, but also to identify when an “item” (aka, a question and answer(s)) is bad, or other anomalies.

Of course, to take a test, you have to agree to the conditions, and that means an NDA, and that you are not allowed to copy, transmit, or share the items on your test.

Of course, the exam items leak, leading to a grey market of “brain dump” sites, where people who break their NDA share the questions and answers.

It is really galling when I do a Google search for one of my exams, and the top items come up as brain dump sites offering to sell me for a few dollars the latest test questions.

That was a long lead in to the real reason for this post.

Last week, the SEC fined the corporate accountancy and auditing powerhouse Ernst & Young $100M dollars.

E&Y hires a lot of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and one of the credentials that their accountants must hold is what is called a CPE. That is a certification that is part of the package for the CPA.

The CPA, or certified public accountant, licenses are needed by auditors to evaluate the financial statements of companies and ensure they are complying with laws.

However, the SEC says that a "significant number" of Ernst & Young audit professionals specifically cheated on the ethics component of the CPA exams that were required for their accounting jobs.

It turns out that for several years, the junior accountants were sharing lists of questions, and answers, essentially nullifying their effort to validate their knowledge.

The fact that this is the “Ethics” portion of the requirements for the CPA license is doubly delicious. To be honest, $100M, while it is a lot of money, seems to be too light of a penalty for this egregious breach of norms. One has to wonder what other rot is hidden in their firm.

Keep that in mind when you hire one of the Big Four accounting firms.