This study is concerned with the impact of three legal decisions in Australia, arising out of action based on the law of tort, on the functioning of individual public accountants.
There are five main sub-divisions in the thesis:
1. The legal environment as it affects public accountants. Attention is devoted to the two-pronged nature of the legal liability for negligence facing public accountants; firstly, the liability arising from a contractual arrangement with a client, and secondly, the liability he owes to third parties who may rely on the product of his professional performance but with Whom he has no contractual relationship. Because the liability of public accountants emerged over a considerable period, a brief review of the development of the liability is presented.
2. A review of selected Australian cases. Attention is given to the three Australian legal cases which are considered to have liability implications for the practice of public accounting in Australia.
3. A brief explanation of role theory. TO facilitate the assessment of the impact of the legal cases on the functioning of public accountants, the concept of role theory is introduced. A chapter is devoted to a brief explanation of role theory and its relationship to this study.
4 An empirical assessment of present method of functioning of public accountants. A research questionnaire was distributed to individual public accountants to determine, amongst other things, their present mode of operation in specific areas of practice which were found to have been performed in a deficient manner in Court judgments.
5. An analysis aimed at determining whether public accountants are now functioning in a manner that will obviate the type of observations made in the selected Australian cases. The evidence collected in the survey was compared with specific judicial comments to determine firstly, whether present practice indicates compliance with prior Court observations, and secondly, whether there is evidence to suggest that Court decisions have acted as a role-sender to individual public accountants.
Conclusions drawn out of the analysis of the survey results are then presented.