Don’t pick a fight with someone who buys pixels by the terabyte – ethics version

(Cross-post from my other blog, Attestation Update.)

That’s the internet era version of the old line:

Don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

Here is today’s illustration of the concept:  Francine McKenna was invited to debate the question “Does ethics training change behavior?” She was going to argue the ‘no’ position.

The Ethics and Compliance Officer Association Annual Conference disinvited her after protests by other speakers and some sponsors, according to her post, Canceled: Why I Won’t Be Speaking At Ethics And Compliance Officers Association Annual Conference.

Seems some speakers and sponsors were upset with her being on the panel.  The COO of the Association asked her to promise she would not disparage any of the speakers or sponsors. Seems to me that would be a fairly harsh speech restriction when the potential speaker was asked to defend the “no” answer in the above debate topic.

I chuckled at the COO’s comment that he was

unaware of my “reputation in the accounting industry” when he asked me to step-in so late,

Anyone who has ever read Ms. McKenna’s articles ought to know she could, might, is likely, is guaranteed to have something just a tad critical to say of the Big 4.  Pick at random any two articles she ever wrote to see how quickly one could catch on to her concerns about quality issues in the Big 4.

Back to the idea of not picking fights with people who have a standing reorder for pixels …

After unsuccessfully trying to find a way to resolve the issue, including an offer to sign a non-disclosure agreement and referral to another organization that threaded the needle of having a reporter as a presenter, the ethics organization pulled the plug on her participation.

Ms. McKenna posted her article two days ago.  It included a list of some major sponsors and the amount of money they have in play at the conference. Big 4 firms, and some of their clients that created ethical conflicts for said firms, are on the long list.


Did I mention the debate topic was whether behavior can be changed by ethics training? Can you say London, Flanagan, McClellan, or Gansman? If Ms. McKenna had agreed to participate in the debate, she wouldn’t have been able to say those names.

This is perhaps not quite the ethics lesson the association wanted to teach in advance of their conference next week. Now we, and their constituency, can read all about it and process the lesson for ourself.

The re:TheAuditors blog site does not have a page view counter visible. I’m confident there have been a bunch of visitors to her posts. There are 9 comments from visitors as I publish this post.

Her tweet about her article has been retweeted 18 times.

So far I’ve seen 7 other tweets mentioning the article. I’m sure there are some I missed.

I’m guessing Going Concern will mention the article in their daily roundup. Their updates usually get a few thousand page views.

That’s a lot of pixels.  The word is getting around.

Moral of the story:

Don’t pick fights with people who by pixels by the terabyte.

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