By Lacey Nemergut
James E. Hunton, an established Accounting Professor at Bentley University and prominent writer in the accounting community, resigned from the University on December 31, following a formal retraction in his co-authored article featured in the Accounting Review.
Hunton provided the University with “family and health reasons” as the official reason for his resignation.
“I think you have to view [the resignation and retraction] as possibly being coincidental…I can’t tell you that they’re related,” stated Bentley University Dean Roy “Chip” Wiggins.
The article, entitled “A Field Experiment Comparing the Outcomes of Three Fraud Brainstorms Procedures: Nominal Group, Round Robin, and Open Discussion,” was released in the November 9, 2012 issue of the Accounting Review and was co-authored by Hunton and Anna Gold of Erasmus University.
Wiggins referred to the Accounting Review as an “A-level journal” with significant editorial oversight. Writers submit their paper to a blind review, during which 2-3 unknown readers read for content and accuracy. Following this review, the article must also face editorial oversight.
“That’s really designed to make sure that the paper is well done and written at a certain level,” said Dean Wiggins.
The retraction revolved around the apparent inaccuracy of data presented in the article. The original article had stated that the sample included 150 offices of participating CPA firms were located only in the United States. However, by May 2012, a coordinating partner assisting with the article revealed that the sample included both domestic and international offices, thus skewing the sample and deeming the original piece inaccurate.
Upon realizing this misinformation, the Editor and the Chairperson of the Publications Committee of the American Accounting Association immediately asked for further information on the study. However, the sought after information was restricted by a confidentiality agreement between Hunton and the participating firm. It is clear that the second author, Gold, had not been involved in the experiment or receiving the data from the CPA firm.
According to the source RetractionWatch.WordPress.com: “Consequently, in spite of the authors’ belief that the inaccurate description of the sample does not materially impact either the internal validity of the study or the conclusions set forth in the Article, the authors consider it appropriate to voluntarily withdraw the Article from The Accounting Review at this time.”
Bentley University issued a formal statement to Beth Healy with the Boston Globe, ensuring readers of the University’s prestigious name: “Bentley University and its faculty take the research process extremely seriously, and we place the highest expectations for rigor, diligence, and ethical methods on our faculty.”
When asked about why the Boston Globe decided to run the story of Hunton’s resignation following the retraction, Wiggins stated, “I think that somebody leaving and the coincidental retraction created a curiosity.”
Prior to his resignation, Hunton had received many awards from the University, including the $25,000 Mee Family Award in 2011.
Following the presentation of the award, University President Gloria Larson had said, “During his nine years at Bentley, Jim has had a profound, positive influence on the welfare of Bentley’s students, success of his fellow colleagues, and international standing of the university.”
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