Accounting professor resigns following retraction

James Hunton, via Bentley University
James Hunton, via Bentley University

An accounting professor at a Boston-area college has resigned a month after publishing a retraction that has sparked extensive discussion on Retraction Watch.

The Boston Globe reported late last week that James E. Hunton will leave Bentley University on December 31, with a spokesperson telling the paper he was leaving for “family and health reasons.”

Hunton and a co-author retracted “A Field Experiment Comparing the Outcomes of Three Fraud Brainstorming Procedures: Nominal Group, Round Robin, and Open Discussion” from the Accounting Review on November 9. The notice was scant, but the authors left a comment on our post with details:

In the retracted article, the authors reported that the 150 offices of the participating CPA firm on which the study was based were located in the United States. In May 2012, the lead author learned from the coordinating partner of the participating CPA firm that the 150 offices included both domestic and international offices of the firm. The authors apologize for the inadvertently inaccurate description of the sample frame.

The Editor and the Chairperson of the Publications Committee of the American Accounting Association subsequently requested more information about the study and the participating CPA firm. Unfortunately, the information they requested is subject to a confidentiality agreement between the lead author and the participating firm; thus, the lead author has a contractual obligation not to disclose the information requested by the Editor and the Chairperson. The second author was neither involved in administering the experiment nor in receiving the data from the CPA firm. The second author does not know the identity of the CPA firm or the coordinating partner at the CPA firm. The second author is not a party to the confidentiality agreement between the lead author and the CPA firm.

The authors offered to print a correction of the inaccurate description of the sample frame; however, the Editor and the Chairperson rejected that offer. 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. Should the participating CPA firm change its position on releasing the requested information in the future, the authors will request that the Editor and the Chairperson consider reinstating the paper.

(That explanation drew some criticism from a commenter using the alias “Harry Markopolos” — the name of the Bernie Madoff whistleblower — which in turn led the real Harry Markopolos to say he hadn’t left the comment.)

The Globe reports that Bentley

launched a review last month of the retraction by the professor, who is widely published in accounting journals and has received numerous awards.

We tried reaching Hunton earlier last week after an anonymous commenter posted news of his resignation — a comment we didn’t approve until the Globe story ran — but yet haven’t heard back.

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