New Pressure on the Number-Crunchers

Cases of fraud and schemes that inflate earnings are on the rise, leading Congress to promise a close look at accounting-industry standards

The nation's accountants have had a rough time in the past few years. In 1998, they came under fire as Arthur Levitt Jr., then chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission, began to criticize the accounting games some companies play to boost their reported earnings. Then in 2000, Levitt fought a brutal battle with the profession over what he saw as a blatant conflict between the traditional role of auditing and the accounting firms' growing practice of consulting.

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