This study reexamines the accounting profession's response to opportunities and incentives given it during three unique periods in its history to foster reliable accounting, reporting and auditing practices. By profession, we mean the auditors of publicly held companies as represented by the American Institute of Accountants and its predecessor, the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA). We use two models of professionalism, the Functionalist and the Conflict models, to interpret the profession's response to these events. We find that both self interest and the public interest may have motivated many of the actions taken. These motivations are not, however, mutually exclusive and both may be used to interpret the same behavior.

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