Briloff Lecture

The 27th annual Briloff Lecture on Accountability and Society was held at the Anderson Center Chamber Hall in Fall 2013


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Remembering Abraham Briloff

Abraham J. Briloff, 96, died Dec. 12, 2013, in New York City, following a hospitalization. The Presidential Professor Emeritus of Accounting and Ethics at Binghamton University and Professor Emeritus of Accounting at Baruch College, City University of New York made his last visit to campus on Oct. 30, 2013, for the 27th Annual Abraham J. Briloff Lecture on Accountability and Society.

Briloff, awarded the University Medal in 2012, has long been recognized as an ethical voice in the accounting profession. Last summer, Briloff was posthumously inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame. Since its establishment in 1950 at The Ohio State University, less than 100 influential and respected accountants from academe, accounting practice, government and business have been elected. The annual lecture series in his name, sponsored by the School of Management, brings the accounting, business and campus communities together to contemplate topics of business ethics and corporate social responsibility. He is survived by two daughters and their families.

State regulator addresses accountability gap

Benjamin M. Lawsky was the featured speaker at the 27th Annual Abraham J. Briloff Lecture on Accountability and Society, held during the fall 2013 semester at the Anderson Center Chamber Hall. Lawsky’s office regulates the operation of all insurance companies in New York, all state-chartered depository institutions and most U.S.-based branches and agencies of foreign banking institutions.

Last summer, Briloff was posthumously inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame. Since its establishment in 1950 at The Ohio State University, less than 100 influential and respected accountants from academe, accounting practice, government and business have been elected. The annual lecture series, sponsored by the School of Management, brings the accounting, business and campus communities together to contemplate topics of business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Briloff, who died about a month after the lecture, was Presidential Professor Emeritus of Accounting and Ethics at Binghamton University and had been long recognized as an ethical voice in the accounting profession. He was also professor emeritus of accounting at Baruch College, City University of New York. Binghamton University awarded him the University Medal in 2012.

In his remarks to a crowd of more than 400 — which included students, faculty and alumni — Lawsky said criminal prosecutions have been extremely difficult in cases of financial malfeasance because defendants need to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even so, he believes prosecutors, overall, have not tried hard enough to pursue convictions.

“The firms themselves are enormous, diffuse and incredibly complicated,” he said. “Assigning blame to individuals is exceedingly hard when talking about complex firms. [Sadly], we’re unlikely to see many criminal prosecutions coming out of the recent financial crisis.”

Lawsky believes the approach to achieving a more ethical business environment should be forward-looking and that regulators can play a prominent role in closing the accountability gap.

“When you right the wrongs of the past in a way that deters future bad conduct, you create a system that leads to improvement,” he said. “We need to actually hold individuals to account, and we need to expose in a detailed and significant way what the bad conduct was.”