This study examines the intense intra-professional conflict which arose over the question of the
liberalisation of the Greek auditing profession in 1992. The main rival groups in this conflict were
a group of indigenous auditors who resisted the liberalisation and local branches of international
accounting firms who fought for reform. The critical paradigm on accounting professionalism is
used to understand the wider social, economic, and political context in which change in the Greek
auditing profession occurred. The analysis shows that the structure of the auditing profession in
Greece is the outcome of a dynamic interplay of economic, social, and political forces, at both the
national and the international level. In the encounters between these interests, state agencies and
professional groups play a key role.
An important theme of the study is to enquire into the practical impact of the liberalisation on the
emphasis accorded by practitioners to the performance of various audit functions. Thus, the study
also attempts to examine the potential impact of changes which resulted from the political struggle
at the macro-level on the behaviour of micro-level actors. The perceptions of auditors, corporate
financial executives, and users of audit reports were surveyed through mail questionnaire and
personal interviews. The results of the investigation reveal a considerable divergence in the
perceptions of the respondent groups, in relation to the effects of liberalisation. This divergence is
explained as being the result of self-interested bias. It is suggested that through the responses to
the survey respondent groups attempted to advance and promote their own perspective on the
auditing profession. The survey results reinforce the conclusions drawn from the historical
analysis, by illuminating the deeply political nature of the affairs of the Greek auditing profession
and its socially constructed and contextually dependent character.
This study has methodological implications for conducting accounting research in sensitive areas
which touch on vested self-interests. The analysis presents evidence which suggests that the use of
quantitative mail questionnaires in such contexts is not a wholly effective research tool; it fails to
capture important exogenous factors, such as respondents' perceived self-interest, which could
significantly influence the responses of participants. The study confirms that the employment of a
combination of quantitative and qualitative research tools is a more fruitful approach for
conducting research in politically charged contexts.
Finally, the results of the study have implications for audit practice. The findings suggest that
following the liberalisation, auditors gave significantly less emphasis to: a) being independent, b)
the public communication of audit findings (writing remarks in auditors' reports and 'whistle
blowing'), c) the protection of the interests of external stakeholders, and d) the 'true and fair'
presentation of financial statements. The results also indicate that increased emphasis is placed by
auditors on the provision of Management Advisory Services to audited companies. These
significant changes are linked to the economic dependence of auditors on audited companies,
which the liberalisation brought about.