Institutional work and regulatory change in the accounting profession

Mary Canning, Brendan O'Dwyer

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Independent oversight bodies such as the PCAOB in the U.S. and the POB in the U.K. pervade the international accounting regulatory environment. Their existence has been hailed as marking an end to self-regulation of the accounting profession. This paper examines how, and with what effect, individuals within one such oversight body attempted to reconfigure the regulatory field of accounting in Ireland. We mobilise the concept of institutional work to theorise the interrelated nature of the forms of institutional work these individuals engaged in as they sought to realise regulatory change. The paper advances prior theorisations of the recursive relationship between different forms of institutional work and patterns of institutional change and stability. We unveil a more refined, nuanced categorisation of institutional work within efforts to instigate regulatory change. We show how specific forms of institutional work interact and mutually reinforce or displace one another as regulators seek to establish power and legitimacy in a regulatory field. The role and nature of work rejection – whereby regulators initially reject certain forms of work but later embrace them – is unveiled within a change process where shifting regulatory logics both shape and are shaped by the forms of institutional work undertaken. The paper provides a counterpoint to prior research by illustrating how socio-political factors enabled more than constrained the impact of the institutional work undertaken by individuals within an independent oversight body. It concludes with a call for research focusing on how targets of regulation in accounting engage in institutional work as they respond to efforts to restrict their autonomy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages23
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016


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