Mark Twain said that "there are liars, damned liars and statistics" - with Sarbanes-Oxley, there are 'liars, damned liars and accountants.'
During a boom, all sort of excesses come out. People in leadership cut corners, behave badly, downright cheat - because everyone else seems to be doing it. In the bust that follows, there is a witchhunt to put the most visible fallen leaders in jail. A remarkable legacy of this psychology is with what was once THE premier company in the world - AT&T. During the boom, Worldcom (their biggest competitor) was cooking the books. The Worldcom leader is one of those CEOs who deserves to be spending time in a little gray cell, maybe with a big bad biker dude as a cellmate. During the boom AT&T was constantly criticized for not being able to run the business as efficiently as Worldcom. As a consequence, the CEO was unable to get capital cheaply enough to execute his plan, which was otherwise strategically sound. After the bust, Worldcom restated its results, and lo and behold, AT&T was actually MORE efficient during that period. But the damage had been done - AT&T broke itself into four pieces and is a shadow of its former glory. All due to bad accounting and crooked competition!
It does matter very much that accountants perform with integrity and our business leaders exemplify the values that adhere to leadership at such a level - honesty, hard work, virtue. The capitalist system is based on three legs - free people (democracy), free markets (capitalism), and civic virtue (morality in business). We should not forget the fundamental importance of the third leg.