Big Oil versus Big Ideals

Journal of Forensic & Investigative Accounting, 6(1) (2014)

16 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2014 Last revised: 17 Mar 2015

See all articles by Mary B. Curtis

Mary B. Curtis

University of North Texas

Eileen Zalkin Taylor

North Carolina State University

Date Written: 2014


This case presents facts and opinions gathered from personal interviews and public documents that describe how one individual discovered and reported what he perceived as accounting fraud at a large U.S. public company. George (a pseudonym), the Director of Technical Accounting Research and Training, concluded that his employer was improperly recording revenue using a flawed bill-and-hold policy. George reported his concerns internally to company management and externally, to the auditors. He then reported his concerns to the SEC, the PCAOB, and finally to the audit committee of the company’s Board of Directors. However, his e-mail was provided directly to the individuals implicated by his complaint who divulged his identity within the company as a whistleblower. Using the remedies available under the Sarbanes Oxley Act, George sued his employers, charging them with retaliation. This study describes the situation George faced from both his and the company’s perspective, details his decision process, and reveals the consequences of his actions. This case increases awareness among accounting and business professionals, and students about the protections and possible outcomes of decisions they make regarding reporting of questionable accounting practices. After completing this case, individuals should have a greater understanding of the benefits and limitations of the current U.S. regulatory system in regard to whistle-blowing.

Keywords: Whistleblower, ethics, professionalism, bill-and-hold

Suggested Citation

Curtis, Mary B. and Taylor, Eileen Zalkin, Big Oil versus Big Ideals (2014). Journal of Forensic & Investigative Accounting, 6(1) (2014), Available at SSRN:

Mary B. Curtis

University of North Texas ( email )

1155 Union Circle, #305219
Denton, TX 76203
United States
940.565.4366 (Phone)


Eileen Zalkin Taylor (Contact Author)

North Carolina State University ( email )

Campus Box 8113
Nelson Hall
Raleigh, NC 27695-8113
United States
919-513-2476 (Phone)

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