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The Spread and Use of Blockchains – The CPA Journal

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A lot consideration and hype has surrounded the potential for blockchain expertise to disrupt accounting processes. Mentions of this expertise in corporations’ 10-Ok types filed with the SEC have elevated dramatically over the previous few years, however are nonetheless unusual. Only a few corporations seem to have efficiently adopted blockchain expertise into their operations. A survey of 10-Ks reveals that though a number of corporations are investigating blockchain use, many are skeptical about whether or not the expertise will present future worthwhile enterprise and funding alternatives.

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Of the various new applied sciences anticipated to remodel the accounting occupation, many prognosticators predict that blockchain could be the most impactful. Blockchain proponents level to potential safety towards fraud and attainable modifications to the whole audit course of. For all the eye given to blockchain expertise, there may be little proof concerning its present use by companies.

To analyze the problem, the authors searched 10-Ok studies containing the phrase “blockchain” filed with the SEC for the 4 fiscal years ending previous to Could 31, 2019. Exhibit 1 presents the outcomes of this search. The primary point out of blockchain expertise was within the Bitcoin Inc. 2013 10-Ok. Blockchain expertise was developed by Bitcoin to trace and function its cryptocurrency; it’s the most distinguished blockchain expertise utility. Since 2013, blockchain expertise has more and more been talked about in additional corporations’ 10-Ks, with dramatic will increase since 2016. In FY 2018 10-Ks, 162 corporations talked about blockchain expertise.

Exhibit 1

10-Ks Mentioning Blockchain

Fiscal Year Ending; Number; Year-to-Year Increase; Year-to-Year Growth Rate 6/2013–5/2014; 2 6/2014–5/2015; 5; 3; 150.0% 6/2015–5/2016; 11; 6; 120.0% 6/2016–5/2017; 22; 11; 100.0% 6/2017–5/2018; 120; 98; 445.5% 6/2018–5/2019; 162; 42; 35.0% Total; 322 Source: SEC Edgar data

Blockchain: Curiosity and Challenges

Curiosity in, and promotion of, blockchain expertise spiked dramatically in 2017. The June 2017 concern of The CPA Journal contained articles on blockchain that provided optimistic views of the potential of this new expertise. One article predicted: “By incorporating blockchain expertise to their accounting info methods, corporations may cut back fraud danger by sustaining a clear, safe database and a strengthened management system” (Jun Dai, Yunsen Wang, and Miklos Vasarhelyi, “Blockchain: An Rising Resolution for Fraud Prevention,” The CPA Journal, June 2017, pp. 12–14).

One other article famous the potential makes use of for blockchain expertise:

This database construction may assist forestall and detect fraudulent transactions by buying and selling events. The block-chain idea carries some dangers, however with a built-in audit path, these dangers are manageable. The implementation of blockchain expertise into company info methods is in its early phases, however it’s more likely to be adopted by numerous companies, giant governmental companies, and varied exchanges (Yigal Rechtman, “Blockchain: The Making of a Easy, Safe Recording Idea,” The CPA Journal, June 2017, pp. 15–17).

Articles revealed within the 2018 annual expertise concern mentioned transferring towards adoption: “Blockchain expertise has the potential to revolutionize and disrupt the accounting occupation in ways in which even now usually are not fully clear. What is obvious, nonetheless, is that blockchain will have an effect on the enterprise panorama” (Deniz Appelbaum and Sean Stein Smith, “Block-chain Fundamentals and Fingers-on Steering: Taking the Subsequent Step Towards Implementation and Adoption,” The CPA Journal, June 2018, pp. 28–37). The longer term makes use of of blockchains included hypothesis that “whereas the change is massively disruptive, this writer believes it would in the end be for the higher. Simply because the Web modified the best way the world seen info, blockchain will change the best way folks view belief” (Joe Murray, “The Coming World of Blockchain: A Primer for Accountants and Auditors,” The CPA Journal, June 2018, pp. 20–27).

By 2019, blockchain-based property have been in use sufficient that The CPA Journal contained articles on the way to deal with accounting and tax reporting points associated to cryptocurrencies (Mordecai Lerer, “The Taxation of Cryptocurrency: Digital Transactions Deliver Actual-Life Tax Implications,” The CPA Journal, January 2019, pp. 40–43; Andre Sterley, “Cryptoassets: Accounting for an Rising Asset Class,” The CPA Journal, June 2019, pp. 6–7). Sterley famous that “accountants with a deep data of cryptoassets and blockchain expertise are already more and more in demand, as an intricate understanding of each the expertise and accounting requirements is required to supply acceptable steering.” One other article talked about the potential advantages of blockchains in audit follow: “Tomorrow, knowledge analytics may exchange sampling strategies with evaluation of all transactions and accounts. Finally, blockchain and distributed ledger expertise may make confirmations a factor of the previous” (Kathleen Hamm, “Keynote Handle: Cybersecurity: The place are We, and What Extra Can Be Achieved?” The CPA Journal, August 2019, pp. 34–39).

Extra skepticism about blockchain was evident in 2019. Gartner Inc., a number one analysis and advisory firm, surveys organizations’ Chief Info Officers (CIOs) every year. The 2019 CIO Agenda survey indicated that barely fewer than 5% of the two,835 CIOs responding thought blockchain can be a sport changer for his or her group (Kasey Panetta, “CIO Agenda 2019: Exploit Transformational Applied sciences,” Gartner Inc., 2018, https://gtnr.it/3oE4ltJ). An October 8, 2019, Gartner press launch talked about disillusionment with blockchain purposes. Gartner specialists estimate blockchain expertise won’t dwell as much as its hype in enterprise purposes within the rapid future (“Gartner 2019 Hype Cycle Reveals Most Blockchain Applied sciences Are Nonetheless 5 to 10 Years Away From Transformational Influence,” https://gtnr.it/3oCCsSF).

Different observers questioned the purported advantages and urged that blockchains could make it simpler to commit fraud, or tougher to detect and forestall:

Quite a few articles have touted the emergence of AI, blockchain, knowledge analytics, and RPA as instruments for use by auditors to fight fraud. Think about, nonetheless, this thought: fraudsters will look to make the most of the identical applied sciences to commit extra damaging and strong frauds than have beforehand been attainable [Mark Nickerson, “Fraud in a World of Advanced Technologies: The Possibilities are (Unfortunately) Endless,” The CPA Journal, June 2019, pp. 28–34].

A KPMG report mentioned two cases of fraud in 2016. The report concluded that the underlying block-chains labored as anticipated and the frauds may have been prevented (Kiran Nagaraj, Sam Wyner, LaDarius Goens, and Eamonn Maguire, Securing the Chain. KPMG, Could 2017, https://bit.ly/3f5KGzJ). In early 2019, nonetheless, safety analysts for the digital foreign money alternate Coinbase uncovered greater than $1 million of fraudulent transactions within the blockchain ledger for the cryptocurrency Ethereum Traditional: “The attackers have been in a position to rewrite the supposedly everlasting ledger of transactions, one thing that needs to be inconceivable. That raises arduous questions on the way forward for the blockchain, notably for smaller cash” (Russell Brandom, “Why the Ethereum Traditional Hack Is a Dangerous Omen for the Block-chain,” Verge, January 9, 2019, http://bit.ly/2MtT7Zk).

Different expertise specialists have questioned the reliability of blockchain ledgers. For context, one instance the place block-chain has been touted as a technique to tremendously enhance transparency and belief is within the agricultural provide chain (Vidhya Abhijith, “Farm to desk: Blockchain to hint meals again to its supply,” Code-wave, November 18, 2018, https://bit.ly/3wndwRS). Utilizing blockchains, meals could possibly be traced from a selected subject in South America to a selected grocery retailer in New York. This traceability may tremendously help in monitoring the supply of food-borne diseases and decreasing the mislabeling of meals merchandise. Potential challenges and obstacles to full traceability, nonetheless, embody prices and entry to the blockchain “in all places, equivalent to on-the-high-seas and distant farms” (J. Lindley and A. Graycar, “Regulating the Meals Provide Chain by way of Blockchain” The Regulatory Evaluate, December 28, 2020, https://bit.ly/3vlBcWK).

Current Blockchain Mentions in 10-Ks

Kind 10-Ks filed with the SEC ought to present info to buyers about new applied sciences that may impression the longer term money flows of corporations. Exhibit 2 reveals the breadth throughout industries of the 162 corporations mentioning blockchains in fiscal year-end 2018 10-Ks. The overwhelming majority of corporations mentioning blockchain expertise are within the manufacturing, finance, insurance coverage, actual property, or companies industries. Exhibit 3 categorizes these corporations by the rationale blockchain applied sciences have been talked about of their 10-Ks, and supplies wording in pattern corporations’ 10-Ks for every class.

Exhibit 2

Corporations Referencing Blockchain of their 10-Ks for FYE from June 2018 to Could 2019

SIC Codes; Industry; Total; Using in operations or selling/consulting, or miner; Exploring use or partnering in sales or industry alliance, licensing; Mentioned in industry background or risk or director or officer experience; Company for investing in blockchain companies or other; Examined and exited 1000-1499; Mining; 2; 0; 1; 1; 0; 0 2000-2999; Manufacturing; 10; 2; 5; 2; 1; 0 3000-3999; Manufacturing; 23; 6; 11; 5; 1; 0 4000-4999; Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, and Sanitary Services; 8; 0; 5; 3; 0; 0 5000-5199; Wholesale Trade; 3; 0; 3; 0; 0; 0 5200-5999; Retail Trade; 5; 0; 3; 2; 0; 0 6000-6199; Banking, Lending Institutions; 20; 0; 3; 17; 0; 0 6200-6299; Brokers, Dealers, Investment Advisors; 12; 1; 1; 9; 1; 0 6411-6798; Insurance, Real Estate, other; 18; 5; 6; 6; 1; 0 7000-7361; Hotels, other; 4; 1; 2; 1; 0; 0 7370-7379; Computing Services; 32; 5; 14; 8; 3; 2 7380-7812; Business Services; 17; 4; 8; 5; 0; 0 8000-8744; Health and Business Consulting Services; 8; 2; 4; 1; 1; 0 Total; 162; 26; 66; 60; 8; 2

SIC Codes; Industry; Total; Using in operations or selling/consulting, or miner; Exploring use or partnering in sales or industry alliance, licensing; Mentioned in industry background or risk or director or officer experience; Company for investing in blockchain companies or other; Examined and exited 1000-1499; Mining; 2; 0; 1; 1; 0; 0 2000-2999; Manufacturing; 10; 2; 5; 2; 1; 0 3000-3999; Manufacturing; 23; 6; 11; 5; 1; 0 4000-4999; Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, and Sanitary Services; 8; 0; 5; 3; 0; 0 5000-5199; Wholesale Trade; 3; 0; 3; 0; 0; 0 5200-5999; Retail Trade; 5; 0; 3; 2; 0; 0 6000-6199; Banking, Lending Institutions; 20; 0; 3; 17; 0; 0 6200-6299; Brokers, Dealers, Investment Advisors; 12; 1; 1; 9; 1; 0 6411-6798; Insurance, Real Estate, other; 18; 5; 6; 6; 1; 0 7000-7361; Hotels, other; 4; 1; 2; 1; 0; 0 7370-7379; Computing Services; 32; 5; 14; 8; 3; 2 7380-7812; Business Services; 17; 4; 8; 5; 0; 0 8000-8744; Health and Business Consulting Services; 8; 2; 4; 1; 1; 0 Total; 162; 26; 66; 60; 8; 2

Exhibit 3

FYE 6/30/2018–5/31/2019 10-Ks Filed with SEC Mentioning Blockchain

 Main Category #Companies; Example Companies (All quotes taken from Form 10-K 2018 or 2019. Retrieved from http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.) Use in operations; 7; Noble Vici Group Inc.: “As a result of our acquisition of NVPL, we entered into the IoT, Big Data, Blockchain and E-commerce business. We integrate blockchain technology with our E-commerce platform to connect consumers and merchants in a dynamic global marketplace via blockchain transactions.” Net Element Inc.: “Launched multi-channel Blockchain-powered payments acceptance application as part of its Netevia platform.” Selling or consulting, with blockchain applications; 13; Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc.: “Among the suite of solutions deployed by this team is Blockchain solutions, where Marsh is working in conjunction with industry consortia and IBM to digitally verify insurance.” Advanced Micro Devices Inc.: “GPUs [graphics processing units] are used to perform parallel operations on multiple sets of data and are increasingly used to perform vector processing for non-graphics applications that require repetitive computations such as supercomputing, deep learning, artificial and machine intelligence, blockchain and various other applications (e.g., cryptocurrency mining, autonomous driving). Another area of the market for graphics compute is blockchain technology.” Cryptocurrency company, miner, issuer; 5; Holly Brothers Pictures Inc.: “Through our subsidiary, Power Blockchain LLC (“Power Blockchain”), we began operating a start-up venture in February 2018 that specializes in blockchain mining for the Bitcoin network.” Management Capital Investments Inc. “In 2016, we commenced our Bitcoin mining operations. Throughout 2017, we expanded our mining capacity with the purchase of additional Bitcoin mining machines and by entering into hosting and power agreements with Washington facilities owners. We have management agreements with third-party investors who purchased the mining hardware, and we receive both a fee to manage the mining operations plus one-half of the net operating profit.” Licensing with blockchain company; 1; Eastman Kodak Company, Inc.: “The announcement of the license granted by Kodak to WENN Digital, Inc. (“WENN”) to use Kodak's brand in connection with WENN's KODAKOne blockchain-based image rights management platform and Kodak-branded cryptocurrency. Kodak may, in the future, have other involvement relating to blockchain technology or cryptocurrency, either directly or as a licensor.” Company for investments in blockchain or cryptocurrency companies; 4; SinglePoint Inc: “We are a technology and acquisition company. Our portfolio companies include mobile payments, ancillary cannabis services and blockchain solutions. The Company is looking to tap into markets with exponential growth opportunities such as blockchain.” Exploring/developing for sale or services to customers, or use in operations; 61; Rafina Innovations Inc.: “On January 31, 2018, the Company announced that it will commence development of its own proprietary Blockchain based system for handling sensitive client records in its flagship Prosthetics and Orthotics clinic in Scotland. Furthermore, the team plans to develop a proprietary Blockchain based system for handling and storing the data produced from the medical applications of its FlexisenseTM technology.” Advanced Credit Technologies Inc.: “Company is able to develop secure databases for clients by developing and attaching a private blockchain to the SQL database and further securing the database through use of the Company's CyberloQTM technology. The blockchain being developed by the Company is a private blockchain and is an invitation-only network governed by a single entity.” Partnering in blockchain sales alliance or trade group; 5; ArcBest Corp.: “In 2018, ArcBest joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (“BiTA”). Founded in 2017, BiTA is a consortium of more than 250 freight transportation companies working to develop and set standards for the use of blockchain technology within the logistics and transportation industry.” Mention in industry background or risks; 42; VMware Inc.: “We may also fail to adequately anticipate and prepare for the commercialization of emerging technologies such as blockchain and the development of new markets and applications for our technology such as the IoT and “edge” computing and thereby fail to take advantage of new market opportunities or fall behind early movers in those markets.” Bank of the James Financial Group Inc.: “financial technology (or “fintech”) companies that rely on technology to provide financial services such as peer-to-peer platforms, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies have the potential to disrupt the financial services industry and change the way banks do business. Mention director or officer has blockchain experience; 18; Dasan Zhone Solutions Inc.: “Mr. Golomb was Chief Financial Officer and Board Member of BitFury Group Ltd., a market leading full-service Blockchain technology company, and one of the largest private infrastructure providers in the Block-chain ecosystem.” Examined and abandoned/exited blockchain applications; 2; Tapinator Inc.: “In January 2018, we announced the creation of a new subsidiary, Revolution Blockchain, to develop and publish distributed apps and games that leverage blockchain technology. Since then, we have launched two fully functioning products, Dark Winds and BitPainting. We now recognize that the current addressable market for blockchain games is likely too small and too early to generate significant near-term value for our shareholders. Thus, we have chosen to suspend our investment in this area.” Other; 4; PHI Group Inc.: “PHI and RBG will form a joint venture company to be located in the Cagayan Economic Zone, Lai-lo Municipality, Cagayan, Philippines, for the purposes of developing and operating an offshore financial center and block-chain businesses including but not limited to Apps, ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges.” Total; 162

 Main Category #Companies; Example Companies (All quotes taken from Form 10-K 2018 or 2019. Retrieved from http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.) Use in operations; 7; Noble Vici Group Inc.: “As a result of our acquisition of NVPL, we entered into the IoT, Big Data, Blockchain and E-commerce business. We integrate blockchain technology with our E-commerce platform to connect consumers and merchants in a dynamic global marketplace via blockchain transactions.” Net Element Inc.: “Launched multi-channel Blockchain-powered payments acceptance application as part of its Netevia platform.” Selling or consulting, with blockchain applications; 13; Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc.: “Among the suite of solutions deployed by this team is Blockchain solutions, where Marsh is working in conjunction with industry consortia and IBM to digitally verify insurance.” Advanced Micro Devices Inc.: “GPUs [graphics processing units] are used to perform parallel operations on multiple sets of data and are increasingly used to perform vector processing for non-graphics applications that require repetitive computations such as supercomputing, deep learning, artificial and machine intelligence, blockchain and various other applications (e.g., cryptocurrency mining, autonomous driving). Another area of the market for graphics compute is blockchain technology.” Cryptocurrency company, miner, issuer; 5; Holly Brothers Pictures Inc.: “Through our subsidiary, Power Blockchain LLC (“Power Blockchain”), we began operating a start-up venture in February 2018 that specializes in blockchain mining for the Bitcoin network.” Management Capital Investments Inc. “In 2016, we commenced our Bitcoin mining operations. Throughout 2017, we expanded our mining capacity with the purchase of additional Bitcoin mining machines and by entering into hosting and power agreements with Washington facilities owners. We have management agreements with third-party investors who purchased the mining hardware, and we receive both a fee to manage the mining operations plus one-half of the net operating profit.” Licensing with blockchain company; 1; Eastman Kodak Company, Inc.: “The announcement of the license granted by Kodak to WENN Digital, Inc. (“WENN”) to use Kodak's brand in connection with WENN's KODAKOne blockchain-based image rights management platform and Kodak-branded cryptocurrency. Kodak may, in the future, have other involvement relating to blockchain technology or cryptocurrency, either directly or as a licensor.” Company for investments in blockchain or cryptocurrency companies; 4; SinglePoint Inc: “We are a technology and acquisition company. Our portfolio companies include mobile payments, ancillary cannabis services and blockchain solutions. The Company is looking to tap into markets with exponential growth opportunities such as blockchain.” Exploring/developing for sale or services to customers, or use in operations; 61; Rafina Innovations Inc.: “On January 31, 2018, the Company announced that it will commence development of its own proprietary Blockchain based system for handling sensitive client records in its flagship Prosthetics and Orthotics clinic in Scotland. Furthermore, the team plans to develop a proprietary Blockchain based system for handling and storing the data produced from the medical applications of its FlexisenseTM technology.” Advanced Credit Technologies Inc.: “Company is able to develop secure databases for clients by developing and attaching a private blockchain to the SQL database and further securing the database through use of the Company's CyberloQTM technology. The blockchain being developed by the Company is a private blockchain and is an invitation-only network governed by a single entity.” Partnering in blockchain sales alliance or trade group; 5; ArcBest Corp.: “In 2018, ArcBest joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (“BiTA”). Founded in 2017, BiTA is a consortium of more than 250 freight transportation companies working to develop and set standards for the use of blockchain technology within the logistics and transportation industry.” Mention in industry background or risks; 42; VMware Inc.: “We may also fail to adequately anticipate and prepare for the commercialization of emerging technologies such as blockchain and the development of new markets and applications for our technology such as the IoT and “edge” computing and thereby fail to take advantage of new market opportunities or fall behind early movers in those markets.” Bank of the James Financial Group Inc.: “financial technology (or “fintech”) companies that rely on technology to provide financial services such as peer-to-peer platforms, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies have the potential to disrupt the financial services industry and change the way banks do business. Mention director or officer has blockchain experience; 18; Dasan Zhone Solutions Inc.: “Mr. Golomb was Chief Financial Officer and Board Member of BitFury Group Ltd., a market leading full-service Blockchain technology company, and one of the largest private infrastructure providers in the Block-chain ecosystem.” Examined and abandoned/exited blockchain applications; 2; Tapinator Inc.: “In January 2018, we announced the creation of a new subsidiary, Revolution Blockchain, to develop and publish distributed apps and games that leverage blockchain technology. Since then, we have launched two fully functioning products, Dark Winds and BitPainting. We now recognize that the current addressable market for blockchain games is likely too small and too early to generate significant near-term value for our shareholders. Thus, we have chosen to suspend our investment in this area.” Other; 4; PHI Group Inc.: “PHI and RBG will form a joint venture company to be located in the Cagayan Economic Zone, Lai-lo Municipality, Cagayan, Philippines, for the purposes of developing and operating an offshore financial center and block-chain businesses including but not limited to Apps, ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges.” Total; 162

Of those 162, solely 26 corporations have been truly concerned in use of block-chain expertise. Seven corporations talked about precise use of blockchains of their operations, from Accenture PLC with 2018 gross sales over $40 billion to World Area Holdings Inc. with gross sales underneath $1 million. 13 different corporations talked about promoting, or consulting with, blockchain purposes. These corporations embody IBM, with practically $80 billion in gross sales, and 4 different corporations with greater than $5 billion in gross sales: Oracle, Marsh and McLennan Industries Inc., Superior Micro Gadgets, and NetApp. 4 different corporations mentioning gross sales or consulting reported little or no income for 2018.

5 corporations described their enterprise operations as cryptocurrency mining or issuing a cryptocurrency. Agenus Inc., a clinical-stage immuno-oncology firm, introduced the launch of Biotech Digital Safety Tokens (BEST) to finance some analysis initiatives. Two cryptocurrency mining corporations reported gross sales in extra of $1.5 million, whereas two others reported negligible revenues. In a novel utility, Eastman Kodak granted a license to WENN Digital, Inc (now referred to as RYDE Holding, Inc.) “to make use of Kodak’s model in reference to WENN’s KODAKOne blockchain-based picture rights administration platform and Kodak-branded cryptocurrency” (Eastman Kodak Co., 2018 Kind 10-Ok, retrieved from http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml).

A number of of the businesses are partaking with blockchain expertise in different methods. 4 corporations have been principally holding or funding corporations in search of blockchain expertise corporations to put money into or purchase, together with U.S. World Buyers, with practically $30 million of property and three small corporations. 5 corporations have been partnering with different business members in alliances to work with blockchain expertise, from the very giant FedEx and Quest Diagnostics to 2 corporations with negligible operations. One other 60 corporations talked about they have been exploring blockchain expertise or growing blockchain expertise for eventual use or utility in services or products.

Many 10-Ks didn’t point out the use, or exploration, of blockchain use by the corporate; reasonably, 42 corporations talked about blockchain expertise within the business background or dialogue of dangers. (A number of monetary establishments talked about blockchain expertise as a possible danger.) In distinction, 18 corporations merely talked about that certainly one of their officers or administrators had expertise in blockchain expertise. 4 different corporations have been engaged on blockchain purposes that don’t match neatly into one of many above classes. For instance, PHI Group is making an attempt to develop and function “an offshore monetary middle and blockchain companies together with however not restricted to Apps, ICOs [initial coin offerings] and cryptocurrency exchanges.”

Apparently, two corporations talked about that that they had explored and tried to develop blockchain expertise purposes, however determined to desert efforts with blockchain expertise. Tapinator Inc. truly developed blockchain on-line video games, however determined the market was at the moment too small for such merchandise to be economically viable.

Nonetheless Skeptical

The authors’ search of fiscal 12 months–finish 2018 10-Ks filed with the SEC confirms that skepticism towards the usage of blockchain expertise is warranted. Actually, the widespread use of blockchains is years off sooner or later. A only a few corporations seem to have efficiently adopted blockchain expertise into their operations. Nonetheless, others are investigating and deciding whether or not block-chain investments present an entry into the usage of a brand new worthwhile modern expertise, or generate profit-bleeding–edge expenditures on a expertise whose advantages are far sooner or later.

Benjamin P. Foster, PhD, CPA, CMA, is a professor of accountancy on the College of Louisville, Louisville, Ky.
Hua (Christine) Xin, PhD, is an assistant professor of accountancy on the College of Louisville.

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