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The Accounting Profession in 2021 – Summary Highlights

Release Date: April 2022

In 2021 Year in Review, Professional Services Practice’s Risk Management Information team reviews the English language press to provide the accounting profession with a curated selection of significant events impacting the risk landscape. This article summarizes the highlights of that review.

During the past year, while adapting to a changing COVID environment, the accounting profession navigated novel challenges including supply chain disruptions and the “Great Resignation”. Firms were forced to focus on recruitment in a very competitive labor market. Stakeholders continued to call for more corporate accountability, there were noteworthy developments regarding regulatory reform and the profession experienced reputational challenges. All these challenges were faced against a background of developing technology and the evolution of the profession.

These highlights do not cover the period of the Russia-Ukraine war. That conflict will heighten the significance of several issues, including business interruption from cyber incidents and supply chain disruptions, reputational concerns and human capital issues.

The highlights from 2021 include:

  • The continuing flow of regulatory enforcement actions, with regulators imposing sanctions that included not only significant fines and penalties, but also suspensions of partners and firms.

  • Reputational concerns arising out of litigation involving accountants and regulatory sanctions.

  • The enforcement of data privacy regulations, which included significant sanctions against Big Tech companies and notable instances of such penalties being challenged or reduced.

  • The destabilizing effect of ransomware attacks, felt across a wide range of industries and in some cases crippling key infrastructure and prompting urgent government intervention. These attacks underscore the need for heightened awareness over cybersecurity.

  • Growing awareness over environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues from regulators and investors, prompting firms to increase their focus on their ESG practices and position themselves as trusted advisors.

  • Continued efforts to improve audit quality by reforming audit rules, including the growing use of enhanced audit reports.

  • The impact of the continuing development of disruptive technologies including the increased use of automation, artificial intelligence and reliance on cloud computing.

  • Discussions of the future of the workplace, intensified by the changes in work practices caused by COVID-19, focused on training and office culture.

  • The expansion of third party litigation funding and the increase in the availability of class actions, including the pan-European legislation set to come into effect in EU member states and key court actions in the UK, Europe and China.

  • Growing occurrence of claims throughout the Ex-US, highlighting the possibility of risk issues arising around the world. 2021 included several large settlements involving accounting firms and several claims against them that featured noteworthy amounts.


The Professional Services Practice at Aon values your feedback. To discuss any of the topics raised in this article, please contact Audrey Jenner , Daniel Hacikyaner or Rona E. Davis.
Audrey Jenner
Audrey Jenner
Vice President and Director

 Daniel Hacikyaner Daniel Hacikyaner
Vice President and Director

Rona Davis

Rona E. Davis
Senior Vice President and Executive Director