Accounting is Professor Cullinan’s professional passion, and he describes his field this way: “I thought accounting would be a solid job, but it has also turned out to be a fascinating subject. It’s all about getting the information you need to make good decisions in business."
Auditing and corporate governance are of particular interest, and Cullinan publishes frequently on both topics.
A 2002 paper drew, and continues to draw, attention. After reviewing reams of corporate fraud cases, Cullinan and his co-author came to a surprising conclusion: Most corporate fraud is not committed by underlings skimming money then cooking the books, but by CEOs who exaggerate (sometimes shamelessly) the company’s revenues to their boards and in their financial statements. This finding has been cited frequently, including several mentions in the Wall Street Journal.
“We found that accounting problems don’t typically start at the bottom but at the top,” he said. “Picking up on these types of fraud requires a different type of audit evidence.”
International work is of deep interest to Cullinan – he taught accounting in Portugal as a Fulbright Teaching Scholar – and he has taught and conducted research in China. Cullinan is studying corporate governance and the often uneasy relationship between Chinese corporate executives and their majority shareholders. To keep their jobs, some company leaders will “tunnel” money through loans or services to their most powerful shareholders.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the culture of Bryant even more,” he said. “Bryant’s class sizes are smaller, and it’s collegial. A lot of wonderful people work and come to school here, and you get to know them.”
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