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Bentley professor James Hunton’s ‘entire body of work’ called into question after investigation

A Bentley University accounting professor’s “entire body of work” is in question, following the school’s investigation of two papers by James E. Hunton in which data were found to have been falsified.

A letter posted on Bentley’s website Monday by provost Michael J. Page said that Hunton, acting alone, had engaged in research misconduct with two papers published in accounting journals. The university launched its investigation in late 2012, after one of the journals retracted his paper. As a result of evidence found in the university’s inquiry, “Dr. Hunton’s entire body of work while at Bentley is subject to a further review in collaboration with the publishers of those articles,’’ Page said in his letter.

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Hunton was a noted faculty member at the Waltham institution as the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor of Accounting, focusing on information systems, fraud, and forensics. He resigned in December 2012 as the investigation was underway, citing family and health reasons.

Hunton could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to Bentley’s investigation report, Hunton failed to cooperate with the university’s inquiry. Despite being told to retain any relevant documents, Bentley found that Hunton had cleaned out all his physical files before leaving, and that his laptop had been wiped clean.

Other electronic records reviewed by the university found that certain documents related to Hunton’s research had been altered after allegations were first made against him in the fall of 2012.

In particular, Hunton had said that confidentiality agreements with the firms used in his data-gathering prevented him from sharing original data with his coauthors and editors. The university’s investigation found that the agreements included “unusual redactions, contradictory dates, and — most damaging of all — evidence that the documents had been revised” after allegations were raised.

The problems with Hunton’s work first came to light when the American Accounting Association’s Accounting Review posted a notice of retraction in November 2012, saying, “The authors confirmed a misstatement in the article and were unable to provide supporting information requested by the editor and publisher.”

Bentley found no evidence of collusion by Hunton’s coauthors.

Page, the provost, called the findings against Hunton upsetting. “Let me conclude by again stating that academic integrity and professional ethical behavior are the bedrock of our community,’’ he wrote in his letter. “It is painful for us to discover that these important principles were violated by a colleague.”

Beth Healy can be reached at beth.healy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @HealyBeth.
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