The American Institute of CPAs' Fall Council meeting kicked off Sunday with commentary from the chairman of the board, a presentation of distinguished service awards and updates from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the "Feed the Pig" campaign.

Council and board members gathered at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa to learn about the state of the profession from their peers and how CPAs can play a role in helping clients cope with the financial crisis.

Facilitating the afternoon general session was outgoing chair Randy Fletchall, who touched on the issues plaguing not only the profession, but the country, since the Wall Street crisis erupted last month.

"I thank you even more than normal for taking the time out to be here," Fletchall said. "I'm very proud that in the time of crisis, the AICPA is rising to the occasion. Our diversity and reach is immensely important. Wherever we are and whatever we do, we serve as an objective financial expert."

Fletchall touched upon the electronic financial reporting system, Extensible Business Reporting Language, convergence with International Financial Reporting Standards and the controversy over fair value accounting, which some outside the accounting profession have blamed for the credit crisis.

"Fair value has been elevated as a result of these market events," Fletchall said. He noted that the clarifications recently released by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Accounting Standards Board were useful for inactive markets. "Clearly there are some real challenges in the application of fair value," he said. "The current crisis was not caused by the standard. It helped to capture the realities."

Olivia Kirtley, chair of the institute's awards committee, presented Robert L. Bunting and David M. Walker with the AICPA's highest award: the Gold Medal for Distinguished Service.

Bunting, a former AICPA chairman, and the incoming president of the International Federation of Accountants, thanked his wife for teaching him the "international kissing protocol" for how to greet people from other countries.

Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general, is now president of the newly established Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an organization dedicated to federal financial responsibility.

"I believe what policy makers do or fail to do will have a profound effect on the future of our country and the future of our families," Walker said.

Samuel Cotterell, outgoing chair of NASBA, gave a brief outline of the projects and issues his organization has been addressing. Aside from beefing up regulation and enhancing the profession's mobility throughout the country with the AICPA, 31 states have passed mobility legislation, and a database has been set up that will record CPAs who have been disciplined for wrongdoing. Cotterell pointed to a quicker turnaround time from governmental agencies for enforcement on disciplinary matters as an important focus.

"We began a dialogue with government this year," he said. "There is always tension between the regulated and the regulators, but the common ground we have is the profession and the protection of the public."

NASBA is also working to improve the CPA Exam through the involvement of state boards on the board of examiners. Cotterell said incorporating internationalization is an upcoming focus for the exam and that many state boards want to be involved in the process.

"How are we going to educate future CPAs in this international market and the changing role we have developed?" he asked of the audience. A draft white paper has been written to address the 120- and 150-credit-hour debate, he added.

To close out the afternoon, Carl George, outgoing chief executive of Clifton Gunderson, and Kathy Crosby, senior vice president and group campaign director of the Ad Council, provided an update on the AICPA's Feed the Pig financial literacy campaign. The campaign has mainly targeted 25-34 year olds, offering them ways to save money and become better money managers. Next month, the campaign will launch Feed the Pig for Tweens, targeted at students in the fourth to sixth grades. The campaign will also revamp its Web site to include an interactive section where users can calculate their potential personal savings and begin marketing via mobile phone.

"The need continues," George said. "Americans still need our help. We are going to keep going. This is where we belong."

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