In 1853, Queen Victoria signed a royal charter creating the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.In 1880, the queen signed a royal charter creating an Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.
On Dec. 1, 1896, the New York State Legislature created the title Certified Public Accountant. Thirteen CPA certificates were issued in alphabetical order, and Frank Broaker received CPA Certificate No. 1.
During April 1933, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee was considering a proposal by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to create a Securities and Exchange Commission because of numerous abuses perpetrated by Wall Street during the 1920s. The committee members were curious about the charges made by some of the large accounting firms, and in a colloquy between Sen. Alben Barkley of Kentucky and Col. Arthur Carter, Carter was asked, "How much does Marwick Mitchell charge?" which he finessed.
Col. Carter was an outstanding representative of the accounting profession, since he was president of the New York State Society of CPAs and also was managing partner of Haskins and Sells.
The question was raised as to who would audit the newly created public companies. Naturally, Carter wanted the profession to conduct the audits. In a dramatic exchange, Sen. Barkley asked, "Who audits you?" and Carter replied, "Our conscience."
Col. Carter was, like Charles Waldo Haskins, a president of the New York State society, and both had taught at the New York University School of Commerce. During World War II, Arthur Carter was a general in the U.S. Army with an outstanding record.
The list of distinguished individuals continued with the designation of Arthur B. Foye as president of the NYSSCPA at the same time that I was elected treasurer of the society. This involved monthly executive committee meetings with Foye, as well as trips to various upstate chapters. At a frivolous chapter dinner meeting over which he presided, and to everyone's amazement, Foye told of the young CPA who wanted to make an impression on the guests at Grossinger's resort in the Catskill Mountains. When the young fellow realized that he could not reach Grossinger's in daylight, he pulled into a small motel where the manager said to him, "Why don't you use your new clubs on our nine-hole golf course?" The young fellow agreed, played nine holes, but lost three balls. The motel manager said, "That will cost you $75."
The young fellow protested. "At Grossinger's, they only charge $5 per ball," and the manager replied, "But at Grossinger's they get you by the rooms."
I heard Mr. Foye tell that story several times, and each time there was a barely discernable smile on his lips, accompanied by a wink of his right eye. I tell this story because of the popular notion that accountants have no sense of humor.
During 1968, I was elected a vice president and member of the Executive Committee of the American Institute of CPAs. Two incidents flash back.
The long-time executive secretary of the institute, John L. Carey, who had been "Mr. AICPA" since his graduation from Yale, was scheduled for retirement. Arrangements had been made for a farewell dinner to be held in a Washington, D.C., supper club with the members of the institute board, Carey's staff and family. There was good-natured repartee, and then Carey was asked to speak.
To everyone's surprise, he asked his wife, "May I recite the limerick?" He looked at his wife and she just lowered her lids. Carey recited the following limerick (with a broad "a"):
There once was a lass from Madras
Who had an adorable ass
It was not round and pink
As you probably would think
But has four legs, two ears and ate grass.
When he finished, Carey buried his face in his hands as in shame.
One other event concerning Carey was a discussion at an AICPA executive committee meeting pertaining to his annual salary. The policy had been to compensate Carey at the same level as a Big Eight middle partner, and his salary was set at $75,000 per annum.
In 1957, a new phenomenon swept the accounting profession, namely, the formation of groups that consisted of well-regarded, midsized accounting firms. The first of these was CPA Associates, with firms in key cities - Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, et al.
In addition, the associations made overseas contacts. The groups provided valuable technical assistance, statistical data concerning each firm's operations and no small amount of social intercourse. CPA Associates' new English firm affiliate was Edward Moore & Sons. Sir Edward Moore had been lord mayor of London, and the firm had an excellent reputation. My firm, Mason & Co., soon established a close working relationship with it, including transatlantic visits and personal friendships. I like the British, and one of my favorite chartered accountants at the firm was Tony Morgan, a Welshman. He was smart, independent and a fun person.
One evening, at a technical session held in Copthorne, an English village, dinner was served at 8:00 p.m., followed by libations. I turned in at about midnight. The next technical session was scheduled for the following morning at 9. When I took my seat, Tony Morgan came to my side with a pitcher of Bloody Marys. "I turned in at 4:00 a.m. and I have to get rid of this hangover," said Tony.
There are many events that I recall with pleasure about our relationship with Edward Moore & Sons, but to this day, I cherish the image of Tony Morgan attending a technical meeting flanked by a pitcher of Bloody Marys.
Eli Mason, CPA, is a past president of the New York State Society of CPAs, a past chairman of the New York State Board for Public Accountancy, a past vice president of the American Institute of CPAs, and the recipient of the American Accounting Association's Exemplar Award. He recently wrote Conscience of the Profession - A Personal Journey.
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