After floating the proposal roughly one year ago, the American Institute of CPAs has approved the creation of the Certified in Financial Forensics credential, a new designation that will include expertise in a range of areas such as bankruptcy and insolvency, computer forensics, economic damages, family law, fraud investigations and litigation support.Approval for the credential — which will be the fourth offered by the institute, joining the Personal Financial Specialist, the Accredited in Business Valuation and the Certified Information Technology Professional — was approved at the annual meeting of Spring Council here.

In addition to approval of the CFF credential, the institute also outlined plans to simplify the plethora of auditing standards and eliminate any that had no clear objective, and passed a resolution to recognize the International Accounting Standards Board in London as the international accounting and financial reporting standards-setter.

Robert R. Harris, chair of the National Accreditation Commission, said that the new credential will launch in the fall.

Prior to the recent approval, some opposition had been voiced at regional council meetings, citing concern about dilution of the CPA brand and pointing to the Certified Fraud Examiner designation administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

But Harris told attendees that there were differences between the two credentials. “We feel that the CFE is much too narrow,” he said.

Last November and December, the AICPA polled 150 law firms, and three quarters of the respondents said that they expect a forensic accounting expert to have a specialized credential. Fifty-nine percent of those polled prefer a CPA, and said that they would value the combination of the CPA license and the AICPA’s credential over other combinations.

AUDITS AND IFRS

Meanwhile, Harold J. Monk Jr., chairman of the AICPA’s Auditing Standards Board, described the “Clarity Project,” which is expected to take between two and three years to complete and will create a standard format for all auditing standards. “It will start with an introduction to explain the purpose of the standard, followed by an overall objective for what the auditor is supposed to accomplish,” he said. “[A] standard will be a candidate for elimination if we can’t find an objective.”

U.S. auditing standards are simultaneously in the process of converging with international standards, so the Clarity Project would work on removing unnecessary differences between the two sets of standards. While the project is in progress, he said that the goal of the board is to not issue too many new standards except those needed to address emerging issues. The clarified standards are likely to take effect in 2011.

The vote to recognize the IASB as international accounting and financial reporting standards-setter gives AICPA members the option to use International Financial Reporting Standards as an alternative to U.S. GAAP. The IASB was designated as the body authorized to establish professional standards in the U.S. with respect to international financial reporting principles. It will be joining several organizations that are already recognized by the AICPA as standards-setters.

AICPA president and chief executive Barry Melancon noted that the institute is working with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy on internationalizing the CPA Exam to include questions on IFRS.

To help accountants make the transition to IFRS, the AICPA and its CPA2Biz portal have created a new Web site, IFRS.com. The site provides information about the main differences between the two sets of standards, including videos and training programs.

The AICPA posited in a recent survey that the SEC may set a date certain for U.S. adoption of IFRS as soon as 2013, based on recent comments by FASB Chairman Robert Herz.

FINGERPRINT CONTROVERSY

The new fingerprinting requirement for the CPA Exam sparked some debate at the confab.

Many institute members have been on the receiving end of an e-mail campaign protesting the new requirement, claiming that it was imposed without prior notice.

The institute disagreed. “It was widely publicized a year ahead of time,” said Melancon. “One member has started a campaign against it.” He was referring to Jason Giaimo, former vice president of the Alaska Chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants.

Melancon noted that the security was needed: “There have been many examples where people have taken exams — not our exam, but taken other exams — where they have used fake identities,” he said.

He also pointed out that state leaders had been alerted about the new requirement from the AICPA and NASBA, and there have been more than 100,000 downloads from the AICPA Web site of information about the new exam requirements. He also noted that many other major standardized exams use fingerprinting.

Actual objections from CPA Exam candidates have been rare. “Sixty thousand [exam sections] have been taken and only one person has refused to be fingerprinted,” said Melancon.

Nevertheless, concerns were raised about the new requirement, including the selection of ChoicePoint to be involved in the fingerprint database. ChoicePoint was the victim of a high-profile data breach in 2005. AICPA officials did note that the fingerprinting information would only be held for five years.

ANNUAL AWARDS

Also at the conference, the institute awarded David E. Stout, a professor at the Williamson College of Business Administration at Youngstown University, the Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award.

Michael D. Shmerling was the recipient of the AICPA’s Public Service Award in the individual category. Shmerling, chairman of Choice Food Group, is the founder of Abe’s Garden, a nonprofit organization developing an Alzheimer’s and dementia facility in Nashville, Tenn.

Schenck Business Solutions, of Appleton, Wis., won the award in the firm category for its commitment to corporate citizenship.

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