The Financial Accounting Foundation, overseer of the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, recently named Robert J. DeSantis to the newly created post of president and chief operating officer.DeSantis, a seasoned corporate executive, financial officer, public accountant and attorney, was, most recently, chief financial officer of DSL.net, a broadband communications provider. He also served as executive vice president at Tellium Inc., a manufacturer of optical switching solutions, and held senior posts at both GTE Corp. and Big Four audit firm KPMG Peat Marwick.

"I consider it a privilege to be entrusted with a leadership role in the FAF because it is an organization which has always had - and especially today - a high degree of professional and public responsibility, and it certainly plays a critical role in the stability of the nation's capital markets," DeSantis said. "I think the creation of the president and COO position is really a demonstration by the foundation trustees of their commitment to not only the independence, but also to the effectiveness, of FASB and GASB by providing the FAF with the leadership necessary to carry out its responsibilities."

In addition to oversight responsibilities at FASB and GASB, the FAF is also in charge of nominating members to both and ensuring funding.

"The trustees and I are very happy to have Bob at the helm of FAF," said FAF chairman Robert Denham, who himself was recently reappointed as FAF chair. "Bob brings to this job deep financial experience and familiarity with law and the regulatory environment. These qualities are well-suited to the FAF's mission of supporting FASB and GASB in encouraging objectivity, credibility and accountability in the financial reporting system."

The position of president and COO is a paid, full-time position that replaces the executive vice president position that had been held by Joseph S. La Gambina until he passed away in May after 21 years with the foundation.

Though too new to the foundation to propose specific changes, DeSantis said that he is not afraid to look for areas that can use improvement.

"My style of leadership is to not question things that don't need to be questioned, but we certainly will question everything else, and we'll adapt accordingly," DeSantis said. "I'm not one to just go by tradition and rubber-stamp things if the times require us to be doing something different, and I think that's what the FAF trustees had concluded when they decided they needed a full-time leader within the FAF to deal with things."

DeSantis explained that the new COO position would have more of an "outward focus" than the now-defunct executive vice president post, which was essentially administrative. He will focus on several areas of support for the foundation and the boards.

One is to represent them before the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress, as well as with the media, to voice the importance of independent standard-setting. He will also maintain relationships with the eight nominating organizations that name foundation trustees.

DeSantis will also bring his considerable administrative abilities to the foundation.

"You'll see a bit of my experience reflected in how the foundation conducts itself, which is going to be in a way that is very efficient and very effective to meet the objectives," DeSantis said. "I've worked with a lot of boards and outside overseers, so I think they'll find me pretty proactive in making them proactive."

One challenge DeSantis will take on is the method of funding for GASB. Currently, the board depends on voluntary donations by constituents, such as governments and organizations that use government financial information. The board is able to employ only one board member - Chairman Robert Attmore - while other board members serve as volunteers.

"GASB needs to have a permanent source of funding," DeSantis said. "Bob [Attmore] and I are both excited about putting our thoughts together, particularly with all the experience and contacts I have in the municipal world. A good part of my career has been involved not only in securities industry, but the tax-exempt municipal side."

Robert Gillam worked with DeSantis for over a decade while he was with J.P. Morgan Chase and DeSantis was with Citizens Utilities Company. He calls DeSantis a tough, fair, honest, inquiring negotiator.

"It was a very good relationship," says Gillam, who today is vice chair of Scott-Mason, an investment bank. "He was the sort of guy you want to negotiate with. He was tough. He protected his client. But he was able to see the other side of things. You had to have a sharp pencil with him, but at the end of the day, he was a fair guy. He was one of the most honest guys I've ever met. And if he didn't understand something, we stopped right there until he understood the whole issue ... . It's what the Financial Accounting Foundation needs."

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