If I’ve learned anything in the three years I’ve covered this industry, it’s that the American Institute of CPAs sometimes does the wrong things for the right reason or the right things at the wrong time.

For example, their much-maligned internet portal CPA2Biz wasn’t a bad idea with more CPAs becoming tech-savvy, but the creators apparently were unaware of the law of supply-and-demand or the ancient business adage of building a better mousetrap.

And, as AICPA members are probably now aware from reading the institute’s annual report, those pesky portals can apparently burn through more cash than Mike Tyson, or Paris Hilton for that matter.

Ditto for the XYZ global credential – or how to spend $5 million and alienate over 60 percent of your constituency. But in a great linguistic synergy to those desktop word-a-day calendars, many members did learn the definition of “Cognitor.”

Last September, they unveiled a comprehensive anti-fraud education strategy in conjunction with the University of Texas and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. A commendable strategy to be sure, but unfortunately, it was after the massive accounting implosions at Enron and WorldCom and the collapse of Arthur Andersen.

But to be fair, last week’s hiring of high-profile CPA consultant Jim Metzler as vice president of small CPA firm interests — a newly created post — was a strategy that even the most vocal critics of those at 1211 had to applaud – however grudgingly.

Metzler, a frequent industry and conference keynoter and co-founder of Convergence Coaching, will be the institute’s new liaison for small firms — a segment of the membership that, to be diplomatic, has often seen eye-to-eye with the institute on most matters like Sharon and Arafat. In other words, at times it’s been a fairly strained relationship.

Small firms have long complained — and often to me — that the institute treats them like whiny stepchildren, preferring instead to keep in the company of the Big Four.

That is until this thing called Sarbanes-Oxley was passed into law and basically cut the institute’s oversight of SEC firms off at the adding machine.
Now in its quest to remain relevant and set standards for non-SEC issuers, the institute is suddenly re-evaluating the importance of smaller firms like a once-bored husband whose wife won a lifetime pass to a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.

In his new role, Metzler, who apparently had been courted by the institute since November, will oversee the institute's firm practice management initiatives, including PCPS and the MAP Committee.

Regardless of the reason, bringing the well-respected Metzler on board was a step in the right direction.


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