Former FASB chair Russ Golden joins outside advisory committee for PwC

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Russell Golden, who just completed his term chairing the Financial Accounting Standards Board at the end of June, will be chairing a newly formed independent Assurance Quality Advisory Committee at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The other members named Friday to the committee are Joanne Wakim, who previously served as the chief accountant of the Federal Reserve Board’s Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation, and Alan Beller, vice chairman of the International Financial Reporting Standards Board Foundation, which oversees the International Accounting Standards Board. Beller is also a director of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and a senior counsel at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. Wakim is a member of the Basel Committee Accounting Experts Group, and she previously worked at FASB alongside Golden.

Their committee will be providing input to PwC vice chair Wes Bricker, who is also the firm’s U.S. and Mexico assurance leader. Bricker came to PwC from the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he was chief accountant at the SEC’s Office of the Chief Accountant, and worked closely with Golden (pictured) for years on setting accounting standards.

“I am just absolutely thrilled at Russ joining the committee,” Bricker told Accounting Today. “It is a committee. He is not joining PwC as an employee. He’s joining PwC as a member of our outside Assurance Quality Advisory Committee, and he’ll chair that committee.”

Along with Golden, the rest of the committee will provide outside input to PwC, which announced the formation of the committee in February (see story). PwC has been trying to provide more outside voices to the firm as the audit profession has been seeing questions arise about independence and objectivity. PwC began adding two external directors to its board in 2017, former Commerce Secretary and Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez, and former U.S. Navy Admiral Carol Pottenger. A third outside director, former SEC commissioner Troy Paredes, joined them in February at the same time PwC announced the formation of the new Assurance Quality Advisory Committee, or AQAC.

Bricker believes Golden, Wakim and Beller will bring valuable input to PwC. “Across the three of them, they will give us really valuable outside perspectives that draw on their diverse backgrounds, having been standard-setters, having been regulators, having been advisors and counselors,” he said. “All three of them have worked in the marketplace and understand the high expectations, the sensible expectations of the marketplace that we are serving. I’m counting on them to bring us objective outside perspectives around how we can serve our clients even better and invest in the future of assurance.”

PwC waited until Golden and Wakim had retired from FASB and the Federal Reserve, respectively, before making Friday’s announcement. The three will be meeting next week to discuss issues like audit and assurance quality, technology and people. “It’s those three broad themes that will continue to help us advance our leadership through the assurance practice,” said Bricker.

Golden will bring wide experience as a standard-setter at FASB, having chaired FASB since 2013 and been a board member since 2010. “What I always valued about Russ and also the other members is that he understands and is able to address multilayered problems,” said Bricker. “He's done that in understanding the important role of financial reporting in the capital markets, the role of standards in contributing to quality in that information, but also with the many stakeholders that count on the design of a standard. Russ has been a leader in financial reporting in the accounting profession because he’s been able to listen to a diverse set of stakeholders, understand their objectives, and ultimately land on an answer that can be generally accepted as serving that diverse set of stakeholders’ interests. And as we look to the future of assurance, what I see is an opportunity for our continued leadership in innovation in the public markets as well as the private markets, and Russ's ability to understand public markets and private markets in the U.S., as well as around the world, brings to us a valuable perspective.”

Bricker pointed to Wakim and Beller’s wide experience as well. “Just the same, Joanne has worked domestically,” he added. “She’s also served on the Accounting Experts Group in the Basel Committee. She’s worked internationally, and brings to us the perspective of financial regulators and financial institutions as users, as well as preparers, of financial information. That’s an important stakeholder group. Alan Beller has served as an IFRS Foundation trustee. He’s served as a member of the SASB board. He's been a counselor to companies and business leaders across the markets. He’ll bring that perspective around corporate governance, the role of information for corporate governance, to us. So all three of these individuals bring diverse perspectives that we'll draw on and benefit from.”

The three committee members will meet virtually online at first while the coronavirus pandemic makes in-person meetings too risky. “We'll start with a meeting format that protects their safety as people,” said Bricker. “They’ll meet virtually just as we as a firm have been able to pivot and operate on a virtual basis without missing any of our commitments. I’m very proud of our ability to continue to operate on a virtual basis with the benefit of our technology and the skills of our people. This committee will do the same. We’ll connect with them virtually. We’re not missing or delaying or deferring their valuable input at all. We’re moving forward.”

The committee will report directly to Bricker as the U.S. assurance leader. “I won’t be on the committee because it’s designed to be independent of the assurance leadership team, but they will provide feedback directly to us,” he said. “It will engage with our senior partners and others at the firm. We’ll hear directly from the outside committee, but the committee will be fully outside and fully independent.”

Bricker is looking forward to receiving their input. “I couldn’t be more excited to get the diverse viewpoints that I know Russ, Joanne and Alan have developed over the course of their leadership across their careers,” he said. “They'll help us in the areas of quality, technology and our people as we continue to lead into the future.”

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