Former PCAOB chief Mark Olson dies

Mark W. Olson, who served as chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a partner at Big Four firm Ernst & Young, a community bank CEO, president of the American Bankers Association and member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, died on Sept. 14 after a long illness.

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Olson, who was 75, received a B.A. in economics from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., in 1965. A year later, he joined the Minneapolis-based First Bank system. In 1976, Olson returned to his hometown of Fergus Falls, Minn., to serve as CEO of Security State Bank, the community bank his father founded there in 1957.

Olson was appointed to run the PCAOB in 2006, and ran the accounting overseer until 2009.

“We were saddened to hear of the passing of Mark W. Olson, who served as PCAOB chairman from 2006 to 2009,” the board said in a statement. “Chairman Olson oversaw significant growth and maturation of the organization as he guided the board through a challenge to its constitutionality and the global financial crisis. He led the PCAOB’s outreach to foreign audit regulators, which he saw as vital to promoting audit quality. Chairman Olson was well-respected by our entire organization for his thoughtful and inclusive leadership. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

Earlier in his career, he was elected as the ABA’s president for 1986-1987. At the time, the 43-year-old was the youngest banker elected to the position, now referred to as chairman.

“We at ABA were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mark Olson,” ABA president and CEO Rob Nichols said in a press release. “I know the country will miss Mark’s wise counsel and commitment to public service.”

“Beyond his intimate understanding of banking policy and the economy, I knew Mark as a friend, loving father and husband,” Nichols added.

Andrew Sandler, chairman of Treliant Risk Advisors, the firm he co-founded with Olson in 2009, called him a “giant” in the financial services industry.

"This guy was the voice for doing it right, for treating customers well, for ethical business practices and for always remembering the critical role financial services have played in our country,” Sandler said Friday.

After stepping down as Security State’s CEO, Olson served as a partner at Big Four firm Ernst & Young for 11 years, leading the firm’s regulatory consulting practice for the financial services industry.

He retired in 1999 and then spent a year as a staff director with the Senate Banking Committee. It was from that position that Olson was appointed in 2001 to the Federal Reserve.

Olson would spend the next eight years in senior government positions, as a Fed governor and, after July 2006, as chairman of the PCAOB.

In 2009, at age 66, Olson helped found Treliant, serving as chairman until earlier this year.

“I like to think [CEO Susanna Tisa] and I could have built the firm on our own, but having Mark Olson as part of it gave us credibility from day one,” Sandler said. “He was the best partner I ever had, and one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

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