If you're in the job market, and you've got an interest in accounting standards and a love for regulatory bodies, you might want to give the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission a call.
Christopher Cox was surely already in the process of having to sift through resumes for a number of positions at the SEC -- including openings for a new chief accountant and the top director slots for the market regulation and investment management divisions -- before the chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, William McDonough, announced he would resign on Nov. 30 or when a successor is put in place, whichever comes first.
McDonough, 71, announced his plan to step down with little fanfare, releasing a statement that his health is fine and he does not intend on retiring, with a "wide range of interests" and "a variety of activities" he wants to explore. He's continued with his speaking schedule for the board, but hasn't given interviews on his decision to leave now, or offered greater details on his plans for the future.
It's a matter of course that more often than not, anytime there's a change at the top, a reshuffling of the positions below is almost certain to follow. What shakeup follows in McDonough's wake remains to be seen, but it's often loyalty and a sense of duty that keep high-level appointees in regulatory positions -- oftentimes it seems the best candidates are usually the ones who could be making much more in the private sector.
It was a little more than two years ago that McDonough brought his hefty resume to the position after accepting an offer from his friend William Donaldson, Cox's predecessor, to head up the newly formed board. McDonough was technically the third chairman for the PCAOB, after a rather inauspicious chairman selection process for a regulatory body with such lofty ambitions.
McDonough, a former banker who was serving as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, took over from an acting chairman and quickly brought stability to new board. Inaugural pick William Webster stepped down after a month in the newly created position after it was disclosed he headed the audit committee of a tech company under investigation for accounting irregularities.
The PCAOB has come a long way since then, growing to a staff of nearly 400 and quickly finding its voice in the public discourse, but it's still a very young agency, and one that's role remains defined more by legislation than a legacy of accomplishments.
Accounts of Cox's first SEC panel meeting were notable more for their civility than contentious debate, and many news articles pointed to Cox's political past as being the key to brokering kinder, gentler debate at the table. It's up to the five-member SEC Commission to appoint McDonough's successor, with Cox expected to take the lead in bringing forward his pick.
Whoever is named to step in for McDonough needs to have many qualities to keep the PCAOB prodding the profession in the right direction, as well as prodding the SEC when a break is needed. When Cox starts seriously flipping through his Rolodex, I hope he finds a candidate with the right mix of political and business skills, who also can live up to the high standards the PCAOB was designed to protect.
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