My educational pedigree, or more accurately the lack thereof, has often been the subject of much self-ridicule in this space. Once, after I spent a semester sitting in the front row in political science, the professor on the last week of classes suddenly called me aside and, at a decibel level heard only in oversized Bose speakers, charged me with auditing the course.

I made that much of an impression.

Ironically, I now cover a profession many of whose members have so many acronyms following their surnames, it appears as if someone's finger got jammed in a keyboard.

But no matter how much education or how many laudable accomplishments a person can claim, the petty child in all of us will occasionally surface.

I offer up as an example the minor skirmish currently going on between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

Seems there has been this widening rift between SEC chief William Donaldson, two of his more outspoken commissioners, and oversight chair William McDonough.

At last month's meeting to approve the PCAOB's fiscal 2005 budget, apparently McDonough was, to use today's youthful parlance, "dissed" by the SEC chair by not being extended an invitation to the meeting that would ultimately determine if his agency would receive its 2005 funding.

As a result, Republican commissioners Paul Atkins and Cynthia Glassman, who lately have stepped so frequently on Donaldson's toes on various issues that his shoeshine budget by now must have doubled, extended their own invite to McDonough. One also was extended to Financial Accounting Standards Board Chairman Bob Herz, whose budget is also subject to SEC oversight.

They both were somehow left off the guest list.

A little history: Last year, the SEC approved the PCAOB's budget behind closed doors, and it was passed via written approval from the commissioners without much discussion.

Atkins and Glassman told the PCAOB head that the board probably should have a representative at this year's meeting just in case any of the commissioners, had, well, a question. Eschewing that suggestion, Donaldson instead wanted to circulate the board's $137 million budget within the friendly confines of the SEC commissioners. Atkins was later quoted as saying it was his impression that the SEC was an agency "that was supposed to stand for transparency."

Fair point.

And for those of you scoring at home, neither McDonough nor Herz attended the meeting.

This isn't the first time that there's been more than a minor disagreement between this trio - Atkins and Glassman have veered from their boss' stance on such issues as hedge fund regulation and more independent chairing of mutual fund families. And on recent matters of less urgency, reportedly there was a minor imbroglio on just which commissioners would get offices with windows.

Now, I won't pretend to know, or even speculate about, what's behind this intramural paint-ball war, or why the folks charged with policing the capital markets and restoring investor confidence can't all play nicely in the sandbox.

But a climate such as this cannot possibly work to maintain oversight over anything except catty e-mails and inter-office memos.

Even I'm smart enough to see that.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access