The chief financial officer of a popular steakhouse chain has called it quits, citing the negative regulatory environment, including what he referred to as "lunacy over lease accounting."

Robert S. Merritt, CFO for Outback Steakhouse Inc., which also operates Roy's, Carrabba's Italian Grills, and Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants, announced his retirement and his resignation from the company's board, effective May 27.

Merritt joined the company in 1989. A search for a successor is in process.

The announcement came during an earnings conference call on Thursday, during which Merritt said, "For some time, I've been struggling with the increasingly negative regulatory environment in which we now operate."

"The recent lunacy over lease accounting ... took me past the breaking point and has convinced me that the environment is not going to get any better any time soon," Merritt said, referring to a decision earlier this year by the Securities and Exchange Commission to change its view of how companies should account for leases, which led to 150 restatements.

"I view the lease accounting fiasco as a complete failure of the regulatory and other bodies which oversee financial accounting and reporting," said Merritt. He added, "The reaction of regulators and the media that all of these companies were run by crooks who were cooking the books is particularly disturbing."

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