In six degrees of separation, the only connection I’ve ever had with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, is that my family once owned a small vacation house in Winsted, Conn., his hometown.

Nader’s 1965 book, "Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile," revealed the style over safety strategy of American car manufacturers. The tome primarily focused on the rear-suspension design of the Chevrolet Corvair, which he claimed resulted in an alarming propensity to roll over.

Nader’s book eventually or intentionally, caused General Motors to terminate the manufacture of the model, and in the ensuing 40 years, Nader has crusaded against everything from food additives to negative energy emanating from utility lines.

In the 2000 presidential election, Nader won roughly 3 percent of the national vote — which although minute in real numbers — fueled the ire of many Democrats who blamed Al Gore’s razor-thin loss to George W. Bush on Nader siphoning off much-needed votes.

Now, three years after his failed run to become the nation’s chief executive, Nader has accounting on his mind – or, more aptly, accounting for the public interest in his sights.

The Association for Integrity in Accounting – launched with the assistance of Nader’s Citizen Works advocacy organization and teaming with a consortium of college accounting professors – will serve as a "public interest voice to restore integrity to the accounting profession."

Nader’s AIA Group is pushing to make the Financial Accounting Standards Board go the way of the Corvair so it can direct accounting standards for the profession.

In a Washington press conference last week, Nader described the fledgling entity as a "watchdog" that will keep an eye on the accounting industry’s other watchdogs.

It also, according to AIA members, would work toward restoring professional independence, assuring corporate accountability and disclosure, and redeeming accounting education.


Although no one doubts that it was time to end the farce known as self-regulation, I more or less was under the impression that reform (which would encompass the first three points of the group’s mission statement) was the reason behind the creation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. As far as "redeeming accounting education," I’ll probably need an AIA interpreter to discern exactly what that means.

To have Nader and his contingent of accounting academe breathing down the necks of a group that has had its own share of problems getting off the ground or placing FASB in its crosshairs, will not instill confidence in anyone and would do little toward the restoration of the profession.

If Mr. Nader wants to protest nitrates in food, I’ll lock arms with him and march.

But a Nader-led group overseeing the overseers of the profession? A terrible idea — at any speed.

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