Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro has been under pressure not to appoint a leading critic of International Financial Reporting Standards as a permanent chief accountant, according to a former official who filled that post.
Schapiro has reportedly been considering tapping Charles Niemeier (pictured), a member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, as the SEC’s new chief accountant, succeeding Conrad Hewitt. Hewitt’s former deputy James Kroeker has been occupying the post in an acting capacity since Hewitt retired in early January. However, Niemeier is a well-known critic of IFRS and his appointment to the SEC post now appears to be on hold.
“I don’t know what’s going on with the selection of my successor,” said Hewitt at a forum sponsored by Pace University’s Lubin School of Business at Ernst & Young’s offices. “Obviously it got very quiet about him for the last couple of weeks.” He acknowledged that Niemeier is "outspoken on IFRS."
“There’s a number of people out there that would be tremendous as chief accountant,” said another former chief accountant, Lynn Turner, who also attended the forum. “I would certainly put Charlie in that group of people. First and foremost there needs to be someone that understands that the SEC has a strong investor protection role and I think he meets those objectives. Whether Mary picks Charlie or someone else, ultimately that’s a question for Mary to determine who that will be.”
However, he noted that after Bloomberg News and then The New York Times reported that Niemeier was being considered for the post, opposition quickly arose.
“I know that the chairman received a tremendous pushback from the industry, a tremendous amount of pressure not to take Charlie, and I think that’s extremely unfortunate and it is indicative of the fact that the profession does not put investors first all the time as I think they should,” he said.
Hewitt indicated that one hurdle might be Niemeier’s current service with the PCAOB, which could force him to go through a one-year “cooling off period” before he could work for the SEC, but Turner said the rule would not apply to Niemeier because courts have ruled that the PCAOB is a “junior office” of the SEC and under its oversight.
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