Norwalk, Conn. - Financial reporting authority Leslie F. Seidman, CPA, has been named to replace John K. Wulff on the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Having literally written the book on financial instruments, Seidman joins the board at a time when it continues to struggle with a broad and complex project on that very issue.
“I’m very excited, just delighted to be joining the board when there’s such broad support for high-quality financial reporting,” Seidman said. “I’m hoping to draw on my prior experience in both industry and in standard-setting to help tackle the very complicated issues that are before the board today.”
Seidman, who received a B.A. in English before pursuing an M.A. in accounting, is the author of “Miller Financial Instruments: A Comprehensive Guide to Accounting & Reporting,” which was published in November 2002.
Some 800 pages long, the book is an analysis of over 400 pieces of accounting literature that address financial instruments. It organizes the extant hierarchy of standards and comments by topic, each stated simply and backed up by practice aids and pointers.
“My work on this book is an ideal background for FASB’s financial instruments project,” Seidman said. “We’re seeing no end in sight for financial instrument issues. A new interpretation on the consolidation of special purpose entities has been issued, and I think we’ll have a few implementation issues to iron out. They also have the fair value of financial instruments project, which they’re dealing with in phases, and we’ve got a few phases ahead of us. I’m looking forward to coming up with solutions that are practical and understandable.”
Her experience consolidating data for “Miller Financial Instruments” should also prove useful to the board as it continues a project to organize and consolidate the country’s many manifestations of generally accepted accounting principles.
Seidman said that she wants to work with industry to hear their concerns in pursuit of solutions that are good accounting but that can be easily understood and implemented. She recalled her work at J.P. Morgan & Co., where she was vice president of accounting policy before most of the standards on financial instruments had been issued.
“We were dealing with financial instrument issues before the standard-setters were,” she said. “We had to look at precedent and try to come up with what we thought was the right way to go.”
Her career could not have aimed more directly at a position on the board that sets the country’s accounting standards.
At J.P. Morgan, Seidman monitored developments at FASB and other standard setters. To help her in that capacity, the company sent her to FASB headquarters in Norwalk for a temporary assignment as an industry fellow. She loved the work there, resigned from the bank, and stayed with FASB for five years, first joining the board’s support staff as a project manager, then as assistant director of research.
With an urge to expand her experience, apply her new knowledge to new assignments, and write a book, Seidman left the staff to start her own consultancy in Fairfield County, just a few minutes from FASB headquarters. For the past two years, she has provided global corporate and financial institutions with such consulting services as accounting policy analysis, training and education, and technical writing.
“We’ve got such complicated issues, and accounting is so in the spotlight right now, that I feel it’s an ideal time for me to become involved again and try to make a contribution,” she said.
When Wulff indicated his intention to resign just two years into his five-year term, the Financial Accounting Foundation, which oversees FASB, appoints its members and secures its funding, called Seidman back. Starting on July 1, she will complete Wulff’s term. She will be still eligible for two more five-year terms. Wulff left FASB to pursue a post in the corporate sector.
Mitch Danaher, assistant comptroller at GE and a member of FASB’s Emerging Issues Task Force, worked with Seidman when he was an industry fellow at the board.
“I think very highly of her,” he said. “She understands the complex transactions we do every day, has a good grounding in accounting theory, and is able to bridge the gap between the two.”
On the CPA side, David Kaplan, managing partner of consulting services at PricewaterhouseCoopers, worked with Seidman when he was chair of the Accounting Standards Executive Committee and she represented FASB in the development of AcSEC standards.
“I worked closely with Leslie in the development of accounting standards, and I developed a great respect for her,” Kaplan said. “She’s very bright, and has a wonderful handle on accounting and accounting literature. She’s very knowledgeable about accounting and reporting matters, and she takes a good and practical perspective on the very difficult issues that we all deal with.”
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