As a child I would listen eagerly as my grandparents would regale me with stories of the neighborhood ice man, who, prior to the age when names such as Kenmore, Amana and GE became commonplace, would lug large blocks of ice up to their fifth-floor walk-up.
With horse-drawn carriages or rumbling trucks, those strapping men would take a large pair of tongs, reach into the rear compartment of their wagons and pull out a piece of ice that, arguably, could have come close to sinking the Titanic.
It didn’t sound like easy work to me at that time, and now that I’ve aged a few decades, I’d probably opt for root canal sans novocaine than choose to make a living carrying the equivalent of a Mini Cooper up several steep staircases.
But, with the advent of affordable refrigerators, the ice man became a relic of early 20th Century urban lore — permanently captured in marvelous black and white photographs before that occupation disappeared amidst the pantheon of progress.
I mention the saga of the iceman because it reminded of the recent decision of the American Institute of CPAs to restructure its SEC Practice Section — the self-regulatory unit that all institute-member firms who audit one or more public client were required to join.
However, the creation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board basically relegated the SECPS and its self-regulatory authority to the role of the iceman. Certainly not as archaic, but definitely redundant. Sort of like buying a 300-cubic-foot side-by-side but leaving a space in the sink for the ice block.
Since the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB has officially commandeered much of the SECPS’s former beat, and SEC firms who hope to continue as SEC firms must now pay the PCAOB for that privilege.
Therefore, to pre-empt any financially prudent SEC audit member firms from asking the painfully obvious question of why they should have to pay two sets of dues, the institute Council, at last week’s recent fall meeting, voted to re-christen the SECPS the “Center for Public Company Audit Firms,” with the new entity scheduled to debut Jan. 1.
The realigned body would, according to institute officials, consist of a voluntary membership (but those who join would be required to pay dues), and would seek to help enhance audit quality via best practices and solutions for its SEC audit partners. It would also seek to act as a liaison with both regulators (and presumably this includes the congressionally mandated body that abruptly seized control of self-regulation) in addition to lawmakers and ancillary groups such as stock exchanges.
While no doubt well-intentioned, I’m skeptical that SEC member firms will leap at the chance to pay yet another set of dues in an era where sending out invoices in the name of accounting oversight has become a cottage industry.
Even the iceman would agree.
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