Two weeks ago, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt sounded more confident than England prior to its historic 38-minute war with Zanzibar, that the five members of the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board would be in place by the end of September.
That would have been one month ahead of a congressional-mandated schedule — a nearly unheard of timetable in Washington.
But it’s funny how when you’re wading into uncharted territory, especially with regard to new legislation reform policies, things tend to take a mite longer than expected.
After Paul Volcker was offered the PCOAB chairman’s slot, the former Federal Reserve chairman hemmed and hawed like a confused Mah Jong player before he politely said, "No thanks."
And to be blunt, did the profession really need five more years of Volcker?
Then John Biggs, an outspoken proponent of accounting reform and head of pension services conglomerate TIAA-CREF, had all but set up his new office as inaugural chair of the PCOAB, when late last week Pitt abruptly said "not so fast."
According to what you read and who you believe, apparently some GOP lawmakers (and no doubt the AICPA as well) felt that the 66-year old Biggs, would be "too tough on the profession." And it appears that Pitt is listening. He reportedly told Biggs that he wasn’t sure he could continue to support his candidacy as PCOAB chair.
So let me understand this — a reform-minded candidate is not suitable for the job because he would well, implement reform.
I mean, the last time there was this much indecision about a chairman or commissioner of anything, we wound up with Bud Selig.
At this rate, by the time a suitable chairman is selected, let alone the remaining quartet, the PCAOB may well be charged with overseeing the "Big Two."
But all kidding aside, this latest string of events is an imposing public relations challenge for the SEC, who to be honest, is PR-challenged to begin with.
Pitt, who successfully dodged the slings and arrows of lawmakers who were calling for his resignation, now would have to face a fresh arsenal of charges that he remains beholden to the profession he once represented as a private securities lawyer.
Others meanwhile, speculated that Pitt may be stalling Biggs’ appointment as a negotiating strategy to install his own hand picked candidates for the remaining four slots.
I realize it’s easy for me to sit on the sidelines and exhort the SEC to make up its mind, considering the fact that five people will be at the cutting edge of modern accounting reform.
But folks, we really need to get going. If the commission is serious about accounting reform, then pick a reformer.
If not, call in Bud Selig for an interview.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access