A new industry group is looking to make inroads in building support for its policy positions in Washington.Launched on Tuesday, the Center for Audit Quality will focus on topics such as auditor protection from lawsuits, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and how companies report financial information.

The center's governing board includes the chief executives of Ernst & Young, KPMG, BDO Seidman and Grant Thornton. James H. Quigley, the chief executive of Deloitte's U.S. arm, and PricewaterhouseCoopers chairman Dennis M. Nally will also sit on the board. Other involved firms include Crowe Chizek and McGladrey & Pullen, as well as the American Insitute of CPAs trade group.

Its governing board will include the chief executives of the AICPA and the six largest accounting firms, CEOs from two other firms on a rotating basis, and leaders from the investor and issuer communities, according to the center.

The group also announced the hiring of Jane Cobb as its new director of operations. Cobb has been serving as the director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's office of legislative affairs.

The center’s executive director Cindy Fornelli, who also spent time working for the SEC, said that the purpose is to bring together the public company accounting profession with a focus on issues in the public domain. The center will also undertake research, offer recommendations to enhance investor confidence, issue technical support for public company auditing professionals, and help facilitate the public discussion about modernizing business reporting.

The center is actually the latest incarnation of the AICPA's Center for Public Company Audit Firms. At its fall 2005 council meeting, the institute agreed to refocus the mission of the center away from technical issues.

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