Peeling away financial reporting issues one layer at a time

Handicapping the Chief Accountant Contest

A BNA news article [available by subscription only] reported last week that anonymous sources say that Mary Schapiro has narrowed the candidates for SEC Chief Accountant to five finalists: 

  • "Jane Adams, a former deputy chief accountant of the SEC and former longtime staff member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, who worked until recently at Maverick Capital, New York ;

  • Wayne Carnall, currently chief accountant of the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance and a former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers;

  • Jack Ciesielski, president of R.G. Associates, Baltimore, a current member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board's Investors Technical Advisory Committee and veteran of several standard-setting panels, who also is publisher of Analyst's Accounting Observer;

  • James Kroeker, acting SEC chief accountant and former partner at Deloitte & Touche, who joined the SEC staff in early 2007 as a deputy to former Chief Accountant Conrad Hewitt; and

  • Charles Niemeier, a member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and former chief accountant of the SEC's Division of Enforcement."

It just so happens that I am in Las Vegas this week – strictly business, honest! On my way to meetings, though, I have been checking the sports books.  I know it's hard to believe, but nobody here has been handicapping Mary Schapiro's pick. So, I'll have to take it upon myself to supply the odds, as a service to finacial reporting fans who may need to end an argument with, 'put up, or shut up!'.  

The Current Line

I have Adams as the even-money favorite. She has the right background, and may not have staked out a position on IFRS yet. That might make her more broadly acceptable. She would also be the first woman chief accountant. If I were betting, which I am not, I would take Adams against the field.

Ciesielski and Niemeier are both 99:1 long shots. As a PCAOB member, Niemeier may have garnered the most publicity for his anti-IFRS stance, and his general reputation for independence and intellectual rigor. Cieselski, has been an incessant and articulate advocate for investor interests through ITAC and his Analysts' Accounting Observer weblog and subscription service. He has also taken turns on AcSEC and the EITF. Cieselski may have a slightly lower profile than Niemeier, and may be slightly more moderate in his IFRS views, but he is equally toxic to the IFRS adoption lobby.

Carnall is a reasonably possibility at 3:2 odds. I know Wayne from my time at the SEC and from later interactions while he was at the SEC. He may be the single most knowledgeable person on regulatory issues faced by foreign companies listed on U.S. markets; and he has a long and distinguished history as an SEC staff member. He could be a very popular choice with the SEC Staff, but I'm just guessing.

Kroeker is a long shot at 23:2. I do not know much about him, and his role in the Cox/Hewitt era could be a plus (political compromise), or a minus (guilt by association). In the "we can do better" spirit of the new guard in Washington, my sense is that it is more of the latter.

As to my personal preference, I'll keep my own counsel, although I am on record for having supported Niemeier when it was rumored that he was going to be the pick. Some of the candidates I know pretty well, others not so well, and some none at all.

I just hope Schapiro finally gets this overly-protracted process over with soon, and makes a choice that sends a pro-investor message: that she will neither wilt nor compromise investor protection as the political pressure from special interests to adopt IFRS inevitably intensifies. Only a fool would bet against that.

3 Comments

  1. Reply fred vernon June 3, 2009

    I have to compliment you on taking the effort on figuring precise odds that sum to 1, however you forgot to take out the track’s cut!

  2. Reply Raza June 3, 2009

    🙂 Interesting post, Tom – as usual. Let’s go for Jane Adams 🙂

  3. Reply Blair Stover June 10, 2009

    I really enjoyed the read, this is a great blog you have going – keep them coming!

Leave a Comment