In a victory of sorts for the accounting profession, the Senate Banking Committee confirmed nominees with accounting ties for appointment as two of the four incoming Securities and Exchange Commissioners. But it was a bittersweet victory, showing that accounting firm experience is not the best credential to have these days, at least not for SEC hopefuls.
Accounting scandals have so devastated the U.S. capital markets that a British satirical magazine called Private Eye recently ran a picture on its cover of Osama bin Laden, saying "FORGET terrorism. I'm going to become an accountant." Politically correct or not, the Senate panel looked past the sensitivities and confirmed the two ex-Big Five nominees anyway. The four new Commissioners are:
- Paul Atkins, an attorney formerly employed by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- Roel Campos, a broadcasting industry executive from Texas and a former federal prosecutor.
- Cynthia Glassman, an economist formerly employed by accounting firm Ernst & Young
- Harvey Goldschmid, a law professor at Columbia University in New York and former SEC general counsel.
At the confirmation hearings, Commissioner Glassman, who has been serving on a temporary appointment, stepped up to the issues by playing down her ties to the accounting profession. In summing up her qualifications, she said: "I have a 30-year career, the last five were at an accounting firm as an economist. That experience has been very helpful in my understanding of how the accounting industry and the accounting profession do their jobs, but I don't work for them anymore." She added, "I never actually participated in an audit."