Seidman Sets the Pace at Lubin B-School's New Center for Excellence in Financial Reporting

By Edith Orenstein

Former FASB Chairman Leslie F. Seidman has been named Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Financial Reporting at Pace University's Lubin School of Business. 

The announcement was made today by Lubin School Dean Neil Braun, who said: “Leslie Seidman’s depth of knowledge about accounting policy and her breadth of relationships across the profession are unsurpassed. We are thrilled that Leslie has chosen to make Lubin her home for her thought leadership and continuing contributions to the field.”

FEI President and CEO Marie Hollein issued a congratulatory statement, noting that Seidman's background makes her a "perfect fit" for her new position, adding: "FEI has been advocating for more meaningful, useful and practical financial reporting, and we would like to applaud Pace for creating this much needed Center and look forward to continuing to work with Leslie to promote dialogue around constructive ways to improve financial reporting in her new role.”

In an interview published by Emily Chasan in the CFO Journal, Former FASB Chairman to Launch Financial Reporting Center (sub req'd), Seidman described her some of her goals for the Center as follows: 

“I want to understand what the constraints in the system are now that people think are inhibiting effective disclosure…There does seem to be a desire for practitioners to be able to talk to each other about some of these issues.”

“The use of judgment takes more time than a checklist…With the time constraints people are under, and the legal system we live in, people want to be reasonably comfortable they are doing this right the first time.”

Reporter Chasan hastens to add: “Ms. Seidman aims to find efficiencies in applying fair value accounting rules that require managers to come up with market values for hard-to-price assets. Companies have seen accounting costs jump and reporting processes slow down, partially due to anxiety that they will be sued if they make a wrong judgment somewhere along the way, Ms. Seidman said...Often a company will spend a lot of time creating an estimate of an asset’s value and its auditor will do its own estimate. If there are any disagreements an outside expert will be brought in to do another estimate.”

“We need to find out what we can do to make this a more reasonable way to report,” Ms. Seidman said.

My two cents: It is interesting to read Seidman's comments above regarding hard-to-price assets, and mull them over while thinking about SEC Deputy Chief Accountant Brian Croteau's comments yesterday at the AICPA National Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments, regarding his interest in seeing some movement on PCAOB standard-setting projects on estimates, fair value, and the like. I wonder if the difficulty in getting traction on some of those projects is due in part to issues such as those raised above by Seidman. I wonder if even Professor Luigi Zingales' research (Prof. Zingales is the new Director of the PCAOB's Center for Economic Analysis) about illiquid vs. liquid markets would bear this out. Maybe it would be appropriate to bring him into some of these standard-setting related research initiatives. I am hopeful a practical answer will ensue (i.e, not that "markets are efficient" even when under historic stress and historic illiquidity).

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