Eli Mason named to NYSSCPA hall of fame

The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) will posthumously honor Eli Mason of Manhattan with induction into its Hall of Fame on Thursday, May 13 at its 113th Annual Election Meeting and Dinner at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. Mason died on Aug. 3, 2009 at the age of 88.

The NYSSCPA established the Hall of Fame in 2000 and inducts members annually for their demonstrated leadership, impact and distinguished service in the accounting profession and within their communities.

"Eli Mason tirelessly promoted and defended the accountancy profession while championing adherence to fundamental ethical practices," said Robert Colson, Foundation for Accounting Education (FAE) treasurer and a partner at Grant Thornton, who nominated Mason. "His efforts won him recognition during his life. His memory should live in future generations of accountants."

"He had an enormous impact on the practice of accountancy during the second half of the 20th century, especially among CPAs at small and medium-sized firms," said Domenick Esposito, partner at J.H. Cohn LLP, co-nominator. "He served the accountancy profession with distinction for 69 years. We nominate him for this award as a fitting recognition of his many accomplishments and his devotion to the NYSSCPA."

Mason's work in the area of ethics led the media to nickname him "the conscience of the profession." "His `Credo for CPAs' hangs in the offices of many CPAs as a reminder of the fundamentals of our profession," added Colson. 

Many of Mason's numerous essays and interviews expressed his concern over what he saw as a loss of auditor independence and the commercialization of a profession driven by profitability. Mason saw self-regulatory activities such as peer review, mandatory continuing education and ethics enforcement as the antidote to commercialization of the profession.

Mason joined the NYSSCPA in 1944 and served as its president from 1972 to 1973 and president of FAE from1974 to 1975. During his terms, he assembled a task force to provide peer review for members and proposed organizing the NYSSCPA's first annual trade show. Advocating for small- and medium-sized entities was a major objective of his presidency, and a theme that he continued to pursue over his life. As president, he formed a committee to study the extent of discrimination and displacement of local firms. He spoke out in particular against "low-balling" by the largest firms, or underbidding a smaller audit firm in order to attract clients for more lucrative audit work.

His record of service to the NYSSCPA includes decades of leadership positions and membership on committees, including the Large and Medium Sized Firms Practice Management, the Task Force on Professional Liability Insurance, Managing Partners and Member Benefits committees. The NYSSCPA honored Mason with its Distinguished Service Award in 1983 recognizing his outstanding leadership of the profession through publications, public service and other activities.

He founded the National Conference of CPA Practitioners and the Foundation for Accounting Practitioners, Inc., a provider of educational programs, with the aim of serving CPAs at small- and mid-sized firms. The Stan Ross Department of Accountancy at Baruch College agreed to continue the educational program in 2009.

Both Mason and his wife Claire graduated from Baruch College and actively donated to the college. The Masons founded the Baruch College Fund in 1968 and Mason served as its first president and president emeritus. They endowed Baruch's Eli Mason Chair in Accountancy in 1992, and in 1996 the Masons funded restoration of an auditorium that became Mason Hall.

"His participation reflected his immense commitment to Baruch's role in preparing future generations of accountants," said John Elliott, Vice President and Dean of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch.

Mason was a member of the State Board for Public Accountancy, an advisory group to the regulatory New York State Board of Regents, for 10 years during the 1970s and 1980s, chairing its board for two years. He was also vice president and council member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was also a frequent contributor to the magazine Accounting Today, and his writings were published in several books.

Mason began his career at Klein, Hinds & Finke in 1940 in New York. He started his own firm, Mason & Co. (now part of J.H. Cohn LLP) and managed it through 2009.

He received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1978 from Baruch College and received its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1987. The American Accounting Association honored him with its Exemplar Award for outstanding contributions to professional ethics in 2001.

Mason is survived by his wife, Claire, daughters Judith and Nina and their husbands, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

About the NYSSCPA:

Representing 28,000 CPAs, the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) is the oldest state accounting organization in the nation. Incorporated in 1897, the Society is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to establish and maintain high standards of integrity, honor, and character among certified public accountants. Its members are CPAs working in public practice, industry, government and education in a state that serves as the home of Wall Street and major financial institutions.

The New York State Society of CPAs is located at 3 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016.  To learn more about the Society call 800-633-6320 or visit the Society's Web site at www.nysscpa.org.

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