The regional certified public accounting (CPA) firms of BKD, LLP and Moss Adams LLP this week jointly announced their formation of advisory bodies to provide additional oversight of their professional and business practices.
William E. Fingland Jr., managing partner of BKD, and Robert L. Bunting, chairman of Moss Adams, announced the commitment of their firms to a new level of internal due diligence.
By way of background, the general public expects CPA firms to perform their work with integrity and objectivity, to avoid conflicts of interest and to “do what’s right.” The constituents of their clients—stakeholders, private owners, employees, customers, strategic partners, vendors, etc.—rely on the integrity of CPAs.
Bunting explains further, “The business failures and alleged audit shortcomings leading up to Sarbanes-Oxley, GAO Amendment #3 and the re-examination of ethics in our profession by many state boards of accounting have caused most accountants to think more deeply about the ethics of our profession and the associated risks to our finances and reputations. Moss Adams is taking the serious step of taking significant action to further ensure our firm continues to meet our professional and business ethics standards.”
Access to feedback from unbiased advisors lends credence to firm standards and operations. “We recognize, as do the regulators, that ethics and integrity start with the tone at the top,” says Fingland. “Formation of independent advisory boards charged with oversight of our firms’ quality controls affecting our public responsibilities sends a clear message that we walk the talk.”
Both BKD’s Public Interest Council and Moss Adams’ single independent observer plan to share best practices and observations with each other. In addition, they might jointly issue white papers on topical issues associated with the profession’s public responsibilities.
BKD’s Public Interest Council will consist of three individuals, knowledgeable about accounting, business, law and ethics, who will serve two-to-three year terms. The Council will help BKD fulfill its mission to maintain sound professional, business and financial standards by independently monitoring BKD’s peer review, independence standards and procedures and internal quality controls aimed at ensuring the firm meets its responsibilities to the public.
While the Council will develop its own work plan, examples of specific tasks it might perform include being available to any BKD partner or employee wishing to discuss specific Council observations or recommendations; meeting with partners and employees to assess knowledge of the firm’s values and tone from the top; attending continuing education conferences to monitor presentations and interview staff; and reviewing the firm’s peer review process, internal inspection program and independence standards.
Council appointees are Raymond C. Dockweiler, director emeritus of the University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Accountancy; Stephen L. Hayford, professor of business law, ethics and dispute resolution in the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington; and Thomas S. Stewart, the managing partner of and a practicing attorney for Lathrop & Gage, L.C., a regional law firm based in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Our Council members have impressive credentials and careers that clearly qualify them for their responsibilities as BKD’s ‘public watchdogs.’ They will have unlimited access to the people and areas of our practice that affect our public responsibilities,” says Fingland.