Forbes Features AICPA Chief as 'Man with 9 Lives'

The November 25, 2002 issue of Forbes describes Barry Melancon, chief executive officer of the American Institute of CPAs, as "a lightning rod at the worst time for accountants" and explains why Mr. Melancon has survived the many lightning bolts of the past few years.

The stormy weather started when Arthur Levitt was Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Forbes quotes Mr. Levitt as saying, "I think the AICPA under Melancon's leadership has been the least effective, most backward, most obstructionist group that I encountered in my eight years, running the SEC." Lynn Turner, who served as Chief Accountant during some of those years, added, "If Melancon were a CEO of a company, he'd be fired by now."

Forbes author Elizabeth MacDonald attributes Mr. Melancon's staying-power to the fact that he is doing what the AICPA board wants him to do. "He's a business builder intent on making a buck," she says, "and that's what its board wants him to do." Although she points out CPA2Biz has never made a profit, Mr. Melancon explains that the companies that invested in it are at risk for the losses. "In other environments, people would be lauded for that," explains Mr. Melancon who has faced criticism from members for his handling of the portal.

Other commercial successes include awarding a contract to a Thomson unit for exclusively administering an electronic version of the CPA exam and raising funds by endorsements of products made by other companies that invested in CPA2Biz, such as Microsoft.

The article points out that the AICPA board is very supportive of Mr. Melancon, but he has not yet decided if he will renew his five-year contract when his second term expires in 2005. ("The Man With Nine Lives," Forbes, November 25, 2002 - requires free registration on the Forbes Web site.)

-Rosemary Schlank


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