Lobbying Blitz Battles Accounting Board Appointments

An intense lobbying blitz is battling for control in the effort to appoint the members of the new accounting oversight board. Faced with a storm of opposition from accounting firms and congressmen, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Harvey Pitt issued a statement denying a New York Times report that John Biggs has accepted a position as the first chairman of the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

Chairman Pitt said the announcement of the board members will now be delayed until mid-October. The SEC was expected to make the announcement on September 30th.

Mr. Biggs is currently head of the large pension fund TIAA-CREF and was reported to be the unanimous choice of all five SEC Commissioners prior to the lobbying blitz.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the accounting firms complained to lawmakers that they fear Mr. Biggs will impose restrictions on auditors that go beyond changes called for by accounting reform legislation. This led congressional Republicans, including Rep. Michael Oxley, to express their "strong objections" to the appointment of Mr. Biggs as chairman. Rep. Oxley is the top recipient of donations from political action committees organized by the accounting industry this year.

Sadly, amid the turmoil, the Journal reports some leading candidates for board seats are withdrawing their names. Most notably, former Deloitte CEO J. Michael Cook is reported to have withdrawn his name. ("GOP Objects to Idea of Biggs in Top Oversight Board Seat," Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2002.)

-Rosemary Schlank

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