Niemeier: 'AICPA Has Made Some Big Blunders'

Charles Niemeier, a member of the five member Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, isn't sugarcoating his words when it comes to his enforcement role, or when describing the organization that used to be in charge of self-regulation for the profession.

In addressing a group of journalists in Washington last week, Mr. Niemeier described the oversight role that his organization is taking over from the American Institute of CPAs, and attributed some of the blame to the 350,000-member accounting industry group.

"The AICPA has made some big blunders," Mr. Niemeier told journalists. "They are actually viewed as contributing to what's happened today," he said.

Mr. Niemeier pointed to the AICPA peer review program as having no real teeth and ineffective when it came to one firm criticizing the actions of another.

AICPA President Barry Melancon countered Niemeier's assertions as "absolutely inaccurate."

"When Enron happened, we worked very aggressively with the large firms to devise a proposal that we brought to the SEC ... that now (composes) the major elements of the (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board)," Melancon told journalists visiting the AICPA's Washington headquarters.

Mr. Melancon indicated general agreement with the approach of the PCAOB, but expressed concern that the scope of the authority of the PCAOB may put additional burdens on public companies and may stifle the move for some companies from private to public structure.

Mr. Melancon also expressed concern over the Board's role in dictating audit policy. "We do have concerns that non-auditors telling you how to do an audit might not be the best thing for the auditing profession," Melancon said.

Despite the apparent tension between the two organizations, both are committed to work together to achieve their mutual goal of restoring public trust in the financial reporting system in the U.S.

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