The Search is on For a New PCAOB Chair

Wanted: Impeccably credentialed expert to serve as head of the organization that will oversee accounting firms' audits of public companies. The ideal candidate should have no skeletons in his or her closet, should be independent of any conflicts, and should be respected by accountants, the business community, government, Wall Street, and investors alike. Salary - $556,000 per year plus benefits. Apply by March 14, 2003. Send resume and cover letter to W. Donaldson, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, DC. EOE

SEC Chairman William Donaldson reaffirmed this week that his "highest priority" is finding a permanent head of the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Nominations are now being accepted by the SEC from a variety of sectors including law, investor advocates, corporate and academia.

The deadline for nominations is March 14. Chairman Donaldson has indicated that a new head of the PCAOB could be announced as early as next month.

An update on some of the candidates considered for the job:

  • John Biggs: Former head of TIAA-CREF and once thought to be the major front runner for the position, John Biggs told Reuters this week that he is no longer a candidate for the position. "I have written it off . . My life has moved on," Biggs told Reuters. "I'll leave the auditors to someone else."

  • Paul Volcker: Although his name keeps reappearing as a candidate for the job, the former Fed chairman told reporters at a Brookings Institution conference this week that his "enthusiasm is restrained" about the possibility of serving as head of the PCAOB. Mr. Volcker strongly believes that allowing auditing firms to offer tax planning advice to clients is a major conflict of interest.

  • Charles Niemeier: Currently serving as the interim chairman, Mr. Niemeier is seen as a likely permanent chairman of the PCAOB.

  • Joel Seligman: Also in the running is Joel Seligman, SEC historian and dean of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri.

  • Mary Schapiro: Ms. Schapiro is a senior executive at the National Association of Securities Dealers.

  • Robert Posen: Mr. Posen is a former top mutual-fund executive.

In November, former FBI chief William Webster was named head of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and quickly resigned amid a controversy that he was involved as a watchdog for a company that was accused of accounting fraud.

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