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A Creative Irritant: The Relationship Between the SEC and Accounting Standard Setters: SECHS Webcast

On June 7, the SEC Historical Society (SECHS) is sponsoring what looks to be a really great webcast,  featuring two former FASB Chairmen, Denny Beresford and Ed Jenkins, and a former SEC Chief Accountant, A. Clarence Sampson, speaking on:

The program is being held live as part of the proceedings of the 13th annual meeting of the SECHS, and as noted above, will be webcast and available at no charge to the general public. The June 7 webcast will begin at 12:00 noon (EST).

Beresford, currently teaching at the University of Georgia and serving on a number of advisory boards including the PCAOB's Standing Advisory Group (SAG) and a number of audit committees, is one of the inaugural inductees into the FEI Hall of Fame, and is also a member of the Accounting Hall of Fame.  Jenkins is also a member of the Accounting Hall of Fame, and Sampson has the unique honor of having served both as SEC Chief Accountant, and following that stint, as a member of the FASB Board!

The History of the SEC Historical Society

The SEC Historical Society's mission is essentially to serve as a 'virtual museum' regarding the history of financial regulation with special emphasis on the SEC's role in particular.

The organization will celebrate its 12th anniversary this year with the opening of a new 'wing' in the 'virtual museum' - the Richard C. Adkerson Gallery on the SEC Role in Accounting Standards Setting.

Moderating the June 7 webcast will be retired PwC Partner George Fritz, curator of the SECHS's new gallary, which is set to formally open in December of this year.

My Two Cents: This Should Be a Really Good Show!

I am greatly looking forward to the June 7 SECHS webcast on the relationship between the SEC and accounting standard-setters, this should be a really good show! (Or, as Ed Sullivan would have put it, a "really big shew!"

Before I tell you why, please allow me to remind you of the disclaimer posted on the right side of this blog.

A Healthy Tension

Cent one: I personally believe there is a natural and necessary healthy tension between the SEC and the FASB (and for that matter, between the SEC, PCAOB and FASB...and one could consider the IASB, IOSCO, and other international l accounting-standard setting and regulatory organizations in connection with this general subject as well). 

With respect to the SEC and FASB specifically, this healthy tension is borne out through ongoing interaction between the staff of the two organizations on an informal basis on matters ranging from individual accounting standards and the interaction with regulation and disclosure under the SEC's reporting regime, In addition, there are other actions,  correspondance and meetings between representatives of the organizations, including the SEC's role (more formalized under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) in annually approving the organization which sets GAAP (since 1973, the FASB) and its budget, and certain letters that have been issued, (including this letter, or, say, this letter) by the SEC's Office of the Chief Accountant to the Chairman of the FASB, calling for certain standard-setting actions to be given consideration or priority.

This type of interaction between the SEC and FASB includes elements of a tight-rope walk, since the SEC is expected to respect the independence of the FASB, and at the same time, as chief regulator of the U.S. markets with ultimate responsibility for reporting by public companies, the SEC has historically had - de facto if not de jure -  an oversight role over FASB. 

The Role of Cost-Benefit

Cent two: Another interesting element in this mix is that the SEC in and of itself experiences a kind of healthy tension as a result of its two primary roles in supporting fair and well functioning markets, and at the same time supporting investor protection; therein lies much of the 'cost-benefit' argument. (This very subject was addressed in a number of recent Congressional hearing at which SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro testified, see testimony here and here.) 

Striking the Balance Between Theory and Practice
In this regard, I feel compelled to add a 'third cent' to 'my two cents,' and that is, I am a great fan of former FASB Chairman Denny Beresford in particular, (one of the speakers on the June 7 webcast) since I believe he frequently contributes commentary in the public domain with respect to rule proposals and other issues of the day, that strikes the need for balance between theory and practice, with an experienced eye on real-world practicality and what seems to me to be a truly holistic view of the interrelationships, 'knock-on effects,' or potential unintended consequences of various proposed or final rules.  Just take a look at any number of his comment letters filed on proposed rulemaking of the FASB, SEC or PCAOB, or his commentary on the AECM academic listserve.

Background Viewing/Reading

For some additional background material prior to the June 7 webcast, you can view (read) an archived webcast (transcript) of the SECHS's Oct. 18, 2011 program, "The SEC's Role in Accounting Standard-Setting," which featured   Loretta Cangialosi,  SVP and Controller of Pfizer, Inc. and Chairman of FEI's Committee on Corporate Reporting;  Bob Kueppers, Deputy CEO of Deloitte and current President of the SECHS, and Art Wyatt, former FASB board member; with moderator Mark Beasley, Director of the ERM Initiative in the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. 

See also our recent post on very topical remarks by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the body that oversees the FASB, Terri Polley of the FAF.

Posted: 5/1/2012 12:49:47 PM by Edith Orenstein | with 0 comments
Filed under: Chief Accountant,Clarence Sampson,Denny Beresford,Ed Jenkins,Edmund Jenkins,FEI blog,FEI Hall of Fame,former FASB Chairman,George Fritz,PCAOB SAG,standard setters,Terri Polley,Beresford,FAF,FASB,FEI,IASB,PCAOB,SAG,Sarbanes-Oxley,Sarbox,SEC,SECHS,SOX,tension,A Creative Irritant: The Relationship between the SEC and Accounting Standard Setters

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