Going Global

The past week really brought home to me how international the profession of accounting is becoming.  I attended the International Federation of Accountants, Professional Accountants in Business committee meeting in New York and the Regional AICPA Council meeting in Atlanta.

The IFAC meeting really brought home that no matter where you work in the world, the U.S., Canada, Europe, India or Australia, the issues we are dealing with as PAIBs are the same.  We are dealing with investor demands for more information being fulfilled through standard setters and regulators.  We are dealing with risk management and internal control and the realization that as a business we have been organized to take risks – but as PAIBs we are being asked to monitor that risk taking to make sure the risks are known and within the corporate plans.  PAIBs across the world are being asked to be more than just good accountants; we are being asked to be strategic leaders in the business to deliver on business plans and ultimately the return to all stakeholders in the business.

The internationalization of the issues facing the profession was made even more apparent at the AICPA Regional Council meeting.  We spent half the meeting hearing updates about and talking about potential implications to the AICPA and our members of the various impacts of Internationalization.  Mandatory auditor rotation is just one such issue.  It is a purported solution to all the ills related to audits around the world.  Some areas see it as the solution to an apparent lack of competition among the audit firms.  Others see it as the way to give auditors backbones to stand up to unreasonable requests from the companies they audit – the theory is it is easier to say no if you know your going to lose the relationship after a few years anyway.  But whatever the problem, mandatory auditor rotation as the solution is gaining momentum due to an interesting dynamic – that everyone else is “doing it” so it must be good and we need to do it too.

This last point brings out the reason why it is important to talk with an be part of the international professional accountant community.  Some solutions are good and worth emulating.  Others, however, are not good at all and the misinformation being spread can only be combated by hearing the real story from our fellow professionals in those countries. I for one am glad the AICPA is focused on the internationalization of the profession and opening the lines of communications around the world.

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AICPA April 2012 Board Meeting

It hit me as I was preparing for this Board meeting that this was my next to last meeting in New York with the Board.  My three year term is nearly up.  It has been a great three years, and I am looking forward to the last meeting in August and my final act of making the audit committee presentation at the October AICPA Council meeting.  Of course this just marks the end on one stage of my involvement with the profession.  I will continue to serve on the AICPA council for two more years as I was nominated to complete the remaining two years of an unexpired term as a member at large.  I will also continue to serve through the end of 2014 as the AICPA representative on the IFAC Professional Accountants in Business committee as well as the TSCPA Business and Industry Issues committee.  Even though my term on the Board is nearing an end, there are plenty of issues that the Board will have to deal with this year and beyond.  Some of them are highlighted in the remainder of this blog.

Mandatory Auditor Rotation – a big topic of discussion was the PCAOB and EU proposals around mandatory auditor rotation for public companies.  We had a specific agenda item covering the results of the recent PCAOB roundtables on the subject, but it was also discussed within several other agenda items including the report from the CEO, the report from the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), and the report on what is happening in Washington.  The PCAOB proposals were seriously questioned by members of Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) at recent congressional hearings.  The focus of the questions was on what issue is mandatory rotation trying to solve and are there better, less invasive ways to solve those issues.  The PCAOB has made it clear they will be discussing this for a while before they even consider proposing any actual rule changes, so we all need to keep up with this issue as it continues to develop.

Cyber Security – If you weren’t aware, the AICPA was the subject of a spoofing attack recently.  Over 90 Millions emails were sent out under a spoofed AICPA address stating that the AICPA was canceling your license.  Putting aside the fact that the ACIPA has no authority to cancel your CPA license, the incident had many impacts.  Clicking on the link in the email resulted in an attempt to install malware on your computer that would potentially send key financial information to the people who launched the spoof.  In addition, millions of the emails had bad addresses, so the AICPA email system was temporarily brought down by getting hit with millions non-delivery email responses in less than 15 minutes.  Keep in mind, this email didn’t come from AICPA systems – they simply sent out emails from other systems that made it look like they came from the AICPA.  The costs of dealing with this attack were significant, but not nearly as much as they would have been had the AICPA systems been actually breached.  And this goes beyond just the immediate costs as shown by these statistics.

  • 25% of businesses have had a merger, acquisition or new product roll-out stopped or delayed by a Cyber breach per a McAfee/SIAC study
  • 20% of victims who have had data compromised cut ties with the institutions that compromised their privacy.

Like all businesses, the AICPA takes security and privacy very seriously and we have extensive controls and procedures to protect your personal information, but as always the controls start with you.  If you get an email that looks or sounds strange, don’t be afraid to question it.  Did it really come from the purported sender?  Is this legitimate?   Always ask those questions, no matter who the email is from and don’t be afraid to call the sender to make sure it is real.

Total Tax Insights – the last thing I want to do is mention a tool that will soon be introduced by the AICPA in conjunction with its 125th anniversary in May.  This tool will enable people to determine their total tax burden from all taxes (income, property, sales, gasoline, telephone, electricity, alcohol, cigarette, etc.) they pay down to the county level – all 3,035 of them.  It will be a great way for people to understand the full tax burden incurred by different people at different income and wealth levels across the country.  Be on the look-out for the launch of this fantastic tool.

The AICPA Spring Council meeting and 125th anniversary will take place in mid-May and I will update you on what happened at that meeting and other items impacting our great profession in the coming weeks.