Chair's Letter September 2010 

by Robert R. Harris, CPA/CFF, Chairman, AICPA Board of Directors 
Published October 12, 2010

As I write this column, I’m coming to the end of an exciting and fulfilling year as Institute Board Chairman. When I began my term, the country was just beginning to emerge from a year of financial turmoil and uncertainty. I am pleased to see that we have come through the worst of these times and that our profession rose to the challenge of helping businesses and individuals navigate the economic hardships. Now, we stand ready to grapple with the significant changes and events affecting our daily work.  

I set out to focus my attention on several critical areas during my chairmanship. I’d like to tell you a little about what has happened in each one, and about further developments we can expect.

The globalization of business. Although the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards for U.S. public companies appeared to have moved to the back burner during the worst of the financial crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission in February said it still plans to decide in 2011 whether to require its use by issuers. The Institute continues to strongly support having one set of high-quality, globally accepted accounting standards for public entities and supports the thoughtful and concrete steps the SEC is taking as outlined in its Work Plan to prepare for a possible transition to IFRS. If you haven’t been keeping up with IFRS, you should start now. The AICPA’s IFRS website,, provides updates and resources that become more and more important as we get closer to an SEC decision. 

Sustainability. I want the CPA profession to be a leader in this area and we have made significant inroads this past year. The Institute has created a wealth of resources to inform members on this issue and help them educate clients and employers about it, and has participated in sustainability initiatives on an international level. Since it’s also important to be a good corporate role model, I’m happy to say that the AICPA was recognized by the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce for working toward Green Plus certification by implementing environmentally conscious standards into our business practices. Moreover, the AICPA was one of more than 20 organizations to form a committee that would oversee development of an integrated reporting model. The International Integrated Reporting Committee includes the heads of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the International Accounting Standards Board, the International Federation of Accountants, each of the four largest accounting firms and representatives from some of the world’s largest institutional investors and governance organizations.

Financial regulatory reform. I’m very pleased with the Institute’s successes on behalf of our members and the public interest as this legislation made its way through Congress. We were, for example, able to obtain recognition for CPAs’ customary advice and counsel under the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arguing effectively that CFPB regulation would duplicate existing and appropriate state regulation of the CPA profession. When President Obama signed monumental reform legislation into law in July, we quickly responded with resources for members, including webcasts, Journal of Accountancy coverage and articles in other member publications, inclusion in this fall’s audit risk alert, sessions at several upcoming conferences and specialized communications for specific member segments.   

Greater involvement of young CPAs. We continue to select promising young people for the AICPA Leadership Academy, a training program launched in July 2009 that prepares CPAs for future leadership roles within the profession and within their work environments. We also will continue the practice of putting at least one CPA under age 36 on virtually every AICPA committee, something started with last year’s Leadership Academy class, to glean the insights of young CPAs as we deal with issues and challenges affecting our profession. In addition, to help maintain a pipeline of future CPAs, we recently launched a new website, This Way to CPA. It is designed to extend the great work of our tremendously successful Start Here. Go Places. student recruitment campaign, helping those who are interested in the profession to understand how they can become a part of it. Young CPAs can find information about professional issues, career development and networking opportunities from our robust Young CPA Network.

Finally, I could not wrap up this year without mentioning another very significant development, the launch of the blue ribbon panel that is evaluating the future of standard setting for private companies. The complexities of the current economic environment have made it clear that these organizations’ financial statement users have unique needs that are often very different from those of public companies. On Oct. 8, a majority of members of the panel decided to recommend GAAP with exceptions for private companies and a separate, standard-setting board. The AICPA is one of the sponsors of the 18-member panel on which Institute President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, sits. We will update you on future developments, particularly when the panel issues its report to the Financial Accounting Foundation.

It has been extremely satisfying to be able to give back to the profession I love. As I end my year, I believe we are poised to take on new challenges and to thrive in a rapidly changing environment. I thank you all for allowing me an opportunity to play such an exciting role.


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