Former Deloitte exec Schnurr named SEC chief accountant

BY KEN TYSIAC
August 26, 2014

Recently retired Deloitte LLP executive James Schnurr will replace Paul Beswick and become the SEC’s third chief accountant in three years, the SEC announced Tuesday.

Schnurr will begin serving in his new position in October, the SEC said in a news release. He was vice chairman and senior professional practice director, and specialized in financial and SEC reporting for public companies at Deloitte.

“Jim’s broad expertise in accounting, reporting, and risk management will help foster investor confidence by holding companies accountable for their financial reporting requirements,” SEC Chair Mary Jo White said in a news release. “His deep knowledge of accounting and auditing standards, coupled with his extensive experience interacting with regulators and accounting and auditing standard setters, will be invaluable to the commission.”

One issue that remains of interest to the accounting profession as Schnurr prepares to take office is whether to give U.S. public companies an option to use IFRS for financial reporting.

White said during a speech in May that considering whether to further incorporate IFRS into the U.S. financial reporting system is a priority for her.

It’s not clear what Schnurr’s current opinions are on an IFRS option. But during an appearance at an SEC round-table meeting on the subject in 2007, Schnurr said having some issuers reporting in IFRS and others using U.S. GAAP would have “a positive impact to a neutral impact” on U.S. markets.

“If you look at particular industries right now, you know, they’re very global,” Schnurr said during the 2007 round-table meeting, according to a transcript on the SEC website. “For example, the pharmaceutical industry. So we will have a lot of companies already reporting [under] IFRS, who are domiciled in EU. If the U.S. companies elect the option and adopt IFRS, there will be much more comparability with respect to that particular industry, and therefore I view that as a very positive impact on the markets.
 
“In terms of the neutral impact, you know, if you again look at a particular industry and those companies do not, we already have that. It exists, and the markets are dealing with that. … We have companies reporting under IFRS, and we’ve got companies reporting under U.S. GAAP, and the investment community, the analyst community have been able to deal with that and make comparisons.”

The AICPA favors one global set of accounting standards and encouraged the SEC in 2012 to give U.S. public companies an option to adopt IFRS for their financial reporting.

Schnurr began working at Deloitte in 1975 and became a partner 10 years later. He served on working and advisory groups for the AICPA, FASB, and the PCAOB.

“I look forward to working with the commissioners and the commission’s talented staff to ensure that companies are providing accurate and complete financial information and that auditors are upholding the public trust in providing assurance to investors about that information,” Schnurr said in a news release.

Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) Executive Director Cindy Fornelli said in a statement that Schnurr has made significant contributions on many important initiatives through his work with the CAQ’s Professional Practice Executive Committee. The CAQ is affiliated with the AICPA.

“He will bring a valuable understanding of the regulatory and standard-setting process and expertise in risk management, which will benefit investors and the public company auditing profession,” Fornelli said.

The SEC announced in May that Beswick was leaving to join the private sector. He had replaced James Kroeker, who left in July 2012 and now is FASB’s vice chairman.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA editorial director.

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