Lynn Turner, with experience in government, education, public practice and business ...

Tech CFO Becomes SEC Chief Accountant

The SEC named Lynn E. Turner, a CPA whose career has taken him from government work to public accounting to business and industry, to the post of chief accountant. Since 1996, Turner has been CFO and vice-president of Symbios, Inc., a Colorado semiconductor and storage systems manufacturer. Before that, he was a partner of Coopers & Lybrand, where he was national practice leader for the firm's high technology audit practice. From 1989 to 1991 he was an SEC professional accounting fellow.

Turner served on the AICPA task force on accounting for internal-use software and was Coopers & Lybrand's observer to the AICPA task force on accounting for software revenue recognition. For two years he was adjunct professor of accounting at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He belongs to the AICPA, the Colorado Society of CPAs and the Financial Executives Institute.

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The Journal spoke with Turner about his views on several accounting issues.

Technology and financial reporting . A CPA long involved in technology, he discussed its effect on corporations. "New technologies allow management access to more data more quickly. There's an opportunity for the accounting profession to look at alternative ways for companies to post their financial reports and give information to investors." He praised the profession for its work in examining new possibilities. "As the FASB continues its work on its financial reporting model, we'll all need to examine better ways of getting that information to the public."

Global issues . Worldwide GAAP has been—and will continue to be—a high priority for the SEC. "The harmonization of international standards is something we all want, but we need to ensure that these standards are high-quality, that they truly reflect the underlying economics and business transactions that occur. They must protect the investor."

The Independence Standards Board . Right after his appointment was announced, Turner showed up at an ISB meeting. "We'll be keeping a close eye on the ISB's work. Independence is the bedrock of the auditing and accounting profession. My views have been very consistent with the commission's." Turner met with the members of the board and says he looks forward to working with them.

FASB . Turner has also journeyed to Norwalk and vocally supported FASB and the work it's done. "I think the board has done a tremendous job. They've had some tough projects and did excellent work. I want to continue to send the message that it's important we maintain the independence of the private standard-setting process. The FASB has served us well for a quarter century."

Multiple roles . Turner has enjoyed the varied aspects of his accounting career. "All of them—the industry, government, private practice and teaching—contributed to what I know. I can stand in the other person's shoes. My career has given me different perspectives and helped me realize different groups in the financial community can learn from each other. I have the patience and ability to listen to what different groups have to say." By taking all views into account, he said, he should be able to find better solutions to the problems he'll have to address.

And as Turner relocates to Washington, he will be bringing with him a skill that wasn't even on the job description: a sense of humor. "While at Symbios, I came up with another reason for electronic dissemination of financial information. It requires a lot of storage—and that's what Symbios sells."


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