Yet More Flux in the SEC’s Office of Chief Accountant

On July 21, the Securities and Exchange Commission put out the news that Wesley Bricker, an SEC deputy chief accountant, was named interim chief accountant at the agency. (See my colleague Denise Lugo’s blog report of July 22.)

A day later, the SEC announced that Brian Croteau, another deputy chief accountant, would be leaving the staff of the Office of Chief Accountant.

Since 2010, Croteau, a former partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers’s national office, has ridden herd directly on auditing standards, domestically and internationally, and on matters involving the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which the SEC appoints and oversees. He also monitors issues of auditor independence and auditors’ duties with regard to internal control over financial reporting.

The departure of Croteau marks an extra helping of state of flux in the shop that provides the commission with expert advice on accounting and auditing issues.

It’s yet to be determined when Croteau, manager of OCA’s Professional Practice Group, would be leaving the SEC staff. Ditto on his destination.

The news release on Bricker acknowledged what apparently had been going on for some period of time: that he would be filling in for James Schnurr, the SEC chief accountant, who suffered serious injury in a bicycling accident several months ago. The interim chief accountant would be serving in that capacity while Schnurr recuperates, the commission said.

Schnurr has been offering views on salient topics before OCA, including on some challenging issues on the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s plate, I have been told by sources in rulemaking circles.

Bricker—like Croteau a former PwC partner—has served as a speaker in Schnurr’s place at recent conferences. Those include a yearly gathering at Baruch College in May and the June SEC financial reporting institute in Los Angeles, an annual event of the University of Southern California.

Three Wearing Deputy Badges. The Office of Chief Accountant has had a complement of three deputies for at least 12 years. Each deputy has a specialty. Bricker’s has been overseeing OCA’s accounting group, which focuses on policy and standard-setting. He’s the one who often appears as a non-voting participant at such glamorous events as meetings of FASB’s Emerging Issues Task Force.

 When Bricker or other SEC staff members speak at those meetings, people lean in to listen. [The active presence of Schnurr, and later Bricker, at meetings of FASB’s advisory Transition Resource Group for Revenue Recognition signaled the importance of that panel and how seriously the SEC regards the new revenue reporting rules. The TRG —which formerly was a joint effort of the International Accounting Standards Board and FASB—is more or less on hiatus, but there’s a new transition group:  on accounting for credit losses. Bricker attended the first meeting of that TRG April 1.]

The third deputy in the Office of Chief Accountant is Julie Erhardt. Her long-time bailiwick has been international accounting issues and working with such groups as the International Organization of Securities Commissions, or IOSCO.

Erhardt, who once worked for the defunct, lamented Arthur Andersen LLP, became a deputy chief accountant in 2004. She also spent two years as a FASB fellow, working in various guidance-writing efforts.

That Thing Called a Presidential Election.

Yet more change at OCA—major change— is in the cards come early 2017 or thereabouts.

The November presidential election will very likely result in either a  Republican or a Democrat winning the White House, based on conventional wisdom and a long historical record.

The new president typically appoints a chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC chairman picks a chief accountant who in turn chooses top staff members.

Continue the discussion on Bloomberg BNA Accounting LinkedIn page.