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Senators Grassley and Reed Would Like to Make Every Bit of PCAOB Wrist Slapping Public

For some time now, quite a few people have been asking for PCAOB disciplinary proceedings to be made public. Since your beloved Board came into existence, the process of slapping around sketchy auditors has been secret much to the chagrin of those people that would like audit firms to take just a little bit [pointer and thumb about an inch apart] of responsibility when they royally screw things up. It’s all for the investors, you see. After some rib jabbing by Board Member Dan Goelzer and Chairman Jim Doty, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have picked up the flag by introducing a bill that would make the proceedings public:

The bill would change a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that requires the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to keep disciplinary proceedings against auditing firms confidential.

Undoubtedly, this will rankle auditors who would prefer that all the skeletons stay firmly stuffed in closets. Of course what many people forget is that the secretive nature of the PCAOB disciplinary proceedings are the exception rather than the rule:

[Grassley and Reed] argued that the PCAOB’s closed proceedings run counter to the public enforcement proceedings of other regulators. Not only the SEC, but also the Labor Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other government agencies use public proceedings, as does the self-regulating Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Nearly all administrative proceedings brought by the SEC against public companies, brokers, dealers, investment advisers and others are open, public proceedings.

The Reed-Grassley bill would make PCAOB hearings and all related notices, orders and motions, open and available to the public unless otherwise ordered by the board. The PCAOB procedure would then be similar to SEC Rules of Practice for similar matters, where hearings and related notices, orders, and motions are open and available to the public.

This all seems like a pretty good idea. I mean, what makes auditors so special? Exactly. They’re not. They just happened to go from self-regulated to regulated in a flash and had a few K Street types twist in some features to Sarbanes-Oxley that kept things under wraps.

The problem, as a few people have pointed out, is that the Board still isn’t really that tough on auditors. Sure, a few more people might suffer some public embarrassment (which we’re happy to point out), but will investors really be better off? That remains to be seen but at least we’ll all be able to revel in the good fun of mocking the offenders.

Senate Bill Would Make PCAOB Disciplinary Hearings Public [AT]

Senators Want Accounting Details From Boys & Girls Club of America

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A group of Republican senators (including Chuck Grassley) want Boys & Girls Clubs of America executives to answer for such egregious non-profit sins as high executive salaries, fat retirement plans, and lobbying expenses. You see, Chuck Grassley is a sharp guy (wild statements about executive suicide notwithstanding) and as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he’s the one keeping an eye on the sort of action non-profits get from Congress. So when an $85 million a year initiative to provide blanket funding to the non-profit group slipped by the committee, the red flags went up.

Iowa’s Grassley is joined by Tom Coburn, R-OK; Jon Kyl , R.-AZ.; and John Cornyn, R-TX in questioning a multitude of sins including CEO Roxanne Spillett’s $1 million a year compensation package, half a million dollars a year in lobbying and $4.3 million in “travel expenses.” Not really a problem if the funds are unrestricted and coming from donors who know their donations may go to, say, trips and renting a Senator here and there. Nah. After reviewing the org’s 2008 tax return, the senators concluded that 40% of Boys and Girls Club funding comes from the federal government.

The new Senate bill, S.2924, changes the original intent of a 1998 bill that granted $20 million a year to provide “seed money” for 1,000 new Boys & Girls Clubs from 1997 – 2001. Grassley argues that this new legislation essentially turns money that should go to keeping low income at-risk youth off the streets, into a vague piggy bank for the organization. Naturally, Chuck & Co. have a problem with that.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America posted a $13 million loss in 2008. In 2009, it cut 10% of its full-time workers, instituted 26 furlough days a year, and closed chapters in DC, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and others.

Though the organization hasn’t had time to personally respond to Grassley’s nice letter last Thursday, they told the Journal they’d be complying with the investigation and not at all afraid of what the committee may find, insisting they are no more poorly-managed than any other non-profit nor do they spend more on lobbying than anyone else either.

Sounds like an excellent defense; I don’t see how it could go wrong.

Senators Demand Accounting from Boys & Girls Clubs [WebCPA]
Sens Try To Block Funding To Boys & Girls Clubs of America [WSJ]