Regulation

SEC Names Taub Acting Chief Accountant

Under the new regime, executives who structure corporate transactions for financial reporting purposes had better disclose the deal fully — even if...
Stephen TaubNovember 14, 2005

Scott Taub has been named acting chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His appointment comes a little more than a week after Donald Nicolaisen officially completed his tenure as chief accountant.

Taub (no relation to this writer) has served as deputy chief accountant since September 2002. Before joining the commission’s staff, he was a partner in the professional standards group of the now-defunct Arthur Andersen. He also served as a professional accounting fellow with the SEC’s office of chief accountant from June 1999 through June 2001.

Taub’s appointment is the latest in a series of personnel shifts among financial regulators. Recently deputy chief accountant Andrew D. Bailey Jr. announced that he will leave the SEC in December. Two months ago, William McDonough resigned as chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, effective November 30 or when his successor is in place, whichever is sooner.

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In a speech last December at the 2004 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants national conference on developments at the SEC and the PCAOB, Taub stressed that “where registrants seek to structure transactions for financial reporting purposes, we will expect disclosures even if the accounting goal is achieved, and we can be expected to seek restatement where we don’t believe the literature has been fully complied with.”

That’s different, Taub said, from a case in which a company has entered into a complex transaction that didn’t have an accounting motivation, has transparent accounting, and has made appropriate and robust disclosures. “In those situations, it is far easier to accept differing views as to the appropriate accounting,” he said. “We do understand that even with the same set of facts and the best of intentions, reasonable people can reach different conclusions, and we don’t feel the need to substitute our judgments for yours.”

Taub also said that the SEC encourages registrants to contact it about hard questions directly and ahead of time. Further, the commission is “quite interested in discussing issues that particular industries face with groups representing those industries. It’s obviously more efficient to resolve an issue for a group of companies rather than one at a time,” he said.