Republican Aide Gets $673,000-a-Year Job Regulating Auditors

(Bloomberg) -- William Duhnke, a longtime Republican Senate aide, just got a significant pay bump.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission named him Tuesday to lead the the front-line regulator of U.S. accounting firms, a job that pays $673,000 per year. As a key staff member for former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Duhnke has knowledge of financial issues, but he lacks any experience in the auditing profession.

Duhnke will replace James Doty, who has run the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board since 2011. He was named along with J. Robert Brown, Kathleen M. Hamm, James G. Kaiser and Duane M. DesParte, who will serve as board members, the SEC said in a statement. 

“Bill, Jay, Kathleen, Jim, and Duane bring substantial experience to the board and a shared commitment to serve in the interests of our Main Street investors,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. “Their individual and collective talents position the PCAOB to execute its mission effectively in our local, national, and international markets.”

The announcement follows months of SEC wrangling over who would snag the coveted PCAOB posts, some of the highest-paying jobs in financial regulation. As board members, Brown, Hamm, Kaiser and DesParte will be paid $547,000 a year. They will replace Steve Harris, Lew Ferguson and Jeanette Franzel, who are all leaving the board, according to the SEC.

Chinese Companies

Duhnke and the new board members will likely have to deal with a long-running dispute over whether the PCAOB has authority to examine audits of Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Another issue facing the panel is a push by the biggest accounting firms into consulting work, which has raised concerns that auditors could go easy in reviewing companies’ books in order to win more lucrative advisory business.

The new leadership also may revisit some of the tough strictures imposed when the PCAOB was created by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act in response to accounting scandals at Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc.

While the Trump administration has urged financial regulators to ease rules, Clayton has said he’s “not looking for any radical change” in PCAOB oversight. The panel has “done a nice job” setting standards for audit firms, he told reporters at a Washington conference held by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants earlier this month.

Two of the new members have close ties to Big Four accounting firms, which are overseen by the PCAOB. Kaiser has been at PwC for 38 years. DesParte, who is retiring from Exelon Corp., was previously an audit partner at Deloitte. Prior to that he was at Arthur Andersen, the firm that cratered in the wake of a federal indictment involving its audit work for Enron.

Brown is a law professor at the University of Denver and Hamm works at Promontory Financial Group, a consulting firm. Both did stints at the SEC earlier in their careers.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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