Score one for CPAs as Senate OKs financial reform

Congress OK, we knew financial reform was coming. Given the political and economic climate, it was only a matter of time.

From the profession's point of view, though, it could've been worse -- a lot worse.

By a 59-39 vote, the Senate has passed the most significant financial reform package since the Great Depression. "It calls for new ways to watch for risks in the financial system and makes it easier to liquidate large failing financial firms," according to the Associated Press. "It also writes new rules for complex securities blamed for helping precipitate the 2008 economic crisis, and it creates a new consumer protection agency."

What it doesn't do is include the infamous "Specter amendment," a proposal introduced by outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter that would have imposed civil liability on those who knowingly aided and abetted securities fraud.

That's a terrific victory for the CPA profession because, as we believe, the amendment would have benefited only a handful of trial attorneys without offering any additional protection to the investing public.

In fact, Maryland CPAs played a key role in ensuring the Specter amendment was left out of the final Senate bill. The MACPA's legislative "key person" network was out in full force, making phone calls to their elected officials and letting their voices be heard. Members who attended our town hall meeting in Aberdeen and our Business and Industry Conference helped out as well, making phone calls to their senators from the events in an effort to impact the legislative process.

To those who participated, we offer our heartfelt thanks. You made a huge difference and struck a significant blow on behalf of the profession and those you serve.

In addition, according to WebCPA, "the bill would create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve, instead of the standalone Consumer Financial Protection Agency that is in the version of the bill that was approved by the House last December. Public accountants would be exempted from regulation by either the bureau or the agency."

WebCPA also reports that the bill would amend the Sarbanes-Oxley Act "to authorize the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to share certain information with foreign authorities, and to give the PCAOB the ability to regulate auditors of brokers and dealers."

The AP reports that the bill "must now be reconciled with a House version that passed in December. A key House negotiator predicted the legislation would reach (President) Obama's desk before the Fourth of July."

Stay tuned ... this could get interesting.


Bill Sheridan