The AICPA: Heading South?

The AICPA says it is moving to North Carolina for budgetary reasons. But what does the move say about the association's influence, and relevance, in a post-Sarbox world?


The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is on the move. Starting in August, the association is relocating many functions, including human resources, finance, and publishing, to Durham, N.C. With only about 50 employees — of the 400 positions affected by the move — making the transfer from the AICPA's current offices in New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington, D.C., some are wondering how well the organization will adjust to this latest disruption.

The move comes after a tumultuous period for the group. "The AICPA has gradually lost influence over the past decade," says J. Edward Ketz, associate professor of accounting at the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University. "When the accounting scandals hit in 2002, the [AICPA] leaders were caught flat-footed," Ketz says. "They created a culture that diminished the importance of external audits."

The implosions of Enron and other companies prompted the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the creation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The PCAOB assumed responsibility for setting the standards used to audit public companies — previously the purview of the AICPA. "The AICPA had no political capital during the final debate on Sarbanes-Oxley," says Daniel D. Morris, managing partner with Morris and D'Angelo, a San Jose–based accounting firm.

The move to North Carolina stems from a desire to "do more with members' dues," says Anthony Pugliese, senior vice president of finance and operations at the AICPA, which, with 330,000 members, is the leading professional group for accountants. It makes sense to go where its budget will stretch further, he says. The relocation is expected to save the organization $10 million annually.

Pugliese notes that the AICPA has an effective working relationship with the PCAOB and continues to develop audit standards for privately held firms, nonprofits, and government entities. It also acts as an advocate for the accounting profession. Now, the AICPA management team must ensure that the organization's staff can provide quality service to members while the relocation is under way.

Ups and Downs for the AICPA
10/01Enron announces it is being investigated by the SEC
1/02AICPA members vote against a global credential known as the "Cognitor"
6/02Arthur Andersen found guilty of obstruction of justice in the Enron case
7/02Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed. AICPA loses audit standard setting power to the newly created PCAOB
4/03William McDonough appointed chairman of the PCAOB
10/03AICPA members vote to strengthen CPA ethics enforcement
2/04Barry Melancon elected to a third 5-year term as president and CEO of AICPA
4/04First computerized CPA exam launched
5/05AICPA calls for separate GAAP for private companies
10/05AICPA announces relocation of some operations to Durham, N.C.

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