The World's Most Powerful Accountant Steps Down

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By Jonathan Weil

James Kroeker, the Securities and Exchange Commission's chief accountant, is stepping down from his post next month, the agency said this afternoon. There's no word yet on who will succeed him.

The SEC's chief accountant is the most powerful accountant in the world's largest capital market. And there has been no more important question on his plate than whether the SEC should adopt International Financial Reporting Standards for U.S. publicly held companies. Kroeker's departure probably tables that question until after the November presidential election.

For some perspective, I called my friend and former colleague Lynn Turner, who was SEC chief accountant under former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt. (Disclosure: I used to work for Turner some years ago at an investment-research firm, Glass Lewis & Co.)

"It will likely be some period of time before a new chief accountant is appointed," he said. "And I would not expect the SEC to adopt IFRS prior to that person being in place. You've got five commissioners, none of which have an accounting background whatsoever. It would be highly unusual that they would adopt a rule without having their chief policy adviser on such matters in place."

The possible switch from U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles to the London-based International Accounting Standards Board's rules has been in the works for more than a decade. There's no need to rush.

The SEC didn't say where Kroeker, 42, is going next, only that he will "enter the private sector." Before joining the SEC's staff, Kroeker had been a partner at the Big Four accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. No interim replacement has been chosen yet. Kroeker was named acting chief accountant by former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox in January 2009. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro removed the interim label and named him chief accountant in August 2009.

(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

-0- Jun/20/2012 21:13 GMT