U.S. SEC hires former Deloitte executive as chief accountant

WASHINGTON Tue Aug 26, 2014 12:45pm EDT

WASHINGTON Aug 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission tapped a former Deloitte LLP vice chairman as its new chief accountant, the agency announced on Tuesday.

James Schnurr, who specialized in SEC reporting for public companies at Deloitte, will start in October and replace Paul Beswick, who had been in the job since 2012, the SEC said.

The change comes at a critical time when the agency is deciding whether to allow U.S. companies to move toward international accounting standards.

"His deep knowledge of accounting and auditing standards coupled with his extensive experience interacting with regulators and accounting and auditing standard setters will be invaluable to the commission," SEC Chair Mary Jo White said in a statement.

The international financial reporting standards, known as IFRS, are determined by a London-based board and based more on broad principles than detailed rules. Generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or GAAP, are set by the Connecticut-based Financial Accounting Standards Board.

Most experts agree that U.S. and foreign companies should follow similar accounting standards. But critics of a switch to IFRS say the SEC would give up some oversight of reporting requirements in that scenario.

Staff members at the SEC have in the past raised concerns about "underdeveloped" areas in IRFS, such as accounting for the insurance industry; a divergence in how countries applied the global rules; and a shaky funding mechanism for the international accounting standard setters.

White said earlier this year that deciding whether to make such a change would be an SEC priority.

Schnurr recently retired from Deloitte, where he began his career in 1975. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and received a master of business administration from Rutgers University. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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