(Adds more details from the official announcement, background
on current accounting developments at the SEC)
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON May 15 Paul Beswick, the chief
accountant for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,
plans to leave the agency and return to the private sector, the
SEC announced Thursday.
The SEC said that Beswick, who has worked at the agency
since 2007 in various roles and served as chief accountant since
2012, will stay to help with the transition.
The announcement did not disclose where he plans to go next.
Beswick's planned departure comes at a crucial time for the
SEC, which under SEC chair Mary Jo White has renewed its focus
on accounting policy and enforcement matters.
In addition to pursuing more companies for accounting fraud,
White announced in a speech earlier this year that she hopes to
make it a priority for the commission to review whether to
converge U.S. and international accounting standards.
For years the SEC has grappled with whether to phase out
U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, in favor
of international financial reporting standards (IFRS).
Although most agree that the goal to achieve one uniform set
of robust accounting standards is a good one, many disagree on
how to get there.
Some critics, for instance, say a switch would be too costly
for companies. Others also question whether a move to IFRS would
be better for investors, since IFRS is based on broad principles
and lacks detailed rules.
IFRS is set by the London-based International Accounting
Standards Board, while U.S. GAAP is set by the Connecticut-based
Financial Accounting Standards Board.
Both boards, however, have very different funding and
Those differences have also raised concerns from critics
about whether a move to IFRS is the right decision, and whether
it would dilute the SEC's oversight of its own accounting
Last month, an international body that oversees
standard-setting released a report detailing recent discussions
with White on the topic of converging standards.
Mary Jo White had said she hoped to be able to come back to
the trustees "with some proposals in the next months," said the
April report by the International Financial Reporting Standards
An SEC spokeswoman declined to comment on the contents of
that report after its release.
In his work at the SEC, Beswick has been deeply involved in
reviewing the pros and cons of a move to international
standards, among other things.
His office also is in charge of overseeing the Public
Company Accounting Oversight Board, the regulatory body that
In addition, Beswick has been involved in providing
accounting advice in numerous SEC rulemakings, such as measures
required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and the 2012 Jumpstart Our
Business Startups (JOBS) Act.
Prior to working at the SEC, Beswick was a partner with
Ernst & Young.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Trott, Bernard