U.S. SEC appoints new chair, board members to accounting body

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday said it appointed Republican Senate lawyer William Duhnke to lead its accounting oversight unit and added four new board members, in a long-anticipated shake-up at the watchdog.

Duhnke, currently staff director and general counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, replaces Jim Doty, chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) since 2011.

At a salary of more than $600,000 a year, according to industry sources, the PCAOB chairmanship is one of the highest-paid jobs in U.S. financial regulation but, unlike many other high-profile roles, does not require confirmation by the Senate.

The SEC also on Tuesday appointed Robert Brown, professor at the University of Denver, Kathleen Hamm of Promontory Financial Group, James Kaiser, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Duane DesParte, senior vice president at Exelon Corporation, to the PCAOB board.

Current board members Steve Harris, Lewis Ferguson and Jeanette Franzel will step down.

The 856-employee PCAOB was created by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom Inc accounting scandal to scrutinize the audits of public companies and broker-dealers to protect investors.

Industry insiders had expected new SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to replace Doty, who had overseen measures criticized by conservative Republicans such as rotating auditors to reduce conflicts and requiring accounting firms to disclose the name of individual partners working on company audits.

Duhnke will have to take on some long-running issues at the body, including a dispute with Chinese regulators over whether PCAOB inspectors can access the records of audits Chinese accounting firms have conducted on Chinese companies listed in the United States.

He will also have to oversee the implementation of new rules requiring auditors to disclose discussions held with companies and information about how the auditor reached conclusions about individual companies, recently approved by the SEC.

Clayton said in a statement he expected the transition to the new board would occur at the beginning of January 2018.

Reporting by Michelle Price; additional reporting by Sarah Lynch; Editing by Cynthia Osterman