Accounting board has a new chairman

Published June 20, 2006

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Gov. Mark W. Olson has been named chairman of the independent board overseeing the accounting industry that arose from the 2002 corporate scandals, it was announced Monday.

Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, appointed Olson to the position. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, as the agency is called, has been without a permanent head since William McDonough resigned late last year.

Olson, 63, has been with the central bank since December 2001. He previously was staff director of a Senate Banking subcommittee and a partner in the major accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Congress created the board to replace the accounting industry's own regulators amid the wave of business scandals, giving it subpoena power and the authority to discipline accountants.

The corporate fiascos that began with Enron Corp. exposed inadequate internal financial controls at major companies and auditors who had become too cozy with the corporations whose books they examined.

The board's operations are funded by fees on public companies according to their size - as much as $1.3-million a year for the biggest.

The board had a rocky start in a controversy over the selection of its first chairman, former FBI Director William Webster, by then-SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt.

Pitt resigned in November 2002, after it became known that he had not informed the other SEC commissioners that Webster had headed the audit committee of a company that later came under investigation for fraud and that he had fired the company's outside auditors. Webster resigned as chairman of the oversight board.