Washington, D.C., Aug. 14, 2003 Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William H. Donaldson today announced the appointment of Donald T. Nicolaisen as the Commission's Chief Accountant. Mr. Nicolaisen will oversee the Commission's accounting policy initiatives and lead the SEC's efforts with national and international standard-setters on critical accounting and auditing issues, including international convergence and efforts to adopt principles-based accounting standards. Mr. Nicolaisen will also work closely with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to ensure that auditors adhere to the highest business and ethical standards.
Mr. Nicolaisen is currently a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), where he has held a wide range of management and leadership positions since joining the firm's predecessor, Price Waterhouse (PW), in 1967. Between 1988 and 1994, he led PW's national office for accounting and SEC services. During that time, he was also a member of the Emerging Issues Task Force of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). He later chaired PW's financial services practice for broker-dealers, investment banking, mutual funds, banking, insurance and real estate.
SEC Chairman Donaldson said, "Throughout his distinguished career, Don has been a powerful agent of change whose leadership has helped identify, build consensus around and accomplish strategic objectives toward high quality corporate financial reporting and disclosure. I am confident that Don's experience, expertise and enthusiasm will greatly benefit the Commission and the investing public."
Mr. Nicolaisen said, "This is an extremely challenging time for the accounting profession and the nation's financial reporting system, but these challenges provide a fantastic opportunity to improve financial disclosure and help rebuild investor confidence. I am delighted to join the SEC at this critical juncture and look forward to serving America's investors."
Since his election to PW's board of partners in 1994, Mr. Nicolaisen has served on PW's international board, and PwC's global and international boards. He helped lead the merger of PW and Coopers & Lybrand to become PwC, and participated in the firm's decision to exit its consulting business. Mr. Nicolaisen currently is the firm's engagement and global relationship partner for Prudential Financial, Inc.
Mr. Nicolaisen, 59, who will join the Commission in late September, received his B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, and has been a Certified Public Accountant since 1969. He and his wife, Sandie, have three children.
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It is my pleasure to announce and present to you this morning our choice for this most important position: Chief Accountant at the SEC.
Donald Nicolaisen has had a distinguished 36-year career in the accounting profession. A senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Don has a keen understanding of the industry, how it is adjusting to the changes of the past year, and areas where reform may still be needed. Don has held a wide range of management and leadership positions since joining PricewaterhouseCoopers's predecessor, Price Waterhouse, in 1967. From 1988 to 1994, he led Pricewaterhouse's national office for accounting and SEC services. Also during that time, he served as a member of the Emerging Issues Task Force of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Later, he chaired Pricewaterhouse's financial services practice for broker-dealers, investment banking, mutual funds, banking, insurance and real estate.
Don will join the SEC with several key objectives already on his plate:
Throughout his distinguished career, Don has been a powerful agent of change whose leadership has helped identify, build consensus around and accomplish strategic objectives toward high quality corporate financial reporting and disclosure. I believe Don is particularly well-suited to hold this post. His experience, expertise and enthusiasm will greatly benefit the Commission and the investing public.
On behalf of the Commission and staff, I want to welcome Don. We are extremely pleased to have attracted a man of his caliber and experience for this very important position. I salute you for your willingness to serve.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm proud to be here today and honored to have been offered this position at such a challenging time. With the enactment of Sarbanes-Oxley and the President's Plan to Improve Corporate Responsibility, this is a unique opportunity to make a real difference by fostering an environment where integrity and ethical behavior are paramount, and by ensuring accountability and vigorous enforcement of the accounting and auditing rules.
I look forward to working with Chairman Donaldson, Commissioners Atkins, Campos, Glassman, and Goldschmid, the SEC division heads, Bill McDonough and the other PCAOB board members, the FASB under Bob Herz's leadership, and most importantly the staff in the Chief Accountant's Office. This is a team of extraordinarily qualified and talented people, and I am honored to join them.
I also look forward to working with accounting standard setters around the world. This is a critical juncture in the evolution of financial reporting.
When I started in this profession, back in Milwaukee 36 years ago, accounting firms and the majority of the people who went to work for them were committed to auditing as their life's work. The firms greatly expanded their service offerings since then. But, I saw it then, as I do now, that auditing, and its inherent responsibility to the investing public, is the function which defines the profession. Additional restrictions on auditor independence were needed, and Sarbanes-Oxley and the subsequent SEC rules on auditor independence have appropriately dealt with this issue. I feel passionately that the accounting profession must continue to raise the standards for audit quality and ethical behavior.
Today, in accepting the position of SEC Chief Accountant, I am taking on an important new challenge in my life, and it's a challenge I relish. I look forward to advancing the Commission's agenda, which includes driving the changes necessary to ensure investor protection. And that means holding people accountable for their actions. I will enforce the law and demand that people act with integrity and ethics. As a regulator, I will ensure that investor interests are put above the interests of all others. Whatever amount of reform or action is needed toward that end is what I will work with the Commission to bring about. At the same time, I hope to work with the Commission to anticipate and head-off problems before they snowball into a crisis. This is especially important given events in the last two years.
I especially look forward to developing and promoting the staff in the Chief Accountant's Office, strengthening the working relationship between the Chief Accountant's Office and other Divisions in the SEC, and hiring new talent to augment the already exceptional group.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The Board has accomplished much in the last few months, and I am confident that under Bill's leadership, it will be successful in restoring investor confidence and the quality of auditing.