Alumnus Takes Students Behind the Curtain of Accounting Regulation
April 17, 2014
"If I had to do it all over again, I'd be glad to be in your shoes at this great university," remarked Isenberg accounting graduate BrianCroteau '94 to accounting students during his campus visit on April 8th. "Considering the accounting profession's importance to capital markets and investors, you're going to have phenomenal opportunities for career growth," he observed. Croteau is Deputy Chief Accountant of at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Professional Practice Group in its Office of the Chief Accountant.
He is also the key point person in the SEC's oversight of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which watches over the audits of public companies. Created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 in the wake of the Enron scandal, the board insures that audit reporting is informative, accurate, and independent. In his multiple roles, Croteau also manages the resolution of auditor independence issues and ethical matters. And he monitors audit and independence standard-setting internationally.
During his hour-long talk, Croteau described the SEC's anatomy and its accounting-related activities. He explained PCAOB priority projects like improving the timeliness and readability of inspection reports, identifying measures that enhance audit quality, and making PCAOB inspection findings more useful. He discussed the importance of internal controls in financial reporting, the growing influence of fair-value measurements, and the critical role of transparency in both financial reporting and in PCAOB's own activities. And he noted issues surrounding lax reporting associated with crowd funding.
Skepticism and Career Advice. "My advice to students and young auditors is to exercise skepticism in your work," emphasized Croteau. That habit of mind, he said, may prove challenging to acquire, but it is critical for dissecting and evaluating accounting information. "I also recommend that you think early on about the assignments that will help you grow and where you want to go next in your career. Manage your own career and its opportunities; bring your full game, and regularly consider your future."
In his own career, Croteau has followed that advice. After graduating from Isenberg, he joined PricewaterhousCoopers (PwC) [then Coopers & Lybrand] first in Springfield, later in in Hartford, where he audited public and private firms for ten years. (He had excelled in an internship with the firm the previous summer.) In 2004, he left the firm for the SEC, where as Associate Chief Accountant, he helped establish the PCAOB. Before joining the SEC, Croteau, recognizing the unique opportunity at hand but well on track to achieving partner status at PwC, got timely advice from mentor and senior PwC partner Paul Kelliher '74 '75 MBA, who had originally hired him out of Isenberg: "You've got to do this, Brian," Kelliher recommended. With three years at the SEC under his belt, Croteau returned to PwC as a partner in its national office from 2007-2010. After that, he rejoined the SEC in his current role.
At the talk, Croteau was introduced with affection and panache by Kelliher, who now teaches accounting at Isenberg. Seated in the front row, a second VIP from Croteau's past, Isenberg accounting professor Richard Simpson received resounding praise from the visitor. "Professor Simpson--he truly made a difference in my career," Croteau told the students.