The accounting and auditing profession lost a great leader on Friday, when Ben Neuhausen, National Director of Accounting at BDO Seidman LLP, and former chairman of the AICPA's Accounting Standards Executive Committee (AcSEC), passed away at the age of 59 after a long illness. Earlier in his career Neuhausen was a partner in the Professional Standards Group with Arthur Andersen and a FASB Practice Fellow.
Earlier this year, Neuhausen received an AICPA Special Recognition Award in honor of his outstanding contributions to accounting standard-setting. (See: Neuhausen Recognized for Contributions to Standard-Setting , Journal of Accountancy, June 2009.)
The Voice of Clarity, Common Sense
In a statement issued today, Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO Seidman, said:
“All of us at BDO Seidman are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, Ben Neuhausen. His technical knowledge and high ethical standards were a very valuable resource to our firm. In a time of increasing complexity, Ben was the voice of clarity and common sense."
Although I never met Neuhausen, except perhaps in a large meeting or conference, I found his remarks in testimony at public meetings and in articles he had written to illustrate that he not only had mastered technically complex issues, but also that he was an articulate advocate of -as described by the BDO CEO - clarity and common sense.
Here's an example of Neuhausen's advice, from remarks he made at a May 2, 2008 CIFiR meeting. (NOTE: Neuhausen was among various experts invited to testify to CIFiR on particular topics at special roundtables convened by CIFiR in addition to their regular meetings.) Neuhausen's remarks below are excerpted from Panel Tesifying to CIFiR Split on Role of Non-Authoritative Guidance (FEI Summary, May 2, 2008):
“I think non-authoritative guidance is a symptom of complexity in the authoritative standard… preparers and practitioners want the guidance because they find the authoritative standards very hard to read, very hard to understand, very hard to apply, and they want non-authoritative guidance to help them apply the standards. If there is a problem with non-authoritative guidance, the solution lies in simplifying the authoritative standards, not in trying to reduce the number of people issuing non-authoritative guidance."
Also at the May 2, 2008 CIFiR meeting, Neuhausen noted that he concurred with an observation made by Linda Bergen of Citigroup about the comment letter process, in which she noted that at times, comment letters raise concerns which were previously considered by FASB during development of the proposed standard, but FASB sometimes appeared to conclude that "no new points were raised, let’s proceed to the final standard." (Note: I have heard FASB staff tell the board that 'no new points were raised' that had not been previously considered, therefore no further deliberation was necessary on a particular point raised in comment letters.)
Neuhausen stated at the May 2, 2008 CIFiR meeting:
“We [BDO] cited in our comment letter [to CIFiR] a number of cases where the FASB has significantly revised or deferred provisions in newly issued standards and we think in many of those cases, those issues were raised in the comment letters; it’s just that somehow the importance of the comment or significance of the issue wasn’t recognized when the standard was issued - it only became clear after the final standard came out. Somehow, a better process of analyzing those comment letters would have picked up on some of these issues on a more timely basis.”
Note: a more positive view on the FASB's handling of comment letters was expressed by Jeff Mahoney, general counsel of the Council of Institutional Investors and formerly counsel to the FASB chair, as noted in the FEI summary of the CIFiR meeting.
Articles by and about Neuhausen
I'm sure there are many articles written by and about Neuhausen, a couple are listed below (readers: feel free to post a comment with links to additional material):
The Standard-Bearer: Chairman Examines AcSEC's Changing Role and the Progress of International Convergence, (Journal of Accountancy, August 2008). In this article, Neuhausen responds to the interviewer's question about his receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer late in 2007. Neuhausen said:
"While I am feeling good, it is likely that tougher days lie ahead. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers, and the long-term survival rates are not good. For now, I savor every day and am grateful for the strength to fill my roles as parent and as partner. If and when my condition worsens, I feel confident that I’ll continue to receive incredible support from my firm and the entire profession."
BDO CEO Weisbaum, in the statement issued today, said of Neuhausen:
"One of our most respected partners, his high professional standards served as a beacon for all of our professionals to follow.”
My sympathies to Neuhausen's family, friends and colleagues, and my wishes that his influence as a beacon continue to light all our paths.
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