Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SEC Seeks PAFs: Jan. 13 Deadline


In case you did not notice the Notice earlier this year in the SEC News Digest, the SEC's Office of the Chief Accountant is now accepting applications for Professional Accounting Fellow (PAF) positions, with an application deadline of Jan. 13, 2010. PAF's generally serve for two years (although some have extended their term, and some have joined permanent staff at the Commission at the conclusion of their PAF-hood.)

As described in the notice included in the Oct. 8, 2009 SEC News Digest:
The PAF program, which began in 1972, is designed to provide participating fellows with outstanding opportunities for public service to investors, personal development, and career advancement. During their fellowship, the successful candidates will be involved in the study and development of rule proposals under the federal securities laws, liaison with accounting, auditing and other professional standard-setting bodies, and consultation with registrants on reporting matters. The Office of the Chief Accountant plans to select up to seven candidates for the following positions:

...up to three candidates with significant experience in the application of U.S. GAAP and/or International Financial Reporting Standards (areas of specialty may include, but are not limited to, accounting topics such as revenue recognition, compensation, business combinations, and financial instruments);

... one candidate with significant experience in performing and reviewing valuations for financial reporting purposes (areas of specialty may include, but are not limited to, business enterprise valuations, financial instruments and other complex securities, along with intangible assets);

...one candidate with significant experience with International Financial Reporting Standards and/or International Standards on Auditing; and

...up to two candidates with significant experience in internal control over financial reporting under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and analyzing and implementing auditing, independence, and/or quality control standards.

Application Requires Essay
The PAF application requires, in addition to completion of specified application forms, "an eight-to-twelve page essay ...on a subject directly related to a current accounting or auditing topic," and the application deadline is Jan. 13, 2010.

Further details about the current PAF program, the required essay, and application process can be found in the notice in the Oct. 8, 2009 SEC News Digest.

Conditions of Appointment
For background only - NOT to be relied upon, here is some background information on "Conditions of Appointment" regarding the PAF program that was posted on the SEC website about the PAF program in Nov. 2002. The information about "Conditions of Appointment" is not addressed in the Oct. 8, 2009 News Digest notice, and you may find it of interest; however, I emphasize, do not rely on info from the Nov. 2002 posting, contact the SEC (contact info is provided in Oct. 8, 2009 News Digest linked above) if you have any questions.

My Two Cents
Full disclosure: As disclosed in my bio linked in the right margin of this blog, (and I remind you of the disclaimer posted there as well), I have worked in the SEC's Office of the Chief Accountant (Dec. 1999-Jan. 2004) and I highly, highly recommend working there, as permanent staff (i.e. regular hire program), or as a PAF (2 year program).

For those of you who are not certain you want to leave the private sector to join the federal government but wish to experience working for the SEC for a specified period of time, the PAF program may be right for you. This is particulary the case if you believe you can bring something of value to the SEC through your experience in the field (note: external auditors and internal finance staff can apply for the PAF program) and likewise, if you believe working at the SEC will help inform your career (and career path) when you return to the private sector.

Perhaps the greatest value in working for the SEC - in addition to learning the nuts and bolts of how the SEC conducts its work from the inside - which can be helpful in learning how to avoid being called into the Commission other than for a friendly roundtable, and in learning how to be most responsive to the Commission when you are back on the outside - may be in how the experience impacts the attitudes of people who go back out into private practice. That is, there is an intangible value to working for the SEC that quite possibly exceeds any tangible value you can ascribe to it.

I encourage others who have worked at the Commission (or anyone who has had an employee serve in the PAF program) to post comments on their experience; you can do so anonymously, or you can provide your name.

UPDATE: An alternate view regarding pros and cons of the PAF program, is that some may view aspects of it as being symbolic of a perceived 'revolving door' syndrome at the SEC. In related news, H.R. 4173, the financial regulatory reform legislation passed earlier this month in the House (which still awaits Senate action, and then conference) includes Section 7414, "Study on SEC Revolving Door." Specifically, Sec. 7414 would require the GAO to conduct a study with respect to SEC employees working for financial institutions after they leave the SEC, including, among other things: "if the volume of employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission who are later employed by financial institutions has led to inefficiencies in enforcement;... if employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission who are later employed by financial institutions have engaged in information sharing or assisted such institutions in circumventing Federal rules and regulations while employed by such Commission...[and] other additional issues as may be raised during the course of the study conducted under this subsection." GAO must submit a report to Congress on this study, within one year of enactment of the law. As noted above, the financial regulatory reform bill is still pending in the Senate. Additional info on H.R. 4173 (particularly on aspects relating to accounting and auditing) can be found in our Dec. 12 post.

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Broc Romanek said...

See my vid on this topic, "How to Get a Job at the SEC":


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