More accountants join audit
committees in the US

The number of accountants sitting on audit committee chairs in
the US has risen dramatically in recent years, according to a Huron
Consulting Group report.

In its second annual audit committee research report, based on a
sample of more than 670 audit committee members at 164 public
companies from the NASDAQ 100 and Fortune 100 listings, the number
of audit committee members who were accountants doubled from 6
percent in 2002 to 12 percent in 2006.

“Their power within these committees has also increased, with 23
percent of all committee chairpersons listed as an accountant, up
from less than 10 percent in 2002,” Huron Consulting Group managing
director Maureen Loftus revealed. “But the news is still mixed for
accountants, as they are three times less likely than finance
professionals to sit on an audit committee at all.”

Huron’s report analysed patterns of audit committee composition
over a five-year period, from 2002 to 2006, using information in
companies’ annual proxy statements and disclosures filed with the
US Securities and Exchange Commission.

It found that the number of audit committees with at least one
accountant increased from 21 percent in 2002 to 40 percent in

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Only 22 percent of the designated financial experts had biographies
indicating they had accounting backgrounds in 2006, a minimal
decline from the previous year. The research shows that audit
committee members who are finance professionals exceeded
accountants by less than three to one in 2006, which was down from
five to one in 2002. Audit committee chairs whose biographies
indicated they had accounting backgrounds increased from less than
10 percent in 2002 to 23 percent last year.

Joseph Floyd, vice-president and practice leader for Huron’s
financial consulting practice, said the study indicates accounting
professionals are in high demand by the business world.