The New 19th Hole

Are you a retired auditor? The PCAOB wants to share your tee time.

In an advertisement featuring a photo of a golfer sinking a putt, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board issued an appeal in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal for recently retired accounting firm partners to join the regulator as inspectors.

The ad — unusually playful coming from a regulator, much less an accounting regulator — emphasizes that it seeks “highly talented accounting professionals” who would work half the year, part of the time out of their home office. “[T]he rest of the time is yours — for golf, or any of your other favorite activities,” the ad reads.

The ad includes no mention of handicaps — the main qualification required is experience auditing large, publicly traded companies. The offer underscores both the demand for skilled auditors, and the tremendous pool of recently retired auditing and tax professionals from Big Four firms. Retired CPAs from this pool already are highly sought after to serve on boards as financial experts.

Indeed, as CFO.com reported in December , some $80 million of the PCAOB’s $136.4 million budget for 2007 is earmarked for salaries, the majority of which will be used to pay experienced accountants and attorneys to inspect accounting firms. That budget, a 4 percent increase, was unanimously approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year to help the PCAOB compete with the private sector for more accounting help.

At an open meeting of the SEC last month, PCAOB Chairman Mark Olson admitted that recruitment and retention of experienced accountants has been especially tough for the three-year-old organization, which was set up under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act 2002.

The PCAOB plans to grow its inspection staff from 230 employees to 250 by the end of 2007. It also hopes to increase its total number of employees from around 480 at the end of 2006 to 519 by the end of 2007.

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