Big Four Make Big Plans for IFRS

Each of the top-tier firms is, in its own way, getting involved in college curricula for global accounting.

The competition is heating up in the latest Big Four contest: over who will do the most to help the educational system, and corporate clients, prepare for international financial reporting standards.

Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG all claim supremacy in this area, of course. But treading between serious accomplishment and hype, as usual, takes some doing for the independent observer.

The latest competitive round may have begun — in the eyes of business journalists, anyway — with a press release last Thursday from Deloitte announcing the formation of an IFRS “University Consortium.” Working with Ohio State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the accountancy has taken on the task of helping develop college curricula to get caught up in the area of international standards and their relation to generally accepted accounting principles.

Going to the Deloitte website to investigate also connects the reader with
a primer on IFRS and U.S. companies, subtitled “implications of an accelerating global trend.” That publication suggests the outline Deloitte is using with its clients: explaining IFRS and its costs and benefits, and examining next steps for companies.

The thrust of Deloitte’s academic initiative involves an attempt to speed the integration of IFRS into the college curriculum through the drafting of case studies and other course materials involving international accounting standards, and by providing Deloitte personnel as lecturers. Deloitte partner D.J. Gannon notes in the press release that today’s curricula “have scant amounts of IFRS content,” and points out the three- to four-year cycles that apply to most textbooks. Deloitte recognizes a “responsibility to step forward and help academia educate and prepare tomorrow’s accounting professionals to apply this new language of accounting and financial reporting,” Gannon says.

On Friday, a day after the Deloitte program was announced, Ernst & Young was promoting its own “Academic Resource Center” to “develop curriculum and arm faculty members with time-critical learning materials focused on emerging global issues in accounting,” with IFRS at the top of the agenda. An outside public relations representative pitched that story by noting that “Deloitte made a similar announcement yesterday,” but stressing that E&Y’s Resource Center “has significantly more breadth and depth — including funding, focus, and reach.” E&Y, she claimed, had put $1 million into its program, while Deloitte was spending a mere $81,000.

Of course, E&Y also has
an extensive discussion of IFRS on its website, calling the move to international standards “a strategic opportunity.”

Other IFRS initiatives had been percolating for months, however, even if they weren’t quite as well publicized. Accounting expert Jack Ciesielski, on his www.accountingobserver.com blog, wrote after the Deloitte announcement that he was “not aware of IFRS-curriculum building/funding going on with the other three of the Big Four firms,” although he thought it a good idea to develop classroom materials in international standards.

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