WASHINGTON, D.C., January 21—With the profession under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Enron scandal, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has retained the Weiser Group—a Chicago firm specializing in the financial services industry—to handle both media relations and public affairs related to the integrity of the auditing process and proposed regulatory changes.
Weiser Group was selected after the institute spoke with several public relations firms, and will report to senior vice president of public affairs John Hunnicutt. It will work closely with the Washington office of New York public relations firm Clark & Weinstock, which was hired to handle lobbying.
In addition to its general expertise in the financial services sector, Weiser has worked with Big Five accounting firm Deloitte for several years, and worked on a coalition of accounting firms on auditor independence issues. Headquartered in Chicago, the firm has long maintained an office in New York and recently opened in Washington, D.C.
The account will be led by agency president Michael Weiser, who says he is particularly excited to be working for AICPA because “my father was a practicing CPA, and nothing was more important to him than his professional reputation.” Weiser will be assisted by Jeff Zilka, who handles crisis management assignments, and Joy Howell, who was hired away from her position as head of public affairs for the Federal Communications Commission to be head of Weiser’s new Washington office.
“There is a strong sense that maintaining the public trust and the reputation of the profession is fundamental to the future of accounting and the capital markets system,” says Weiser. “The AICPA is strongly motivated to be certain that this situation does not taint the whole of the auditing profession or diminish the public trust. The vast majority of audits done every year are done without any restatements or any impropriety.”
In a letter to members last week AICPA president Barry Melancon said the group was “diligently working to improve the profession's peer review and disciplinary process as it relates to auditors of SEC registrants. Our objectives are to include public participation and increase transparency, effectiveness, and timeliness.”