Who really runs the UK accountancy profession?

In an extraordinary move, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered PricewaterhouseCoopers’ London-based global head of mergers and acquisitions to move his office and home at least 500 miles away from the nearest PwC office. Unable to do so without relocating to the middle of the Atlantic or the Gobi desert, he has been forced to quit.

His ‘crime’ is to have married the sister of the financial controller of Reuters, one of PwC’s US audit clients. The SEC justifies its action as part of its crusade to stamp out conflicts of interest.

US legislators routinely pass extra-territorial legislation seeking to control individuals and companies across the globe. But the SEC’s current campaign against PwC is part of a deeply worrying trend.

As the debate over global accounting standards drags on, the worst nightmare of those who fear US domination appears to be coming true. Just before Christmas, a senior SEC official uttered a phrase many have dreaded. He told a top UK accountant: ‘We already have a set of international standards – it’s called US GAAP.’

With accounting and ethical standards set in Washington, what price a UK qualification in the 21st century?

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