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Accounting Forum Treats Attendees to Hot Topics and High Profile Keynote Speaker

By Bob Woods

James R. Doty, chairman, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, served as the event's keynote speaker.

Casual business attire was the costume de jour at the University of Miami’s inaugural Accounting CPE Forum held on Halloween. Nary a superhero, ghost or goblin was spotted among the nearly 100 attendees gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel  on Brickell in Miami for the all-day event, a high-profile addition to the Accounting department’s Continuing Professional Education program.

The Forum was planned to coincide with the University’s Homecoming Weekend, an ideal occasion to bring together accounting experts and leaders with the department’s alumni, faculty, students and local professionals. “The event was a perfect opportunity for the University, the School of Business, and the Department of Accounting to make an impact within the South Florida business community and engage leaders in the industry,” says Diana Falsetta, an associate professor in the department and co-organizer of the Forum. Adds her counterpart, Maggie Alvarez, a lecturer and program manager in the department: “The collaboration allowed panels of experts and individual speakers to discuss hot topics and current issues confronting the profession.”

The School’s dean, Eugene Anderson, warmed up the crowd before introducing the keynote speaker, James R. Doty, chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), a nonprofit corporation established by Congress in 2002 to oversee the audits of public corporations. Doty, a former General Counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—which appointed him to a five-year term in 2011—spoke about the PCAOB’s current standard-setting agenda. Tailoring his address to both the accounting practitioners and academics in the audience, Doty offered further insights in a lively question-and-answer period.

Falsetta and Alvarez worked closely with the Department of Accounting  chair Sundaresh Ramnath to develop the agenda for the Forum, including the selection of the invited speakers. “Most of them have an affiliation with the University and several serve on the Accounting Advisory Board,” Falsetta explains. “The contributions made by those individuals, our Advisory Board members and the firms they represent were instrumental to the Forum’s success.” She and Alvarez also laud their colleague Kay Tatum, associate professor of Accounting, for securing Doty as the keynoter, as well as the Forum’s numerous sponsors whose generous financial contributions proved invaluable.

The first of the day’s five sessions evidenced the timeliness and relevance of the Forum. Entitled “Employer’s Reporting Obligations Under the Affordable Care Act,” it piqued plenty of interest as it was presented by Mary Gorman, a member of Ernst & Young’s Indirect Employment Tax Practice in Baltimore. After generally explaining which employers are subject to the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, and their reporting requirements—including a review of the IRS forms to be filed—Gorman fielded a variety a pertinent questions.


Next up was a panel discussion that clarified the new Revenue Recognition Standard that will impact accounting reports at certain public companies and nonprofit organizations beginning after December 15, 2016. Moderated by UM associate professor of Accounting Oscar Holzmann, the panel featured Henry Pujol (BBA ’89), Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; Jose Alvarez (BBA ’00), Chief Financial Officer at Costa Farms; and David Barr, a partner in the Department of Professional Practice at KPMG. 

The morning sessions concluded with a pair of Distinguished Alumni and Faculty Presentations, first from Bill Pruitt (BBA ’66), president of Pruitt Enterprises, LP, and who worked at Arthur Anderson for 33 years. He was followed on the dais by Lawrence Phillips, Professor Emeritus of Accounting at the School, who recalled his academic and research pursuits around tax policies.

After lunch, two partners from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Stephen Nesi and Ravi Rao, provided an update of what’s happening at the SEC. They covered the federal commission’s current leadership and organizational structure, its latest enforcement and regulatory policies, its restatement and revision trends, and items that individuals and companies should consider in responding to SEC comment letters.

“Internal Audit Issues” was the Forum’s other panel topic. Moderator Jorge Salgueiro, the National Telecom Sector Leader for the AERS-Advisory practice at Deloitte, presided over the discussion among a trio of subject matter experts: Adair Barton, Vice President of Internal Audit at Dycom Industries; Alex Domenech, Manager of IT Internal Audit at NextEra Energy; and Tom Rothrock, Vice President of Internal Audit at Mastec.

“Both panel discussions went over very well,” Maggie Alvarez reports, describing them more as casual conversations than formal presentations. “The moderators were animated and brought out the personalities of the panelists, even though they were discussing technical topics.” 

The same could be said for the final session, “Tax Update and Global Tax Policy,” during which Leo Chomiak (MSTX ‘86), an international tax partner at Grant Thornton, made a mundane topic sound interesting. He discussed the current state of various federal tax provisions, the controversy swirling around corporate inversions, and the ongoing debate over tax reform.

Ramnath wrapped up the day’s proceedings, then ushered the assemblage into a cocktail reception, where instant feedback assured Falsetta and Alvarez that the event had been a success. “Participants said that they really enjoyed the content and the presenters,” Alvarez says. Similarly positive sentiments were echoed by the attending CPAs who were required to evaluate each session in order to receive six CPE credits. “We also received numerous emails afterwards,” Falsetta says, “with comments like ‘great event,’ ‘exceptionally high-level presenters,’ and ‘can’t wait until next year.’”

To that end, the Forum’s Committee of Falsetta and Alvarez are already hard at work on the 2015 Accounting CPE Forum. “Our vision and strategy are to brand the Forum throughout the local accounting community,” Falsetta concludes. "Five years from now, we want this to be the premier event that everybody can’t wait to attend,” adds Alvarez.

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