Commentary > Wastler's Wanderings
Fellowship of the Zing
The SEC's new accounting board would never cut it in Middle Earth.
January 10, 2003: 1:39 PM EST

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RIVENDELL (CNN/Money) - In Middle Earth, an accounting crisis looms. A dark evil has risen up, threatening to plunge simple investors into the darkness of false figures and perverse forecasts. Seeking to stomp out the evil before it can take absolute hold, the various kingdoms of men, elves and dwarves create a Fellowship to attack this evil. Called the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, they meet for the first time...

Legless the Elf: Okay, so here we are. First item on the agenda is ...

Gimlet the Dwarf: Hey, why are you leading this? Wasn't that Aragone guy supposed to lead this thing?

Legless: He had to resign, remember? Turns out he served with an army that consorted with the Dark Accounting Lord. Looked very, very bad.

Gimlet: Oh, yeah ...

Legless: Anyway, first item of business, as we prepare to do battle with the Dark Accounting Lord, is how much we get paid.

Gimlet: Hear, hear.

Frono the Hobbit: Huh? We're going into a fierce struggle to protect the innocent investing public from the goblins and monsters of the Dark Accounting Lord, and our first thought is pay? Shouldn't it be about weapons -- what kind of accounting armor or spells we can use to stop evil? Or maybe strategy -- who to attack first? Something for people to take heart from?

Legless: Yeah, sure, we'll get to that. But we really need to know how much we get paid to do this gig first. It's pretty dangerous. And a lot of the evil demons out there are already getting paid more than us. Good talent requires a hefty sum, and I believe we are good talent. So we should get a hefty sum. How about $452,000 a year?

Gimlet: Hear, hear!

Frono: What? That's more than the leader of the free world gets!

Legless: Yeah, well, he can push for his own raise. All in favor? Ah, good, it passes...

Frono: Well, let's at least do something symbolic, so people will be encouraged by our work. How about we adopt a practice that we're going to recommend for the common people. Like changing auditors regularly to protect against the evil of entrenched accounting?

Gimlet: Ah, I dunno. Seems kind of fanciful to ask us to abide by our own rules and principles.

More fantasy? Click Frank

Legless: I agree. So that's voted down. Sorry, Frono, nice try.

Frono: Whatever happened to the higher purpose of public service? To living by your own standards? To setting an example that people can aspire to? Remember what you said about the our original leader "looking bad." Isn't this the same thing?

Legless: Such a romantic. People don't expect us to be heroes. That's only in books and movies.

Frono: Sure, but maybe they'd like us to come close?

For the real report on the real board's first meeting, which isn't far from this tale, click here.  Top of page

Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of CNN/Money and a commentator on CNNfn. He can be e-mailed here.

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