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The Independence Standards Board, the regulatory group formed jointly in May 1997 by the American Institute of CPAs and the Securities and Exchange Commission, is proceeding with care as it grapples with the issue of the role of the CPA's independence for attest clients.

But its early deliberations have not been without controversy. Last fall, the AICPA, at the request of the ISB, commissioned a DC-based law firm and other authors to prepare the 322-page monograph, "Serving in the Public Interest: A New Conceptual Framework for Auditor Independence." The paper appears to some to be an early attempt on the part of its sponsors to take control of the process, prior to the ISB having a chance to "get its feet wet." (The eight member ISB is comprised of four members from public accounting, including the AICPA's President Barry Melacon and three managing partners from Big 6 firms, and four members who represent the interests of the public the profession serves.)

At an ISB meeting held last December in New York, the SEC also voiced criticism of the report and a representative from the National Association of State Boards of Public Accountancy who attended the open meeting strongly cautioned that the white paper not be promoted as an ISB publication. Partially in response to this and other criticism, the ISB decided not to widely disseminate the document. The AICPA has posted a downloadable copy on its website (www.aicpa.org).

Other action taken includes the formation of ISB task forces on Corporate Governance, Research, and Disclosure. Stay tuned for more news on the ISB, including an in-depth feature on the white paper in next month's issue of The CPA Journal. *

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