New survey reveals overwhelming criticism of AICPA's ABV change

BVWireIssue #190-2
July 18, 2018

business valuation accrediting organizations
AICPA, business valuation profession, valuation certification

The vast majority (94%) of almost 2,000 respondents to a survey say they disagree with the AICPA’s decision to open up the ABV credential to non-CPAs (see prior coverage). The respondents include mostly ABV credential holders but also CPAs without the ABV as well as other stakeholders. A breakdown of the responses can be found in the charts below.

Dilution is biggest worry: The survey allowed respondents to comment, and the most prevalent remark by far is that it is felt that the change will dilute both the CPA and ABV brands and put the AICPA’s high ethical and professional standards at risk. Many respondents say they’ve worked very hard to achieve the CPA and ABV credentials and feel betrayed by the change that will allow non-CPAs to “piggyback on our good name,” said one respondent.

Other comments centered around the public confusion they feel will result and that the move appears to be a blatant “money grab” by the AICPA. “The AICPA literally has the letters ‘CPA’ in the acronym,” pointed out one respondent. “ABVs that are not CPAs, but carry an AICPA endorsed accreditation, would likely be assumed to be CPAs by the public, despite not having the appropriate training, skill, and exam results to earn the CPA designation.” Others feel that the AICPA is evolving into more of a profit-making business and away from being a member-focused organization. Said one: “Bottom line: You know why you did this: to boost revenue. We all know it and are extremely upset.”

Some supporters: A small percentage (6%) of respondents agree with the AICPA’s decision, saying that a CPA designation is not necessary to provide quality business valuations. Some respondents say they welcome “well qualified” non-CPAs as members, which will help the AICPA become the global leader in this area.

On both sides, however, a common criticism is that the change should not have been approved“ behind closed doors” with respondents calling the decision process “disappointing” and “sneaky.” They feel that the change should have been announced to the membership and their positions considered.

During an AICPA webcast this past Monday (July 16), Thomas E. Hilton (Anders), an ABV and AICPA Hall of Fame member, speaking personally, said that the AICPA should have taken an “extra step” in communicating the proposed change to its members. Eva Simpson, the AICPA’s director of valuation services, acknowledged this, saying the organization “could have done better in making sure people were aware of the changes.” She also noted that the process would be improved in the future. Hilton, who supports the change, “implored” his fellow members to look beyond the passionate and emotional response and support the move going forward. Other participants on the webcast were Annette Stalker (Stalker Forensics) and Bethany Hearn (CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP). You can listen to an archive recording of the webcast if you click here (registration required).

The survey was conducted by prominent CPA/ABV members who signed an Open Letter to the AICPA criticizing the decision. They reached out to the approximately 3,200 ABV credential holders as well as other stakeholders. You can see the full results from the survey, including all of the comments, if you click here.

Please let us know if you have any comments about this article or enhancements you would like to see.