Story of a Fortunate Man: Reminiscences and Recollections
of Fifty-Three Years of Professional Accounting
Maurice E. Peloubet (Edited by Alfred R. Roberts)
E. Peloubet, the son of a prominent accountant, was an influential
accounting professional throughout his 53-year career, which
began in 1911. Peloubet, an outstanding writer, published
many books and articles, making him an ideal witness to this
era of dramatic change in the accounting profession. This
collection of his writings describes interesting assignments
and events from his career and discusses their broader implications.
His book is interesting and historically significant, containing
discussions with policy implications that are relevant to
the contemporary accounting discourse.
Studies in the Development of Accounting Thought, Volume
JAI Press, $93; ISBN: 0762307366
Reviewed by Stephen R. Moehrle
Peloubet was born in the Kenwood area of Chicago’s
South Side, his father worked for Price, Waterhouse &
Company and later became a founding partner of Pogson, Peloubet
& Company. The family moved to East Orange, New Jersey,
and Maurice split his high school years between New Jersey
and Butte, Montana, where the family spent one year so that
the elder Peloubet could be nearer to the operations of
an important client, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.
Peloubet graduated from high school, he began his professional
career with Price Waterhouse just like his father. Peloubet’s
writings from this period provide a vivid description of
the atmosphere in an early-20th-century business office.
Early in his career, he accepted a transfer to Price Waterhouse’s
London office, where the deployment of men in World War
I had depleted the staff. Three points are especially memorable
about Peloubet’s European assignments. First, he provides
a gripping description of how it felt to be a common man
on the streets of London during World War I. Second, he
describes his first encounter with the “base-stock”
inventory method that some European processing and manufacturing
firms of the time were using and that would influence Peloubet’s
later important advocacy of the last-in-first-out (LIFO)
inventory method in North America. Third, Peloubet provides
vivid descriptions of the various cultural and business
norms and practices that distinguished Europe from America.
of the book’s discussions that has relevance to contemporary
accounting thought involves Peloubet’s role in convincing
American and Canadian regulators and executives that the
LIFO inventory method can provide valuable financial reporting
and tax advantages. Peloubet’s fascinating description
of the origin and development of LIFO and dollar-value LIFO,
and the domestic debate, lobbying, and legal battles over
its merits, contains striking parallels with contemporary
accounting policy debates.
was instrumental in the refinement of depreciation policies
and procedures as well. In the 1950s, he and others argued
that, because of the changing value of the dollar, deductions
for depreciation were insufficient. This debate led to the
liberalization of depreciation rates to allow quicker write-offs
of fixed assets. Arguing that the depreciation debate was
not finished, Peloubet called upon accountants, executives,
and economists to develop depreciation methods that ensure
a “full and complete recovery of real capital and
a fully adequate depreciation deduction for taxpayers.”
As a persuasive advocate for LIFO and for accelerated depreciation,
Peloubet worked to create financial reporting and tax benefits
that most companies still enjoy today.
anecdotes include a case study in auditor diligence on behalf
of investors from which contemporary auditors can learn
a great deal. Peloubet also provides an intriguing view
into the back office during one of the first registrations
of securities with the then recently formed SEC. During
World War II, Peloubet served the U.S. Chiefs of Staff,
providing a survey of the civil affairs accounts in the
European theaters of war. This is a fascinating account
of the behind-the-scenes clerical and logistical support
of the war effort.
was an accomplished poet and long-time treasurer of the
Poetry Society of America. The book concludes with several
poems that he wrote that relate to various aspects of his
career and of accounting and finance in general, and these
evocative poems reveal the depth of Peloubet’s intellect
practitioners, academicians, and students will find The
Story of a Fortunate Man to contain valuable wisdom
from one of the most important accountants of the 20th century.
R. Moehrle, PhD, CPA, is an assistant professor in
the accounting department of the College of Business Administration,
University of Missouri, St. Louis.
note: Maurice E. Peloubet was NYSSCPA President in
1950/51; he won the Society’s Distinguished Service
Award in 1966, and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2003.