The Story of a Fortunate Man: Reminiscences and Recollections of Fifty-Three Years of Professional Accounting

By Maurice E. Peloubet (Edited by Alfred R. Roberts)

Studies in the Development of Accounting Thought, Volume 3

JAI Press, $93; ISBN: 0762307366

Reviewed by Stephen R. Moehrle

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Maurice 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.

When 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.

When 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.

One 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.

Peloubet 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.

Peloubet’s 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.

Peloubet 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 and character.

Accounting 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.


Stephen R. Moehrle, PhD, CPA, is an assistant professor in the accounting department of the College of Business Administration, University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Editor’s 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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