PCAOB Installs Former EPA Official as New CFO, Amid Controversy

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Oct 28, 2019

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) has installed Holly Greaves, the former finance chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, as its new CFO, according to Accounting Today

Greaves stepped down from her previous position this past September after just over a year in the job. During her tenure there, Greaves led the EPA's finance team, which included overseeing the budget process, making strategic recommendations, and leading the agency's enterprise risk management efforts.

She did so amid an escalating series of ethics scandals involving her former boss, Scott Pruit, who ultimately resigned last summer. During this time, the EPA's Inspector General's Office critiqued her for overseeing the destruction of notes and documents that were to be audited concerning the department's process of analyzing Security Assessment Reports. 

Reuters noted that Greaves is coming into the PCAOB at a time of significant internal tensions and operational difficulties. Whistleblowers have come forward with reports of a level of internal strife that has affected other operational areas of the board: for instance, the number of PCAOB's audit-inspection reports has dropped by 27 percent this year, and certain senior staff positions, such as  general counsel and enforcement director, have gone unfilled for months (the board has gone 16 months without either in a permanent position). 

This has led to concerns on the part of the whistleblowers that the PCAOB is becoming politicized, as many of the whistleblower's complaints were leveled at the current chair, William Duhnke, who had long been favored by Republicans as a member. Upon his appointment in 2017, he is said to have begun actively pushing out senior leaders, and convincing them to sign nondisparagement agreements in exchange for six months of continued compensation.

The whistleblowers also level the charge that the organization has retaliated against those who objected to the manner in which the terminations were done, such as an associate counsel who expressed concern that the board’s insurance policies required its leaders to consult with legal counsel before dismissing employees, which was not done. She left the agency shortly afterward. 

Adding further fuel to this fire was recent news that board member Kathleen Hamm, who had not yet completed her full term, was to be replaced by a White House aide, Rebekah Goshorn Jurata.  According to the SEC, she will be leading coordination efforts between the board and the SEC's chief accountant, Sagar Teotia. Chairman Jay Clayton said that Jurata "brings significant public service experience, including at the SEC, and a deep understanding of our financial markets, that will complement the skills" of the rest of the PCAOB board members. CFO.com cited corporate compliance expert Matt Kelly as saying that at least part of her appointment could involve being a reliable vote toward softening 404(b) compliance requirements.

Reuters said that, amid all this controversy, the new CFO's appointment is unlikely to quell criticism that the board is becoming a partisan institution. 

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