Five Questions with Jim Peterson of Re:Balance

We’re going to be frank; Jim Peterson is a cerebral guy. When you read his posts over at Re:Balance you never get the impression that he just rolls out of bed after a night in Wrigleyville and pounds out a post. His blogging can turn your head in knots and we think that’s a good thing.

Jim is an attorney that has spent “thirty-five years on complex multi-national matters involving corporate financial information.” He spent 19 years as in-house counsel and partner at a national accounting firm working on policy and risk management strategies.

He also spent five-plus years penning “Balance Sheet” a column for the International Herald Tribune. He now spends his time teaching risk management to MBA candidates at DePaul University in Chicago and ISEG in Paris.


Are you a CPA – Y/N?:
I am not a CPA – frequently mistaken for one, but only by those who miss the evidence that a “words guy” is on the loose in a numbers business.

If someone had to read just one post of yours which one would it be?
From May 17, 2009: “Which Accounting Firm Will Be ‘Next to Fail?’ It’s the Wrong Question” – an attempt to capture in a single post my central theme, which is the threatened survivability of the large-firm assurance franchise, the perilous condition of the Big Four business model, and the absence of real dialog on achievable solutions short of their catastrophic disintegration.

Bloggers on accounting are…
By and large driven by an instinct for the capillary. I happily give respect to those focused on the technical and operational minutia – although they are mainly keeping the deck chairs neatly arrayed on the deck of a sinking ship.

Favorite non-accounting blog…
The Soay Sheep Chronicles – by a retired couple, a big-city lawyer and an academic, who rescued and now operate a sheep farm in Oregon. Writes rings around Verlyn Klinkenborg’s pastorals in the NY Times, and teaches those of us ignorant of the subject about the opportunities for personal life-change and renewal. Full disclosure: the author is my sister.

Best accounting firm we’ve never heard of…
Financial Reporting Advisors, LLC – A Chicago boutique — alumni of the Arthur Andersen professional standards group – with a business model beautifully adapted to the hazards of today’s practice. They do no audit work, and issue no opinions. They advise global-scale companies on the intricacies of accounting standards, literature and requirements – while leaving ultimate decision-making to reside with their clients.

So they deliver wisdom and value, with virtually no litigation exposure. Their practice is one example of the available ways the profession might re-engineer its way out of the presently untenable survivability tensions in which it is entangled.

We’re going to be frank; Jim Peterson is a cerebral guy. When you read his posts over at Re:Balance you never get the impression that he just rolls out of bed after a night in Wrigleyville and pounds out a post. His blogging can turn your head in knots and we think that’s a good thing.

Jim is an attorney that has spent “thirty-five years on complex multi-national matters involving corporate financial information.” He spent 19 years as in-house counsel and partner at a national accounting firm working on policy and risk management strategies.

He also spent five-plus years penning “Balance Sheet” a column for the International Herald Tribune. He now spends his time teaching risk management to MBA candidates at DePaul University in Chicago and ISEG in Paris.


Are you a CPA – Y/N?:
I am not a CPA – frequently mistaken for one, but only by those who miss the evidence that a “words guy” is on the loose in a numbers business.

If someone had to read just one post of yours which one would it be?
From May 17, 2009: “Which Accounting Firm Will Be ‘Next to Fail?’ It’s the Wrong Question” – an attempt to capture in a single post my central theme, which is the threatened survivability of the large-firm assurance franchise, the perilous condition of the Big Four business model, and the absence of real dialog on achievable solutions short of their catastrophic disintegration.

Bloggers on accounting are…
By and large driven by an instinct for the capillary. I happily give respect to those focused on the technical and operational minutia – although they are mainly keeping the deck chairs neatly arrayed on the deck of a sinking ship.

Favorite non-accounting blog…
The Soay Sheep Chronicles – by a retired couple, a big-city lawyer and an academic, who rescued and now operate a sheep farm in Oregon. Writes rings around Verlyn Klinkenborg’s pastorals in the NY Times, and teaches those of us ignorant of the subject about the opportunities for personal life-change and renewal. Full disclosure: the author is my sister.

Best accounting firm we’ve never heard of…
Financial Reporting Advisors, LLC – A Chicago boutique — alumni of the Arthur Andersen professional standards group – with a business model beautifully adapted to the hazards of today’s practice. They do no audit work, and issue no opinions. They advise global-scale companies on the intricacies of accounting standards, literature and requirements – while leaving ultimate decision-making to reside with their clients.

So they deliver wisdom and value, with virtually no litigation exposure. Their practice is one example of the available ways the profession might re-engineer its way out of the presently untenable survivability tensions in which it is entangled.

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