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Expansion of ABV Credential Stirs Controversy

by Tony Montanaro
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Destructive competition

The AICPA is facing backlash for its recent decision to expand eligibility for its Accredited in Business Valuation (“ABV”) credential to non-CPAs. The dispute started on May 25, 2018, when a page on the AICPA’s website titled “ABV Credential Eligibility Expanded to Qualified Finance Professionals” was published. Prior to this announcement, the nearly 3,200 current ABV credential holders were not made aware that such a change was even being considered by the AICPA, let alone asked for any input on the decision.


Response from Industry Leaders


The lack of transparency and exclusion of the primary stakeholders in the decision generated an immediate response from prominent CPAs critical of what they perceive as a devaluation of the ABV credential. The argument against the change was presented in an Open Letter dated June 18, 2018 written by Michael Crain CPA/ABV, CFA, CFE and co-signed by over 30 leaders in the valuation profession. This letter laid out the case against the AICPA, arguing that the change devalues the credential by changing its fundamental purpose – as a “distinctive mark of excellence” awarded exclusively to CPAs. They also argued that the change would not be in the interest of the public, since non-CPAs would not be subject to the same rigorous competency and integrity requirements as CPAs. Opponents to the change are seeking an immediate suspension of the decision, a modification to the internal process to approve any future changes to the ABV credential, and the creation of a separate valuation credential for non-CPA if the AICPA still wants to proceed.


AICPA Rebuttal and Continuing Dispute


The AICPA has attempted to defend its decision-making process, publishing a letter arguing that it followed its process in making the change and presented a timeline illustrating the process. Opponents quickly pointed out flaws in the process and numerous errors in the published timeline. In addition, a survey of 1,406 ABV credential holders conducted by the business valuation trade publication, BVWire, showed that 94% are opposed to the change. Prominent industry leaders have called for a boycott of the AICPA’s annual Forensic and Valuation Conference to be held in Atlanta this November.
In the face of what appears to be overwhelming opposition from its members, the AICPA has shown no indication of backing down from its decision. In an article published today in the Wall Street Journal, Susan Coffey the AICPA executive vice president of public practice, stated that they have already “begun the process of providing the ABV credential to non-CPAs”.

 

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