Darden’s Strategic CFO Roundtable Candidly Assesses U.S. Regulatory Environment

Members of the Strategic CFO Roundtable, convened by the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, ranked simplification of financial statements and clarification of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as the top priorities for the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014.

A new report, “Views From the C-Suite,” explores current regulatory trends and how they might impact business and explains the views of former SEC Commissioner Troy Paredes, who addressed the group in January. The report also includes the quarterly survey of Washington-area CFOs’ sentiments on the U.S. economy – which amount to continued optimism. The Darden School’s Institute for Business in Society spearheads this forum.

Paredes, who served at the SEC from 2008 to 2013, was the “Top of Mind” speaker at the roundtable’s January gathering. Prior to his SEC term, he taught at the Washington University School of Law.

Paredes discussed the role of regulation and government today. He explained the challenge of achieving the right balance between conducting business in imperfect markets and using laws and regulations to improve those markets and business conditions. A theme during the Q&A session was the assessment of the cost-benefit analyses of legislation. That conversation began with a look back at the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which Paredes saw as an example of Congress using a one-size-fits-all approach.

He concluded his remarks by contemplating the future of the SEC: “Historically, the SEC has not been a data-focused or economics-focused agency. That’s changing. I stressed from day one at the commission that we needed to get more economists more involved, and that we need to focus on data. I actually think the recent changes at the agency hold a lot of promise.”

Regarding the overall regulatory landscape, Paredes pointed to the increased focus on economics playing a larger role with self-regulatory agencies, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

“Business leaders are still coming to grips with uncertainty in the regulatory environment,” said Darden professor Kenneth M. Eades, faculty director of Darden’s Center for Asset Management. “We hope that visiting speakers, such as Mr. Paredes, can shed some light on policy. The intersection of business and government has never been as important as it is now.”

In 2009, Eades and Jane-Scott Cantus, principal member at ILEX Leadership Associates LLC, established the Strategic CFO Roundtable. In 2013, the roundtable was adopted as an important initiative of the newly launched Darden Institute for Business in Society.

The roundtable members are CFOs at leading publicly traded and private companies representative of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan regional industries, including aerospace/defense, financial services, media, professional services and technology. The Strategic CFO Roundtable participants discuss their responsibilities in asserting influence in the C-suite and board room and on corporate strategy, as well as the impact of financial and corporate strategies on the workforce, shareholders, the national economy and society as a whole.

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