Erica Williams’s tenure as head of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) began Monday, after she was sworn in by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“I am honored to take up this mission and to lead this organization’s dedicated, talented staff,” Williams said in a news release. “Together, we have an extraordinary opportunity to build trust through robust oversight and engagement.”
Williams was appointed PCAOB chair by the SEC in November. She assumes the role from Duane DesParte, who has served as acting chair since June. DesParte will remain a board member.
DesParte replaced former chair William Duhnke III, who was dismissed by SEC Chair Gary Gensler. At the time, the SEC announced its intention to replace the entire five-member board. It later changed its stance regarding DesParte.
Along with Williams, Kara Stein, Christina Ho, and Anthony Thompson were appointed to the PCAOB in November. Stein and Ho were sworn in later that month, and Thompson joined Jan. 3.
Williams’s initial term will run through Oct. 24, 2024, according to the PCAOB. She joins from Kirkland & Ellis, where she was a litigation partner.
Perhaps top of the list of tasks for the newly reconstituted PCAOB to tackle will be to fulfill its responsibilities under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (HFCAA). The law, enacted in December 2020, will kick publicly traded Chinese companies off U.S.-based exchanges if they refuse to allow U.S. regulators—specifically, the SEC and PCAOB—to examine their finances. In November, the SEC approved a process for delisting foreign companies in accordance with the law’s provisions.
The PCAOB issued a report in December 2021 that it is “unable to inspect or investigate completely” registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong because of the position taken by the Chinese government that shields those financial records from review.
The report concluded the new law affects 191 public companies, with a combined global market capitalization (U.S. and non-U.S. exchanges) of approximately $1.9 trillion.
Chinese companies can be removed from U.S.-based exchanges if the PCAOB concludes it cannot access and review their financial statements for three consecutive years, according to the law.