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COSO Names New Chairman

COSO has named the chief audit executive of Georgia-Pacific Corp., Paul Sobel, as its next chairman, who already says one of his likely priorities will be offering more guidance on how companies can put COSO risk and control frameworks to better use.

Sobel has been head of audit at Georgia-Pacific since 2011, and was head of audit at Mirant Corp. (an energy business now part of NRG Energy) for eight years before that. He’s also been an active member of the Institute of Internal Auditors for years, serving on the IIA board for 16 years, including one year as IIA chairman.

“It is an honor and privilege to be selected as COSO’s new chairman,” Sobel said in a statement from the IIA. “I have been actively involved in the latest developments with the committee to help organizations across the globe improve their risk management, governance, and controls in our collective effort to deter corporate fraud.”

More telling was a comment Sobel gave to Accounting Today after his appointment was announced earlier this morning:

“I think we’re transitioning into a period where I’m not sure we’ll see another large framework per se. You never know. This is a three-year term, and things could happen. But I think it’s more likely it will be a focus on expanding thought leadership and guidance relating to those areas, as well as fraud and possibly governance as part of the COSO mission.”

The large frameworks Sobel mentioned are COSO’s frameworks for internal control (rolled out in 2013) and enterprise risk management (rolled out in 2017). Both were exhaustive updates of earlier versions — and while useful, they’re big honking compendiums of guidance. The more supplementary material Sobel wants to publish to help compliance, audit, and risk officers use those frameworks smartly, the better.

Sobel succeeds Bob Hirth, who served as COSO chair since 2013. Hirth led the charge to overhaul COSO’s ERM framework, and now is a board member of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board trying to nudge corporations to more disciplined attention on sustainability matters.

Hirth deserves a round of thanks for his service, since he could make gobs more money spending all his time on his day job as senior managing director at Protiviti. The volunteer efforts of people like him, Sobel, and others is what makes the GRC world go round.

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