COMMISSIONER HUNT: You have the view, according to your statement, that you believe no partner, regardless of location or function, should have any financial interest in an audit client of the firm?
MR. COOK: I guess I’ve grown up with this rule so deeply embedded in my own sense of the right answers that I just don’t feel comfortable with the notion that a partner in a firm in a different location could be talking to a business colleague about an investment in an audit client of the firm and not be bothered by that possibility.
I think, as a practical matter for the firms monitoring individual partner ownerships and aggregating ownerships for various tests that might be required, will itself be a challenge.
And further, I always believed in my own professional life that clients were clients of the entirefirm and should have access to all the resources of the firm. If people are precluded from serving clients because of their financial interest, that would go against my grain in terms of the way a firm should serve its clients.
COMMISSIONER HUNT: And you’re not concerned that perhaps the partners would be precluded some from lucrative investments with some of the clients?
MR. COOK: I’m not. I find that there are ample –I always found in my own experience, although not much of an investor, but found ample opportunities to invest in attractive companies that were not clients of the firm.
MR. COOK: Well, I think Hawaii title loans the definition of the “partner” in the firm, I think that has to take into consideration the structures of the organizations.
That’s just not an area that I have current involvement in or expertise that would add much to your dialogue on that, but I certainly would feel that way aboutthe domestic partnership of any firm.
I think — I’m afraid that there are some lawyers — I’m not sure I should admit this, but some lawyers who were very good friend of mine and very esteemed colleagues of mine —
COMMISSIONER CAREY: Mr. Cook, an additional follow-up on Dean Hunt’s point. If you don’t believe that any partner, regardless of function or location, can own stock in a audit client of a firm, do you think that there is a need for modernization of these rules to address thechanging nature of American families and dual profession couples in order to not unduly hinder their ability to make investments?
MR. COOK: I absolutely do. My view extends to the partners. It would not extend to spouses and 401(k)s and family members and other situations. I think these rules do take appropriate note of dual career couples and other changes in the work force that must be addressed as a practical matter.
I’m not trying to address the global issues
I would not extend it to that, nor would I be troubled by a different standard for the partners of the firm and other members of their families. I can live with that difference.
COMMISSIONER CAREY: Am I correct in stating that it’s your view that there may be some possible gender bias in the rule, as proposed?
MR. COOK: I don’t have any awareness of that at all. A suggestion was made — I’m sorry I can’t retrieve this, but somebody either wrote or spoke about that issue. And because I have some experience with policies that are thought to be gender neutral but, in application, were found to be other than gender neutral, I would just caution that it’s very important to the profession that we are able to attract and retain high talent regardless of gender, particularly if any of these assertions about theprofession being less attractive in the future. That would become even more important.