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PCAOB Spells Confusion for Accounting Board

May 17, 2003|E. Scott Reckard | Times Staff Writer

The new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board hardly has a place to sit yet, but it's already facing a stand-up brawl with a Huntington Beach certified public accountant who registered the board's unwieldy abbreviation -- PCAOB -- for his commercial Internet site.

Accountant Karl D. Nagel started www.pcaob.com July 16, two weeks before President Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which created the accounting oversight board in response to corporate scandals. Nagel also registered the domain name www.pcaob.org, although he's never used it for a Web site.

Nagel said Friday that he wanted to emulate Web sites that provide access to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Along with links to the text of Sarbanes-Oxley and related news articles, his site sells copies of a book he wrote about complying with the law, and he plans to create a database of filings by accountants and their companies that he hopes investors and job recruiters will pay to search.

The accounting board has other ideas. Nagel said a lawyer helping the board set up wrote him April 14 claiming that he was "infringing on their marks" and threatening legal action.

The panel filed for a trademark on "PCAOB" in March, contending the first commercial use of the abbreviation was when the Sarbanes-Oxley bill was introduced in Congress on June 25 -- three weeks before Nagel's site opened.

Acting PCAOB Chairman Charles Niemeier told Bloomberg News that the board wanted the Web addresses so people seeking PCAOB information would not be confused.

The board now uses www.pcaobus.org as its Web address. Nagel proposes letting the board have his second domain, www.pcaob.org, while he keeps the dot-com variant.

The dispute is occurring as the PCAOB is still in its start-up phase. Spokeswoman Christi Harlan said furnishings at the board's offices two blocks from the White House were so hard to come by that employees frequently must go searching to reclaim chairs borrowed by colleagues. She wouldn't discuss whether the panel will take Nagel's offer or take him to court.

"That's not a legal strategy I'm going to be expounding on right now," she said.

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