'Fairness Opinion' Expertise Sought in N.Y.

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New York and New Jersey CPAs with fairness opinion expertise are in hot demand. Just what's driving the boom, and what skill sets are needed to get into this growing area of accounting?

New York City and the surrounding region is a hotbed of corporate transactions. With federal regulations and investor scrutiny increasing, accountants who can offer a fairness opinion - or an unbiased professional opinion on a financial deal - are needed. As third parties, they can also offer advice and expertise, especially when companies are concerned about potential litigation from investors and regulatory bodies.

Deloitte Financial Advisory Services in New York recently expanded its advisory services practice to include the issuance of fairness opinions. According to Chris Ruggeri, a principal in Deloitte's advisory services practice and a national M&A leader, companies today look to their CPA firm for more than mere accounting. "They look to us as business advisors - helping them to understand the implications of their business decisions and to help them shape their business growth." On top of a desire by corporate managers to grow, she adds, "it's also global business and technology that enables information to move and grow at a breakneck pace that is propelling this."

Companies are specifically looking for CPAs with FAS 141 and 142 expertise, according to Richelle Konian, co-founder and chief executive of Careers on the Move, a New York-based executive placement firm. "They want accountants with experience working on solvency issues, offering fairness opinions, or working in valuing tangible assets," she says. "The financial firms, banks, and brokerage houses in the area may be downsizing, but this is one area that they can't downsize. In fact, this is such a hot niche, and all the firms seem to be hiring and expanding in this area."

Those who get to the key and higher-level spots have worked their way up the ranks in valuation, either at an advisory transaction services firm, with a consulting firm, or at a Big Four or large regional CPA firm. They might even be working with or for an investment banking firm.

Konian says CPAs in this area of accounting should consider obtaining their CFA and ASA designations. She predicts that the New York and New Jersey region will stay hot in this area for some time to come. "The volume of deals going on in and around Wall Street is large, and they need people to help them evaluate the decisions."

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