Boardroom Confusion Reigns Over Regulatory Responsibility

March 10, 2003 ( - Corporate executives may want to comply with new federal disclosure regulations, but many aren't sure whose job that is.

According to a new poll of 500 senior company officials by Deloitte Consulting and BusinessWeek, chief financial officers (CFO) and chief executive officers (CEO) each largely see it as their responsibility.

Some 63% of CFOs believe they are responsible for complying with the new regulations while only slightly more than one in ten think that’s the CEO’s role. But the CEOs apparently aren’t so sure. Only one in three CEOs and 30% of board members believe the CFO is the primary steward of compliance with the new government rules. From the CEOs perspective, 47% of CEOs say they are in charge of complying – an assessment with which four out of 10 board members agree.

Proper Role Disagreement

The two corporate officials also don’t see eye to eye about CFOs’ proper role in general, according to the survey. Historically, respondents believe that the CFO has been more of a steward (with authority over financial processes) than a strategist (formulating and executing growth strategies) and that in the future, the CFO ideally should play more of a strategist role.

Currently, nearly half of CEOs believe that the CFO should ideally be a strategist. But only 35% of CFOs see strategy as an ideal spot for themselves; 47% seek a “balanced” role (between strategy and stewardship) and only 18% see themselves as ideal stewards. Conversely, all groups surveyed agreed that the current regulatory environment encourages the CFO to play a steward role in the future.


The survey indicates that 93% of CFOs think their job is more difficult in the current regulatory environment, but only one in nine CFOs said they seriously considered leaving their position in the last two years.

There were also strong opinions and differing views about whether the role of CEO and chairman should be split – an issue frequently raised by governance activists. Board members were almost equally divided on the subject, while nearly half of the CEOs (49%) agreed that their roles should be separate from the chairman role, as did 45% of CFOs.