The start-up phase

The creation and early years of the IASC were dominated by one powerful accountant, Henry Benson. Benson was born in South Africa of British parents. He was in fact the grandson of one of the four Cooper brothers, who started the eponymous audit firm in London in the nineteenth century. The firm operated as Coopers & Lybrand for many years and now survives in the name of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Benson was a driving force in the development of Cooper Bros in the second half of the twentieth century. He was involved in major expansion, including taking the firm into a merger with the US firm Lybrand, Ross Bros and Montgomery in 1957.

Subsequently he became president of his professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). At that time there was no over-arching global organization for accounting professional bodies, but there was an organizing committee that dealt with a world conference that was held every five years. Benson, no longer ICAEW president but a well-known figure in world accounting by then, was asked to chair a committee to look into the future organization of the profession. He presented a report on the committee’s work to the 1972 world congress, held in Sydney, Australia.

Listening to this report was Douglas Morpeth, a senior figure in Touche Ross in London and himself president of the ICAEW at that time. Morpeth was also deputy chairman of the newly created UK accounting standard-setter, and he was struck that ...

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