Google's CFO Search: Why'd It Take So Long?

This story was written by Joseph Weisenthal.
Google (NSDQ: GOOG) ended its 10-month CFO hunt with the hiring of Bell Canada exec Daniel Pichette. Throughout the long executive search, there were persistent questions about its length. Until Eric Schmidt writes his tell-all, we won' t get a real answer, but there have been some good guesses. The first is that Google's standards are high for a position like this, and there's no reason to rush the vetting process. But while it's assumed that the job of a top officer at Google is a job anyone would take, in this case, that's not so clear. Law prof Larry Ribstein offered up some ideas in a post last year, many revolving around Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. The gist: Google is a complex company with a novel business model to match. With the CFO bearing personal responsibility for signing off an a report, the Google job may not look so appealing. Riffing on a related piece in Forbes, he notes that in a free-wheeling culture like Google's, it would be up the CFO to be the stern taskmasterbasically, the parent or teacher that nobody likes cause they actually enforce all the rules. Ribstein adds: "The problem under SOX is that a CFO has to worry about what he doesn't know that's what Butler and I have called SOX's "litigation time bomb."

He's not implying at all that Google has an accounting problem, or that such issues that would ever come up. But when you're talking about a company who's own CEO has said that he relies on a team of physicists to help him understand the company's financial performance, you can see why it might not appeal to someone who from a typical CFO's background, given the current regulatory environment. 

By Joseph Weisenthal