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CEOs often take the heat when a company is performing poorly and are more likely than other executives to depart. But this month, turnover among CFOs advanced more rapidly than that of CEOs.
At year's end, when companies are trying to retain or achieve profitability, CFOs are often "scapegoated for those problems," says John Challenger, president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which released survey results on Thursday about CEO and CFO departures for October.
Top financial executives have been under pressure to demystify corporate-accounting practices to a public that has been jaded by high-profile accounting scandals. The latest survey finds that 73 CEOs left office in October, up 14% from September's total of 64. Meanwhile, 50 CFO departures were recorded during October, an increase of 100% from the 25 departures in September.
While there is a seasonal effect to CFO turnover, Challenger says, accounting scandals and CFOs who are "willing to push the ethical boundaries" are making it easier for company boards to oust executives who tarnish a company's image. "Particularly now," he says, "what might have been questionable activities in the past may now require putting in a new CFO without that taint."