Principal and U.S. Public-Policy Leader, PwC
- LLM, Taxation, Wayne State University
- JD, University of Michigan
- BA, English and Psychology, Stanford University
Selected work history
- Principal, U.S. Public Policy, 2019-current
- U.S. Public-Policy Lead, 2016-2019
- Managing Director, Government Affairs, 2015-2016
- Director, Government Relations, 2004-2015
- Chief of Staff, U.S. Marketing and Communications, 2002-2004
- Tax Manager, 2000-2001
- Senior Tax Associate, 1998-2000
- Tax Associate, 1996-1997
Roz Brooks is somewhat unique among Washington government-affairs professionals in that she’s been with the same company for 24 years, working her way up at PwC from tax associate to the firm’s top lobbyist. Here, she discusses the company’s—and her own—response to recent incidents of racial violence. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Is there a moment in your career that you would consider a landmark or a watershed moment?
I can think of two. One is going to be extremely personal to me in terms of a career focus, and then the other is what you would think of as more traditional career insight. So I’ll start with the one that’s really personal to me. It kind of ties into the racial-equity, social-justice movement.
In 2018, I was at a partner meeting. … I was in Los Angeles; we have about 700-plus partners that we’re meeting at that particular event. We’d arrived, and I woke up the next morning to an email that was from our security team that was talking about an employee of ours who had been taken to the hospital. … I was looking through [the email]. I noticed there was a news clip appended to it. When I clicked on it, it was a report from a Dallas news station that was talking about an early-morning shooting where someone has been shot by a police officer. … So I said, “OK, well, that must be our employee that was shot.”
I have the name [of the employee], but I didn’t know anything else. So I immediately went to LinkedIn because I wasn’t familiar [with him]. I saw that he was a Black man. He was a man of Caribbean descent. So then this whole wave of emotion came over me, because this was 2018, when a number of tragedies happened in which Black men had been killed by police officers. I was really struggling with this, right? I had lunch in a big room with 700-plus partners. I really felt the weight of, what should I say that we as a firm should be saying?
To me, that was a watershed moment in my career in terms of, “Yes, you speak for your firm and you represent the interests of your employer, but you also are an individual that has a responsibility.” It was a growth moment for me as an African American, in the privileged position that I sit in.
The other piece was more about my career journey, starting in our tax practice. I was an associate who was asked to do a subsidiary consolidated corporate return, which is more than you’ll ever need to know. I spent hours, blew through every budget that they had, because I wanted to learn everything I could. … I wanted to understand why the numbers were being put in there and what was happening. From that point on, something about that approach said to [the partner], “This is someone that I want to invest time in and work with.”
I always tell people having intellectual curiosity goes a long way in terms of furthering your career and how people see you, because being intellectually curious about things doesn’t cost anything. … So that’s really stuck with me, the notion of intellectual curiosity, which was fostered by my father growing up.
Were there particular role models or people that you looked to as a guide early in your career?
For me, especially starting in the tax practice in the firm, I wasn’t familiar with professional accounting firms. I had started in law and absolutely hated it, and had very good friends who were then working at the firm. Having gone to law school together, they said, “You really should come in.” But for me, my early role models were the partners in the Detroit office at the time who were serving our clients, who were out networking, building relationships. My mentor, who I also consider a sponsor, was a retired partner by the name of Matt Rizik. Matt really took me under his wings—the same partner who I had blown the budget for on that return. He put me in situations that forced me to grow.
Outside of that, my parents. My mother just passed two years ago. My parents had been together 60-plus years before she passed. My father was always strong on education. … He became the second-highest-ranking person within the Postal Service for the L.A. distribution center. … My mother ran a hamburger stand for 25 years; it was a block and a half up the street from where we lived. … In 25 years, she met people from every walk of life and taught me that you never know a person’s story, and to always be open and receptive to people, and you never know what you might get from that.
In terms of what you’re working on, what’s the most pressing issue for you now?
Historically speaking, we have always been a very defensive profession when it comes to policy. If you think about it, we don’t play offense on a lot of things. When the accounting scandals of 2000 occurred, with Enron and WorldCom, and Andersen included, Sarbanes-Oxley created our new regulatory regime. We really spent those early years focusing on adjusting to that normal and focusing on audit quality and getting acclimated to the new regime.
It’s like the people who write the rules for any particular sports games and the referees who kind of report the rules. We just enforce the rule; we find ourselves defending the process, because we have to have members understand that the intent of the standard is to just reflect the economic reality of the business at a particular time.
I would say what I’m hopeful for and want to make you guys aware of is one of the commitments our senior partner Tim Ryan made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s, and the protests that were happening here in the city. … In June or July, we launched CEO Action for Racial Equity, [a two-year fellowship program] focused on policy. The fellows have started the work. In the first wave, there’s 250-plus fellows from various companies and organizations. As someone who is intimately involved, we will have proactive racial-equity, social-justice issues that we can put on the agenda and that we can seek to move forward—although I do think a lot of the winds are probably going to be at the state and local level.
We’re a smaller shop as far as GR shops go. We tend to collaborate with the firms on policy at the state and local level. We don’t have 50 different people dedicated to each state. So it’ll be interesting to see what we do on the state and local level. I’m very hopeful that that will put some proactive things on our agenda.
How well represented do you feel minorities are in the government-affairs industry now, and what’s your hope for the future?
I started technically lobbying in 2005. I think about events I used to go to back then and who we knew at the time who were heads of office at the time that were Black or African American, and that has significantly increased. It also depends on the industry you’re in. So for me, financial services is one of those industries where you just don’t see a lot of diversity—you just don’t. I do think that there are strides that have been made. One of the things that I’ve been very impressed with is that there were a number of Black lobbyists, as well as other lobbyists of color, who also are focused on the diversity within Congress, among congressional staff.
I do think that I’m a little bit unique. There are other people out there like me that come up through their companies, but most people work on the Hill or have some kind of connection. What role you have there, your impact, and what companies are looking at you—I think it’s a good way to think about diversity. A way to think about diversifying the downtown community is diversification of the Capitol. At the higher echelons, whether it’s chiefs or LDs or things of that nature, I think it is a factor that I’ve seen much more attention put to.
It’s also what you see in corporate America. … At least in professional services with those that we serve, companies are looking for diverse teams. It’s that trickle-down effect. So as we think about not only the next generation to come up and be the next head of office, but also extending that towards external consultants, I’ve seen a significant increase in that happening.
Having said that, we have so much further to go. When you think about who are the true power players dealing with transition teams and dealing with the campaign committee, these issues come up almost every two years in the House: Who are the people that are helping to influence the decisions that are made? Who’s getting contracts? It’s a work in progress.
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