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Accounting News Roundup: CEOs, Jury Duty, and Fraud Detection | 08.17.17


How’s the businessman president getting along with business?

Not too good, man. President Trump’s nightmare of a news conference on Tuesday started the unraveling earlier in the week, and then yesterday, everything fell apart:

On a 45-minute conference call that started around 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, members of the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum decided to dissolve the group.

Blackstone Group LP chief Stephen A. Schwarzman, who organized the conference call, called the White House and spoke with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a presidential adviser, to give him the news, according to a person familiar with the call. Around the same time, the manufacturing council also had a call and decided to disband.

Within minutes of the call to Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that he had dissolved the councils: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

“It became clear very quickly that there was a consensus,” one participant told The Wall Street Journal. And then Trump sweeps in with a preemptive break-up. Man, there really is a Seinfeld for everything.

Anyway, lots of people have pointed out that these councils were largely ceremonial; only half of the Strategic and Policy Forum members attended both meetings. But these are the people Trump wanted around him most: successful CEOs who want to serve their country and president, even a President Trump. Now they’ve abandoned him and rightly so. This quote in Buzzfeed sums it up nicely:

“These CEOs, they are people, too,” said Max Bazerman, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “I think they care about their own image. And being associated with a morally repugnant, incompetent president just doesn’t really bring you much prestige.”

I mean, just look at The Economist‘s new cover. That’s not gonna be good for business. That’s not gonna be good for anybody. (Seinfeld, again!)

Public service

I’ve been called to jury duty only on a couple of occasions but never had to serve. Still, I am fascinated with the process. An incredible 2007 This American Life episode touched on the summons that are sent out and people’s, uh, colorful reactions to them.

And in Harper’s September issue, we see another side of jury duty: the selection process. But this isn’t any jury; this was jury selection for Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli’s securities fraud trial, and every word is a treasure:

THE COURT: The purpose of jury selection is to ensure fairness and impartiality in this case. If you think that you could not be fair and impartial, it is your duty to tell me. All right. Juror Number 1.

JUROR NO. 1: I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.

BENJAMIN BRAFMAN [Shkreli’s attorney]: I’m sorry.

JUROR NO. 1: I think he’s a greedy little man.

THE COURT: Jurors are obligated to decide the case based only on the evidence. Do you agree?

JUROR NO. 1: I don’t know if I could. I wouldn’t want me on this jury.

THE COURT: Juror Number 1 is excused.

This is a recurring theme:

JUROR NO. 70: I have total disdain for the man. When you go back to how he was able to put so many children —

THE COURT: You have negative feelings?

JUROR NO. 70: Very.

THE COURT: Would those feelings prevent you from being fair to both sides in this case?

JUROR NO. 70: I can be fair to one side but not the other.

THE COURT: We will excuse you from this jury. Juror Number 77.

JUROR NO. 77: From everything I’ve seen on the news, everything I’ve read, I believe the defendant is the face of corporate greed in America.

BRAFMAN: We would object.

JUROR NO. 77: You’d have to convince me he was innocent rather than guilty.

THE COURT: I will excuse this juror.

Then, of course, the consensus favorite:

THE COURT: All right. I’m going to excuse you. Juror Number 59, come on up.

JUROR NO. 59: Your Honor, totally he is guilty and in no way can I let him slide out of anything because —

THE COURT: Okay. Is that your attitude toward anyone charged with a crime who has not been proven guilty?

JUROR NO. 59: It’s my attitude toward his entire demeanor, what he has done to people.

THE COURT: All right. We are going to excuse you, sir.

JUROR NO. 59: And he disrespected the Wu-Tang Clan.

These are the types of things that will keep us together.

Accountants behaving badly

Okay, this is more of an accounting firm behaving badly, but I cannot resist the irony:

A Central Indiana accounting firm has become the latest victim of a data breach, Call 6 Investigates has learned.

Whitinger & Company has offices in Fishers and Muncie, and provides accounting and tax services, fraud detection, financial advising, audits and estate planning.

They recently became a victim of a ransomware attack in which a number of files in its system were encrypted to prevent Whitinger from accessing them.

Can you really claim to be in the business of fraud detection if you can’t prevent a data breach of your business? “Yes, we detect fraud, but not within our own walls.”

A CFE representing one of the firm’s clients is quoted, “It’s an electronic home invasion. It can ruin your credit and your children’s credit.” And now we’re worried about children’s credit, I guess.

In other news:

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