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Accounting News Roundup: Definitions and Creative Accounting (or Fraud?) | 11.03.16


The IASB is concerned that people are taking liberties with how certain financial terms are defined, so it sounds like they're taking up the task of putting out an official accounting dictionary or whatever:

The International Accounting Standards Board, or IASB, which sets reporting standards in more than 120 countries, said Wednesday it would look at providing new definitions of common financial terms such as earnings before interest and taxes, or ebit.

The new definitions will be introduced over the next five years, in order to provide sufficient time for suggestions and comment from market participants.

The changes will not result in new standards but will require the board to overhaul existing ones.

"They should be less revolutionary than the introduction of new standards but every change results in work,” says IASB chairman Hans Hoogervorst, underselling it a bit. Honestly, this sounds awful. It's a half-decade-long dictionary building exercise! And then, if I'm not mistaken, all the rules have to be re-read and re-written to implement those new terms. If I was on the IASB staff, I'd stage a walk-out for at least a whole afternoon.  

Accountants behaving badly

Yesterday, I mentioned how most accountants seem to go at it alone when it comes to embezzlement, fraud, etc. only to highlight a story an accountant who managed to wrangle three associates — including his own son! — for his scams. Today we have another merry band of fraudsters and the accountant was the first one to plead guilty to defrauding a slew of banks. Jonathan Williams "was indicted in May along with Daniel Sexton, Joseph Tobin and Sheila Flynn":

The indictment charged that the four took part in a scheme to submit false financial statements, tax records and appraisals in seeking loans.

Williams admitted he took part in submitting information that inflated the applicants’ income and assets and understated or omitted their debts, improving their chances of getting loans.

Williams said he and the others charged in the case caused banks to issue or renew loans to people who were not the true borrowers, and used money they got from banks for purposes other than what they’d told the banks.

We've talked in the past about how creative accountants tend to get ahead more so than accountants who call it straight. I'd argue that "inflat[ing] income and assets" and "understat[ing] or omitt[ing] their debts" is all in a day's work for many, many accountants. One of the most underrated skills of the best accountants is knowing where that line is and knowing how close you can get to it without a toe slipping over. Mr. Williams doesn't appear to have it. 

Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!

Like lots of Midwest kids, I grew up watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN in the 1980s and 1990s, listening to Harry Caray and Steve Stone call those games. My favorite player was Andre Dawson who played right field. In 1987, he won the MVP but the Cubs finished in last place. In 1988, I got to see them play the New York Mets under the lights at Wrigley Field in the first official night game. The Cubs won 6-4 despite a home run by Daryl Strawberry and it's one of the most vivid memories of my youth. In 1989, they won the Eastern Division only to lose to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. They didn't make the playoffs again until 2003.

I remember feeling sad about how bad all those Cubs teams were, but loving them anyway. I loved the ivy at Wrigley Field, hearing Harry Caray yell "Holy cow!" and watching the occasional home run fly out of the stadium onto Waveland Avenue. To watch them win the World Series last night in the fashion that they did doesn't quite seem real. If it takes 108 years to win their next World Series, so be it. If you're a Cubs fan in Chicago, enjoy the pandemonium. You're excused until tomorrow.

Has Donald Trump released his tax returns?

Nope! There was a brief window last night in the 8th or 9th inning when I think he could've released them and no one would've cared but things seem to be back to normal. David Cay Johnston wonders: "Is Donald Trump a tax criminal?"; former IRS commissioner Fred Goldberg and Treasury official Michael Graetz think Trump probably avoided Medicare taxes, too.

University partner viewpoint: Dream Careers

If you’re just starting out or just now decided to figure things out, the University of Utica has steps that will position yourself for a dream career. The most important of these, being the GRIT:

Taking a job you won’t be happy with in the long run or giving up completely may be the easiest thing to do, but the only way to make your career dreams a reality is through persistence and honest effort. If you feel defeated, think back to what you are working so hard for: your dream career. 

Even if it takes 108 years.

Previously, on Going Concern…

Greg Kyte's latest cartoon looked at clients with election fatigue.

In other news:

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