Accounting News Roundup: KPMG, E&Y Cleared in Olympus Mess; MF Global Back Office Taking Questions; Looking for Accounting Craics | 01.17.12

Panel Clears Accounting Firms in Olympus Fraud [Reuters]
An unofficial panel of experts cleared the global accounting groups KPMG and Ernst & Young of any responsibility for a $1.7 billion accounting fraud at the Olympus Corporation on Tuesday, though the role of the firms remained under official review. The scandal, one of corporate Japan’s worst, had raised questions over the role of the two audit firms, which signed off on company accounts before the 13-year fraud finally surfaced in October. But the panel of lawyers set up by Olympus to look at the role of auditors said in a report on Tuesday that internal auditors were to blame, saying five of them, former and current, were responsible for 8.4 billion yen ($109 million) in damages. The panel effectively found the fraud, identified by a separate investigation as having being hatched by two former top executives in the 1990s to conceal losses, had been too well covered up for the external audit firms to have uncovered it. “The masterminds of this case were hiding the illegal acts by artfully manipulating experts’ opinions,” the report said.

Congress Returns To Battle on Taxes [WSJ]
As members of Congress return to Washington this week, they face immediate pressure to agree on how to fund a payroll-tax cut, but their task is complicated by lingering hostilities over the issue that are likely to be sharpened by the onset of a hard-fought election year. Republicans are frustrated by the outcome of December's fight over the payroll tax, when lawmakers unable to agree on a long-term plan simply extended the break until the end of February. House Republicans complained the move created uncertainty, but were forced to give in on the extension after Democrats depicted them as blocking a tax cut. The House returns Tuesday and the Senate next week, and lawmakers will immediately plunge back into the fight over the payroll tax.
 
MF Global Probe Focuses on Back Office [WSJ]
It isn't clear how much progress the Justice Department, two U.S. attorney's offices, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators have made as a result of the scrutiny in Chicago, ranging from accountants to controllers to treasury officials. Nestled between the Chicago Board of Trade and the elevated train in the city's financial district, the back office was responsible for making sure that customer futures accounts were handled properly. 
 
Obama jobs panel pushes tax reform, U.S. drilling [Reuters]
President Barack Obama's jobs council is calling for a corporate tax overhaul, expanded domestic drilling and new regulatory reforms, a set of proposals unlikely to provide a quick fix for high unemployment or gain much traction in an election year. A panel of business leaders advising Obama — whose re-election chances could hinge on whether he can boost the fragile U.S. economy – will offer its latest job-creation prescriptions at a meeting with him on Tuesday.
 
Taxes and Transparency [NYT]
Mittens could buckle any day now. 
 
I will survive! Accountant in £5m celebrity tax scam taunts Revenue and Customs with new lyrics to disco classic [DM]
Gloria Gaynor gets butchered.
 
What I Mean by "Replacement Cost" is not Literally Replacement Cost [Accounting Onion]
Tom Selling clarifies.
 
Contest for the Best Accounting Craic [The Summa]
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