Accounting News Roundup: KPMG’s In-House Chef, Bribery and Doing the Work of Two People | 07.25.16

Big 4 haps

Sometimes the news out of Big 4 firms is painfully ordinary, e.g. former Walmart CFO Charles Holley is joining Deloitte as "independent senior adviser" in the firm's US CFO Program. Then there's the weird: e.g. EY's sponsorship of the 2016 National Drone Racing Championships. And then there's this news out of KPMG Australia:

KPMG's in-house executive chef Ian McKenzie – who cooked for Queen Elizabeth and Lady Diana as an ex-British Navy chef on the Royal Yacht Britannia – has long been a bragging point for the professional services giant.

Now, with the firm's relocation into its swank Barangaroo offices on Sydney's waterfront, McKenzie has scored himself a whizz bang purpose-built kitchen large enough to fit 28 heat lamps.

The menu coming out of the new kitchen has been crafted by McKenzie and KPMG's resident health guru Andrew May, who joined KPMG last year when it acquired a wellbeing consultancy, the Performance Clinic.

"Management is convinced the extra cost will be offset by improved staff productivity," the article says. I suppose at a certain point, replacing cookies with raw nuts and produce is the only thing left to do when you've exhausted all other ideas to get more production out of your people.

Bribery

LATAM Airlines Group SA agreed to pay a fine to the SEC over its violation of accounting provisions in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Basically, the company hired a consultant to negotiate with a union on its behalf, but the whole thing wasn't above board:

[T]he "fictitious consulting agreement" was never fully signed, according to the court summary. The airline made payments of $300,000 in October 2006, $300,000 in November 2006 and $550,000 in January 2007 to the consultant and his wife personally through a bank account in Virginia rather than the consulting company, the court summary said.

Airline auditors never caught the discrepancies about the payments, according to the court summary. The consultant funneled the corrupt payments to labor unions in Argentina, in exchange for accepting lower wages and avoiding enforcement of a labor rule that would have required workers to remain in a narrowly defined type of work, according to the court summary.

You know, if you're going to cover up some bribery, wouldn't you want to get that "fictitious consulting agreement" signed?  Sure, the auditors didn't follow up on this one, but a fully executed contract, illegal or not, seems to be a good way to keep people from asking questions. The other thing I'm wondering is — why not just take the union officials to some fancy lunches or a football match? I confess that I don't really know how labor relations work in South America but it seems to me that spending lavishly on those union officials in a legal capacity would avoid all the FCPA messiness. Bribes tend to have consequences. In this case, LATAM agreed to pay more than $22 million in fines.  

Overworked?

You hear many people claim that they do the work of two people, but rarely do you hear about a person actually being replaced by two people as is the case of S&P's CFO:

S&P Global Inc.'s controller and chief accounting officer will take on the chief financial officer post temporarily, beginning next month, the market data, ratings and index firm said Monday.

Sadly, for most of us the exact opposite happens; when we leave, someone looks around, shrugs and says, "I think we'll be fine."

This is what happens when you run for national office

Remember Patrick Murphy? (I ask this every time.) He's the former Deloitte auditor running for US Senate in Florida who has endorsements from President Obama, Vice President Biden and AICPA CEO Barry Melancon. Then came the news that he embellished his résumé and things have gotten a little rough. And nothing quite illustrates just how rough it's gotten than this quote from Alan Grayson, Murphy's opponent in the Democratic primary:

“He’s a 33-year-old nobody who’s done nothing in his life,” Grayson told me. “He’s never had a serious relationship, never married, no children, never had to support himself, never had a real job, and lived off a trust fund on his daddy’s yacht for the first 30 years of his life.” He wasn’t finished. “He’s a zero, an absolute zero.”

Ouch. If this politics thing doesn't work out, maybe Deloitte will take him back?

Previously, on Going Concern…

I mentioned a study on Millennials' weak grips. Hey, don't blame me, it's a Monday in the middle of summer and it's a presidential election year.

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