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February 6, 2023

Accounting News Roundup: Reverse Mentoring and GE’s ‘Confusing Accounting’ | 10.16.17

Reverse mentoring

This New York Times article on millennial mentoring programs delves into the “just how perplexed some executives are by the young people in their midst.” Although it’s a little surprising to learn that some of these perplexed executives are pretty young:

Melanie Whelan, 40, the chief executive of SoulCycle, holds monthly meetings with her younger mentor, whom she has credited with helping her get “hip with what the kids are doing these days.”

“It’s like reconnecting with your lost youth,” said David Watson, 38, a managing director at Deutsche Bank who has been mentored by Fernando Hernandez, 29, an engineer in the Wall Street bank’s global markets technology division. He credited Mr. Hernandez with good tips for retaining young employees, like giving them more flexible work-from-home arrangements, and with helping him spot trends in the financial tech industry.

Are 38-year-olds yearning for their lost youth? As a 38-year-old, I find this concerning. Perhaps I’m growing old all wrong. Anyway, companies that haven’t urged older executives to find young buddies have gone a different route:

An entire cottage industry now peddles advice to youth-obsessed executives, with books like “Understanding Millennials” and events like “Millennial Week,” a two-day festival meant to “promote and present ideas reflecting the impact of Generation Y on culture and society.” Millennial consultants now advise companies like Oracle, Estée Lauder and HBO, charging as much as $20,000 per hour to give executives advice on marketing their products to young people. Over all, American organizations spent about $80 million on “generational consulting” last year, according to Source Global Research, a firm that studies the consulting industry.

Boy, do I feel silly. Here we’ve been spouting all this free generational consulting for free when I could hucking it at massive corporations for $20,000 an hour. Starting now, I’ll offer it for the absurdly low price of $5,000 an hour. Get in touch quickly. My time is limited.

Adventures in non-GAAP accounting

“Everyone’s Fed Up With GE’s Confusing Accounting” is this hilarious Bloomberg headline and I can understand why:

Last quarter, General Electric Co. reported earnings of 28 cents a share. Also 13 cents a share, 19 cents a share and 15 cents a share — all at the same time.

The numbers represent profit that includes or excludes certain items, such as pension costs and discontinued operations. While most big U.S. companies release adjusted earnings that deviate from generally accepted accounting principles, GE stands out for the sheer head-scratching complexity of its quarterly reports. It’s one of only 21 S&P 500 companies that release more than one adjusted EPS figure.

I’m no GAAP purist. Non-GAAP numbers can be useful and the idea that they’re misleading and confusing ignores the fact that GAAP can be misleading and confusing. But GE releasing multiple adjusted earnings figures is tedious, even for those who revel in the most arcane accounting treatments possible. FFS, pick one non-GAAP number and go with it! You’re not being asked to choose a favorite child. Although, now that I’ve said that, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that some GE finance executives might favor their creative non-GAAP metrics to their human progeny.

Previously, on Going Concern…

Megan Lewczyk wrote about COSO’s new coat of paint. In Open Items, a Gordian Knot solution for tax reform.

In other news:

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