Accounting News Roundup: SEC Changes; Celebrating Festivus; Suspicious Firm Names | 11.15.16

SEC changes

As expected, yesterday SEC chair Mary Jo White announced that she would step down in January to the pleasure of…everyone? Under her leadership, the SEC announced record numbers of enforcement cases and required, for the first time in its history, some companies to admit guilt in their settlements. However, she was criticized for going easy on large banks and dogged constantly for a perceived conflict of interest because of her husband's work at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. This led to testy exchanges with the likes of Elizabeth Warren:

[I]n June, Warren and White faced off during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “A year ago I called your leadership at the SEC extremely disappointing,” Warren said. “Today I am more disappointed than ever.”

White quipped: “I’m disappointed in your disappointment.” 

On the other hand, former SEC chair Harvey Pitt called her "one of the very best" so that's something.

Elsewhere in SEC news: Here's a profile of Paul Atkins who is leading the Trump transition team's efforts on financial regulation. He served as an SEC commissioner from 2002-2008 which means he didn't have a front row seat to the financial crisis, but maybe he was in the third row? Buckle up! 

Stupid fun

For the last several years, accounting firms have tried to make their work environments more fun. It's not an easy thing to do, what with all the accountants around, but this list from Accounting Today has some good examples. It includes not one but two firms that have mini-golf courses on site, an annual May the 4th potluck (I'm guessing there's cosplay) and my personal favorite:

James Moore & Co.: They celebrate Festivus, complete with the airing of grievances, and feats of strength.

Most firms just call that "performance reviews" so it's nice that James Moore makes it a celebration.

Accountants behaving badly

I have an unproven theory that you can spot a crooked accounting firm by their name.  In the past I've mentioned my suspicion of firms that imply some kind of superiority. Likewise, I wouldn't be giving my accounting or tax work to anyone who's including a degree in their business's name:

A Pacifica accountant was arrested for allegedly embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a Peninsula restaurant owner, according to San Mateo County sheriff officials.

Mark Christopher Sturm, the founder of Mark Sturm MBA Inc. in Half Moon Bay, was arrested Thursday at his business.

The restaurant owner hired Sturm to provide accounting, payroll and tax services for three restaurants.

When he started noticing discrepancies in the bank accounts, Sturm was audited.

Obviously it would've been an even bigger red flag if the name had been Mark Sturm BS Inc. but I still think people should've seen coming.

Previously, on Going Concern…

Paul Gillis wrote about draining the PCAOB swamp. Also, more koalas need to show up at accounting firms.

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