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January 29, 2023

Accounting News Roundup: A Spreadsheet-Killing Accounting Bot and The No-Audit Hedge Fund | 07.27.16

Spreadsheet killer

A couple weeks ago I mentioned how Sage was telling everyone about their bot capabilities. The idea being that you'll be able to chat with a bot and it'll do your expense reports or accounting or whatever. Yesterday, a "bot platform" called Gupshup announced that it was partnering with Sage to "Launch Spreadsheet-Killing Accounting Bot" and spreadsheets everywhere crawled under their beds in fear:

The bot, named PeggTM, enables users to log expenses, check invoices, track payments and more by simply chatting with it. Pegg represents a new, bot-enabled era in accounting making business software simpler, easier and better than desktop, web and app versions.

I wonder if the spreadsheet killers thought about how much accountants love spreadsheets? Like, love love? All this killing might upset them. But then it doesn't really sounds like Pegg is meant for accountants:

Pegg contains natural language processing abilities that enable users to say things in more than just one way. Pegg makes accounting invisible – the business user simply exchanges chat messages with the bot while the bot does the accounting behind the scenes. Pegg has a personality too – it’s efficient, with a slight sense of humor. Pegg’s vision is to eventually become a business trainer ever ready to provide sage advice.

Oh, I get it. Something like:

Non-accountant: "Book that thing like you booked that other thing."

Pegg: "You have such a way with words."

The no-audit hedge fund

Here's a weird story about Arjun Capital, LP a hedge fund that's had some impressive returns over the past few years: "13 percent, 24 percent, even 91 percent since 2013." Its founder, Joseph Meyer Jr. has a 10-year lock-up on his fund, but Arjun's history with audit firms is what you'll really find curious:

Since 2013, for instance, it has employed no fewer than three different auditing firms. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, says his securities division has discovered “multiple irregularities” involving Arjun and its parent company, Statim Holdings Inc.

“Based on these irregularities, the division’s enforcement personnel immediately launched a formal investigation into potential violations of the Georgia Securities Act,” Kemp said in a statement to Bloomberg on July 11. “The investigation is ongoing at this time.”

Meyer’s legal counsel, Parth Munshi, says it’s all a misunderstanding, in particular because Statim believed it wasn’t required to submit to a surprise audit. He says Statim has retained a firm to conduct one.

Munshi doesn't really do a great job of explaining that misunderstanding:

Regulators require hedge funds to give investors proof that their assets exist, either by contracting an outside firm to conduct a surprise audit or by having an independent accountant send them audited financial statements. Statim does neither.

Asked why in a July 12 phone interview, Munshi said the firm mistakenly believed it didn’t have possession, or “custody,” of the assets. In a later interview, he said the firm indeed had custody but thought it could sidestep the rules because of “the method and the way that we had custody through required custodians.”

There's some choice quotes in the article from Meyer's enthusiastic investors, “I understand it in general, but I probably don’t understand it completely.” Maybe some audited financial statements could help?

Elsewhere in organizations that can't keep an auditor: Deloitte becomes third auditor in a row to quit scandal-hit 1MDB. And elsewhere in strange hedge funds: At Bridgewater Sex, Fear and Video Surveillance.

Life after Big 4 for bigwigs

Morgan Stanley announced that former PwC International CEO Dennis Nally will join its board of directors on October 1. Interestingly, he's not the only former PwC alum at this particular table:

Another former PricewaterhouseCoopers executive on Morgan Stanley’s board, Donald Nicolaisen, has been a director for 10 years. Nicolaisen was chief accountant for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from 2003 to 2005.

Part of me imagines these guys to be old chums; after all, that's how these things work, right? Although it's always possible that Nicolaisen wants to get off the junk drawer committee and Nally is the perfect person to take his spot. 

Previously, on Going Concern…

I wrote about LinkedIn endorsement bombs. And in Open Items: someone's wondering about professional organizations to join.

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