Not To Worry California! Ken Lewis is Here!

In the spirit of the recessionary season, Bank of America, being no stranger to asking for assistance, has said that it will accept California’s IOU’s.
Here is BofA’s statement, courtesy of FT Alphaville:

Bank of America Announces Limited Acceptance of California State-Issued Registered Warrants for Customers and Clients

SAN FRANCISCO, July 1 /PRNewswire/ — Bank of America today issued the following statement regarding its decision to accept California state-issued registered warrants:
“Bank of America recognizes the State of California budget crisis will impact our clients and customers. To support our customers, while giving the state legislature additional time to pass a budget, we will accept California state-registered warrants – or IOUs – from existing customers and clients. Based on state disbursement estimates, we will accept the registered warrants through July 10.
(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050720/CLW086LOGO-b )
“As always, we will work with customers who are impacted by the state budget issues on a case-by-case basis to address their short-term needs using our existing products and services.”

An interest rate has not been announced but Ken Lewis is most certainly pulling for something in the nabe of one case of bourbon per $1 million.

BofA to accept Cali IOUs
[FT Alphaville]

Why Do the FASB and IASB Always Insist on Mission Impossible?

Can anyone explain why accounting regulators have the annoying tendency to see a HUGE problem and insist on fixing it when the logistics are seemingly impossible to overcome? It’s commendable to try and solve big problems but it seems that the geeky egos of accountants often get in the way of reality.
CFO.com has a story about the FASB and IASB’s “dream” to get accounting standards down to one model for revenue recognition. ONE!
According to the article, the FASB’s revenue recognition rules are currently spread among 100 standards, so obviously there’s room for improvement but shrinking all that down to one model? Talk about herding cats.
We’re not hating on the standard setters (well, let’s face it, maybe a little) for considering this task but these dweebs can’t even get on the same page re: convergence timing so we’ll be taking the overs on the number of years when this single model pipe dream actually gets off the ground.

Revenue Recognition: Will a Single Model Fly?
[CFO.com]

Scoping | 07.02.09

California in ‘fiscal emergency’ – Can’t really decide which state capital has more clowns per capita, Sacramento or Albany [BBC]
Former HealthSouth executive gets prison time – 3 months. Meh [AP via Miami Herald]
Big Pay Packages Return to Wall Street – Paging Congressman Frank [WSJ]

Review Comments | 07.01.09

No Evidence Found to Charge Ruth Madoff – The aggression will obviously continue. [WSJ]
Consumer Interest ‘Huge’ in Clunker Plan, LaHood Says – Call us party poopers but it seems like manufactured consumption. [Bloomberg]
Pimco: Consumer “greed” hibernating, fear rules – Greed will be good again. Don’t you worry. [Reuters]

Stanford CFO to Plead Guilty After Pleading Not Guilty

This after speculation earlier about whether Davis would flip. Looks like he’s going to sing:

James Davis, the former chief financial officer of Stanford Financial Group and who is facing charges related to an alleged $7bn fraud at the group, intends to plead guilty to the three charges against him, his attorney told the Financial Times.
Attorney David Finn, who is representing only Mr Davis, told the FT there would likely be a “procedural not guilty plea” entered at his arraignment, but that his client would ultimately plead guilty to the charges against him “once all the details are worked out.” Mr Davis is due to appear in court in Houston on July 13.

You got that ticket to hell stamped, Stan?
Stanford CFO James Davis “intends to plead guilty”, laywer [sic] says [FT Alphaville]

SEC Still Stonewalling, Considering Slowing Down the PCAOB Even More

The SEC gave Congress a little tease about what happened at the Commission re: totally missing the boat on this Madoff thing. But then again, not really.
Inspector General David Kotz made recommendations about ways that the Commission could improve its oversight over the financial industry because, obv, it had nothing to do with the fact that no one there had the background to detect classic Ponzi schemes.
Some recommendations that Kotz made included giving the PCAOB more oversight including jurisdiction over accounting firms that audit investment advisors and broker-dealers. That’s just what the PCAOB needs, more on its docket because it gets things done so quickly.
Kotz would also like to see an amendment to the Securities Act of 1940 that would require investment managers, including hedge funds, to place their securities with custodians that are registered with a national exchange. Kotz claims that this would prevent investment advisers from fraudulently using the proceeds received from new investors to pay old investors (a la Ponzi).
That’s all fine and dandy but Rep. Paul Kanjorski, of Pennsylvania has been asking for details on the Madoff ball dropping for the last two weeks and the Commission has been stalling. Kotz could only state that the Commission is “proceeding ‘in an expeditious manner.'”
Translation: We don’t have any idea how we missed the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Best we can expect, Kotz says, is that the report to be issued by the end of August. Which might be enough time to get Kanjorski involved in a sex scandal and maybe this will all just go away for the Commission.

S.E.C. Previews Its Madoff Report
[DealBook/NYT]

Deloitte Throws Up its Hands Regarding Missing Gold

deloitte.jpgThe Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) had a discrepancy between their book inventory of precious metals and the actual count, so natch, they called in a Big 4 accounting firm to do an audit and get to the bottom of this.
Deloitte got the honor of investigating and…wait for it…determined that there is gold missing. 17,500 ounces to be precise, worth about 15.3 million Canadian Dollars (approximately $13.2 USD). Oh, and there’s probably some silver missing too.
In classic auditor fashion, Big D issued a recommendation to the RCM to review its security.

Audit fails to find missing gold
[BBC]

Oliver Stone Movie on Goldman Sachs to be Coming This Fall

Because we love ourselves a good cat fight, we feel obligated to tell you about the current scratch and screech fest currently going on between Goldman Sachs and Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Taibbi wrote a less than flattering article on Goldman in Rolling Stone’s latest issue (which is not available online. Read: Lame).
Why, do you ask, would Goldman waste their time on an article in a formerly renown, now ridiculously corporate magazine? For starters, Taibbi describes GS this way, “The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.”
Not a lot of room for subjective interpretation there. Quoting a response from a Goldman spokesman via the New York Post, “The bank’s spokesman, Lucas Van Praag, [said]: ‘[Taibbi’s] story is an hysterical compilation of conspiracy theories,’ he wrote in an e-mail. ‘Notable ones missing are Goldman Sachs as the third shooter [in John F. Kennedy’s assassination] and faking the first lunar landing.'”
We admit, on one hand, that Taibbi might be a tad on the nutty side but the mere fact that Goldman is acknowledging the article with any kind of response puts us in the strangely curious camp.

Goldman Gotcha
[New York Post]

Scoping | 07.01.09

A Forecast With Hope Built In – Hope has got nothing on reality [New York Times]
Justice Department demands UBS client names – “Swiss bank UBS AG ”systematically and deliberately” violated U.S. law by dispatching private bankers to recruit wealthy Americans interested in evading taxes and must be forced to reveal the identities of 52,000 of those clients, the Justice Department said in a court filing in Miami Tuesday.” [AP via Miami Herald]

ADP Estimates U.S. Companies Cut Payrolls by 473,000
– Estimates ahead of tomorrow’s number keep us under 10% unemployment! Cross your fingers! [Bloomberg]

BDO, Looking to Spread Out Some Liability, Admits New Partners

BDO_International.pngAs you probably know, BDO Seidman is having a rough year. Tax shelter prosecutions and trials for the International Global Coordination firm that now falls on the U.S. make for some big liability exposure.
The obvious solution to this conundrum? Spreading the love!

BDO Seidman, LLP, is pleased to announce that 10 new partners have been admitted to the partnership, effective July 1, 2009. Five of the new partners are in the tax practice, four are in the assurance business line and one is in BDO Consulting. BDO Seidman, LLP is a leading national professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to private and publicly traded businesses.”I am very proud to welcome each of these very deserving individuals to our partnership,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO Seidman. “The key to maintaining momentum in our profession is a commitment to recruiting, training and retaining superior client service professionals. Each of these new partners is an example of our commitment to human capital development.”

What are the chances that these new partners are some of the most hated people in the firm? C’mon, $520 million judgment hanging out there, the bigwigs have to be thinking, “well, as long as we’re screwed, we may as well stick it to some people within the firm we don’t like.”
Congrats to the new partners!

BDO Seidman, LLP, Admits 10 New Partners
[BDO Seidman Press Release]

SEC Rule Would Crack Down on Celebrity Board Members

oj-simpson-mugshot.jpgNow that the SEC has got this Ponzi thing under control, it can focus on more important matters like getting famous people off companies’ board of directors because, you know, they don’t really know shit about the companies they serve.
Perfect example: Tommy Franks, former commander of forces in Iraq, who resigned his seat on Bank of America’s board last week, was on the audit committee. The AUDIT COMMITTEE.
That’s actually not even the best example. According to Bloomberg, everyone’s favorite acquitted killer, O.J. Simpson was on the audit committee of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation before he was charged with murder in 1994. O.J. Simpson. Audit committee. Yes.
We could go on to tell you about Lance Armstrong missing 11 board meetings but still getting paid over $70,000 by Morgans Hotel Group or Gerald Ford sitting on the Board of Traveler’s Insurance (owned by Citi) until he was 85 years old but you get the picture.
This is your SEC, citizens of America, getting their shit together since 1934.

Armstrong, ‘Celebrity’ Directors Targeted in SEC Rule
[Bloomberg]

Philip Morris: Hey, We Do Good You Know

The benevolence of a cigarette company is quite a touching thing. Footnoted.org has a post today showing how the mother of all cigarette companies is helping out various governments around the world:

Need proof? Just look at slide #13, which showed the price of a pack of Marlboros in the Ukraine climbing a whopping 78% since January 2008. Slide #12 shows how taxes have also increased dramatically in the Ukraine, rising more than four-fold since Jan. 2008. Despite these sharp price hikes, slide #14 shows that a pack of Marlboros is still cheaper than many other things that consumers might buy in the Ukraine, including a movie ticket, a bottle of Budweiser, a Big Mac, and Colgate toothpaste. Milk, bread, Coke and beer are cheaper than a pack of Marlboros, the slide shows.

That’s right, Ukrainians! Not only is Philip Morris helping your government, their product is cheaper than imported beer, fast food, and toothpaste.
We’re Philip Morris and we care about killing you cheaper than alcohol and unhealthy food. Die slowly with us!

Philip Morris is here to help…
[Footnoted.org]

PwC Needs a Lesson or Two in Spin

240px-PricewaterhouseCoopers.svg.pngIn, lets talk about anything but Satyam, PwC news, the largest Big 4 firm was rated highest among professional service providers on brand recognition in the Brand Finance Top 50 ranking of Best Brands of British Origin.
“Chairman of PwC [in the UK] Ian Powell said the recognition was ‘testament to the strength and reach of our clients, the talents of our people, and the contribution that we make to the wider community.'”
We won’t take anything away from PwC but sometimes bad news is the best news for brand recognition. So this whole Satyam thing is probably not getting the credit it deserves. Come on P. Dubs! Lemons into lemonade!

PwC most recognised professional services brand
[Accountancy Age]

Score One for U.S. GAAP

two thumbs up.jpegU.S. GAAP just got a little boost in its image versus its sexy rival, IFRS, courtesy of Audit Integrity, a research services firm.
Audit Integrity studied filings by European companies from 2001 to 2008, looking at filings both pre and post IFRS adoption. The objectives were, “to determine whether IFRS has been implemented consistently across Europe, whether it has resulted in a common method of reporting financial data, and how the depth and comparability of data under IFRS compares to U.S. GAAP.”
At first glance, one might think that with all the bashing of U.S. GAAP in recent years that this was IFRS chance to prove once and for all that it was the new cock of the walk.
Well, not so fast GAAP haters:

“Based on our analysis, we are not seeing a significant improvement in financial reporting when companies shift to IFRS,” said Jack Zwingli, CEO of Audit Integrity. “We found that IFRS is a common standard, but there are significant variances in IFRS reporting, in the completeness of information, the timeliness and the filing frequency.”

Sounds like IFRS ain’t all that does it? You want more?

The firm says overall there are indications that financial reporting is more consistent and more comparable under IFRS than before IFRS adoption in Europe, but it’s not clear that IFRS represents an improvement over U.S. GAAP. In fact, the firm’s report says GAAP filers may have an edge over IFRS filing in terms of the timeliness, depth and breadth of financial data provided to investors.

Ouch, IASB. You want the best part? The Europeans disclose less on executive compensation than we do here in America. You’re all familiar with how popular corporate executives are. To wit:

[Jack] Zwingli [Audit Integrity CEO] said he was also surprised that the analysis revealed IFRS generally provides less information about executive compensation. “It’s not good in the United States, but it’s better than it is in Europe,” he said. “There is more consistency in reporting and deeper coverage of data under GAAP than under IFRS.”

Seems like IFRS has got work to do…IASB, you can call us when you want to get serious.

Study Pokes Holes in IFRS Reporting Quality, Consistency
[Accounting & Auditing Update/Compliance Week]

Facebook Finds a CFO, Hopefully One that is Okay with Awkward Interaction

Facebook Inc. announced today that David Ebersman will be the company’s Chief Financial Officer:

Ebersman, 39, will oversee Facebook’s finance, accounting, investor relations and real estate functions. He will formally start in September, Palo Alto, California-based Facebook said in a statement today.

You’ll note that Ebersman will oversee “investor relations”. It’s probably no coincidence that this is not a task that falls on Mark Zuckerberg who “has been known to have awkward interactions with other humans”:http://valleywag.gawker.com/344440/60-minutes-scoop-zuckerberg-remains-awkward-with-humans.
Thus, another challenge that will face Ebersman in his new position will be actually interacting with his boss. We here at Going Concern predict that awkward encounters with Zuckerberg will definitely be the biggest unforeseen challenge that Ebersman will wrestle with.
The article does not elaborate on whether Ebersman’s status updates on the social networking site are trite observations about the weather, his busy weekend, or a bad day at work.

Facebook Names Former Genentech Manager Ebersman Finance Chief”:http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a1vS1Ub87oSA [Bloomberg]

Stanford CFO Flipping?

Chief Financial Officer Bean Counter Number-Maker-Upper Officer at Stanford Financial, James Davis, is appearing in court Wednesday to answer fraud and conspiracy charges.
Davis has spent the last few months cooperating with prosecutors and may flip on Stan the Man regarding the small matter of some money gone missing.
No agreement has been reached yet for Davis but considering the number of years being handed out and Stan’s potential fate of multiple centuries in prison, he may at the very least, consider cooperating.

Stanford CFO to appear in court
[Accountancy Age]

Deloitte May Be the #1 Firm of No Fun

heelys.jpgRegardless of who a client is or what their business is, accounting firms don’t like to lose them. Lost revenue, a little bit of a slap in the face, a promise that wasn’t delivered (which, let’s be honest, really isn’t all that rare).
For whatever reason, we find the story that Heelys, the skate shoe company, having fired Deloitte as their auditor, has to be an especially tough pill to swallow for the Big D.
Why, you may ask? How about the fact that Heelys MAKES SHOES THAT HAVE WHEELS ON THEM which might be something fun.
According to Reuters, Heelys gave Deloitte-period the heave-ho primarily because of cost considerations. That may be true but something tells us that the real reason might have been Deloitte putting the kibosh on Heelys request of the audit team to wear the skate shoes while working at the client’s HQ.
Deloitte, like all Big 4 firms, being the fun killer, likely argued that skate shoes did fall under acceptable attire in its dress code.
It was probably only a matter of time until the Heelys audit committee concluded that they had to find another audit firm with smaller sticks up their asses. Partners on the engagement are now quietly stewing with their decision that may have put their firm solidly in the #1 slot for hating all things fun.

Heelys dismisses accounting firm
[Reuters]

Scoping | 06.29.09

State Street may face SEC charges over mortgages – “The Boston-based company said on Monday that Securities and Exchange Commission staff issued a ‘Wells’ notice to its banking unit on June 25 related to disclosures and management by State Street Global Advisors of “active” fixed-income strategies in 2007 and in prior periods.” [Reuters]

UBS Said to Seek U.S. Tax Deal in Weeks
– “With a payment of 3 billion to 5 billion Swiss francs, UBS hopes in the next two weeks to settle a lawsuit over the tens of thousands of American clients suspected of tax evasion, the Swiss newspaper Sonntag reported. Analysts on Monday, however, questioned the figure.” [DealBook/NYT]
A Unified Bank Regulator Is a Good Start – Penned by rock star CEO, Jamie Dimon [WSJ]

Review Comments | 06.26.09

Lewis Retains Support of Key BofA Executive – [DealBook/NYT]

What the Big 4 do
– “I explained that in my opinion the Big 4 firms have two fundamental purposes in life when it comes to tax. First they exist to undermine the tax revenues of governments. Second they exist to redistribute the wealth of the world from those who are poorest in the communities in which they work to those who are the richest in the communities in which they work.” Ouch [Tax Research UK]
Madoff Family Feud: Ruth, Sons Won’t Attend Monday Sentencing – Probably not a bad move…[ABC News]

New Bail Hearing for Stanford Set for Monday Because He Just Might Split

Stan the Man will spend the weekend pumping iron in a Houston jail because all signs are kinda, sorta pointing to the possibility of him going on the lam after a judge granted the silver medalist in the Ponzi competition a measly $500,000 bail.
Stanford’s attorney called bullshit because “he had already shown the financier was no flight threat.”
Judge David Hittner didn’t buy it and remanded Stan to jail until Monday based on the evidence presented by prosecutors:

testimony from a pilot who flew Mr. Stanford to Libya and Switzerland before government officials raided his Houston offices; testimony from a friend of Mr. Stanford’s daughter who gave him $36,000 in cash, and claims that $100 million was withdrawn from a Swiss bank account Mr. Stanford controlled

C’mon, your honor, that’s just walking around money! My client can’t be expected to strut around without serious money on hand!

New Bail Hearing Set for Stanford
[WSJ]

PCAOB, We Need to Have a Talk

pcaob.gifPCAOB, we here at Going Concern want to help you get some respect. We really do.
We don’t think it’s fair that people think you’re slow at writing rules for auditors. Okay, maybe you could pick up the pace a little bit but we know that it takes a lot of work and patience to write those rules. But then we heard about this and we want to let you know that we aren’t angry, you’re just letting us down.
Reuters:

The U.S. audit watchdog voted on Thursday to defer its first inspection on 49 foreign auditors in areas such as the European Union, China and Switzerland for up to three years.

Like we said, we’re not mad. We’re disappointed.

US PCAOB delays 1st review of 49 foreign auditors
[Reuters]

Deloitte: Folding Like a Cheap Lawn Chair?

deloitte.jpgIs it possible that the spinelessness of the FASB is spreading some of the firms?
Motely Foley is reporting that MGM Mirage got the Big D to drop the going concern language from its “financial assessment” which we confirmed with the author, Bob Steyer, that indeed meant the audit opinion.
Doing a little digging on this whole sitch, we found that MGM has done some duct tape repairs to its balance sheet in order to convince its banks and Big D that nothing is fucked.
Deloitte, wanting to be troopers and all, probably just had to step back from the whole thing to get perspective. “Yeah, when you look at it from back here, $14.4 Billion in debt doesn’t really look that bad.”

MGM Back From the Brink — for Now
[Motley Fool]

Scoping | 06.26.09

stanford_orange.jpgStanford Enters Plea; Bail Is Set at $500,000 [New York Times]
After Madoff: Are We Safer? The question should be “Are people any smarter?” because….[Business Week]
• This happened: Pang Took $83 Million From Firm, Filings Say. So we’d be inclined to say that people might be safe but their money sure as hell isn’t. [WSJ]

Sleeping Beauty Larry to Be the Next Fed Chair?

summersleepy.jpgBecause we love ourselves a good conspiracy theory, we’ll pass along this little musing from Naked Capitalism:

Remember the White Paper that Obama just released? Doesn’t it give sweeping powers to the Federal Reserve? Didn’t Summers have a strong hand in crafting this white paper? And doesn’t Larry Summers know his name has been bandied about as a replacement for Bernanke? You see where this is going, right?

Whole thing here.
Diabolical scheme if it proves true but the scenario at DealBreaker is more our speed.

PCAOB: The Rodney Dangerfield of Bureaucracies

pcaob.gif It’s tough being part of a bureaucracy, especially if you’re doing something as glamarous as babysitting auditors. The CIA, FBI, NSA have got it easy. You get to catch bad guys, use guns, and Hollywood makes movies about you. Aside from the warrantless wiretaps and otherwise general big brotherishness, it’s cool.
The PCAOB doesn’t get that luxury. They get to poke around auditors’ work and then tell them how much they suck at it. Not so fun for anybody. They also get to write auditing standards. Take the watchdog aspect, multiply it times infinity, and that’s about the amount fun we’re talking about for writing rules on auditing.
But now people are saying they’re too slow in writing these I-already-want-to-kill-myself boring rules? Yep:

“Given how little they’ve accomplished in the standards-setting area, they don’t get a passing grade,” says Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant for the SEC.
Turner says he and a group of investor advocates wrote to the PCAOB in 2004, asking it to improve fraud standards. But the work remains undone, he says.
Bill Gradison, the board member whose term expires in October, calls the criticism fair. “We’ve been much slower than other standards writers,” he says.
By comparison, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, which sets international auditing standards, among other duties, finished revising its own standards in March. The process, which included 37 standards, took about five years

Man, now comparisons to the Europeans. They’re looking for some new blood at the PCAOB though, since Mark Olson is retiring as Chairman and another board member’s term is expiring.
But don’t you go calling them lazy! “the PCAOB is taken seriously by the auditing community and deserves credit for trying. ‘Anyone who says it isn’t is off the wall,'”
What a ringing endorsement.

COMPLIANCE WATCH: Oversight Board Sets Sluggish Pace
[WSJ]

Funny homeless guy sign

You Know That Guy Who Panhandles on Your Block? He May Be a CPA.

Anybody out there looking to help their fellow CPA, who’s down on his luck?
The Wall St. Journal is reporting that the former BDO Seidman LLP CEO, Denis Field may have to pay back a portion of $180 million that is being sought by prosecutors in the tax shelter case that involves Field and six others.
Natch, everybody has denied wrongdoing. The charges include conspiracy and tax evasion. Good luck with that.

Prosecutors Seek Ex-BDO Seidman CEO, 6 Others To Forfeit $180M
[WSJ]

BDO

Jeremy Newman Just Wants to Be Clear, We are NOT Declaring Victory Over Banco Espirito…YET

BDO_International.pngAfter throwing an all night rager last week when BDO International Global Coordination skated on the $521M verdict, Jeremy Newman, BDO Boss, wants everybody to chill.

Newman said he had always been confident that BDO International’s arms-length approach would be proved but added: ‘There is still the risk of a further appeal, as well as the appeal by the US firm.’

See? Staying cool. Not out of the woods yet. But when we beat those bastards on appeal, then we are getting down.

Newman stays cool after BDO victory
[Accountancy Age]

Scoping | 06.25.09

The SEC Is Too Lax on CEO Health Disclosure – Because someone’s personal health is everybody’s business [Business Week]
Indicted Billionaire to Appear in Court in Texas – It’s showtime: “On Thursday, the 59-year-old Texas financier was expected to have a chance to formally declare in court he is innocent of charges his international banking and financial empire was really just a Ponzi scheme.” [DealBook/NYT]

Study Ties Madoff Losses to Charity’s Board Size
– [DealBook/NYT]

Review Comments | 06.24.09

Get Ready, Folks, ‘Cause This Is The Greatest Late-To-Work Excuse You’ve Ever Heard – [The Onion]

Ex-Treasury Chief Paulson to Testify on Merrill Deal, Panel Says
– Cue that Law & Order noise [Bloomberg]

Sanford Says He Had Extramarital Affair
– Just a plain-jane affair. No hookers, no staffer’s wife. Just went to the Southern Hemisphere. Meh. [WSJ]

Judge Defers Ruling on Madoff’s Restitution
– Sentencing still on for June 29. There might be some angry people there. [DealBook]

Layoff Watch: Even Local Firms are Cutting Back

The bean counter bloodbath continues, even at local firms.
Pittsburgh area firm, Alpern Rosenthal cut a dozen staffers late last week citing “performance issues”. The firm is also requesting current employees “to take a week of unpaid vacation by the end of the year, when [they] will determine whether they institute a hiring freeze or adjust profit sharing.”

Pittsburgh-area accounting firms tighten up, cut staff as downturn lingers
[Pittsburgh Business Times]

Option A: Eat Dead Frog, Option B: Pay Legal Fees

We here at Going Concern appreciate it when people embrace their bitterness but sometimes we have to give special attention to someone that goes above and beyond the run-of-the-mill cynicism. Like this gem in an 8-K filed by Expeditors International:

When you come from a frame of reference, as we do, where $0 spent on legal expense would be the most preferred alternative, having to predict anything beyond that, by its nature, would become inherently and incredibly biased towards our own wants, desires and expectations. To us, this is somewhat akin to being asked to predict how many minutes after being force fed a dead frog we would throw-up…and the operative word is “force,” as we’d never elect to do either on our own.

Sheesh, somebody needs a hug. The rest of the excerpt, in all it’s drippy sarcastic glory is at Footnoted.org.

FASB Overseers Hope That Motley Crue-ish Tour Will Help Win Some Fans Back

Motley Crue.JPGThe Financial Accounting Foundation (“FAF”) trustees are going on a tour that will certainly rival the amount of groupie tail that Motley Crue was getting circa late 80s.
“The Financial Accounting Foundation trustees, who oversee the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), will meet with small closed discussion groups of investors, auditors, academics and regulators in New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as with the FASB’s standing advisory groups.”
It’s pretty clear that the FAF has the intention of spreading their seed knowledge around the country in order to win back some cred for the FASB.

FASB overseers to seek input on new strategic plan
[Reuters via Accountancy Age]

Moody’s Calls Out the USD Haters

USD.jpgRussia and China can suck it re: the U.S. Dollar, according to Moody’s, “In the absence of a credible alternative it’s hard to see abrupt changes and that’s not even in the interest of the creditors,” Pierre Cailleteau, managing director of sovereign risk at Moody’s, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. The credit rating “remains solid,” he said earlier at a briefing.”
Do you like apples?

Moody’s Says World Has ‘No Credible Alternative’ to U.S. Dollar
[Bloomberg]

Scoping | 06.24.09

Antigua fires finance regulator – Not exactly the most surprising news of the day. [BBC]

Cuomo’s Money Manager Received Funds Linked to Pension Scandal
– “EnTrust Capital Inc., a hedge fund firm that’s handled New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s personal and campaign money, received state pension funds to invest from a company he has identified as paying possible illegal kickbacks.” Um, awkward. [Bloomberg]

Missing Governor Was in Argentina
– Getting some South American tail no doubt. Deadbeat Dad. [WSJ]

IASB Discusses MD&A and No One Cares

Do you spend evenings and weekends reading annual reports as opposed to doing, say, anything? We thought so. So you’re definitely familiar with the cheerleading section in those glossy marketing pieces known as “Management Discussion and Analsyis” or “MD&A”.
Well the IASB has decided that MD&A isn’t worth getting too worked up about as three board members voted “meh”, against issuing an actual proposal that would give management guidance on content. Sayeth:

Because the proposal will not result in a financial reporting standard, issuing it is not an effective use of IASB resources or those of constituents who may feel an obligation to comment, say the three board members, Robert Garnett, Prabhakar Kalavacherla, and James Leisenring.

Common sense appears to be alive and kicking at the IASB. Hoo-RAH.

International Standard Setters Have Their Say on MD&A
[CFO.com]

Grant Thornton LLP Names New CEO, Looks to Coin More Inclusive Title of ‘Global 6 Accounting Organization’

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGGrant Thornton LLP has named Stephen Chipman its new CEO, replacing Edward Nusbaum who is taking the CEO position of Grant Thornton International. The changes take place on January 1, 2010.
In a bit of robotic communications work, the two vomit-worthy statements from the CEO’s are oddly similar.
Nusbaum on June 3rd:

‘I am greatly honored and look forward to the opportunity to lead Grant Thornton International,’ said Nusbaum. ‘I will dedicate myself to continuing Grant Thornton’s tradition of strong leadership in the accounting profession and in speaking out on issues of importance. I want the Grant Thornton brand to mean principled people providing superior service to highly satisfied clients around the world’

Chipman today:

‘I look forward to leading Grant Thornton LLP,’ said Chipman. ‘I will dedicate myself to taking action on a number of fronts, including continuing Grant Thornton’s tradition of providing strong leadership to the accounting profession and speaking out on issues of importance. I will also continue our focus on providing the Grant Thornton Experience for our partners, people and clients, and expanding our global service capabilities and corporate social responsibility agenda.’

Okay, they aren’t identical but, sheesh, put some thought into it guys. These statements read like you just found out your wives were cheating on you…with each other.
Boilerplate CEO statements notwithstanding, the other interesting tidbit that was not subtly inserted in today’s press release was the usage of “Global 6 Accounting Organization” by GT.
Look GT, we see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to sneak in this fancy little phrase that you think will catch on and it’s not working for us. You’re not in the cool kids club. You’re just not. We feel bad for you but you can’t just show up at the cool party while there’s toilet paper stuck to your shoe and expect to start high-fiving PwC and get laid by some KPMG hottie. Nice try.

Stephen Chipman named CEO of Grant Thornton LLP
[Grant Thornton Press Release]

Legg Mason to Financial Crisis: 100 Years, You.

financial-crisis2.jpgThat’s it. It’s official. Worst. Crisis. Ever. If Legg Mason is your gauge on financial crisises, that is.
And since it is such a momentous occasion, guess what this calls for…wait for it…executive bonuses!
Courtesy of footnoted.org, we learn that Chairman and CEO, Mark Fetting’s received approximately a $3M bonus for “leadership of the company during one of the worst financial crises of the last 100 years, which particularly affected financial services companies”
Footnoted goes on to give us some perspective:

Just to make sure, we did a quick check for the word crisis (or crises) at other financial services companies and didn’t come up with anything that even came close. While the word was used in several other proxies, it wasn’t used in a way to justify a bonus and there were no pronouncements about this being the “worst financial crises”.

Okay, so Legg has some melodramatic types writing their filings. But how about some chicanery?:

Equally interesting is that while the board set Fetting’s bonus at 21% of the bonus pool in June 2008, Legg Mason’s loss of $1.9 billion last year meant that there was no bonus pool. But that didn’t stop the bonus because as the comp committee writes in the proxy the net loss was due to just two items and without those two items, the company “would have had net income, and the plan would have produced a total bonus pool large enough to accommodate the annual incentive awards made. Although the terms of the plan do not explicitly provide for the exclusion of those items, the Committee considered the items to be extraordinary expense.”

Seriously, who’s going to let two measly items stop them from paying executives bonuses out of a bonus pool that didn’t really exist? This is financial wartime people, we will not be denied.

Legg Mason calls it: The worst financial crisis
[footnoted.org]

Corporate CEO’s Are Smarter Than You. It’s Got Nothing to Do with Having Insider Information

Are you a corporate executive with insider information? Do you have a six-figure mortgage and a significant other with a shopping addiction? Is it possible that you’re not buying the hyperbole about “green shoots”?
Apparently that’s the consensus out there according to the Financial Times:

Executives in charge of the largest US companies sent a signal of their concerns by selling far more shares than they bought this month, according to data based on Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

BFD, you say? To wit:

Share sales by so-called company insiders are outstripping purchases so far this month by more than 22 times. TrimTabs, the investment research company, said insiders of S&P 500 listed companies have unloaded $2.6bn in shares in June, compared with $120m in purchases.

Still not convinced? Maybe this quote from TrimTabs CEO, Charles Biderman will sway you, “The smartest players in the US stock market – the top insiders who run public companies – are not betting their own money on an economic recovery.”
Did you hear that? The smartest players aren’t betting their own money on the recovery. It’s not because they run a shitty company, no, no. It’s because they’re smarter than all of us.

Pessimistic executives cash out of shares
[FT.com]

Scoping | 06.23.09

At Least Seven Killed in Red Line Crash – “One Metro train slammed into the back of another on the Red Line at the height of the evening rush yesterday, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 70 others in the deadliest accident in Metrorail’s 33-year-history.” [Washington Post]

Conspiracy surrounds $134bn ‘bond’ find
– If the blogosphere is good for anything, it’s a conspiracy [BBC]

Experts: Apple Disclosure ‘Falls Short’
– [Business Week]

Madoff Feeders Getting Some Unwanted Attention

The SEC, feeling confident these days, has filed a complaint against Cohmad Securities Corporation and its Chairman, Chief Operating Officer, and one of the brokers, saying they “actively marketed Madoff investments while ‘knowingly or recklessly disregarding facts indicating that Madoff was operating a fraud.'”
Call us Captain Obv but that sounds like they were either dumb or in on the scam. Either way, they can’t be too psyched about it.
An additional complaint has been filed by the SEC against Stanley Chais, an investment adviser who put all of the assets he oversaw into casa de Madoff.
Irving Picard, who might have the most thankless job in America, also sued both Cohmad and Chais, because, you know, a few people want their money back. The trustee’s complaint against Cohmad spells it out:

The trustee’s lawsuit asserted that fees paid to Cohmad by Mr. Madoff were based on records showing the actual cash status of customer accounts — the amounts invested and withdrawn — without including the fictional profits shown in the statements provided to customers. When a customer’s withdrawals exceeded the cash invested, Cohmad’s employees no longer earned fees from that account — even though the customer’s statements still showed a substantial balance, according to the lawsuit.

This arrangement indicated that Cohmad and its representatives knew about the Ponzi scheme and knew that the profits investors were allegedly earning were bogus, according to the trustee’s complaint.

Good luck explaining that.

Brokerage Firm and 4 Others Sued in Madoff Case
[New York Times]

SHOCKER: Doesn’t Appear that Stanford Auditors were Doing Any Auditing

allen-stanford_1018295c.jpgLast week’s indictment of Allen Stanford has brought up the always popular question when fraud, occurs: “Who are the auditors that were asleep at the wheel of this disaster?”
Well, in this case, the auditors were a local UK two-person shop, CAS Hewlett, which must be Queen’s English for Friehling & Horowitz.
It doesn’t appear that CAS Hewlett has a website, but they’ve been doing the Stanford “audits” for at least 10 years, so obv they’re legit. PwC and KPMG both have offices on Antigua but Stanford preferred to stay with its “trusted firm”. Totally understandable.
And the best part? The founder of the firm, Charlesworth “Shelly” Hewlett died in January, approximately a month before the story broke on the Ponz de Stanford.
This all adds up to who-the-fuck-knows if audits were even occurring and for us to speculate if Shelly needed to get got because Stan knew that the poo and fan were coming together. Just sayin’.

Scoping | 06.22.09

U.S. seeks delay on calculating Madoff restitution – Sentencing will not be delayed. Whew! We’re not sure if we can wait much longer for victims’ statements [Reuters via DealBook]

Sorry America, We Still Have No Clue What To Do About ‘Too Big To Fail’
– Newspeak phrase of the day: “Tier 1 Financial Holding Companies” [Clusterstock]

All together now: ‘F is for failure’
– Hey, it’s all around. Somebody’s got to talk about it. [FT Alphaville]

UBS Closer to Getting the McCarthy Treatment

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIf you’ve got a Swiss bank account, here’s hoping you opened it because it was convenient for your monthly skiing/Toblerone getaway.
The U.S. and Swiss governments have agreed to share more tax information in order to crack down on all the tax dodgers out there that send their money offshore. The timing of this agreement is is especially diabolical because the IRS is currently trying to get Swiss bank behemoth UBS to name names of over 50,000 American clients.
Hearings in Miami are scheduled for next month to see if the names can be released, however, the Swiss have stated that this may violate Swiss law of double-secret-no-tattling-on-clients.
Ultimately, the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament will decide if the new agreement is kosh but judging by the Obama Administration’s hard-on for closing tax loopholes, they’ll probably play ball.

U.S. and Switzerland to Share More Tax Data
[DealBook/NYT]

No Raises, Bonuses From Accounting Firms May Result in an Exodus that Moses Would be Proud of

moneybag.gifThere has been lots of gossip out there about accounting firms freezing pay and skipping bonuses this year. Not surprisingly, this has been welcomed with a resounding “fuck this” by many of you.
Tough job market and near-apocalyptic economic conditions notwithstanding, you can’t really blame people that are ready to jump ship after billing more hours than they ever have before and then are told, “Thanks for all your help this year. Oh, and we can’t even afford to give you a cost-of-living increase.”
Considering the layoff bloodbath that has occurred in the past 12 months, which includes partners, one has to wonder why the hell these firms are continuing to slash costs. Many survivors of the massacre will get over the whole “thankfully I have a job” mentality when they’re welcomed with a new low in gratitude from their employers.

Firms face struggle to keep hold of top talent
[Accountancy Age]

Face It People, Nothing Much Can Be Done About the Revolving Door

Revolving_Door2.jpgThere’s constant conspiracy theories bellyaching about certain companies getting their former big shots into public service and regulatory positions (we’re talking about you, Maxine Waters).
Well now there’s speculation about former Big 4 partners working at the IASB.
We get it, those who used to work at the big firms shouldn’t be writing the rules. So who the hell is going to do it? Shall we have the likes of Friehling & Horowitz appointed as the standard setters?
The large firms have the biggest pool to choose out of, so natch they’re going to have some of the better candidates to delve into this wonky rule-writing stuff. We’re probably lucky that there are people out there that actually want to serve on these boards, lots of Big 4 partners can barely turn on their computers.

In Case You Need Another Reason to Hate the French

french flag.jpgWalking around the PwC office in Midtown Manhattan, our blogospondent in the field happened across a couple of young ladies having the picture taken in front of the P Dubya sign out front, proudly posing as if it was their names on the building at 300 Madison.
Said blogospondent approached the young ladies and asked if they worked at the P Dub and they responded in heavily French accents, “yes”. As result of further prying, it was revealed that the ladies do work a lot during “busy times”, sometimes between 50 and 60 hours a week!
This compared to an American tax associate who we spoke to just a couple days before who, in the last fifteen days, had worked 185 hours.
Let’s recap: America – 185 hours in 15 days in the middle of June vs. France – 50-60 hours in one week during the “busy time”.
American vitriol towards the French may now ensue.

About to Get Canned? Depends on Your Response

With all the uncertainty out there, for the first time, number crunchers are walking on eggshells, because, you know, if anyone gets the hint that you’re not busy enough, before you realize it you’re turning in your badge and corporate card with $500 of still unexplained expenses on it.
Here at Going Concern, we’re looking out for you, so that’s why we’re going to lay out some indicators for you so you can tell if you are about to get axed or if you should just buckle down and call for take out because your ass isn’t going anywhere.
Here are some common responses to the awkward icebreaker that is common around most offices, “You busy these days?”:
• “Ugh, you know how it is” – You’re safe. Maybe it’s the bags under your eyes, your shirt being on inside out, or maybe you just reek of tequila because you spent the four hours prior to returning to work reliving your days at Tappa Megga Kegga. Unless you plan on going postal at the office, you’re not going anywhere.
• “Oh pretty busy” – Watch yourself and lay low. You’ve got stuff to work on but not enough to keep you at the office past 6 pm. Every once in awhile you’ll stay late and catch up on your Netflix queue in order for it to look like you’re not leaving GASP too early.
• “I’m working on a project for HR” – Dust of the resume. The only reason they’re keeping you around is to bide time until judgment day when the rest of the people are going down with you.
Rumor around the campfire is that some of the firms are billing far fewer hours than are budgeted which could spur some additional cuts so watch out for responses similar to the ones above. The bloodbath may not be over yet.

Grant Thornton and the Antichrist

al pacino_devil.jpgIt’s rather mysterious that the New York office of Grant Thornton is located at 666 Third Ave. As I’m sure our more pious readers know, the significance of the 666 is commonly known as “The Number of the Beast“. We won’t get into any more specifics than that other than to mention that it is a pretty creepy-ass looking number.
Is G to the T run by a secret group of Al Pacino-esque figures that are working against the forces of good?
Maybe not but the otherwise boring-assness of that particular lobby is def working too hard to not be noticed…