• US to unveil hedge fund legislation – “The Obama administration will on Wednesday unveil draft legislation that will require all US hedge funds with more than $30m in assets under management to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” You knew it was coming. [FT.com]
• Private Equity Industry Says It Poses No Systemic Risk – “The private equity industry’s main lobbying group said Wednesday it supported legislation that would require all firms of a certain size to register as investment advisers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but urged lawmakers to avoid onerous regulations.” [DealBook]
• Fed Upgrades Economic Projections, but Expect Worse Unemployment – Minutes did not show the over/under of minutes it takes for Hank Paulson’s dismembering of all the members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing tomorrow. [WSJ]
• US to unveil hedge fund legislation – “The Obama administration will on Wednesday unveil draft legislation that will require all US hedge funds with more than $30m in assets under management to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” You knew it was coming. [FT.com]
Academics in the U.S. aren’t too psyched about the benefits of IFRS, according to Compliance Week:
The United States already meets a high level of reporting quality relative to other countries as a result of various “institutional features,” said [Peter] Wysocki [Professor at MIT]. Those include things like an active investor and analyst community, a rigorous audit process, and oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission, among others, he said.
“It’s a little difficult to argue a move to IFRS will result in significant improvement in reporting quality,” Wysocki said. “We’re already at a high level because we already have those institutional features in place.
The debate over convergence has reached Biggie/Tupac fever and now that U.S. GAAP has got American bookworms shouting about how IFRS isn’t all that, we expect that academics on the other side of the pond will get involved and the debate will get fiercely geekier.
Academics: Move to IFRS Won’t Boost Reporting Quality [Compliance Week]
Invoking their continuing motto of “Better Late Than Never”, the SEC closed the Tyco case today as Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz agreed to be banned from serving as directors or officers of a public company. The timing of this ban comes as a bit of surprise since these guys have been in jail since 2005 but we are talking about the SEC.
Since Bernie Madoff has a much longer sentence than the Tyco twins, the Commission will figure there’s no rush and he’ll retain his rights to serve as a director/officer until around 2020.
Settlement Ends S.E.C. Case Two From Tyco [DealBook/NYT]
Big day tomorrow for Hank Paulson as he finally gets to set the record straight re: Ken Lewis’s kneecaps. Our feeling is the threatening of bank CEO’s while taking a leisurely bike ride is second nature for
Colonel Jessup Paulson and he probably doesn’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to. But since you clowns at Oversight and Government Reform went ahead and called the big guy to testify, he’ll humor you just this once:
Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson plans to tell lawmakers he acted appropriately in warning Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis that the firm’s management could be ousted if it walked away from its deal to buy Merrill Lynch, saying such a move would have suggested a “colossal lack of judgment.”
We’re done here.
Paulson: Comments to BofA’s Lewis ‘Were Appropriate’ [WSJ]
It what amounts to a serious case of too little, too late, the SEC says that it will do more to protect investors in the wake of the Madoff scandal.
M. Schape and Co. would like you all (House Financial Services Committee) to know that they have been busy though. Working late. Working weekends. Working hard:
regulatory proposals include restricting short-selling in down markets, strengthening oversight of mutual funds, tightening scrutiny of investment advisers and making it easier for shareholders to seat directors on company boards. The S.E.C. is also working to identify emerging risks to investors, including so-called dark pools, or automated trading systems that do not publicly provide price quotes, Ms. Schapiro said.
See? Doesn’t that make you feel better? We’re the SEC, getting better at being less clueless since 2009.
S.E.C. Plans to Protect Investors More Post-Madoff [DealBook/NYT]
• Young ‘depressed’ about money – Has everyone forgotten that spending makes us happy?!? C’mon people! Go out there and get pre-approved on something! [BBC]
• Judge won’t drop charge vs ex-Bear Stearns exec – “A U.S. judge refused on Tuesday to dismiss an insider-trading charge against former Bear Stearns hedge fund manager Ralph Cioffi, court documents showed.” [Reuters]
• Franklin drops out of group eyeing AIG unit: source – “AIG’s asset management business had drawn interest from both private equity and strategic buyers, sources told Reuters previously. Initial bids for the unit had come in around $500 million but it has taken the company several months to work out a deal.” [Reuters]
• HSBC Sued Over $578 Million ‘Fake’ Profit From Madoff – Simply stated, clawbacks are a bitch. [Bloomberg]
• House Health Bill Slaps 5.4% Tax on Top Earners – “House Democrats Tuesday proposed new taxes on the wealthy to help fund an expansion of government health benefits. But the bill also includes a mechanism to peel back the tax increases if the revenue isn’t needed to fund the bill.” [WSJ]
• IASB promotes ‘fair value’ rule change – “A radical shake-up of how banks and insurers report the value of financial instruments has been proposed by international accounting rule-setters in a bold attempt to resolve an intense dispute at the heart of efforts to prevent a repeat of credit crisis.” Don’t hold your breath on this. Banks won’t be down for it. [FT.com]
Another press release from the SEC today stating how they’ve thwarted yet another Ponzi scheme.
Ponzis being the norm lately we’re not terribly impressed by this but what we did find surprising was the title of the Commission’s press release: “SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases” (that’s our emphasis).
Is the Commission making the assumption that those individuals that are actually reading the press releases need informed about what the money stolen is actually used for? Seriously, Bernie and Big Al don’t strike us Robin Hood types, even before indictments were handed out. No where in Bern’s statement at sentencing did he state:
Your honor, I’ve become increasingly despondent about the wealth gap in this country. I stole from the wealthiest individuals, investment companies, and charities possible in order to help the people that couldn’t help themselves. It was not my intention to take all my clients’ money. I merely wanted to level the playing field. I thought this method would be most effective as opposed to raising tax rates on the rich, which I’m personally opposed to.
Didn’t hear that did you? Let’s break this down: Bernie liked handjobs(and God knows what else, shudder) and Aston Martins. Stan liked doing bumps off hookers’ asses (we’re guessing here) and buying cricket teams (this is documented).
We will give the credit to the Commission for busting another scofflaw but we would now advise that knowing your reading audience is equally important.
SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases [SEC.gov]
Per Bloomberg, he’s touched down in Butner, NC. The moral of the story being: Look both ways before you steal $65 billion (give or take a few bil).
Because we know you haven’t gotten enough of the whole Bank of America/Merrill Lynch deal-under-duress drama, we’re happy to report that Representative Darrell Issa of California (seen at left, with, we can only assume, a constituent, not a high-priced call girl or his staffer’s wife, or his Argentinean soulmate) isn’t satisfied by B-squared’s testimony and likely won’t be satisfied with Hank “Just call me Lance Armstrong” Paulson’s testimony that is scheduled for Thursday.
No, no. Issa wants more information, “[he] wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner July 2 asking for all records surrounding an October 13 meeting and decision to use government bailout funds to buy equity in financial institutions.”
You think that’s good? He’s not done:
Issa also asked the Treasury to provide records and communications, including notes and e-mails from a range of officials, relating to the Bank of America-Merrill merger from August 1 though February 1. Issa also asked New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in a July 1 letter to provide transcripts of interviews with Paulson and any other communications with federal officials on the Bank of America-Merrill merger.
That’s right. Six months worth of emails and notes. Every single post-it that you did your best Jackie Treehorn sketch on MUST. BE. SAVED.
Issa, a believer in a Nixon-esque coverup at the behest of Bernanke, has clearly channeled his inner-Maxine Waters and will BE DAMNED if this is happening on his watch.
Lawmaker seeks more data in BofA-Merrill deal [Reuters]
Your latest bit of hilarity regarding the Stanford Ponzi Party is that a group of plaintiffs is suing the government of Antigua and Barbuda for $24 billion because the island was allegedly a “full financial partner in the fraud”.
Alphaville isn’t buying it, and they not so accidently, put “Fraud Victims” in quotations which we find hilarious because it almost appears that Alphaville isn’t even buying the “victims” angle as so much as they’re buying the “morons” angle.
The post goes on to inform us that “$24bn is also 24 times Antigua’s 2008 GDP“. Which moves this particular case from the “frivolous” category to the “downright idiotic” category.
Nevertheless, one might conclude that any or all of the following is what got this thing off the ground:
1. Big Al is pulling the strings from jail in order to pay for his defense because, as we learned, he’s got no legit cash.
Ambulance Ponzi victim chasing attorney
3. Banana farmers in Antigua that really don’t have any alternative after getting shaken down by the EU.
So duped people are pissed and they want their money back. They have finally come to the conclusion that the original $8bil has been long ago spent on Scarface-size piles of blow and endless hours spent in houses of ill repute so they’re clutching at straws.
Our advice: Just sue the SEC already.
“Fraud victims” want $24bn from the government of Antigua and Barbuda [FT Alphaville]
• Lawyer Gets 20 Years in $700 Million Fraud – We’ve heard that Butner is lovely this time of year. [New York Times]
• Credit Swaps Investigated by U.S. Justice Department – We’re quite this is occurring at the behest of Maxine Waters because banning CDS is the only logical solution to solving this economic crisis. [Bloomberg]
• Goldman executives sold $700m of stock – If there’s anything that Maxine Waters loves hating on more than CDS it’s L to the B and Goldman Sachs. BON-US! BON-US! BON-US! [FT.com]
• US budget deficit at $1 trillion – But the trade deficit is at a nine year low. Hoo-RAH! [BBC]
• Ronald Crawford Named SEC’s First Chief Counsel For Diversity Initiatives – Because M Schape’s troops are sick of talking about stuff they don’t do right, they needed to make an announcement that wouldn’t have anything to do with actual watch-dogginess. [SEC.gov]
• Even in Downturn, a London Banker’s Party Goes On – Even Homer Simpson has said, “It’s a party. It doesn’t have to make sense” [DealBook/NYT]
Bernie Madoff is “in transit” to prison per a story at Bloomberg. The story’s source was a spokesman from the Federal Correctional Institute in Otisville, NY, where the Master de Ponz requested to be housed.
CNBC has reported that he will serve his sentence in Butner, NC.
Butner has two lovely medium security facilities and one posh low security facility so it’s def not FPMITA prison but it’s not the cushy dorm-style and we would speculate that inmates are only allowed to use sporks at chow time and use Lucky Strikes to buy Juicy Fruit and other luxuries.
Bernard Madoff ‘In Transit’ to Prison, Spokesman Says [Bloomberg]
Jack Welch, who is increasingly looking like Gollum these days, has been quoted saying that there is no such thing as “work-life” balance only “work-life choices”, according to a story in the Wall St. Journal.
The quotes were in context of women who choose between spending time with family and those that want to “reach the top” but you gents aren’t immune.
Accounting firms are constantly selling “work-life balance” as a priority but we’ll take Welch’s comments as gospel here since, nothing we’ve seen or heard makes us believe otherwise.
So next time you get the work-life rhetoric, you’ve got some published material for your back up your “I call bullshit” argument. You’re welcome.
Welch: ‘No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance’ [WSJ]
As expected, James Davis, Stanford Financial’s Chief Number-Maker-Upper has entered his not guilty plea but his counsel has stated that his client will plead guilty to all the charges against him as early as next week. The initial plea has been made in order to finalize the plea agreement with Davis prior to his pleading guilty
This is all occurring while Stan the Man’s attorneys are in New Orleans appealing a Houston judge’s ruling that he has to pump iron in prison throughout his trial. Stan’s attorneys continue to maintain that their client is NOT a flight risk, which is kinda like saying that Bernie Madoff is NOT in jail.
Ex-Stanford CFO to plead guilty within 2 weeks: lawyer [Reuters]
We’ve been able to avoid the whole Michael Jackson debacle up until now. We couldn’t, in good blogging conscience, avoid this particular story.
The estate of Michael Jackson is probably going to have to turn over at least $80 million to the IRS and they get to cut the line right to the front to collect.
“As in a bankruptcy case, Jackson’s creditors will jockey for first crack at his fortune. But the estate’s initial obligation will be to pay the late star’s taxes, said Beth Kaufman, a Washington-based attorney specializing in estate tax issues. ‘There is no question that the U.S. government has first priority,’ she said.
Oh, and the Service is not going to take the royalty rights to She Loves You or I am the Walrus either:
To settle his tax bill, the executors of his estate may have to sell or borrow against lucrative but hard-to-value assets or ask the IRS for a multi-year extension. That could allow the estate to pay the tab over time with earnings from Jackson’s share in rights to songs by the Beatles and his own music — prized properties whose value will likely make the estate’s tax bill only bigger. “The government is not going to take a Beatles record as payment. They want to be paid in cash,” said Roy Kozupsky, a veteran estate lawyer in New York who has worked on behalf of several wealthy clients.
Reportedly, Jackson still made $40 million a year from his ownership of the recordings. This will no doubt make the calculation of the tax bill more complicated and thus, we’ll continue to be saturated with all the excruciating details about this story that we just don’t want to hear.
Death and taxes: Big IRS bill looms for MJ estate [AP via TaxProf Blog]
• Stage Set For Sotomayor’s Confirmation Hearings – “As hearings begin, many observers believe only a major blunder could halt the 54-year-old federal appeals court judge’s march toward becoming the first Hispanic, and just the third woman, to sit on the nation’s mightiest bench.” [NPR]
• CIT Group Scrambles to Survive, Avoid a Run – Here we go again? [WSJ]
• Bank of America Said to Balk at Paying Backstop Fee – “Regulators contend Bank of America owes at least part of a $4 billion fee it agreed to pay in January — even without a completed legal document — because the company benefited from implied U.S. backing on about $118 billion of Merrill Lynch assets, such as mortgage-backed bonds, people familiar with the matter said.” [Bloomberg]
• Economists Oppose More Stimulus – Your rebuttal, Professor Krugman [WSJ]
• Fed’s Bullard Says He Doesn’t See Economic Recovery Faltering – “We are going to have just the right policy to get the right inflation rate,” Bullard said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. “I do not buy into the stories about the Fed making a mistake one way or the other going forward.” You got a like a guy with confidence I guess [Bloomberg]
• Madoff Trustee Says 15,400 Claims Were Filed – “The final tally of claims from victims of Bernard L. Madoff’s vast Ponzi scheme comes to more than 15,400, up from 8,800 claims filed at the end of June, according to an update provided on Thursday to the federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan.” Who’s putting this off? Did some just hear about this story? Not at the top of the do list to call Irv Picard and say “yeah, we had some cash in there”? [DealBook/NYT]
The Michael Moore documentary that has been so feverishly anticipated now has a title: Capitalism: A Love Story.
For those of you not so familiar with Moore’s work, you can basically expect convenient statistics for Moore’s position and not-so-flattering footage of rich guys who might had a hand in some of the collapse. Master de Ponz, Prince Ponz, Angelo Mozilo, Joe Cassano, anyone whoever worked at a hedge fund, etc.
Michael Moore names his new economy themed film [New York Daily News]
In what could be the most sensible reaction by bankers in quite some time, Sweden is writing down debt held by individuals in Latvia.
This move by the Swedes occurs, not so surprisingly, after the revelation that Latvian bankers were acting as soul brokers.
Swedbank, which is entirely made up of tall, stunningly attractive blondes that only purchase inexpensive, self-assembled furniture, stated that approximately 10% of the loans held by Latvian individuals would be written down, leaving many Latvian souls at risk of repossession by
the Princes of Darkness Latvian Bankers.
Swedish Banks Prepare Latvian Debt Write-Down [DealBook/NYT]
Don’t mind if Uncle Sam is up in your biznass 24/7? Thrive in a thankless atmosphere? KPMG is your favorite Big 4 firm? We know that you don’t sleep. Job is yours.
The bastions of financial responsibility at Citigroup have announced a new CFO, the second in four months. The lucky SOB is John Gerspach who got the bump from Controller. Best of luck John. Now how about those dividend checks?
Citigroup Names Gerspach CFO; Kelly Shifted to Strategy Role [Bloomberg]
•Dollar Will Remain World’s Main Reserve Currency – Sayeth Robert Gibbs, Obama mouthpiece. But there’s more, “‘There are a lot of people that have talked about it, but we don’t think that’s really serious,’ U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said”. Hear that? Not serious! Wa-hoo! GO TEAM AMERICA! [Bloomberg]
•GM Will Exit Bankruptcy With $48 Billion in Debt – This will be the “new” GM. The “old” GM will get “unwanted assets, including contaminated factory sites, a parking lot in Flint, Michigan, and a nine-hole golf course in New Jersey.” Sounds like a winner! [Bloomberg]
•U.S. jobless claims drop steeply – Calm down. It’s new jobless claims. It’s not like the unemployed are finding work. [Reuters]
•Six charged in shares fraud case – “Six employees of the Wall Street firm Sky Capital Holdings have been charged with carrying out a $140m (£87m) investment fraud in the US and Britain.” [BBC]
•AIG in talks with MetLife over Alico – In case you didn’t hear, AIG owes some money [FT.com]
•Hedge Fund Buys Buffett Lunch A Year After Losing 66% – Guess they really need some pointers from the Oracle. [Clusterstock]
Get some coffee, we’re about to talk some tax law…
In a major win for small businesses, a U.S. Tax Court ruled in favor of farmers in Nebraska who claimed that losses from their LLC were not “passive” as the IRS has been arguing for years.
As a result of the ruling, losses from investments in LLP’s and LLC’s held by active participants will be allowed to offset said individual’s personal and investment income.
Prior to the ruling some losses were being carried forward for years until the investment produced a profit or was sold and because the case was heard in U.S. Tax Court, the ruling applies to all states.
The IRS, as always, seems to have outs. Sayeth the Journal, “The agency could appeal the Tax Court ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. It also could try to get Congress to change the law or try a new strategy to maintain the status quo.”
Okay, we made it through that…
Entrepreneurs Win Tax Case Versus IRS [WSJ]
With only days until a showdown between the IRS and UBS, the Swiss Government has announced that it will stop the release of the 52,000 client names even if the U.S. Court orders the names to be released.
Now before you say, “Oh, Swiss Government, you’re so cute with your braided blonde hair and neutrality,” they sound pretty serious:
“Switzerland makes it perfectly clear that Swiss law prohibits UBS from complying with a possible order by the court in Miami to hand over the client information,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said. “On the basis of the Federal Council’s landmark decision, UBS will by no means be in a position to comply with such an order.” The Finance Ministry added that “all the necessary measures should be taken to prevent UBS from handing over the information on the 52,000 account holders demanded in the U.S. civil proceeding.”
We really feel that a few Toblerones would really go a long way to convincing the IRS that the names aren’t really that important. Just say the word IRS and we’re sure that they can make it happen.
Switzerland: Will Block UBS From Giving U.S. Client Data [WSJ]
H&R Block announced yesterday that it expects the IRS to get less kind and gentle in the coming years as the Service attempts to close the $345 billion tax gap.
The announcement states that the IRS is nearly doubling its budget for next year and that last year, 1 in 99 individual tax returns were audited as compared to 1 in 202 in 2000.
Maybe the Democrats do want all our money…
Audits Double This Decade [H&R Block Press Release]
Not sure how we missed this but whatevs. BKD made a move on a local Dallas firm, KBA Group LLP on June 1.
BKD will add eight partners, 95 employees, and approximately $16 million in revenues to its business.
According to AccountingWEB, “This expansion will allow BKD to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Texas market as it serves clients from its offices in Houston, San Antonio, and now Dallas.” Sounds like a BKD press release but if you say so…Enjoy the new boss, KBA!
BKD announces merger with Dallas-based KBA Group [AccountingWEB]
•Switzerland thwarts US tax deal – The Swiss Government is not down for any kind of deal. They figured offering Toblerones was the best they could do so now they want the IRS to drop it. [BBC]
•Apple’s Disclosures on Jobs Said to Be Subject of SEC Review – “Apple Inc.’s disclosures about Steve Jobs’s health remain under scrutiny by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators over how his condition went from ‘relatively simple’ to “more complex” in nine days, said a person familiar with the matter.” [Bloomberg]
•In California, Even the I.O.U’s Are Owed – “The only thing worse than being issued an i.o.u. rather than a check from the State of California may be not getting the i.o.u. at all — at least in time to meet the deadline of your bank.” Keep it up Cali and we’ll take your beaches away. [New York Times]
•Oil Price to Match Record $147 in Three Years, Pickens Says – And he says in ten years it will be $300 a barrel. Anyone listening? We didn’t think so [Bloomberg]
•Pope Calls for New Economic Structure – Shit your holiness, you want the job? [Washington Post]
•Greenberg’s Starr Prevails in AIG Court Fight – “A jury on Tuesday rejected claims that a sister company to American International Group Inc., at the direction of Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, AIG’s former chief executive, improperly seized control of millions of shares of the insurer’s stock.” [WSJ]
Grant Thornton is really making our lives easy today: “Grant Thornton has agreed to pay nearly £6,000 in fines and costs after it failed to correctly sign off 43 audit reports.”
Measly fine, obv but 43 audit reports? And a incorrectly signed off report is one that, “had not been signed off by a responsible individual of the firm”.
So apparently the Brits have got their interns signing off on the audits. Gold star for you today, GT.
ICAEW fines Grant Thornton over audit sign-offs [Accountancy Age]
The SEC alleges that from at least June 2006 through January 2009, Provident [Royalties, LLC] made a series of fraudulent securities offerings involving oil and gas assets through 21 affiliated entities to more than 7,700 investors throughout the United States. Provident’s entities made some direct retail sales of securities, but primarily solicited retail broker-dealers to enter into placement agreements for each offering, and those retail broker-dealers sold the stock to retail investors nationwide.
Dudes were promising 18% returns and that 85% of funds would be invested in “interests in oil and gas real estate, leases, mineral rights, and interests, exploration and development.” SEC alleges that less than 50% of the funds received were used for such investments.
SEC Obtains Asset Freeze in $485 Million Nationwide Offering Fraud [SEC.gov]
Allen Stanford is pissed. How on Earth can a man with those guns not be allowed to invoke his rights to counsel if you don’t let him get his mitts on some cash?
We’re not talking about a public defender here, judge. We’re talking downtown, probably wears a Stetson to the courthouse, Houston representation we’re talking about. Serious scratch.
“‘The government’s unfettered, and thus far successful, attempts to prevent Mr. Stanford from being able to mount a defence in his criminal proceedings amount to a deprivation of both his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,’ attorney Dick DeGuerin argued in in the filing.”
The judge is like, IDGAF: “Judge [David] Godbey replied to – and denied – that request last week, saying Sir Allen had ‘not shown that he has $10m dollars, or any lesser amount, in personal assets untainted by potential fraud.'”
Fine, but Stan would just like you to know that selling tickets to the gun show inside the joint doesn’t work the cons like it does the fine Texas ladies.
Stanford lashes out at federal prosecutors [FT.com]
Deciding that it was about time they got their shit together, the SEC announced today that it is reorganizing its enforcement division. The reorganization will eliminate supervisory positions in order to reduce bureaucracy and help speed up response to potential fraud.
Before the proposed changes, the Commission had been utilizing the opposite approach.
A few details because we know you’re craving them:
The overhaul unveiled this week dissolves the division’s lowest and largest tier of supervisors, the branch managers who oversee small teams of attorneys, the people said. Some may become front-line investigators; others may be elevated to assistant directors. Assistants, who currently supervise about 18 people each, would instead oversee only six. A plan to create specialist teams, using a similar management structure, is still being refined, [sources] said.
We’ll also note that the new Enforcement Director, Robert Khuzami, said the new “specialist teams” will help detect “patterns” more easily. Khuzami also noted that this brilliant plan was being kicked around before the whole Madoff thing, thankyouverymuch.
SEC Said to Reorganize Enforcement Unit, Trim Management Ranks [Bloomberg]
Last week we told you about Bank of America doing California a solid by taking the busted state’s IOU’s. Well, the banks had the holiday weekend to think about it and after some barbecue, beers, and shooting roman candles at Ken Lewis, they pretty much decided that they weren’t so cool with the idea.
“A group of the biggest U.S. banks said they would stop accepting California’s IOUs on Friday, adding pressure on the state to close its $26.3 billion annual budget gap.”
Included in “biggest U.S. Banks” just happened to be BofA.
Turns out Bank of America had their fingers crossed all along because 1) There must have been talk about Cali’s so called “good word” over the grill; and 2) Ken Lewis was completely serious about getting the interest paid back in bourbon.
Big Banks Don’t Want California’s IOUs [WSJ]
•U.S. House May Include Surtax on Wealthy in Health-Care Package – In this particular case, wealthy means greater than $200k [Bloomberg]
•Obama Adviser Says U.S. Should Mull Second Stimulus – Because you knew it was coming [Bloomberg via Clusterstock]
•NOT THE BAIR MINIMUM – She Bair might be playing in somebody else’s sandbox [New York Post]
•New GM to Be ‘Fully Launched’ This Month, Rattner Says – “A new company containing General Motors Corp.’s top assets is expected to be ‘fully launched’ by month’s end under a new board and majority ownership of the U.S. and Canadian governments, President Barack Obama’s top auto adviser said Monday.” [WSJ]
•California Downgraded By Fitch – This could be the beginning of something bad…Moody’s, your move. [Clusterstock]
•Tribune Said to Finalize Deal to Sell Cubs – The new era of losing begins. [DealBook/NYT]
Because the entire blogosphere/media is still suffering from a serious 4th of July cocktail flu, we’ll jump back on HealthSouth briefly.
Richard Scrushy, whom former CFO Aaron Beam said he would take over Hannibal Lecter (uncanny resemblance) in a fight, has been accused of HealthSouth Corp of hiding assets in order to avoid paying down some of the $2.8-odd billion that he was ordered to pay to the company after the civil proceeding.
HealthSouth says that Scrushy has $600 million in offshore accounts plus real estate in other people’s names that should be turned over. Scrushy, who we understand is held behind glass, did not comment other than that he def recommends Chianti with liver.
HealthSouth accuses Scrushy of hiding assets [AP via Miami Herald]
It might be a fair statement that we like to talk a little trash here at Going Concern. We do our best to embrace our natural inclination. However, every once in awhile we try to spread some positive news.
Today’s attempt at a positive story comes courtesy of Aaron Beam, a former CFO at HealthSouth. Beam was CFO at HealthSouth when the fraud first began in 1996. Beam describes his decision to make the numbers up this way, “one night, during the second quarter of ’96, I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and we credited revenue that did not exist and we debited assets that did not exist.”
Not exactly the most sophisticated fraud in the world but whatevs. The Street and Richard Scrushy demanded results.
And so it went, until Beam left in 1997. HealthSouth continued to commit accounting fraud until 2002 when it imploded. Beam testified against
“Hannibal Lecter” Scrushy but the slimeball walked on the criminal charges only to be found liable for damages to the tidy sum of a shade under $2.9 Billion.
As for Beam, he spent 3 months in a non-FPMITA prison and now speaks to business students around the country about ethics and has a lawn-service business.
I’m trying to turn a big negative into a positive, because there is such a need for ethics in the business world today, and I’m in a unique position to talk about it. If we can teach college students that they’re going to face these kinds of temptations every day in the business world, we can make a difference.
WTG man, and hey, we’re being serious.
“I Should Have Said No.” [CFO.com]
Okay, so large accounting firms don’t have the best reputations. They also have the tendency to be thick as thieves when they come under scrutiny. And the green eyeshade look has never been one that screams trustworthy.
But now, in what might be a bit of presumptuous awesomeness, the BBC is coming right out and calling Grant Thornton’s Growth Securities Ownership Plan (GSOP) a scheme. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions but the subtitle doesn’t strike us as being subtle: “A big accountancy firm has denied that it has been peddling a tax avoidance scheme to help rich people avoid paying the new 50% income tax rate from 2010.”
Let’s break some of the key words and phrases down:
Peddling: Use of this word basically implies that narcotics are involved
Tax Avoidance Scheme: Implies a conspiracy of smart people to screw the tax authority on behalf of…
Rich People: Not the best time in history to be lumped into this particular demographic
WTG, G to the T. Not only are you trying to screw the taxing authority in Britain by virtue of the equivalent of slinging financial smack, you’ve got the audacity to do it on the behalf of rich people.
Accountants deny ‘new tax dodge’ [BBC]
Latvian bankers apparently have some super-cosmic powers that have yet to be harnessed by others in the finance industry because they are taking peoples’ souls as collateral.
Call us skeptical but Latvian bankers would be the last members of the banking community to be the recipients of a Mortal Kombat-esque finishing move that would be reaped upon borrowers that turn out to be deadbeats.
If Matt Taibbi is to believed (and why wouldn’t he? He works at Rolling Stone after all), then this practice is obviously something that Goldman Sachs has already considered and Blankfein and Co. have utimately decided that bringing hellish powers to earth will just have to wait.
Would you pledge your soul as loan collateral? [Reuters via FT Alphaville]
•GM bankruptcy plan gains approval – Because anything less might get you a meeting with the President. [BBC]
•A Goldman trading scandal? – “On July 4, Aleynikov was processed on a ‘theft of trade secrets’ charge in a criminal complaint that was filed in federal court in Manhattan. As of this afternoon, he was still being held in federal custody pending posting of bail.” Someone is messing with GS? This aggression will not stand, obv. [Matthew Goldstein/Reuters]
•Stanford Funneled Millions Under Florida’s Nose – “But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from the state of Florida, which would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore, without reporting a penny to regulators. He got it.” Because if any state was going to be good for a little shady dealing with a Texas billionaire of questionable means, it would be F-L-A. [DealBook/NYT]
We told you earlier about wheeled shoes company Heelys dumping Deloitte. It was reported that Heelys left because fees were too high but we speculated that the Big D probably wasn’t down with Heelys request to have the entire audit team don the juvenile wheeled shoes.
Heelys has now announced they will be retaining the younger, sexier, less Big 4-ier, firm Grant Thornton as its independent accounting firm.
We find this very similar to the all-too-common situation where the old wife/husband is left behind for the newer, younger, partner who’s young, racy, and willing to experiment a little.
As you might expect, for accounting firms, letting the engagement teams wear shoes with wheels on them definitely qualifies as racy and risque and other firms only wish they had the balls to do something like that.
Heelys hires new accounting firm [WFAA.com]
•In New York City, Fewer Murders on Rainy Days – It’s got to have something to do with those ubiquitous black $3 umbrellas. They’re like security blankets. [New York Times]
•U.S. marshals begin seizure of Madoff property in NY – Quaint penthouse, UES for those cool with living with the ghosts of charities and elderly Jews [Reuters]
•Arnie’s IOUs will pay 3.75 per cent – Ken Lewis will be making his counter-offer shortly [FT Alphaville]
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]
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]
•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]
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]
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]
The 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]
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]
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]
So You Say You Want To Be Melissa Francis’s Pool Boy? [DealBreaker]
Stanford Stays in Jail as Judge Revokes Bail [DealBook/NYT]
Bank of America accused of anti-consumer practices – If by, “anti-consumer practices”, you mean Ken Lewis hoarding the Maker’s Mark, then he pleads no contest. [Reuters]
As 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]
Now 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]
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]
In, 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]
U.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]
Waiting for Madoff, Angry Crowd Is Disappointed – Apparently, everyone was hoping for a lynching in Union Square. 150 years is so unsatisfying. [New York Times]
Madoff Faces Harsher Imprisonment Than Corporate Predecessors [Bloomberg]
Deficit forces California to issue IOUs – Still as good as cash, right? [FT.com]
UBS Selling Park Ave. Stake [New York Post]
In honor of the
vengeance justice handed down today by Judge Denny Chin, we found some of the better posts out there re: Master do Ponz getting smacked by the book:
Questions linger over $65bn fraud [FT.com]
Guesstimate Bernie Madoff’s Sentence [DealBreaker]
Madoff’s Little Helpers [Clusterstock]
The Real Victims of Bernie Madoff [Daily Intel]
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]
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]
Regardless 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]
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]
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]
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 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.
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]
Is 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]
• Stanford 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]
Because 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?
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]
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]
After 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]
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]
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]
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]
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.
The 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]
Russia 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]
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]
A Lost Decade for Jobs – [Business Week]
All-electric car-sharing debuts in Baltimore – Baltimore? [Miami Herald]
SEC eyes shorter maturity limits for money funds: source – Real reactionary. [Reuters]
White House to Abandon Spy-Satellite Program – This will not reduce the paranoia [WSJ]
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 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’
‘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]
That’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]
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]
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]
The Public Is Losing Confidence That Stimulus Will Help Economy – Shoots/Shmoots [Clusterstock]
Google is evil – Or simply incorrect [Paul Krugman/NYT]
Beach reading: Chesapeake’s annual meeting transcript – Not the whole thing, obv. We wouldn’t do that to you. [footnoted.org]
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]
Last 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’.
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]
If 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]
There 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]
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.
Walking 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.
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.
It’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…
but I am worried about those two grades. Are they grounds for a rescinded offer?”