Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEHMQ.PK) filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008 and then quickly sold its prize investment banking assets to Barclays Bank (BARC.L). JPMorgan had been Lehman’s banker. The court papers, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan on Thursday, said that Barclays and Lehman called certain Lehman assets “toxic waste” and “goat poo” and knowingly excluded them from their sale agreement.
Jim Turley has been a willing participant in this whole thing so far but were far more interested in what you guys think.
Welcome to the where-the-hell-is-Bahrain? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future E&Y tax associate wants the lowdown on the black and yellow ladder. How high are these rungs, anyway?
Caught in a career conundrum? Have a co-worker that keeps swiping your red Swingline? Want to put the moves on a fellow auditor in the copy room? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll help you avoid anything that involves in a knuckle.
Back to our girl on the partner track:
I will be starting in the tax dept of a Big Four soon.
How long would it take to move up the tax ladder? (Yes, yes I know your response will be to start first before I start thinking about promotions… But I am thinking ahead…)
What is the minimum number of years typically required at each level? Are exceptions ever made? What goes into promotion decisions? How long would it take to get to the partner/director level? Is the promotion criteria generally standard across all Big Four or is there some variation?
Ms. Thinking Ahead
Dear Ms TA,
You’re quite the eager….errr, go-getter aren’t you? That’s good, I like my accountants ambitious. We’re not intimately familiar with the ladder at E&Y but we’ll give it a go and let the bean gallery fill in the gaps.
Typically, you can expect to be an associate two to three years before being promoted to senior. Depending on the needs of your practice group and your performance, this could be shorter or longer. In order to get the bump to manager, you can expect another three years at a minimum, again, subject to the needs of your group and whether or not you’re impressing the pants off the brass. From there, you can expect at least two years at manager, another two to three as a senior manager and then, if you’re lucky and you have a good business case, TPTB might start looking at your for admittance to the partnership. Altogether, you’re looking at a bare minimum of nine years before you can even get a whiff of partner and twelve to fifteen is probably a more realistic time frame. There are exceptions of course but that’s more or less the timeline.
Because tax doesn’t have the same fee pressure as their audit counterparts the wait might not be as long but don’t forget, not just anyone gets into the partnership. You need to be a performer and be able to win new clients. The benefit of tax is that it has more diverse career paths available, so if you find discover that you’re a wizard at transfer pricing or M&A, you might see a quicker ascension.
This presupposes the fact that you obtain your CPA in a timely fashion as most tax practices will not promote you to manager without a CPA, a JD or EA. How about it black and yellow tax troops? Dispel with the gory details as necessary.
Last month, we kicked off a new year of epic farewell emails by sharing an ex-Deloitte employee’s somber sendoff. This was followed-up with a P. Dubber who answered the call to fight crime on the streets of Baltimore.
Today, we bring you the latest in epic sendoffs, this time courtesy of the “Black and Yellow.”
My fellow citizens of EY nation past and present. I know the EY grapevine talks, so this email probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but I wanted to personally let you know. Tomorrow is my last day here at this beautiful place called Ernst & Young. It’s almost been 6 years, which I believe EY years to be somewhat like doggie years, so that probably comes out to more like 7. Monday, I am moving into a new role as a [number cruncher] for [new employer] (here in [a city]). I am very excited about this new opportunity, but over the past few weeks, I have become oddly nostalgic about this place. So those 17 pages of EY jabs and complaints that I’ve been compiling for this day will have to stay with me. Just kidding! It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but I honestly know I’ve gained some valuable experience, knowledge and skills I wouldn’t have in another position. I’ve also really enjoyed working with you all over the years and hope our paths cross in the future. Even though some of you are crazy workaholics, it’s so nice to be able to know that you will get the job done and even share a joke or a story along the way. I appreciate all that has been done for me and as a token of my appreciation I’ve thrown together a going away present from me to you:
Favorite lyrics and whether he’s as good as Steve Beguhn are now on the floor for discussion.
Jimbo does admit that “we are not pleased to be in the spotlight like this” but per ushe, he takes it in stride and says, “it is something that we will deal with.”
Well, there had to be a biggest loser in Fortune rankings this year amongst the accounting firms and this year the honor belongs to E&Y. Now, we’re sure you’ll give us your thoughts on why you think the firm took a dive from #44 (highest ranked firm last year) to #77 but the fact that Fortune indicates the firm dropped subsidized gym memberships could be a good place to start. Maybe E&Y decided it prefers its people on the frumpy side? Or maybe they’re simply saving for the Lehman Brothers defense fund?
Ernst & Young – Previous rank: #44. Need reasons? How about corporate citizenship? Fortune says, “The consulting and auditing firm donated some $31 million to charitable causes in 2009, including $6.4 million in matching contributions.”
Stats of note:
• New Jobs (1 year): -1,751
• % Job Growth (1 year): -7%
• % Voluntary Turnover: 11%
• No. of Job Openings at 1/13/2010: 10,000
• Most common salaried job: Manager – $102,593
• % Minorities: 29%
• % Women: 49%
Taking a look at last year’s stats, new jobs, percentage job growth, voluntary turnover, average salary for most common job all trended negatively. Percentage of minorities was flat and percentage of women ticked down 1%. The number of job openings jumped from 622 last year to the 10,000 above, so interpret you can either interpret that as “we’re desperate for people” or “we’re growing like gangbusters.” Arguments for each, thoughts on the 33 slot drop or speculation on what kind of cigars Jim Turley (Cohibas, we thinks) took to Davos are welcome at this time.
The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Plante & Moran #26 (2011)
The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Deloitte #63 (2011)
The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: PwC #73 (2011)
The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Ernst & Young #44
Because, really, is team of Ernst & Young and Ricky Gervais versus PwC, James Franco and Anne Hathaway even a debate?
If you feel strongly about it we’ll hear you out but it’ll take some convincing.
The winners of the 68th annual Golden Globe® Awards will remain a secret until they are revealed January 16 to millions of viewers around the world, thanks to the efforts of Ernst & Young LLP, a leader in assurance, tax, transaction, advisory services and strategic growth markets. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has relied on Ernst & Young for the past 38 years to conduct the ballot tabulation process of the Golden Globes® with security, integrity and reliability.
And just in case you’re concerned about Ernst & Young’s “security, integrity and reliability” because of you know who, the protocols have been laid out in detail:
• Winners are known only to three senior Ernst & Young executives in advance of the telecast;
• Ernst & Young is also responsible for qualifying voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, confirming that their credentials are current and meet the standards set forth by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association;
• Ernst & Young controls the entire voting process beginning with the nomination ballots, and maintains control of the ballots until the telecast is over;
• Results are triple-checked to eliminate any margin of error; and
• Winner envelopes are assembled by Ernst & Young and are maintained exclusively under Ernst & Young’s control until they are handed directly to each celebrity presenter moments before they appear on-stage.
Recruiting for the talent amongst the Big 4 is competitive. This is known. What isn’t widely known are all the tactics in this competitive game of catch the accountant. In the past, we have seen direct solicitation by an E&Y recruiter which may be an effective method but it may be too abrasive for many within in the business who value propriety over the win-at-all-costs attitude.
Now comes news of a more subtle approach from KPMG, courtesy of an E&Y tipster who was searching for the firm’s career website:
While searching for the link to my firm’s career website I stumbled upon a pretty awesome ad (in a “ohhhh no you didn’t!” sort of way).
Since we’re fairly unfamiliar (read: completely unfamiliar) with Google’s method to the madness, we can only speculate how this little link found its way to the very top of Google search of “ey careers” but it does say “Ad,” so make of it what you will. Anyhoo, just for fun, we did our own quick Google Search of “ey careers” and got this:
So, it’s in the margin for us as opposed at the very top. But it’s still prominently placed on the search page and it’s also pretty hilarious that the hyperlink, “Ernst & Young Opportunities” goes directly to a KPMG URL (yes, it’s clearly disclosed by the Jobs.KPMGCareers.com at the bottom but who pays attention to that?). Perhaps our tendency to make mountains out of molehills is getting the best of us here but at the very least, this is an exciting twist on Sneaky
Over at Bloomberg, Jonathan Weil (who has the tendency to let the dust settle before chiming in) takes Ernst & Young to task for their lack of willingness to take responsibility for the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and digs up a bunch of old bodies in the process.
E&Y had established itself as a repeat offender long before Governor-Elect Cuomo filed his suit. In recent years we’ve seen four former E&Y partners sentenced to prison for selling illegal tax shelters, while other partners have been disciplined by the SEC for blessing fraudulent financial statements at a variety of companies, including Cendant Corp. and Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp.
In the Bally case, E&Y last year paid an $8.5 million fine, without admitting or denying the SEC’s professional-misconduct claims. The SEC also has imposed sanctions against E&Y three times since 2004 for violating its auditor-independence rules.
After that friendly reminder (which certainly makes some people wince), JW takes a look at the E&Y’s response to the suit, specifically the part where they more or less say that Cuomo is off his rocker, “There is no factual or legal basis for a claim to be brought against an auditor in this context where the accounting for the underlying transaction is in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).”
Weil says E&Y is missing the point entirely:
That isn’t an accurate depiction of the claims Cuomo brought, though. Cuomo’s suit unambiguously took the position that Lehman violated GAAP. What’s more, it’s not credible for E&Y to say that Lehman didn’t. (An E&Y spokesman, Charles Perkins, said he “can’t comment beyond our statement.”)
In the footnotes to its audited financial statements, Lehman said it accounted for all its repurchase agreements as financings. This was false, because Lehman accounted for its Repo 105 transactions as sales, a point the Valukas report chronicled in exhaustive detail.
The question is, of course, if this all adds up to fraud on E&Y’s part. Cuomo says it does. Weil says that E&Y needs to come up with a better story. Colin Barr, on the other hand, writes that E&Y could easily turn the tables:
The Ernst & Young statement suggests the firm will argue that it can’t be prosecuted under the Martin Act because Lehman, not E&Y, was the outfit actually producing the financial reports, and because it was Lehman, not E&Y, that was peddling billions of dollars of securities just months before its implosion.
In this view, E&Y was just a gatekeeper hired to vouch for Lehman’s books, something it will claim it did well within the confines of the law. This strikes lawyers who are familiar with the law as an eminently reasonable approach, if not exactly a surefire recipe for success.
“If I were Ernst & Young, I would assert I was not a primary actor,” said Margaret Bancroft, a partner at Dechert LLP and author of a 2004 memo that explained the Martin Act soon after Spitzer began brandishing it against Wall Street. “You can say that with more than a straight face.”
“Just gatekeepers,” and not “fraudsters,” is obviously the preferred view but the catch is, E&Y would be admitting that they are really shitty gatekeepers.
This was worth the wait.
Directly from the firm’s website:
Ernst & Young’s Response to New York Attorney General’s Complaint
New York, 21 December 2010 – We intend to vigorously defend against the civil claims alleged by the New York Attorney General.
There is no factual or legal basis for a claim to be brought against an auditor in this context where the accounting for the underlying transaction is in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Lehman’s audited financial statements clearly portrayed Lehman as a highly leveraged entity operating in a risky and volatile industry.
Lehman’s bankruptcy occurred in the midst of a global financial crisis triggered by dramatic increases in mortgage defaults, associated losses in mortgage and real estate portfolios, and a severe tightening of liquidity. Lehman’s bankruptcy was preceded and followed by other bankruptcies, distressed mergers, restructurings, and government bailouts of all of the other major investment banks, as well as other major financial institutions. In short, Lehman’s bankruptcy was not caused by any accounting issues.
What we have here is a significant expansion of the Martin Act. Although the Martin Act is almost 90 years old, we believe this is the first time that an Attorney General is attempting to use this law to assert claims against an accounting firm, rather than the company that took the alleged actions.
We look forward to presenting the facts in a court of law.
In other words, Andy – get lost; drop dead; suck it. AM Law Daily reports that E&Y has big guns on the case:
Miles Ruthberg, a former global litigation chair at Latham & Watkins, confirmed, via an e-mail to The Am Law Daily, that he’s representing E&Y in the suit along with Latham securities litigation and professional liability cochair Jamie Wine and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel white-collar defense and SEC regulatory cochair Barry Berke. Latham, which has previously represented E&Y, has been handling securities litigation against the accounting firm stemming from Lehman’s failure.
To mark this occasion, we present an appropriate video (BL-inspired):
Since Andrew Cuomo decided to make our lives insanely busy this week, we’ve been talking to lots of different people about what will happen next in the Ernst & Young saga. We stumbled across a couple of experts, Dr. Mark Zimbelman an Accounting Professor who specializes in fraud, forensic accounting and auditors’ detection of fraud at BYU’s Marriott School of Business, along with his son, Aaron Zimbelman, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign whose research interests include auditing, financial statement fraud and corporate governance.
The father and son team have a blog, Fraudbytes, that discusses, well<