The Radio Station is throwing caution to the wind in the UK, accepting a new arrangement with Rentokil Initial, that brings out the ghosts of accounting scandals past. Under the new agreement, the firm will serve as both the external auditors and take on internal audit work, working alongside the client’s internal audit staff.
Prior to the new agreement with KPMG, Rentokil’s external auditor was PwC and internal audit services were provided by Deloitte.
Last we checked, audit textbooks still state that external auditors are to be independent in fact and appearance but KPMG UK must have got their hands on an edition that was printed in auditor bizarro world.
Rentokil’s KPMG deal raises eyebrows [FT.com]
This week we’re putting together a series of posts on the six largest accounting firms to give you an idea what their latest image seems to be based on the latest news and rumors we’ve read or heard about them. At the end of the week we’ll wrap up with a completely unscientific and probably unfair ranking which you will be
allowed expected to take exception with.
We’ll start with P. Dubs because they seem to have had the uncanny ability to attract bad news lately:
Get the gory details, after the jump
• Satyam Fraud in India – $1b fraud, two auditors rotting in jail, Satyam throwing the Firm under the bus every chance it gets. This is the story that will definitely not go away.
• Discrimination Suit in London – GBP 40 million lawsuit, including alleged sexual harassment. P. Dubs is saying the lawsuit is “without merit” but at the very least there are a number of bigots working there.
• Rumors of PwC interns working 60 hour weeks in the New York office. Might as well give them an idea of what they’re in for, right?
• Chosen to take a
suicide mission contract in Somalia to monitor the incoming aid
• Wage and hour lawsuits in California – Listed as defendant in three cases
• Huron Consulting Restatement – P. Dubs isn’t mentioned in this debacle. YET.
• Madoff exposure – listed as a defendant in over a dozen lawsuits.
As for layoffs, we haven’t heard much lately. There was a rumor that the PwC Denver office had let some associates go in the past few weeks but we don’t have any more details than that. Layoffs that have occurred in the past year at PwC we’re rumored to be of the stealth variety and not related to the recession which nobody really believes.
So, that does it for P. Dubya for now. What are we missing? Whatever office you work out of, send us the latest scoop on layoffs, performance reviews, promotions, pay raises, bonuses, juicy gossip, scandalous stories, etc. to [email protected] and we’ll update the posts appropriately throughout the week.
Big 4 firms dodge a bullet in the UK as the highest court dismissed a negligence lawsuit against an accounting firm that failed to detect fraud that brought down a trading company. The ruling will significantly limit the firms’ liability in cases “where a determined criminal drives a company to financial ruin”.
Doesn’t make sense to us, since if you can’t make auditors accountable, who the hell is accountable? Hey, whatevs, we’re sure the Big 4 and other accounting firms won’t be celebrating long anyway, since a ruling like this won’t happen in the States, which is where the serious money gets handed over.
Auditors win ruling over Madoff-style frauds [FT.com]
This is our initial coverage of the overtime lawsuits against some of the major accounting firms doing business in California. For those of you not up to speed, these suits were filed by non-licensed associates who believe they were misclassified under California law as exempt professionals and are due overtime and other benefits due to non-exempt employees.
The suits are all in various stages but the key case that may determine how the other cases will proceed is Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Campbell is currently awaiting argument before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The primary issue before the court has to do with whether or not, under the professional exemption, an associate is required to be licensed by the state of California in order to qualify for exempt status. Counsel for Campbell essentially argues that only licensed or certified accountants can qualify for exempt status in California while PwC argues that uncertified accountants who can qualify as “learned professionals” are exempt employees and thus not eligible for overtime pay.
The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment on liability in favor of Plaintiff Campbell and ruled that attest associates must have a license in order to be exempt. The court further held that they may not qualify for exempt status under the “learned professional” section of the exemption. However because the trial court felt it was a close question, it certified the matter to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for interlocutory appeal.
According to Bill Kershaw, of Kershaw, Cutter, Ratinoff LLP, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the ruling in this matter could have significant repercussions for other remaining wage and overtime lawsuits. Mr. Kershaw believes that if 9th Circuit does rule in the favor of the plaintiffs, then the likelihood of the case resolving itself prior to trial would substantially increase.
If the court of appeals rules that learned professionals can be defined as exempt, PwC (and likely the other defendant accounting firms) will center their argument back in the trial court on the appeals court’s ruling that unlicensed accountants are indeed “learned professionals.”
We contacted Dave Nestor, Head of Communications for PwC in the U.S. and he provided us with the Firm’s statement:
PwC believes that its attest associates are professionals who spend the majority of their time engaged in challenging work requiring the use of their intellectual abilities, judgment and discretion. Based on these and other factors, PwC’s attest associates are properly considered exempt under applicable law, and are therefore appropriately compensated.
We’ve provided a list below of all the cases against accounting firms currently in the courts in California for your information. Check the list for your firm and please remember that it is your right to participate in any of the class action lawsuits if you meet the criteria set forth in the case. Even if you are still employed by the firm being sued, they cannot retaliate against you.
Likewise, you can participate in the case on behalf of the defendants if you are approached and choose to do so. You also have the right to not participate at all if you so choose.
If you receive any correspondence from your firm regarding the overtime and wage lawsuits, please let us know using [email protected]. We’ll always keep you anonymous.
We’ll be covering this story as it progresses and continue to check back here for periodic updates.
The Times Online put out its “Top 100 Graduate Employers” list today and P. Dubya tops this list for the fifth year in a row. We congratulate P. Dubs on this momentous achievement but can’t help but wonder about such a dominating performance by a Big 4 firm.
More details, after the jump
The first thing we notice on the list is that the TOP THREE (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG) are Big 4 firms. These four came in the exact same order on last year’s list. The red-headed step child of the Big 4 is apparently E&Y who comes in at #11.
Accenture came in at #4 and Goldman Sachs sneaks in at #10 but JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, IBM, and Google all fall outside the top 20. Other notables include McKinsey & Company at #48 and Grant Thornton at #97 (that’s eight spots behind the Transport of London, btw).
So what we’re wondering is how the Big 4 can dominate this list while in States they seem to be all over the map (highest on Fortune’s list was E&Y at #51) . Are the firms in the UK allowing employees to crush three or four pints at lunch and thus making work infinitely more tolerable?
UK readers, let us know why you’ve seemingly got it so good across the pond. As for my fellow Americans, what do you think is going on over there that we’re all missing out on? We’ve never seen The Queen in her damned undies, so maybe that’s it? Anyone done any rotations and have first hand knowledge of the awesomeness that is the Big 4 life in the UK? We’re thinking there’s got to be some reasons…
The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers [List]
Top 100 graduate employers: No 1 – PricewaterhouseCoopers [Times Online]
Deloitte has gotten dumped by UAL, the parent company of United Airlines, for E&Y. The change will be effective after D-Period finishes the 2009 fiscal year-end audit engagement. This continues the trend of heartbreak for Deloitte, who was kicked to the curb by Heelys over fees.
UAL claims that it doesn’t have any disagreements with Deloitte which we don’t really believe. They have to disagree on something. White Sox vs. Cubs fans at the very least.
More after the jump
Also, changing your auditor isn’t like changing your underwear (well, it might be hard for some). We’ve got the feeling some top brass at UAL were sick of shacking up with Deloitte. However, the article also states that UAL cited the mandatory rotation of the lead partner, “firms often choose to seek bids for audit work in anticipation of that rotation.” Okay, going out to bid to tease the other firms is one thing but actually opting for a change is quite another.
We’re guessing there’s more to this story, so if you’ve got some inside dirt on this latest break up, let us know at [email protected].
UAL hires E&Y to replace Deloitte as accountant [Reuters]
PwC has investigators all up in their grills again as another audit is going to be subject to an investigation. This time a sub-prime lender in the UK, Cattles.
Cattles is blaming the whole shitshow on a “breakdown in internal controls”, which has been the standard PR sound bite since before Enron.
The Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB), which regulates the profession, announced the inquiry on Thursday.The board, part of the Financial Reporting Council, said it would examine the conduct of PwC and its individual auditors concerning the preparation of financial statements of Cattles and Welcome Financial Services, its subsidiary, for the year ended December 31 2007 and for the six months ended June 30 2008.
According to one analyst referenced in FT Alphaville, Cattles was letting loans go 240 days delinquent before taking any impairment charges. Apparently PwC was okay with that practice.
And since the AADB is going to be looking at “individual auditor conduct”, what are they going to discover? Besides the partner and manager’s daily fat-cat lunches, obv. We invite your thoughts.
We’ve also got the feeling that this might be the type of engagement where you could include a high-def photo of the manager dry-humping the partner’s leg (wearing a leash and spiked collar, natch) as part of the audit workpapers and it would get signed off on anyway. But, like we said, it’s just a feeling.
UK watchdog opens probe into PwC audit of Cattles [Reuters]
Regulator probes PwC over Cattles audit [FT.com]
Color us surprised:
A Broward County jury on Wednesday dealt a small blow to Ernst & Young in a negligence and fraud lawsuit, deciding that the accounting giant was only marginally negligent for a local businessman’s losses in connection with the demise of Superior Bank in 2001.
UPDATE, 7:00 pm EST, E&Y Statement: We believe we should have prevailed and will seek appropriate relief from the courts.
Ernst & Young to pay $10M in Superior Bank lawsuit [Triangle Business Journal]
International Global Coordination was able to dodge the bullet in the Banco Espirito case, litigation against the Big 4 has been pretty quiet. Oh sure, you could bring up Schein v. E&Y but the money at stake isn’t that big and Schein is claiming Oliver Stone-type conspiracy theory so we’re hesitant to get too worked up about it.
However, if you’re craving bean counter courtroom drama it won’t be long until you’re up to your ass in Jack McCoy-types screaming about how crooked accountants are.
According to research firm, Audit Analytics, there are eight firms at risk for potential lawsuits related to King Ponzi alone along with six other potential lawsuits related to the financial clusterfuck.
Audit Analytics also was kind enough to pull together some data on who’s winning the race to pay out the most settlement. The top 50 malpractice suits against the Big 4 since 1999 break down like this, per Compliance Week:
1. E&Y – $1.92 billion
2. KPMG – $1.42 billion
3. PwC – $1.27 billion
4. Deloitte – $1.24 billion
Don’t expect the trend of the firms handing over asstons of cash to end anytime soon as settling these cases out of court seems to be best way for the firms to extend their seemingly shortening lives.
Forgive us for being a little behind on this, we’re still twisting arms out there:
On July 15th, the Radio Station announced the promotion of 874 new Senior Managers and Managers. This compares to 1,228 that got the bump last year.
Some might say that there were less people up for promotion this year, hence the drop. Others might say “that’s because I got the axe and now live on government cheese”.
Click on the image below for a full-size view of the announcement (please note the crookedness as a sign of authenticity). Anyway, congrats to all the new
taskmasters managers at KPMG!
Per Web CPA, the Center of Audit Quality has re-elected the four members of its governing board:
Ernst & Young chairman and CEO James Turley has been unanimously re-elected to serve a second term as chair of the governing board. Michele Hooper, co-founder of The Directors’ Council, and AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon will extend their service as co-vice chairs. Harvard business administration professor Lynn Paine has been re-elected as a public board member.
BFD, right? Perhaps but it’s worth noting that the rest of the board is also primarily made up of representatives from large firms:
Crowe Horwath CEO Charles M. Allen, former SEC Commissioner Harvey J. Goldschmid, PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Robert E. Moritz (who replaced Dennis M. Nally on the CAQ board), Grant Thornton CEO Edward E. Nusbaum, Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg, McGladrey & Pullen managing partner David R. Scudder, KPMG CEO John B. Veihmeyer (who replaced Timothy P. Flynn on the CAQ board) and BDO Seidman CEO Jack Weisbaum
In case you’re not counting, all Big 4 firms are represented along with BDO and Grant Thornton. That’s all well and dandy and I’m sure these guys could at least audit their way out of a paper bag but has it occurred to anyone that all these “representatives of the industry” work for firms that continue to have problems with AUDIT FAILURE?
The list is long of pending litigation but the firms don’t really seem to mind because they’ll claim TBTF. They have the AICPA set out this nice little group, focused on “audit quality” in order to put out press releases about the “work” they’re doing, meanwhile, audits still keep blowing up. Yeah, I guess re-electing the same people will be fine.
CAQ Governing Board Re-elected [Web CPA]
Big accounting firms like doing surveys. We’ve often thought about the motivation behind the constant surveys and further wonder if firms ever josh the numbers around out of a personal vendetta against its rivals, enemies, former clients, etc.
Deloitte’s survey that states that American consumers are planning on spending less this back-to-school season causes us to speculate as to why the Big D would do such a survey? It’s a nice little press release we suppose. Shows that the firm is plugged into the current state of the economy, etc., etc. But then we got to thinking about how Heelys, the obnoxious shoes with wheels, recently dumped Deloitte because their fees were too high in favor of Grant Thornton.
Far be it from us to speculate about the temperament of a Big 4 accounting firm when it has business swiped away by a second-tier firm but isn’t it possible that Deloitte is bitter about the whole sitch? Isn’t it possible that Deloitte is merely putting out this survey as a way to scare consumers out of spending money on back-to-school junk like Heelys?
Back-to-School Shoppers Plan to Spend Less, Save More [Bloomberg]
We thought that Ernst & Young was advising the New York Fed on the winding down of AIG out of the goodness of their hearts but it turns out it’s actually about the money.
E&Y could make as much as $60 million advising the New York Fed, which is 50% more than the initial agreement, according to Bloomberg. The NYF is also reimbursing E&Y for expenses, up to 10% of the professional fees. This occurs after the parties had initially said $40 million would be the cap but $60 mil is it, we swear, no more.
And because E&Y is solid like that, the firm is billing out partners and directors at discounted rates ($775/hour). I mean, ’cause, let’s face it, this thing’s a mess and E&Y is going to be working hard, working late, working weekends.
Ernst & Young’s Maximum Pay for AIG Advice Swells [Bloomberg]