October 20, 2021

News

Let’s Discuss: Best Accounting Programs According to Recruiters

Yesterday the Journal got into the ranking act with their list of colleges based on recruiters’ preferences. The accounting program rankings aren’t too surprising but we called in the friendly HR professional and recruiting maven Dan Braddock to discuss the rankings. First things first however – the pecking order:

1. BYU
2. Wisconsin-Madison
3. Illinois-Champaign
4. Minnesota
5. Penn State
6. Michigan
7. Maryland
8. Cal-Berkley
9. UCLA
10. Ohio State
11. NYU


What follows is my chat with Dan-o as he tries to break this dorong>: Okay, let’s kick this off. You sent me a link to some WSJ article about the school rankings based on recruiter opinions.
CJN: I did. Personally, I find it hard to take the list too seriously without Texas-Austin or Notre Dame on it.
DWB: It makes perfect sense as to why they’re not on the list.
CJN: Explain, that sounds like crazy talk.
DWB: This isn’t based on caliber of program; it’s a list of what recruiters find to be the “best” schools. Take a look at the list of Best Accounting Schools. First, those schools are huge; many of them are state schools. Recruiters get the most “bang for the buck” out of schools like this. Second, if you mapped these out, they’re schools that can can service as feeder programs for multiple offices. For example, Deloitte can visit UCLA and find potential candidates for their California and west coast offices. This removes the necessity to visit several smaller schools across the same geogrpahic region. Penn State services Philly, Pittsburgh, D.C., Baltimore, New Jersey, and New York City. Lehigh University in eastern PA is a much better accounting program than Penn State, but has a smaller geographic reach and a smaller pool of students.
CJN: But doesn’t the #1 school, BYU, buck that idea completely? Their enrollment is small by comparison and Salt Lake City is a relatively small market
DWB: BYU has more than 25,000 undergrads from every state in the country – again, national reach.
CJN: Fine but why no UT? The Texas market is huge and has national reach.
DWB: I admit, Texas is the one school that I was shocked not to see on the list – on the surface, it is large in size, has a well respected business program, and is nationally known. But dig deeper and it makes sense. Of their 38,000 undergraduates, only 8.5% are from outside the state of Texas. So applying that same percentage to the number of undergrads in the business school (4,500) that’s about 380 students. How many of them study accounting? My guess is not many. That said, accounting students interested in offices elsewhere (Chicago, LA, NYC) should have no problem landing interviews, as the local Texas recruiters from the Big4 blanket UT at Austin.
CJN: And Notre Dame? Why are they MIA? John Veihmeyer has to be pissed. And not just about the choke against Michigan.
DWB: Hahaha. I’m sure he voiced his frustration about both. He’s probably having nightmares about the most recent flop in South Bend. Again, it’s all about size of program. National name, yes, but when your business program is ~2,500 students in total…Also, remember that these rankings for best accounting programs is not just by Big 4 recruiters. This is everyone. Johnson&Johnson, regional mortgage firms, Disney, etc.
CJN: Interesting
DWB: Obviously there is some kind of balance in play here. As a whole, all of these schools are nationally known and well respected in the industry; there are no schleps on the list. For recruiters, it’s all about efficiency of time and finances. A hotel room and flight to visit a school where hundreds of accounting students are salivating at the opportunity to work for you is impossible to pass up.
CJN: So everyone on this list belongs on it or are there other schools that are missing that should be in the top…11 (?)
DWB: Considering their proximity to one another I was suprised to see both the U of Minnesota and U of Wisconsin on the list but no, nothing too surprising. Since it is college football season, the Big Ten definitely has the SEC beat when it comes to accountants (6 v. 0 on the list). Maybe that’s why they’re better on the gridiron.
CJN: OR maybe it’s because it’s the SOUTH. My guess is that people don’t go to Vandy to get an accounting degree.
DWB: I am surprised not to see a school from the South – no UNC Chapel Hill
CJN: Fair point.
DWB: In closing, I think it goes to show that US News & World Report rankings are not the end all be all for recruiters. Nationally known names, established programs, and large alumni bases go a long way.
CJN: Right. And a good football team doesn’t mean shit (read: Alabama).
DWB: Below the belt, CN.
CJN: Whatevs. Can you explain the pachyderm? B/c I sure as hell can’t.

The Top 25 Recruiter Picks [WSJ]

The 1099 Party Is Still on for 2012

If the GOP took the “think of all the trees you’re killing” angle, maybe they could have convinced more Democrats to kill the 1099 free-for-all. Unfortunately, they stuck to the usual “red tape is un-American and stealing our freedom” narrative and it didn’t impress.

Senate Democrats defeated an attempt by Republicans to lift a tax-reporting requirement that small businesses face in a move that would have stripped away $17 billion earmarked to help pay for the sweeping health-care law.

In a 46-52 vote, the majority overcame an effort by Senate Republicans to scrap the reporting requirement which was inserted to the health-care legislation that was signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

The Republicans would have needed 60 ‘yes’ votes to be successful. Seven Democrats sided with the Republicans to support removing the requirement.

The Republican effort was led by Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.), who has argued it is simply piling on unnecessary red tape on small-business owners at the same time as the federal government looks to them to lead the job-creation recovery.

The rule requires businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service payments to suppliers and service providers that exceed $600 in a single year. It is set to be implemented in 2012.

Senate Defeats GOP Bid to Lift Tax-Reporting Rule [WSJ]

Chipman, Andrews, Goelzer All New to Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential List

Continuing on with “list season” Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting launched late last week and while there are plenty of new names, it’s still a bit of a snoozer since this particular list isn’t a ranking like say, the Vanity Fair 100. See, the VF100 establishes a pecking order that can be antagonized over for days and weeks and just about when everyone is done giving a shit (or long after), the new edition comes out and people can rage on how last year’s list was so much better.

No, the AT100 is more like People’s 50 Most Beautiful issue. Not in the sense that you want to see these 100 accountants, politicians, professors, etc. etc. in the buff (or do you?) but that the influence (or the beauty) is subject to your own, er, tastes. Anyhoo, enough with the fluffing, let’s get on with it.


Some notables:

Rick Anderson, Chairman and CEO, Moss Adams (new to list in 2010)
C.E. Andrews, President, RSM McGladrey (new to list in 2010)
Bob Bunting, President, IFAC
Paul Caron, Dean of Faculty and Charles Hartsock Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law
Stephen Chipman, CEO, Grant Thornton (new to list in 2010) – All the blogging paid off!
Dan Goelzer, Acting Chair, PCAOB (new to list in 2010)
Michelle Golden, Founder, Golden Practices Blog
Tom Hood, CEO and Executive Director, Maryland Association of CPAs
Jack Weisbaum, CEO, BDO (new to list in 2010)

Dropped from last year’s list:
Ben Bernanke
Charlie Rangel
Bernie Madoff

The list has its usual suspects including all the big dogs from all of the Big 4, Tim Geithner (get over it AG), Doug Shulman, Barney Frank, etc. etc. but there were some interesting honorable mentions (so to speak) on page 11 right next to Dennis Nally’s picture. Just so you know.

Accounting Today 100 Most Influential People In Accounting [Digital Version (registration required)]

As Unlikely As It Might Be, We’re Rooting for Ken Starr and Wesley Snipes to Be Cellmates

While Wes continues to fight his conviction (sometimes using unorthodox methods) on tax evasion tooth and nail, Ken Starr is ready to get on with it and pleaded guilty today to charges related to his Ponzi to the Stars.


Government sentencing guidelines have Starr looking at 10 to 12.5 years which is long enough to outlast the appeals that Willie Mays Hayes has out there.

Since we’re not at all familiar with how convicts are assigned their prison quarters, our desire for an awkward reunion between Snipes and Starr that includes debating over who gets the top bunk is merely wishful thinking. If it lightning stirkes, we’ll just chalk it up to the gods smiling down on us all.

Financial Adviser to Stars Pleads Guilty to Fraud [NYT]

Freakouts Aside, The Lack of an Accounting Background Doesn’t Help His Chances

He wants to be a County Treasurer for crying out loud.

[via Daily Intel]

No One Is Giving Up Spreadsheets, So The IIA Figured It Better Put Some Audit Guidance Out There

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Many finance departments would grind to a halt if forced to do without spreadsheets. They’re quick, easy and inexpensive tools for manipulating and analyzing data that just about anyone can master.

However, these attributes also mean that spreadsheets create a tremendous risk, particularly if their results are incorporated into the company’s financial reports or used to support a business’ operations.

With this in mind, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) in June issued GTAG (global technology audit guide) 14, a guide for auditing what it calls “user-developed applications,” or UDAs. While spreadsheets are the most visible type of UDA, the term also can include applications like user-developed databases and reports. UDAs are “…created and used by end users to extract, sort, calculate, and compile organizational data to analyze trends, make business decisions or summarize operational and financial data,” the IIA states.


By their nature, UDAs present three types of risk. One is data integrity – the old “garbage in, garbage out.” User developed applications don’t follow a structured application development cycle, and lack any sort of change management or version controls – that is, any number of individuals may be able to update a spreadsheet. All this increases the risk of inaccurate data making its way into the application.

Next is the risk that confidential data is compromised. Many UDAs can easily be attached to an email and sent to someone who shouldn’t have access to the data.

Finally, there’s what the IIA calls “availability risk.” Because many UDAs reside on flash drives and individual PCs, they’re easy to overlook when the company is backing up data. Or, the information can easily be lost altogether.

Internal auditors can take several steps in their audits to reduce the risks any UDAs in use pose to their firms. A starting point is identifying key UDAs. These typically are those that are part of the financial or management reporting processes, or use to comply with regulations. One-off spreadsheets used on an ad-hoc basis probably aren’t key.

The auditors also need to assess the risks posed by the key UDAs. To understand this, they’ll need to know who uses the applications, and how. From this, they can estimate the financial, operational and regulatory risks the UDAs present. The more complex the applications are, the more embedded they are in organizational processes, and the greater their complexity, the more risk they present.

Next up is examining the controls in place around the UDAs to determine if they reduce the risks to an acceptable level for the organization.

Spreadsheets and other user-developed applications play a valuable role in many organizations. At the same time, they can expose companies to a great deal of risk. Appropriate management and control is critical to mitigating the risks they present.

We Found a Talented Accountant

Sorry, one talented at something other than memorizing FASBs.


via eatonlee.com

(psst, keep up the good work.)

Local Pastor Ignores Accountant’s Advice on Document Destruction Project

A US pastor says he is not “backing down” from plans to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11, despite international outrage.

“We are not convinced that backing down is the right thing,” said Terry Jones of 50-member Florida church, the Dove World Outreach Center.

Actually, we have no idea if Terry Jones has an accountant in his congregation but IF HE DID you would hope he would consult an expert on these matters. May we recommend this:

US pastor has ‘no intention’ of stopping Koran bonfire [BBC]

Heiress’s Lawyer Says It ‘Wasn’t His Place’ to Fire Accountant-cum-Sex Offender

“Wally” Bock isn’t sure what you want from him, MSNBC, New York Post, Daily News et al. He’s trying to run a half billion dollar fortune of a lady who doesn’t want to leave the friendly confines of Beth Israel Hospital.

He can’t be bothered with trivial matters like whether Irving Kamsler pleaded guilty to sending porn to adolescent girls. And besides! It wasn’t even his call.


In his statement to appease the haters, Bock wrote, “I was never in any position to fire Mr. Kamsler; that decision was Ms. Clark’s alone. I did insist that he disclose his conviction to Ms. Clark, which I understood he did.”

How about that for an awkward conversation? It’s not like going door to door in North Hollywood telling everyone you’re a pederast but explaining to a 100+ woman that you sent porn to some teenage girls might make for a few uncomfortable silences. But Bock claims Clark was cool with it, so you best not get all judgey about it.

Plus, he got to keep his CPA. Although the past has show that the New York Office of Professional Discipline isn’t really too concerned with timely action.

Attorney for 104-year-old heiress defends his handling of her finances [MSNBC]

Of Course an Accountant Is the World’s Top Fantasy Football Player

As you’re no doubt aware, this past Saturday the college football season began and on Sunday the NFL kicks off their season. For many of you with a pigskin-crazed significant other, this means that you won’t be seeing much of him or her on the weekends for the rest of the year.

This also means that thousands of hours will be wasted by (primarily) men at work and in their free time, antagonizing over the players on their rosters* and coming up with lame trash talk for their upcoming opponents. For the most part, the gajillion of dollars lost in productivity and the strain put on relationships is accepted by society (there are exceptions).

Football is more of a religion than any of the faiths these days anyway. Plus, we’re fairly certain that men sitting on their asses while ingesting meat and watching freakishly obsese men (and a few athletes) sacrifice life and limb is all but guaranteed by The Constitution. Fantasy football is a mere extension of this phenomenon.

Anyway, there has to be a king of this geekfest of stats, laptops and greasy food and his name is John Rozek. And he is an accountant.


More technically, Rozek is “king of fantasy football by the World Championship of Fantasy Sports, the big dog in big-money, faux-football leagues.” The World Championship of Fantasy Sports (“WCOFS”) will be awarding $2 million in prize money this year which should allow some of the big winners to actually get laid.

Rozek (who won $25k last year in various leagues) doesn’t claim to be a guru, just smarter than the born losers he plays against, “You have to take advantage of people not making the best picks,” he told the Trib. “And you can’t fall in love with players.”

This really shouldn’t surprise you one iota. Looking over a mess of seemingly meaningless numbers, maintaining objectivity, impervious to distractions like spouse, kids, etc. when its busy and/or football season is what accountants so good at their jobs in the first place. It’s like revealing that an accountant is the best at stamp collecting (we’re sure it’s a fine hobby) or a World of Warcraft champion. Most people’s reaction would be, “Meh. I could’ve guessed that.”

Chicago accountant is world’s top-ranked fantasy football player [CT]

*Full disclosure: I am in one league and my team will be dominating this year.

The National Society of Accountants Has a Bone to Pick with the AICPA

A couple weeks back the AICPA gave its members the go-ahead to Crtl+C, Crtl+V its letter to the IRS about how certain parts of the proposed tax preparer regulations were a load of crap.

We just assumed that everyone in the accounting biz was on the same page here but boy we’re we wrong. The National Society of Accountants sent this letter to Treasury honcho Geithner stating that they don’t want any tax preparers exempted from obtaining a PTIN (among other complaints):

NSA Letter Regarding CPA Firm Exemption


What’s especially interesting is that the AICPA is not named in this letter once, however they are named specifically in the NSA’s press release:

Now, at the 11th hour, just before the registration process is scheduled to begin, some – including the American Institute of CPAs – are demanding that staff members of ‘CPA firms’ be exempted from the registration requirements. This flies in the face of why this registration program was set up. The point of the new regulations is to ensure that all tax preparers are accountable for their work in preparing returns, and that should include anyone who paid to prepare all or substantially all of a return, no matter where they may work.

The basic tenet here is that big firms will get away with letting the underlings preparing the returns not be held accountable for their (apparently) shoddy work. The NSA’s position is that if every single legit tax professional is registered then they can track down the shitty ones and the IRS can act accordingly. The NSA claims that the “loophole” proposed by the AICPA will let these amateurs skate the testing and registration requirements and thus won’t be serving taxpayers one iota.

On the one hand you might have been totally against the tax preparer regulations from the start but now that they’re unavoidable, the AICPA’s request for exemptions in some cases may burn the unlucky bunch that wouldn’t get to enjoy waiver.

An Accountant’s Labor Day Weekend Reading | 09.03.10

~ Calling it a day people. We’ll be back Tuesday to help you cope with the post-holiday depression.

Why the SEC Won’t Flip the IFRS Switch [CFO]
We approve of prognostication in all its forms.

Bernanke Says He Failed to See Financial Flaws [NYT]
About as close to a “myo get from the Beard.

Montvale: Police Blotter, Sept. 2 [NorthJersey.com]
More car trouble associated with KPMG. This time it was a stolen Beamer. With an iPod inside!

Who is short selling Medifast stock? [Fraud Files Blog]
A show of hands, please.

H&R Block Surges as Chief Says Firm Can Handle Mortgage Refunds [Bloomberg]
“Concern about potential losses tied to buybacks of home loans ‘is not based on fact,’ and reserves to protect the company against claims ‘are adequate,’ Chief Executive Officer Alan Bennett said yesterday during a conference call about fiscal first-quarter earnings. The call included repeated queries about claims, which have totaled more than $680 million.

‘There’s nothing that we’re seeing anywhere that would lead to the kind of phone calls we just listened to other than speculators that, in my mind, have probably sold our stock short and then stirred this up,’ Bennett said in an interview after the call. Mortgage buyback claims ‘are getting better,’ he said.”

The Truth About SAS 70 [CFO]
They’re worthless. Well, not completely.


I.R.S. Looks at Finances of Planned Parenthood [NYT]
“The criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service is looking into the finances of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, while the organization has brought in forensic accountants to evaluate its books.

The local nonprofit became Golden Gate Community Health on Friday, as the national Planned Parenthood organization stripped the Bay Area clinics of their affiliation, citing financial and administrative problems.”

Paul Hogan cleared to return to U.S. [CBC]
Mick is safe.

Peter Orszag Goes From the Obama White House to the New York Times [Daily Intel]
“Apparently, what that Times opinion section needs is another liberal-leaning economist to cheerlead for progressive economic policies from the White House — or one who provides another visible tie between the two institutions.”

Under the hood [NYP]
Tim Geithner gets the giggles and might have Tourette’s; Larry Summers called the shots on GM/Chrysler fiasco and NEWSFLASH: Rahm Emanuel says “fuck” a lot.

Dave & Buster’s, Inc. Appoints KPMG LLP as Independent Auditor [Business Wire]
D&B didn’t waste any time announcing their new auditors. As of now, there is no filing.

As Investigation Concludes, Allegations Against KB Home Remain Anyone’s Guess

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Finally some good news for KB Home.

The homebuilder said the Securities and Exchange Commission has concluded its investigation into the company’s accounting and disclosures and does not plan to recommend any enforcement action. The letter from the regulator concludes the SEC’s investigation, which began in October 2009.

“We are pleased to announce that the SEC has concluded its investigation,” said Jeffrey Mezger, president and chief executive officer of KB Home, in a statement.

There are no details about the nature of the allegations.


Same was true in October 2009 when the company first announced in its quarterly report that the staff of the SEC notified the company that a formal order of investigation had been issued regarding possible accounting and disclosure issues. At the time, it stressed that the probe should not be construed as an indication by the SEC that there has been any violation of the federal securities laws.

And this is exactly how it turned out.

What were the allegations? What prompted the SEC to look into the matter? Was it a disgruntled whistle-blower?

The answers would be instructive to other companies that could wind up as targets of SEC probes. Guess we’ll never know.

The good news here is that the SEC informed the company that the investigation was closed. Sounds basic, right?

Believe it or not until a few years ago the regulator did not often communicate to companies under investigation that the probe was completed and that no further action would be taken, leaving the company hanging and suspicion hovering for all potential customers and investors to speculate.

Their attitude at the time was that as a policy, the Commission does not disclose the existence of an investigation in the first place, so it typically won’t announce that one has ended.

KB Home, however, is no stranger to controversy.

The company was embroiled in the options backdating scandal. In April, former chief executive officer Bruce Karatz was convicted by a federal jury of four felony counts, including two counts of mail fraud, one count of lying to company accountants and one count of making false statements in reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was acquitted on 16 other charges.

In September 2008, Karatz agreed to pay $7.2 million to settle civil charges for his role in the stock-option backdating scheme that benefitted himself and other KB Home officers and employees.

Last November, a Texas homeowner filed a class-action lawsuit today against KB Home, Countrywide Financial and LandSafe Appraisal Services, claiming the three conspired to rig housing prices in Texas and Colorado, costing home purchasers millions of dollars and pushing homeowners into dangerous loans.

Earlier, a lawsuit filed against the same parties alleged they fraudulently inflated sales prices of KB homes in Arizona and Nevada.

Ernst & Young Loses a Special Houseguest

Or a loudmouth neighbor depending on your political preference. Either way you look at it, 5 Times Square won’t be the same.

Giuliani Partners, the consulting business formed by the former mayor shortly after he left City Hall, has vacated the flagship office it had on a floor of the Ernst & Young offices in Times Square for nine years, consolidating space with the ex-candidate’s law practice, sources confirm.

Giuliani Partners closes Times Square office [Maggie Haberman/Politico]

Sir David Tweedie Would Appreciate It If You Quit Complaining About the New Accounting Standards

This means you PricewaterhouseCoopers. You’re acting like this convergence/IFRS adoption is just happening too fast, well, Tweeds isn’t having it.

As for you companies out there that actually have to keep their books in tiptop shape, Sir Tweeds isn’t so amused by your bellyaching either. And for the love of God, would everyone quit playing dumb:

“Let’s look at what we’ve got out there at the moment – leases, revenue recognition and insurance. If you’re not an insurance company you’ve got two. Big deal,” he said.

“I’m not terribly sympathetic. It’s not as thought these have sprung out of no where, we’ve been working on these, they’ve seen the drafts coming, they know what we’re doing.

Furthermore, maybe if you got some of your people on this instead of writing a comment letter every two seconds, this wouldn’t seem like such monumental task.

“It’s tough, but goodness it’s tough for us too. We can’t keep getting all this advice. We always get conflicting advice. ‘You must have these done by June 2011, but don’t give them to us all at once’,” he said.

Tweedie “not terribly sympathetic” to concerns of standard-overload [Accountancy Age]

Lindsay Lohan Gets Serious About Her Financial Situation, Hires Britney Spears’ Accountant

No seriously.


Lou Taylor of Nashville-based TriStar Sports and Entertainment Group apparently is a “savvy, no-nonsense Nashville businesswoman who guided Spears back from the brink,” according to the Post.

Just thought you guys should know.

Did an Accountant with a Penchant for Sex Chats with Underage Girls Rip Off a Wealthy Heiress?

[caption id="attachment_16785" align="alignright" width="260" caption="He's a pervert, dude"][/caption]

Maybe! That’s what the Manhattan’s DA office would like to know.

In a story that Dick Wolf is certain to get ahold of, an accountant – who is admitted perv – and a lawyer are being “probed” for their management of a wealthy heiress’s fortune.

You see, Irving Kamsler – the accountant – apparently got bored managing multi-millions for copper heiress Huguette Clark and got to poking around on the Internet. He ended up pleading guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to probation, “for engaging in sexual Web chats with detectives whom he believed were girls as young as 13 and sending porn to one of them,” (plot-line twist!).


Presumably Kamsler was out of hobbies and he refocused his energy on managing the money of Ms. Clark.

Kamsler, along with Clark’s attorney, Wallace Bock, have been overlooking the heiress’s fortune for years but now the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was curious why the “elderly eccentric” had spent ‘forever’ (according to one aide) at Beth Israel hospital.

This all came about after MSNBC got to wondering aloud about Huguette’s whereabouts. More or less asking, “Why on Earth is she in a dingy hospital (have you been to Beth Israel?) and not in her 42-room 5th Ave. apartment or sprawling estates in Santa Barbara or Connecticut?”

The DA’s probe into whether Kamsler and Bock were properly managing Clark’s money is ongoing but if you’re going by Kamsler’s looks alone, you can easily conclude that they’ve got every reason to be suspicious.

Empty mansions are legacy of mystery heiress Huguette Clark [MSNBC]
‘Princess’ of Beth Israel [NYP]

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Drops Civil Suit Against UBS; PwC’s Diamond Deal; Roni Deutch Is Disappointed in Jerry Brown | 08.27.10

I.R.S. to Drop Suit Against UBS Over Tax Havens [DealBook]
UBS is finally dropping those 4,450 names it owes the IRS and skates past the civil charges.

3PAR Accepts Revised Dell Takeover Bid [WSJ]
“3PAR Inc. on Friday accepted an increased, $1.8 billion takeover offer from Dell Inc., a day after Hewlett-Packard Co. raised its offer in a bidding war for the data-storage company.

Dell’s revised offer matches H-P’s Thursday bid of $27 a share for 3PAR, whose software helps companies manage and store data more efficiently.

The fight over 3PAR illustrates how important it has become for tech companies to dominate the emerging technology known as cloud computing, in which data are managed and accessed over the Internet. Dell and H-P both sell storage products and see 3PAR’s assets as important additions to their portfolios as large technology companies seek to serve all the needs of corporate-technology departments.”

When Litigation Kills the Accounting Profession-Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned! [FEI Blog]
Jim Peterson of Re:Balane guest posted over at FEI Blog where he discussed his speciality – risk surrounding the Big 4.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Trying To Buy Consulting Revenue Again With Diamond Deal [Re:The Auditors]
Francine McKenna discusses PwC’s recently announced purchase of Diamond Management & Technology including whether some of Diamond’s consultants bailed early to avoid becoming a cog in the another public accounting firm, “Did some of the employees bail out before they were signed on as sterile strategists for an ineffective firm struggling under the weight of consulting ‘leadership’ with audit-shaped heads? I know for sure that there were significant groups of BearingPoint consultants that would have rather masticated glass shards than work for a public accounting firm again.”


Official Statement [Roni Deutch: The Tax Lady Blog]
Roni Deutch says Jerry Brown, California’s Attorney General-cum-Democratic nominee for Governor, is playing election year politics. Seems plausible.

Finance Execs React to Herz’s Retirement [CFO]
No one is panicking.

SEC vows more actions over crisis [FT]
The FT is finally getting to the story about the SEC bringing more actions, changing the culture with new teams, yada, yada, yada. Except not everyone is buying it, “[S]everal judges have questioned the SEC’s deals with Citigroup and Bank of America, and some plaintiffs’ lawyers believe the regulator has been too soft.

‘There’s no real difference now to what it was like before Mary Schapiro became chairman,’ said Jacob Zamansky, a lawyer for investors and longtime SEC critic.”

Boeing Postpones Dreamliner Delivery Until 2011 [WSJ]
You’ll have to come up with a different Christmas gift for the boss this year.

Here’s Why Facebook Should Buy ING Direct

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

It was revealed this week that Facebook is valued by its private shareholders at over $33 billion, more than Ebay, Yahoo and Dell. For a private company with little more than a year of revenue this is extraordinary.

When the company goes public it will have a hard job living up to this valuation without a significant increase in revenue streams.

One option may be for it to do a transformational transaction prior to its listing. In this way it could incorporate a pumped up revenue stream into its high IPO valuation. One such deal could be for it to buy ING Direct US, the largest online bank in the country.


Under the terms of the Dutch government bail out, ING has to sell ING Direct in the US and Canada by 2012. They will have no shortage of bidders from the financial world, but could it make sense for a non-bank to actually buy the company? And if so, what about Facebook?

Half a billion people now live their online lives through Facebook. It has huge brand value and customer loyalty. For it to generate revenue streams it needs to do more than just offer up ads and sell games.

To get from being a social network site to a commercial network site it needs to drive business, and one of the biggest impediments to online retail business is payments. By owning a bank-and thus a payment platform–Facebook could make it very easy to transact online.

Clearly there would be lots of legal hurdles for such a deal to happen, not least because regulators do not like non-banks owning banks. More specifically, Facebook has had difficulties in the past respecting people’s privacy.

But by allying the huge number of people on the site with an easy to use payments and banking business, Facebook could revolutionize its business and the way that 500 million conduct personal commercial activities on the web.

It could also learn from the clever people at ING Direct about how to protect customer data. It may be a long shot, but the two companies could complement each other very well.

Layoff Watch ’10: Rothstein Kass Making Pre-Labor Day Cuts

From the mailbag:

Thought you’d be interested in hearing that today RK had a few last minute “transitions” or as most know them “lay offs”, these happened in the FS practice in New Jersey about 6 weeks after the official “transition date” in which upper management stated that the “transitions” were over for the year and everyone was safe and could get back to work and not worry. Today we lost 1 supervisor, 1 pending manager and 1 manager all having started their careers home grown at the firm.

Performance reasons were quoted but no one seemed to have a clue it was coming and a pretty big bummer day. Rumor has it that it’s not yet over as some others were not in the office today, doesn’t help the extremely negative morale issue going on at this firm with doom and gloom expectations of raises coming post labor day.

Would love to see some more RK news hit the site from time to time if you get it, not really sure where the firm is heading, up or down and would be great to see what others think??? FS practice is getting demolished in NY and NJ appears to be getting more antsy with every move that management makes.

A voicemail and email to Rothstein Kass spokesman Robert Solomon were not immediately returned.

If you’ve got more info on cuts or other news at RK, get in touch.

Citigroup Blackballs Analyst Claiming the Bank’s DTAs Should Be Written Down

Fox Business Network’s ace news-breaker Charlie Gasparino reports that Citigroup’s management team, including CEO Vikram Pandit and CFO John Gerspach will not meet with CLSA banking analyst Mike Mayo since he’s been telling investors that the big C should be writing down their $50 billion in deferred tax assets.

Carlito reports that Mayo states that this refusal to write down the DTAs amounts to “cooking the books by inflating its earnings through an accounting gimmick.”

Simple question from Mayo via CG, “I’d like to know why all my competitors get meetings with Pandit and the key people there and I don’t.” It’s not like the guy is one of the top banking analysts in the entire world. It’s not like Citigroup has a solid track record of transparent financial reporting. Or did everyone forget that C has the U.S. Treasury as its backstop?

The KPMG audit team can weigh in on this at any time. Or just email us the details.

Analyst: Citigroup is Cooking the Books [FBN]

(UPDATE) Will the Herz and Tweedie Retirements Put the Kibosh on Convergence?

~ Update includes comment from IFAC President Robert Bunting of Moss Adams

Maybe! After all, anything’s possible. The Herz retirement wasn’t exactly expected but since Roberto had two years left in his terms but it’s been suggested that it’s been a rough two years since Barney Frank gave him the tongue lashing of his life over the whole mark-to-market thing.

Regardless, The Journal put it out there that the timing of Herz’s departure causes hella handwringing, most notably on the convergence efforts:

FASB will now have to replace Mr. Herz at the same time that the IASB is alreadycessor to its chairman, David Tweedie, whose terms expires in June 2011. This means that both bodies will have new heads as they enter what could prove to be the end game for the often-thorny process of converging two accounting standards.

This, of course, causes the U.S. GAAP Hawks to squeal with glee and those in pro-IFRS camp to get anxious and will likely lead to heavy lobbying for a replacement that will keep Tweeds dream alive for “one high quality set of global standards” or whatever they’re calling it these days.

Despite the Journal’s anxiety, International Federation of Accountants President Bob Bunting sees the change as an opportunity and things will continue to progress, “While the changes of leadership at the FASB and the IASB offer the opportunity for a fresh look at the convergence process, I would be surprised if any radical change in direction occurs,” Mr Bunting wrote in an email to GC, “The financial market forces and public interest arguments for convergence of the two standards, and possible eventual adoption of IFRS as a single standard continue to be very strong.”

However, since the FASB is expanding back to seven members, that will likely slow the process down (which makes some people happy) even further, especially with empty seats at the table:

The lack of a full board is likely to slow many of FASB’s projects, particularly the move to converge with international rules, said former FASB Chairman Dennis Beresford. “They’re not going to issue anything important on the basis of having only four board members,” he said, adding that Mr. Herz’s departure came as “a complete surprise.”

So, with those seeds of doubt planted, let’s put it to a vote.

Early Exit of FASB Chairman Raises Anxiety [WSJ]

Who Will Replace Bob Herz as FASB Chairman?

Yesterday we learned that FASB Chair Bob Herz would be ending his spectacular 8 year run as the head of our favorite accounting standards setting agency.

What we have not learned is who will be replacing him permanently when he escapes next month. In the interest of helping FASB come up with a qualified replacement, we have a few suggestions. Do we need to submit these in comment letter form or can someone just email over for us?


Patrick Byrne Listen, we know there’s something just not right about the guy and it’s entirely possible that he lacks the actual paper qualifications required of the FASB chair. But to his credit, he can do wonders with financial reporting, especially when it comes to using magical fantasy models very similar to FASB’s own mark-to-Disneyland initiatives. He’d be great for coming up with all sorts of helpful guidance (except when it comes to internal control, he might have to contract out to the IASB on that one) and if the IASB decides to get too lippy, Byrne can simply send Judd Bagley after Tweedie’s ass to “straighten him out,” ifyoufeelme.

Willie Nelson Okay, so we’re pretty sure you have to take a drug test before you’re allowed to run the FASB but assuming Willie can get his hands on some goldenseal, we think we have a winner here. He’s laid back enough to handle hard ribbings by Barney Frank in the event of another bank accounting debacle and who knows, we could put off convergence another 15 years if we can send Nelson over to the IASB with some goodies. They’ll be too busy watching Chapelle’s Show and hunting down Doritos to start messing with the sanctity of GAAP. Win.

The hot chick who got fired from PwC Let’s be real about it, the FASB chairman job used to be an esteemed position but now that we’re trudging ever-forward towards convergence (or, rather, total IASB domination), we don’t actually need anyone with more than half a brain in that position. So why not offer hot chick a job? Qualifications include: standing there looking pretty, keeping your trap shut and ignoring Tweedie’s midnight sexting.

If you have a suggestion, why not let us know? We’ll be sure to include it as an aside in our next comment letter. Whoever they get, can we please PLEASE make sure they slightly more photogenic than our buddy Bob? Seriously, we’re going to miss you, Herz, but man did you make us all look bad.

Bob Herz Retiring as FASB Chair

Eight “successful” years is a helluva run, Bob. Not sure if he’s upstaging Tweedie’s exit next year or what. They’re buds and all. So now the speculation should probably start as to who will replace Roberto. Leslie Seidman will be running things as the “Acting” Chair and if you take the PCAOB’s as example, that “Acting” Chair can sit tight for awhile. Dan Goelzer has been “acting” as the Chair for over at the Board for over a year now.

So the important question is, who’s next to fly this ship? Taking shit from bank lobbiesenerally being known as being the biggest double-entry nerd in a gray suit this side of the pond is not an easy gig. We’d suggest a deputy accountant but there’s probably some silly qualifications that she will disqualify her. Does Tim Flynn put down the bag at KPMG? Do we finally get serious and get a knight to run this thing? Suggestions welcome.

NORWALK, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Board of Trustees of the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) today announced that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) will grow from five to seven members. The FASB previously operated with seven board members from its inception in 1973 until 2008. In addition, Chairman Robert Herz has decided to retire from the FASB after more than eight years leading the standard-setting board. FASB member Leslie Seidman has been appointed Acting Chairman, effective October 1, 2010.

“Returning the Board to the seven-member structure will enhance the FASB’s investment in the convergence agenda with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), while addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the American capital markets in the months and years ahead”

“Returning the Board to the seven-member structure will enhance the FASB’s investment in the convergence agenda with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), while addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the American capital markets in the months and years ahead,” said FAF Chairman Jack Brennan. “The FAF Trustees believe this is the right investment in the standard-setting process at the right time that will enable it to accomplish the many duties that are so critical to the organization’s constituents.” The transition to a seven-member board will occur as soon as the process to recruit and evaluate candidates is complete, which is expected in early 2011.

Mr. Brennan added: “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and, especially, all investors and others affected by the FASB’s work, I want to offer my sincere thanks to Bob Herz for his strong leadership of the FASB in, arguably, the most challenging period in its history. We greatly appreciate his service and congratulate him for a job well done. Moving forward, we are very fortunate to have a highly respected, experienced leader like Leslie Seidman to assume the duties of Acting Chairman.”

Robert Herz, Chairman of the FASB, said: “My more than eight years as Chairman of the FASB have been among the most professionally challenging and personally satisfying of my career. There are hundreds of people I need to thank for their strong support and invaluable contributions to our standard-setting activities. First and foremost, I offer my deep appreciation to my fellow board members and our dedicated and talented staff. I’m very proud of our accomplishments, and I’m confident the board will continue to successfully meet the challenges ahead.”

Ms. Seidman has been a FASB member since July 2003. She has also served the FASB in various staff roles. Prior to joining the board, Ms. Seidman managed her own firm, providing consulting services to major corporations, accounting firms and other concerns, and previously served as vice president of accounting policy at J.P. Morgan & Company. Ms. Seidman started her career as an auditor in the New York office of Arthur Young & Company (now Ernst & Young LLP) and is a certified public accountant.

The Two Best Comment Letters Written to the FASB You’ll Ever Read

Last month we told you about how the American Bankers Association encouraged anyone that disagreed with the FASB’s proposed fair value rule to write a letter telling Herz & Co. how much the proposal suind enough to provide a template for said “FASB Blows” correspondence so the anti-fair value crowd could get the gist of what needed to be said.

The ABA did warn, however, that the FASB hates, loathes, DETESTS form letters, so in order to make a valid point, it was advisable to not simple slap your name in the appropriate place but to articular your own special brand of hatred for the FASB.

As you may recall, many ABA groupies did not heed this warning, which no doubt resulted in Bob Herz and the rest of the Norwalk team using the letters to stoke their mid-summer weenie roast bonfire.

As disappointed as the ABA must have been with the lack of originality, we were sent this shining example that has been making the rounds at the Big 4 (or so we’re told). Our guess is that this is more of what the ABA had in mind:

FASB1

Bravo, James C. Blaine. Bravo. You are most definitely into the brevity thing. You have, presumably, made the ABA proud. But wait, there is a pro-fair value letter worthy of these pages.


Granted, it was written back in May but Brian Cowell is no less passionate than Mr Blaine:

FASB2

Nicely done, both of you. Everyone take note.

Who Leaked the MLB Financial Statements?

This morning we mentioned the Deadspin story that presented leaked financial statements of several Major League Baseball teams. This included the Pittsburgh Pirates who have had 18 straight losing seasons yet remain profitable – making $14.4 million and $15 million in net income for the fiscal year ended October 31, 2008 and 2007 respectively.

The Seattle Mariners financials are also now available and the Texas Rangers numbers will be rolling out tomorrow, so there’s plenty of financial analysis treasure hunting for you to engage in, if that’s your thing.

Fis is unprecedented access to the teams’ financial position and performance, PLUS! all the wonky details of their Summary of Significant Accounting Policies – everything from revenue recognition to prepaid signing bonuses, guaranteed contracts, so on and so forth.

However, it also includes details that give insight into MLB controversial revenue sharing program, such as the Pirates using $44 million in ’07 and ’08 to develop players, as reported by the New York Times. With the lowest payroll in baseball and perpetual loserness, baseball fans in the Steel City might rather see that money spent on some free agents so they have something to discuss between the hockey and football seasons.


But perhaps more importantly, the Times reports that MLB is not taking this breach lightly. Since these teams are privately held, the information is not widely shared and the suspects are few:

Access to the teams’ audited financial statements is usually limited to the commissioner’s office; baseball’s lead bankers, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase; and two accounting firms, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. But [Florida Marlins President David] Samson said that “in the course of business, other entities have access.” Teams do not see one another’s financial reports, but receive a general accounting of where they rank compared with the other 29 clubs in profitability.

Of course this is the point in the post where you’d expect us to point the finger at E&Y or PwC but in reality, it seems unlikely that the leak would come from either firm. Likewise, it doesn’t make much sense for it to have come from BofA or JP Morgan. All these firms no doubt boast the services they provide to Major League Baseball and any professional servicing those clients wouldn’t dare risk damaging their firm and their career by exposing sensitive financial data of such a high profile client. Does it really make sense for an E&Y/PwC/BofA/JPM employee to leak the financials to Deadspin on a whim?

The leak has to be from within the commissioner’s office. First of all, someone there has the access to all these records and it is extremely more likely that Deadspin has sources in the commissioner’s office that would be willing to leak the information (especially teams no one gives a shit about). Secondly, we shouldn’t forget that baseball has had its share of squealers. There’s no reason to believe that the whole sport isn’t infested with them.

And as we mentioned – who gives a shit about the Pirates, Mariners or Marlins? These are low payroll teams whose financial information doesn’t cause much of a stir other than the fact that this is first time the data has been available to the public at large. If someone really wanted to bomb the hell out of us, the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs financial statements would have been leaked and then the disparity (financial and thus, competitiveness) between the teams would really on display.

Baseball Chases Leak of Financial Documents [NYT]
MLB Confidential, Part 2: Seattle Mariners [Deadspin]

Survey: Most People Get Away with Sending Inappropriate Emails

Recent data suggests that most of you sending emails regarding the person most likely to sleep their way to partner, the hot piece of ass that isn’t pulling their weight or a recruit from a certain school that asks less-than flattering questions about your firm, are getting way with passing it along to their friends and/or colleagues.

That being said, it does happen. One in twenty to be precise. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes people are reading your emails, especially if something goes viral within a firm and happens to sneak outside the firm. That’s when TPTB get on the horn and demand that people are held responsible.


Hey, nobody’s perfect right? When my particular reprimand came down, all I could do was laugh and say, “Yep, I did send that. Hell, it’s says “From: Caleb Newquist” right there. It was a bad decision on my part and I understand you have to do what you have to do.” And I moved on. Besides, I wasn’t the only one. It was communicated to me that literally hundreds of people were being reprimanded for forwarding the message so it was largely a damage control project and plenty of people were being told, “Don’t do that again. Ever.”

But for the most part, it sounds like most of your “inappropriate messages” fly beneath the radar, including:

Inappropriate jokes, angry messages sent in the heat of the moment, and scathing email replies forwarded to the wrong people are among some of the email gaffes that have landed office workers in hot water with their employers or clients.

One in five of those questioned said they had sent an inappropriate email in the heat of the moment, while almost a third said they had accidentally hit “reply all” instead of “reply”.

More than one in 10 of the 2,000 people surveyed admitted they had mistakenly sent an email criticising a colleague to the person they were insulting.

So while the Telegraph makes a point to note that 1 out of 20 people have been reprimanded for accidentally saying “God, can you believe the partner’s B.O. today?” in the “heat of the moment” it also shows that 19 people are having a great time sending inappropriate emails and not having any problems at all.

However, if you’ve been caught red-handed sending a dirty joke and/or discussing your booze-fueled business trip that may or may not have involved a party back at the hotel room, and were later asked to explain yourself, we’d love to hear about it below. And of course, send us any and all future inappropriate emails that would be 100% appropriate for these pages.

Not that we’re suggesting that you use your work email in an inappropriate manner. You’re representing your firm after all. Have the common sense to use a different email address.

One in 20 people reprimanded for inappropriate emails [Telegraph]

Do Accounting Firms Care if You’re On Drugs?

Recent data suggests that Wall Street types are still doing drugs with unsurprisingly regularity but their tastes have changed with the seriousness of the times.

That is, they’ve traded in the hard-charging llelo fueled days of ’06 – ’07 with a more reserved and apathetic ganja attitude of ’09 – ’10. Trading coke for pot. Blow foe all know that accountants follow/chase the money so we can safely assume that their proclivities for drug usage have followed suit.

However, you rarely hear about drug abuse problems at accounting firms. So where is all this drug use happening? Apparently, it’s going down at REITs:

The highest levels of abuse seem to be at real estate investment trust companies, a sector that, incidentally, does more random testing than others.

But the test results generally capture drug use among new hires, candidates who knew that they would likely be tested. Random drug testing is rare, according to a spokesman for a bulge-bracket bank who asked to remain unnamed.

Among existing employees, psychologists and counselors say that drug abuse has not slackened. Some even say it is peaking, exacerbated by the credit crisis and the volatile and tenuous recovery that has ensued.

As the article states, random drug testing is already rare but where it happens the least isn’t mentioned.

But like we said, you rarely hear about the drug use that goes on at accounting firms. Which makes us wonder if it’s because it’s not happening period. To our knowledge – accounting firms don’t give employees drug tests as a condition of employment and simply defer to clients who require them (a certain Swiss Bank with proximity to shroom burgers comes to mind).

We’re not suggesting that every Big 4 office is like Bernie Madoff’s north pole but there’s enough of it happening that there is a presence within the firms.

It’s no surprise. You Big 4 types (and anyone at a CPA firm for that matter) go through your personal hell on a seasonal (or maybe a constant) basis so there’s probably a direct correlation with your usage and the time of year. For example – that tax manager that manages to work night after night after night with amazing focus as the final 2010 deadlines draw near? You think they just plug themselves in when they finally go home to recharge for the next day?

Plus, as you’re acutely aware, it’s not just the illegal drugs that are popular, “[T]he rage these days is a Pez dispenser with the head of a red devil. Inside? Pills of Oxycodone or Percocet.” And don’t forget the people that have been popping Adderall since college so they can study for 12 straight hours. That has simply carried over into the 14-15 hour days for X amount of consecutive days during busy season.

And don’t get us started on people who get addicted to fast food (a drug in its own right) in order to save time and eat at their desks. The chemicals in the food from [pick your chain] are just as addictive as any drug off the street or from the pharmacy and cause just as much damage to our bodies.

But as you’ve no doubt heard over and over in the peanut gallery, getting your work done is ultimately what matters. Come hell or high water. Come dependancy, insane weight loss or insane weight gain. And lots of people do whatever it takes to cope with that reality.

So? What’s the scoop these days inside your firm? Are drug tests just a section of your offer letter that you agree to, only to be never reminded of it again? Anyone every been tested? We understand that no one is operating heavy machinery out there but bad things can still happen, quite possibly in the name of client service.

Wall Street Kicks Coke in Favor of Pot and Pills [FINS]

Accountant Convinces David and Victoria Beckham That They Don’t Need Seven Gardeners

The Beckhams were concerned that “ordinary people were tightening their belts,” so what did they do? They fired a bunch of ordinary people! All it took was a shrewd accountant to tell them, “You’re pouring money down the drain.”


The fun-killing accountant is then quoted by a source in The Sun that employing 50 people around the word isn’t necessary, ” ‘You CAN afford to employ all of these people. But why the hell DO you?’ ”

Vic took it to heart, so she cut 14 people off the payroll. This included a housekeeper that worked for them for eight years who was replaced by “two ‘cost efficient’ foreign staff,” so things aren’t completely falling apart.

As for the gardening, they’re down to one and now that poor bastard has to double as a chauffeur. Can you imagine the hell that must be having that guy track muddy shoes into the car? The horror.

Is Your Firm Cutting Fringe Benefits?

Last week we touched on the shockingly sensitive subject of charging time while traveling. You see, apparently it was (at one time) a-okay in some KPMG offices (Southeast) while in others, the mere idea of charging time while traveling was utter nonsense.

So that got one reader to thinking – what the hell else is being cut out these days?

Please consider a post related to fringe benefits. I’m curious in knowing whether the larger firms are allowing their employees to keep points for dollars spent on company credit cards. But there are other points programs (i.e., frequent flyer miles) and fringe benefits (i.e., gym memberships, cell phones, etc.) that may be declining on top of all of the poor raises.


Big 4 firms have been quite generous with the fringe benefits (e.g. elderly parent care, subsidizing public transit passes, etc.) and they make a point to remind you of it from the day you interview with the firm to the day you leave. However, since we’re living in unprecedented times, nothing is unheard of.

If your firm has recently gotten stingy on fringe benefits, from the vastly important (401k match) to the less crucial (discounts at Brooks Brothers) discuss or shoot us the details.

California Controller All But Guarantees That the State Will Issue IOUs Again

As the State Controller of California, John Chiang arguably has one of the worst jobs on Earth. Public service is a fine calling and working for the Terminator probably has its moments of awesomeness but he still presides over one of largest fiscal nightmares you could possibly imagine.

For starters, it doesn’t help when you overshoot tax revenues for the month of April by $3 billion. Plus, you’re dealing with a state legislature that is probably incapable of agreeing on what ocean serves as the border of their state.

So take that and a bunch of other stuff that’s not really worth rehashing, you get this, “[W]ithout a new spending plan that closes a $19 billion shortfall, the state would run out of money by late October. ‘We will run out of money if everything remains the same,’ [Chiang] said in an interview.”


Of course the state Assembly’s Republican leader, Martin Garrick, finds this to be a load of crap since what it comes down really is your political party “[He] didn’t represent the fact that it is his party’s own lack of leadership that have led to these delays.”

Look, we’ve all accepted the fact that California is the brokest-ass state of the union and is completely inept when it comes to doing anything about it. Sure New York is a pathetic loser that manages to embarrass itself on a regular basis and most of the rest of the states out there leave a helluva a lot to be desired but Cali really outdoes everyone on a regular basis. This will make two years straight of issuing IOUs at the expense of citizens and yet the diaper-wearing California reps do nothing.

If Whitman gets in there, her first act as Guv could be to auction them off one by one (or just list them all as “Buy It Now” for $1). Of course the take wouldn’t be nearly enough to fix the budget but at this point a symbolic gesture will do.

California Faces Prospect of Issuing IOUs Again [WSJ]

Promotion Watch ’10: Rothstein Kass Names Four New Principals

Jeff Kollin, Camille Asaro, Frank Attalla and Navin Sethi come on down!


Asaro and Kollin rep the New York office, Attalla in Roseland, NJ and Sethi gets the nod in San Fran.

Ms. Asaro and Mr. Attalla are members of the Rothstein Kass Financial Services Group. Mr. Sethi, a tax Principal is a member of both the Financial Services Group and the firm’s Commercial Services Group. Mr. Kollin has been named Principal and Head of the Financial Services Advisory practice within Rothstein Kass Business Advisory Services, LLC, a Rothstein Kass affiliate. Rothstein Kass simultaneously announced the promotion of Rich Sumida to Senior Director at Rothstein Kass.

Son of the Kass (presumably, the firm is 50-ish) takes the mic:

“The collaborative culture at Rothstein Kass has ensured that our professionals are able to continually enhance their skills and expertise throughout their careers. Our ‘one-firm, one-floor,’ philosophy remains a cornerstone for our success. Staff at all organizational levels gain invaluable experience working side-by-side with seasoned industry veterans in support of our clients. The companies we serve, in turn, benefit from the continuity, proficiency and knowledge that result from our ability to hire and retain superior talent across practice areas and office locations,” said Steven A. Kass, Co-CEO and Co-Managing Principal of Rothstein Kass. “Camille, Frank, Navin and Jeff are engaged, insightful and dedicated members of the Rothstein Kass team, and have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities during their time with our firm. On behalf of our entire organization, we would like to congratulate our new Principals on their achievements and thank them for their contributions to our success.”

Not much to add here other than 1) congrats to the new RK principals and 2) the “one-firm, one-floor philosophy” could have really helped a certain Crowe Horwath partner.

Author of “Alan the Accountant” Wants Parents to Talk to Their Kids About Offshore Tax Havens

Last week we told you about the most important contribution to children’s literature since Mother Goose, “Alan the Accountant” (download it here).

Alan the Accountant may not be the most traditional book in the “turn the page” sense but it will no doubt get the kids thinking about double-entry at an early age and you can never get the kids started on the career path too early, amiright?

After downloading this gem and reading it a dozen times or so, we felt prepared to discuss it seriously.

We had the distinct pleasure of tossing a few questions at the book’s author, Jinky Fox, to see what sort of plans he has for Alan, how he managed to skip out on his accounting career and why it’s never too early to talk to your kids about offshore tax havens.


So you planned to become an accountant but got “sidetracked into fine art.” A couple of questions related to this: 1) By “planned” does that mean you enrolled in a class, walked in and saw the people, turned right around and walked out? 2) Does getting “sidetracked into fine art” have anything to do with a) your pursuit of a sexy art student b) drugs c) walking into the wrong classroom d) all of the above.

I started an accountancy class and walked out after a year. Not because of the nightlife which was everything I subsequently found at art school and more. Accountants definitely know how to party. Rather I hadn’t been introduced to creative accounting. Now I see those figures differently. They can tell a tale as exciting as a six volume 19th century novel or a four hour black and white Swedish epic. There is an art in the numbers.

We’re still of the opinion that there was a sexy art student. Moving on…You say “The series of books planned for Alan the Accountant will help me examine the exciting world of Accountancy that I turned my back on.” This begs a few more questions: 1) “Exciting?” 2) What have you learned about the profession that surprised you and how will you get the kids interested? 3) What makes you think the accounting profession will embrace you after you abandoned it? Accountants can be a touchy bunch, you know.

Fiction lets writers and readers live different lives. We might not be able to live the life of a 17th century nobleman, but we can read Les Trois Mousquetaires. We might not be pirates but we can read Treasure Island. I am not an accountant, but Alan allows me to explore my life had it taken a different route.

Artists rarely sit on the boards of large companies, but accountants have the keys to these exciting corridors of power. Art and accountancy might seem to be unrelated but there is an unexplored link between them. This has been expressed most famously by Andy Warhol when he said, ‘Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.’

Will accountants embrace Alan? I hope so, and I don’t think that a teenage indiscretion will blight their enjoyment. And anyway, it’s not too late for me to retrain.

Well, we’re on your team and despite what some might say, that’s a decent endorsement. Anyway, getting more serious…In this book, you examine the possibilities for Alan’s happiness, which include his finding of an offshore tax haven. Is this really the example that we should be setting for children? I mean do we really want to be having the “UBS conversation” with our kids at such a young age?

Offshore tax havens are an important part of life. Is it wrong for children to learn that some kids have to say goodbye to their friends and go and live on a British dependency in the middle of nowhere? No, I say! They might be the ones ripped from their beds and flown to a sweltering island, only allowed to go home 90 days a year. Life’s not all ipods and ice cream, we have to be honest!

Have it your way but don’t come crying to us when Fox News gets ahold of this. Next – Here in the U.S., accountants are nearly as revered as they are in the UK. You guys have an awards ceremony over there for crying out loud. Do you think that your book can help bridge the prestige in the UK over the U.S.?

I hope that my little book will bring accountants to the collective bosom of the people. I see a time when Alan the Accountant is the top rated kids’ show on TV. Children of all ages will dream of becoming accountants. Our universities will be so full of accountancy students they will stop teaching all other subjects. Our shops will sell out of calculators, accountants around the globe will be lauded and admired, statues will be built of senior partners and it will all be thanks to Alan.

Honestly, the idea of a Tim Flynn statue is a tad frightening but we like your enthusiasm. Speaking of…More books featuring Alan are forthcoming – what do you have planned? Adventure? Excitement? Adjusting entries?

Accountancy is a field that has not been mined for children’s books before so there is plenty of scope for stories set in the world of high finance. Accountancy is awash with slang and acronyms that are made for children’s books. Titles planned for future editions of Alan’s book include ‘My first investment account’, ‘Adventures in negative growth’ and ‘Darling, come quickly, Freddie just said his first word – EBITDA’

Hey Media, Leave the Accounting To Us Mmmkay?

When Going Concern first launched a year ago, I know we heard more than a few chortles from the audience at the very idea of an accounting news site (or tabloid, depending on who you ask) because, really, how interesting can accounting be? Of course we’ve since learned that cube-dwellers, financial professionals, college kids and accounting enthusiasts are totally into what we do because no one was doing it before and someone had to.

It’s easy to forget that we’re not only utilizing this avenue to rip on obvious boneheads who try to manipulate our precious accounting (we’re talking to you, Patrick Byrne) and make fun of idiot celebrities who don’t pay their taxes but also to bring an accounting awareness to the world at large. It’s not all number-crunching and despite the stereotypes that we ourselves perpetuate, we’re also providing a service by making the obscure world of accounting digestible to non-accountants.

Which is pretty much the entire reason why other media outlets need to back off and leave the really super complicated reporting to us if they’re going to get into things they don’t understand.

Case in point, American Apparel.


The headline was really that American Apparel has been taking the active accounting defense stance lately, getting fired by Deloitte (hint if you’re not into the accounting: that doesn’t happen very often. The other way, perhaps, but the auditors very rarely get spooked and bail like that), rapidly bleeding precious capital and sort of “forgetting” to file important check-ins with the SEC. Oops. That’s where the doubt arises in “going concern doubt”.

In fairness to some media outlets, not everyone bumbled the headline. But for these two, we need to define the term “going concern.” This might be too hipster ironic, even for me.

Thanks, InvestorWords, I’m too lazy to type out this definition myself:

The idea that a company will continue to operate indefinitely, and will not go out of business and liquidate its assets. For this to happen, the company must be able to generate and/or raise enough resources to stay operational.

And then we can get into American Apparel’s future a ‘going concern’ via Marketplace and American Apparel Warns of ‘Going Concern’ via the Los Angeles Business Journal. Yeah, to clarify: that’s what we want, American Apparel has the doubt part to worry about, which was conveniently linked to directly from AA’s preliminary 10-Q to the SEC. See, it’s laid out there for you, all you have to do is read it.

Anyway, I’m not annoyed when people like Emily Chasan write stories about this stuff because she knows what she’s doing. Caleb gets away with it because he knows what he’s talking about. I stick to what I know – ripping on regulatory agencies and bitching about the general state of the industry – and pull it off. There are a ton more accounting writers I could name (Bill at CPA Success, Rick at CPA Trendlines, Francine at Re: the Auditors, Professor David Albrecht, Jim Peterson at Re:Balance, blah blah blah) but I would end up leaving out quite a few talents and I’d hate to offend anyone. Ha.

My point is that you don’t have to be one of them to get the story right. That’s all I’m saying.

The irony of this is not lost on me. I don’t wear American Apparel dammit but I half dress like this awful stereotypical hipster. Don’t ask me what to wear on CPA exam day, I stick to what I know.

A Sign of Things to Come? Walgreen Outsourcing 150 Accounting Jobs

Apparently this is part of WAG’s ‘Rewiring for Growth’ initiative. And by ‘rewiring’ they mean cutting $1 billion in expenses by next year (no pressure).

As many as 150 accounting jobs could be eliminated at Walgreen Co.’s Deerfield headquarters within the next 10 months as the drugstore giant outsources the work.

The job losses result from Walgreen Co.’s agreement with process-outsourcing firm Genpact, based in India, to take over certain accounting work.

Genpact has agreed to acquire Walgreen’s accounting office in Danville, Ill., where 500 former Walgreen employees have become employees of Genpact.

Another 300 Walgreen jobs, including the 150 in Deerfield, will be affected by the move. The remaining 150 jobs are scattered among Walgreen accounting offices nationwide, a Walgreen spokeswoman said Monday.

An unspecified number of Walgreen accounting department employees who remain employed will be shifted to other jobs or see their positions changed drastically, the Walgreen spokeswoman said.

Problem is “positions changed drastically” could be anything from the mailroom to working the counter at your respective local store on Christmas Day.

Walgreen outsourcing deal to cut as many as 150 accounting jobs [Chicago Sun-Times]

Good Riddance to Old Lease Accounting Rules

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

I see that FASB is sticking to its schedule for ending most off-balance-sheet treatment for leases, and so is the IASB. It’s about time, frankly, if only to spare us poor, I mean, intrepid financial journalists from having to sort through the particulars of the current accounting treatment a moment longer than necessary.

I speak from personal experience here, having wrestled with the false distinction between capital and operating leases for a sidebar to a piece I wrote for CFO Magazine way back when. The article delved into the details of a particularly complex variation that companies were using to finance real estate, called synthetic leases.

I swear, that sidebar itself shaved a year off my life, and at my age, every one counts, and did even a decade or so ago.


In fact, the hoops that companies must jump though to get a deal to qualify as an operating lease still make my head spin. Consider: In order to qualify, the current rule, known as FAS 13, requires that the lease fail all of four tests aimed at distinguishing the financing from being the equivalent of ownership.

The thing that puzzled me about all this is that many, if not most, CFOs claimed that accounting treatment wasn’t the reason, or at least not the main one, that they used such financing techniques in the first place.

But the reason they gave often came down to their advantageous cost, and like all off-balance-sheet financing techniques, I could never quite understand how that lower cost arose without the accounting treatment.

After all, it seemed to me the only reason operating leases were less expensive than capital leases was that the underlying asset wasn’t counted as the property of the company by a sufficient number of investors willing to therefore pay a premium for the company’s equity. And if they did that, they were ignoring the fact that the asset was indeed the property of the company on anything other than a narrow, legal basis, and that the arrangement wasn’t financing its purchase.

So tell me again how off-balance-sheet financing results in lower cost if it doesn’t really do that.

Local Man Gives Up Audit Gig to Live Off Coupons, Risk Homelessness, Suffer Yoga Injuries

Josh Stevens of Chicago was done with his corporate audit job. The glamour of cube farm life had lost its allure and lucky for him, a challenge that only an accountant could embrace.

He decided that he would accept the challenge from Internet sensation du jour Groupon to live on coupons for an entire year, “I had done corporate auditing for a year, and I decided I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle every day. I thought I’d go back and get more education, and right as I started working on those applications, this fell in my lap.”

“This” includes traveling all over this great land, living off of coupons but there are a few rules that could make things difficult for Stevens including:


• “Stevens can’t use or even touch money.”

• “He’s allowed only five visits from family and friends, with each visit lasting less than a day.”

• “Strangers, fans and supporters may donate a place to crash for the night, a car ride or plane ticket.”

So how does Josh handle not being able to have his skin touch cold hard cash and more or less being celibate (his girlfriend can’t visit him) for an entire year?

“It’s the logistics. It’s really hard to plan in advance for anything. You don’t know how to get from place to place. You don’t know where you are going to be so it’s hard to plan where you will go and who will give you rides.” Of course his ability to be a “cross between Anthony Bourdain, who is trying new things, and MacGyver, who has to be resourceful,” has proven helpful (e.g. getting manicures) as has his willingness to rely on the kindness of strangers (one couple let him stay with them for two weeks).

However, there was one instance where his adventurous nature backfired, “I kind of overdid it with a yoga class I did in Washington, D.C. I don’t know much about yoga. I think I just overstretched. I was fine that day. And the next day and then a day after that, all of my muscles tensed up, and I struggled with it for a few weeks.”

Despite this setback, Josh is plugging along and we’re rooting for him to win the $100k if completes the challenge. Hopefully he’ll spend some of the winnings on his girlfriend and maybe give yoga another shot.

Man tries living on coupons for a year [CNN]

McGladrey’s Andrews: ‘We’re Doing Pretty Well’

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently did a sit-down with McGladrey President C.E. Andrews and from the sounds of it, C.E. is pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay pleased with how things have gone at Mickey G’s since he’e been on board saying, “We’re doing pretty well.”

Now the particular context of this statement could be taken a number of waerring to the recent acquisition of Caturno & Co. or he could be talking about the firm’s recent rebranding that involved plenty of refreshments, or he’s just pumped to get regular photo-ops with Natalie Gulbis OR it could be that he’s subtly referring to how good McGladrey is at layoffs.


Based on what we read, it’s most likely the handing out of sugar stimulants:

“Big companies tend to be inwardly focused. You drink your own Kool-Aid,” said Andrews, who knows something about large companies. He’s a former partner at Arthur Andersen and had a front-row seat for the demise of the consulting firm in the wake of the Enron debacle, then went on to run Sallie Mae before joining McGladrey.

The restructured McGladrey has just five people overseeing the revenue side of the business, and a system that rewards managers who improve client service and produce growth “rather than for internal things,” Andrews said. “We’ve gone from a local measurement system to a national measurement system.”

No real room for misinterpretation there. As you all know, drinking Kool-Aid isn’t something that McGladrey takes lightly.

But then again, maybe he is referring to the recent acquisition of Caturno. C.E. is thinking that it’s been a pretty solid move and there is more where that came from:

“This thing has the appearance of being as good a fit as anything I’ve ever been a part of,” Andrews said. He said each firm had strengths that the other lacked in the New England region. It’s a model for the kinds of acquisitions McGladrey is looking to make, he said.

That includes San Francisco — though Andrews said nothing’s teed up yet.

This rhetoric is strange if you consider the aforementioned layoffs, some employees considering dumping Mickey G’s for Mickey D’s and a disappointing year where the firm saw a 39% drop in its pre-tax income.

But despite all that, C to the E has big plans for McG and they don’t include keeping things local:

McGladrey offers prospective targets connections to RSM International, the sixth-largest network of independent accounting, tax and consulting firms, Andrews said. That’s becoming more important in today’s economy when even midmarket firms — which he called McGladrey’s “sweet spot” — now have operations in far-flung places like China or India.

“The attractiveness of truly local providers is diminishing,” Andrews said.

BUT! Don’t you go thinking that McGladrey will be like one of those firms, “We have the same kind of capabilities as the Big Four [accounting firms] … but delivered with an outstanding local touch.”

So, he backhands the local firms but then casually embraces their ‘delivery’ to take a jab at the Big 4. So, if we understand this correctly, McGladrey is a big firm, but isn’t like a big firm, and that’s their advantage. Got it.

McGladrey seeking more acquisitions [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

Inside Public Accounting’s Top 100 Firms List Has Few Surprises

Inside Public Accounting put out their annual ranking of accounting firms this month and like the Accounting Today list, it is based on revenues so it barely causes a stir.

Not that we don’t appreciate the distraction in the middle of August but the list doesn’t have any surprises and is nearly identical to AT’s. Nevertheless, we’ll present the top 25 firms here for your dissecting enjoyment (previous ranking in brackets):

1. Deloitte [1]
2. Ernst & Young [2]
3. PricewaterhouseCoopers [3]
4. KPMG [4]
5. McGladrey [5] (who is still calling this firm “RSM McGladrey” and “McGladrey & Pullen”? They had cake and punch for crissakes.)


6. Grant Thornton [6]
7. Mayer Hoffman & McCann/CBIZ [8]
8. BDO [7]
9. Crowe Horwath [9]
10. BKD [10]
11. Moss Adams [11]
12. Plante & Moran [12]
13. Clifton Gunderson [14]
14. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause [17]
15. Marcum [20]
16. J.H. Cohn [15]
17. UHY Advisors [16]
18. LarsonAllen [19]
19. Reznick Group [13]
20. Dixon Hughes [18]
21. ParenteBeard [35/36]
22. Rothstein Kass [21]
23. Eide Bailly [22]
24. Eisner [23]
25. WeiserMazars [24]

So then. The top 5 is a snoozer, per usual. You can see that the the firms that experienced a merger or acquisition in the past year are the ones that jumped the most (e.g. BTVK, ParenteBeard, Marcum) with the exception of WeiserMazars, a merger that was an international play as opposed to a domestic one. And since rumored mergers don’t count you don’t see the Eisner Amper effect here. Reznick Group experienced the most significant drop which can’t be explained at this point but we’d love to hear theories.

Full Report [PDF]

American Apparel Goes Two for Two: Q2 Filing Late, Q1 Still Pending

Fashion cannot be rushed people. Ask the gang at Fashionista. They’ll tell you.

However, it is still a business which sometimes includes dealing with auditors and other outsiders that want various documentation and whatnot that can simply be delayed if it hinders the creative process. That is, if you keep your company private.

But the second you want to give the American public the opportunity to invest in your skinny jeans, leggings, and thong tanks, you’re playing on the SEC’s turf. This means things happen on a schedule. Delays, excuses or pervy CEO behavior will not be tolerated if it results in late filings.

American Apparel expects to report a loss in the second quarter and requested additional time to file its financial report after the resignation of its auditor, Deloitte & Touche.

It is the latest bump for the hipster clothing chain. The company said in May that it expected a loss for the first quarter, but it hasn’t filed that quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission either.

[…]

Deloitte & Touche resigned as American Apparel’s auditor after the accounting firm said it found material weaknesses in internal controls over financial reporting. Deloitte requested more information from the company to determine if there were problems in previous financial reports. American Apparel said Tuesday it was working to provide that information.

Dov! These 10-Qs are not optional! Plus, it doesn’t help that the financial data that you provide is less reliable than what the federal government issues.

Presumably Marcum was persistent (and comfortable) enough to get you to push the button before so what the hell man? You’ve got them back on your team so this should NBD. You best get the house in order before your stock gets banished to the sheets that are the same color as your undies.

American Apparel expects 2Q loss; request 2Q delay [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Earlier:
Deloitte Resigns as American Apparel Auditor; Hotness of Engagement Team Presumably Not an Issue

Just So You’re Aware: There Is Now a Children’s Book Featuring An Accountant…For Your iPhone

No doubt that there’s many a fine accountant that wished there was a children’s book that they could read to their 0-4 year-old to demonstrate that it was an honorable and worthwhile calling.

Similarly there are many parents these days that wished for such a book that could be read without the annoyance of your skin touching paper and also the ability to check in at the local coffeehouse on Foursquare.

The wait is over.

Alan the Accountant is the first in a series of new books starring people in careers that are not usually associated with children’s books. Why should only builders and postmen find fame in children’s books?! Accountants are vital to the world economy, yet children are not encouraged to say I want to be an Accountant in the same way they learn about other careers. This book resets the balance.

[…]

As a student the author Jinky Fox planned to become an accountant, but was sidetracked into fine art. ‘The series of books planned for Alan the Accountant will help me examine the exciting world of Accountancy that I turned my back on,’ commented Jinky.

You see people? Jinky is giving back to the profession he left behind. Admirable to be sure. He’s so committed to the profession that there are plans to have Alan star in future books.

Now for you religious types, you may be disturbed by Alan sans pants but rest assured, this is a book for the whole family and the sanctity of your household is not at risk and it could do wonders for your personal financial management.

[via Accounting Tomorrow]

Eisner, Amper Politziner Playing Coy on Merger Rumors

NJBiz reports that New York-based Eisner is planning to merge with Edison, NJ-based Amper Politziner & Mattia LLP. The two firms – ranked 24th and 26th in Accounting Today’s most recent list of Top 100 firms – combined would have 1,200 employes and over $250 million in revenue.

This would shoot the combined firm – working name: Eisner Amper – to 14th on the list (based on revenues) ahead of Clifton Gunderson and hot on the heels of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause.


From the looks of it, the merger would benefit Eisner’s presence in the Garden State while APM would have much better access to the NYC market.

Eisner’s CEO Charles Weinstein wasn’t reached for comment and Amper CEO Howard Cohen told NJBiz, “We have no binding legal documents with any firm at this time,” which, as far as we’re concerned, basically means that it’s a done deal and the lawyers are still sorting out the signing pages.

Of course there’s always the slim chance for a board room blowup and the whole thing gets called off but we’re all hoping for the best.

EXCLUSIVE: Amper Politziner plans merger with Eisner [NJBiz via Web CPA]

HP’s Actions in Hurd Case Do Not Impress

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

When HP announced the stunning resignation of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Hurd on Friday, it seemingly wanted the world to think it took the moral high road.

In its press release, the company said a probe into possible sexual harassment charges against Hurd and HP by a former contractor to HP found no violation of HP’s sexual harassment policy, “but did find violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.”

Ooh.


So, basically the company and Board were saying that ethics trumps performance, even when it comes to the guy widely credited for turning around the company.

The populists applauded, hoping that some companies have higher standards than, maybe, Wall Street, where the people who brought us the global financial crisis and caused millions of innocent people to lose their jobs also wound up being rewarded with huge bonuses.

However, these hopes were quickly dashed when we learned that poor Mark Hurd-who joins the growing ranks of the unemployed–will walk away with close to $30 million in severance.

So much for taking the high moral ground.

Now, defenders of Hurd’s package say his employment contract calls for this arrangement. It’s that simple. And a contract is a contract. Blah blah blah.

However, the reality is that if he were fired “with cause,” the company could have been off the hook from paying him anything. Hurd would have received zilch. Then their firing for breaching ethics would have had meat.

In most “with cause” cases, all the company needs to cite is an intentional breach of any of the company’s policies.

Of course, Hurd could have contested this decision and sued the company. But, that would have placed the onus on Hurd and enabled HP to take an even firmer ethical stand, which given its size and stature would have sent a loud and emphatic message to the business community.

But, alas, this was not the route HP’s Board wanted to go. In fact, the beginning of its press release announcing Hurd’s departure, says: “Hurd has decided with the Board of Directors to resign his positions effective immediately.”

On its subsequent conference call, the company reportedly said there was a legal settlement.

What does this mean? Either the company did not want Hurd to walk away with nothing. It could also mean it did not have a good case. It could also mean there were other undisclosed issues involved or Hurd might have some dirt on the company if there were a lawsuit and depositions were taken, even if it did not go to trial.

Of course, HP has its free market right to make a deal with Hurd.

However, don’t try to tell us you’re taking the high moral ground.

Having ‘Funniest Accountant’ Contests Only Reinforces The Idea That Most Accountants Are Not Funny

Do you have nothing going on? Do you fancy yourself a funny accountant? Would you be comfortable getting up in front of a room full of strangers (presumably drunk) to prove it? Good news! You can now attempt to become the funniest accountant in all of Dixie.


But first you must conquer the Triangle, which shouldn’t be too hard if you stick to disparaging Triad jokes.

The 3rd annual shebang “The Triangle’s Funniest Accountant” was developed as a result of Accountants One’s Accountants Are Funny Too campaign to dispel with the stereotype of accountants being humorless, uptight dorks.

Which brings us to the point – how does having a “funniest accountant” contest dispel a stereotype? Does having a “Most Depressed HR Professional” contest dispel the notion that everyone that works in that capacity is popping anti-depressants to keep up that chipper attitude? Of course not. People like Braddock are either naturally deranged or have a drawer full of Prozac bottles handy to ensure that the sun is alway shining, this is a great company, so on and so forth.

Likewise, a slew of Seinfeld with killer 10-key skills getting on stage to tell Sarbanes-Oxley jokes only serves to remind us that this is a futile ruse that reminds everyone that the hilariously charming accountant on stage is indeed a rarity sight and that he or she has had the good luck to work with colleagues that serve as endless material.

Third Annual Search for the Triangle’s Funniest Accountant [Raleigh Downtowner]

Local Accountant Incorporates KPMG’s “Red Meat Is a Great Thank You” Strategy

Lewis Weinstein’s professional referral website was having trouble gaining traction. ReferralKey seemed like a good idea but unfortunately it wasn’t creating the buzz that he had hoped for.

Weinstein, a third-gen tax accountant, knew that there a few rewards that could relate to most people – religious types and vegetarians be damned – that could possibly help his website take off:

Weinstein, a serial entrepreneur and third-generation tax accountant in Needham, found that professionals using the site felt it just wasn’t helping them generate enough new business. “The common response was, ‘I thought you were gonna send me referrals,'” he says.

That’s where the steaks come in.

[…]

Users of the site can also upload their databases of clients and send out a message encouraging them to refer their friends and relatives to their trusty financial planner, for instance. “The site will track what happens as a result, and offer them an Omaha Steaks gift certificate, one from Callaway Golf, or one from L.L. Bean, for the new business that gets generated,” says Weinstein.

Sure golf stuff and LL Bean could be nice but Weinstein knows that few can resist the lure of sweet, sweet flesh during the dead of summer, thus he knew he had a winner on his hands. “Since [the red meat awards began], it has grown to just over 32,000 members. He raised a first round of about $1 million from individual investors to launch the site, and says he’s now hoping to raise a $3 million second round from venture capital firms.”

Now whether he stumbled upon this particular bit of heart disease generating ingenuity by way of KPMG is not clear, however since the House that Klynveld built has been tossing out the sirloins for a few years now, he can hardly be comfortable taking this idea as his own.

‘Thanks for the referral. Here’s your steak.’ [Boston Globe]

Live Blogging the Overstock.com Q2 Earnings Call

Your friendly Human Resources Professional Daniel W. Braddock will be joining me today for this particular Overstock powwow. He and I will be chatting live and I’ll be updating periodically. You can listen yourself by calling here: dial (866) 551-1816 and enter conference ID 90318167 when prompted and chime aniel: I’m in
President here we go
ahhhhh speaker phone.
it’s like these guys have never been on a conference call before
me: i’m not in yet
Daniel: you’re missing the legal mumbo jumbo
me: proceed with commentary until i get on
Daniel: He’s recommending having the q2 and 10Q/K available as references
Jonathan hands over to Steve
me: oh that’s a relief
Daniel: Revenue up 32% from q2 ’09 to ’10
gross margin way down
shocker
me: I’m on! And yes, it’s a snoozer so far but the balance sheet is sound! Whatever that means.


Daniel: slide deck? what slide deck?
off to slide 4 already?
help!
me: Jesus
I can’t follow this
Slide 5?
Anyone else having trouble keeping up?
Daniel: Who is this guy? Used the word “starch” to describe cash flow
Pretty sure he just tripped over slide five and fell on slide 6
whatever that mean
means*
3:11 pm me: Good grief
they’re talking GAAP
thin ice boys
very thin ice
Daniel: and no one knows if their numbers are an all-time high or not
me: well
Daniel: you have THREE years of numbers to remember
me: memory is a tricky thing if you’re on medication
i kid Patrick
I kid
Nothing but love
Daniel: Pretty sure slide 10 was removed from the presentation…
me: You’re looking at the slides?
Daniel: From an HR/public speaking perspective this man is atrocious

3:15 pm; me: Christ
the customer satisfaction poll
again?
Old news guys
Daniel: When you only have a few cards in your back pocket, you must re-use
Daniel: Have you ever purchased anything off of Overstock.com?
me: God no
Patrick is wrapping up already
Daniel: Is he wrapping up or is he getting the hook?
me: Btw, Sam is live tweeting the call, you can follow it here:
Daniel: IS THE WINDOW OPEN??
me: http://twitter.com/SamAntar
Daniel: I HEAR TRAFFIC OUTSIDE
me: “there’s not a person in this company that knows what Wall St.’s numbers are”
That’s amazing
Shareholders are you listening?
me: Questions
coming up
Bueller?
Bueller?
Jesus
no questions?
Daniel: You need investors first
me: Matt Schindler
BofA
or maybe not
who is this guy?
Daniel: Trends in spending
on Overstock? Try suits from 1997
me: Apparently Sam’s phone number is blocked
Sam, I hate to say it but I’m not surprised
Intelligence on the site?
Come on people
Is that it?
“it’s nice talking to smart owners”
End of call
Jesus man
Daniel: That was painful
me: Thoughts?
is there a holiday today that I’m not aware of?
Daniel: I simply think people do not care about the current state of this company
from a management perspective – good LORD were they unorganized.
Byrne spoke like he was conversing with close colleagues: lingo was very internalized; assumptions about background were made.
How you are not able to call on basic numbers from two years ago boggles my mind as well.
me: They blocked off an hour for that?
I feel gypped.
Not even 30 minutes
I think we were on to something skipping the Q1 call
Daniel: Welcome to Wall Street in August
me: Good point
See you for Q3 I guess
Maybe Sam will have more on this dumped stock
by then
Daniel: Here’s hoping.

Sam Antar Respectfully Requests to Be Included in the Overstock.com Earnings Call

Sam is certainly as insightful as the Easter Bunny:

From: Sam E. Antar

To: Patrick Byrne
Board – Jonathan Johnson
Joseph Tabacco

Dear Patrick Byrne and other persons from Overstock.com:

Overstock.com’s Q2 2010 conference call is scheduled for today at 3 PM ET. I will be calling in. I expect to be permitted to participate in said call and ask relevant questions about Overstock.com. As I recall, in 2005 you allowed a lay person named Phil Saunders AKA Easter Bunny to participate in the call.

Sam E. Antar


Gary Weiss predicts that Sam won’t be allowed to participate but stranger things have happened (e.g. Overstock turned a profit last year).

Earlier:
Remember the $3 Million in Overstock Shares Patrick Byrne Sold? Sam Antar Does

Remember the $3 Million in Overstock Shares Patrick Byrne Sold? Sam Antar Does

Last we heard from Patrick Byrne, the Overstock.com CEO and Farmville enthusiast, he had just disposed of 140,000 shares of OSTK via High Plains Investments, LLC, an entity 100% owned by PB. This had a few people scratching their heads, including us.

At the time, we wondered why Patsy would need to dump the shares, especially after all the excitement the company generated by turning their first profit ever in 2009 and a profitable Q1. We were hoping that the KPMG engagement team – that was doing such a bang-up job – would get some new Segways to cruise SLC but pesky independence rules probably got in the way of that.


Regardless, Q2 wasn’t expected to be a showstopper but when asked, Patsy wasn’t worried, telling Investor’s Business Daily, “Given that in 2009 we had close to $40 million of free cash flow (and $8 million net income), I think we should just continue building the intrinsic value of the business right now.”

Well! The Company reported its Q2 earnings after the close yesterday and, um, they missed the numbers badly. The $0.02/share loss expected by analysts was tripled with a loss of $0.06/share. As you might expect, the shares are taking a beating and Byrne nemesis Sam Antar finds this just a little bit fishy:

[N]ine days after Q2 2010 ended, Byrne led investors to believe that Overstock.com was going to break even in that quarter by citing previous year’s free cash flow numbers. However, Byrne did not mention that Overstock.com’s free cash flow for the six months ended June 30, 2010 was negative $54.8 million compared to negative $35.8 million in the previous year’s comparable perid [sic] or about $19 million lower.

So, there’s that. OH! And the $3 million in shares. Don’t forget that.

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Dumped Stock Ahead of Bad Earnings Report and Misled Investors About Earnings [White Collar Fraud]

Wonky Accounting Insight in 140 Characters or Less: The FASB Is Now on Twitter

Technically it’s the Financial Accounting Foundation that has the handle: @FAFNorwalk and it also includes anything the GASB but really the FASB is who we expect to go on the offensive here.


They’ll be able to take on the haters with pithy commentary, give us the latest on their (less) ambitious convergence efforts and maybe, if we’re really, really, really lucky Bob Herz will spin off his own version of @CrankyKaplan. @DisturbedHerz, perhaps?

We have hope.

Fasb Twitter Pr

Apparently the ‘Wildly Inaccurate’ Accounting at Scott Rothstein’s Law Firm Didn’t Impress Some Miami CPAs

Unless you were born blind and deaf, you may have noticed that South Florida has its share of shady characters. We all know that Berns Madoff frequented the area. Plus there’s the obsessively dapper Lew Freeman, who was Miami’s go-to forensic accountant until he thought he’d just keep his client’s money.

Another model citizen/criminal in FLA is Scott Rothstein. His Ponzi Scheme managed to bring in just over $1 billion and he got 50 years for his trouble. But now the fallout from Rothstein’s little stunt is now raining hell on Miami accounting firm Berenfeld Spritzer Schechter & Sheer.


The trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler has accused Berenfeld, et al. of funneling $450 million to Rothstein.

As you can imagine, the crew over at BSS&S aren’t thrilled with the accusations and called the suit, “inaccurate and flawed,” and claim that they “conducted [our] duties professionally, conscientiously and in good faith.”

Well, the trustee obviously doesn’t see things that way and laid out several allegations, specifically, the following:

• Berenfeld improperly adjusted RRA’s income by $20 million in 2007 and by $75 million in 2008.

• Berenfeld withheld information from RRA President Stuart Rosenfeldt (who has claimed he had no knowledge of firm finances and couldn’t read a balance sheet).

• Berenfeld prepared tax returns in a way that did not distinguish between RRA operating cash and client trust funds, giving the misimpression that RRA had more available cash than it actually owned.

• Berenfeld did not pursue information about bookkeeping after RRA staff – including CFO Irene Stay and COO Debra Villegas – denied access to information about bank statements, fee income and trust accounts.

• Berenfeld “knew of wildly inaccurate RRA bookkeeping and inadequate accounting personnel evidenced by the way in which books and records were created and maintained, leading to extraordinary adjustments, tantamount to rewriting the books and records of RRA.”

• Berenfeld provided a “nebulous” letter to Rothstein to help cover up $15 million in suspicious transactions in response to an anti-money laundering compliance inquiry from Gibraltar Bank.

Now, we’ve heard that law firms aren’t the best when it comes to running their businesses, but ‘wildly inaccurate bookkeeping and inadequate accounting personnel’ that leads to ‘extraordinary adjustments, tantamount to rewriting the books,’ takes things to a whole new level. Berenfeld employee TerryTracy Weintraub gets special attention in the suit, so we can presume he’s the one responsible for knowing – and not being too concerned – about RRA’s exceptionally shitty books. Oops!

Accounting firm sued over Rothstein work [SFBJ]

Apparently Some Stimulus Funds Will Buy Cocaine for Monkeys

Among other things.


The real question is where does Al Lewis get the stuff that he’s on?

Taxpayer Funds Used to Fund Cocaine in Monkeys Study [FBN]

What’s the Deal with These Bush Tax Cuts Expiring?

Good question, you say? If you mosey around the web for a nanosecond, you’re likely to run into an article that is debating whether or not the 43rd President’s tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 should be continued. Since Nancy Pelosi is determined to get a vote on this pre-election day, the political rhetoric on this issue is flowing like a river of sewage you dare not dream of.

To help you make sense of it all, we perused some of the tax wonkiest corners of the web to bring you some perspective. And of course, some less bright observations.


The Tax Foundation has a breakdown of how the expiration of the tax cuts would affect “Average Middle-Income Family, by State and Congressional District.” It’s simple to find your state/district to see the effect that the expiration of the cuts would have on you.

• Over at the Journal, Washington Wire presents the biggest winners and losers from the tax cuts being extended:

Among the states that would save the most from extending the tax cuts, according to a draft of the study: Alaska ($1,959 per family); Connecticut ($1,903); Maryland ($1,756); Massachusetts ($1,831); New Jersey ($1,860) and Utah ($1,779). The lowest savings for middle-income families would be in D.C. ($1,237); West Virginia ($1,316); and Mississippi ($1,355).

• Apparently Alan Greenspan still has a shred of credibility left because he weighed in a couple of weeks ago, telling Bloomberg, “I should say they should follow the law and let them lapse.”

• The Beard doesn’t agree with his predecessor, telling the House Financial Services Committee, “In the short term I would believe that we ought to maintain a reasonable degree of fiscal support, stimulus for the economy. There are many ways to do that. This is one way.”

• William G. Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, wrote in the Washington Post about five myths around the tax cuts, including their affect on small businesses:

One of the most common objections to letting the cuts expire for those in the highest tax brackets is that it would hurt small businesses. As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently put it, allowing the cuts to lapse would amount to “a job-killing tax hike on small business during tough economic times.”

This claim is misleading. If, as proposed, the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire for the highest earners, the vast majority of small businesses will be unaffected. Less than 2 percent of tax returns reporting small-business income are filed by taxpayers in the top two income brackets — individuals earning more than about $170,000 a year and families earning more than about $210,000 a year.

Derek Thompson is a little more pragmatic than most, arguing that President Obama should extend them for a year in order to buy some time to work on comprehensive tax reform:

The president should extend the Bush tax cuts — yes, the whole dang thing — for a year to temporarily silence his critics. Then he should use 2011 to knock it down and build a tax system that’s right for the next decade. Working off a bipartisan plan, real tax reform would simplify the income brackets and eliminate the multitude of deductions and exemptions that distort the economy with bad incentives and leave hundreds of billions of dollars on the ground.

• Fred Thompson (no relation that we know of) is using his camera moxie to voice his support for the extension of the cuts:

• Ezra Klein agrees that some cuts will be extended temporarily, although the debate among citizens isn’t as clear:

The cuts for the rich are likely to be extended for at least two years. The cuts for the middle class are sure to be extended for even longer than that. Total cost to the deficit over the next 10 years? More than $3 trillion, and maybe more than $4 trillion.

But according to a Pew poll, the American public isn’t as sure about this as the politicians are. A slight plurality — 31 percent — want all the tax cuts repealed. Thirty percent want the cuts for the rich extended. In other words, opinion is divided.

• And even though she needed crib notes, Sarah Palin managed to tell Fox News’ Chris Wallace that letting the cuts expire ‘idiotic’:

“[Obama’s] commitment to let previous tax cuts expire are going to lead to even fewer job opportunities for Americans,” Palin said. “It’s idiotic to think about increasing taxes at a time like this.”

“My palm isn’t large enough to have written all my notes down on what this tax increase, what it will result in,” Palin continued.

Host Chris Wallace noticed that Palin did indeed have something written on her palm. “Can I ask you, what do you have written on your hand?” he asked.

“$3.8 trillion in the next 10 years,” Palin responded, “so I didn’t say $3.7 trillion and then get dinged by the liberals saying I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

But who would ever get the idea that Sarah Palin didn’t know what she was talking about?

FASB to Make Heads or Tails of Repurchase Accounting Soon Enough

Back in April when he was testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, FASB Chairman Bob Herz couldn’t really say one way or another what he thought about the repurchase accounting that Lehman Brothers was using.

At the time, Herz just said that FASB would work diligently with the SEC (no porn allowed), that Lehman skirted the disclosure rules and that they were going to get to the bottom of this, come hell or Barney Frank’s shrewd disposition.


In a recent meeting with his fellow double-entry wizards in Norwalk, Herz said that he was opening up ‘a very targeted scope project’ that will get to the bottom of this pile:

“Once we’re made aware that people are trying to structure around specific provisions in the accounting literature, it makes you think about whether those provisions need to be looked at,” he told the board. “We’ve asked the staff to take a look at that and come back with some recommendations in the pretty near term,” he said.

FASB Plans New Rules Around Repurchase Agreements [Compliance Week]

Fulltime Offer Watch ’10: Big 4 Class of 2011

Now that it’s officially August, that means a few things:

1) Everyone around starts bitching how summer is almost over

2) The tax compliance folks take a field trip to the nearest Radio Shack to stock up on their batteries for the two and a half month stretch and

3) This year’s interns starting getting their offers for fulltime employment.


This of course means that your coffee jockeys and Xerox operators will start stressing over everything that they’ve ever done this summer and whether it’s good enough to be blessed with the honor and privilege to attain fulltime Big 4 employment.

So if you veterans out there have been doing your job, you’ve shaped some fine, young, booze-drenched minds into someone that is going to your new associate next fall. If you feel like giving them some credit below. And interns, if you’ve gotten some good news (official or otherwise) jump for joy below and share your experiences – the good, the bad, the truly mortifying (extra bonus points here).

UPDATE: Straight out of the rumor mill, we’ve heard that some E&Y interns have already found out that they won’t be partying with Mickey & the Gang:

There was a round of interns who were let go on Friday. They were told to come in to the office and terminated, offers not given. Saves the expense of sending them down to Disney (the interns that remain leave this Wednesday). There were at least 3 let go in NY.

Happy Birthday Sarbanes-Oxley!

Eight years ago on this this glorious day, the ‘Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act’ (in the Senate) and ‘Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act’ (in the House) came together to bring us Sarbanes-Oxley.

Most of you didn’t realize it at the time but this particular piece of legislation created thousands of new jobs at Big 4 firms, only to find those people out on their asses a few years later. Oh, well. Luckily, there are plenty of options with you holders of the accounting degree.


We perused the SOx Wikipedia page to find out some things worth noting:

• The final version passed the House 423-3Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Ron Paul (R-TX) were two of the three voting ‘nay,’ but Flake and Paul pretty much vote against everything.

• It passed the Senate 99-0 but our friend Jim Peterson has said, “the inability of Sarbox to reach global-scale problems shows the futility of legislation so politically anodyne that it passed the US Senate [unanimously].”

• GWB called SOx, “the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” This, many will argue, has now been trumped.

• The PCAOB! If it wasn’t for Sarbanes-Oxley, there would be no PCAOB. Well, and some recent help from the SCOTUS.

Anyway, we’ve probably said enough. If you have fond wishes or memories of Sarbanes-Oxley that have transpired over the last eight years, cut loose in the comments.

Got Thoughts on Dodd-Frank?

No, Dodd’s hair and Barney’s thriftiness are not at issue here.

Mary Schapiro needs constructive comments from the peanut gallery because this thing is a week old and since some people at the Commission have the attention of Tom Petters, they can’t afford to lose focus.

Just jump over the Public Comments page and let ‘er rip. Any section you want get down with your wonky financial reform knowledge is welcome.

It has not even been a week since the President signed the regulatory reform legislation into law, but at the SEC we are already working to fully implement the dozens of studies and rulemakings required of our agency,” said Chairman Schapiro. “We recognize that the process of establishing regulations works best when all stakeholders are engaged and contribute their combined talents and experiences. We look forward to preliminary public comments in these areas.

Not only that! The SEC needs more people. This 2,000-some odd page behemoth is putting asses in cubes and more of the kicking ass and taking names will be had. Just two ways you can join the good times going on at the SEC.

SEC Chairman Schapiro Announces Open Process for Regulatory Reform Rulemaking [SEC]

Dennis Kozlowski Would Like to Know Why More People Aren’t Outraged About These Epic Tyco Parties

A couple of weeks ago we told you about fired Tyco accountant Jeff Weist who wasn’t really into, among other things, mermaid greeters and costumed wenches. Whether or not he’s not a fan of starfish bikinis wasn’t the issue, it was the principle of the matter.

You see, some Tyco executives got into a bit of trouble back in the day for some accounting fraud but the kicker was the footage of a four-day “Roman orgy” rager in Sardinia. The jury didn’t have much problem throwing the book at former CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz after concluding that awesome party = crooked execs. Weist figured the company didn’t really need more trouble so he raised a fuss over the expenses for another epic bash that was being planned for execs in the Bahamas.


FOX Business Network’s Neil Cavuto got wind of this and had Weist on his program only to do most of the talking. When Weist was able to squeeze a word in, he didn’t exactly come across as a fun-loving guy but more like your typical accountant that would probably frown on these types of shenanigans. Nevertheless, Weist was given the boot and that has caused a bit of stir – specifically, Weist filing suit against Tyco.

Anyway, a guy that knows a little something about awesome parties – Dennis Kozlowski – caught Cavuto’s little program and felt obligated to write a letter (a copy follows in the following pages) expressing his disappointment.

Koz writes, “As I write this letter in my 6′ x 9′ cell jail cell, all I can muster in response to your show is ‘My, how things have changed.’ ”

Right! Like, how on Earth can you justify stingray feedings? COME ON. You want sexy men and women running around in togas, that’s understandable. You just raid your linen closet and you’re good to go. But can you believe someone would throw a corporate bash in the Western Hemisphere? Shameful.

He goes on to hem and haw that if it wasn’t for some idiot deciding to tape his little bash in Sardinia, which was later shown to 12 Manhattan jurors, he wouldn’t even be in this predicament. Further, DK would like to know where the outrage is re: the mermaids, wenches, tattoo artists, bonuses and so forth, “With the Tyco extravaganza where employees were paid ‘bonuses’ to attend, you have to ask where is the outrage?”

Well? Outrage? Anyone? The man is in a prison upstate and he can’t hear you!



Talking Social Media With the New Jersey Society of CPAs

From the very first day we swapped our totally unprofessional Twitter account for one with less F-words and started finding accountants to follow, we have been constantly impressed with the concentration of accounting folks in social media. But in the constantly-evolving world of Internet communication, there are always a few bright spots that stand out as ahead of the curve, and the New Jersey Society of CPAs’ communications strategy sets itself apart as one such bright spot.

We were able to get a few moments with NJSCPA’s Don Meyer to discuss their strategy, successes and the drive behind their major social media push of the last three years. Operating with three goals in mind – driving member retention through a greater level of engagement for current meorking and learning opportunities for current members; supporting existing membership acquisition programs – the NJSCPA has learned to use the power of blogs and social networking to reach potential, new and long-time Society members as well as CPA exam candidates across the country. Turns out that we got way more insight into the NJSCPA social media brain than we can share here and were terribly impressed by their varying campaigns, daring strategy and dedication to delivering information.


AG: First things first: let’s talk about your social media campaigns. What sort of things are you heavily involved in and why?

DM: We launched our first blog, NJSCPA Exam Cram, about three years ago to help guide student members and exam candidates through the exam process. We’ve been on Facebook for almost two years and have attracted more than 1,800 fans. We developed our page to maintain contact with student members who sometimes change mailing addresses and emails following graduation, but we now find that the page is a valuable source of professional and Society information for members in all age groups. Our LinkedIn group, launched almost two years ago, serves much the same purpose, providing information for our members and a place for them to connect. We jumped into Twitter about a year ago. We currently have more than 700 people following us. Our Twitter page is linked to our news blog, CPA Observation Post. We use those tools to provide daily professional and Society updates, but we also use Twitter and the blog to help NJ accounting firms promote themselves.

AG: Is there anything you’ve tried that hasn’t worked out as well as you’d hoped?

DM: We tried a financial literacy blog, but we couldn’t generate much interest. I think there may be too much competition out there and we couldn’t find the right niche. Our financial literacy Facebook and Twitter pages have not taken off as quickly as we had hoped.

AG: Anything that really surprised you when it comes to social media?

DM: I was not a believer in Twitter before we started using it extensively last year. Now I think it’s my favorite social media site. I think it’s a great tool for disseminating news and information quickly and easily. I’m also surprised how successful our Facebook advertising has been. I was skeptical that anyone on Facebook would click on ads promoting our page, but it’s played a key role in helping us promote our presence.

AG: The NJSCPA Exam Cram blog has been around for awhile (we noticed it quite some time ago) and seems to get a great response. Can you tell us more about how this came about and how you select exam candidates to participate? Do you follow them after they’ve successfully completed the exam?

DM: Many of us involved in the Society’s student outreach programs have never taken the exam, so we felt we needed to get the perspective from aspiring CPAs who had experienced the ups and downs. This way if a student or candidate asked us a non-technical exam question (e.g. in what order should I take each section, how should I study, how do you feel when you fail one part of the exam, etc.) we could refer them to the blog. We started out with one blogger but soon discovered that work and personal commitments would preclude any blogger from posting as often as we would like. So we gradually added more bloggers. At the moment, we have five CPA Exam candidate bloggers and one staff person blogger, Janice Amatucci. We don’t have a set procedure for how we pick our bloggers. We ask student members who have been involved with the Society through one of our various student programs or simply ask for volunteers via email or at events. The first five bloggers all passed the CPA Exam and continue to contribute to the NJSCPA by writing articles, serving as team leaders at student events or attending other Society events. To date, we’ve attracted more than 72,000 pageviews.

You can find the NJSCPA all over the place online here.

NASBA Gives Its Accounting License Library a Makeover

For those of you that aren’t already aware, we implore you to check out NASBA’s incredibly useful Accounting Licensing Library – a comprehensive, continually-updated database that can help future CPAs find a state in which to be licensed and offers accounting firms access to important state data to assist in their efforts across state lines. In other words, the tool’s main goal is to facilitate mobility by bringing all 55 jurisdictions together in one easy-to-use area while offering a one-stop shop for those considering CPA licensure.

We recently got a chance to chat with NASBA General Counsel and Director of Business Development Maria Caldwell about the new ALL.


The new ALL tool features a new section for accounting students, an enhanced state requirement comparison research tool and expanded product information. The refreshed ALL website offers the same features and benefits as the previous site in a more user-friendly format. Users can find detailed licensing information and even use their research tool to determine if their educational requirements meet any state’s licensure requirements without having to click through each state board’s website individually. This is huge for candidates and for NASBA, as it allows them to spend more time dealing with candidate issues and less time pointing candidates in the right direction.

The birth of the ALL actually began within NASBA four years ago as they wanted a single resource for internal use that would take each state board’s requirements and aggregate them into one place. “There really wasn’t one source to go to and look up all these different rules, so that was the impetus for putting the tool together,” Caldwell told us. “We wanted to offer it to firms at first but once it was out there we realized there were several different audiences using it. Students use it as a licensing tool and international candidates use it as well.”

With over 700 candidates accessing the tool per year (before the makeover) and a significant leap in CPA exam applications since the first whispers of an economic downturn in 2008, interest in the tool and CPA licensure does not appear to be waning any time soon.

Beyond the licensure aspect of the tool, the ALL gives both individuals and firms a way to improve their own economic outlooks by reaching across state lines to find clients. “In this kind of environment, the firms are looking to neighboring states if their state is suffering from a lack of business,” Caldwell said. The tool allows for mobility without firms wasting countless hours combing through state requirements and allows CPAs in a specialty practice to meet the needs of clients who may be in areas that lack qualified accountants who offer their specialized services.

As the CPA exam prepares to go international, NASBA is counting on increased interest in not only the ALL but the all-important CPA designation. Let’s face it, not every industry can say it has weathered the economic downturn as well as CPAs have and passing the exam is still considered a prestigious accomplishment across the globe.

Great job, NASBA, we definitely approve!

What Would the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act Accomplish?

Representative Betty McCollum is upset that small businesses have the Small Business Administration but nonprofits don’t get a Nonprofit Administration to evaluate, build and monitor the capacity of America’s vital nonprofits. She believes nonprofits are an invisible but vital part to the economy and overlooked by Washington, DC except when it comes to tax issues.

She writes in the Hill:

This legislation represents a significant step toward creating a more effective partnership between the federal government and the nonprofit sector. H.R. 5533 establishes a new United States Council on the Nonprofit Sector. The Council will be a forum for leaders of nonprofits, foundations, businesses and government to discuss strategies for strengthening the nonprofit sector. The bill also creates an Inter-agency Working Group on the Nonprofit Sector. This group will ensure that high-level representatives from cabinet agencies and other key agencies coordinate and improve federal policies pertaining to nonprofit organizations. Finally, the legislation directs Federal agencies to collect and publish better data on nonprofits AND to support research that will lead to smarter Federal policy.

The goals of the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act are to build a stronger nonprofit sector, craft smarter federal policy, and create more vibrant communities in every state across the country.

Listen, we love working groups as much as the next cube-dweller but haven’t yet seen a copy of the Bill so can’t say either way at this point. What we do know is that the nonprofit sector is large enough to be in need of some help beyond whatever pestering they get from our friends at the IRS.

According to a 2009 Congressional Research Service report, nonprofits (mostly charities) make up over 5% of U.S. GDP. Charitable organizations are estimated to employ more than 7% of the U.S. workforce, while the broader nonprofit sector is estimated to employ 10% of the U.S. workforce. In 2009, nonprofits filing form 990s with the IRS reported approximately $1.4 billion in revenue and nearly $2.6 billion in assets.

Those numbers do not include the estimated 215,000 charities who have neglected (or completely blown off) their 990 responsibilities.

Update: Ms McCollum’s office was kind enough to get in touch and provide us with more information and a direct link to the Bill. We look forward to seeing how this works out.

More Than a Few People Didn’t Heed the ABA’s Advice re: “Fair Value Sucks” Letters to the FASB

Just last week we mentioned the American Bankers Association and its efforts to undermine the FASB’s latest fair value proposal that, in the ABA’s mind, could bring down civilization as we know it.

Because of this danger, the ABA encouraged “investors” through email and on its website to write individual letters to the FASB, expressing their displeasure with the worst idea in the modern history of double-entry accounting. We say “investors” because the ABA not-so-subtly asked everyone (i.e. who felt the overwhelming urge to write Bob Herz & Co.) to refer to themselves as such.

Further, the ABA provided a template of a letter to send to the Board for the “investors,” however, it did warn to resist using the example as their own because A) this is far too important and telling the FASB that fair value pains you in the deepness of your soul and takes food out of your children’s mouths will be a far more effective narrative; and B) the FASB hates form letters. HATES. So much so that Bob Herz rips up all his gold stars that he gives for the constructive letters he receives and then your unoriginal ass gets negative points.

The group urges investors to “write your own letter — the FASB does not appreciate ‘form’ letters, and often discounts them in their analyses.”

Simple enough, right? Well, maybe. But In his column today, Jonathan Weil gives an example of one ABA soldier that wasn’t very good at following instructions:

Among the letter writers was Terry L. Stevens of Francesville, Indiana, who identified himself as a bank investor, as the ABA had suggested. He didn’t mention that he also is chief financial officer and executive vice president of Alliance Bank, a closely held lender in Francesville with $270 million of assets.

“As a bank investor, of utmost importance to me regarding the banks in which I own stock is their financial position, and transparent financial reporting is key in order for me to make investment decisions,” Stevens’ letter said. “With this in mind, I am writing to express my deep concerns and opposition to the portion of the proposal that requires all financial instruments to be marked to market.”

Stevens didn’t write those words himself. He copied them verbatim from a sample letter the ABA posted on its Web page. So, too, did a bunch of other bankers who submitted comment letters to the FASB opposing its proposal, notwithstanding the ABA’s warning that they shouldn’t do cut-and-paste jobs.

This had to be a mistake, right? This is far too important of an issue to the banks of this country that a mishap like this could just happen. Bankers are responsible people that take this stuff very seriously and would never risk going through the motions just to serve at the whims of their lobby’s voice…would they?

Stevens told me he didn’t have time to write his own letter from scratch. “The points that I grabbed out of their paragraphs did a good job of explaining how I felt about the situation,” he said.

Oh.

Stealth Bankers Bomb as Anti-Reform Crusaders [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]

Job of the Day: AllianceBernstein Needs a Senior Auditor

AllianceBernstein is looking for an experienced auditor to join its internal department in New York.

Ideal candidates have a minimum of five years experience with exposure to alternative investment products. Advanced degree or certifications are preferred.


Company: AllianceBernstein

Title: Senior Audit Associate

Location: New York

Description: We are seeking a seeking a Senior Audit Associate with strong business and/or audit experience in Alternative Investments to join our Internal Audit Department. This position is an opportunity for experienced professionals to join a dynamic team to deliver value added audit services.

Responsibilities: Assist Audit Management in carrying out the annual audit plan; Assess the accuracy and adequacy of financial information and the Company’s internal control structure; Assist Audit Management in accomplishing certain administrative tasks; Supervise and work with junior auditors; Through continuous monitoring, keep current as to the development of relevant industry, regulatory and corporate matters that may affect the Internal Audit Department’s audit scope.

Skills: Our ideal candidate will have 5 to 10 years of broad capital markets experience with an emphasis in alternative investment products and services. College degree required. Advanced degree and/or certification preferred. Candidates should have demonstrated leadership capability, strong team work capabilities, solid written and oral communication skills and excellent, analytical skills. Candidates must have the ability to interact with all levels of management; Knowledge of the buy-side investment management business is a plus. Prior audit experience is preferred, but not required. Candidates should demonstrate a firm grasp and good working knowledge of the suite of Alternative Investment products and services including: Hedge Funds – direct investments and Fund of Hedge Funds.

See the entire description over at the GC Career Center and visit the main page for all your job search needs.

Accountant Claims That She Has Trouble Controlling the Volume of Her Voice

This is understandable. We know a few people that have been accused of being “angry” when, in fact, they are just being “loud.”

Negros Occidental Provincial Accountant Merly Fortu denied on Sunday that she acted with arrogance and hostility when she met with the elected provincial government officials on July 1.

Fortu, who faced administrative charges for grave misconduct and gross insubordination for allegedly shouting at elected provincial government officials during the meeting, explained that her normal speaking voice was “a little bit louder” than others.

It is similar (albeit the opposite) to having shy/asshole confusion.

Job of the Day: J.P. Morgan Needs a Fund Accounting Analyst

J.P. Morgan is looking for an experienced accounting to fill a fund accounting analyst position in its Dallas location.

Qualifications include a bachelors degree and five years experience


Company: J.P. Morgan

Title: Fund Accounting Analyst

Location: Dallas, TX

Qualifications: Bachelor degree required, degree preference is Finance, Accounting or Economics; 5 years experience in the banking industry, preferably in financial accounting operations 3 yrs securities industry knowledge including dividends, principal & interest, corporate actions and trading activity; Proven managerial experience – 1 – 3 years; Advanced knowledge of account reconciliation processes; Strong analytical, prioritization, organizational and time management skills; Strong multi-tasking and negotiation skills; Strong communication skills, both oral and written; Excellent customer service skills with attention to detail; PC literacy with proficiency in MS Word, Excel and MS AccessCapable of assisting others in research and reconciliation tasks; Team player with the ability to work productively within a group and maintain a high degree of independence.

See the entire description over at the GC Career Center and visit the main page for all your job search needs.

One McGladrey Office Opts to Celebrate the Rebranding with a Cult-like Ritual

Leftovers of the freakishly repulsive cake that McGladrey rolled out for its rebranding was apparently not shared with other offices because the crew in Phoenix/Las Vegas took it upon themselves to come up with another method of celebration.

“After we returned from brand champion training in Orlando, the three of us met to brainstorm for ideas to make our local brand launch fun and memorable. We wanted to focus on more than just the launch. We wanted employees to know that a brand launch is only successful if the brand becomes part of everything they do.”

What exactly was the idea? Another cake? A surprise appearance by Natalie Gulbis? Keeping your jobs?


No, the creative minds in Phoenix/Vegas decided that gathering everyone together and asking them to drink blue Kool-Aid™ was the best way to show everyone that they are in this together. DO OR DIE.

“Asking employees to ‘drink the McGladrey Kool-aid’ sends the message that we all need to be in this together,” says ——. “And there’s no opting out if we’re going to make this effort a success.”

Pardon what is about to follow but…WHAT. THE. FUCK? Forget about the literal manifestation of a corporate metaphor, which is all sorts of lame (no on is schlepping an 800 lb. gorilla into HQ, are they?). Ever heard of Jonestown? Aren’t we all just a little too trusting with this “drink this” attitude? “Hey, just drink this Dixie cup that’s full of what we say is blue Kool-Aid™ because it will bring us all together.”

And you know how they got a lot of people to get on board with this? FREE T-SHIRTS!

“As an added incentive, employees who drank McGladrey Kool-aid from a Dixie cup received their very ownMcGladrey t-shirt.”

All we can say is, don’t walk but run away.

7-9-10 Drinking the Koolaid Article-2

Fired Tyco Accountant Claims That the Company Is Still Throwing Ridiculously Awesome Parties

[caption id="attachment_13953" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Not a legitimate business expense?"][/caption]

Remeber Tyco? Dennis Kozlowski. Mark Swartz. Roman orgy parties. It sounded like a hoot. Too bad the law got in the way.

Koz and Swartz may be locked up but that doesn’t mean the good times at Tyco had to end!

An accounting manager at Tyco Electronics claims that he was ‘coercively’ fired for taking issue with “Tyco’s exorbitant bashes for its CEO Thomas Lynch and other top executives ‘were almost identical to parties for which Tyco’s former CEO [Dennis Kozlowski] was criminally charged and convicted.’ ”

What kind of party expenses you ask? Run-of-the-mill stuff like ‘mermaid greeters’ and ‘costumed pirates/wenches.’

It doesn’t hurt to have a little eye candy at a company bash, amiright? And maybe Jeffrey Weist was okay with the scantily clad roaming hotties and really just took exception with the $2,350 for the tattoo artist (tatts included!) and limbo and fire dancers, $2,500 for chair covers and sashes and the $1,000 hotel rooms.


Whatever lavish (read: kick-ass) expense it was that turned out to be the straw that broke the stuffy accountant’s back, Jeff Wiest not letting this happen:

The complaint adds: “This requested payment seemed particularly inappropriate from a morale aspect, coming in the midst of continued downsizing pressure, and seemed contradictory in that this one party equated to approximately seven positions for one year in the accounts payable function managed by Wiest,” according to the complaint.

Wiest says that despite his objections, “it was decided to go ahead with the event, to treat the proportionate share of the party as income, and to ‘gross-up’ the bonuses to the employees involved. In other words, the company would pay each highly paid employee an additional amount of cash beyond the value of the trip in order to cover his/her tax liability.”

This approach brought “the total cost of the event to approximately a half million dollars,” according to the complaint.

He claims that each high-ranking Tyco employee was awarded up to $7,500 per person, or $15,000 per couple, as additional “income,” for attending the party. All of the 30 employees who attended were receiving salaries of more than $102,000, Wiest says. He adds that 23 of them took their wives.

And they got paid to go! What is going on at Tyco? Other than it’s the best place to work EVER.

Back to Wiest. For taking high road, Weist alleges that Tyco turned the screws back on him:

In response to his repeated questioning of these extravaganzas, Wiest says, Tyco began an “investigation” of him. This led to bogus accusations that he had made sexually oriented comments, Wiest says.

“Examples given included a comment to an employee going on a honeymoon cruise to not stay on the ship the whole time; a comment about his wife’s hormone issues during her pregnancy being difficult for him, and a comment regarding the uses of improved flexibility from working out. It is noteworthy that the hormone comment would have been several years old, as Wiest’s child was born in 2006,” the complaint states.

He claims Tyco also raised questions about a decade-old brief relationship he had had with a California-based Tyco employee, and baseball tickets that Wiest had been given by a superior.

Jesus. If they would have just invited him to the party, we probably wouldn’t have to go through all this.

Same Old Tricks at Tyco, Accountant Says [Courthouse News Service]

McGladrey to Give Money to Another non-Natalie Gulbis Golfer

Hell, they did even go with another woman. They figured making Davis Love III the third dude golfer to be sponsored by McGladrey was the best route.

Although no terms were disclosed on DL-cubed’s deal, we’re guessing it’s a decent deal, not Phil Mickelson money mind you, but he won’t be starving either.


And DL3 is pretty flippin’ pleased to be the third amigos, “Following the great work McGladrey has done with the Davis Love Foundation, it was a natural progression for me to join Team McGladrey and proudly support their brand in the way they’ve supported my Foundation. It was great to kick off my new sponsorship with McGladrey in style with a good showing at the U.S. Open, and I look forward to continued success on and off the course as a member of Team McGladrey.”

Likewise, C.E Andrews is pumped to have a 3rd join the team “Davis and the rest of our Team McGladrey Foursome demonstrate the values of integrity, excellence, understanding and teamwork – values that mirror our company’s approach to serving and understanding our clients.”

[caption id="attachment_13910" align="alignright" width="260" caption="All alone in the boys club."][/caption]

Unfortch for all of us, D Love stayed on script and didn’t mention Natalie Gulbis specifically which just reeks of a “bros before hoes” mentality. If McGladrey wants to sponsor a boys club, that’s their business but you can’t tell us that adding another lady on the team wouldn’t have worked just as well, if not better. Oh well. We’re sure Natalie will enjoy watching the three dudes ice each other at the joint appearances.

McGladrey Inks Deal with PGA TOUR Veteran Davis Love III, Makes Team McGladrey a Foursome [McGladrey]

The ABA Is Encouraging Everyone to Be Original in Their “Fair Value Sucks” Emails to the FASB

Banks hate the FASB. This is understood. They’re especially bent out of shape these days because the Board recently put out its latest fair value proposal that requires them to carry their loans at fair value. Bob Herz knew that this was going to cause hella-belly aching although he may not have predicted the virtual assault that was coming.

Banking lobbyists have launched an e- mail and Web campaign to mobilize investors against a proposed expansion of fair-value accounting rules that may force banks such as Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. to write down billions of dollars of assets.

The American Bankers Association opposes the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s plan to apply fair-value rules to all financial instruments, including loans, rather than just to securities. The group says the rule could make strong banks appear undercapitalized.

The association’s website, noting that FASB’s stated mission is to serve investors, provides a sample letter for people writing to the board and suggests they focus on why the proposal isn’t “useful for investors.”

As you can see, the banks are bringing out the big guns, although this not unfamiliar territory for the FASB. Lynn Turner, a Senior Advisor and Managing Director at LECG and former Chief Accountant SEC wrote in an email to GC, “This campaign is very similar to the efforts of the technology companies campaign against the FASB in 1993-95 to prevent rules that would have required those companies to expense the value of their stock options, something that ultimately led to investor losses and problems in the markets.”

The FASB prevailed in that particular battle but the ABA is wise to their ways, encouraging everyone to resist going through the motions on this one:

The association’s Web page, titled “Guidance for Investors Regarding FASB’s Mark-to-Market Proposal,” includes a sample letter to the board “for educational purposes only.” The group urges investors to “write your own letter — the FASB does not appreciate ‘form’ letters, and often discounts them in their analyses.” Those who comment should “let FASB know that you are an investor,” the ABA says.

So resist the urge to copy and paste anti-FASBites. They won’t really know how deep your loathing is for MTM if you go with the standard letter.

U.S. Banks Recruit Investors to Kill FASB Fair-Value Proposal [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Russian Spy Who Attended CFO Conference Was That Annoying Person You Can’t Shake at Such Events

Donald Howard Heathfield is “Defendant #4” of the eleven alleged Russian spies and it turns out that he was playing pretty true to the part of a go-getter executive looking to network his ass off.

CFO reports that “prodigious networker” Heathfield attended the CFO Rising Conference that was held in Orlando in March and he was well remembered by some of the other attendees. Not only for his persistence (we’re imagining really aggressive handshakes, name tag prominently placed, business cards in a holster) but for his just plain weirdness and his ginormous business card:

“I met him early on in the conference, and he was very persistent in trying to reengage,” recalls John Kahn, CFO of a private-equity-backed portfolio company. “I didn’t reengage with him. He just seemed slightly strange.” Kahn still has Heathfield’s business card, which folds out to twice the size of a normal business card and contains a somewhat inscrutable description of the company’s mission: “Future Map gives leaders a synthetic ‘big picture’ of anticipated future. Future Map helps building proactive collaborative leadership cultures.”

Frankly, the “inscrutable description” doesn’t sound that much different from all the other hustlers out there but whatever. Supposedly this was extra, extra inscrutable, even by business conference standards. Anyhoo, another attendee just found DHH to be flat out annoying:

He started talking to me, and I couldn’t shake him,” says Frank Quigley, CEO of CFO Publishing, who remembers Heathfield approaching him in a hallway outside the meeting rooms and seeking introductions to specific conference speakers and attendees. “There was no doubt in my mind when I saw his photo that I recalled the encounter and the persistence of it, and the vagueness of who he was.”

Obviously Mr Quigley did not have any pre-arranged signals to get him out of bad convos. HUGE MISTAKE.

Back to our Russian friend – if you visit his LinkedIn page you’ll see that he keeps it similarly inscrutable with a past position being, “Partner at Global Partners, Inc.” and specializing in “Comprehensive management of Risks and Uncertainties, Anticipatory Leadership, Building of Future Scenarios, Development and Execution of Future Strategies, Capture of Strategic Opportunities, Global Account Management.”

Considering his use of buzzwords, we’re not surprised at all that he was able to blend in so well. No word on the prevalence of acronyms but despite what people are saying, he was more like them then they could possibly even realized.

Spies Like…Us? [CFO]

Compensation and Promotion Watch ’10: Discussions at McGladrey Starting Soon; Forced Ranking in Effect?

[caption id="attachment_13722" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Has she gotten her updated gear yet?"][/caption]

It sounds like the capital market servants at the firms formerly known as RSM McGladrey/McGladrey & Pullen will finding out their good/bad/tremendously underwhelming news about comp and promotions in the coming week(s).

That and it sounds as though Mickey G’s is warming up to the forced ranking system that has been plaguing the Big 4:

Just wanted to pass a bit of info across to you about McGladrey comp discussions. They communicated to us in an email last week that all ratings and promotion decisions are now final and will be communicated to us no later than July 23rd.

Also, I’m based out of the the southeast and they told us that about 25% of people were initially rated 5s (our highest rating) and that they had to downgrade peoples ratings to in line with the 10% to 15% bell curve range. I have this from a direct source of a director inside the “roundtable” meetings or whatever they’re calling them now. Not sure if this is a nationwide occurrence.

We don’t know if the downgrades are standard operating procedure at the firm but one would think that the layoffs at McGladrey that we reported on last month are over. The problem is that if this is following standard forced ranking procedure, it could be setting up experienced professionals for competitive year ahead.

Keep us updated as you learn merit and promotion news and discuss your thoughts on this year’s prospects and the possibility of downgrades.

Why Aren’t We Discussing Financial Reform’s GASB Effect?

If we still care about financial reform, we should especially care about proposed changes to the Government Accounting Standards Board because, let’s face it, government accounting could really use a helping hand. Were government pensions forced to use the same reporting rules as every other pension, a $3 trillion hole would open up and we would see immediately that rules in desperate need of repair have remained broken because the current system allows the truth to be buried in the footnotes.

As is, GASB is funded by voluntary contributions given by state and local governments out of the goodness of their hearts (yeah right) and through sales of its publications.

The concern is that should GASB be unable to pay the bills, the federal government may be forced to swoop in and babysit. The potential for conflicts of interest should not escape dear reader as this would be akin to investors owning the SEC or Fed-regulated banks owning the Federal Reserve (oh wait, they already do). Is that any worse than what we’ve got now?

How bad is their financial situation? GASB reported a $3.83 million budget shortfall in 2009 and projected a $4.46 million shortfall for 2010.

So why, if we’re still talking about financial reform, are we not talking about its potential impact on GASB?

Under new financial reform rules, the GAO would be forced to evaluate GASB’s role (read: usefulness) in standards setting within 180 days of the proposal’s passage. How likely would it be for the GAO to call an issuer-funded agency that’s allowed government pensions to conceal $3 trillion in liabilities a blaring and obvious failure? The SEC could then direct FINRA to collect assessments from dealers that would go towards funding GASB. Obviously this piece of legislation has been written by Congressmen who don’t know how to do anything without making it as complicated as possible.

Financial reform has already cleared the House while the Senate is expected to vote within the next two weeks after returning from recess.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

An Accountant’s 4th of July Weekend Reading | 07.02.10

Happy 4th of July capital market servants, tax wonks and accountants of all stripes. Get out there and make some bad decisions (responsibly of course!) this weekend. We’ll see you on Tuesday unless we get word of another good time gone wrong.

CIT Names Former Cerberus Exec CFO [FBN]
And your winner is Scott T. Parker.

IRS agent: Blagojeviches spent $400,000 on clothes [AP]
Is anyone surprised by this? “Next to their mortgage payments — $392,000 — their second-biggest payment from 2002 to nearly the end of 2008 was $205,000 on Tom James/Oxxford custom clothes, revenue agent Shari Schindler said.”

France Calls Google a Monopoly [Floyd Norris/NYT]
They would.

Couple Accused of Stealing $2M From Veterans [FN]
A couple of septuagenarians no less!


Researchers: Regions’ religiosity cuts down on accounting scandals [Nashville Business Journal]
Bible belt = less accounting scandals? Texas A&M says Hallelujah!

How Bad is the Budget Outlook? [TaxVox]
In a word: prettyfuckingbad.

Governor puts 200,000 state workers on minimum wage [Sacramento Bee]
In the battle between Sacramento and Albany for the most incompetent/corrupt/helpless state government, it appears that Arnie has kicked the efforts up a notch.

Some NY hedge fund execs may escape new tax [Reuters]
Speaking of Albany, the hedge fund manager tax that David Paterson & Co. were kicking around is as good as dead now that Hizzoner got a word in on the matter. Back to the drawing board.

Apple Acknowledges Flaw in iPhone Signal Meter [NYT]
How they got Steve Jobs to cave on this is anyone’s guess.

Koss Files Restated Financial Statements, Just in the Nick of Time

As you may recall, restated financial statements for headphonesmith company Koss were due yesterday and they used all the time they were allowed.

According to our friends aty filed its restated 10-K for June 30, 2009, and 10-Qs for September 30, 2009, December 31, 2009 and March 31, 2010 5 pm, 5:06, 5:11, 5:16 and 5:17 respectively.

Oh and they topped everything off with an 8-K at 5:27 that explains the barrage (not that we need it but, you know, securities law and stuff):

On June 30, 2010, Koss Corporation (“Koss”) released restated consolidated financial statements for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2009 and 2008, and the quarter ended September 30, 2009. Koss filed amendments to its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009 and its Quarterly Report for the three months ended September 30, 2009 containing the restated consolidated financial statements for the applicable periods. The restatements were required as a result of previously disclosed unauthorized transactions by Sujata Sachdeva, Koss’s former Vice President of Finance and Principal Accounting Officer.

Koss also amended its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the three months ended December 31, 2009 and March 31, 2010 to include financial statements, which were omitted from the Company’s reports when previously filed. The release of these financial statements was delayed due to the restatement of Koss’s financials statements required by the unauthorized transactions. With the filings of these amended Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Koss understands that it will regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5250(c)(1), which requires the timely filing of periodic financial statements.

That about covers it, doesn’t it? Oh right, the actual numbers. We checked in with forensic sleuth and GC friend Tracy Coenen on these and she gave us some perspective on the restated numbers:

So I’ve taken a run through the restated numbers for 6/30/09 and 6/30/08. Very interesting.

2009 – Revenue was understated by $3.5 million to conceal the fraud, while COGS was overstated by $1.7 million. Overall there is now a loss for 2009, thanks to $8.5 million of theft, but without that, the company would have had profits of $8.2 million, or 19.6% on net sales. Wow!

2008 – Revenue was understated by $2.1 million to conceal the fraud, while COGS was overstated by $1 million. Overall there is now a loss of 2008 of $1.3 million thanks to $5.1 million of theft, but without that, the company would have had profits of $10.7 million or 21.9% of sales.

Pretty impressive stuff. Maybe the company was right when they said everything would be hunky-dory once they got this little mishap out of the way. Chief headphone inheritor Michael Koss explains in the company’s press release, “Given that certain unauthorized transactions were concealed in the Company’s sales and cost of sales accounts, our sales were higher and our cost of sales was lower than previously reported in both 2009 and 2008. This correction has revealed an increase in gross margins for our Company. From this perspective, the Company’s performance was actually stronger than originally reported.”

Tracy continues:

What you see is that 65%-75% of the theft on an annual basis was concealed on the P&L, and the remainder was dumped into the balance sheet, via inflated A/R, Inventory, and fixed assets, and understated liabilities. The adjustments on the balance sheet are large by 2009 because those irregularities were cumulative.

So the bottom line is that the company is very profitable, if shareholders could actually count on them to watch over the money and see to it that the profits aren’t all being stolen. My original theory was that Sachdeva was expensing her theft, and that’s true to some extent, but failure to record sales was presented to me later as part of her her scheme, and she also involved the balance sheet which created a cumulative (and messy) problem.

Oh right! Watching the money. Should probably write that one down. Hopefully we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.

That Orangey Glow Will Be a Little More Expensive Today as Tanning Tax Takes Effect

Everyone in the melanoma-for-sale business is perplexed about the tanning tax that goes into effect today and the Journal reports that the hella confusion is mostly about why some businesses are able to dodge the tax while others are not.

Case in point, health clubs get to offer their George Hamilton specials tax free while video stores (?) that offer tanning do not.

When Jeanne Chamberlain turns up at work Thursday, she’s going to have to grapple with America’s first federal tax on tanning services, a 10% levy designed to help pay for Congress’s health-care overhaul.

Ms. Chamberlain runs a video-rental store.

These would normally be unrelated facts, but 20 years ago, Ms. Chamberlain followed a number of her peers in adding tanning services to smooth out the bumps in her Rice Lake, Wis., business. Today, she wants to offer one free tan for every three rentals. Should that freebie be taxed? Ms. Chamberlain doesn’t know, and even if she did, she doesn’t yet have the software in place to help with the calculations.

For starters, video stores still exist? We had just assumed that they had gone out with powdered wigs. Netflix, Hulu, etc. etc. And since when do they offer tanning services? “Oh I see you’ve got Gigli there, great choice. Would like to hop in one of our tanning beds while I rewind the tape?”

Anyway, back to the tax:

Among the new details: “qualified physical fitness facilities” that include access to tanning beds as part of their membership fee won’t be subject to the tax.

That means customers at Sun Tan City in Owensboro, Ky., will pay 10% more for a dose of ultraviolet rays. But if they go to Anytime Fitness 100 yards away, and tan inside one of its two beds, they’ll escape.

“My jaw dropped,” said Rick Kueber, founder and chief executive of Sun Tan City, a 124-outlet chain based in Elizabethtown, Ky. Then he got to thinking. “If I had six treadmills in each of my stores, can I call myself a health club?”

Can anyone explain this? Our best guess is that since health clubs force you to get you off your ass, while video stores put you back on them, they’re getting a break. That seems to be pretty advanced for Congress logic but we’ll assume that it’s in the ballpark.

But It’s really NBD for the committed to skin cancer crowd however, “[Fifteen-year-old Grace] McCleary and others who lounged last week in the notorious Land of the Tanned – see MTV’s Jersey Shore – said a few dollars tacked on wouldn’t deter them.”

Fortunately, the IRS has advice (as it always does) for those affected and our resident tax sage, Joe Kristan has the details. So, there’s no risk to the industry as a whole – thank god – just a little extra bureaucracy in the pot in the form of Form 720. Enjoy!

Federal Tan Tax Burns Some Badly but Keeps Everybody in the Dark [WSJ]
Tanning-bed enthusiasts say tax won’t deter them [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Toys R Us Accountant Will Probably Not Have Much Success Asking Hookers to Return Stolen Money

Back in fall we mentioned a run-of-the-mill whore-supporting accountant that pleaded guilty to ripping off Toys R Us to the tune £3.7 million. Paul Hopes is described as a ‘Walter Mitty character’ by the Telegraph who can now fantasize about what Oz character he is, now that he’s spending 7 years in prison.

Hopes got more bad news recently as he learned that he has to repay £3.36 million of the £3.68 million from Geoffrey.

If he fails to repay the money, he see his sentence more than doubled with an extra 10 years in prison.

The court heard that Hopes, an “accounts payable manager” at the retailer, diverted regular instalments of £300,000 to an account of a fictitious toy manufacturer which he controlled.

He named the fund Dunbar Associates after a prostitute with whom he had become besotted and to whom he eventually handed a total of more than £1.5 million pounds.

He spent at least £2.4 million of the money he stole on five female escorts in all.

That’s a bitch about the additional 10 years if doesn’t repay. But we’re sure that he placed the remaining £900k into a safe, no-load mutual fund so he’ll be able to at start paying at least part of it back ASAP. The sensible accountant in him had to have made one decision with stolen money.

As for the rest of it, we don’t know how successful Johns are at getting refunds in circumstances such as these but if those girls were 100% satisfaction guaranteed, he’ll have to explore other options.

Toys R Us accountant ordered to pay back £3.4m after escort girl fraud [Telegraph]

Turns Out the Guy that Joe Biden Called a Smartass Is Just an Ass

Yesterday we learned about Joe Biden not taking too kindly to a custard shop manager’s suggestion that he can eat all the free custard he wants as long as JB & the rest of the crew “lower our taxes.”

The Veep retorted that maybe the dude in the funny paper hat should try saying nice for change instead of being a smartass. It was the typical Joe Biden charm that you would expect. Perhaps he should have suggested visiting the White House’s tax savings tool instead of name-calling but the past is the past and we’ll just chalk up another Joe Biden moment of hilarity/political liability.

But wait! What if the VP was right about this portly custard slinger? We read over a little mini memoir over at Daily Intel that indicates that the guy probably had it coming:

First of all, as anyone who has ever lived in Milwaukee knows: Kopp’s Frozen Custard is the most delicious dessert on the planet. It’s basically ice cream with twice the fat. So when Smilin’ Joe Biden showed up at Kopp’s in Glendale, Wisconsin, last week, you can only imagine his annoyance at being interrupted in the middle of his first taste — from the looks of things, Friday’s special flavor, chocolate chip cookie dough — by a store manager cracking that the cone was free, as long as the vice-president would agree to “lower our taxes.” Biden being Biden, he called the manager “a smartass.” And who was that smartass? None other than my nemesis of twenty years ago — the first boss I ever hated and feared.

Said smartass is Scott Borkin and the author of this piece, Dan Kois, proceeds to tell a tale of a lunatic boss from hell (thanks, Richard Lewis):

Once, very late on a long, hot night of customers piling in and the custard machines jamming and the store’s owner, Carl Kopp, walking around in his apron and hat terrifying everyone, Scott Borkin came over to collect a shake for order number 87. “What the hell is this?” he asked me.

Inside, I panicked. What had I done wrong this time? But I had the ticket right in my hand — malt with chocolate — and was positive that’s what I had made. “It’s a chocolate malt.”

“No, this,” he said, pointing at my Sharpied “7” on the lid. I’d written it with a line through the center because once someone had mistaken my non-lined 7 for a 2.

“Uh, it’s a seven,” I replied.

“This is a seven,” he said, taking the ticket from my hand and drawing a non-lined numeral. “Do it right or you’re outta here.” He plucked the malt off the counter and stalked away. “This isn’t Germany!” he called over his shoulder.

Christ. Threatening termination because of lined 7 and anti-Germany? PLUS he likes bitching about taxes? This guy could be the next Joe the Plumber. Oh wait, he’s already been on Fox & Friends. Mission accomplished.

Today in Auditor Musical Chairs: KPMG and Deloitte Both Get the Boot

Evergreen Energy of Denver dismissed Deloitte effective June 23rd according to the company’s 8-K filing. Hein & Associates, a local Denver firm, will take it from here.

It stands to reason that Evergreen didn’t appreciate the going concern opinions that Deloitte gave the company for its December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2008 financial statements but in cordial SEC filing fashion, there are no parting shots from the company.


Evergreen’s press release indicates that this was simply an opportunity to throw some action to another firm (most likely with lower fees), “With the sale of certain Buckeye assets and our exit from the coal mining industry, Evergreen Energy has transitioned into a green technology company. This is an ideal time to switch to a Denver-based regional accounting firm with substantial public company expertise in the clean technology and software industries that can more cost effectively meet our needs.”

Deloitte’s letter to the SEC is abruptly admits that everything is cool rather than flat out saying, “you’ll be sorry you ever ditched us, you losers.”

Similarly, Measurement Specialties, Inc. showed KPMG the door for Ernst & Young. The company says everything was hunky-dory between the two although there was a small matter of the internal controls around a significant joint venture of which the company had no control. Oh, and the effectiveness of internal controls of some recent acquisitions also couldn’t be determined. But it was cool and the company said, “it was in the best interests of the Company to change its independent registered public accounting firm.”

KPMG has NFI what that means saying in their letter, “we are not in a position to agree or disagree with Measurement Specialties, Inc.’s statements relating to the reason for changing principal accountants.”

We wish everyone nothing but happiness.

What Are People Saying About the PCAOB Decision?

In case you’re just joining us on this MOANday, the SCOTUS ruled this morning that “the structure of the accounting board violated constitutional separation-of-powers principles because it was too difficult for the president to remove board members.”

So, pretty wonky legal stuff. The good news is that auditors will get to keep their jobs (mixed feelings, we’re sure) but what’s the reaction at large?


PCAOB – The PCAOB, for one, is just excited that the SCOTUS is still letting them play. Sayeth interm Chairman for life Dan Goelzer, “We are pleased that the decision allows the PCAOB to continue without interruption to carry out its important mission of overseeing public company audits in order to protect investors and promote the public interest.”

SEC – Likewise, SEC Chair Mary Schapiro is fine with the decsion too, “I am pleased that the Court has determined that the Board’s operations may continue and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, with the Board’s tenure restrictions excised, remains fully in effect. The PCAOB is a cornerstone of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and serves a critical role in promoting investor protection and audit quality. We look forward to continuing to work with the Board in connection with its mission to oversee auditors in order to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit reports.”

Wall St. Journal – Suzanne Barlyn over at Financial Adviser writes that the small broker dealers won’t get the much coveted relief on their audit fees, “Historic financial regulatory reform legislation, which may be enacted as soon as July 4, would empower the PCAOB to regulate auditors of privately held broker dealers, who would then be subject to the organization’s inspections and possible enforcement actions. The potential change could mean auditing fees as high as $50,000 to $100,000 per year for certain broker dealers, instead of the $5,000 to $10,000 they typically shell out now.”

And Michael Corkery at Deal Journal writes that there is disappointment out there for the über-haters, “Dashed are the hopes of some corporations who believed the Court would use this case to question the broader issues of Sarbanes-Oxley, which critics say has buried publicly traded companies in onerous regulation and paperwork.”

Former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt – Former Chairman Pitt is less thrilled, telling Bloomberg that the decision was “an unfortunate and serious blow” and that even if Congress could squeeze there regulatory fix into the current reform bill, “in the two thousand pages of the legislation…there’s not a word dealing with the PCAOB That is something that will have to be fixed.”

DealBookPeter Henning of White Collar Watch is fairly unmoved, “[T]he decision in the Free Enterprise Fund case has no real impact on the operations of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board beyond removing a cloud as to its continued viability. The likelihood one of its members would be removed by the S.E.C. is virtually nonexistent, and its oversight and enforcement powers continue undisturbed. Similarly, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act remains fully in force beyond the narrow constraint on removal of a board member that is no longer operative.”

The EconomistSchumpeter’s Notebook is thankful that the entire law doesn’t have to be rewritten in the current legislative environment, “[I]t is probably a good verdict from business’s point of view. Companies have spent millions on SOX compliance, and had just about got used to the legislation. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a broad reconsideration of SOX, in the current business climate, would produce better legislation. Far from it.”

Ernst & Young – Directly from Jim Turley, “Independent regulation of the profession post-Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) has strengthened audit quality and confidence in financial reporting. We are pleased that the Court’s decision provides that the PCAOB’s independent oversight can continue without interruption. Although today’s ruling found a flaw in a provision within SOX regarding the removal of Board members, the Court held that Sarbanes Oxley remains the law.”

AICPABarry Melancon is as excited as everyone else, “The court’s ruling is a victory for investors and for the accounting profession. The decision effectively fixes the constitutionality of the PCAOB by making board members subject to `at will’ removal by the SEC and therefore the president. It sustains the continued function of both the PCAOB and Sarbanes-Oxley. As such, the court rejected a transparent attempt to undermine the post-Enron reforms that have served our financial markets well.”

Center for Audit Quality – The CAQ filed an amicus brief with court and Executive Director Cindy Fornelli was happy with the result, “The CAQ is pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will allow the continued operation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) without any changes or legislative action. This narrow decision clearly severs the PCAOB board member removal process from the rest of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and reaffirms all provisions of the law except for the power to remove the board members. The PCAOB was put in place to achieve the goals Congress embodied in SOX. As we observed in our friend-of-the-court brief, evidence demonstrates that audit quality and investor confidence have improved since the Board’s creation. The decision will prevent any disruption to the key activities of the PCAOB including setting auditing standards and the public company audit oversight process, critical factors in the continued strength and stability of our capital markets.”

Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley – The architects, if you will. “The PCAOB provides essential protections to the more than half of American households that invest savings in securities. It ensures the integrity of public company audits and, thereby, the accuracy of financial reporting. The PCAOB enjoys widespread support from investors as well as from the accounting profession. The decision from the Supreme Court adjusts the law in a way that allows the PCAOB to continue to ensure the integrity of public company audits. The Board’s essential protections of American investors will continue.”

SCOTUS Rules PCAOB Unconstitutional; Auditors’ Lives Will Continue to Suck

What does this mean (besides the fact that more than a few partners are eating their hats, shaving their heads, coming to work naked, etc.)?

The Board itself is not unconstitutional and thus will continue operating (sorry E&Y) so it’s not going anywhere. The problem is, Congress will have to get involved in order to and who knows what the brain trust will cook up.


Francine McKenna has some suggestions (including making the part 2 of the inspections public) and Matt Kelly at Compliance Week reported on May 31 that no one really knows what the hell is going to happen now:

I asked SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar how the SEC might want to resolve the issue. He said the commissioners know the problem is out there and they have “Plans A, B and C” to respond, but declined to say what any of those plans might be. I asked [Barney] Frank as well, and he essentially said his committee would work with the Senate Banking Committee to craft some legislative response, depending on exactly what the Supreme Court’s ruling says.

The Court ruled 5-4 (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito Dissent: Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg, Sotomayor)

From Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion:

The President cannot “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” if he cannot oversee the faithfulness of the officers who execute them. Here the President cannot remove an officer who enjoys more than one level of good-cause protection, even if the President determines that the officer is neglecting his duties or discharging them improperly. That judgment is instead committed to another officer, who may or may not agree with the President’s determination, and whom the President cannot remove simply because that officer disagrees with him.

And Justice Breyer’s dissent (citations omitted):

The Court holds unconstitutional a statute providing that the Securities and Exchange Commission can remove members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board from office only for cause. It argues that granting the “inferior officer[s]” on the Accounting Board “more than one level of good-cause protection . . . contravenes the President’s ‘constitutional obligation to ensure the faithful execution of the laws.’” I agree that the Accounting Board members are inferior officers. But in my view the statute does not significantly interfere with the President’s “executive Power.” It violates no separation-of-powers principle. And the Court’s contrary holding threatens to disrupt severely the fair and efficient administration of the laws.

So day-to-day auditors lives won’t change but some new wrinkles could be thrown in now that the law will have to be tweaked. So who knows what will happen! In the meantime, here’s your light reading for the day:

FreeEnterpriseFundvPCAOB

RSM McGladrey Can Explain the Disappointing Year

H&R Block announced its earnings for fiscal 2010 yesterday which included the details for the fka RSM McGladrey. The company’s press release basically says that times are tough but RSM had some good reasons for that.


For starters, the small tiff with M&P sort of put a damper on things and a nasty goodwill write-off:

RSM McGladrey reported fiscal 2010 pretax income of $58.7 million, down nearly 39 percent from $96.1 million in the prior year. Revenues declined 4.2 percent to $860.3 million, primarily due to the impact of the overall weak economic environment, which continues to pressure billable rates and hours within the industry. Profitability was negatively impacted by costs associated with previously resolved arbitration proceedings involving McGladrey & Pullen and other costs of litigation totaling $14.5 million in the aggregate, as well as a $15.0 million goodwill impairment charge at our capital markets business unit.

A 39% drop in profits could explain the nationwide layoffs at McGladrey that we reported on earlier this month. It’s a good thing they didn’t have the ginormous golf cake in this year’s numbers, otherwise the results would have been worse.

But if you ignore all that, things were essentially flat and everyone knows that flat is the new up!

Excluding these charges, pretax income would have been approximately $88 million and pretax margin for the segment would have been 10.3 percent, essentially flat with the prior year. The shortfall in revenues was partially mitigated by cost reduction efforts throughout the year. These efforts included headcount reductions to reflect lower client demand, as well as other non-client facing cost reduction initiatives.

OH! There’s the layoffs and they’re citing “lower client demand.” Thoughts on that, anyone?

H&R Block Reports Fiscal 2010 Financial Results [Market Wire]

Koss Sues Grant Thornton, Blames Firm’s Assignment of Newbie Auditors

Well! You might have thought that Koss would just handle this Sue Sachdeva situation like gentlemen headphonesmiths but you would have thought wrong!

Koss is suing S-squared and Grant Thornton for their respective roles in the alleged embezzlement of $31 million from the Brew Town company.

While it sounds like , that won’t protect her or Chipman & Co. from the wrath of Koss. But one thing is for sure, despite the lawsuits and whatnot, this is not the company’s fault. Just ask Koss’ attorney Michael Avenatti, “I’m confident the company will be exonerated.”


Why? Because
Grant Thornton threw a few young associates on the engagement, that’s why!

Koss hired one of the best accounting firms in the world, Grant Thornton, and should have been able to rely on Thornton’s audits to uncover wrongdoing, Avenatti said. The suit against the auditing firm says auditors assigned to Koss were not properly trained.

The lawsuit lists hundreds of checks that Sachdeva ordered drawn on company accounts to pay for her personal expenses. She disguised the recipients — upscale retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Marshall Fields — by using just the initials. But the suit says Grant Thornton could have ascertained the true identity of the recipients by inspecting the reverse side of the checks, which showed the full name.

Forget the fact that the CEO was also vice chairman, chief operating officer, president and chief financial officer. Oh, and he sat on the audit committee at another company. Apparently Koss wanted GT partners auditing those cash accounts rather than implement anything that even closely resembles an internal control system.

Grant Thornton, meanwhile, is still sticking to the boilerplate statement as reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “We remain confident that we have met all of our professional obligations and that our work complied with professional standards.”

Sigh. Of course no one wants to be responsible, so let’s decide for them. Let’s get a show of hands:

It’s worth mentioning that the lawsuit comes just a few short days before Koss’ tardy restated financials are due. If the company doesn’t cough them up, the Nasdaq will banish them like they’ve got lice.

Koss sues former executive, auditor over alleged embezzlement [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

Grant Thornton Sheds Another Office – Albuquerque Sold to Moss Adams

GT follows up with the news of its disposal of its Honolulu office last month, the closure of its Madison, WI location in April and Greensboro, NC earlier this year with this latest sale of its Albuquerque, New Mexico digs.

According to the Moss Adams press release Chipman & Co. wanted out of the Land of Enchantment after “evaluating its strategic direction”:

ALBUQUERQUE, N. Mex. (June 24, 2010)—Moss Adams LLP and Grant Thornton LLP announce the planned acquisition of Grant Thornton’s Albuquerque practice by Moss Adams on July 31, 2010. In evaluating its strategic direction, Grant Thornton senior leadership determined it will exit the New Mexico market.

Kim Nunley, the Grant Thornton office managing partner, will join Moss Adams as a partner along with many of the client service staff and employees. Wayne Brown, Moss Adams Albuquerque office managing partner, will continue to provide local leadership. He said, “I have known and respected Kim for many years and look forward to working closely with her. She is highly regarded within the profession and the Albuquerque community.”

This acquisition demonstrates Moss Adams commitment to the Southwest and overall firm growth. According to Chris Schmidt, Moss Adams president, “Moss Adams is focused on growth and the Grant Thornton practice blends well with our Albuquerque industry group specialization in areas such as financial institutions, credit unions, employee benefit plans, technology/life sciences, and manufacturing companies.”

Moss Adams is the largest accounting and consulting firm in New Mexico and the 11th largest firm in the United States. With more than 1,700 employees and 230 partners, the firm serves its clients from 21 offices in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Our email to a Grant Thornton spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

A Few Senators Would Like Billionaires to Pitch in with the Deficit Problem

The latest act in the ongoing circus known as the estate tax debate has three “liberal” senators – Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) – calling for billionaires to help close the $13 trillion some-odd federal deficit that these über-rich people ate.

Forbes reports that the Messrs. Sanders, Harkin and Whitehouse sent a letter to their fellow Senators laying out their case, “According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the U.S. with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multibillion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.”

The champs of the bill also go to the trouble of singling out Dan L. Duncan whose family stands to inherit his $9 billion fortune tax free. It’s a good thing those staffers pointed out that article in the Times to their respective Senators!


Anyhoo, TaxProf summarizes the details of the “Responsible Estate Estate Tax Act”:

Exempts the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7 million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. Doing this would mean that 99.75% of all estates would be exempted from the federal estate tax in 2011 alone.

Includes a progressive rate structure so that the super wealthy pay more. Under our bill, the rate for the value of the estate above $3.5 million and below $10 million would be 45%, the same as the 2009 level. The rate on the value of estates above $10 million and below $50 million would be 50%, and the rate on the value of estates above $50 million would be 55%.

Includes a billionaire’s surtax of 10%. Our bill also imposes a 10% surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million ($1 billion for couples). According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the United States with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multi-billion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.

Closes all of the Estate and Gift Tax Loopholes requested in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget. These loophole closers include requiring consistent valuation for transfer and income tax purposes; a modification of rules on valuation discounts; and a required 10-year minimum term for Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS). OMB has estimated that closing these loopholes that benefit the super-wealthy, would raise at least $23.7 billion in revenue over 10 years.

Protects family farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to $3 million for estate tax purposes. Under current law, the value of farmland can be reduced up to $1 million for estate tax purposes under § 2032(a) (Special Use Valuation). Our bill increases this level to $3 million and indexes it to inflation.

Benefits farmers and other landowners by providing estate tax relief for conservation easements. Our bill provides tax relief to farmers and other landowners by amending estate tax rules for conservation easements through an increase in the maximum exclusion amount to $2 million and increasing the base percentage to 60%.

Nice work on those last two Senator Harkin; you couldn’t be more obvious.

In case you didn’t catch it in there, the estate tax on the billionaires will be 55% PLUS! an additional 10% surtax. Sounds crazy right? Congress royally fucks things up by letting the estate tax expire in the first place and then has the stones to throw the double whammy on the rich because of it. Had they simply extended the estate tax (which seems to be a popular solution, btw) this political pigskin wouldn’t even be an issue.

But guess what? There are people behind this thing lock, stock and barrel. For one, the United for a Fair Economy (“UFE”) more or less says that this legislation is the catalyst to fixing everything, “The Sanders-Harkin-Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act is an important step on the road to an economic recovery that benefits all Americans.”

Well, not all Americans.

California Accountant Had Some Ambitious Career Goals

Many of you probably consider yourself to be ambitious. You have aspirations of riches and success in the field of accounting that the likes of Arthur Andersen dared not dream of. You’re a game changer. The profession won’t be the same after you’re done with it.

But Yasith Chhun of Long Beach, CA could not be satisfied with simple pleasures like titles such as Partner or CFO and fabulous wealth simply would not be enough. His life goals were far more lofty than a simple title, salary or home with a three-car garage on a golf course. This was about a revolution!

A California accountant was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday in Los Angeles for orchestrating a failed attempt to overthrow the Cambodian government in 2000.

Yasith Chhun, of Long Beach, was found guilty in 2008 of three counts of conspiracy and one count of engaging in a military expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.

Chhun is a U.S. citizen of Cambodian descent who helped lead a handful of rebel fighters in an attack of government buildings in the country’s capital of Phnom Penh. Three of the fighters were killed, and several police and military officers were injured.

Prosecutors said Chhun planned the coup over two years, traveled to the region to assemble a rebel force and held fundraisers for the operation.

So unless you’re willing to engage in guerrilla tactics in order to topple an entire nation that’s friendly with the U.S., we don’t ever want to hear about your career path.

Calif. man in attempted Cambodian coup gets prison [AP]

Gulf Coast Workers Not Really Down with Taxes on Their BP Payments

Wait! You mean we have to pay taxes if we receive cash? When the hell did this happen? What if you’re part of the “self-reliant nonconformists who don’t pay much heed to everyday rules and regulations” community? Does that earn you a pass?

The AP reported on some workers on the Gulf Coast who are simply not aware of the notion of income taxes and would very much like to keep it that way:

Out-of-work Gulf Coast shrimper Todd Pellegal spent his first $2,500 check from BP quickly, paying off bills and buying groceries for his family.

He never even considered putting some of it away for taxes.

Now he’s among the people up and down the Gulf Coast reeling from the oil spill disaster who are surprised — and frustrated — to find out the Internal Revenue Service may take a chunk of the payments BP PLC is providing to help them stay afloat.

Many were already angry about how long the oil giant took to cut the checks. So when they got the money — generally about a few thousand dollars each so far — they spent it fast.

“If they’re going to pay you a lump sum, like for a year, then bam, take the taxes out of the check,” said Pellegal, of Boothville, La. “But a little bit at a time, they shouldn’t.”

Right, because withholding taxes from a paycheck isn’t how it works for every other person in the country who pays income taxes. Whoever heard of “net pay”?? But don’t bother suggesting planning for such a phenomenon as being paid by check:

“They should do a projection of their taxable income and determine if there is going to be a tax liability and have enough to cover that,” said Crystal Faulkner, a partner in the Cincinnati-based accounting firm of Cooney Faulkner & Stevens LLC.

That doesn’t sit well with Cherie Edwards, who is now only working one day a week at her job booking charter fishing trips at Zeke’s Landing in Orange Beach, Ala. The lost hours due to the oil spill are costing her about $270 week.

She said she got her claim number from BP on Thursday and plans to file an application in the coming day. So far, she said, no one has mentioned to her about a potential tax liability.

“I haven’t even thought about taxes. Wow. That makes me mad,” said Edwards, who has one child in college and another in high school. “I’m already losing money, and now I’ve got to figure out how to hold back money to pay taxes?”

Jesus lady, you’re right. Getting used to the $0 tax liability and then all of a sudden learning that you are required by law to pay them would piss off just about anyone.

IRS May Tax Payments to Gulf Coast Victims [AP via Tax Lawyer’s Blog]

Some Crooked Accountants Need to Try Harder

Regardless of how easy it is for accountants to steal money (access, signatory responsibilities and such) one would think that if you intended on getting away with it that you might go to a wee bit of trouble to cover your tracks. Shamelessly making photocopies for personal matters is one thing, cutting checks to yourself are entirely another:

Between October 2, 2003 and September 20, 2007, [Todd Newman], a Certified Public Accountant with offices in Yonkers and New York City, was the Secretary/Treasurer and a signatory on the payroll of B. Schoenberg and Company, a recycler of plastics and engineering resins located in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

He stole in excess of $1,900,000.00 (1.9 million dollars) from his employer by writing checks to himself.

Newman also failed to file Personal Income Tax returns with the State of New York for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, for a total tax liability of $133,158.

Christ man! Set up a phony LLC, open some bank accounts, get a P.O. Box. Something.

Bonus and Compensation Watch ’10: Grant Thornton Delivers the Goods

Grant Thornton has been on strict radio silence lately which makes us wonder if Stephen Chipman had given up on blogging or if they had simply given everyone the summer off.

The blog remains a mystery but we do have some news on GT bonuses (the jury was out for awhile) and merit increases and it seems to be good news but extremely short on details and extremely long on Chipman prose:

Leadership announcement
Additional guidance on bonuses and compensation

On our last all-employee call, I told you that I was optimistic that the firm would award bonuses this year. I am pleased to share with you that we are now in a position to say with certainty that we will be paying bonuses for 2010.

As you know, the overall level of bonuses is dependent on our financial results at year end. We are currently working on this modeling based on our economic forecasts and will have the final numbers next month. However, I can let you know that we plan to pay the bonuses in the mid-September timeframe.

Similar to our merit increases, our bonus payments are based on our pay-for-performance philosophy, where we strive to recognize and reward individuals commensurate with performance. We’ve held this philosophy for a number of years, but could have done better executing on it. You reminded us of this in our Voice Your Experience pulse survey, and we are striving to do better. This year — and even more so going forward — we will be giving larger merit increases and bonuses to our top-rated performers to ensure greater differentiation.

Merit increases should be finalized in the next couple of weeks and your local office will begin communicating with you in early July. New compensation is effective on August 1. The increases are based on extensive market information for each of our practices and your individual contributions.

As we work to differentiate our firm through providing consistently distinctive client service, we will continue to move towards a model that rewards each of our people relative to their contributions to the success of the firm.

I’m excited about our direction as a world-class firm that truly makes a difference, and hope you are too. Thank you for all that you have done, and continue to do, for Grant Thornton.

Stephen

So whether or not this puts your anxiety to rest is another matter. Discuss and keep us updated in the coming weeks.

“Faceless” Tax Worker Turns Out to Be a Hottie…Oh and She Saved a Man’s Life

Tax workers of any stripe – federal or state – get hated on. Given. Buzzwords of disdain like “faceless bureaucrats,” “lazy government employees,” “good-for-nothing-except-for-sucking-up-government-resources freedom haters” and so on and so forth get thrown around with reckless abandon.

However, if you knew that your state department of revenue public servants looked like Natalie Brown (right) and just so happened to be responsible for saving a taxpayer’s life, then maybe Tea Partiers and their derivatives would exercise a little more restraint.

Unless of course they’re also against hotties and random acts of kindness.

When [Earl] Phillips called the state Department of Revenue last month to get answers about his state income tax bill, the faceless Frankfort bureaucrat who called him back saved his life.

Now Phillips thinks Department of Revenue employee Natalie Brown — who dialed 911 when Phillips had a heart attack during that May 26th phone call — should receive more than a simple thank you.
[…]
Phillips, an Adair County construction worker, received a tax notice in late May with Brown’s name and phone number

When Brown returned the call he’d placed, she noticed that Phillips, 60, seemed out of sorts.

“I noticed he was breathing really heavily,” Brown said Friday. “I could tell something was wrong.”

At this point, you might expect to read that the government employee placed the phone down to ask their supervisor to get permission to call the on-site nurse (in accordance with the proper protocols). At which point, another co-worker would pop in, suggest they take a break for coffee and a bun and dying taxpayer would be left on the hook.

But nothing of the sort happened! Natalie Brown was on this, knowing that any delay could mean life or death and certainly less future revenue for the state of Kentucky.

Brown verified she had the correct address for Phillips — which was on his tax forms — and called Adair County 911.

Shortly after that, emergency crews arrived and took Phillips, who was home alone, to a local hospital. He was later transferred to a Louisville hospital, where doctors put a stent, or tube, in his heart. He had a 90 percent blockage in one of his arteries, Phillips said.

Hot, lifesaving, tax worker This has reality TV written all over it.

Tax worker helps save taxpayer’s life [Kentucky Herald-Leader via TaxProf]

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Invite Citizens to Get on This Fiscal Crisis Thing

Either some Pennsylvania lawmakers are out of ideas for closing the state’s budget gap or they’re sick of the belly aching from the Keystone citizens because they’ve decided to put out there for the ordinary Quakers to give their suggestions for fiscal improvement.

So far there has been approximately 750 suggestions that range from consolidating school districts, “El excess management positions. 15 school districts in one county equals 15 superintendents, health care plans, IT departments, administrative departments, maintenance depts and so on” to downsizing the size of the state legislature, “downsize our legislature, there has been several articles on our size compared to other states whith [sic] smaller legislatures and much larger populations.”

Of course there are less constructive ideas such as the idea of having one huge pee party from “Gary” in Mount Joy (our bolding):

URINALYSIS for everyone who receives their salary from Tax dollars. Every tax dollar that comes out of our pocket pays for every teacher in the state, every state trooper, every state university professor, every congressman. We as taxpayers need to know that our tax dollars are not being used to fund illegal/ illicit drug use. We should have a Urinalysis for Every Teacher, every Congressman, every State worker, Every Professor of the state universities. If that is implemented, you will notice a lot of retirements/resignations. Saving the tax payers loads of money as well as stimulating the workforce because of the jobs that will need to be filled. This Is not an invasion of privacy.

EVERYONE IS ON DOPE!

And then there’s “frank” from York, PA who isn’t buying this pollution nonsense:

get rid of state car inspections & emissions testting [sic] – all the garbage about the air is all made up. And if we are the only country doing so, it proves that the goverment are liars! Yea every knows thats true

“Joe Wehner” from Pittsburgh just feels like hating on the whole process, thankyouverymuch:

Like our government, this site is a joke! They only publish dumb democrat liberal views. GOD Forbid any views that work… They won’t publish views outside of their agenda to ruin America.

But we like we said, there are some decent suggestions.

Pennsylvania website takes taxpayers’ ideas to save money [Philadelphia Inquirer]

URINALYSIS for everyone who receives their salary from Tax dollars. Every tax dollar that comes out of our pocket pays for every teacher in the state, every state trooper, every state university professor, every congressman. We as taxpayers need to know that our tax dollars are not being used to fund illegal/ illicit drug use. We should have a Urinalysis for Every Teacher, every Congressman, every State worker, Every Professor of the state universities. If that is implemented, you will notice a lot of retirements/resignations. Saving the tax payers loads of money as well as stimulating the workforce because of the jobs that will need to be filled. This Is not an invasion of privacy.

EVERYONE IS ON DOPE!

And then there’s “frank” from York, PA who isn’t buying this pollution nonsense:

get rid of state car inspections & emissions testting [sic] – all the garbage about the air is all made up. And if we are the only country doing so, it proves that the goverment are liars! Yea every knows thats true

“Joe Wehner” from Pittsburgh just feels like hating on the whole process, thankyouverymuch:

Like our government, this site is a joke! They only publish dumb democrat liberal views. GOD Forbid any views that work… They won’t publish views outside of their agenda to ruin America.

But we like we said, there are some decent suggestions.

Pennsylvania website takes taxpayers’ ideas to save money [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Grant Thornton Survey: More Bank Execs Think the Economy Will Suck Less Eventually, Maybe

No! It’s true! Forty-five percent think things are going to be WAYYYY better in the next months, just in time for Christmaskuh!

That’s up from 24% in December ’09.

John Ziegelbauer, national managing partner of Grant Thornton’s Financial Institutions practice, testifies:

Bankers across the country are starting to become more optimistic about both the U.S. economy and their own local economy…Their optimism about the economy is spilling over into their own banks, with bankers reporting that they are also cautiously optimistic about the number of people they expect to hire in the coming months. Overall, it appears that bankers believe that the economy has finally turned a corner.

Except that 55% of those surveyed expect to be the same (i.e. sucks) or get worse and don’t forget, no one is hiring.

On with the jobless recovery!

Big jump in number of bank execs that expect the economy to improve in next six months [GT]

Spending $1.25 Million on Bridges for Squirrels Isn’t the Worst Idea Arizona Has Ever Had

Okay, so Arizona is spending $1.25 million to build bridges for the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel and of course a bunch of people are in a big huff.

ABC News reports that without the bridges, approximately five squirrels would be killed a year and there are only 250 are known to be in existence.


Yes, that works out to $5,000 a squirrel but considering the fact that animals are far more responsible and respectful inhabitants of the planet than humans, we’ve got no beef with this.

Especially considering the fact that Arizona has had far worse ideas in its history including opposing Martin Luther King Day until 1992, its asinine immigration policy and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Arizona Spends $1.25M to Save 250 Squirrels [ABC News via Tax Policy Blog]

BKD Partner Found Dead at His Office

[caption id="attachment_12673" align="alignright" width="120" caption="Source: Springfield Business Journal"][/caption]

Fifty-one year old Daniel Hayworth was found dead at the BKD offices in Joplin, Missouri on Sunday afternoon.

The Springfield Journal Reports that Mr Hayworth had several leadership positions with the firm including the firm’s national construction and real estate group, national manufacturing and distribution group and chair of the manufacturing and distribution committee.


According to Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges told us that Mr Hayworth had a history of hypertension and high blood pressure, accordingly his office ruled that the cause of death was a massive heart attack.

Our email to a BKD spokesperson was not immediately returned.

John Wanamaker, the managing partner of BKD’s Souther Missouri unit was quoted by the SBJ, saying, “Dan was such a great guy, and this is such an unexpected and untimely event. He was clearly a great man, a great husband to his wife, Lynn, a great BKD partner, and a great friend, and he will be unbelievably missed.”

Accountant’s ‘Ridiculous Amount of Time’ Surfing the Web Not Ridiculous Enough to Warrant Firing

We realize that hardly any of you will be able to relate to this story but we’ll present it as a point of reference in case you know of anyone that gets jammed up in the future.

David Innes, 42, was fired from his job at Scottish and Southern Energy after TPTB decided that he was spending a little too much time surfing the web. In their words, a ‘ridiculous amount of time.’ And to get an idea of ridiculous, 27,500 website hits was the magic number.


This is quite a jump over the 16,000 hits that an SEC accountant spent looking at porn. This randy ne’er do well managed to keep his/her job as well as the other porn junkies. If you make the assumption that Innes had a SEC-esque porn habit, that still leaves a lot of surfing to be done.

Regardless, it’s safe to assume that somewhere in between 16,000 and 27,500 hits (presumably in a month) lies the threshold of you being thrown out on your ass.

However, a Glasgow tribunal found that Scottish and Southern didn’t really have a frame of reference for “a ridiculous amount of time” since David Pratt, the man who fired Innes, “made no attempt to obtain advice from the respondent’s IT department. His view was essentially that he was faced with this enormous report and this therefore showed an extraordinary amount of internet usage.”

In other words, a “ridiculous amount of time” is subjective, as is “a lot of time,” “quite a bit of time,” or “a metric ass-ton of time.” And even if you do reach your own perceived level of unacceptable web surfing volume, you still better check with the IT boys to see what their opinion on hella-web surfing is before you go firing people like Steinbrenner.

Meanwhile, for you do-nothings out there, it appears that your time wasted at work surfing the web can easily be defended, although you can safely assume that if you wade into the NSFW waters, your chances of survival are slim.

If You Were Expecting a Nice Breezy Internship with Plante & Moran, You’re Going to Be Disappointed

This is serious P&M interns. You probably thought this little summer jaunt at P&M would be just an easy way to get some overtime hours and blow all your money on booze. Well. Actually, it might be you’ll also be expected to walk in on Monday and pull your weight.

Coffee jockeys? No. Xerox duty? Of course but it will be only the important documents. But scavenger hunts? Forget it. The only scavenger hunt you’ll be going is for material misstatements.

Annually, more than 100 students experience a three to four month paid internship. The latest round of students will begin their internships on June 14 in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois firm offices. On the agenda? An Intern Summit, which is a two-day, off-site meeting focused mainly on team-building and community service projects. At the end, interns give a formal presentation on their reflections and lessons learned from the experience.
[…]
“As an assurance intern, I was given the opportunity to go into the field and perform real audit work, not just sit behind a desk or get people their coffee,” said Staci Tobe, a former Plante & Moran intern and Michigan University student. “I also appreciated the firm’s open door policy. I never expected to be able to walk into a partner’s office and seek advice, but Plante & Moran encouraged it.”

Presentations on team building! Real audit work! Getting a partner’s advice! Oh, and no short sleeves because you’ll be expected to roll them up and bare arms aren’t acceptable.

The Nasdaq Would Like to Know When Koss Is Going to Get Around to Submitting Some Financial Statements

Remember last month when Koss decided to file their 10-Q without financial statements? At the time the company said it was “due to delays relating to certain previously disclosed unauthorized transactions.”

In other words, we got ripped off so bad that we’re restating financial statements for half a decade and it isn’t exactly something you can whip up like a batch of maui wowie brownies.


The Nasdaq has taken note of the slight delay and has said if you don’t get us numbers by June 30, you’ll be on the pink sheets with the likes of Lehman Brothers.

CEO Michael Koss has assured everyone that it won’t come to this but obviously we’ll have to wait until the SEC posts the filing. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll be able to add “Koss Delisted by Nasdaq” to Suz’s list of destructive accomplishments.

Koss gets warning from Nasdaq [Milwaukee Business Journal]

Job of the Day: BlackRock Needs a Senior Manager of Financial Reporting

BlackRock is looking an experienced professional to join its iShares Fund Administration group as a Senior Manager of Financial Reporting in its San Francisco office.

Qualifications include 10 years experience in the investment industry with a CPA and management experienced preferred.


Company: BlackRock

Title: Senior Manager, Financial Reporting

Location: San Francisco, CA

Description: This financial reporting role will include project management, contribution to technical accounting interpretation and review responsibility in managing the development, production and distribution of the annual and semi-annual reports to shareholders for iShares products. The candidate will be responsible for the review and timely filing of various SEC regulatory filings, including Form N-SAR, Form N-CSR and Form N-Q.

Responsibilities: Manage development, production and timely distribution of fund regulatory/shareholder materials relating to financial reporting under the Investment Company Act of 1940, including annual and semi-annual reports, Form N-SAR, Form N-CSR and Form N-Q; Ensure that content and disclosure for regulatory filings related to financial reporting, are complete and current in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and relevant SEC rules; Manage audits for multiple fiscal year ends, including relationships with auditors, administrators and internal stakeholders; Proofread and serve as quality control for regulatory filings; Manage development and implementation of new SEC requirements as they relate to financial reporting; Seek continuous process improvement and maintain the financial reporting policies and procedures; Contribute to identifying, researching, and communicating recent authoritative pronouncements.

Qualifications/Skills: BS/BA degree in business administration or accounting, CPA preferred; 10+ years of investment industry and management experience preferred; In-depth knowledge of funds reporting under the Investment Company Act of 1940.

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