September 21, 2021

News

New York Assembly Kicking Around the Idea of Raising the Millionaire Tax

It’s bad enough that Wealth Squads are going to be kicking down doors left and right but now this?


Still doesn’t quite top California’s budget misfire but keep trying Albany!

N.Y. Assembly Looks at Millionaire’s Tax [FOX via Tax Policy Blog]

Accenture, Looking for Fresh Ad Campaign, Makes the Right Choice to Launch Review

As CEO of Avidan Strategies, an agency search firm, we constantly conduct reviews for clients who wish to switch ad agencies. The reasons for conducting a search cover the span of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes clients resort to spurious explanations for a review. Sometimes, the arrival of a new chief marketing officer is enough to precipitate a review, as its ties to the CMO’s predecessor taint the incumbent agency.

Yet, the Accenture agency search, as reported in this story by Advertising Age, is appropriate and well timed. Until the wee hours of last Thanksgiving, when Tiger woods slammed his SUV into a tree, Accenture had a solid ad campaign. Using Tiger as spokesman and symbol of the consultancy dedication to excellence was effective. Although not exactly relevant to Accenture’s offerings, Tiger was magic. He was the ultimate professional, an athlete that not only transcended his sport, but one that transcended all sports. Tiger was a rock star.


To its credit, Accenture reacted fast to the unfolding scandal. Within weeks it dropped Tiger as a spokesman and launched a new campaign, featuring animals in unusual situations to illustrate aspects of its service. For example, a surfing elephant to depict nimbleness. The marketer is trying to downplay speculation that the animal campaign was a “hail Mary” pass, and suggests that it’s agency, Y&R, had pulled it out of a drawer. I doubt it. When you sign up Tiger Woods to be your spokesperson, you don’t need a Plan B. You know that this is the horse that you are going to ride.

That said, Accenture is smart to call a review. The animal campaign was a good stop gap measure, but now it is time to look beyond the horizon and come up with the next big campaign idea that can last 7,8,9 years. Y&R has been Accenture’s agency since Accenture was formed in the mid-90s. While longevity is not necessarily a bad thing, relationships can get stale. So it’s smart of Accenture to cast a wider net. As a matter of fact, more and more companies now conduct mandatory periodic reviews, previously conducted only by governmental agencies, to insure that services provided are best in class.

I hope that the winning idea will not be apologetic. Tiger’s mess has nothing to do with Accenture, and unlike Nike, they acted ethically and wisely by dumping him swiftly. The new agency should focus on Accenture leadership equity, it’s commitment to research and it’s ability to manage complicated systems. As we are coming out of the recession, glitz is being replaced by authenticity. Businessmen, Accenture’s target, are under tremendous pressure in a tough bottom-line environment. The animals campaign is funny and warm, but perhaps too cartoonish for our time. A more straightforward campaign, with Accenture traditional warmth and humanity, is more appropriate.

Avi Dan is President & CEO of Avidan Strategies, a New York based consultancy specialized in advising professional service companies on marketing and business development. Mr. Dan was previously a board member with two leading advertising agencies and managed another.

Why Did Patrick Byrne Sell $3 million in Overstock.com Shares?

So Patrick Byrne (via his 100% wholly owned entity High Plains Investments, LLC) sold 140,000 OSTK shares in the past five days and that has a few people talking/wondering aloud about what the hell is going on.

Barry Ritholtz, who is long OSTK (quantitative drivers) despite, “I…think it is a steaming pile of shit, that the CEO is an asshole, and that the entire company is probably corrupt,” is really curious:

Is Byrne in possession of material insider information? Would he be so stupid as to sell the shares? (I doubt anyone could be that dumb).

Perhaps he sees a favorable outcome to the SEC investigation? Maybe he is raising money to pay a fine?

These are all excellent jumping off points (although we disagree with the notion “I doubt anyone could be that dumb”) but let’s explore other possibilities:

A) Segways for the KPMG audit team.

B) Reverse Psychology – he’s done fighting the short selling crowd (or is he?)

C) He’s going to apologize to Sam Antar monetarily (how generous he will be, is another matter entirely).

D) He needs some cash for a Father’s Day gift.

E) Needs to feed the Farmville addiciton.

These are merely some ideas. And there’s always the possibility that PB has gone right out of his mind. Share your own, should you feel inclined.

Long OSTK, Short Byrne [The Big Picture]
Proxy Statement/Schedule 14A [SEC.gov]
Patrick Byrne Pockets $3.1 Million from Dumping Overstock.com Shares [White Collar Fraud]
Patrick Byrne Dumps His Overstocked Overstock Shares [Gary Weiss]

Integrated Reporting Will Gain Momentum as Banks, Private Equity Increase Their Focus on ESG Issues

In the first part of our conversation with Michael Krzus, co-author of One Report, Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy, we discussed the nature of integrated reporting, how it will change corporate reporting as it is commonly known and some of the benefits to both stakeholders and companies.

The second part of our discussion looks at how small and midsize entities will benefit from integrated reporting, the feedback received from clients, and what the future holds.


Going Concern: Do you see a point in time when companiessults for sustainability issues on a reoccurring basis similar to quarterly earnings reporting?

Michael Krzus: I know enough about this to be dangerous, so I’ll give you that caveat, but I am aware of the somewhat recent EPA rule making that is going to require companies to report emissions and things of that nature. There are some limitations, but there will be more frequent reporting for U.S. domiciled companies. I think some of it will depend on the technology available. I don’t know what it takes for a coal-fired electric plant to account for CO2 emissions. So I’m not really in a good position to tell you that in five years whether that will evolve into more regular reporting or not.

GC: What kind of companies will be able to utilize integrate reporting? Can any size company embrace it or will it start with the largest players and work its way down?

MK: As a practical matter, it will have to be large, public traded companies, particularly the global players. On the other hand, I think small and mid-cap companies, especially private ones, have as much or more skin in the game and a lot more upside than the big guys. And that’s because of the complexity of information and the complexity of accounting standards. If you’re Microsoft, you’ve got a lot of issues that can be addressed by your large accounting department but if you’re a $400 million manufacturer of widgets, you don’t have those kind of resources. But you do want to tell stakeholders your story clearly and succinctly. I think the idea of the integrated report gives them the opportunity to do that.

Additionally, in the last couple of years, I’ve developed a good working relationship with the Society of Investment Professionals in Germany and one of the things that group has done is build example reports of what an integrated report could look like for a small or mid-cap sized company. If you think about it from the German perspective, much of their market base is small and medium sized companies and analysts there are very interested in the benefits that an integrated reporting can provide. So, there’s a lot upside for companies that fall outside the Fortune 500.

GC: Do you see a point in time where banks start requesting more non-financial information (i.e. ESG information) in order to qualify for lending?

MK: The short answer is “Yes.” To me, sustainability really has to do with long term viability of an entity. I don’t think a company can be viable for the long term without understanding and managing their environmental, social and governance risks because those three risk types specifically translate to reputation.

To some degree a lender will have to start considering non-financial factors. The price of admission is opening your heart and soul, as a company, to the banker. A banker can ask all kinds of question whether its about CO2 emissions or manufacturing location in Thailand that may cause child labor problems because you’re running a sweat shop.

To parallel that, I recently attended a conference of institutional investors. I found it interesting that a group of people that wanted to know more about integrated reporting were private equity folks. These private equity people are in the same boat as the bankers. If they are going to make an investment, they will open up everything. It’s not just about getting the 10-K, it’s about understanding everything from financial projections and processes to social and environmental risks in China. So, the markets in general, not just bankers, but also private equity and traditional sources of capital have become more and more interested in a broad set of non-financial information.

GC: What has been the experience with clients?

MK: Clients have assisted us by presenting challenging questions to help us think more clearly about the situation. For example, some people have argued that we don’t need integrated reporting because the markets are efficient and already have all the information they need. I would argue that, even without the events of the last couple of years, markets aren’t efficient and don’t have all the information they need because we have so many firms employing armies of analysts, all of who are looking for that shred of information that will give their company an edge. There’s always something that the analysts don’t have.

Another argument is whether or not the integrated report somehow diminishes the corporate responsibility report. My response to that is that by not integrating the two types of reports, companies avoid an audit of non-financial information. In general, the companies that have an integrated report do have some assurance over the non-financial information; it’s not necessarily subject to the same standards as auditing standards but there is some kind of assurance. So I think some kind of audit over the information – and over time perhaps controls and processes – will elevate the quality of the reporting. So good questions from very sharp people like “Have you guys thought about this?” forces us to engage in some dialogue of our own so we do have a coherent responses.

GC: How does IFRS fit into integrated reporting?

MK: I’m one of those people who think that there should be one global set of accounting standards. To speculate just a little bit, I could envision a world that might have IFRS that govern the financial statements and perhaps an international non-financial reporting standard, because at some point we’re going to have to address that. I think the larger question of IFRS is to first, how do we develop a global standard of non-financial information? And secondly, can we develop some sort of benchmark for auditors? So, I remain optimistic that U.S. will eventually adopt IFRS and would hope in the next few years there would be some kind of move to adopt international standards for non-financial information.

GC: What’s next?

MK: There are a couple of major conferences coming up this year where integrated reporting will be a topic in several sessions. We use various conferences to spread the word and build some momentum behind the idea. The Harvard Business School and the Harvard University Center of the Environment are co-sponsoring an event on integrated reporting later this year. Two newspapers in Japan are hosting an event in November and the Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability has an annual event in December that hosts roundtables on various topics.

On the Accounting for Sustainability website, there are a number of press releases including a PDF on a governmental collaboration that calls for the establishing an international integrated reporting committee. I can tell you that the Accounting for Sustainability Group has the resources and, frankly, the brand name that could call for the IASB or some other group to undertake the idea of a global framework for reporting non-financial information. I could see us having this conversation a year from now and I’d be very disappointed if there was not some kind of formal announcement from an international integrated reporting committee.

So I’m cautiously optimistic about the future. The timing for this is right and integrated reporting is important when you believe in the concept of inter-generational responsibility. This is the only planet we’ve got and we should every intent to leave it in as good as condition as we found it.

But as a hard-headed capitalist I also think integrated reporting makes sense because you don’t want to invest in company that will go bust. A company simply cannot be viable for the long-term unless they are considering ESG issues.

Accounting Going Green? The Move to Integrated Reporting

Transparency is fast becoming the most important tool corporations can use. Not long ago, management determined what was relevant and stakeholders were notified on a need-to-know basis. Now the tables have turned and stakeholders have the ability to demand information of all types and if companies are not willing to provide it, those stakeholders now have the resources to discover (or in some cases, uncover) it for themselves.

Adding transparency to corporate reporting still seems to be a work in progress. As the SEC s ruminates over IFRS and its impact on financial reporting, corporate sustainability and responsibility reporting is fast becoming one of the popular ways for companies to give stakeholders a snapshot of its social, environmental, risk, and ce.


The problem from a practical perspective is that it’s difficult to consume all information in an efficient manner. That’s where the idea of integrated reporting comes in. Simply, it combines the the traditional financial report along with the non-financial information presented in the corporate responsibility, social responsibilty or ESG report.

One Report, Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy is a book written by Robert G. Eccles, senior lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard University and Michael P. Krzus, a public policy and external affairs partner with Grant Thornton.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Mr Krzus recently about One Report, covering topics like what kind of data it consists of, how it will change corporate reporting, and what the future holds. This is part one of a two part interview. Check back for part two tomorrow.

Going Concern: How can you best summarize what integrated reporting is, how it will be different and how it will improve corporate reporting.

Michael Krzus: On it’s face it’s a very simple idea – the notion of an integrated report really involves the combination of the traditional financial or corporate report and combining it with corporate sustainability, responsibility or ESG report and combing them into a single package. However, that doesn’t mean that companies will staple together two reports, each one about 150 pages long, that results in one report that’s 300 pages long.

If you look at one of the companies we talk about in the book, United Technologies here in the U.S. and Danish company Novo Nordisk, each of their integrated reports perhaps have 115-120 pages and what both have a very robust website. Just because something may not be deemed material for the integrated report, there is still a lot of information that both of those companies, as well as others, present in very easy-to-navigate websites. So one of the things that we’re seeing is that integrated reporting is really helping develop very advanced websites.

Similarly, I was working on a couple of presentations on the German chemical company BASF has a page on their website that will allow you to link to 200 different global social media outlets including the likes of Facebook and Twitter. So we’re really starting to see that kind of engagement develop from companies that are embracing integrated reporting as well.

Companies are using the idea of an integrated report to better understand their own internal concepts of materiality and by engaging with their stakeholders and understanding what they think is material or what their material risk exposures are. It’s a disservice to the broad stakeholder community that some mainstream analysts don’t give consideration to some of the environmental or social risks that exist.

From the perspective of the socially responsible investor or perhaps a non-governmental organization that follows a very narrow or very critical mission, they may not understand the trade-offs that these company have made. We think that the idea of a single integrated report will help broaden the perspective and help them make an informed decision.

GC: Considering a traditional corporate responsibility report, how the data change? Similarly, will the data change from the two separate reports combining into a single report?

MK: There are relationships between financial and non-financial performers and vice versa. Companies need to better explain what those relationships are.

One example is BMW. On one hand, water is a relatively small cost that goes into an automobile but in terms of water as a resource, it is an increasingly scarce resource in certain parts of the world. BMW has decided to make huge investments in reusing water and they actually have a plant in Austria that doesn’t bring fresh water to the plant, they just continually reuse it. The benefit, as it turns out, is because of their focus and because they’re a few steps ahead of other automobile manufacturers, they’ve got a cost advantage. Making that kind of discussion clear, it’s not just about cutting CO2 emissions, but also process improvements that enable companies to produce more at a lesser cost.

I think the other difference that you’ll see in the new reports is that the mainstream analysis will be giving more consideration to ESG issues. The traditional analyst has several companies that they’re following and these companies have different sectors in an annual report, corporate responsibility report, and many others. It’s extremely difficult to consume that many reports. My co-author and I interviewed an analyst once who brought in a stack of about 60 reports because some of the companies that she followed were issuing financial, environmental, and responsibility reports all separately, and she said “there’s no way.” So I think the integrated report will help that.

A couple more examples: last September Bloomberg launched a product that involves making global reporting initiatives that available on their Bloomberg terminals and CalPers’ board has undertaken a project to integrate ESG factors into their analysis better and in turn, push that down that to their asset managers. So we are starting to see some movement. That relationship between financial and non-financial performance and making things easier for the analysts to consider non-financial information will be the two biggest changes that will come about as result of wider adoption of integrated reporting.

GC: And CalPers is not a lightweight. If you see someone like someone like that setting an example, there are other companies or large holders of assets that will follow their lead.

MK: CalPers is not a lightweight at all. We’ve developed a good working relationship with a couple of people at CalPers and they are taking the idea of integrated reporting very, very seriously.

When you think about it, if CalPers goes to their asset managers and says we want you to integrate ESG into your traditional analysis and here’s the way we want you to come up with it. I think that’s going to have a ripple effect across other pension fund managers and assets managers other than those at CalPers.

GC: What would you say are the biggest benefits that stakeholders will get out of integrated reporting?

MK: I think the biggest benefit is actually going to be better engagement with companies they want information about. In my opinion, a company cannot undertake an integrated reporting project without really listening to the stakeholders. For a company to understand the perspectives, not that they’ll all be material, but that they’ll be willing to engage in that dialogue.

And it may not be in ways that companies are not comfortable with whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or something else, I think that process of stakeholder engagement is going to be mutually beneficial. The companies will better understand who’s out there and what they’re expectations are. And from the user perspective, it they will have a better understanding about what some of the tradeoffs are, as well as what some of the reporting implications might be. Overall, I think it will create a better overall understanding for both groups.

And by having more robust information, it’s going to allow for better decision making. I see that as a benefit on both sides. From the investor side, they’re going to have a much better understanding of the some the risks a company faces. An investor has to consider a lot of intangibles when making a decision. Whether its the business risks to climate change or the innovation process. If that kind of information is made available, it’s going to allow investors to make better decisions and who the winners and the losers are.

GC: Is there any risk that stakeholders might have too much information?

MK: Frankly, yes but I think in some ways it’s an overblown risk because when Bob and I looked at some of the oldest integrated reporters, you clearly see an evolution. A great example is BASF. Because of the diversity of their operations and the nature of the chemical business, there’s a lot of relevant information, especially about risk and materiality of certain exposures. About a year ago I spent half a day with their reporting team looking at both the financial and sustainability side. They do a very good job of looking in the mirror. One of the first comments was that the integrated report was still too long; that they needed to do a better job of getting their arms around materiality and again, the dialogue with the stakeholders helped them do that.

Over time as companies engage their stakeholder through various technologies, they will reduce the report down to a very information rich package. So yes, there’s a risk for too much information but I don’t think that will stop anyone.

Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for part 2!

Koss Files 10-Q Sans Financial Statements, Declares Dividend

Somehow this got overlooked earlier in the week but we can’t literally be all-knowing, all-seeing, all the time. Plus, haven’t you missed this mug?

Headphone cobbler Koss filed it’s first quarter 10-Q earlier this week, which ordinarily would be a non-event except for a small matter of missing financial statements.

The Milwaukee Business Journal reports that the company cited the missing financial statements “due to delays relating to certain previously disclosed unauthorized transactions.”


Yes, that’s PR-speak for ueSay achdevaSay.

Koss executives intend to amend the Form 10-Q to include the quarterly unaudited financial statements as soon as possible after Koss Corp. completes restating statements from previous quarters in fiscal 2008, fiscal 2009 and the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2009, the company said. The company said it expects to file amended financial reports with the SEC no later than June 30.

But there’s nothing to be worried about because the company declared a dividend and secured an $8 million credit facility with JP Morgan. Progress!

Koss declares dividend, but yet to report results [Milwaukee Business Journal]
10-Q [SEC.gov]
8-K [SEC.gov]

You Can Forget About Landing That CFO Position at the SEC

Mary Schapiro took some time out of her fraud fighting Friday to ask Kenneth Johnson to quit acting as the Commission’s CFO and to take on the official responsibility of running the Office of Financial Management.

Mr Johnson (KenJo?) vehemently accepted the offer and threw in a shout out to the boss, “I’m honored to accept this new role at such an important time for the agency. Chairman Schapiro is deeply committed to strong financial management, and I’m proud to lead the agency’s initiatives in this area.”


Presumably, the CFO position isn’t a kicking-down-doors type job so Johnson’s first order of business should be to determine the savings on a group rate at one porn site that can appropriate service all tastes.

Washington, D.C., May 21, 2010 — Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary L. Schapiro today announced that Kenneth A. Johnson has been named Chief Financial Officer for the agency.

Mr. Johnson has been serving as acting CFO for much of the past year. The agency’s CFO is responsible for leading its Office of Financial Management, which handles the budget, finance, and accounting operations for the SEC.

“I’m delighted that Ken has agreed to take on this role at the SEC,” said Chairman Schapiro. “His deep experience in the financial arena will be incredibly valuable as we grow as an agency.”

Mr. Johnson added, “I’m honored to accept this new role at such an important time for the agency. Chairman Schapiro is deeply committed to strong financial management, and I’m proud to lead the agency’s initiatives in this area.”

Mr. Johnson, 37, joined the SEC in 2003 as a Management Analyst in the Office of the Executive Director. In that role, he advised on all aspects of the budget process, developed strategy initiatives, and responded to inquiries from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress regarding the SEC’s budget and financial operations. He became Chief Management Analyst in 2006.

Mr. Johnson has served as a valuable staff expert on legislative proposals, and he managed the development of the SEC’s long-range Strategic Plan that would guide agency policy through 2015.

Prior to joining the SEC staff, Mr. Johnson worked as a Commerce Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His primary responsibility in that role was to analyze and report on the budgetary effects of committee-approved legislation.

Mr. Johnson earned his Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and earned his BA at Stanford University.

Details We’d Like to See in Stephen Chipman’s Blog: Partners with Self-assigned Nicknames

We enjoy Stephen Chipman’s blog as much as any casual reader inside of Grant Thornton but he often leaves us wanting more. He talks about New York, Chicago, Atlanta, London, China (God, he loves talking about China) but sometimes we’d like to know what some of the smaller offices have going for themselves.

We know what’s going on in Honolulu, Greensboro, and Madison but what about Grant Thornton Salt Lake City? Or Oklahoma City? What’s going there, Steve-o?


Fortunately, we stumbled upon a little blog that tells us about not one, but 25 things about GT’s Phoenix office. As you might expect, the office gets a place on a “Best Places” list and most of the information shared is about the volunteering the firm does in the local community or raising awareness about [insert major problem, e.g. Americans are fat and don’t exercise] which is really nice.

As much as we like – nay – love nice, we know that similar efforts are made in other offices so we’re craving something local, something unique, something that makes you say, that sums up Grant Thornton Phoenix.

Luckily, they did just that by way of an 80s slapstick comedy that some of you young GTers have probably never seen (and frankly, we don’t really remember either):

Grant Thornton tapped three friends and partners, who called themselves the “3 Amigos,” to start the Phoenix office. Ed O’Brien, Brad Preber and Ken Garrett were serving clients out of different Grant Thornton offices. Each had a unique specialized expertise – O’Brien in audit, Preber in consulting and Garrett in tax.

Mr Preber is also a tournament champion fly fisherman so we picture him as a hunky Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It type but the rest of the amigos are a blank.

25 Things You Didn’t Know About…Grant Thornton LLP [HMA Time]

Getting Regular Sex in Denmark May Have Cost Søren Hansen About $2.6 Million

Back in March we told you about non-Phil/Tiger golfer Søren Hansen, who was looking at jail time for dodging about 10 million kroner in taxes.

He managed to avoid the Danish joint but a judge did order him to pay 8 million in back taxes and an additional 8 million in fines. This works out to $2.6 million which is around what Tiger Woods spends on hookers in a weekend. So in other words – a chunk.


Hansen maintained throughout the ordeal that he was not a resident of Denmark because he changed his residence to Monaco in 1999 (it’s on his Wikipedia page for crissakes! What’s it going to take?!?) and thus not subject to the tax. The judge didn’t buy it because “he used his summerhouse in Hornbæk for residential purposes, as well as stayed over in his girlfriend’s Copenhagen apartment regularly.”

Obviously Hansen could have moved his g/f to Monaco to avoid all the trips back but that would have put a serious damper on the Monaco tail situation.

Golfer hit for 16 million kroner [Copenhagen Post]

You Can Forget That Deal on the Estate Tax

Yes, the brain trust known as the U.S. Senate has managed to prolong the agony on the estate tax. There was a deal on the table as of yesterday but you can forget it! Hard to believe this could happen. Was it a fundamental disagreement on the proposal? Was it because everyone was broken up that Arlen Specter?


No, it’s mostly because some people (the R’s) don’t like that other people (the D’s) are being fraidy cats about not having enough votes:

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the accord, which was all but forged a week ago, began to dissolve Monday night and broke down Tuesday after talks between leaders in both parties.

After talks with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), they scrapped a plan to move forward with the tax that expired at the end of 2009.

The reasoning, Kyl said, is that Senate Democrats aren’t allowing any legislation to reach the floor that doesn’t have support from the majority of its members.

“We no longer have an agreement because the Democratic side has decided that unless a matter has a guaranteed majority of Democratic votes going in, they’re not going to allow it on the floor, at least not voluntarily,” he said. “So we have to find a way to get a reasonable permanent estate tax reform to the floor where members can vote on it.”

For crissakes. This is this biggest case of “I’m taking my ball and GOING HOME” we’ve seen this week.

Joe Kristan does put the whole thing in perspective however, “Congress has been botching the estate tax for almost ten years now; why should they start getting anything right now?”

Kyl: Senate deal off on estate tax [On the Money/The Hill via TaxProf]
Estate Tax Deal? Not so Fast [Tax Update Blog]

Despite Being a ‘Wreck of a Man,’ Allen Stanford Managed to Fire Another Attorney

Things are not going so well for the Stan as he awaits trial in H-town.

For starters, he managed to fire another lawyer, which is not going to go over well with Judge David Hittner. Judge Hittner warned Stan about his Steinbrenner-ish ways last month, “You’ve had 10 attorneys attempt to enter this case on your behalf. I will not entertain any further substitutions.”

And secondly, Al doesn’t seem to be very good at making friends:

When Mr. Stanford surrendered to authorities, he was a healthy 59-year-old man,” Stanford’s Houston-based lawyer, Robert Bennett, wrote in a brief on which Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz consulted.

“Mr. Stanford’s pretrial incarceration has reduced him to a wreck of a man: he has suffered potentially life-impairing illnesses; he has been so savagely beaten that he has lost all feeling in the right side of his face and has lost near-field vision in his right eye,” Bennett said.

Naturally, AS’s lawyers want him out and placed on house arrest ASAP since his trial doesn’t start until January but so far no one is convinced that Al won’t bolt the second he gets outside the prison walls.

“Savagely beaten” Stanford asks to be freed [Reuters]

Just to Clear It Up: Grant Thornton Is an Accounting Firm Not a Law Firm

We stumbled upon this letter recently that appears to indicate that there was some confusion between the Grant Thornton Atlanta office and a Judge in Florida about what kind of services GT provides.

GT Atlanta


So it appears Mr Bowles has a little bit of responsibility here since he admits, “I did not submit a written request to appear as an other qualified representative in the form specified in [rule] which would have triggered a specific determination by you about my qualifications to go forward.” The lengthy explanation that follows kinda sorta indicates that maybe, he feels like this was his bad that the mistake got made. If you disagree and would like to blame the judge, fire away.

That being said, we figured that GT had enough of a reputation as an accounting firm to be recognized as such with little or no investigation. Apparently that is not the case. We left messages with both Judge Holified and Mr Bowles to get an explanation but so far neither of them have returned our calls.

In Washington State, a Kit-Kat Bar is Not Considered Candy for Sales Tax Purposes

[caption id="attachment_10643" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Not candy"][/caption]

Listen up people. Since many of you regularly get either your breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, pre-midafternoon snack, afternoon snack, pre-leaving work snack or – during busy season – your dinner out of a vending machine this could be cause for concern.

States are strapped for cash so t��������������������ve you joy is a logical and effective conclusion. Accordingly, sweets, sodas, booze, cigarettes, strippers are all fair game. Some of these are old hat (e.g. booze, cigs) and some are becoming more popular (e.g. candy, soda). Washington state is rolling out its candy tax on June 1, 2010 and as you might have guessed, it’s not nearly as simple as you would think. There are many questions.


First off, candy needs a definition, so Department of Revenue de Washington presents its version:

“Candy” means a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces. Candy does not include any preparation containing flour. Candy does not require refrigeration.

OFTLOG. Couldn’t it just boil down to: “Anything handed out on Halloween”? But wait, the questions get better:

Are bags of trail mix containing small amounts of candy subject to sales tax?
No, trail mix is not considered to be candy if it contains only small amounts of chocolate chips or other candy.

Are sweetened breakfast cereals considered candy if they do not list flour as an ingredient?
No. Breakfast cereals are non-taxable food, even if they are sweetened and do not list flour as an ingredient.

What about prepackaged combination packs of candy? I sell bags of mixed candy bars for one, non-itemized price. Some of the bars contain flour, while others meet the definition of candy. Do I collect sales tax on the bags of candy?
The sale of the bags of candy represents a bundled transaction. See RCW 82.08.190 for more information on bundled transactions. Because one of the items in this bundled transaction is subject to sales tax, the entire bundle of products is subject to sales tax. See RCW 82.08.195 for more information.

However, you can exempt the bundled transaction from sales tax if you demonstrate that the purchase price or sales price for the taxable candy is 50% percent or less of the total purchase price or sales price of the bundled food products. See RCW 82.08.190(4) for information about how this 50% exception works.

Are nicotine gum and analgesic gum candy?
They are not candy, but they are subject to sales tax because they are over-the-counter drugs. Over-the-counter drugs refer to any drug sold with a label that identifies the product as a drug and includes either of the following:

A “drug facts” panel; or
A statement of the “active ingredient(s)” with a list of those ingredients contained in the compound, substance, or preparation.

Nicotine gum and analgesic gum (gums containing aspirin) meet the description above and should be treated as taxable over-the-counter drugs unless purchased with a prescription. See RCW 82.08.0281 for more information regarding over-the-counter drugs.

How are products in the baking aisle treated?
Below is information on selected baking aisle products [we’re skipping the table but fact that there is a table to explain the candy/non-candieness of the baking aisle is ridiculous]

Are fruit snacks such as fruit roll-ups and fruit leathers subject to sales tax as candy?
Fruit roll-ups and fruit leathers are subject to sales tax if they contain any sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners and do not contain flour or require refrigeration. The fruit added to such item is not considered a sweetener (fruit is not intended to refer to concentrated fruit juices).

Are sweetened dried fruits candy?
Yes, dried fruits are candy when they are sweetened with natural or artificial sweeteners. This is true whether the product is sold prepackaged or in a bulk bin, by weight. Unsweetened fruits are not candy.

Is halvah candy?
Halvah is a confection usually made from crushed sesame seeds and honey, but in some instances may be made with grain based ingredients. It has been a traditional dessert in India, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans. Halvah that is based on nut butters (or seeds) and contains no flour is candy. Halvah that is flour-based is not candy. You should read the ingredient label if you are unsure.

Are energy bars and protein bars candy?
Energy bars and protein bars that contain no flour and require no refrigeration are taxable as candy. Bars that contain flour or require refrigeration are not candy.

Are cough drops subject to sales tax as candy?
Cough drops are not taxable as candy if they have either:

A “drug facts” panel; or
A statement of the “active ingredient(s)” with a list of those ingredients contained in the compound, substance, or preparation.

In such situation, the cough drops represent over-the-counter drugs. These cough drops are subject to sales tax unless purchased with a prescription. See RCW 82.08.0281 for more information regarding over-the-counter drugs.

Cough drops that do not have either of the above are candy.

Some takeaways: 1) Careful with the trail mix that has lots of M&Ms, it could possibly be taxable 2) Lucky Charms, et al. are safe 3) If anything has the word “gum” in it, it’s up for debate (e.g. Nicotine gum). Strangely enough, condom gum, edible undies, etc. is not mentioned 4) Fruit Roll-ups, energy bars, halvah and cough drops are all in the gray area.

And in case that doesn’t clear it up, there’s an entire spreadsheet that you can refer to (file below) but no, a Kit-Kat bar is not considered candy. Neither is a Milky Way. Got it?

Quick Tax Quiz: When Is a Candy Bar Not a Candy Bar? [Tax Policy Blog]
Washington State Candy List

Now That Busy Season Is Long Over, Are You Still Killing Yourself for the Sake of Productivity?

Many of you and your fellow accountants are doing more with less these days. Your company has had cutbacks, people have bolted for (presumably) greener cube farms and you’re left to do the heavy lifting. You’re miserable but dammit, you’re not happy unless you’re unhappy, amiright?!?

Besides, you’re doing an awesome job, as Tony Schwartz writes at the Harvard Business Review blog The Conversation, “Americans are working 10 percent fewer total hours than they did before the recession, due to layoffs and shortened workdays, but we’re producing nearly as many goods and services as we did back in the full employment days of 2007.”

He cites AG’s archenemies Ben Bernanke as saying these are “extraordinary” gains in productivity by you, the American worker.

Except there’s one small problem with this, Mr Schwartz notes:

[I]t’s called fear. If colleagues around us are being laid off and cut back, we can’t help worrying that our jobs may be next. Our survival instincts kick in, and we push ourselves harder, so we’re not the next one to go. We get more done, which sounds like good news and certainly explains higher productivity…

…Americans already put in more hours than workers in any country in the world – and that doesn’t include the uncounted shadow work that technology makes possible after the regular workday ends.

Here’s the bigger point. Just as you’ll eventually go broke if you make constant withdrawals from your bank account without offsetting deposits, you will also ultimately burn yourself out if you spend too much energy too continuously at work without sufficient renewal.

Sound familiar to anyone? No one really thinks that you’re working like a mad(wo)man because you love your spreadsheets that much. You know what? Try giving the shit a rest. You can ask E&Y; they’ll tell you. Mr Schwartz mentions “A comprehensive study by Ernst & Young showed that the longer the vacation their employees took, the better they performed.” There it is! One of your own has proof that you’re better employees if you took a break.

Whether E&Y has translated these findings into mandatory vacation for its employees is unclear. Regardless, there are those hopeless souls who consider their presence indispensable and simply won’t take time off to recharge or – God forbid – enjoy doing anything besides working. Sigh. Unfortch, As long as face time (i.e. the billable hour) rules then this will likely continue, unless TPTB wake up. “Stop measuring your people by the hours they put in, and focus instead on the value they produce.”

The Productivity Myth [The Conversation/HBR]

Five Questions with the Tax Prof

We’re happy that Paul Caron was able to squeeze a little time in to answer our questions this week. Between April 15th, finals and keeping a regular posting schedule at TaxProf Blog, we’re honored that he took the time to humor us.

After all, the man has been on the Accounting Today’s Most Influential People four years in a row. Not exactly a lightweight.

That being said, since AT’s list isn’t a ranking, it’s difficult to say just how influential Paul is. But we are certain that he carries more favor with the tax and accounting community than, say, Charlie Rangel.

In addition to his star power in the tax community, he is Associate Dean of Faculty and Charles Hartsock Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.


Why do you blog?
I often ask myself that question…Part of the answer is to help create a virtual community of tax professionals (tax lawyers, accountants, students).

How long have you been blogging?
Since (appropriately for a tax blog) April 15, 2004.

If someone had to read just one post of yours which one would it be?
My annual post analyzing presidential tax returns.

What is the biggest benefit you’ve gotten from starting your blog?
Getting to know a variety of tax folks. I’ve written 5 books; over 30 articles; Been cited over 350 times; Been downloaded over 10,000 times; had almost 10 million visitors to my blog. So I guess my blog trumps everything else I’ve done professionally. I’m pretty sure that the first sentence of my obituary will mention my blog, not any of the books or articles that I’ve written.

If you are a tax blogger you must…
Not need sleep.

The BNY Mellon CFO Isn’t Mad at Andrew Cuomo…

…just disappointed about Andy getting all sue-y over BNY Mellon’s Ivy Asset Management’s involvement with Berns Madoff, which will result in more money going to – SHOCK – lawyers.

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.’s (BK) Chief Financial Officer Todd Gibbons told investors Wednesday that the company is “a bit disappointed” about the New York Attorney General’s decision to file a law suit against the bank related to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi-scheme.

But as a result of the suit, and the current environment more broadly, legal cost are expected to run higher, the CFO said at UBS AG’s (UBS) Global Financial Services Conference in New York.

The TIGTA’s Nagging of the IRS Delves into Phone Etiquette

In case you’re not up to speed on the federal bureaucracy org chart, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s expressed purpose is to tell the IRS what it is they suck at doing and what they can do to quit sucking at it.

The latest bad report card for the IRS is that of protecting the identity of taxpayers who call the Service for help. The epic fail is due to customer reps not being inquisitive enough when identifying callers and not their inability to use their inside voices. The TIGTA presents its displeasure with the phone “assistors” in its latest report:

From our statistical sample of 180 contact recordings, we determined that assistors did not properly follow procedures when authenticating 29 (16 percent) callers, increasing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. Based on these results, the projected number of callers with increased risk of unauthorized disclosures is 44,067 for 1 week.

So, you figure 2.2 million unauthorized disclosures a year. Maybe that’s a legitimate concern but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that bad? If you consider the fact that 22.4 million people aren’t even getting help, that seems like a pretty good number. Regardless of our realistic standards, the TIGTA has more harping to do:

During our review of 48 (27 percent) of the 180 sampled calls, we were able to overhear other assistors discussing other callers’ Personally Identifiable Information. For 10 calls (6 percent), we were able to clearly hear parts of conversations with other callers. For 38 calls (21 percent), other assistors’ interactions with callers were overheard, but we could not clearly understand the conversations. This happened because assistors did not put callers on hold when they were researching the taxpayers’ accounts. Also, the physical layout of employee workstations at call centers allows other conversations to be easily overheard.

So in this particular case it sounds like the IRS has two choices 1) force everybody to become low talkers or 2) spring for a larger cube farm so people aren’t up in each other’s shit.

The real question her is, can we realistically expect an error rate of zero from the IRS? When did “good enough for government work” no longer apply?

Telephone Authentication Practices Need Improvements to Better Prevent Unauthorized Disclosures [TIGTA via TaxProf]

Fire at Grant Thornton Boston

May 11, 2010 – The Boston office was evacuated due to a fire in the building. All Grant Thornton employees appear to have been evacuated safely.

Sure enough, we tried calling Beantown and we were automatically re-routed to GT New York. If you’ve got details, get in touch.

Grant Thornton Saying Aloha to Honolulu Office

Over the weekend we learned that Grant Thornton was pulling up the stakes in Hawaii. According to our sources, the partners of the Honolulu office will be purchasing the business from GT and joining Pannell Kerr Forster, and international network of independently owned firms (U.S. locations).


GT Honolulu has approximately 60 professionals and according to one source familiar with the situation, all will be retained after the transaction According to our source, Doreen Griffith, the Honolulu Office Managing Partner will be moving to the San Francisco office to lead the tax practice there while Patrick Oki, an assurance partner will head up the new PKF office.

Our source told us that the reaction of the GTers was that of surprise but not upset, “I would say that employees are very happy but shocked.”

Grant Thornton’s disposal of this office follows the closure of its Madison, Wisconsin office, announced just last month and the Greensboro office that we reported on back in February. Several sources have speculated that Grant Thornton is moving out of smaller markets to focus business opportunities in larger markets.

Despite these moves, none of them had been previously mentioned on either of the the firm-wide calls held by Grant Thornton CEO Stephen Chipman held this year.

PKF North America’s President & CEO, Terry Snyder spoke with us briefly about the transaction, confirming that the partners in Honolulu were taking over the business from Grant Thornton and that Mr Oki “was the man to speak to.” He declined to comment on GT exiting the Honolulu market.

Messages left with Patrick Oki, Doreen Griffith and Grant Thronton’s national PR team were not returned. Emails to both Mr Oki and Ms Griffith were not returned.

If you have information on this transition in Honolulu, you can drop us a line at tips@goingconcern.com.

Small Business Still Not Showing Signs of Life

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

Don’t look for small businesses to lead the economic recovery.

The monthly reading from the National Federation of Independent Business Index of Small Business Optimism clearly shows little optimism among small business.


Sure, nine of the 10 components that comprise the index rose from the prior month.

However, some of the critical factors that would indicate whether small business owners plan to invest in their firms did not show encouraging results. The NFIB’s job measures barely moved and capital expenditure plans were flat.

More specifically, according to the survey average employment per firm was negative in April. What’s more, since July 2008 employment per firm has fallen steadily each quarter, logging the largest reductions in the survey’s 35-year history.

If small business is key to job growth – as some pundits think – then this does not bode well for our economy.

And the jobs small businesses create are not exactly great ones. They are more likely to come without benefits and less time off for vacation.

Meanwhile, the Index does not suggest that small businesses will be investing heavily in non-personnel. It noted that plans to make capital expenditures over the next few months were unchanged from the prior month and its reading is only slightly above the 35-year record low.

Yikes!

The survey also noted that small business owners continued to liquidate inventories and weak sales trends gave little reason to order new stock. In fact, more owners plan to reduce stocks than plan new orders, according to the NFIB.

Meanwhile, regular borrowers continued to report difficulties in arranging credit. “Historically weak plans to make capital expenditures, to add to inventory and expand operations also make it clear that many borrowers are simply on the sidelines, waiting for a good reason to make capital outlays and order inventory that requires businesses to take out the usual loans used to support these activities,” the report notes.

Obviously, small businesses are not going to turn this economy around any time soon.

Michel Barnier: EU Is ‘Impatient’ with SEC, FASB Pussyfooting Around on Accounting Standard Convergence

Michel Barnier is certainly doing his damnedest to make a name for himself by virtue of the accounting standards convergence and scrutinizing the role of auditors.

Accountancy Age reports his latest soundbite at a speech in Washington today, telling “leaders” that while their efforts to converge international accounting standards and U.S. GAAP are admirable, that he and the entire continent of Europe are getting sick of the stalling.

“I appreciate that the US authorities have made progress towards convergence, but in the EU, we are getting impatient.”

Apparently Mr Barnier has had enough with this little dance going on between the FASB and the SEC. The FASB has been punting to the SEC fairly regularly and we’re all aware of the SEC’s tendency for inaction, so maybe Barns figured that a Frenchman calling out Americans on their own turf would help move things along.

Barnier tells US that Europe is “getting impatient” on accounting convergence [Accountancy Age]

Accounting News Roundup: In Defense of Sherrod Brown; Former H&R Block CFO Gets the Parachute; Intuit Snatches Up Medfusion for $91 Mil | 05.11.10

Sen. Sherrod Brown Prods SEC/FASB to Fix Accounting Standards [The Summa]
This is Professor Albrecht’s take on Senator Brown’s amendment SA 3853 to the S. 3217: Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010. The Professor is less concerned about this particular attempt at financial accounting legislation, reasoning that the SEC and the FASB have had plenty of opportunities to fix these issues (e.g. repurchase accounting) and have passed them up.

Given the severity of the problems, and the inability of today’s standard setters to gird their loins and solve the problems, is it appropriate for Congress to pass a law directing the SEC and its standard setter to produce a desired outcome? Absolutely. Accounting standard setting is an inherently political process, as I explained in my popular essay, “Economic Consequences and the Political Nature of Accounting Standard Setting.” Because the SEC has passed on its legislative charge to establish accounting standards that adjudicate between competing economic interests, and because the private standard setters follow their own political agendas when preparing accounting standards, it behooves Congress to step in when things get too far out of whack with national priorities. Such is the case here.

In other words, s— or get off the pot, FASB and SEC. The argument is a fine one, however, if legislation of accounting has to force the FASB’s into action, where does it end? When FAS 157 was being decried as the cause of all our problems, Barney Frank called in Bob Herz, scared the living bejeesus out of him, and got the result he wanted. Is that preferable to this situation? That depends. At the very least, the Sherrod Brown method susceptible to the influences of others while the B. Frank method skips the voting and signing stuff altogether (which has proven tricky in the past).

Former H&R Block CFO gets $620,000 cash in severance [KCBJ]
Becky Shulman (no relation to the Commish, as far as we can tell) is getting $620k for walking away from H&RB along with automatic vesting of 148,725 outstanding stock options. There’s no indication that she is eligible for lifetime complimentary tax prep service.

Intuit to buy Medfusion in $91M deal [SV/SJ Business Journal]
Intuit, owner of QuickBooks, Mint.com, Quicken, etc. has now added Medfusion to its stable, expanding its SaaS holdings. The deal is scheduled to close this July, the 4th Quarter of the company’s fiscal year. CEO Brad Smith, from the press release:

“This transaction expands our software-as-a-service offerings with a solution currently used by more than 30,000 healthcare providers, the vast majority of whom are essentially small businesses. The combination of Medfusion’s industry-leading patient-provider communication solutions and Intuit’s expertise in creating innovative solutions that improve the financial lives of small businesses and consumers, will help us create new solutions that make the clinical, administrative and financial side of healthcare easier for everyone.”

AICPA, Others Ask U.S. Senate to Kindly Keep Their Filthy Mitts Off Accounting Standards

After the wisdom displayed by Senators in the Goldman Sachs hearing a couple weeks ago, it must have become evident to a group of concerned organizations took it upon themselves to voice concern with regard to any elected official that might give consideration to tipping his or her toe into the accounting standard waters.


Enter Son of Ohio, Sherrod Brown (D) who has proposed amendment SA 3853 to the financial regulation reform bill. The amendment would legislate financial reporting standards by forcing companies to “submit reports to the commission under this section record all assets and liabilities of the issuer on the balance sheet of the issuer.”

But don’t worry if you can’t figure out what the value of a liability is because you can just leave it off altogether granted that you don’t mind explaining:

“(i) the nature of the liability and purpose for incurring the liability; (ii) the most likely loss and the maximum loss the issuer may incur from the liability; (iii) whether any other person has recourse against the issuer with respect to the liability and, if so, the conditions under which such recourse may occur; and (iv) whether the issuer has any continuing involvement with an asset financed by the liability or any beneficial interest in the liability.”

While this seems all very well thought out, the CAQ, CFA Institute, AICPA, FEI and a gaggle of others smelled amateur hour and wrote a letter to the old boys in the Senate letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that this pretty much the worst idea they’ve ever heard:

[W]e are concerned with any amendment that would legislate accounting standards, including Brown amendment SA 3853 regarding “Financial Reporting.”

The accounting standards underlying such financial statements derive their legitimacy from the confidence that they are established, interpreted and, when necessary, modified based on independent, objective considerations that focus on the needs and demands of investors – the primary users of financial statements.

We believe political influences that dictate one particular outcome for an accounting standard without the benefit of a public due process that considers the views of investors and other stakeholders would have adverse impacts on investor confidence and the quality of financial reporting, which are of critical importance to the successful operation of the U.S. capital markets.

So in other words, Sherrod Brown, you can suck it. The FASB might not be hottest piece of ass around but by GOD, it’s what we’ve got. And we’ll be damned if you’re going to propose your hocus pocus American people Main St. financial statement Act.

Accounting Groups Object to Brown Amendment [Web CPA]
Standard_setter_independence_letter_to_Senate

For Everyone in North Jersey, Mass and Rhode Island That Squandered the Last Four Weeks Away, Your Tax Deadline Is Tomorrow

If you were (un)lucky enough to live in one of the flood ravaged counties in North Jersey, Mass, or the entire Ocean State, hopefully you remembered that your extended period of procrastination ends tomorrow.


Yes, unfortunately the last four weeks have flown by and we’re sure that some of you have managed to piss away this time not preparing your tax return. Do yourself a favor and file the extension. You’re hopeless.

Relax, here’s the form.

Today in Accountants Making Bad Decisions: Tweeting That You’re Going to Blow Up an Airport

When an airport is closed due to inclement weather, most people just shrug and realize that there’s nothing they can do about it. Oh sure, there might be a few lunatics who will yell at the ticket agent because they’ve somehow concluded that they have the ability to ring up the Almighty and put in a rush order of clearing skies but most people have the self control to internalize this.


In the case of Paul Chambers, an accountant in the UK, it wasn’t so much a ticket agent but his Twitter followers who heard his frustration. Chamber was understandably concerned that he wasn’t going to get laid due to Robin Hood Airport being closed this past January after a snowstorm. Chambers claimed that he Tweeted the following…

“C—! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your sh– together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

…out of frustration because he was scheduled to fly to Belfast to meet Crazy Colours, whom he had met on Twitter. Prior to the C U Next Tuesday message, he had Tweeted to Crazy Colours, “I was thinking that if it does I’ve decided that I’m going to resort to terrorism,” presumably referring to another snowstorm that could potentially delay is upcoming travels.

Anyhoo, the Tweet was discovered by a Robin Hood Airport employee who was compelled to report the threat to authorities. Naturally this led to seven hours of questioning, the loss of his job, and a ban from the airport for life (later rescinded).

The judge ruled that the Tweet was ”of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live.” Chambers was fined approximately $1,500 and naturally, took to the Twittersphere with his thoughts on the matter:

Accountant used Twitter to threaten to blow up airport [Telegraph]
Briton Convicted for ‘Menacing’ Tweet Against Robin Hood Airport [The Lede/NYT]

Apparently PwC Partners Aren’t Eligible for Anti-Bullying Protection

When you become a partner at a Big 4 firm, the culture rewards you with certain privileges. Some of these include: 1) the ability to strut out the door before 5 pm and no one gives you the stink eye; 2) stealing food out of the fridge without fear of retribution; 3) “Black” Starbucks cards; 4) private bathrooms that blast “You’re the Best” when you walk in the door, among others.

Unfortunately, it turns out that sometimes you lose some privileges when you take seat at the big table.

We previously mentioned Colin Tenner, who is suing PricewaterhouseCoopers for disability discrimination, alleging that he was fired after taking time off due to depression and anxiety. His suffering was caused, he claims, by a client bullying him (e.g. taking his lunch money, using emails as TP and returning them) and PwC’s mishandling of the situation.

His fellow partners weren’t buying it, claiming that he was a total wuss, “partners simply do not get sick” and possibly just faking it.


At first, we thought this sounded a little harsh but the Times Online is now reporting that there is a perfectly good explanation for partners’ reaction. They had a policy to back them up:

Mr Tenner, 45, said that a junior member of his team had raised a formal complaint against the same individual, which was investigated by PwC.

Although he complained about his treatment from the individual on several occasions over six months and had asked PwC to implement specific procedures in its anti-bullying policy, “nothing was done”, it is alleged.

Instead, Mr Tenner said, several senior managers told him that he was not protected by the anti-bullying policy because he was a partner.

Now this makes sense. Had this been one of P. Dubs’ rank and file, certainly there would have been hell to pay for this type of treatment by a client. But since a partner was involved, they figure your bully tolerance should be at such a keen level that no protection is necessary.

Bullying ‘did not apply’ to PwC partner [Times Online]

(UPDATE) Accounting News Roundup: Europe’s $1 Trillion Deal; PwC Gets Some Action in Dubai; The Longest Auditor-Client Relationships | 05.10.10

EU Crafts $962 Billion Show of Force to Halt Euro Crisis [Bloomberg]
With the Euro under pressure, the European Central Bank has hatched a plan to “offer financial assistance worth as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion) to countries under attack from speculators.” EU countries are chipping in 440 billion in loans, the EU’s budget throws in 60 billion, and 250 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

The funds will be available to those countries that experience a financial crisis similar to Greece. Portugal and Spain have debt to GDP ratios of 8.5% and 9.8% respectively, exceeding the EU’s mandated limit of 3%. package approved last week, receiving 110 billion euros “after agreeing to unprecedented austerity measures,” triggering riots in the country.


Dubai Holding Hires Debt Advisers [WSJ]
Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, a part of Dubai Holding (not to be confused with fellow Dubai conglomerate Dubai World) has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to help them with a teenie debt restructuring project. DH’s debt issues come about after Dubai World is still working to restructure the $14 billion in outstanding debt that it has with its creditors after a slight panic late last year.

UPDATE: KPMG and Deloitte are getting in on the fun as well, as the Financial Times reports that they have been engaged to advise Dubai Group and Dubai International Capital, respectively.

You Complete My Audit [CFO]
Had your auditor for awhile? If you want to crack the top 100 of longest auditor-client relationship, you’d have to be putting up with the same firm for over 50 years. According to the CFO’s analysis of Audit Analytics data, the longest auditor-client relationship belongs to Deloitte and Proctor & Gamble who have been together since 1890. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ longest relationship is with Goodyear Tire & Rubber, starting in 1898; Ernst & Young with Manulife Financial, 1905; KPMG and General Electric go back to 1909.

Of the 100 companies that have stuck with their auditors the longest, 97 of those companies were with Big 4 firms:
• PricewaterhouseCoopers – 34
• E&Y – 25
• Deloitte – 24
• KPMG – 14

Straight Talk about Brutality of White Collar Crime from a Convicted Felon [White Collar Fraud]
GC friend and forensic sleuth Sam Antar recently had some a two part interview produced that from his recent speaking presentations at Stanford Law and Business Schools. Part one is below and you can see part two over at WCF.

Who Is Doing the Tax Revenue Projections for the State of California?

Because they’re not doing such a bang up job:

State tax collections plummeted unexpectedly in April, wiping out months of steady gains that legislators hoped would ease their budget troubles and restore California’s economy faster than experts predicted.

Revenue for April, the biggest revenue month because it is when most Californians pay their taxes, lagged projections by nearly 30% — roughly $3 billion, according to state officials. The drop was steep enough to erase improvements recorded in each of the four previous months.


Just when you thought state fiscal crises couldn’t get more out of control. That’s way to big to be a fat finger error.

This makes the projected budget deficit approximately $18.6 billion, according to the L.A. Times. California’s lawmakers have to come up with a solution soon, as the state’s fiscal year ends next month. But hey, they pulled a rabbit out of their ass last year, why not try for a repeat?

With this new bar in state fiscal nightmare hilarity, the only question now is – how can New York top it?

Job of the Day: Fannie Mae Needs a Senior Accountant

Fannie Mae is looking for an Senior Accountant – Debt, Derivatives in their Washington, DC/Metro location.

The position requires a minimum of six years experience, with exposure to FASB 52, 91, 133, 155, 157, 159 a plus.


Company: Fannie Mae

Title: Sr. Accountant – Debt, Derivatives

Location: Washington, DC/Metro

Description: Operate with considerable latitude in performing highly complex duties related to preparing and analyzing financial information to record transactions, prepare financial reports, and review and verify accuracy. Provide value-added expertise to consultants, auditors, and others in development of new concepts, techniques, and standards. Utilize wide-ranging experience to conduct research and problem-solving. May operate in a lead role within the team.

Responsibilities: Compile, review, analyze, and record financial information to the general ledger; Complete monthly closings; Prepare balance sheet and profit and loss statements, consolidated financial statements, and other accounting schedules and reports; Prepare daily, weekly, and monthly reconciliations to ensure general ledger account information is accurate, consistent, traceable, and auditable; Execute and manage timely and accurate transactions; Identify control weaknesses, communicate to management, and operate in a lead capacity in making remedial changes to tighten and enhance controls and mitigate risk; Design and produce reports; Conduct research and analyses on highly complex issues. Devise creative and effective solutions; Provide requested information to auditors, consultants, and others on highly significant matters requiring coordination; Design, modify, install, and/or maintain accounting systems to ensure adequate recognition of financial transactions; May perform highly complex projects or participate as a team member on projects at the highest level of complexity.

Qualifications/Skills: Bachelor’s Degree or Equivalent required; 6-8 years; CPA preferred; Knowledge of financial instruments (debt, derivatives, short term investments) and/or familiarity with financial statements of financial services companies; Knowledge of any of FASB 52, 91, 133, 155, 157, 159 a plus.

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

Accounting News Roundup: Times Square Gets Back to the Grind After Bomb Scare; Down with the Corporate Income Tax; The Politics of Spending | 05.07.10

Times Square Goes Back to Work After Bomb Scare [FINS]
FINS checked in with several companies who have locations in the Times Square area to see if things are back to normal after last weekend’s failed bombing. Most companies are officially mum on the issue including our favorite TS resident, Ernst & Young, who was quoted as to have, “reached out [to their employees] on an informal basis.”

And by “informal” apparently that means “nothing” in some cases We checked with a couple of our own sources at E&Y and we were told that they had not received any communication at all. If there’s an email floating around out there, let us know but it sounds like any reassurance of safety was passed around on a post-it note.


A.I.G. Said to Dismiss Goldman [NYT]
Back in the game AIG! Thanks for the good times GS, Citigroup and Bank of America will take it from here. All it took was a little money for AIG to realize that they were in an abusive relationship.

Time to Junk the Corporate Tax [WSJ]
Michael Boskin argues for dumping the corporate income tax in an op-ed in yesterday’s Journal, citing several reasons that it sucks big time including double taxation, “Corporate income is taxed a second time at the personal level as dividends or those capital gains attributable to reinvestment of the retained earnings of the corporation. Between the new taxes in the health reform law and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, these rates are soon set to explode.”

…And that stakeholders ultimately bear this cost, “the corporation is a legal entity; only people pay taxes. In a static economy with no international trade, the tax is likely borne by shareholders. The U.S. economy is neither static nor closed to trade, and taxes tend to be borne by the least mobile factor of production. Capital is much more mobile globally than labor, and the part of the corporate tax that is well above that of our lowest tax competitors will eventually be borne by workers.”

The Political Economy of Consumption: ‘Tis Better To Give, and Give, and Give [Tax Vox]
This sums up why America’s deficit problems and citizens personal debt problems will never be fixed:

Not to stereotype, but nations do have personalities. Italians eat. Russians drink. Americans spend. And when anything—or anyone—gets between us and our consumption, watch out.

Recessions make us grumpy in part because we can’t consume as much as we like. In the depths of the current downturn, the savings rate in the U.S. topped 5 percent. But retail sales have been rising since October, and the savings rate has fallen in half. I suspect Americans won’t really feel better until we drive our savings rate back to zero.

Accordingly, politicians have to pander to masses about “cutting taxes” and “reducing spending” when it’s very simple and popular to the do the former, while in reality it’s very difficult and unpopular to do the latter.

While the World Implodes, Let’s Bicker About Accounting Program Rankings

Despite your 401k taking a deuce and the entire continent of Europe about to sink into the Atlantic, the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School undergraduate speciality rankings are out and the accounting rankings are, shall we say, interesting. Maybe no one is that worried about it but if sports play any part in your like/dislike of a particular school, then there should be a few words:

1 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)
2 Brigham Young University (Marriott)
3 Emory University (Goizueta)
4 University of North Carolina – Chgler)
5 Wake Forest University
6 Lehigh University
7 Boston College (Carroll)
8 University of California – Berkeley (Haas)
9 University of San Diego
10 Southern Methodist University (Cox)


11 Babson College
12 University of Washington (Foster)
13 University of Richmond (Robins)
14 Villanova University
15 Case Western Reserve University (Weatherhead)
16 University of Texas – Austin (McCombs)
17 University of Virginia (McIntire)
18 Cornell University
19 College of William & Mary (Mason)
20 New York University (Stern)
21 University of Southern California (Marshall)
22 Tulane University (Freeman)
23 Fordham University
24 Georgia Institute of Technology
25 Loyola University – Chicago
26 University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
27 Ohio University
27 University of Denver (Daniels)
29 University of Texas – Dallas
30 University of South Carolina (Moore)
31 University of Connecticut
32 Boston University
33 Santa Clara University
34 University of Maryland (Smith)
35 Indiana University (Kelley)
36 Syracuse University (Whitman)
37 Washington University – St. Louis (Olin)
38 Binghamton University
39 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
40 Texas Christian University (Neeley)
41 University of Miami
42 University of Missouri – Columbia (Trulaske)
43 University of Michigan (Ross)
44 North Carolina State University
45 University of Wisconsin – Madison
46 Texas A&M University (Mays)
47 The College of New Jersey
48 University of Minnesota (Carlson)
49 Miami University (Farmer)
50 University of Georgia (Terry)
51 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
52 University of Delaware (Lerner)
53 Ohio Northern University (Dicke)
54 Seattle University (Albers)
55 Northern Illinois University
56 Michigan State University (Broad)
57 Georgetown University (McDonough)
58 California Polytechnic State University (Orfalea)
59 Loyola College in Maryland (Sellinger)
60 University at Buffalo
61 Bentley University
62 DePaul University
63 University of Iowa (Tippie)
64 Drexel University (LeBow)
65 Northeastern University
66 Marquette University
67 St. Joseph’s University (Haub)
68 University of Pittsburgh
69 University of Utah (Eccles)
70 University of Oregon (Lundquist)
71 Seton Hall University (Stillman)
72 Bowling Green State University
73 Kansas State University
74 Colorado State University
75 Louisiana State University (Ourso)
76 Baylor University (Hankamer)
77 University of Oklahoma (Price)
78 University of Colorado – Boulder (Leeds)
79 University of Massachusetts – Amherst (Isenberg)
80 James Madison University
81 George Washington University
82 University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
83 University of Houston (Bauer)
84 Xavier University (Williams)
85 Florida State University
86 John Carroll University (Boler)
87 University of Hawaii (Shidler)
88 Arizona State University (Carey)
89 Florida International University
90 University of Louisville
91 Bryant University
92 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Lally)
93 Purdue University (Krannert)
94 Illinois State University
95 University of Arizona (Eller)
96 Texas Tech University (Rawls)
97 Hofstra University (Zarb)
98 Ohio State University (Fisher)
99 Clemson University
100 University of Florida (Warrington)
101 University of Akron
102 University of Arkansas – Fayetteville (Walton)
103 Butler University
104 University of Nebraska – Lincoln
105 University of Illinois – Chicago
106 University of Central Florida
107 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Pamplin)
108 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)
109 Temple University (Fox)
110 Pennsylvania State University (Smeal)
111 Clarkson University

Apparently Ernst & Young Doesn’t Buy the “C’s Get Degrees” Mantra

We know that lots of you out there are perfectionists, so this could never happen to you but for you mere mortals, you can sympathize a little bit.

Courthouse News Service reports that a class action suit in California has been filed against E&Y claiming that the contracts signed by graduating seniors “compel” them to work for the firm but allow the company “to legally renege or cancel the offer of employment” if the senior does not maintain “continued strong academic standing.” Apparently this means if you slack off your senior year and slip a couple of C’s in there, you could be out on the street.


Yunjung Gribben, 43, is the named plaintiff in the suit and she is seeking damanges for wrongful termination, age discrimination, breach of employment, specific performance and violations of the Labor Code.

Ms. Gribben claims that she graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a 3.6 grade point average but, “After working for Ernst & Young for a month, Gribben says, she got a call from human resources, questioning her about the C’s she got in her senior year. She says she was fired the next days [sic].”

She claims that “continued strong academic standing” was not defined in her contract, although she admits that there is a “hazy reference” to the term on the firm’s website.

Dale Fiola is representing Ms. Gribben and he us, “No student should be under the impression that they have an employment agreement once they graduate. Most of the time when people sign offers of employment they think they’ve got something.”

The suit alleges that other students have cited the “continued strong academic standing” language and in Ms. Gribben case, “younger employees were allowed to stay at the company.”

Ernst & Young spokesman Charlie Perkins had no comment at the time our post was published.

Class Sues Ernst & Young Over Contract [Courthouse News Service]

Accounting News Roundup: Will an International Audit Regulator Become a Reality?; GMAC Shopping for a CFO Candidate; FASB Sued for Antitrust Violations | 05.06.10

Audit chief welcomes debate on international regulator [Accountancy Age]
The idea of an international audit regulator is being kicked around in the EU with about as much seriousness as returning to the moon. That is, it’s absolutely something to be discussed but at this point nobody’s firing up the boosters just yet. IFRS has been proved to be, putting it lightly, a challenge but ever since the Lehman Brothers/E&Y fiasco, reform of the auditing business doesn’t seem far behind.

And while the idea is being entertained, the hurdles to an international regulator sound a little familiar:

Ian Powell, senior partner at PwC UK, said the establishment of an international regulator is “worthy of debate” but believes global consensus among nations may prove difficult.

“Most countries think their regulation is good and it is their system which should be applied – that is going to make it difficult to convince them to give up their system,” he said.

“If you talk to virtually any regulator in any country they do want to see more globalisation of regulation, but the big problem is there are certain political issues that are different in different countries.”

GMAC Said to Consider Ex-Citigroup Banker Yastine as Next CFO [Bloomberg Businessweek]
GMAC is hot on the trail for a new CFO after their last one bolted in March shortly after his TARP testimony. The ward of the state is said to be considering Barbara Yastine, who formerly was the CFO at both Credit Suisse’s and Citigroup’s investment banking groups.

FASB Defendant in Suit Alleging Antitrust Violations and Patent Misappropriation [Silicon Economics, Inc. Press Release]
Silicon Economics, Inc. is suing the FASB, alleging “antitrust violations and with willfully attempting to misappropriate patented technology,” according to the San Jose-based company’s press release.

The lawsuit concerns Silicon Economics’ EarningsPower Accounting™ (EPA™) – a patented method developed by the company to improve the accuracy, validity, and usefulness of financial statements. Silicon Economics recommended the merits of EPA to FASB in response to FASB’s request for public comment on the objectives of financial accounting (No. 1260-001, July 6, 2006). FASB claims that its website terms and conditions gave it ownership of Silicon Economics’ technology, even though such terms were not part of FASB’s invitation for public comment or otherwise disclosed to Silicon Economics.

Accounting Fraud on the Stage Fails: Enron to Close Sunday

After mixed reviews, it seems that no combination of nostalgic accounting fraud, raptors in Brooks Brothers and former President Charles Logan could save Enron the musical.


The play will close Sunday, May 9th after 22 previews and 15 regular performances despite Stephen Kunken’s portrayal of Andy Fastow was nominated for a Tony.

Maybe the producers completely misjudged the interest of theatre-goers on this side of the Atlantic. Enron was a huge success in Britain where accountants get red carpets and trophies.

In the States they get on look at porn, support terrorism (allegedly!) and create awkward videos. There’s a disparity there.

Enron on Broadway to Close Sunday, May 9TH, 2010 [Broadway’s Best Shows]

Accounting News Roundup: Dissecting Overstock.com’s Q1 Earnings; The “Audit the Fed” Drum Still Has a Beat; AMT Patchwork Continues | 05.05.10

Can Investors Rely on Overstock.com’s Reported Q1 2010 Numbers? [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is skeptical (an understatement at best), that Overstock.com’s recently filed first quarter 10-Q is reliable and he starts off by citing their own words (his emphasis):

“As of March 31, 2010, we had not remediated the material weaknesses.”


Material weaknesses notwithstanding, Sam is a little conpany’s first quarter $3.72 million profit that, Sam writes, “was helped in large part by a $3.1 million reduction in its estimated allowance for returns or sales returns reserves when compared to Q1 2009.”

Furthermore, several one-time items helped the company swing from a net loss of nearly $4 million in Q1 of ’09, including nearly $2 million in extinguishment of debt and reduction in legal expenses due to a settlement. All this (and much more) gets Sam to conclude that OSTK’s Q1 earnings are “highly suspect.”

UBS Dividend in Next 2-3 Years ‘Symbolic’: CFO [CNBC]
UBS has fallen on hard times. The IRS, Bradley Birkenfeld, a Toblerone shortage and increased regulation and liquidity requirements have all made life for the Mother of Swiss Banks difficult and CFO John Ryan told CNBC that could hurt their ability to pay their usual robust dividend, “They (capital regulations) are essentially rigorous to the extent that it is unlikely we’ll be able to pay anything other than a very symbolic dividend over the next two or three years,” Cryan said.

While that is a bummer but a “symbolic” dividend is still an improvement over “we’ve recently been informed that the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department will be demanding that we turn over the names of our U.S. clients.”

Effort to expand audits of Fed picks up steam in Senate [WaPo]
Going after the Fed makes for good political theatre (*ahem* Ron Paul) and rhetoric to fire up the torches of the populist masses. The “Audit the Fed” drum continues to be beaten by the likes of Rep. Paul (R-TX) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to much success and Sanders is quoted in the Washington Post as saying “We’re going to get a vote.” Pols want to crack open the books at the Fed to find out what the ugliest of the ugly is inside our Central Bank.

Ben Bernanke isn’t hot on the idea because letting the GAO sniff around may expose the Fed to short-term political pressures. For once AG – not a fan of the Beard per se – sides with BSB. As she said last fall:

It’s right there in the footnotes – pulling out the closest Fed annual report I’ve got (Richmond Fed 2007), both Deloitte and PwC agree that the Fed is a special case in Note 3: Significant Accounting Policies:

“Accounting principles for entities with unique powers and responsibilities of the nation’s central bank have not been formulated by accounting standard-setting bodies.”

The note goes on to explain why government securities held by the Fed are presented at amortized cost instead of GAAP’s fair value presentation because “amortized cost more appropriately reflects the Bank’s securities holdings given the System’s unique responsibility to conduct monetary policy.” Right there, you can see why auditing this thing might be a problem.

This might be one of those “careful what you wish for” scenarios.

Why We’re Going to Keep Patching the AMT—And Why It Will Cost So Much [Tax Vox]
The Alternative Minimum Tax has been a unmitigated failure in the eyes of many tax wonks. Congress has been talking reform in this area for some time and yet, the AMT remains largely unchanged, relying on temporary fixes that could eventually turn into a disaster:

Last year, about 4 million households were hit by the tax, which requires unsuspecting taxpayers to redo their returns without the benefit of many common tax deductions and personal exemptions. That would jump to 28.5 million this year, except for what’s become an annual fix to the levy, which effectively holds the number of AMT victims steady.

Here’s what happens if Washington does not continue that “temporary” adjustment. If Obama gets his wish and extends nearly all of the Bush taxes, the number of households hit by the AMT would soar to more than 53 million by the end of the decade—nearly half of all taxpayers. AMT revenues—about $33 million last year—would triple this year and reach nearly $300 billion by 2020. That is a nearly 10-fold explosion in AMT revenues.

Howard Gleckman argues that the AMT is too big of a political threat to let members of Congress let this sneak by and that the patchwork will continue but that it probably shouldn’t, “The President can assume the AMT will be patched indefinitely, but assuming won’t pay the bills. Unless he is willing to raise other taxes or cut spending to pay for this AMT fix, he’ll have to borrow more than $1 trillion to kick the can down the road for the rest of this decade.”

DOJ: You Bet Your A$$ We’re Going After More Offshore Tax Evaders

It appears that the offshore bank account crackdown tour is going straight through Asia, where DOJ senior tax attorney Kevin Downing gave a speech saying, “We expect over the next couple of years, in addition to the UBS cases, to have somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 more cases coming to us with. These are from banks and governments cooperating.”

Obviously the UBS flogging was such a huge success that the DOJ/IRS figures they might as well keep a good thing going and is making a nice little swing through Asia to give them fair warning that they could be traipsing through their backyard very soon:

Singapore was one stop in a tour of Asian cities also including Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai by Downing and his U.S. Justice Department team. The tour featured meetings with financial and tax regulatory bodies and bankers discussing cross-border tax prosecutions.

He said that since the start of the U.S. crackdown on tax evasion, money has moved from the Caribbean to Switzerland and Asia.

Of course Mr Downing doesn’t want to get ugly saying, “he hoped the U.S. authorities would not have to conduct “UBS-style” probes,” but obviously that option is always on the table.

U.S. to probe thousands more offshore tax evaders [Reuters]

REMEC Court Decision Could Expose Companies to More Accounting Fraud Litigation

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

As if it wasn’t a big enough risk already, CFOs may have to brace themselves for more private litigation over accounting fraud if a court decision on April 21 involving failed telecom equipment maker REMEC serves as precedent. The good news is that plaintiffs will have to show evidence of the executives’ intent in such cases.


Most cases involving accounting are either dismissed because they involve judgment or are settled before they go to trial, Robert Brownlie, a partner in the law firm of DLA Piper who represented the defendants in the REMEC case, told CFOZone last Thursday. The Del Mar, Calif., company filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

One of the largest such cases involved former Lucent executives, whom shareholders charged had defrauded them through improper accounting for goodwill. In that case, shareholders agreed in 2003 to accept a $600 million settlement.

In contrast to the Lucent case, the one filed by shareholders against REMEC’s former CEO, Ronald Ragland, and former CFO, Winston Hickman, was dismissed, though it also rested on charges that they misled investors because they didn’t write off goodwill that was impaired.

But the dismissal was more difficult to achieve than it would otherwise have been, said Brownlie, because the plaintiffs submitted evidence of internal reports and testimony showing that the company was behind schedule on certain objectives and not meeting its internal forecasts. The court said that those reports created a factual issue that should be determined by a jury; the defendants had to show there was no evidence of intent to deceive on the part of management.

“Normally, with matters of opinion or judgment, you either can’t bring a suit or it’s very difficult to do so,” Brownlie said. But he warned that the decision could mean more cases against corporate executives over accounting fraud.

The court dismissed the charges even though the plaintiffs’ accounting experts testified that they would have reached different conclusions than the former executives did.

Brownlie added that his case was helped by evidence of good faith conduct by the defendants, including evidence of transparency between the company and its auditors, disclosures of disappointing results and write-offs of other accounting items during the period of the alleged fraud and the absence of stock sales.

Describing the outcome for CFOs as “both good and bad news,” Brownlie said the decision showed that the critical issue in such cases will be “a connection between claims and evidence.” And he cautioned that in other accounting cases, it’s likely to be harder to defend executives on the basis of intent, which is why he said “there’s a paradox” in the REMEC decision.

Accounting News Roundup: Senate Starts Voting on Financial Reform; Risk Management Succumbs to Risk Intelligence; Six Flags Emerges from Bankruptcy | 05.04.10

Voting begins in Senate on Wall Street reform [Reuters]
The latest partisan bickering effort in Congress will get underway today, although the first votes are not likely to be controversial. The first amendment to Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) 1,600 page epic has been proposed by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and it state “that no taxpayer funds could be used again to bail out financial institutions,” something that anyone up for reelection will likely get behind.

PwC partner Colin Tenner sues over redundancy [Times Online]
Mr Tenner claims that he was let go because of his suffering from depression and anxiety. He claims “mismanagement at PwC and bullying by a client led to him to take sick leave in September 2007. He alleges that he approached PwC in spring 2008 to arrange a phased return to work but says that these discussions broke down, leading to his redundancy.”

Of interest is how the tribunal will decide, “what responsibilities partners at a professional services firm have when one of their number displays signs of stress or becomes mentally ill but wishes to remain in the partnership.” This seems odd primarily because most partners are constantly showing signs of stress and if they’re not, one just assumes they’re mentally ill.


Picower Estate to Pay Billions to Madoff Investors [WSJ]
The estate of Jeffery Picower, a Madoff investor who drowned in his pool last fall, will pay $2 billion to the Madoff trustee in charge of recovering money for investors. This will more than double the $1.5 billion recovered so far.

New Career Path: ‘Risk Intelligence Officer’ [FINS]
Much can be learned from the financial crisis; not least of which is that a lot of companies sucked at managing their risk. Case in point, “risk management” is a prehistoric idea now and one Deloitte principal argues that a “risk intelligence officer” is new sage in this area:

The job of a risk intelligence officer is to assess the organization’s risks and inform business line managers where they need to focus their risk-management efforts.

“They need somebody who can see the big picture and connect the dots,” said [Rick] Funston, who is a principal with Deloitte in Detroit. Deloitte has been encouraging its clients to develop the new role, he said…

Effective risk professionals find a way to discuss systemic failures and take steps to strengthen the organization’s resilience and agility. Part of the job is to understand a company’s vulnerabilities and make it OK to talk about them, institutionalizing the discussion.

Six Flags Emerges From Bankruptcy [Reuters]
Six Flags has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy just in time for summer and now “has more financial flexibility to pursue a shift in strategy toward attracting more families to its amusement parks.” Not sure who an amusement park company would target other than families but it’s nice to see you back in the game, 6F.

Pennsylvania’s Tax Amnesty Ad Will Work on the Most Paranoid of Citizens

Pennsylvania’s tax amnesty program started on April 26th and to help taxpayers get off their non-complying asses, this ad has been introduced to motivate Keystone Staters that owe back taxes.

If this doesn’t get Quaker stoners into compliance, nothing will:


Personally, we would liked to have seen the PA Dept of Rev go the route of PICPA and incorporate Snuggies or breathlessly judgmental friends. Although we understand that scare tactics may be effective, a state must be pretty desperate to run this to get taxpayers motivated.

Btw, Philadelphia’s tax amnesty program started today and, so far, is considerably less Orwellian.

Earlier:
Tax Amnesty Programs: A Gold Mine for States or Bad Policy?

Compensation Watch ’10: GT Reassures Merit Increases, Jury Out on Bonuses

On Friday, Grant Thornton had a firm wide call to discuss several things including layoffs, compensation, and grab-bag questions.

Headcount Reductions – Steve-o believes that the worst is over and that “restructuring efforts are substantially behind us.” If there happens to be additional “headcount transitions” it will be to refine operations or part of the no He went on to say that the people that are GTers now will, “in very large part,” remain GTers. So can we assume the action in Cleveland and Chicago was the last of it?


Compensation: GT seems is making big push towards a “pay for performance” model for its employees which means compensation adjustments will focus on top performers (“5s” in GT world) and market based adjustments (i.e. keeping up the Joneses) won’t be happening. SC cited a downward trend of salaries in the accounting profession based on a survey that GT does with Mercer (sounds convenient) for the phasing out of market adjustments. He said there might be some exceptions to this.

The size of the merit adjustments have not yet been determined because it all depends on how well 1) GT performs through the end of the year and 2) individual performance. Chip said that enough people were belly aching about the old adjustment system that a change was warranted. This will be implemented slightly for this fiscal year (can’t get all Darwin about it 3/4 of the way through the fiscal year) and will be the main methods for next year and going forward.

Bonuses: SC cleared this whole issue up saying that it has not been determined if bonuses will be paid this year. It all depends no the firm’s performance in the final quarter of the fiscal year. He did say that he’s pre-tay, pre-tay, pre-tay optimistic about the firm “being in a position to pay bonuses” but they’re still crunching the numbers so there’s no telling if it will be a mini-windfall, pocket change, or a set of steak knives.

Not to worry though, as the top performers will certainly get something if everything goes well at the firm overall.

This “new” focus on pay for performance seems kind of familiar since all the firms assign rankings to employees (with their own bizarro methodologies) and are paid accordingly. It makes you wonder if those that fall in the meaty part of the GT curve will get such a small adjustment that it will be another twist on the forced ranking trend amongst accounting firms.

Steve-o then shared his general optimism about the direction of the economy and what it means for the firm, a few recent client wins, yada yada yada. He also updated everyone with some very vague details on the firm’s new strategy “Unleashing Our Potential” that will be rolling out in the next fiscal year. Basically all non-partners will have the chance to drop their $0.02 on this strategeroy very soon but other than that we couldn’t tell if the new strategy involved a lunar landing or full-scale assault on financial reporting fraud.

Last but perhaps most importantly, Steve-o admitted to enjoying the Masters very much, however he was quite clear that he was less than thrilled to see KPMG on Phil’s lid. We’re sure it’s nothing personal against Phil but those may be fightin’ words directed straight at Johnny V.

The “Red Flags” Rule is Still Useless for CPAs

In more government bureaucracy news, the FTC is granting a reprieve to CPAs when it comes to a new law that deals with identity theft, one which some CPAs say is useless given professional responsibility.

The new FTC rules requires businesses to “develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs to help identify, detect and respond to patterns, practices or specific activities -– known as ‘red flags’ — that could indicate identity theft.” The problem with that, of course, is that the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct already deals with the issue of identity theft in that there is an iron-clad confidentiality rule by which all CPAs must abide. Seems simple, right?


The US District Court has ordered an FTC delay of the rule for AICPA members in public practice, says the Maryland Association of CPAs. Barry Melancon, AICPA President said in 2009 when the AICPA filed a lawsuit against the FTC, “We do not believe that there is any reasonably foreseeable risk of identity theft when CPA clients are billed for services rendered. As trusted advisors, CPAs are personally acquainted with their clients and already adhere to strict privacy requirements governing identifying information.”

Don’t take it personal, Barry, the FTC is just trying to do its job, even if that means overreaching its authority and attempting to place restrictions on professionals who already go above and beyond the intent of the FTC on a daily basis.

In the meantime – and just in case the rule cannot be delayed indefinitely (as is, implementation has been put off until June 1, 2010) – the AICPA has some guidance for CPAs on creating an identity theft prevention program. Keep in mind the new requirements, if implemented, only affect CPAs who bill their clients on a monthly or revolving basis as it is meant to place additional controls in client billing.

The American Bar Association is also fighting the rule.

Another ‘Red Flags’ delay: CPAs get 90 more days [CPA Success]

Former PwC Senior Manager Charged with Supporting Terrorism

Late on Friday, two men were charged with conspiring to support al-Qaida, including a former senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, according to the AP.

Wesam El-Hanafi a computer engineer, and Sabirhan Hasanoff, the former P. Dub SM, were both in court on Friday after being arrested overseas and returned to the United States from Dubai.

The AP reports that the “vaguely-worded” indictment states that El-Hanafi was instructed by al-Qaida “on operational security measures and directed him to perform tasks for al-Qaida” and that Hasanoff was paid $50,000 by an unnamed co-conspirator and was ordered to perform unspecified tasks for AQ in New York.

The U.S. Attorney was quoted that the two men are accused of helping “to modernize al-Qaida by providing computer systems expertise and other goods and services,” which involved purchasing seven Casio watches (?).

Prosecutors described Hasanoff only as a dual citizen of the United States and Australia who has lived in Brooklyn. Public records show he has a Queens address and is a certified public accountant.

A professional networking site says a Sabir Hasanoff was a senior manager at Pricewaterhouse Coopers who graduated from Baruch College in Manhattan. Pricewaterhouse spokesman Kelly Howard said the accounting firm employed Hasanoff from 2003 to 2006.

This LinkedIn profile shows the details reported by the AP. A call to PwC was not immediately returned.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Hasanoff’s brother and sister-in-law had not spoken to him in 12 years, “No, he was never in trouble. I don’t know what’s happened now. He studied at a private school. Maybe he has changed. I don’t know if he’s a good person or a bad person because we haven’t been connected now for a long time.”

We’re not insinuating that his time at PwC was the reason for his lifestyle change but three years at any Big 4 firm would change anybody. That being said, turning to terrorism is deplorable. Couldn’t he have developed a dependancy problem of some kind instead?

2 men charged in NYC with supporting terror [AP]
2 U.S. men charged with aiding al-Qaida [UPI]
Australian ‘linked’ to al-Qaeda [Sydney Morning Herald]

(UPDATE) Friendly Reminder to TierOne Bank: Today Is the Last Day to Get Your Act Together

Catch up, we covered this on Sunday night: In a bizarre piece of auditing news released late on a Sunday night, KPMG has verbally resigned as Nebraska-based TierOne Bank’s independent auditor, withdrawn its audit opinion for 2008 and taken back its review of TierOne’s financials for the quarter ended March 31, 2009. Citing risk of material misstatement, KPMG has also warned the audit committee that TierOne’s financials are not to be relied upon by investors.


Well today is April 30th and that means TierOne has run out of time to get its shit together to please the OTS. Meanwhile, KPMG is still paddling away in the lifeboat before the ship sinks but with a week’s head start, we’re sure they’ve gotten far enough away from the scene of the crime to be entirely unaffected by the outcome, whatever it may be.

In a textbook case of he said/she said, TierOne is a little butthurt that KPMG would suddenly change its tune and bail on the bank so close to such an important deadline. Adding insult to injury, KPMG claims that TierOne destroyed a document on specific reserves required by the OTS, even though the auditors had requested the document more than once. TierOne claims that it gave the document to both the OTS and KPMG as requested. TierOne also enthusiastically states that not once did KPMG express any concerns about the bank’s condition until just before bailing on the bank and resigning from the audit.

We’ll update if the FDIC moves in later this afternoon and takes down TierOne.

UPDATE: TierOne tried to sell itself to Great Western Bank but the deal was shot down by the OTS. The $2+ billion bank is sort of just sitting there exposed in the open without an auditor and no real plan, you can pretty much guess what happens from here. Meanwhile, it was a busy Bank Fail Friday but TierOne was not among them. See you next week?

TierOne sale plan due today
[Lincoln Journal Star]

You Can’t Force Convergence According to the IASB (Allegedly)

IASB member Phillippe Danjou would be happy to see convergence go well and according to schedule but like most of Europe, he’s concerned that what’s good for America may not be good for the rest of the world.

Earlier in the week, the European Central Bank said nearly the same thing, going so far as to call out FASB for its archaic fair value rules that disregard liquidity (or lack thereof) in markets.


“Can we converge on everything? What’s good for America is not always seen as being good for the rest of the world, and vice versa… Convergence is the aim. It is a very desirable goal, but you cannot force it.

“If our stakeholders say we should take slightly different solutions, we will have to accept that,” he said. “If we can’t reach a solution, we can bridge.”

This brings us right back to the question of the IASB’s independence and the announcement by the SEC that funding the IASB would be a priority moving forward. Maybe that’s the bridge to which Danjou was referring; America buying its own piece of international accounting standard influence. 20% won’t cut it, people, where did the SEC get those bribe numbers from anyway?

It looks like Plan B for accounting convergence [Reuters]

Accounting News Roundup: ‘Enron’ Opens to Mixed Reviews; Grant Thornton Closes Madison, WI Office; New CFO at Credit Suisse | 04.30.10

With ‘Enron,’ Financial Misdeeds Hit Broadway [DealBook]
“Enron” opened on Tuesday at the Broadhurst Theatre and is receiving mixed reviews. Given the time and subject matter, brief and inadequate descriptions of the accounting techniques involved (e.g. champagne metaphor to explain mark-to-market) were necessary and some didn’t appreciate the patronization:

At the after-party for “Enron,” the most common complaint about the play was the incessant use of metaphors and monologues to explain financial topics. It took up a large amount of time in the show and some audience members felt like they were being “talked down to.”

“I know what mark-to-market accounting is,” said one audience member who did not wish to be identified but did not work in the financial industry. “I felt like they were bashing me over the head with their juvenile explanations.”

Regardless of the “one-dimensional view of this multifaceted accounting technique” and its “lacking of dramatic depth,” “Enron” also has raptors and mice in suits. That, along with choreography using light sabers has led some to call the show “visually stimulating.” If your subject matter includes accounting rules, putting them in an acid trip seems like a good approach.

Grant Thornton to close Madison office [Business Journal of Milwaukee]
Grant Thornton is closing its Madison, WI office, consolidating those operations in Milwaukee. The firm stated “its goal is to retain as many of the Madison office’s 61 employees as possible,” and that it is “committed to assisting all employees during this transition.”

This latest move follows the Grant Thornton office closure in Greensboro, NC that occurred earlier this year.

Credit Suisse Taps Mathers as New C.F.O. [DealBook]
David Mathers is currently the COO and Head of Finance for the investment banking unit at CS. He takes over for Renato Fassbind in October.

Georgia Voters Will Decide on the Use of Accrual Accounting by the Department of Transportation

Interestingly enough, Caleb just covered accrual vs cash here on Going Concern the other day. Not interestingly enough, as a subsection of the Georgia state government, the Georgia DOT’s only option is government accounting and that sure as hell ain’t accrual. Apparently Georgia governor Sonny Perdue is hip to this accounting trick that just can’t be tapped and is questioning whether or not the DOT has the legal authority to use accrual for multi-year state funding commitments.

The short answer, without being an authority on matters of accounting legality, is HELL no. They better stick to fund accounting like every other government agency but that comes with its own set of flaws. See also: 49 of 50 states facing massive budget deficits.


If you aren’t familiar with government accounting, let me make it very simple: in regular accounting, balance sheets balance. Companies shoot for assets to outweigh liabilities and if they don’t for an extended period of time, shareholders bail and the company goes under.

In government accounting, there is no real concept of “balance” and it’s all about expenditures and estimates of spending that have little connection with actual money coming in. Most government agencies would be crippled if they were forced to institute GAAP, even with the magic of government accounting we have already witnessed from the smallest municipality to entire sovereign nations.

Anyway, in 2008, an audit of DOT practices concluded that accrual accounting was a violation of Georgia’s constitution (and the sanctity of government accounting fortheloveofsweetbabyJesus) but DOT officials claim that sweating their questionable accounting methods prevents the state from funding important road projects.

Again, magic on paper, garbage in practical application. Accounting methods are not meant to turn insolvency into funding, they are merely options and their use should not be abused for users. Seriously.

Georgia voters will be trusted with resolving the issue. Better start reading some Advanced Accounting textbooks, Georgia voters, you’ll need them to pick the right door on this little game show.

Voters to weigh on DOT accounting system [Atlanta Business Chronicle]

Believe It or Not, There’s a Millionaire Accountant Love Triangle

I know, I had to read it twice. First of all, millionaire accountant?! Second of all, the guy was ancient and probably hasn’t calculated depreciation since 1971. Whatever, he was depreciating some hot assets and I guess that’s all that matters.


Here’s the sitch:

Millionaire UK accountant Peter Rust is being sued by both the wife and the mistress as they apparently both share a piece of his £3.2million [$4.86 million US] property portfolio. What kind of firm did this guy work for amassing a portfolio like that?! Patricia Rust (the 58 year old wife who has stood by his side for 40 years, even through jailtime Peter served for money laundering) and Virginia Madden (the 38 year old mistress who claims dibs on some of his property) are both claiming that part of Rust’s assets are theirs and theirs alone.

The problem is that he didn’t exactly tell his estranged wife that he was going to get some property with the new chick. Oops. The Daily Mail has the scoop:

In a statement provided to the court, Mr Rust said that in 2000 he and his wife agreed to start investing in property – using joint funds – even though they had separated.

“Although we were living apart at this time, Pat agreed I could do this providing she had an equal share in the properties,” he said.

But he added: “But I did not tell Pat that I intended to buy these properties in the joint names of myself and Ginny Madden.”

Listen, dude, you need to read a book on keeping mistresses. Property?! Come on, everyone knows you are supposed to rent them a pad or maybe get taxpayers to pay for it or claim nonprofit status to house the hoes at your “church”, whatever, you don’t actually buy property with her.

Anyway, as if it couldn’t get worse, Madden was paid over the years as “stable girl” with investment income from the properties (and, presumably, action from Mr Rust but there is not IASB guidance on how to classify affairs in the books and records) and claims a 50% share on five homes. Mrs. Rust claims 50% rights to her house and 6 others.

The millionaire, his stable girl mistress and her £3m property battle with the betrayed wife [Daily Mail]

Accounting News Roundup: Would IFRS Prevented Repo 105?; The Crazy Eddie Movie Hits a Snag; JP Morgan May Bolt Tax-Refund Loan Business | 04.29.10

Lehman case “backs” accounting convergence [Reuters]
Philippe Danjou, a board member at the IASB has been quoted as saying that Repo 105 would not have been allowed under IFRS, “From an IFRS perspective I would suspect that most transactions would have stayed on the balance sheet. It makes a case for convergence, it makes a case that we should not have different outcomes under different accounting standards when you have such big amounts.”

The G-20 asked the sages at both the FASB and the IASB to converge their rules by June-ish 2011 but some people don’t sec, as there are too many disparities on treatment of key issues between the two boards.


The Real Reason Behind Danny DeVito’s Crazy Eddie Movie Project Meltdown [White Collar Fraud]
Danny DeVito wants to make a movie based on the Crazy Eddie Fraud, which was perpetrated by, among others, Eddie and Sam Antar. The project has run aground primarily because of Eddie Antar’s life rights and the potential profit he would reap from the making of the movie. Danny D is disappointed by the developments and has sympathy for Eddie, discussing it in s recent Deadline New York article:

“He’s gone through tough times, and he’s not the aggressive tough guy they paint him to be,” De Vito said. “He’s in his 70s and the past has come back to bite us all in the ass. Peter [Steinfeld] and I told him we think there is a terrific story there, but we can’t do it with you involved, in any way. We’ve taken a breather, but we’re figuring out how to jump back in.

Sam Antar is not amused by this and chimed in with his side of the story:

Eddie Antar is plainly still in denial about his cowardice towards his own family and investors. There actually is a “family dynamic” that “explains Antar’s fall” as DeVito claims. However, Eddie Antar and other members of his immediate family are simply unwilling to give a truthful account of what really happened at Crazy Eddie, while Danny Devito is willing to accept Eddie Antar’s bullshit excuses for his vile behavior.

As Chipotle Sizzles, CFO Sells Stock [Barron’s]
Ten thousand shares at $144 and change will buy a bunch of burritos.

Medifast Lawsuit: Anti-SLAPP motions filed [Fraud Files Blog]
Back when we discussed forensic accounting, the aforementioned Sam Antar said that forensic accountants can look forward to “making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.”

Tracy Coenen, no stranger to this retaliation, is now fighting back against Medifast who has sued her and others for saying not so flattering things about the company:

Anti-SLAPP motions have been filed in the Medifast lawsuit by me and by my co-defendant, Robert FitzPatrick. My motion can be read in its entirety here, and Fitzpatrick’s can be read here.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It’s basically when a big company tries to shut up a little guy with expensive litigation. In my opinion, Medifast sued me and others in an attempt to get us to stop publicly analyzing or criticizing the company and it’s multi-level marketing business model.

In filing an anti-SLAPP motion, we are essentially asking the court to rule in our favor and in favor of free speech. Consumers should have the right to discuss, analyze, and criticize companies without the fear of expensive lawsuits.

JPMorgan May Quit Tax-Refund Loans, Helping H&R Block [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Bloomberg reports that JP Morgan may discontinue its financing of 13,000 independent tax preparers, a move that will benefit H&R Block, according to a competitor:

“Block is the biggest winner in this,” said John Hewitt, chief executive officer of Liberty Tax Service, a privately held company in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that also may benefit…

The reason HSBC is exiting this industry, even though they’re making $100 million a year in profit from it, is because of reputation risk,” Hewitt said in an interview. “Bankers don’t like the consumer advocacy groups picketing outside their offices.”

Refund anticipation loans (RALs) are attractive to clients that need cash immediately, based on their anticipated refund. The business is controversial because the high interest rates can drive people further into debt and consumer groups oppose them vehemently.

Funding for smaller shops that offer these loans will likely lose the business altogether as large banks like JP Morgan discontinue the financing, thus driving the business to franchise tax prep shops like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty.

The ECB Doesn’t Like FASB Fair Value Nor Prospects for a Single Global Standard Come 2011

European Central Bank Executive Board member Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerel insists that fair value is useless in illiquid (read: dysfunctional or non-existent) markets, putting forth the all-important query “what is the use of marking-to-market when there is no market?” in a Paris speech yesterday.

Tumpel-Gugerel is also a tad concerned that the push for convergence around the globe by 2011 could mean compromised accounting standards. “The ECB strongly opposes a full fair value approach,” she said. “In this context, convergence should not come at the expense of high-quality accounting standards.”


The ECB has taken the financial crisis as a lesson in valuation, guidance, and a deft accounting system that leaves plenty of slack available for adjustments should the need arise in, say, a crisis situation. That’s all well and good but guidance only gets you so far and without a firm commitment to when and how to use fair value around the globe, we can pretty much keep debating this point indefinitely.

Her views on FASB’s fair value approach are not at all subtle. In short, it appears as though the ECB supports convergence but only if the idiotic American ways are better aligned with the IASB’s. “With regard to recent assertions made by the IASB and FASB that convergence is on track, I would like to highlight that we are not so optimistic,” she said. “In this regard, putting in place a reconciliation mechanism that simply discloses figures at amortised cost and fair value for each item on the balance sheet would certainly not achieve the aim of convergence.”

Well snap, guess she told us.

Elements for intervention on accounting issues [ECB]

Some Feedback for PwC

From a source at 300 Mad House:

“I just took the firm wide pulse survey and I laid into them. I told them to stop falsely advertising work life balance.”

Not being intimately familiar the work/life whathaveyous that comes by way of Bobby Mo emails but acutely aware of the motivation techniques employed, we can understand the frustration. Especially judging by some of your reactions to last week’s number. If you feel like sharing your feedback for the year that was at P. Dubs, let it rip.

SEC Wins Backdating Case Against Former Maxim CFO

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

The SEC, under attack last week for its Goldman lawsuit and porn allegations, late Friday finally had a victory to celebrate.

Carl Jasper, the former chief financial officer of Maxim Integrated Products was found liable for securities fraud in a stock-option backdating lawsuit filed by the SEC’s San Francisco office, according to Bloomberg.

Carl Jasper, the former chief financial officer of Maxim Integrated Products was found liable for securitioption backdating lawsuit filed by the SEC’s San Francisco office, according to Bloomberg.

It was a rare civil jury trial involving backdating allegations.

Even rarer, it was the second backdating case decided in a court in one week.

Earlier in the week the former CEO of KB Home was convicted of four felony counts in a criminal stock option backdating case.

In the Jasper case, the former finance executive of the maker of chips for laptop computers was found liable on eight out of 11 counts, and cleared him on three, according to The Recorder. Bloomberg said he was found liable for fraud, lying to auditors, and aiding Maxim’s failure to maintain accurate books and records.

“We are pleased that a jury sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley recognized that stock-option backdating is, in fact, a fraudulent practice that matters to investors, and that Mr. Jasper, as the CFO of a public company, was ultimately responsible for misleading investors about the accuracy of Maxim’s financial reports,” Mark Fickes, trial counsel for the SEC, told the wire service in an e-mail statement after the eight-day trial.

Jasper’s lawyer, Steven Bauer, told Bloomberg in an e-mail he will ask the judge to overrule the jury verdict at a May 24 hearing. “Carl Jasper is a good man who never intended to do anything wrong,” he reportedly said. “This is the first step in a long road, and we are confident that in the end he will prevail.”

In late 2007, the SEC filed civil charges against Maxim, Jasper and former chief executive officer John F. Gifford, alleging that they reported false financial information to investors by improperly backdating stock option grants to Maxim employees and directors.

The Commission alleged that Jasper helped the company fraudulently conceal tens of millions of dollars in compensation expenses through the use of backdated, “in-the-money” option grants.

In a separate action, Gifford agreed to pay more than $800,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to settle charges relating to his role in the options backdating.

Maxim, without admitting or denying the Commission’s allegations, consented to a permanent injunction against violations of the antifraud and other provisions of the federal securities laws.

The Commission’s complaints also alleged that Jasper was aware of the improper backdating practices, drafted backdated grant approval documents for Maxim’s CEO to sign, and disregarded instructions from CEO Gifford to record an expense in connection with certain backdated options. According to the Commission, Gifford should have known that the company was not reporting expenses for those in-the-money stock options and instead was falsely reporting that they were granted at fair market value.

According to The Recorder, in his opening statement at the trial, Bauer said Gifford, who is now deceased, was to blame for the backdating and not Jasper.”You can’t talk about options at Maxim without talking about Mr. Gifford,” Bauer reportedly told the court. “You can’t talk about picking dates without talking about Mr. Gifford.”

The SEC is seeking injunctive relief, disgorgement of wrongful profits, a civil penalty, and an order barring Jasper from acting as an officer or director of a public company.

Early last week, Bruce Karatz, the former CEO of KB Home was convicted of four felony counts in a stock option backdating case. He was found guilty of 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, according to published reports.

He was acquitted on 16 other counts, including mail and wire fraud, securities fraud and filing false proxy statements, according to Bloomberg.

He faces up to 60 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Management Accountant

Last week we kicked off our certification series by looking at the CFE for those of you interested in becoming numbers sleuths that also have the figurative iron-clad stones that Sam Antar insists are imperative for any CFE.

This week we look at the Certified Management Accountant (“CMA”) credential and while it’s probably not as sexy as the CFE, a lot of you may want to consider the CMA if you see yourself spending a good portion of your career working as an in-house accountant or finance pro.


The credential is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants whose website states that “85% owork inside organizations, where expertise in decision support, planning, and control over value-adding operations are crucial elements of operational success,” and boasts 60,000 members worldwide.

Here’s the rundown on the CMA:

Education Requirement
You can meet the education requirement by verifying that you have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university or that you have a professional qualification, such as a CPA (here’s a partial list of global certifications that qualify).

Professional Requirements
The professional requirement for the CMA is two continuous years of experience in management accounting or financial management. This can be completed prior to the application or within two years of passing the CMA exam. The website states that, “Qualifying experience consists of positions requiring judgments regularly made employing the principles of management accounting and financial management.”

There is a long list of experience that will satisfy this requirement including financial analysis, budget preparation, management information system analysis, financial management, management accounting, auditing in government, finance or industry, management consulting, auditing in public accounting, research, teaching or consulting related to management accounting or financial management.

CMA Exam
The CMA Exam is currently transitioning from a four-part format to a two-part format. The two-part format rolls out on May 1st but testing of the four-part format will be available through December 31, 2010. The new format will focus on financial planning, analysis, control, and decision support. The two four hour exams consist of 100 multiple choice questions and two 30 minute essay questions.

Part 1 breaks down like this:
Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting (30%)
Performance Management (25%)
Cost Management (25%)
Internal Controls (15%)
Professional Ethics (5%)

And Part 2:
Financial Statement Analysis (25%)
Corporate Finance (25%)
Decision Analysis and Risk Management (25%)
Investment Decisions (20%)
Professional Ethics (5%)

There’s a lot of information on the new exam format including fees, testing windows, and more that can be seen here.

After certification, you are required to complete 30 hours of CPE annually, of which, 2 hours are required to be in ethics.

Career Options
Many CMAs work in budgeting, financial planning, cost accounting, performance evaluation, asset management and other various capacities. The work often times result in internal reports that will help management make prudent decisions rather than just taking wild stabs at running their respective companies. So it goes without saying that this is important stuff.

For those of you still working in the public realm, you can get benefits out of a CMA too. Our favorite Exuberant Accountant, Scott Heintzelman, has a CMA and he told us that it helps him better understand the needs of his manufacturing clients, “I had a bunch of clients in the manufacturing space and many of the controllers were CMA’s. I thought taking the time to get this certification would give me more creditability with this group…it helped me gain more manufacturing clients as they saw me as one of them, not just a CPA.”

Compensation and Other Benefits
According to the IMA’s most recent survey, CMAs earn 24-31% more than their non-certified colleagues. Those surveyed that have both a CMA and a CPA have even higher salaries. Now, we know what that you’re hung up on money but there are some other advantages too.

According to Scott, “Partners then had this belief [then] that the CMA was a brutal test (and it was). So a year later I started the process and actually was fortunate to pass the entire test on the first attempt. I had also passed the CPA exam on the first attempt a year earlier and so my partners suddenly thought I was some super smart young accountant and many believed I was ‘fast tracked’ to partner. I believe I just worked my butt off to learn that stuff, but none the less several of my partners looked at me differently. A very key moment in my young career.”

Help the IRS Improve Its Service on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

If you are some kind of tax activist, not a felon and ready to serve your country, we may have the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime for you: Serving on the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). The deadline for applications is this Friday and we’re pretty sure the Service has been swamped with would-be heroes vying for a chance to provide a voice to the poor, abused little taxpayer.


“TAP members represent the typical taxpayer and provide the IRS with invaluable insights that are crucial to sound tax administration,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

To qualify, you must pass an FBI fingerprint check (sorry, Lone Wolves, you’re pretty much disqualified right off the bat and will have to stick to crashing planes into IRS buildings if you want your voice to be heard), not be a lobbyist, and of course be caught up on your own tax bills.

Think of it like a focus group for taxes except unlike traditional focus groups, you won’t be getting $75 for an hour’s worth of opinions. TAP members serve a 3 year term and are expected to commit 300 – 500 hours per year serving the Service taxpayer. Members are required to attend a yearly meeting in Washington, DC each fall, at least one face-to-face subcommittee meeting with other members in their region and must participate in a monthly conference call.

So go on, little taxpayers, give the IRS a piece of your mind. And 500 hours of your time, of course.

KPMG Resigns as TierOne Bank Auditor

In a bizarre piece of auditing news released late on a Sunday night, KPMG has verbally resigned as Nebraska-based TierOne Bank’s independent auditor, withdrawn its audit opinion for 2008 and taken back its review of TierOne’s financials for the quarter ended March 31, 2009.

Well damn, we’re fairly sure it couldn’t get any worse than that for TierOne, could it?


Citing risk of material misstatement, KPMG has also warned the audit committee that TierOne’s financials are not to be relied upon by investors. Even Overstock.com doesn’t get that kind of treatment.

Last month the Office of Thrift Supervision – TierOne’s primary regulator – gave it until April 30th to merge with or sell its assets to a healthier financial institution so we’re going to go out on a limb here by assuming that they aren’t going to have good news come Friday and KPMG is just doing the responsible thing by backing away from the mess with a week left.

The Ernst & Young Las Vegas Office Should Try to Nab This Guy for Their Next Singalong

It’s fair to say that of all the fine accountants that participated in the E&Y video from earlier this week, none of them will be bagging a Grammy any time soon (regardless of what the E&Y bigwigs say).


That being said, there is at least one accountant out there who must decent enough pipes to garner this headline:

The Singing Accountant set to be this year’s Susan Boyle?

Not surprisingly, the young lad is a little timid:

Christopher is an accountant who lacked confidence to follow his singing dream. After years of hiding his talent, his family finally persuaded him to pluck up the courage and audition for the show.

“I’ve come to Britain’s Got Talent to audition today mainly from pressure from my parents, more than anything else. They’ve been telling me for years and years that I need to do something like this.”

If Simon Cowell says this, “I think you have a really, really good voice,” then that’s a pretty good indication that you’ve got a better than average singing voice (unfortch there’s no video at this time).

As opposed to what he might have said to the E&Y LV peeps, which we might be something along the lines of:

A) That’s the worst performance I’ve ever heard.

B) That would make my labrador howl uncontrollably for hours.

C) That explains why your pay was frozen.

D) I know Jim Turley, and when he gets wind of this, you’re all going to be fired.

E) Now I know why Lehman Brothers failed.

Now you go.

(UPDATE) Let’s Take a Closer Look at This SEC Accountant’s Porn Activity

Since we’ve been out of the number crunching biz on a day to day basis, our reaction to the 16,000 attempts by an SEC accountant to access porn was simply, “Holy shit, that’s a lot.”


Thankfully, we still have plenty of friends that still burn up the 10-key calcs and we got a drop from one of them a little while ago:

I did [a] calc on that accountant that viewed porn sites up to 16,000 in one month. He was averaging 725x per day (including weekends). That is impressive. I don’t think I can hit 725 times in a year (and I don’t even have a girlfriend), let alone one month.

The best part of this whole ordeal is that it’s now becoming a political football and hyperbole that even makes us scoff.

UPDATE: Our stupid friend is obviously rusty on the calc (they’re no longer in public accounting) and we’ve been re-informed by said friend that 725x is based on 22 workdays (i.e. not including weekends).

Even more importantly, how many accountants out there double-checked this pre-update calc and then failed to get all self-righteous about it?

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the bar has been raised in the wasting time department. Granted this accountant was wasting everyone’s tax dollars while those of you in public accounting are wasting your clients’ dollars but these porn surfing numbers are no doubt a challenge worth accepting. Go forth.

Five Questions with MACPA’s Bill Sheridan

If you don’t know the MACPA and their quality content machine Bill Sheridan, you’re probably not in accounting, have never used Twitter, and most definitely wouldn’t have any clue what Second Life is. When it comes to social media, the Maryland Association of CPAs was on it long before a certain cable company figured it out and Bill has been just one of the organization’s main “faces” as far back as I can remember.

Bill speaks of using CPA Success as a tool to reach the MACPA’s members in ways they never thought they could and speaks as someone who truly enjoys what he does for a living. He likes posts he’s written in airports (who doesn’t love travel blogging? *cough*) while his co-blogger Tom Hood (I believe you all are familiar with his work as MACPA CEO and CPA) prefers tackling the topic of leadership. Whatever your accounting poison, CPA Success covers it all.

Bill was hard to pin down but finally found a moment to get to our five questions, enjoy.


Why do you blog?
It’s yet another way of connecting with our members. Our blog allows us to present news and analyses much more quickly than we ever could before. It allows us to communicate with members in ways we never had before. We’ve had an opportunity to carve out a niche as a thought leader in the CPA space that we never could have established without blogging.

A good accountant is…
A good CPA is a trusted advisor, strategic thinker and confidant, someone who sees beyond the numbers and helps companies grow and clients understand how their finances impact their personal and professional lives. And at all times, honest and ethical.

A good blogger is…
… observant, and a good story-teller.

What is the biggest benefit you’ve gotten from starting your blog?
Notoriety. But the biggest benefit is this: CPAs have really worked hard to carve out a place for themselves in the social arena. When we first started playing around with this stuff three years ago, there weren’t a lot of accounting and finance folks in there with us; it seemed like we were working in a void. Since then, though CPAs have really taken the social bull by the horns. They’re blogging, they’re using things like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, and they’re figuring out to put these tools to use in ways that benefit their businesses and their clients. It’s been fun and extremely rewarding to see CPAs make the leap and work with them to figure all of this out.

The biggest issue facing accountants today is…
… complexity. The profession is facing numerous legislative and regulatory changes these days, and that’s in addition to the many changes in accounting standards and other technical rules that have been enacted recently. Keeping up with all of these changes is a monumental task for CPAs, who are busy enough simply serving their clients.

Some Behind the Scenes Details on the Ernst & Young “We Are Las Vegas” Video

On Tuesday we briefly shared a video that was put together by the E&Y Las Vegas office that involved a large pair of headphones (Koss perhaps?) an Elvis impersonator, plenty of off-key singing and out-of-sync choreography.

Unfortunately, the video didn’t last and AG piped in only to replace the singalong with another video that had – ugh – subtitles but at least it was a little better rehearsed.

Anyway, we did some poking around and we found out a little back story on this whole “We are Las Vegas” production.


Apparently, the video had its non-GC debut at a townhall meeting in LV last night that was relatively uneventful, according to an accountant close to the sitch:

It was basically a loyalty pep rally. They told us that we would be getting raises, but of course said we would “follow the market.” That’s ironic from a firm that strives to be the “market leader.”

Sounds like the typical yarn but it sounds like it was followed by mucho boozing so that made up for it… Anyway, what about that video?!?

What’s with the ginormous headphones?

Headphones guy was just asked to wear them as a prop. Stevie Wonder did, why not somebody else???

Was the whole office in on this thing? Were accountants forced to participate against their will?

There were people from all service lines. I would say tax and audit were both represented equally. Amazingly, there WERE people who were excited about singing the song.

How was the video received?

I was amazed how the upper level management at the town hall (from various west coast cities) was impressed with the song. The overwhelming response at town hall was “that was a good video.” I think a training at our Times Square office might be in place.

Why on Earth did someone decide to put this on YouTube?

The world may never know.

Strip Club Owner, Sans High School Diploma, Blames His Accountant for Tax Troubles

When you own a strip club there are certain things that you understand. Things like, knowing that there is large portion of the male species that will pay women to take off their clothes regardless of the fact that sex is not happening. And while this is going on, they’ll imbibe lots of booze. And eventually, they may get hungry and with the last sliver of will power they have left, pull themselves away to pay $5.99 for a prime rib buffet. AND since there’s no windows in the place these men will stay in your strip club and spend money until you throw them out or they’ve spent every last dime. Oh, and poles are imperative.

On the other hand, there are things that strip club owners are less savvy about. One of these things may be tax compliance. Accordingly, many proprietors find a local accountant, they swap services, everyone wins.


However, every once in awhile this traditional arrangement may run awry. Kevin Moury, owner of Kittens (NSFW), is suing his accountant, Michael Walsh, for negligence in preparing his returns that resulted in “criminal charges, penalties, costs, fines, loss of income, medical expenses, loss of life’s enjoyments, emotional distress and mental anguish.”

Okay, before we continue, we have to ask – “loss of life’s enjoyments” and “medical expenses” because of a CPA? Where do we draw the line people? Next thing you know, accountants will be blamed for the collapse of the entire financial system…

Anyhoo, Moury pleaded guilty in October to “federal charges of falsifying tax returns and failing to report substantial cash income.” He spent one night in jail, got nine months of house arrest and had to pay back taxes of $88k, etc. etc.

This all came up because Moury apparently thought it was a-okay to deposit money from various revenue streams like fining dancers for tardiness or bolting early, massages for customers, and Jell-O shots (you know, the usual stuff) and then not report it as income. Obviously the IRS was not cool with this, prosecutors threatened to go after his wife and daughters (all employees at Kittens, btw) and that got him to plead guilty.

As a result of his guilty plea, Moury lost a sweet $90k/year gig as a “superintendent of environmental management” (which sounds a lot like “boss of the garbage collectors” but whatevs) and this resulted in lost future earnings of $1.3 million, allegeth the lawsuit.

Regardless, this shit ain’t fair and the accountant needs to be held responsible (his attorney the allegations or “groundless”) and Moury’s attorney isn’t shying away from the stupidity defense:

The lawsuit claims Moury’s lack of formal education — he didn’t finish high school and has a high school equivalency certificate — led him to rely on Walsh to accurately report his income and prepare his tax returns.

“Mr. Moury gave his accountant anything and everything for his business, his real estate and the salary from his job with Methuen,” Cote said. “He signed the returns, but did he looked at them? No. Is he responsible? Yes.

Strip club owner blames accountant for his tax woes [Eagle-Tribune]

Cash-strapped Clients Could Force Accounting Firms to Come Up with Creative Cost Savings

Because times weren’t already cheerful enough around GT, they recently released a study which found that businesses are generally pessimistic about raises and bonuses this year.


From the press release:

The firm surveyed 496 U.S. CFOs and senior comptrollers from March 22 through April 5, and found that 53% plan no salary changes in the next 6 months, while 32% plan to decrease and 15% plan to increase. On the bonus front, there is also equal pessimism, 47% plan no change, 44% plan to reduce, and only 8% plan to increase.

Well – that certainly sucks.

We know raises are the last thing on the minds of higher-ups at GT, but come on, really? Imagine being a no-name staffer at GT grinding away on a report about how your clients are a collective group of Negative Nancy’s. With headcount discussions ongoing in several GT offices, one would be – and should be – concerned.

The freezes in salary and bonuses don’t really apply to the accounting firms because – as it has already been discussed here in great length – money should be flowing your way this summer. The underlying concern with this report is this – if your client isn’t giving its own employees a bump in pay, there’s no bloody chance your firm is getting a bump in fees, either.

Any and all resources will be applied to minimizing any talent exoduses from occurring.

So how will the firms find enough cookies in the jar to “support the current pipeline?” I checked in with a Big 4 auditor in New York who had this to share:

During casual conversation with my mentors, word is the firm will be pushing for leaves of absence again this summer for everyone who has not completely passed the CPA. The hope is for a decent percentage of staff members to do this to save on salaries.

Makes sense-ish. Temporarily cut staff salaries during a relatively quiet audit period. Will this be enough to cover raises and bonuses while client fees remain stagnant? Heavens no but it’s a start. As always, let us know if you learn of ways your firm plans to pinch pennies.

Web CPA Breaks Down the Latest AICPA Survey So You Don’t Have To

Writing and covering accounting isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Trying to communicate complex accounting and taxes issues without sound like the latest edition of Kimmel, Weygandt, and Kieso is no small feat.

So when the AICPA released results of a survey that showed that half of Americans are able to save money while the other half are unable to save, the gang at Web CPA decided that this particular bit of data needed to be further broken down for those accountants whose brains are complete mush post-busy season.


Accordingly, they presented this story with the following headline:

“Half of Americans Save, Half Don’t”

Now you may be asking yourself, can this be possible? Is there some way that this equation be disproven? That is, can Americans somehow save and not save at the same time and thus the 50/50 split is rendered ludicrous? We’ve searched the entire Internet and unfortunately this is the only thing we’ve found, and since we’re not engineering experts it’s not so helpful.

One can safely assume that most of Web CPA’s visitors are accountants and, as mentioned above, now that busy season is over, asking them to crunch any more numbers would be a disservice to the readership.

Half of Americans Save, Half Don’t [Web CPA]

Grant Thornton Employees Can Expect Handwritten Thank You Notes Any Day Now

It’s been awhile since we shared some of Stephen Chipman’s blog musings (mostly because we were too busy watching dust accumulate) but he was probably saving the more interesting stuff for post-April 15th.

“Interesting” obviously being a relative term but in his latest epic, he was not short on praise for those of you that remain with the firm:

Having just passed April 15, the first words I want you to read are “Thank you!” As we move through our busiest season, I continue to be impressed by the long hours, personal sacrifices and collaboration I read about in my e-mail, on our home page and by special letters and words of praise and thanks from our clients. As I’ve met with clients recently, one after another client executive raves about our people. It’s customary in the firm to say that clients rave about “our service,” but what they’re referring to is “you.” They are raving about each of you. The individuals for whom you work and with whom you have formed strong relationships based on excellence and trust are taking the time to tell me how valuable you have been to their respective businesses. Every time you show up, speak up and stay up late, you are demonstrating our global values: collaboration, leadership, excellence, agility, respect and responsibility. You are making a difference.

In case you missed it, your mere ability to drag yourself out of bed every morning, get to work at a decent hour, manage to utter a coherent sentence, and sacrificing your own health by depriving yourself of sleep you are making a difference. Your clients have noticed this by way of your wrinkled clothes, scuffed shoes, that expanding paunch, and your the all around zombie-esque qualities you exhibited every day during busy season (never mind this was all done for very little money).

And because of all those raving clients, Steve-o sent a little nudge to GT partners to make sure that they know, that you know, that they appreciate it because as it stands, they’re not doing that bang-up of a job:

Thank you.

These two simple words make a profound difference.

Feedback from the Voice Your Experience survey indicated that we need to continue to improve how we recognize our people. Interestingly, research shows recognition is not only about money and that a personal acknowledgement is especially powerful in motivating people to achieve exceptional results.

Please use the enclosed stationary to write your people notes of appreciation. By modeling this behavior, you play a key role in perpetuating a spirit of acknowledgement that benefits both our people and our business.

As always, thank you for all you do to make a difference every day.

/s/ Stephen

Okay people, illegible thank you notes (on extra-special stationary!) should be coming your way. Gratitude by way of money is cold and impersonal anyway.

KPMG Got Fired by North American Savings Bank After Six Months on the Job

Technically, if you count the days (based on the 8-K) it’s less than six months.

The reason? Without getting too wonky, it appears NASB wasn’t thrilled that KPMG challenged their valuation method of a real estate investment, Central Platte Holdings, LLC.

Klynveld had been engaged to audit the September 30, 2010 financial statements of NASB but things managed to get confrontational right off the bat as KPMG raised questions about the Company’s valuation methodology of Central Platte in its first quarter review.


This must have made NASB a little uncomfortable since KPMG’s methods might not paint as rosy as a picture and could have resulted in a restatement. Per the 8-K, “KPMG also informed the Company that if the investment was determined to be impaired, evidence existed which indicated that such impairment may have occurred in a prior period.”

Obviously the mere idea of a restatement was completely unacceptable for NASB but when KPMG requested that the Company engagement a third party appraisal, they really freaked. Either the bank didn’t want to pay for said third party’s services, or they were worried that the appraisal would show that Central Platte wasn’t worth squat.

More from the 8-K filing:

At KPMG’s request, management estimated the fair value of the investment in Central Platte. After reviewing management’s estimate of fair value, KPMG requested the Company obtain an independent third party appraisal of the fair value of the investment. KPMG did not complete their review of the fair value of the investment in Central Platte prior to their dismissal.

While the Company continues to evaluate whether it should change its accounting method in measuring impairment of the investment in preparing the financial statements for the quarter ended December 31, 2009, the Company disagrees with KPMG that its method of evaluating potential impairment of the investment in such period or in any prior
periods was in error.

For those of you unfamiliar with SEC filing lingo, the statement “the Company continues to evaluate whether it should change its accounting method,” actually means “We’re not changing shit.” Luckily, NASB knew that it can rely on their old auditors to give the thumbs up to their preferred method so they ran back (weeping and arms flailing no doubt) to BKD.

Maybe KPMG’s Kansas City office needed business but something tells us they’re better off.

Real estate dispute leads NASB Financial to switch auditors [KC Star]
8-K [SEC.gov]

Layoff and Exodus Watch ’10: Grant Thornton Chicago and New York Seeing Movement

Two weeks ago, we heard that Grant Thornton’s Cleveland office started their layoffs a little earlier than what on might expect that was followed by an emergency meeting that the content of which is still a mystery.

Now we’ve received word on Chicago and New York who are rumored to be having layoffs and some quitters respectively.


From a Chipman Blog Reader:

I work in audit at Grant Thornton and have heard through the grapevine that offices are trying to keep staff. With the job market improving, it seems like other offices are looking to see if staff/seniors voluntary leave before making any final decisions pre-promotion day. Chicago has let go a partner and 2 senior managers in the audit practice and rumors are swirling of a few staff reductions, which seems crazy given that the current A1 class and the incoming class are so small. For other offices, national is working to roll out a benefit plan practice similar to what Chicago has to help keep staff busy during the summer months but it looks like this is not moving quickly enough….[T]he GT wire is that NY saw 10+ individuals put in their notice recently.

We left messages with both the Chicago and New York offices, neither of which have been returned.

An accountant close to the situation indicated that the partner and senior manager layoffs are part of those mentioned by Stephen Chipman back in January.

At that time, SC said that many of those partners and senior managers were already being notified, so since these most recent cuts knew that this day was coming, it was awfully generous of them to stay on for this busy season (we’re guessing there was money involved).

As far as the the staff situation in Chicago is concerned, cuts at the staff level do seem crazy if the classes are small. Meanwhile, although some attrition in New York was probably expected, at this point, it’s not clear whether 10+ leaving in mid-April is a lot or a little. Keep us updated.

The FASB Punts Repo Accounting to the SEC

It’s not surprising that FASB’s Bob Herz was called to submit comment on the House Financial Services Committee’s hearings on Lehman – more specifically, Public Policy Issues Raised by the Report of the Lehman Bankruptcy Examiner – and it’s even less surprising that Herz stated that the FASB will be ready when the SEC is to alter repo accounting rules should this be, you know, a big deal going forward.

As many of you already know, the FASB has a history of taking a reactive stance to accounting issues during the financial crisis (case in point: mark to market) and repo accounting is no exception. Sort of like the SEC cracking down on Madoff-esque Ponzi schemes after Madoff, it defeats the purpose as financial criminals very rarely repeat techniques that have already been uncovered and prosecuted. But oh well, showing up late to the party is still showing up and proves FASB is at least paying attention.


Herz’s testimony reinforces FASB’s position as standards setter, not regulator. Working with the SEC will allow the regulators to put together a case for accounting standards that could address repo accounting should the SEC discover it is widespread among financial firms but for now, FASB will be sitting back and waiting to see what the SEC comes up with.

As it turns out, FASB isn’t nearly as reactive as it appears on the surface: plenty of guidance already exists for handling these transactions and perhaps had Ernst & Young been looking hard enough, they would have easily found something amiss.

Said Herz:

When developing the guidance for determining whether a company maintains effective control over transferred assets, the FASB noted repo transactions have attributes of both sales and secured borrowings. On one hand, having a forward purchase contract is not the same as owning the asset. On the other hand, the contemporaneous transfer and repurchase commitment entered into in a repo transaction raises questions about whether control actually has been relinquished. To differentiate between the two, the FASB developed criteria for determining whether a company maintains effective control over securities transferred in a repo transaction.

Control? Is that was this about?

Regardless, FASB is prepared to offer even more guidance on the matter should current guidance not be sufficient to make sense of future contracts that could be used in a fraudulent manner. Of course, the financial criminals have likely already discovered a new, innovative way to hide liabilities or stash nasties off-sheet but instead of looking for those, the SEC will be working closely with FASB in the future to prevent another Lehman. History always repeats itself but, sadly, financial crimes rarely do. It appears our friends at FASB never got that memo.

Source: Discussion of Selected Accounting Guidance Relevant to Lehman Accounting Practices

Despite Past Investigations and Borderline Childish Behavior, McGladrey & Pullen Takes Medifast Audit

McGladrey & Pullen/RSM McGladrey has been named the new audit/tax firm of Medifast, the company announced in a filing last Friday. The Company dropped Bagell, Josephs, Levine and Company LLP of New Jersey who was purchased by Friedman LLP, citing/blaming Sarbanes-Oxley for reducing the number of accounting firms that have the “extensive resources and experience with public companies on a national and regional basis to better serve Medifast.”

For those of you not familiar, Medifast is “an amazing weight loss program” whose products “are formulated with a

Yet Another Case of an Accountant Taking Out Adolescent Frustrations on an Athlete

Obviously it’s pigskin Monday here at GC. This afternoon we touch on washed-up linebacker turned D-Actor, Brian Bosworth who is suing his former agent for hooking him up with a shiesty accountant.


B-squared alleges that the accountant was arrested for “and pled guilty to crimes related to misappropriating the funds of clients.” The Boz’s claims that his former agent, Gary Wichard, was getting a cut of the earnings from the investments that the accountant, Judd Rothman was putting his Bozness into.

While a couple of business savvy types taking advantage of an athlete is nothing new, this may be the first case that we can remember where we feel it’s totally justified based on past hairstyle mistakes.

Ex-NFL Star Sues Agent Over Bad $$$ Advice [TMZ]

Despite Endless Tweets to the Contrary, Recent Poll Debunks “Accounting Is Boring” Stereotype

Unbeknownst to us (until a little bit ago), Ajilon Finance has declared April as Accountant Appreciation Month and has marked the occasion by encouraging displays of appreciation through the most official of means: Facebook.

And that’s not the all! A recent poll done by Ajilon says that 88% of respondents don’t believe the stereotype that accountants are boring. The same poll found that 84% of the respondents don’t think the profession is boring. These findings contradict a constant Twitter feed so you’ll have to make your own conclusions on the validity of the poll.


In other mind-blowing results from the poll, 98% of those surveyed “recognized that accountants work hard all year round and not only the months during tax season.” The other 2% obviously assume that your 8 month vacation started last Friday.

In other developments, 100% of Big 4 auditors get annoyed when their family, friends, and other non-accountants (like the ones surveyed by Ajilon) ask how their tax season went.

Accountants Can Celebrate: Tax Day is Over & Americans are Seeing the Profession in a New Light [Ajilon Press Release]

Marcum Officially Announces Purchase of UHY New England Locations

Marcum officially announced its take over of the UHY Advisors locations in New England that we mentioned last week.

We can only assume that the 150 employees at new Marcum offices passed the due diligence with flying colors. According to the press release, the new locations will make 15 total for Marcum with over 950 total employees and 117 partners.

Marcum LLP Expands Practice into New England

Members of New England Practices of UHY Advisors and UHY LLP Join Marcum

April 16, 2010, New York, NY- Marcum LLP, one of the largest independent public accounting and advisory services firms in the nation, announced that it has acquired the New England practices of UHY Advisors and UHY LLP effective April 16, 2010. Marcum will now have offices in three of New England’s major business markets – Boston, Massachusetts, and New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut.

The members of the New England practices of UHY Advisors and UHY LLP who are joining Marcum have a 30-year history in the New England market providing audit, tax and business consulting services in the construction, high technology, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, not-for-profit and higher education arenas. Marcum LLP, with its outstanding reputation at the national and regional levels, has strong service niches in SEC registrants, alternative investment partnerships, family office services, business valuation, bankruptcies and receiverships and services for the government and public sector.

“Expansion into the New England region increases Marcum’s presence in the Northeast and offers our clients greater resources and new areas of expertise,” stated Jeffrey M. Weiner, Managing Partner of Marcum LLP. “The new locations tie in directly with our growth plan and will help us meet the changing accounting, tax and consulting needs of our clients.”

The entire 150 plus team from the New England practices of UHY Advisors and UHY LLP will join Marcum. With this latest development, Marcum now has more than 950 professionals, including 117 partners, in 15 locations throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts and Grand Cayman.

“The members of the New England practices of UHY Advisors and UHY LLP are looking forward to the growth opportunities this transaction will bring in New England and beyond,” stated Anthony Scillia, who will serve as Managing Partner of Marcum’s New England Region. “Marcum’s geographic footprint, devotion to technical excellence and extensive range of professional services will bring added value to our existing clients and increase our ability to serve new clients in the New England area.”

Tax Return of the Day | 04.15.10

On a day like today, words alone will simply not suffice. Things like “Thank God it’s over,” “I am getting cop-slugging drunk,” or “If I get asked to prepare one more extension I’m going to have a panic attack” are expected. Instead we’ll present you with the following clip of a certain taxpayer’s haul in 2009:

[Source]

Did Lehman’s Arrangement with Hudson Violate Accounting Principles?

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

I’m far from the only person having a hard time understanding the significance of the deals arranged by a company that this page one New York Times story referred to as Lehman Brothers’ “alter ego.”

From the looks of it, the company in questastle, was set up simply to serve in the traditional role of outside investor in another company’s off-balance-sheet financing vehicle, which is known as a special purpose or variable interest entity to accountants and a conduit or structured investment vehicle in the world of banks.

The arrangement is common enough and there’s nothing wrong with it, strictly speaking, so long as the outside investor is independent of the sponsor of the entity and the arrangements are properly disclosed.


Remember Citigroup’s SIVs? They spawned the first ill-fated bank bailout effort, by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. And they were similar to the entity that Hudson created for Lehman, called Fenway.

The problem with these gizmos, of course, is that sponsors often claim not to be responsible for the assets and yet end up on the hook for them anyway, which is what happened to Citi. But that in itself doesn’t make them fraudulent, at least not according to GAAP.

In Lehman’s case, the problem seems to be that Hudson was controlled by Lehman, if not at the time it was created, then certainly under later rules, according to Charles Mulford, an accounting professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and an advisor to CFOZone.

At first glance, it seems like the opposite might be the case, since Lehman reportedly dominated Hudson’s board when it was created in 2001. And Lehman’s influence over Hudson diminished significantly in 2004, when its board seats were reduced from five to one, presumably along with Lehman’s equity in the firm.

Just conceivably, that might have been done to conform with the changes in the accounting rules. But Mulford says that might not have been enough to comply, because the new rules require the so-called primary beneficiary of the vehicle to consolidate its assets regardless of how much equity the outside investor has in it. Even after 2004, Lehman remained the single largest investor in Hudson, according to the Times.

“Given changes to accounting for SPEs, one could argue that Lehman had effective control of the Hudson Castle SPEs, even if it didn’t have voting control, necessitating consolidation,” Mulford said in an email to CFOZone.

Of course, the significance of the arrangement remains unclear, as the Times article failed to explain how much of Lehman’s debt was shifted into the Fenway SPE. It looks as if at least $3 billion was shifted into Fenway in this fashion, but that’s a lot less than the $50 billion Lehman shifted off of its balance sheet through so-called Repo 105 transactions in 2008.

Incidentally, while Lehman’s auditor Ernst & Young recently claimed that amounts Lehman shifted in this fashion weren’t sufficient to cause the firm’s failure, since its total assets exceeded $600 billion, I just saw in the bankruptcy examiner’s report that the firm refused to say the amounts weren’t immaterial when it signed off on Lehman’s financial statements. And the examiner’s report insisted that they were indeed material.

Weiser’s Doug Phillips: Combination with Mazars Was the Next Logical Step

Last week Weiser announced that it was joining Mazars Worldwide as a member firm, a move that would alleviate their relationship to one of a joint venture to that of a full combination. Accordiess release the combined firm will employ 12,500 people worldwide after adding the 650 Weiser professionals to its international network.

Earlier in the week, we were fortunate enough to arrange a chat with Doug Phillips, Managing Partner of Weiser, LLP to discuss the new firm, the challenges of a cross-Atlantic combination, personnel and client reaction to the combination and the plans for future.

A Solid Business Case Made for a Global Strategy
Doug told us the that joint venture between Weiser and Mazars that begun in February 2000 has been great success for both firms, particularly in the last two years. “The business case for us here at Weiser and for Mazars came to a point where it was quite logical to elevate the joint venture to the next logical step of growth and maturity,” he told us. Doug insisted that this was not a “Resistance is Futile” situation for Weiser, because the firms were in fact combining as opposed to a takeover by Mazars.

According to Doug, the business case for the combination was one of primarily of global strategy. Both firms had experienced significant growth in the last 10 years; their clients’ needs became increasingly global in focus. Doug said, “It gives us a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. Existing clients will receive a higher quality of service and we will enjoy the advantage of proposing to new clients.”

Combining Transatlantic Cultures
With regards to the meshing of the firms’ two cultures, Doug said that navigating the tricky waters of an international combination wasn’t as challenging as you might expect, ” We’ve ‘dated’ for 10 years. We know each other’s strengths. We know each other’s weaknesses. The overarching cultural issue is the quality of service. The firms are identical in that regard.”

And to ensure that the Weiser is well represented at the global level, Doug was elected to the group executive board of the firm. This is committee of five that is responsible for running the global organization. “The importance of the combination is recognized by the fact that I took a seat on that board to ensure the effective integration of the cultures of the cross-atlantic combination,” Doug said.

Communication with Employees, Clients was Ongoing
Communication about the combination was ongoing at Weiser. “Things were business as usual and the only real change is that firm’s brand will change to WeiserMazars,” Doug told us. The same approach was taken with Weiser’s clients, “the communication process was ongoing. It’s been universally well received and applauded as a business step without concerns about what will be impacted because [clients] have the assurance that our people remain in place and our dedication to the quality of service remains unchanged.”

Future Plans
With regards to the future, there are no immediate plans for new offices or mergers with other firms but Doug does expect some new non-attest service opportunities for the firm that could result in the hiring of some new experienced professionals not already in-house, “We look forward to increasing the talent pool to provide higher quality sophisticated services to both our current clients and prospective clients.”

Tax Season Ends Thursday Which Means You Don’t Have to Hit the Snooze on Friday

Along with improved personal hygiene, the end of busy/tax season brings the end of sleep deprivation.

Yes, we realize that some of you dolts out there that like to boast that you still dominate your workload on as little as 3 or 4 hours of sleep are either A) lunatics or B) so delirious that you don’t realize that you’re on the brink of lunacy.


FINS surveyed some tax pros about their sleeping habits and found that on average, those surveyed only got 6.8 hours of sleep and that 30% of them felt fully rested while at work.

For the rest of you, getting the 7 to 9 recommended hours of sack time will not only benefit your health (sleep deprivation is also related to weight gain) but it also could result in a safer work environment.

Not to mention that your significant other will appreciate the additional attention which might, if you’re lucky, result in other nocturnal activities as opposed to just sexting. Unless of course you happened to fall bassackwards into a work relationship then you can keep up the cubicle sex as you see fit.

Tax Accountant Survey: Sleep, a Career Casualty [FINS]

With IFRS Waiting in the Wings, Will Private Companies Get GAAP of Their Own?

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

A blue ribbon panel on private company accounting is holding its inaugural meeting Monday, to assess how financial reporting standards can best meet the needs of users of US private company financial statements, which are mostly for bankers and other types of lenders.

The panel, formed by the Financial Accounting Foundation, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, will meet five times throughout the year and will issue a report with recommendations on the future of standard setting for private companies by the end of the year.


The debate has resurfaced after the International Accounting Standard Board issued international standards for private companies last July (called IFRS for SMEs). Financial experts have been discussing this topic for decades. For instance, in 1996, the Financial Executive Research Foundation issued a paper titled “What do users of private company financial statements want?”

Some of the old and new questions the panel will address:

• What is the key, decision-useful information that the various users need from GAAP financial statements?

• Are current GAAP financial statements meeting those needs?

• How does standard setting for private companies in the US compare to standard setting in other countries, both those that have adopted IFRS for small and medium-size entities and those that have not?

To the extent that current GAAP is not meeting user needs in a cost-beneficial manner, what are some possible alternatives or private company standards?

Even if GAAP is found wanting, however, the panel might not be all that keen on IFRS as an alternative, given the limited experience of US companies with the international regime and rising skepticism on the part of the Securities and Exchange Commission about the independence of the body setting international standards.

Not that public or private US companies are eager to switch to IFRS, which will be costly and cumbersome. At this point, it seems as if private ones would rather have the accounting devil they know, except they no doubt wish it were a bit less hellacious on their results. And that’s been pretty much a forlorn hope for years.

Picture of the Day: How to Keep Staff at Work During the Waning Days of Tax Season | 04.09.10

We’re dispensing with words today in favor of the following deterrent.


It’s our understanding that if you breach this guard before granted permission to leave, then something like this could happen:

Accounting News Roundup: The Debate Over IRS-prepared Tax Returns; KPMG HK Senior Manager Arrested for Bribery; CFOs Starting to See Job Options | 04.09.10

Should the IRS Fill Out Our Tax Returns? [TaxVox]
Some say, YES! At the very least the Service could get the ball rolling, “by filling in your wage income, exemptions, and standard deduction and perhaps even figuring some other deductions and credits. This…could be a huge benefit for those who file Forms 1040A and 1040EZ.” Naturally, the taxpayer has to approve the return prior the actual “filing” of it but this would potentially assist millions of Americans who are otherwise stumped by 1040s of any stripe.


The other side of this argument is that it will delay refunds:

Bob Weinberger, a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security and a former top executive at the tax prep firm H&R Block. Bob counters that the “fatal flaw” of such a system is that it could delay refunds for months. For many taxpayers, Bob argues, getting a check from IRS in April is a key to their annual financial planning, and postponing that refund would generate a huge backlash. Bob also said such a system would be a huge drain on IRS resources.

While this likely true, the root of the problem is the “check from the IRS is key to financial planning” part. If these people need the money so bad, they should adjust their withholding so they don’t pay in so much during the year. Perhaps that’s not an easy concept to grasp, so if we say “You’re giving the government an interest-free loan for 12 months,” that will help.

HK charges KPMG man with bribery [FT]
Leung Sze-chit, a senior manager in the Hong Kong office, has been arrested on corruption charges after offering a co-worker a $12,280 bribe related to a client’s IPO. The FT reports that the firm learned of the situation via its internal hotline, “After investigation, the member of staff in question was suspended by KPMG and a report was then made . . . to the relevant authorities.” So yes, to answer some of you, people do call those internal hotlines.

CFO Job Options Opening Up [FINS]
After hunkering down for the last couple of years or so, CFOs are starting to see some new job options. FINS reports that “Some felt loyalty to organizations in financial straits, while others hesitated to jump given uncertainty about potential landmines at other companies.” Now that growth is slowly creeping back, “some companies are likely to find they need a different type of executive in the role. And some CFOs may even find themselves in line for positions higher up the corporate ladder.”

What Was the Emergency Meeting at Grant Thornton’s Cleveland Office All About?

After Grant Thornton sprung into layoffs ahead of everyone else (based on what we’ve heard anyway) on Tuesday, the Cleveland audit practice leader apparently arranged an impromptu sit-down to discuss some things, among them, the headcount.


From an accountant close to the situation:

They let go of an A2 on Tuesday also. The audit practice leader then called an emergency audit dept meeting referring to us as “inventory” and that they were “managing the pipeline.”

We left another message with GT Cleveland to see if we could get a copy of the minutes or something but no one is calling us back.

Regardless, we get the “inventory” analogy but in this case, the inventory happens to have rent/mortgage and possibly a cocker spaniel or other human beings to feed. But seriously, we still get the analogy.

Taking it a step forward, was the “inventory” all that was discussed? Something else could have come up, say Stephen Chipman’s blog? Speculating about the whereabouts of Gabriel Azedo? Arguing over Indians tickets for Monday? Any other ideas? Discuss or let us know.

Are the Roots of Accounting the Root of Our Problems?

I’m not an accountant, but I play one in social media.

My brother, who is an accountant, is mad for old accounting and economics textbooks. He’s of the opinion that these classics provide a less adulterated view of the subject than a lot of the current stuff. In fact, anything published after the creation of FASB in 1973 is considered suspect. Call it an aversion to “rules inflation.” And while I make fun of him A LOT about it, I have to wonder who is the greater fool. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that newer and more doesn’t always equal better. But I digress.


When I’m on vacation in cottage country, a trip to the lois tradition and this past holiday weekend was no different. This beauty had my brother’s name written all over it!

This book, “An Accounting Primer: The ABC’s of Accounting for the Non-accountant,” was originally published in 1968. Based on my reading of it, I think it’s safe to say Elwin W. Midgett did NOT spend The Summer of Love dropping acid in Golden Gate Park listening to The Dead jam out with an extended version of Born Cross-Eyed; although, and not to disparage Middle Tennessee State University, he was probably relatively well acquainted with the affliction.

For $4 bucks, I had to pick it up.

So, what did accounting look like back in the late 60’s?

Here’s my greatest hits courtesy of my brother, Mr. Elwin W. Midgett, and Middle Tennessee State University. Go Blue Raiders!

Preface
“… the author is always amazed at the total lack of understanding of a balance sheet or a profit and loss statement. Although the author does not believe that this situation is one that calls for immediate action…”

Hear that? I think Fra Luca Pacioli just rolled over in his grave.

Midgett does reference the Italian monk credited (no pun intended) with inventing the double entry system way back in 1494, and rightly focuses on the Accounting Equation as being the foundation of the whole business. That said, you can’t help but laugh when Cash Flow Statements are referred to with terms like, “Where Got and Where Gone”.

There’s more than a few laughs, but there’s also quite a few truths in that ‘News From 1930’ kind of way.

The topic of borrowing comes up a lot. On the second page of Chapter 1, Midgett cautions that a business should not “buy on credit indiscriminately, because many assets decrease in value rapidly.” Now Henry Lehman is rolling in his grave. “Business runs on credit and if all credit were suddenly cut off, the economy of the country would all but grind to a screeching halt.” Okay, now he’s SPINNING in his grave.

It’s either laugh or cry, right? Or in Gonzalez’s case, bust out a string of expletives that’ll take the paint off the walls! Lovely girl.

Of course, even back then Midgett can’t help but betray accounting’s doom with his unfortunate choice of sample company:

Or it’s dork label,

Chapter IV: Debitus And Creditus

In Brief
The Owner, or the Owning thing,
or whatsoever come to thee:
upon the Left hand see thou bring
for there the same must placed be.

But –
they unto whom thou doest owe
upon the Right let them be set;
or whatsoe’er doth from thee go
the place them there do not forget.

Whaaaaaa?

“One should never attempt to memorize the theory of debit and credit…. Memory is too fickle.”

“Fortunately, an account has only two sides.”

I think I could harvest enough out-of-context quotes to write an entire book of my own!

Around p.27 it kind of strikes me that the roots of accounting aren’t about decision making, strategy, or business insight – All the stuff we are being encouraged to consider today. The roots are about one thing and one thing only, tracing transactions.

That’s not all bad, is it? Could it even be…. precious?

Chapter VI: The Worksheet – It’s Wonderful

“It truly is a marvelous device…. The accountant does not necessarily show it to anyone, but he knows its value…”

However,

The worksheet, marvelous as it is, is not magic…. When two columns of accounts are in balance and they are separated into four columns of accounts, keeping debits debits and credits credits, the difference between the new columns will be the same and on opposite sides.

Simple.

This was the paragraph that really made me think we need a “Best Before” date on these types of books. I can deal with the quaintness of referencing handwritten journals, carbon copies, printing calculators and the like, but I draw the line at the old-timey word maze.

Midgett goes on to actually do a pretty decent job of covering off the various sub-ledgers, adjusting entries, payroll, and accruals. Being buried deep within the technology industry for Accounting and Business Intelligence (B.I.), I haven’t actively thought about these Journals for a while. It was okay. Grounding.

You know that feeling, like… coming home?

Anecdote:
‘I’ve been recording them this way for ten months,’ she replies, and adds a little sarcastically, ‘If I have been doing it wrong, why haven’t you told me before now?’

Yes, it was a simpler time. A time when you could fit about everything you need to account for business in 165 pages. A time when the tax code was comprehensible and “The prospective auditor learns that he must be liberal in his thinking and tolerant of the techniques of others”.

Thank you Elwin W. Midgett. And Fare Thee Well.

Elwin W. Midgett {December 31, 1911 – November 22, 1993}

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. He regularly attends and contributes to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city through the Vancouver Enterprise Forum, guest blogging on Techvibes.com, and as a mentor with ISSofBC. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. He is currently working in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals.

Partners of Mazars, Weiser Approve Merger

Seems like a long time ago when we’re speculating about Mazars merger with Weiser. Oh wait. It was. Busy season had just started.

At the time, it sounded like the deal was all but guaranteed, just a small matter of the partners voting on the merger and shazam! Global 6 Contender!


Accountancy Age reports that “vast majority of partners on both sides agreed to the officially resides in the good old US of A as “WeiserMazars.” The article states that no layoffs will occur as a result of the merger. AA also reports that the new executive board will be meeting next month to discuss “driving growth from the newly combined business.” Whether this includes more mergers in the Western Hemisphere, we can only speculate.

The combined firm has 12,500 employees including 680 partners. According to Mazars’ most recent annual report, the firm had over €773 mil in revenues (just over a $1 bil) while Weiser had just over $135 million in revenues.

WeiserMazars spokeswoman Laura Kucera provided us with the firm’s press release:

Weiser LLP Joins Mazars Group Worldwide to Offer Clients International Services Opportunities

Mazars, an international group specialising in audit and advisory services and Weiser, an audit and advisory firm with a strong presence in the north east region of the U.S., have announced today that their businesses are to combine.

Partners from both entities have voted to incorporate 74 Weiser partners into Mazars’ international integrated partnership. Reflecting this new arrangement, Weiser will become a Mazars member firm and be renamed WeiserMazars LLP.

The deal marks a new stage in the Mazars’ international development, and means that it will have member firm offices in 56 countries, served by 12,500 professionals, including over 680 partners.

Mazars and Weiser, which employs more than 650 professionals and has annual revenues of $ 135m, have maintained a close and fruitful relationship for the last ten years via a joint venture agreement.

Patrick de Cambourg, Chairman and CEO of Mazars says: “We have worked with Weiser for ten years via a joint venture agreement. This combination is the result of our excellent relationship, our shared values and commitment to offering high quality services to our clients. This enhanced relationship is a natural development based on our mutual trust. We are delighted to welcome Weiser into our partnership. They are a first-rate firm with an excellent reputation in the New York area market. It is an important step in Mazars’ development and our clients will benefit from the formal combining of our services in the U.S. market.”

Douglas A. Phillips, Chairman of Weiser, added: “Serving our clients means helping them on a global level, beyond borders. This is why we made the choice to develop an international joint venture with Mazars in 2000. Today, we are happy to develop our relationship with Mazars by fully joining the Mazars international integrated partnership as we know that when like-minded professionals work together, they obtain excellent results.”

A video interview with Patrick de Cambourg and Douglas Phillips, is available. Please contact us if you wish to receive a copy.

Since it’s inception, Weiser has provided quality accounting, audit, tax and consulting services to clients in industries spanning, manufacturing and distribution, real estate, financial services, healthcare, nonprofit, media/entertainment and automotive, as well as to high net worth individuals and their families. The firm is headquartered in New York City.

Some New Jersey Taxpayers Can Put Off That 1040 For Awhile Longer

Are you dreading April 15th North Jersey? Thought so. With just over a week to go until deadline, it may have crossed your minds that you should start tearing your house apart for that W-2.

Well, you can postpone the treasure hunt for now because the IRS is showing mercy on you for the Biblical rainfall that poured on the Garden State last month.


The IRS announced on Monday that they are delaying the filing deadline “for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. This includes the April 15 deadline for filing 2009 individual income tax returns, making income tax payments and making 2009 contributions to an individual retirement account (IRA).”

The counties declared a disaster area by the POTUS include Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, and Union and thus qualify for the extended deadline, which is now May 11th.

New Jersey makes the third state allowed a prolonged procrastination period, joining counties in Massachusetts and all of Rhode Island.

Don’t try to get cute though, Garden Staters, if you’re thinking you can falsely claim residency in one of the affected counties, the IRS will be all over your shit, “IRS computer systems automatically identify taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and apply automatic filing and payment relief.” So appreciate the compassion if you can get it but don’t get any ideas; the IRS is still watching.

New Jersey Severe Storm and Flooding Victims Have Until May 11 to File Their Tax Returns [IRS.gov]

Accounting News Roundup: SEC Image Makeover is a Work-in-Progress; Washington Considers Increasing Sales Tax on Beer; Ex-CFO in Backdating Trial Blames Dead CEO | 04.07.10

SEC faces setbacks, skepticism in trying to reform its enforcement image [WaPo]
Whether you believe it or not, the SEC is trying like hell to turn it’s image around. As you know, this is not a small challenge when you check down the list of ball drops and/or embarrassing moments. Plus, when Real American Hero Harry Markopolos repeatedly refers to the SECstaff as idiots, who’s not going to believe him?

Tasked with this turn around, Mary Schapiro and Rob Khuzhami are on the offensive, doubling the number of investigations from ’08 to ’09, as well as doubling fines. Emergency stop actions have also increased over 80%, according to the Commission’s data.


Yet, some remain unconvinced, like Commissioner Luis Aguilar who was quoted in the WaPo, “I’m looking to see whether or not all of the new initiatives are actually resulting in improved sanctions. I don’t yet see the empirical evidence.” Patience, Luis. We hear there’s a couple of things possibly in the pipeline.

Beer Today, Taxed Tomorrow [Tax Girl]
Everyone in Washington State that isn’t a recovering alcoholic (or a teetotaler) should probably start freaking out. WA is considering a “temporary” sales tax increase to 50 cents per gallon, or 43 cents per sixer, sayeth La Tax Chica. The current tax is 15 cents per six pack.

What’s worse (for most anyway) is that only “big-brand” beer is subject to the tax, leaving the micro-breweries alone and TG thinks this will be challenged as unconstitutional for protectionism. In our opinion, punishing people that drink bad beer is a completely acceptable sin tax, since they choose to drink the bad beer, unconstitutional or not. It definitely doesn’t help the college kids though; that’s an $8 extra on a keg.

Ex-Maxim CFO Blames Dead Boss at SEC Backdating Trial [Law.com]
Carl Jasper is the former CFO of Maxim Integrated Products and is currently on trial for backdating stock options. This is the first case of this kind since the SEC started cracking down on the practice a few years ago. Mr Jasper is relying on the defense that his dead boss, Maxim founder Jack Gifford, is to blame.

The SEC finds this all too convenient:

Mark Fickes delivered a crisp, scripted opening statement for the SEC, beginning simply: “This case is about cheating and then lying about it.” Fickes hammered on the hard-to-ignore fact that Jasper is an accountant who presumably knows accounting rules about granting stock options.”When it came to accounting, no one knew more at Maxim than the defendant,” he told the jury.

Yeah, so that could be a bit of a problem for Jasper which is probably why he invoked his 5th Amendment privilege.

Quote of the Day: The AP Doesn’t Hire Criminal CFOs | 04.06.10

If you want to know what the firm’s actual P&L is like, I suggest you read people who can perform basic addition and subtraction.

~ Barry Ritholtz, who was not impressed with the Associated Press story on Overstock.com’s 2009 profit. He suggests this.

Will CFO’s Audit Fee Benchmark Tool Help Keep the Big 4 Honest on Fees?

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

There’s a bit of a tiff going on over at my former place of employment as a result of the cover story in the latest issue of CFO Magazine on the recent fall in auditor’s fees.

Some critics seem to fear that the phenomenon will be encouraged by a new benchmarking tool the website unveiled on April 1.

For a fee of $1,200, the tool allows companies to compare the fees that their peers pay for auditors. The process should be both quicker and more comprehensive than the requests for proposals now put out by many companies trying to figure out what they should be paying.


Accounting mavens David Albrecht and Lynn Turner, however, seem to worry that such an exercise will lead to the further commoditization of audits, and so to lower quality financial reporting, even though there’s no evidence the increased fees we saw in the wake of the Sarbanes Oxley Act did anything to improve its quality. Lehman Brothers, anyone?

Yet after the article appeared, Turner sent around comments on his list serve saying it contained several “factual inaccuracies” and that “a firm cannot do the same amount of work with these lower fees without seeing a huge reduction in profits.”

One problem here, it seems to me, is that we’re talking about an oligopoly, which invariably skews the normal effects of supply and demand. Albrecht concedes that the industry is an oligopoly but doesn’t make a cogent point about the significance of that. And he misses the other complication, which is that SarBox not only required auditors to review a company’s internal financial controls as well as its financial results, but also prevented auditors from offering audits as loss leaders for their more profitable consulting services. Now auditors can’t offer both services to the same clients. So audits have to stand on their own two feet.

Turner gets this point, though he confuses the chronology of the regulatory events involved. And he seems to suggest the article is flawed in the conclusion it draws about it, without saying how.

Here’s the point. If, in fact, the extra work SarBox required inflated auditors’ profits, why shouldn’t CFOs be able to make sure they’re getting what they pay for?

And the apparent assumption that benchmarking will inevitably lead companies to push for lower fees seems a bit shaky to me. As CFO.com’s editorial director Tim Reason points out, the process may instead merely keep auditors on their toes. Are Albrecht and Turner arguing that opacity is necessary for the public good, so auditors can pad their fees with impunity? Sorry, but that just doesn’t compute.

In an email to me this morning, Tim wrote: “We think finance executives and audit committees will benefit from having an independent, trusted editorial source provide them with a quick way to benchmark their fees-and make sure they are neither too high nor too low.”

Too low? Sure. You get what you pay for.

Tim also points out that there are no advertisers or sponsors for the tool. “It is a pure editorial offering being made directly to our readers, giving them information they’ve been asking us for years.”

Now there’s a radical idea.

Layoff Watch ’10: Grant Thornton’s Cleveland Office Starts Early

From Casa de Chipman:

A manager, a senior III, and senior II were quietly let go yesterday. In addition, the conference rooms are booked for today. I have not heard from other offices, but the Cleveland office appears to be kicking off the race early.


Seems early but our source indicated that these were audit professionals and we’re sure each office has their own method to the madness. Layoffs as this level were also not mentioned by Stephen Chipman during his firm-wide call back in January, although many have indicated that they would be happening regardless.

We left a message with the Cleveland office’s HR but so far we haven’t heard back and GT’s national PR has not responded to our email. If you’ve got an unexpected meeting coming up or have more details, get on the horn.

Live Blogging the Overstock.com Earnings Call

4:57: Everybody ready to do this? We exchanged an email with Sam Antar a little bit ago and he says he never gets on the call so we know he’s listening along. Sam, can’t you get one of those things that will disguise your voice and that makes it sound like your voicebox was removed?

5:00: Slides are working but These Salt Lake City people need to get their act together.

5:02: Jonathan Johnson in the hizzous! Dr. Patrick is in attendance and Steve Chestnut. Yeah, that 10-K was two weeks late, Johnnie. You should probably mention that. Non-GAAP financial measures? You mean the whole 10-K? We kid, we kid.

5:03: Chestnut gets on and he name drops KPMG. Thanks Klynveldians for making this a virtually painless process. Chesty agrees with Patsy’s sentiments that he’s sorry for the delay but appreciates your patience throughout this whole mess.

Oh boy. Accountants getting thrown under the bus. They’re hiring new people though. Ones that have appropriate training in debits and credits. Hell, they’ll throw in some internal audit people too. Progress is being made, make no mistake.


5:07: Patrick Byrne is up! He’s stoked to be here. Going through the numbers and Patsy mentions that Johnnie Johnson never sounds bored while going over the minutiae. “ALL IS GOOD!” Stalling…Skips an entire slide for some reason (probably not important). Pat doesn’t know what the future holds. That’s deep man. He’ll stop talking about the future now. You know who Patrick cares about? The consumers! He’s passing savings on to you, the American people and Overstock shoppers.

5:11: This thing is generating cash, sayeth Chestnut. Jesus, we are cruising through these slides. Think he’s skipping over anything? An investment banker told Patsy that “profit is noble.” He thinks its Chinese or something. Definitely not Nietzsche. Pat likes LL Bean, btw. Johnnie Johnson is back on. Just because LL Bean is a great company doesn’t mean OSTK isn’t going to try like hell to be numero uno in customer satisfaction.

Okay, these guys really like LL Bean. Patrick is talking about duck boots and grandpas now. Really profound stuff here. Did they mention they were above Amazon, Zappos, etc?

5:15: No reason to read slide 13…moving along, moving along. Patrick is reminiscing about someone at Allen & Co. who said something smart at one time in the past. Not really going anywhere…Yes. Please keep up the abrupt stops and starts. Johnnie do you want to chime in? Pat says they have tight expense controls. This must be the one area of the company where controls are just a-okay. $46 million in cash flow is nothing to sneeze at people. Patrick still doesn’t want to talk about the future.

5:19: Questions. Matt Schindler/BofA (sorry if I butchered the spelling): nice revenue number guys. How’d you do it? Great question, sayeth Patrick. Patrick can’t believe this didn’t happen three years ago but hey, whatever. ’09 wasn’t so hot compared to other years because you know, it pretty much sucked for everybody.

What about gross margin? Patsy said that 20% gross margin was too high and was going to give it back to customers? Now it’s 17% WTF? Are you doing customers a favor or did you get hammered by the seasonal whathaveyou? Patsy says that OSTK wants to be cheaper than everybody in the entire universe, so hell yeah, they’re passing it on to the consumer.

5:26: WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE FUTURE! Do you know what the future holds? We sure as hell don’t but chances are it involves the SEC so we’re not going there. END. OF. STORY.

The book of this company will be written one day and chapter one will be human development. Who will write this book? Patrick? Robby Boyd? Floyd Norris? Good God, when is this BofA guy’s turn over? One final question: Q1 is the past so that’s technically not the future so how is it??

Patrick says that you may have heard that he was in some hot water, so Q1 actually is the future, thankyouverymuch. Next question.

5:30: Patrick’s fraternity brother is next up and they compliment each other for being such swell guys. Patrick especially likes his buddy’s Minnesota accent. Sounds like Johnnie is running the show because Patrick says that he’s the one insisting that Patrick keep his piehole shut about the future.

5:35: Jesus, Marge Gunderson asks another snoozer of a question. Patrick plugs another book that no one has ever heard of called “The Dick” or something.

Marge Gunderson: Any litigation? – Johnnie will handle this. Prime brokers are going down in September of 2011. Byrne can’t help himself and blurts out that the it will be the OJ Simpson trial of the financial world. That’s nice. Murder. The murder of OSTK.

Hey! What about those Q1 earnings?? It’s still TBD but we’re tentatively shooting for late April. KPMG has been burning the midnight oil! Patrick is singing their praises right now. They’re a great crew. Not like the hacks at Grant Thornton. Herculean effort KPMG. Props. Tons of props. Nice job team. No plans for you to be fired.

5:42: Tom O’Halloran from an bank I’ve never heard of. Byrne claims that the OSTK is part of the American psyche now. Coca-Cola, Baseball, and Overstock.com. Steve Chestnut number drops $900 million in revenues. That’s almost a billion! But we’re still kind of small, we’re not delusional. Johnnie knows that Americans see OSTK as a real alternative for stretching their nickel.

Patrick is now talking macro-econ now and we’re totally disinterested. Btw, did you notice that OSTK is the only discounter on the customer satisfaction survey?

5:48: Talking inventory…What about cash levels? You’ve got about $140 mil in cash. Is that enough? What do you like to see in the future?

Patrick says if working capital drops $30 mil they’re in deep shit. Since this involves the future, Johnnie Johnson takes over and Patrick shuts his trap.

5:51: A emailed question from fellow named Nick whose last name is being withheld to protect him. Weird. He wants to know about patent infringements. Jesus, are Sam’s questions going to get asked or not? The Company will fight these tooth and nail. Johnnie will fight these suits dammit. No settlements. It’s about principle, after all.

Michal Ungai (sp?) is up. Something about future depreciation. Patrick asks Johnnie for permission to answer the question, so it must be serious. Are we talking about this?…stand by…If you’re assuming what we are, then you’re good to go.

5:58: Johnnie says time is up so everybody beat it. Patrick says KPMG needs to get the Q1 done and then they can go on vacay. That’s reassuring.

Will Patrick Byrne Answer Sam Antar’s Questions?

Sam probably won’t be getting a real apology so maybe Patrick will answer his questions on the earnings call today? It’s going down in little while and it’s sure to be a do not miss event.

To give you a little preview, Sam Antar provided us with his questions that he submitted to P. Byrne, the Company’s President Jonathan Johnson and Joe Tobacco (independent member of the audit committee). We’ll be live-blogging the call starting at 5 pm EDT to see if these get answered and if anything else exciting happens.

From: Sam E. Antar
To: Patrick Byrne ,
Joseph Tabacco ,
Board – Jonathan Johnson
Date: Mon, Apr 5, 2010 at 2:04 PM
Subject: Overstock.com conference Call Questions

Dear Patrick Byrne:

The following questions are submitted for Overstock.com’s conference call scheduled today. I respectfully request that each question be read aloud in its entirely and that you and Johnson specifically answer each question.

1. Will you admit that I correctly identified GAAP violations by Overstock.com in its accounting treatment for recoveries from underbilled and overpaid fulfillment partners and that the company was dead wrong?

2. Will you admit that I was correct when I properly reported that Overstock.com’s GAAP violations caused the company to report an improper Q4 2008 profit, rather than a properly reported net loss?

3. Will you admit that Overstock.com continued to violate GAAP even after being notified by me of specific GAAP violations?

4. Will you and Jonathan Johnson admit that you made the following false statements to investors?

On February 6, 2009, you responded to my original February 4 blog post identifying specific GAAP violations on the InvestorVillage message board by claiming that:

Antar’s ramblings are gibberish. Show them to any accountant and they will confirm. He has no clue what he is talking about.

On November 18, 2009, during a conference call with analysts and investors, you falsely claimed:

In fact, we as I understand it, this doesn’t change any positive quarter to a negative quarter or any negative quarter to a positive quarter.

In a November 25, 2009 Salt Lake Tribune article, company President Jonathan Johnson was quoted as saying:

None of these changes that they [Grant Thornton] are talking about, or that people at the SEC are now asking about, make any of our quarters go from negative to positive or from positive to negative.

Will you and Johnson admit that your quoted statements above were false?

Regards,

Sam E. Antar

Marcum Purchasing UHY New England Locations, Tax Quizzes to Be Given?

Web CPA is reporting that Marcum, the firm best known for quizzing potential employees, is purchasing three offices of UHY Advisors (Boston, Hartford and New Haven) effective April 16th.

The addition of the three locations would make fourteenfifteen total for Marcum, who currently only has a Greenwich office in New England. After the deal is closed, UHY Advisors will have fourteen locations well.


No financial details were reported but it is reported that all the UHY employees will be retained by Marcum, pending the successful passing of a rigorous quiz given in a room with no windows, air conditioning and a one hour time limit.

A Marcum spokeswoman declined to comment and a message with UHY was not immediately returned.

Marcum to Buy UHY Offices in New England [Web CPA]

Overstock.com Blames Restatements on Accountants

Last week the financial three-ring circus Overstock.com officially put an end to its 2009 by filing its 10-K with the SEC (after a two week extension). Ring managed to keep his promise about turning a profit and managed to keep his head about it in his letter to shareholders only mustering, “It’s nice to be profitable.”

As you might expect, Sam Antar was not impressed and since the Company’s filing he and others (including Gary Weiss) have pointed out major internal control problems, mistakes in the footnotes, false disclosures related to an alleged “tax dodge” and now, NOW the most unforgivable thing yet.


Sam notes that the Company, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to blame its own accountants and their lack of knowledge for the most recent restatement in its 10-K:

We lacked a sufficient number of accounting professionals with the necessary knowledge, experience and training to adequately account for and perform adequate supervisory reviews of significant transactions that resulted in misapplications of GAAP.

Information technology program change and program development controls were inadequately designed to prevent changes in our accounting systems which led to the failure to appropriately capture and accurately process data.

These are the only two “control failures” identified by the Company in its filing that constitute material weaknesses. Naturally, the management team and the audit committee agreed with this assessment, “Our management concluded, and the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors agreed with management’s conclusions,” that former CFO David Chidester and former Treasurer Rich Paongo are the ones at fault here.

Is that class or what? So did Patrick Byrne finally realize that David Chidester and Rich Paongo, after several years at Overstock, lacked the “necessary knowledge, experience and training” so they and the Company “parted ways” (aka fired their sorry asses) for the latest restatement? What about the previous umpteen restatements? Why wasn’t didn’t the parting of ways occur after those?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, Sam has appealed to none other than Mary Schapiro to make sure the shenanigans don’t continue:

From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, April 05, 2010 3:56 AM
To: ‘Mary Schapiro’; ‘enforcement@sec.gov’;
Cc: ‘Patrick Byrne’; ‘Joseph Tabacco’; ‘Board – Jonathan Johnson’
Subject: Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures
Importance: High

To Chairperson Mary Schapiro:

Enclosed is a link to my blog post entitled, “Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures.”

Link here: http://whitecollarfraud.blogspot.com/2010/04/open-letter-to-securities-and-exchange.html

The blog post referred to in the link above, is to be considered a formal complaint to the SEC for continued false and misleading disclosures by Overstock.com and its officers. Please note that as a courtesy, I have cc’d Overstock.com on this email.

Respectfully,

Sam E. Antar

Is the SEC not interested in a slam dunk case? We’ll see.

Holiday Weekend Accounting News: KPMG Bolts Iran; Financial Statement Reader App for iPad?; IRS Job Creation; Another Koss Fraud Theory; Toni Braxton Tax Trubs; Illegals Bilk IRS for $13 mil; Job of the Day | 04.02.10

See you Monday, capital market servants. It’s okay, tax warriors – Just think, two weeks from today and you’ll be sleeping in.

KPMG severs Iran ties [FT]
T Fly and Co. has pulled the plug on Iran after big pressure from the UANI, “Tom Wethered, KPMG International’s general counsel, wrote to UANI on Thursday that the accountancy network had terminated the membership of Bayat Rayan, one of Iran’s biggest accountants.” The FT reports that the firm cited “serious and escalating concerns,” about the country’s government.

Imagine: iPad App l Statements [XBRL Business Information Exchange via CPA Trendlines]
Someone make this happen ASAP. “Imagine it. Everyone connected by the Web, not the current Web but the Semantic Web. iPads, iPods, iPhones, Androids, Smartphones; maybe a few PCs will still be around. IFRS used globally. Financial information in XBRL making it dynamic like a pivot table, rather than static like the legacy paper statements.”


Is Hiring More IRS Employees ‘Job Creation’? [The Atlantic]
There’s a lot of hysteria over the 16,000-some odd new IRS agents that will be running around the country trying to steal your freedom. Those are real jobs though.

Koss Fraud: Unrecorded revenue? [Fraud Files Blog]
Tracy Coenen kicks around another theory of how alleged shopaholic Sue Sachdeva hid her embezzlement from Grant Thornton, “I’ve heard from a few sources who I consider to be very reliable that Sachdeva hid her theft by not recording revenue. This would mean that Koss’s revenue was understated by $31 million during the time she was committing her theft.” Tracy points out that this method would be “messy” but “There is almost no chance that the auditors will discover the theft and the cover-up. The bulk of the auditors’ work is spent on the balance sheet. So long as transactions related to the theft don’t show up in the ending balances of the balance sheet accounts, she’s pretty safe there.”

Singer Toni Braxton bobbles tax bill [Tax Watchdog]
Toni Braxton really needs help. She now owes the IRS nearly $400k after a $71k tab from last summer. We’ll say it again – Get Ludacris on the phone.

10 illegal aliens in S.C. admit to bilking IRS out of $13 million [Greenville Online]
Who do the teabaggers get mad at for this one? Don’t they hate the IRS and illegal aliens equally? We can only hope that this will cause their heads to explode. Oh, and because it’s in South Carolina we can probably expect a lynching of everyone involved.

Job of the Day: Fannie Mae Needs a Experienced Accountant [GC Career Center]
Four to six years experience, CPA required. Responsibilities include: Compile, review, analyze, and record financial information to the general ledger. Complete monthly closings. Prepare balance sheet and profit and loss statements, consolidated financial statements, and other accounting schedules and reports. Located in DC Metro. You!

Five Questions with Norman Marks

Norman Marks is an “evangelist for GRC” (that’s governance, risk management and compliance for those of you that can’t do a Google search). He is a CPA, a chartered accountant and vice president, governance, risk, and compliance for SAP’s BusinessObjects division, and has been a chief audit executive of major global corporations for more than 15 years.

He blogs at the IIA website and keeps a personal blog on governance, risk management and internal controls. He is also the contributing editor of Internal Auditor’s “Governance Perspectives.”

If you read a few Norman’s posts you’ll understand his passion for internal audit, GRC and helping companies find solutions for these issues. Simply stated, Norman is one of the good guys and is doing more than his fair share to help take on the challenges in these areas.


Why should accountants read your blog?
My blog is for anybody with an interest in monitoring events and sharing views around governance, risk management, and internal audit. Accountants are more than people who maintain the books: they are businessmen and women interested in advancing and protecting their organization. That makes them natural leaders in each of these areas.

What are your three must-read accounting blogs and one must-read non-accounting blog?
I read the occasional business blog (aren’t all the better so-called accounting blogs really business blogs) when the topics are interesting. Certainly reTheAuditors by Francine McKenna is interesting. But I really enjoy Mike Jacka (an auditor/humorist) and Richard Chambers, President and CEO of the IIA.

A good accounting blogger is…
Not somebody who writes about (yawn) accounting, but about the accountant’s role in business and advancing the success of his or her organization.

The biggest issue facing accountants today is…
Will the inevitable court cases around Lehman and the principle of ‘fair presentation’ change the nature of external auditing, so that compliance with the rules of US GAAP is no longer sufficient?

Best accounting firm we’ve never heard of (and why they’re great)…
The firm that John Cleese worked in Monty Python (accounting is not boring). Seriously, though, the best accounting firm is the one that puts the interests of its customers first and foremost, consistently performs quality work, exercises fine judgment, provides sound and valuable advice, and sets fees that are reasonable by eliminating unnecessary work and recognizing that fees should not rise faster than wage inflation. You have never heard of them, because I have yet to see them. Sorry, sad, but true.

Here’s Why No One Needs to Get Worked Up Over the Healthcare Reform Earnings Hit

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

The brouhaha over the hits to earnings from the new healthcare law that companies are announcing is much ado about very little.

First of all, the charge is an estimate of future costs and will have no immediate impact on cash flow. And the estimate is unusually large because the accounting rules require costs that would otherwise be reported in the future to be reported now, simply because they are the result of a change in tax treatment.


As my former colleague Marie Leone reports at CFO.com, such “true-ups” over differences in tax and book accounting practices are just that. The real cost will be spread out over many quarters.

More importantly, the hit is the result of a loss of a major taxpayer subsidy. Maybe it made sense before to provide that. But given all the concern about the federal deficit, it seems to me that asking shareholders to bear a bit more of the burden for retiree drug benefits is hardly unfair.

And in the greater scheme of things, the hit may be so small as to have little impact on companies’ valuations, as a Credit Suisse analyst pointed out the other day. General Electric didn’t even break out its estimate for that reason, calling the cost “immaterial.”

The question is whether companies will stop paying for the benefits because of the cost, and that’s unlikely unless they’re willing to compensate for the loss with higher wages, as economist Dean Baker reiterated to me in an email late last week.

“The standard economist view is that the cost of health care comes overwhelmingly out of wages,” Baker wrote. “If they have to pay more in taxes, then it will mostly come out of workers’ pay and have very little impact on their costs and ability to compete.”

If on the other hand, a decline in healthcare costs leads to higher wages, that would mean a stronger economy, so I don’t see how either taxpayers or shareholders will lose here in the long run.

Yes, that’s a big if, but as I’ve said before, the new healthcare law is the biggest effort to rein in costs undertaken to date. Of course more must be done, but the law will provide a big impetus to those efforts.

Hopefully, all this will become clearer as a result of the hearings Rep. Henry Waxman plans to hold next week on this issue, but I’m not holding my breath.

Overstock.com Turns a Profit; Patrick Byrne Writes a Very Un-Patrick Byrne Letter to Shareholders

This morning we thought the KPMG audit team working on Overstock.com would continue slaving away through the extension deadline tomorrow to get that beast of 10-K finished. Well! Turns out they’ll bet of you tonight because the OSTK 10-K has been filed and, as promised Overstock shareholders, your humble servant Patrick Byrne and Co. are reporting an annual profit for the first time ever!


After such a high, restatement or not, we’re guessing Sam Antar definitely won’t be getting an apology but Gary Weiss has already noted a couple of things:

First–stop the presses! Overstock’s auditors at KPMG says that Overstock has insufficient internal controls.

Second, the Marin County District Attorney and four other DAs in northern California want the company to fork over $8.5 million to settle consumer ripoffs by Overstock. The company disagrees and is fighting it, so …. No, wait a moment, make that read “$7.5 million.”

First off, we share Gary’s shock — SHOCK! — on the insufficient internal controls revelation. Second – AUDITORS! We talked about this, remember? Read the 10-K carefully. Overstock’s “Risk Factors” section runs 25 pages for crissakes. A million fucking clams can’t get missed!

You know what though? Mistakes happen, so we’ll let it slide.

Oh, and about that letter to shareholders. Patsy doesn’t bring up former auditor Grant Thornton once, doesn’t quote Nietzsche, compiain about short sellers, bring up Facebook, or say anything remotely antagonizing (although on page 32, the Company’s states he still might).

This makes think: 1) Is he not feeling well? 2) We want the old Patrick back! Read for yourself:

Dear Owner:

In Q4 our revenues grew 27%, twice the ecommerce industry’s rate, and we earned $12.7 million in net income. In 2009 we grew revenues 6%, earned $7.7 million in net income, generated $46 million in operating cash flow, and generated $39 million in free cash flow. It’s nice to be profitable.

I am proud that, for the second year in a row, we rank number 2 in the NRF/Amex survey of American consumers, behind only LL Bean and ahead of Amazon, Zappos, eBay, Nordstrom, and many other fine firms.

As you may know, at the end of Q4 we engaged KPMG as our independent auditors, and announced that we were restating our FY 2008 and Q1, Q2 and Q3 2009 financial statements. I thank you for being patient with us as we worked through the questions raised by the SEC, the transition to the KPMG team, and the extra time it took to ensure that our financial statements are accurate.

I look forward to our conference call next Monday. Until then, I remain,

Your humble servant,

Patrick M. Byrne

SEC Deadline Watch: Try Not to Make a Scene

So today marks the last major deadline for those working on SEC filers and that could mean that your life belongs to you once again. We should also mention that March 31st is a major deadline for many non-SEC clients so there are a lot auditors rejoicing today (or completely losing their shit).


Whether you plan on celebrating the end of your busy season by drinking yourself blind or sleeping at home rather than the office, is matter of personal choice. There will be no shortage of celebrations anyway – clients, team members and if you’re lucky, a firm-wide celebration after the tax trolls cross their finish line.

This also means that the talk of merit increases, promotions and layoffs will start swirling. PwC and E&Y have already re-reassured their troops that raises are coming this year. Some offices have seen the exodus begin so things will remain interesting and we definitely want to know about it.

Not everyone will be raging however. The aforementioned tax return jockeys still have two weeks of listening to ball-baby clients. For those that are still chasing their CPA, maybe you take a breather or maybe you just keep killing yourself and granted, some audit teams (e.g. Overstock.com) are still working but if you passed the finish line today, congrats, well done, yada yada yada.

Quote of the Day: Explaining Accounting Principles to Congress | 03.30.10

“There’s no chance that four CEO’s are going to explain the accounting code to the fine folks in Congress; explaining how to boil water would challenge the format.”

~ Megan McArdle, Business and Economics Editor of the Atlantic, on why asking CEOs to explain why they are complying with GAAP vis-à-vis healthcare reform is a pointless exercise.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at This Shia LaBeouf and InterOil Situation

There’s some funny business going on in InterOil and a lot of it is pure juvenile humor. First of all, you have Louis from Even Stevens pumping their crap stock. Then you have him in Playboy saying he’s less than well-endowed.

It’s as if the jokes write themselves but then you realize that investors are actually counting on the soundness of markets and suddenly it’s not so funny. Never mind, it’s funny.


The first problem with InterOil isn’t really that the guy from Transformers is clumsily pushing it now that he’s worked beside the real Gordon Gekko – sure Wall Street is cool again but not cool enough to rub off on Shia LaBeouf who has apparently taken to pumping stocks lately.

Yeah, we know, we’re confused too.

Getting ready to play next to Michael Douglas for Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” sequel “Money Never Sleeps”, LaBeouf studied under the financial ninjas at John Thomas Financial (yes, JDA already made that joke. A bunch of times) and apparently turned $20,000 into $489,000 says Business Insider.

And yes, he really did tell GQ readers to grow some balls and short gold at 120 (whatever that means). 120 what? Euros?

“He’s So Money” says GQ in the April 2010 issue. Give me a break. From the mouths of garbage-stock-pumping babes:

“I thought my life was pretty wild. I’m Richie Rich. I land in New York, secretly thinking I’m like the coolest guy in the world. I’ve been on the cover of GQ! But then I met these guys, and it’s humbling. It’s the most sex-drugs-and-rock-‘n’-roll atmosphere that exists on the planet. I was hanging out with some wild human beings.”

So we’ve established Shia is a douche but what about InterOil’s “fundamentals”? I’m so glad you asked!

How about this “bad faith” bankruptcy filing by InterOil’s esteemed CEO Phil Mulacek?

InterOil also recently announced a that part of the Antelope-2 well will need to be re-drilled, greasing it up further for 14-year-old humor for months to come. For 7 years InterOil has promised awesome discoveries and for 7 years it has failed to deliver. Since we no longer have logical fundamentals (InterOil outperformed well through 2009), the best we can do is juvenile humor, I guess.

Grow some balls and short InterOil or just sit there and wait for it to implode, up to you.* Shia needs to hurry up and jump on the tax problems bandwagon like many of his fellow “stars” so we don’t have to listen to this anymore. Wonder how much his toilet seat collection would snag at IRS auction?

Earlier: QOTD: Sam Antar is Ready to Rumble

*Disclaimer: nothing here should be taken as investment advice and I don’t take back what I said about Shia’s John Thomas nor his Financials.

Five Questions with Sara McIntosh

Sara McIntosh’s (a pen name) blog is described as “Devoted To Rocking the Worlds Of Finance, Accounting and Auditing.” And if you’ve read any of her posts you’ll know that by “Rocking” she means in the carnal sense.

She is a lifelong writer and accounting/finance industry expert and entrepreneur. After earning an MBA at Northwestern, she started her own finance and accounting consulting business specializing in acquisitions, implementing worldwide accounting systems, haltingg systems malfunctions in global financial operations.

Having conquered all her professional goals she now focuses on writing, having completed her first novel Shell Games in the Summer of 2009. She is currently working on her second novel, Tricks of the Trade.


Accountants are . . .
Sexiest when thinking outside the box.

What are your three must-read accounting blogs and one must-read non-accounting blog?
Francine McKenna’s posts here at GoingConcern and at her own blog, re:TheAuditors – There is no one else that I’ve read that tears apart the accounting essentials from complex 10Ks and 10Qs and scours board minutes to report on the indisputable facts about frauds and other financial shenanigans behind the recent financial crisis and pointing toward future blowouts waiting to happen.

Professor David Albrecht’s The Summa – Hands-down his posts are the most interesting briefs on everything you need to know about accounting standards. That world is going through some crazy, most-likely-not-in-out-best-interest changes right now and he is one of the few voices in the industry trying to stop the decline in U.S. financial reporting standards.

Edith Orenstein’s FEI (Financial Executives International) blog – What can I say, Edith is everywhere! If you only could go one place to find out everything going on in the accounting, finance and audit industries her blog posts would be the place to go, period.

Chris Brogan – He blogs about blogging and other social media galore. He is an amazingly high-energy, extremely warm and witty guy—and it comes across in his posts, making them all the more memorable. He also has a best-selling book on the subject entitled, Trust Agents.

If someone had to read just one post of yours which one would it be?
According to the rest of the internet universe, “Handcuffed Without Consent.”

The biggest issue facing accountants today is . . .
How to restructure the audit industry to become a profession based upon integrity (auditors no longer selected, managed and paid for by the companies they audit) versus what we have today—an environment too often based on greed. If we get the restructuring of the audit industry right, the crooks who ruin it for the rest of the public audit professionals will leave the industry for more lucrative pastimes elsewhere—you’ll most likely find them in the executive suites of their former clients.

Best Accounting firm we’ve never heard of . . .
The Johnsson Group, based in Chicago. Their specialty is improving the internal financial operations of some of the largest corporations in the world. They’re the been-there, done-that consultants every major corporation wishes they had in their back pocket long before the regulators started knocking . . .

Eight Accountants Opt to Risk Their Professional Reputations

We kid! We’re sure it it’ll be a rocking time being a Professional Accounting Fellow with the Office of the Chief Accountant and it will get them all into their respective partnerships with no problem.

The OCA hasn’t been overtly chastised by anyone to our knowledge so maybe this wing of the Commission is idiot and porn free.

• Jouky Chang, currently a director in Duff & Phelps LLC’s Valuation Advisory Services group based in Detroit, Mich.

• John M. Donohue, currently a senior manager in Moss Adams LLP’s audit practice based in Portland, Ore.

• Rachel M. Eckstein, currently a senior manager in Ernst & Young LLP’s National Professional Practice Group based in New York, N.Y.

• Michael Keehlwetter, currently a senior manager in KPMG LLP’s Department of Professional Practice based in New York, N.Y.

• Neil J. Laverty, currently a senior manager in Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Global IFRS and Offerings Services Group based in New York, N.Y.

• Josh D. Paul, currently a senior manager in PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s assurance practice based in San Jose, Calif.

• Christian J. Peo, currently a senior manager in KPMG LLP’s Department of Professional Practice based in New York, N.Y.

• Jason K. Plourde, currently a senior manager in Grant Thornton LLP’s audit practice based in Chicago, Ill.

Congrats to all honored. Try to stay out of trouble.

Office of the Chief Accountant Selects Eight Professional Accounting Fellows [SEC.gov]

You Don’t Want to Imagine the World Without Sarbanes-Oxley, Says Michael Oxley

We really don’t foresee any scenario where a politician would denounce a piece of legislation with his/her name on it but since the MSM has the tendency to bludgeon the Enron/Andersen/Sarbanes-Oxley mantra into everyone’s gray matter, Ox figured he’d better get on record saying that SOx might be the most important moment in U.S. history since the Louisiana Purchase.

When asked if pols can ever stop corporate malfeasance, Ox more or less, compared it to Law & Order, “We have laws against homicide and people kill one another every day. That doesn’t mean that you back off and stop fighting.”


When asked if SOx was a success, we expected a resound, “You bet your ass it’s a success!” but he was a slightly more reserved saying that you should only imagine a world without SOx if you want to scare the bejeezus out yourself:

Sarbanes-Oxley was all about accountability and transparency and restoring investor confidence. We lost almost $8 trillion in market capitalization in 2001 and 2002 because of fraud at places like Enron and Worldcom.

Even though the recent meltdown has hurt confidence again, things could have been much worse if accounting regulations had been as lax as financial regulations.

There’s the magic E word! Maybe we should try focusing on the Tonys as opposed to being so negative when it comes to Enron?

So what about this financial regulatory reform, is this a drag or what?

Critics and the financial press said that Sarbanes-Oxley was rushed through, even though it actually took eight months from the time of the first hearing on Enron until the passage of the bill.

Now, more than a year since the financial crisis, Congress hasn’t dealt with regulation and people are criticizing politicians for moving too slowly. But by taking more time Congress has had a chance to delve into complicated and multi-faceted issues like too-big-to-fail, over-the-counter derivatives, and bank regulations. This is heavy lifting and I give the Congress a lot of credit for working hard to put something together.

Do you think Congress would work on something for eight whole months and it would end up being a failure? If elected representatives work on something for that long it’s bound to be an unmitigated success.

Is Sarbanes-Oxley a failure? [Fortune]

Stephen Chipman Begrudgingly Wore Green on St. Patrick’s Day

Stephen Chipman’s blog post from last week got lost in the shuffle but you’ll be happy to know that you didn’t miss anything. Our lack of enthusiasm is not shared however, as the daily grind for a globe-trotting CEO seems to be enough to entertain some of the GT faithful. How do we know?

He shared one reader/fan’s thoughts this week, that’s how, “So, you really don’t just drink coffee and check e-mail!” While SC neither confirmed nor denied this particular allegation, one could assume that this is a big part of his day.

Moving on…Of the near 1,000 words in this week’s masterpiece, the only thing really worth mentioning is that the GT CEO spent his first St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago last week. And guess what Chi-town? You didn’t let him down; Steve-o was impressed.

This is my first time living in Chicago to experience St. Patrick’s Day; it was very interesting to see the Chicago community’s commitment to this holiday. Dutifully I wore my green tie, in respect of St. Patrick, which was very challenging to do for an Englishman. Nevertheless, I thought it appropriate…even though the Irish did beat the English at rugby a couple of weeks ago in the Six Nations Championships…which was a crushing disappointment…but I digress.

Digression! He’s really getting the hang of this. Maybe Chip’s blog readership is increasing?

The real question is what did SC see on St. Pat’s that piqued his interest? The green river? The turnout at the parade? The vast number of people vomiting in the streets? More details Stevey!

On the biz-nass front, SC did have a conference call with all the GT global leaders and he had to get up bright and early to get on the call at 8 am Chicago time. He did admit that this is NBD because when Steve-o was in China, he had to do the call in the god-awful morning hours to accommodate the BSDs in the U.S. and London.

Speaking of China (and digression), does anyone think Steve knows where mini-Madoff of Hong Kong Gabriel Azedo is? Dude has been missing for awhile.

Former Jack Bauer Nemesis Will Portray Ken Lay in Enron the Musical

So preview of Enron the musical opens in just over two weeks but most of you probably aren’t aware because busy season has been sucking the life out of you. Since we always feel your pain here at GC, it somehow slipped past us that the role of Ken Lay was announced last month and the role has gone to Gregory Itzin who played spineless President Charles Logan in one of the seasons of 24 that we can’t remember.

Anyhoo, since most of you living in New York avoid Times Square (except 5 TS peeps) like the Plague and the rest of you probably need a break, check out a few photos from the Broadhurst sent to us by readers: