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Your New Career Goal: FEI Hall of Fame

Pisani_Bob.standard.jpgDid you ever dream of being inducted into any form of a hall of fame. Baseball? Rock ‘n Roll? Calculus? Did you think all hope was lost for this particular career goal when you decided to become a pointy-headed number cruncher?
Well, we’ve got great news for you. The Financial Executive International Hall of Fame was established four years ago (how did we miss that?) and just announced this year’s recipients. Now you too can fulfill those dreams of giving a teary-eyed speech, thanking all the little people you stepped over and around to become the finance and accounting oracle that you are.
This year’s ceremony will induct Donald Nicolaisen, former Chief Accountant at the SEC and Dennis Dammerman, former vice chairman at GE. So what if you’ve never heard of them? They’ve achieved financial professional immortality! You could be next. Oh, and Bob Pisani of CNBC is hosting. Joan Rivers won’t be far behind. Is there a reason that this ceremony isn’t being beamed into every home in America?
Nicolaisen, Dammerman Named to FEI Hall of Fame [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]

Deloitte Study: Your Boss Wants to Know About Your Trite Status Updates

facebook at work.jpgA study put out by Big D states that 60% of business executives believe that they have every right to know how you portray yourself and the organization you work for.
And while they’re checking that out, they’ll probably go ahead and sneak a peek at your photos from your friend’s bachelorette party where phallic hats and straws were passed out to anyone who would accept them.
Not surprisingly, the study also states that the majority of 18-34 year old employees want The Man to BTFO of their online social networking. While this demand for privacy may exist, apparently you’re still aware that the power of rumor mill known as the Internet can still take your employer down like Nixon Dick Fuld Arthur Andersen.
While less than 20 percent of the overlords out there actually have Big Brother in place, almost half of employees say that they will still flagrantly update their status as “I hate Mondays” or “The weather is way too nice to be working!”
Deloitte’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace Survey Examines the Reputational Risk Implications of Social Networks [Deloitte Press Release]

Goldman Sachs Lawyer Likely to Appear on Dateline NBC

pervert.jpgSo you’re an attorney for Goldman Sachs, married, three kids, live in WestchesterManhattan, life is pretty mundane. You’re probably getting a nice bonus this year, why not have a little fun?
So you “accidentally” stumble into a chat room. You start chatting innocently, with a fifteen year old girl, no big deal, just talking. You might make mention of a certain Jonas brother or whatever 15 year old girls are into. Then you start getting brave and might start asking about her VS Pink undies. Then you’re really feeling comfortable and start talking posish.
WHAM. Next thing you know, cops at the door, yelling, “you like VS Pink you pervert?!? You planning on doing a little wheelbarrow and switching it into a reverse cowgirl? Nice try SICKO!”
Then after six months in Chino Riker’s you’re walking door to door telling everyone you’re a pederast how you really like VS Pink undies.
UPDATE 1:47 PM: After further review, looks like the perv is a Manhattan resident and travelled to Westchester to seal the deal. Our bad. Anyway, turns out the guy was really just looking out for his fellow GS employees.
DA: Goldman Sachs lawyer Todd Genger caught soliciting ’15-year-old’ [NYDN]

Sometimes, Adultery Happens…and Maybe a Little Insider Trading

lovers.jpgSometimes when two married people decide to get down to some adulterous activity, bad things can happen. Divorce, confused kids, awkward dinner parties. Most people probably don’t count on getting involved with serious insider trading allegations.
Steamy details after the jump

Eventually the two settled into a comfortable day-to-day routine in their respective offices in New York and Philadelphia, staring at the same Yahoo Finance screen. Mr. Gansman led Ms. Murdoch in a guessing game about which deals he was working on, she said.

Lady Hard Up For Cash Whores Self Out For Hot Tips, Help With Subprime Mortgage [DB]

Mark-to-Market Gets Vindicated, For Now

TOLD YOU.jpgSweet justice has finally arrived for supporters of mark-to-market accounting. According to the Financial Crisis Advisory Group, MTM may have actually understated some of the losses suffered by banks and “did not contribute to the pro-cyclical nature of the economic system.”
The Group also stated that public flogging of accounting rule wonks for the purposes of shameless political grandstanding doesn’t really help matters, “We have become increasingly concerned about the excessive pressure placed on the two boards to make rapid, piecemeal, uncoordinated and prescribed changes to standards, outside of their normal due process procedures”.
Our money is on the pols BTFO for as long as banks want them to and as inconvenient changes are proposed, which will likely be soon, the public beatings will continue.
Politicians Accused of Meddling in Bank Rules [Floyd Norris]
Accounting is semi-officially exonerated from causing crisis [FT Alphaville]

Pennsylvania Firms to Merge, Attempt to Expand Non-Quaker Client Base

quaker_1.jpgTwo Pennsylvania CPA firms, Parente Randolph and Beard Miller Co., announced yesterday that they are merging.
The combined firm, still without a name (we’re pulling for “Beard”) will have 170 partners, over 1,200 professionals, and 27 offices in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Texas(?).
The combined firm will have a stranglehold on the coveted Quaker market in Pennsylvania and will be well positioned in the New York City market. It will be focusing its growth efforts to find similarly pious and plain clothed, plain speaking business people in upstate New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.
Pa. accounting firms Parente Randolph, Beard Miller to merge [Triangle Business Journal]

Tchotchkes Submission Update and Reminder

In case some of you missed our request last week, or in the event that some of you chose to ignore the request, we are asking for your tchotchke submissions. So keep sending us your pics! You know you have pride in the frivolous junk with your firm’s name on it.
The gimmickyness of this exercise is obvious but if we are forced to discuss the trend of pessimism among CFO’s, a couple things may happen: A) Someone may fall asleep while reading and 2) the vitriol may reach critical mass. Either way, here’s a taste of the submissions we received so far:
8ball.jpg
That’s a KPMG magic 8 ball for those of you scoring at home.
Question: KPMG 8 ball, will Going Concern readers ridicule this post?
Answer: It is certain

PCAOB Names Acting Mustache Chair

goelzer.jpgThe PCAOB has announced Daniel Goelzer will be acting Chairman of the Board effective August 1. Goelzer brings an impressive resume with him, not to mention a sheriff-like mustache that will undoubtedly let the accounting firms know that he is not to be trifled with.

Why IFRS is Similar to an Obscure Reality TV Program

jon-and-kate.jpgLate on Friday we told you about the rager that the IFAC was throwing over the weekend in London and today we get the less than surprising news that they want the governments of the world to push for global accounting standards.
“According to IFAC, participants at the conference agreed that the public interest would best be served by a single set of high-quality, principles-based financial reporting and auditing standards for listed and public interest entities.”
The problem with this whole push for IFRS is that getting anyone to care about accounting rules is like trying to get men interested in the whole Jon & Kate Plus 8 drama. They’re completely clueless at first mention and when you attempt to get into the details interest is immediately lost.
Leading accountants tell governments quicken pace of global standards adoption [Accountancy Age]

Grant Thornton Interns Don’t Get Coffee, Thankyouverymuch

inerncoffee.jpgLast week we asked for some perspective on the chicanery and lovable idiocy of your interns. Today we learn that about a Grant Thornton intern who “verifies that clients’ accounting records are accurate and sits in on important meetings.”
That’s right, interns are verifying accounting records and going to important meetings. Probably the type of meetings where they get to take notes on internal control procedures while the experienced associates can barely keep from strangling themselves with a network cable.
Yet, life remains unfair for the interns, “Interns who talked to RedEye said they are gaining experience to prepare them for the workforce, but increased intern responsibilities typically don’t come with increased pay or perks or even more respect.”
After going to those important meetings, interns still aren’t feeling respected people. No increased pay. No perks. How can this be? Haven’t they done enough? They tried to earn your respect by making the copies that you asked for and getting totally bombed at firm events. They didn’t mean to ask so many questions about the copier. They’re just new, so they want to make sure they don’t screw anything up.
What else can they do? Shine your shoes? Fill your car up with gas? Buy your lunch (they’re probably making more than associates on a per hour basis anyway)? The summer internship season is winding down so make sure you’re letting them know (and us) how they can go that extra mile to get that full-time offer.
Chicago interns move up corporate ladder [Redeye]

Harry Markopolos was in Serious Need of Clean Underwear While Investigating Bernie Madoff

markopolos small-thumb-425x327.jpgSuper-star fraud detector Harry Markopolos was named Certified Fraud Examiner of the Year at the ACFE Fraud Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas last week where he discussed his excellent card-counting method and the Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Harry wanted to everyone to know that just because he blew the whistle on Master de Ponz, that didn’t mean he was a hero. “Heros are brave”, he said, “I don’t think I was brave. I know I wasn’t.” He went on to describe his lack of bravery:
“When I started this case, my underwear were white, they quickly became brown and often times turned yellow”
Okay, after that sinks in, let’s discuss some things:
• We don’t want our fraud detection super-heros to tell us that they soil themselves. It ruins the sex appeal.
• Harry Markopolos wears tighty-whiteys. We were certain that he was a boxers man.
• Was no one helping this guy out? You couldn’t let the guy have a break so he can properly evacuate?
Seriously, the least Marko could have done is stuck his dirty undies, the whites, in a case so the ringer wouldn’t look empty.
Go to Clip 3, “The Math Never Worked Out for Us” on page linked below to see the video. Meanwhile, we’re busy looking for new fraud detection hero that can control themselves.
Madoff Whistleblower Named CFE of the Year [fraudconference.com via Accounting Nation]

H&R Block is Not Letting McGladrey & Pullen Leave Until They Talk About This

argument.jpgSo the H&R Block/McGladrey & Pullen soap opera break-up has gotten more annoying. At first, it simply looked like a firm falling out of love with its parent company because M&P didn’t want to be stuck with a loser their whole life.
Natch, H&R Block wasn’t going to just let M&P walk away from the best thing that ever happened to the firm. M&P was not going to have that conversation and said that they were still walking out.
The Block feels so strongly that M&P is making a mistake, that it was announced late last Friday, probably in order to not make a scene, that H&RB sued M&P to prevent the termination of their administrative service agreement. Essentially saying, “WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS!
M&P is not impressed with this desperate attempt to be won back:

“We are disappointed that H&R Block has chosen to pursue litigation,” said McGladrey & Pullen managing partner Dave Scudder. “We are committed to respecting our legal obligations and are confident we are doing so. Thus we are confident this lawsuit has no merit. Under the terms of our shared services agreement, we have every right to terminate that arrangement. We have chosen to do so because it is the best business decision for McGladrey & Pullen LLP in order to serve our clients in the increasingly complex business and regulatory environment.”

M&P is over being held back by HR&B and wants to get out there on their own. Besides, all The Block does is sit around and prepare tax returns for people who can’t read the instructions on the tax forms. You’ve got no motivation, Block. Oh sure, you got into the online tax return prep business but now what? M&P just wants time to be alone, so please respect that.
Block Files Suit Against McGladrey & Pullen [WebCPA via CPA Trendlines]

Try to Do Something Constructive this Weekend, Like Get the Whole IFRS Debate Settled

In what might be the biggest rager of the weekend, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) are meeting today and tomorrow in London to get down to brass tacks on the whole global meltdown thing.
Also on the agenda for the IFAC: Coming up with a plan to get one set of global accounting standards, and also figure out how to convince the likes of Maxine Waters to BTFO of accounting rules and stick to cooking up dead-end legislation on banning of credit default swaps.
Let us know how it goes.
Accountants’ Group Calls for Single Set of International Rules [Bloomberg]

You Don’t Have the Worst Job in the World

r.jpgBecause we know that many of you feel that way on a daily basis. But nope, sorry. Dealbreaker tells us about the prosecutors in the Stanford case piecing shredded documents back together. If your job sucks worse than that, tell us about it because…WHOA.

Have You Any Tchotchkes?

kpmg_hand_gel.jpgIn the spirit of Lehman Brothers’ desperation, we’re looking to find out which firm out there has the best chance of financing its next big settlement by virtue of hocking its tchotchkes on eBay.
Because no one can say with absolute certainty which big firm will be the next be rendered extinct (although there are some wagers on it) and thus, none of you working for any firm can be sure when all that schwag you’re accumulating in your cube farm will be worth anything, we thought we would get your submissions so that we can determine which firm has as shot at using auctions in cyberspace as opposed to closing up shop. At first glance, E&Y has nothing on eBay but books, so we’re guessing you guys have the most to prove here.
Check out another schwagtastic example after the jump


Some of you have probably checked out for the day already anyway, so you might as well start putting that camera phone to use and email your submissions to [email protected]. Big firms, small firms, we don’t care, we know there are some real finds out there. Just like this beauty:
rubic's.jpg
The best submissions will be posted here and the respective firm’s ability to spend money on frivolous junk will be duly ridiculed.

Audit Opinions May Soon Require Partners’ Names Signed in Blood

signature.jpgThe details are still being worked out but another idea being floated around is giving partners the option of signing some opinions in dog feces, when the opinion being signed is in fact, of equivalent value.
Press Release [PCAOB.org]

What’s the Move When You Get Fired for Looking at Porn?

inappropriate.jpgOkay number-crunchers, we realize you don’t have the most exciting jobs in the world and sometimes you need a little distraction from Excel. Totally natch. Checking out ESPN, Perez Hilton, Going Concern, Facebook is even encouraged in some circles.
Some of you might even be so bold to see what the latest uploads on YouPorn, XTube, et al. are. Fine. We get that. It’s just your biology running wild right? We totally understand. What we can’t understand is those of you that are blatantly watching two girls, one guy, and a Clydesdale reenact the Kama Sutra in your cubicle.
Of course, when somebody catches you drooling on your keyboard, you have to act completely dumbfounded about how such a graphic display of human and equine love could have ended up on your screen. Somehow your superiors don’t buy your stammered out explanation and you’re out on your ass. Time to find to new job that’s not so uptight anyway, right?
So when you’re sitting in the interview with the potential new boss and he/she asks you why you left your last job, how do you explain your penchant for bestiality in a way that gets you hired? The Journal seems to think honesty is the best policy. Just admit what you did and swear that you’ll never, never, never do it again. We’re not convinced this would go over well but whatevs.
Anyone been fired for “inappropriate” Internet use? Did you cover it up in your next interview with “management and I had differences”? Or did you do your damnedest to find a workplace with a less stringent web use policy? Discuss.
Getting Fired for Inappropriate Web Use [WSJ]

FASB, Bankers to Continue ‘Religious War’ Over Fair Value

Apparently the wonks in Norwalk are girding up their loins to take on the banks again over fair value, described by FASB member Marc Siegel as a “religious war” (our pick would be The Crusades).
Under new preliminary proposals issued by the FASB last week, all financial assets, including loans would be marked to market every quarter and classifications like held to maturity, held for investment, and held for sale would go the way of the Dodo.
Jonathan Weil conceptulizes:

Think how the saga at CIT Group Inc. might have unfolded if loans already were being marked at market values. The commercial lender, which is struggling to stay out of bankruptcy, said in a footnote to its last annual report that its loans as of Dec. 31 were worth $8.3 billion less than its balance sheet showed. The difference was greater than CIT’s reported shareholder equity. That tells you the company probably was insolvent months ago, only its book value didn’t show it.

Got it? Well, banks are obviously not cool with this, as one lobbyist is quoted, “I guess the nicest thing I can say is it’s difficult to find the good in this.” I guess it’s on then bitches, as it sounds like the banks would much rather bleed out their orifices until the bitter, bitter end as opposed to report anything that is remotely transparent.
Accountants Gain Courage to Stand Up to Bankers: Jonathan Weil [Bloomberg]

H&R Block Still Loves McGladrey & Pullen

begging.jpgEarlier in the week we told you about McGladrey & Pullen falling out of love with H&R Block. Well, H&RB is not going to just let M&P walk away. The Company cares too much about this relationship:
“We believe the path proposed by certain of M&P’s leaders is fraught with significant business and financial risks and is not in the best interest of M&P partners, employees or clients,” Block CEO Russ Smyth in a release Wednesday. “Whether the full M&P partnership is willing to assume these immense risks remains to be seen.”
Nevermind the fact that H&R Block is the used car salesman of tax preparers. Nevermind that H&RB is probably responsible for the failed appointments of several Obama cabinet members. This about love lost (and probably sex lost).
H&R Block questions McGladrey & Pullen decision [Kansas City Business Journal]

eBay Beats the Numbers Thanks to Lehman Schwag

ebay.pngAt least that’s what we’re guessing.
Bloomberg:
“EBay Inc., owner of the most visited U.S. e-commerce Web site, reported second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, a sign that Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe’s turnaround efforts are working.”
Whatevs. We’d argue beauties like this are the reason for the good Q.
EBay Profit Beats Estimates in Sign That Turnaround Is Working [Bloomberg]

Letter from the Editor – Welcome to Going Concern

accountant.jpgWorking in accounting or finance has a certain stigma associated with it. More times than not, when someone asks you the ubiquitous getting-to-know-you-at-a-party question, “What do you do?” and your response is, “I’m an [enter accounting/finance related position here]” the reaction is typically in some form of pity.

Whether it’s a look that says, “boring” or the inquisitor having to go through your painful explanation of what it is you actually do, it’s rarely a gr��������������������n.

Unless you embrace the stigma of boring, nerdy, introverts that are constantly swimming in spreadsheets, and delve into some self-depreciating humor, bitterness and ranting.

That’s what Going Concern is all about. We’ve embraced everything that makes accounting and finance so painfully dull and we’re going to turn it on its green eyeshade-wearing head.

We’re going to mock, maim, gossip, chastise, rant, and yes, maybe a little advocating, of everything associated with crunching numbers. We will bring you all the latest happenings around the world of the largest and well known firms and our analysis will be anything but accountant-like.

Check out our reoccurring features after the jump


Here are some regular features we will have (and definitely check out our archives):

Tchotchke Contests – Accounting firms love to hand out tchotchkes. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable reason for it but inevitably, your cubicle ends up filled with stress balls, Rubik’s cubes, umbrellas, etc. Some of this stuff handed out is a downright mind job. We want you to send us pictures of your strangest firm schwag.
Guess What I Got Asked to Do Today? – Every number-cruncher, at some point in their career, has asked themselves, “What did he/she just ask me to do?” Whether it’s picking up late-night dinner, footing the phonebook, or cleaning out a closet, we want your stories. The bad, the demoralizing, the thing that made you flip out.

Guess What My Intern Did? – Because having your first job or internship can be nerve racking, staff and interns sometimes do hilarious things unwittingly. Did they run out of gas picking up dinner? Shred workpapers that were signed off on by a partner? Come in hung over and puke on the client’s super-secret, there’s-only-one-copy-of-these files? We know you have these stories and you know you want to share them.

Stupid Auditor Questions – Don’t worry non-public accountants, you won’t be left behind on Going Concern. We know you have to deal with auditors. We know that auditors ask stupid questions. We want to hear what those stupid questions are. Don’t hold back, we know you want to cut loose. This is the place to do it.

What Job Would You Rather Have? – It’s 10 pm, you’re sitting in your beige cubicle, staring at a spreadsheet that has thousands of rows that are starting to blend together and you think to yourself, “How did I get here? Should I be doing something else? Anything other than this?” We feel your pain. Tell us what you would rather be doing. Picking up elephant dung? Window-washer? Artificially inseminating farm animals? Tell us your dreams of what you would rather be doing than working with Excel.

This is just the beginning but we need your help. We need your gossip, rumors, and story ideas for what you want this blog to be, because it’s for you, our loyal Going Concern readers. Send all tips via email to [email protected]. We’ll always keep you anonymous unless you want to be named and if you want to tell us something off the record, that’s cool too, just let us know.

Now get back to your spreadsheets!

Trying to Decipher the Awkward and Scattered Sex Lives of Accountants

The blog Energized Accounting asks if accountants make better lovers. Now before you all squawking about how you’re an animal in the sack, let’s try to be realistic about this question.

First of all, this makes the assumption that accountants are getting laid in the first place. This is mostly farcical for a couple reasons: A) Lots of accountants have to choose between sleeping and eating already because of the hours they work. You throw in boot-knocking and some excel wizards are going to start starving to death; and 2) Unofficial statistics have shown that seven out ten accountants have no game. You may not know who you are but your friends do.

So based on that, 30% of you are getting some action. And since there is a rampant proclivity to date co-workers (which we will exclude for this exercise) among accountants that narrows it down to about 5% of accountants having sex with non-bean counters. As we mentioned, you’re working most of the time so where the hell is this hot sex happening? We’re thinking that national training sessions might be one spot, where you’re picking up prosties or random hot townies in whatever strange city you happen to land in? Accountants treat national training like Vegas so pretty much anything goes but what about the other 51 weeks in the year? Is that what is going on at those two hour lunches? Do some client locations have rooms set up for this like a swing-joint? Try to enlighten us without making a scene.

Guess What My Intern Did?

intern-where-is-my-report.jpgA commenter read our minds with regard to talking about interns, God bless ’em.
So today, in the spirit of the intern-season, we’re launching the first edition of “Guess What My Intern Did?” because sometimes they can do stupid things and we want to hear about it.
Examples could possibly include: any kind of shameless, awkward sexual advances on superiors; asking he/she to get a copy of an email from the asshole CFO; showing up to work hung over smelling like Ken Lewis; You get the idea.

Survey: No Confidence in Mark-to-Market

thumbs down col.gifThis may come as shock to some of you but mark-to-market accounting is unpopular. And when we say unpopular, we don’t mean your nerdy brother-unpopular, we’re talking George W. Bush-unpopular. Now before you go apeshit about “reality” and “economic cycles” will share some results with you from a survey provided by Valuation Research Corporation and then you can engage in your the steel-cage death dork match.
• According to the survey, 58% of respondents believe that market turmoil negates Fair Value Accounting’s validity
• Those who believed FVA was flawed and potentially not valid during market turmoil, almost 34% suggested a temporary return to historical cost accounting as an alternative
Regarding Level 3 Assets: A full 44% believed the bank values were within an accuracy of 10% and another 40% thought those values were as much as 30% off.
Regarding Level 3 Assets: Thirty-six percent believed hedge fund and private equity values were only within an accuracy of 10% and a full 49% thought those values were as much as 30% off.
Respondents were split when asked if mark-to-market should be suspended for the purposes of bank regulatory capital with 50% believing it should be and 50% believing it should not be.
So the take away seems to be that MTM doesn’t work and is pretty much not legit when the shit hits the fan, everyone trying to value Level 3 assets is using a dartboard, and nobody knows how to fix the problem.
Definitely interesting results but if anyone says, “Barney Frank knew what he was talking about”, projectile vomiting is going ensue.
Survey – No Confidence in Fair Value.pdf

BDO ‘Invites’ Partners to Retire in the UK

BDO-small.jpgBDO in the UK has “‘invited’ 24 partners to take retirement and is in the process of settling the details over the withdrawal of equity”, according to Accountancy Age. And by “invited”, we’re pretty sure BDO means, “pack your shit”.
According to Simon Michaels, the head honcho in the UK, the “withdrawal of equity” would not be an “unmanageable situation to deal with” which is sorta like saying “it’ll hurt for a little while but as soon as my ownership is bigger, I’ll be over it.”
This whole sitch across the pond compelled us to call a BDO rep here in the States to find out what might be going down for the American partners. We were told that there were no plans for dismissal of partners in U.S. and in fact, partners will likely to continue to be added to the firm. This jogged our hazy memory about our speculation that BDO was adding some partners last month in order to spread out some liability.
So it appears that since BDO International Global Coordination isn’t on the hook for the half a billion in liability from the Banco Espirito case, they can’t afford to keep all their partners. BDO in States, on the other hand, needs to spread out the love on the liability. Don’t you love it when everything makes sense?
Reality bites for BDO Stoy Hayward [Accountancy Age]

McGladrey & Pullen Doesn’t Love H&R Block Anymore

We’re deeply saddened to learn that McGladrey & Pullen and H&R Block are splitting up:

“This arrangement made sense in 1999,” said Dave Scudder, managing partner of McGladrey & Pullen LLP. “However, that operational and financial model does not serve us well as we address our future goals of client service, opportunity for our partners, and continued growth.”

Translation: It’s about the money.

“We are taking this action because we believe it to be in the best interests of our partners, our employees and our clients. We see great opportunities for success and growth for McGladrey & Pullen as a traditionally structured firm able to provide full service across all industry segments,” Scudder noted.

M&P also wanted you all to know that it’s not your fault, that they still love you but sometimes firms fall out of love.
McGladrey & Pullen News Release

Forbes: Senior Accountants Pay Rising in the Recession

Feel free to call bullshit on this because we’ve heard rumors about pay freezes at KPMG (they are getting back to us on this) but according to Forbes, senior accountants rank at #11 for “Hot Jobs Where Pay is Rising” in the recession. The list states median pay at $60,300. Not only that but apparently, there aren’t enough of you senior accountants:

There’s a shortage of senior accountants right now, and the recession has actually provided a chance for them to revive client relationships, believes Mark Koziel, senior manager of firm practice management at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “As long as there’s small-business America, as long as there’s big-business America, there will still be a need to do auditing and tax returns,” he says.

This strikes us as strange as there have been layoffs at several firms. The need for auditing and is obvious but those of you left are probably doing the work of two or three people.
UPDATE, July 22, 2009: KPMG got back to us re: pay freezes and had no comment

Paulson’s Threatening of Ken Lewis Gets the Barney Frank Stamp of Approval

paulson2.jpgBarney Frank is stumped. Trying to figure out why Maxine Waters is MIA is one thing, but picking the evil mastermind behind the shakedown of Ken Lewis is a completely different enigma.
Even if Paulson ordered the code red, the Sass from Mass is pretty sure that was the right thing to do because we need guys like HP on that wall. When you’ve got the imminent financial apocalypse knocking at your door, threatening a bank CEO of questionable sobriety cannot be handled by someone of meekness and mild temperament (ahem, B-squared).
Hank Paulson did before and he’d do it again. He’d just rather you said “thank you” and went on your way.
Frank Says No “Villain” in Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Deal [Bloomberg]

What Say You? Are Early Promotions a Crock?

corp_ladder.jpgIt’s about the time of year where the Big 4 start announcing promotions and with promotions come the inevitable debate about who got promoted, who didn’t, hating on some, congratulating others, and ugly debates over those that were promoted early.

Early or skip promotions are never short on controversy. As one source put it “[early promotions] are completely arbitrary and situational, merit generally doesn’t play into it”.

The claim will often be made that someone needs to fill an empty role on a team. Sometimes it is a purely bullshit political situation and there have even been cases where older associates are promoted early based on their age and other work experience regardless of their performance with the current firm.

In one case, another source told us about an associate that was promoted to manager in three years (i.e. promoted early twice) but it was pretty clear to the most of team (i.e. staff) that the person was hardly ready for the pressures and responsibilities of being a manager.
The other side of this debate are the professionals that are actually performing at a high enough level to warrant the early promotion (no, really). Granted the situation has to arise where the individual has the opportunity to take on greater responsibility and thus proves him or herself but if someone does step up (read: working 24/7) to the plate on several occasions, maybe the promotion is warranted.

Because of the hierarchal nature of accounting firms, this may not even be an issue in your office but it does happen with freakish regularity at other offices. Let’s us know what your office has done in the past and what is going on this summer now that were in swing of promotion season. Feel free to discuss in the comments or email us your inside info to [email protected].

Lehman Working to Pay Off Debt, One Tchotchke at a Time

lehman tote.jpgIn a couple months it will be at the one year anniversary of the collapse Lehman Brothers. In order to catch you up on the firm’s progess in paying off the $250 billion in debt owed to creditors, we proudly present The Lehman Store, courtesy of eBay.
So far the Lehman Store has 100% positive feedback with comments such as: “Great Lehman tie and excellent delivery time.” and “A+ SELLER”.
Lehman couldn’t be more pleased, “‘We are really excited to be able to offer this to the public because there is a demand,’ said Lehman spokeswoman Kimberly Macleod in a telephone interview.”
There is a demand“, people. And since there are currently 66 items on the auction block, you’d better get on this, PRONTO.
Lehman Holds EBay Garage Sale, Hawking Trinkets to Pay Off Debt [Bloomberg]

Madoff Already has Respect in Prison and He Hasn’t Even Gotten Started

madoffjail.jpgWhenever you’re the new guy, things can be awkward for awhile. Not for Bernie Madoff. The Master de Ponz has been in prison for less than a month and the guy is thriving already:

Some of his fellow inmates, in fact, respect him for being a stand-up guy who pleaded guilty without implicating any of the other people strongly suspected of helping him pull off the fraud that swindled more than 1,000 people out of more than $65 billion over two decades. “He got a lot of respect from other inmates because he didn’t tell on anybody, he didn’t take everybody down with him,” the source said.

That’s right people, RESPECT.
The Post, never short on the melodramatic, is focusing on the inmates that are looking to slap around ole Bern to get themselves a little respect. We don’t buy it. Anyone looking to rough him up will have a change of heart as soon as they hear about the outstanding year over year double-digit returns he’ll get you on those Lucky Strikes.
UPDATE, 3:37 PM: A guy sometimes gets a little distracted from personal appearance when he’s being trucked around. Check out DealBreaker for Bess Levin’s take on Butner’s new Mr. Popular.
BERNIE IN THUGS’ SIGHTS [New York Post]

The Summer Corporate Outing: Be Bold!

speedos-for-jesus.jpgSince it’s summer, it’s inevitable that many of you will receive the an invitation to a company pool party, BBQ, ball game, etc. For many accountants, fashion is an afterthought at the office. Blue shirt or white shirt today? Black trousers or khakis? Not a terribly fashion forward bunch. In fact, we might go so far to say, fashion Neanderthals.
However, when an event outside of the office occurs, the need for non-work attire arises. Some bean counters will still don trousers and button-ups because well, they’re lame. For the more free-spirited among us, this is the opportunity to cut loose.
The Journal has a stuffy piece about what’s “appropriate” at these corporate outings. We here at Going Concern want you to ignore social conventions and go with your gut when preparing for these summer corporate get-togethers.
Do you look fab in a super-tiny speedo? We say ROCK IT! Looking to wear a t-shirt from your favorite strip club? Wear it PROUD! Been waiting for the perfect opportunity to wear that new skirt that shows off those fantastic gams? We’re ALL FOR IT!
The Journal is concerned about “knowing” your co-workers too well and their inability to get that image of you in your velour tracksuit out their heads. We say, GET YOURSELF OUT THERE! Life is far too short to be held down by fashion impotent bean counters who can’t pull off tight leather shorts.
Overexposed: Surviving The Corporate Outing [WSJ]

Vampire Squid, Broken Down

For you viewing pleasure, FT Alphaville has provided some illustrations so that we might better conceptualize Matt Taibbi’s labeling of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”, which still makes us wince.
All we’ll say is that includes Darth Vader so that makes it worth a look.
Vampire squid, illustrated edition [FT Alphaville]

The Convergence Debate, Already Geeky, About to Get Geekier

Academics in the U.S. aren’t too psyched about the benefits of IFRS, according to Compliance Week:

The United States already meets a high level of reporting quality relative to other countries as a result of various “institutional features,” said [Peter] Wysocki [Professor at MIT]. Those include things like an active investor and analyst community, a rigorous audit process, and oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission, among others, he said.
“It’s a little difficult to argue a move to IFRS will result in significant improvement in reporting quality,” Wysocki said. “We’re already at a high level because we already have those institutional features in place.

The debate over convergence has reached Biggie/Tupac fever and now that U.S. GAAP has got American bookworms shouting about how IFRS isn’t all that, we expect that academics on the other side of the pond will get involved and the debate will get fiercely geekier.
Academics: Move to IFRS Won’t Boost Reporting Quality [Compliance Week]

Figuring it was About Time, the SEC Closes Tyco Case

Invoking their continuing motto of “Better Late Than Never”, the SEC closed the Tyco case today as Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz agreed to be banned from serving as directors or officers of a public company. The timing of this ban comes as a bit of surprise since these guys have been in jail since 2005 but we are talking about the SEC.

Since Bernie Madoff has a much longer sentence than the Tyco twins, the Commission will figure there’s no rush and he’ll retain his rights to serve as a director/officer until around 2020.

Settlement Ends S.E.C. Case Two From Tyco [DealBook/NYT]

Paulson: I Ordered the Code Red

paulson2.jpgBig day tomorrow for Hank Paulson as he finally gets to set the record straight re: Ken Lewis’s kneecaps. Our feeling is the threatening of bank CEO’s while taking a leisurely bike ride is second nature for Colonel Jessup Paulson and he probably doesn’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to. But since you clowns at Oversight and Government Reform went ahead and called the big guy to testify, he’ll humor you just this once:

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson plans to tell lawmakers he acted appropriately in warning Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis that the firm’s management could be ousted if it walked away from its deal to buy Merrill Lynch, saying such a move would have suggested a “colossal lack of judgment.”

We’re done here.
Paulson: Comments to BofA’s Lewis ‘Were Appropriate’ [WSJ]

SEC Promises to Suck Less Post-Madoff

140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngIt what amounts to a serious case of too little, too late, the SEC says that it will do more to protect investors in the wake of the Madoff scandal.
M. Schape and Co. would like you all (House Financial Services Committee) to know that they have been busy though. Working late. Working weekends. Working hard:

regulatory proposals include restricting short-selling in down markets, strengthening oversight of mutual funds, tightening scrutiny of investment advisers and making it easier for shareholders to seat directors on company boards. The S.E.C. is also working to identify emerging risks to investors, including so-called dark pools, or automated trading systems that do not publicly provide price quotes, Ms. Schapiro said.

See? Doesn’t that make you feel better? We’re the SEC, getting better at being less clueless since 2009.
S.E.C. Plans to Protect Investors More Post-Madoff [DealBook/NYT]

Look Man, Not Even Ron Paul is Buying Your Fed Conspiracy Story, So Can We Drop it?

FatinaSalaheddineDarrellIssaUSCongressman.jpgBecause we know you haven’t gotten enough of the whole Bank of America/Merrill Lynch deal-under-duress drama, we’re happy to report that Representative Darrell Issa of California (seen at left, with, we can only assume, a constituent, not a high-priced call girl or his staffer’s wife, or his Argentinean soulmate) isn’t satisfied by B-squared’s testimony and likely won’t be satisfied with Hank “Just call me Lance Armstrong” Paulson’s testimony that is scheduled for Thursday.
No, no. Issa wants more information, “[he] wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner July 2 asking for all records surrounding an October 13 meeting and decision to use government bailout funds to buy equity in financial institutions.”
You think that’s good? He’s not done:

Issa also asked the Treasury to provide records and communications, including notes and e-mails from a range of officials, relating to the Bank of America-Merrill merger from August 1 though February 1. Issa also asked New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in a July 1 letter to provide transcripts of interviews with Paulson and any other communications with federal officials on the Bank of America-Merrill merger.

That’s right. Six months worth of emails and notes. Every single post-it that you did your best Jackie Treehorn sketch on MUST. BE. SAVED.
Issa, a believer in a Nixon-esque coverup at the behest of Bernanke, has clearly channeled his inner-Maxine Waters and will BE DAMNED if this is happening on his watch.
Lawmaker seeks more data in BofA-Merrill deal [Reuters]

Madoff’s New Digs in North Carolina?

chicago-mls-jail.jpgBernie Madoff is “in transit” to prison per a story at Bloomberg. The story’s source was a spokesman from the Federal Correctional Institute in Otisville, NY, where the Master de Ponz requested to be housed.
CNBC has reported that he will serve his sentence in Butner, NC.
Butner has two lovely medium security facilities and one posh low security facility so it’s def not FPMITA prison but it’s not the cushy dorm-style and we would speculate that inmates are only allowed to use sporks at chow time and use Lucky Strikes to buy Juicy Fruit and other luxuries.
Bernard Madoff ‘In Transit’ to Prison, Spokesman Says [Bloomberg]

Jack Welch is Not Buying the Whole Work-Life Balance Thing

art.welch.cnn.jpgJack Welch, who is increasingly looking like Gollum these days, has been quoted saying that there is no such thing as “work-life” balance only “work-life choices”, according to a story in the Wall St. Journal.
The quotes were in context of women who choose between spending time with family and those that want to “reach the top” but you gents aren’t immune.
Accounting firms are constantly selling “work-life balance” as a priority but we’ll take Welch’s comments as gospel here since, nothing we’ve seen or heard makes us believe otherwise.
So next time you get the work-life rhetoric, you’ve got some published material for your back up your “I call bullshit” argument. You’re welcome.
Welch: ‘No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance’ [WSJ]

Michael Moore’s Next Child Movie Has a Name

The Michael Moore documentary that has been so feverishly anticipated now has a title: Capitalism: A Love Story.
For those of you not so familiar with Moore’s work, you can basically expect convenient statistics for Moore’s position and not-so-flattering footage of rich guys who might had a hand in some of the collapse. Master de Ponz, Prince Ponz, Angelo Mozilo, Joe Cassano, anyone whoever worked at a hedge fund, etc.
Michael Moore names his new economy themed film [New York Daily News]

Sweden, Probably Not Too Keen on Human Souls as Collateral, to Write Down Latvian Debt

800px-Flag_of_Sweden.pngIn what could be the most sensible reaction by bankers in quite some time, Sweden is writing down debt held by individuals in Latvia.
This move by the Swedes occurs, not so surprisingly, after the revelation that Latvian bankers were acting as soul brokers.
Swedbank, which is entirely made up of tall, stunningly attractive blondes that only purchase inexpensive, self-assembled furniture, stated that approximately 10% of the loans held by Latvian individuals would be written down, leaving many Latvian souls at risk of repossession by the Princes of Darkness Latvian Bankers.
Swedish Banks Prepare Latvian Debt Write-Down [DealBook/NYT]

A Job That You Probably Don’t Want: Citigroup CFO

200px-Citigroup.png Don’t mind if Uncle Sam is up in your biznass 24/7? Thrive in a thankless atmosphere? KPMG is your favorite Big 4 firm? We know that you don’t sleep. Job is yours.
The bastions of financial responsibility at Citigroup have announced a new CFO, the second in four months. The lucky SOB is John Gerspach who got the bump from Controller. Best of luck John. Now how about those dividend checks?
Citigroup Names Gerspach CFO; Kelly Shifted to Strategy Role [Bloomberg]

WSJ: Entrepreneurs Win Tax Case Versus IRS

two thumbs up.jpegGet some coffee, we’re about to talk some tax law…
In a major win for small businesses, a U.S. Tax Court ruled in favor of farmers in Nebraska who claimed that losses from their LLC were not “passive” as the IRS has been arguing for years.
As a result of the ruling, losses from investments in LLP’s and LLC’s held by active participants will be allowed to offset said individual’s personal and investment income.
Prior to the ruling some losses were being carried forward for years until the investment produced a profit or was sold and because the case was heard in U.S. Tax Court, the ruling applies to all states.
The IRS, as always, seems to have outs. Sayeth the Journal, “The agency could appeal the Tax Court ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. It also could try to get Congress to change the law or try a new strategy to maintain the status quo.”
Okay, we made it through that…
Entrepreneurs Win Tax Case Versus IRS [WSJ]

Swiss Gov’t: You Want the Names? You’ll Have to Waterboard Us.

ubs.jpgWith only days until a showdown between the IRS and UBS, the Swiss Government has announced that it will stop the release of the 52,000 client names even if the U.S. Court orders the names to be released.
Now before you say, “Oh, Swiss Government, you’re so cute with your braided blonde hair and neutrality,” they sound pretty serious:

“Switzerland makes it perfectly clear that Swiss law prohibits UBS from complying with a possible order by the court in Miami to hand over the client information,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said. “On the basis of the Federal Council’s landmark decision, UBS will by no means be in a position to comply with such an order.” The Finance Ministry added that “all the necessary measures should be taken to prevent UBS from handing over the information on the 52,000 account holders demanded in the U.S. civil proceeding.”

We really feel that a few Toblerones would really go a long way to convincing the IRS that the names aren’t really that important. Just say the word IRS and we’re sure that they can make it happen.
Switzerland: Will Block UBS From Giving U.S. Client Data [WSJ]

H&R Block Suggests That You Start Saving Receipts

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgH&R Block announced yesterday that it expects the IRS to get less kind and gentle in the coming years as the Service attempts to close the $345 billion tax gap.
The announcement states that the IRS is nearly doubling its budget for next year and that last year, 1 in 99 individual tax returns were audited as compared to 1 in 202 in 2000.
Maybe the Democrats do want all our money…
Audits Double This Decade [H&R Block Press Release]

BKD Makes a Move, Albeit a Small One

bkd.gifNot sure how we missed this but whatevs. BKD made a move on a local Dallas firm, KBA Group LLP on June 1.
BKD will add eight partners, 95 employees, and approximately $16 million in revenues to its business.
According to AccountingWEB, “This expansion will allow BKD to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Texas market as it serves clients from its offices in Houston, San Antonio, and now Dallas.” Sounds like a BKD press release but if you say so…Enjoy the new boss, KBA!
BKD announces merger with Dallas-based KBA Group [AccountingWEB]

Partners at Grant Thornton are Just Getting Lazy

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGGrant Thornton is really making our lives easy today: “Grant Thornton has agreed to pay nearly £6,000 in fines and costs after it failed to correctly sign off 43 audit reports.”
Measly fine, obv but 43 audit reports? And a incorrectly signed off report is one that, “had not been signed off by a responsible individual of the firm”.
So apparently the Brits have got their interns signing off on the audits. Gold star for you today, GT.
ICAEW fines Grant Thornton over audit sign-offs [Accountancy Age]

Your Daily (Seems Like It Anyway) New Ponzi Scheme Update

The SEC alleges that from at least June 2006 through January 2009, Provident [Royalties, LLC] made a series of fraudulent securities offerings involving oil and gas assets through 21 affiliated entities to more than 7,700 investors throughout the United States. Provident’s entities made some direct retail sales of securities, but primarily solicited retail broker-dealers to enter into placement agreements for each offering, and those retail broker-dealers sold the stock to retail investors nationwide.

Dudes were promising 18% returns and that 85% of funds would be invested in “interests in oil and gas real estate, leases, mineral rights, and interests, exploration and development.” SEC alleges that less than 50% of the funds received were used for such investments.
SEC Obtains Asset Freeze in $485 Million Nationwide Offering Fraud [SEC.gov]

Someone is Getting Testy

r.jpgAllen Stanford is pissed. How on Earth can a man with those guns not be allowed to invoke his rights to counsel if you don’t let him get his mitts on some cash?
We’re not talking about a public defender here, judge. We’re talking downtown, probably wears a Stetson to the courthouse, Houston representation we’re talking about. Serious scratch.
“‘The government’s unfettered, and thus far successful, attempts to prevent Mr. Stanford from being able to mount a defence in his criminal proceedings amount to a deprivation of both his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,’ attorney Dick DeGuerin argued in in the filing.”
The judge is like, IDGAF: “Judge [David] Godbey replied to – and denied – that request last week, saying Sir Allen had ‘not shown that he has $10m dollars, or any lesser amount, in personal assets untainted by potential fraud.'”
Fine, but Stan would just like you to know that selling tickets to the gun show inside the joint doesn’t work the cons like it does the fine Texas ladies.
Stanford lashes out at federal prosecutors [FT.com]

SEC to Try and Get Less Bureaucratic, Miss Less Fraud

140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngDeciding that it was about time they got their shit together, the SEC announced today that it is reorganizing its enforcement division. The reorganization will eliminate supervisory positions in order to reduce bureaucracy and help speed up response to potential fraud.
Before the proposed changes, the Commission had been utilizing the opposite approach.
A few details because we know you’re craving them:

The overhaul unveiled this week dissolves the division’s lowest and largest tier of supervisors, the branch managers who oversee small teams of attorneys, the people said. Some may become front-line investigators; others may be elevated to assistant directors. Assistants, who currently supervise about 18 people each, would instead oversee only six. A plan to create specialist teams, using a similar management structure, is still being refined, [sources] said.

We’ll also note that the new Enforcement Director, Robert Khuzami, said the new “specialist teams” will help detect “patterns” more easily. Khuzami also noted that this brilliant plan was being kicked around before the whole Madoff thing, thankyouverymuch.
SEC Said to Reorganize Enforcement Unit, Trim Management Ranks [Bloomberg]

Hey California, Bank of America was Just Joking About Taking the IOU’s

california.gifLast week we told you about Bank of America doing California a solid by taking the busted state’s IOU’s. Well, the banks had the holiday weekend to think about it and after some barbecue, beers, and shooting roman candles at Ken Lewis, they pretty much decided that they weren’t so cool with the idea.
“A group of the biggest U.S. banks said they would stop accepting California’s IOUs on Friday, adding pressure on the state to close its $26.3 billion annual budget gap.”
Included in “biggest U.S. Banks” just happened to be BofA.
Turns out Bank of America had their fingers crossed all along because 1) There must have been talk about Cali’s so called “good word” over the grill; and 2) Ken Lewis was completely serious about getting the interest paid back in bourbon.
Big Banks Don’t Want California’s IOUs [WSJ]

‘Hannibal’ Scrushy is Accused of Hiding Assets


richard_scrushy.jpg
Because the entire blogosphere/media is still suffering from a serious 4th of July cocktail flu, we’ll jump back on HealthSouth briefly.
Richard Scrushy, whom former CFO Aaron Beam said he would take over Hannibal Lecter (uncanny resemblance) in a fight, has been accused of HealthSouth Corp of hiding assets in order to avoid paying down some of the $2.8-odd billion that he was ordered to pay to the company after the civil proceeding.
HealthSouth says that Scrushy has $600 million in offshore accounts plus real estate in other people’s names that should be turned over. Scrushy, who we understand is held behind glass, did not comment other than that he def recommends Chianti with liver.
HealthSouth accuses Scrushy of hiding assets [AP via Miami Herald]

CFO Confession: HealthSouth Edition

It might be a fair statement that we like to talk a little trash here at Going Concern. We do our best to embrace our natural inclination. However, every once in awhile we try to spread some positive news.
Today’s attempt at a positive story comes courtesy of Aaron Beam, a former CFO at HealthSouth. Beam was CFO at HealthSouth when the fraud first began in 1996. Beam describes his decision to make the numbers up this way, “one night, during the second quarter of ’96, I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and we credited revenue that did not exist and we debited assets that did not exist.”
Not exactly the most sophisticated fraud in the world but whatevs. The Street and Richard Scrushy demanded results.
And so it went, until Beam left in 1997. HealthSouth continued to commit accounting fraud until 2002 when it imploded. Beam testified against “Hannibal Lecter” Scrushy but the slimeball walked on the criminal charges only to be found liable for damages to the tidy sum of a shade under $2.9 Billion.
As for Beam, he spent 3 months in a non-FPMITA prison and now speaks to business students around the country about ethics and has a lawn-service business.

I’m trying to turn a big negative into a positive, because there is such a need for ethics in the business world today, and I’m in a unique position to talk about it. If we can teach college students that they’re going to face these kinds of temptations every day in the business world, we can make a difference.

WTG man, and hey, we’re being serious.
“I Should Have Said No.” [CFO.com]

BBC: Grant Thornton is Scheming for the Rich People

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGOkay, so large accounting firms don’t have the best reputations. They also have the tendency to be thick as thieves when they come under scrutiny. And the green eyeshade look has never been one that screams trustworthy.
But now, in what might be a bit of presumptuous awesomeness, the BBC is coming right out and calling Grant Thornton’s Growth Securities Ownership Plan (GSOP) a scheme. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions but the subtitle doesn’t strike us as being subtle: “A big accountancy firm has denied that it has been peddling a tax avoidance scheme to help rich people avoid paying the new 50% income tax rate from 2010.
Let’s break some of the key words and phrases down:
Peddling: Use of this word basically implies that narcotics are involved
Tax Avoidance Scheme: Implies a conspiracy of smart people to screw the tax authority on behalf of…
Rich People: Not the best time in history to be lumped into this particular demographic
WTG, G to the T. Not only are you trying to screw the taxing authority in Britain by virtue of the equivalent of slinging financial smack, you’ve got the audacity to do it on the behalf of rich people.
Accountants deny ‘new tax dodge’ [BBC]

Latvian Bankers Figure That Your Immortal Soul Will Work as Collateral

Latvian bankers apparently have some super-cosmic powers that have yet to be harnessed by others in the finance industry because they are taking peoples’ souls as collateral.
Call us skeptical but Latvian bankers would be the last members of the banking community to be the recipients of a Mortal Kombat-esque finishing move that would be reaped upon borrowers that turn out to be deadbeats.
If Matt Taibbi is to believed (and why wouldn’t he? He works at Rolling Stone after all), then this practice is obviously something that Goldman Sachs has already considered and Blankfein and Co. have utimately decided that bringing hellish powers to earth will just have to wait.
Would you pledge your soul as loan collateral? [Reuters via FT Alphaville]

Heelys Dumped Deloitte for that Slut, Grant Thornton

heelys.jpgWe told you earlier about wheeled shoes company Heelys dumping Deloitte. It was reported that Heelys left because fees were too high but we speculated that the Big D probably wasn’t down with Heelys request to have the entire audit team don the juvenile wheeled shoes.
Heelys has now announced they will be retaining the younger, sexier, less Big 4-ier, firm Grant Thornton as its independent accounting firm.
We find this very similar to the all-too-common situation where the old wife/husband is left behind for the newer, younger, partner who’s young, racy, and willing to experiment a little.
As you might expect, for accounting firms, letting the engagement teams wear shoes with wheels on them definitely qualifies as racy and risque and other firms only wish they had the balls to do something like that.

Heelys hires new accounting firm
[WFAA.com]

Not To Worry California! Ken Lewis is Here!

In the spirit of the recessionary season, Bank of America, being no stranger to asking for assistance, has said that it will accept California’s IOU’s.
Here is BofA’s statement, courtesy of FT Alphaville:

Bank of America Announces Limited Acceptance of California State-Issued Registered Warrants for Customers and Clients

SAN FRANCISCO, July 1 /PRNewswire/ — Bank of America today issued the following statement regarding its decision to accept California state-issued registered warrants:
“Bank of America recognizes the State of California budget crisis will impact our clients and customers. To support our customers, while giving the state legislature additional time to pass a budget, we will accept California state-registered warrants – or IOUs – from existing customers and clients. Based on state disbursement estimates, we will accept the registered warrants through July 10.
(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050720/CLW086LOGO-b )
“As always, we will work with customers who are impacted by the state budget issues on a case-by-case basis to address their short-term needs using our existing products and services.”

An interest rate has not been announced but Ken Lewis is most certainly pulling for something in the nabe of one case of bourbon per $1 million.

BofA to accept Cali IOUs
[FT Alphaville]

Why Do the FASB and IASB Always Insist on Mission Impossible?

Can anyone explain why accounting regulators have the annoying tendency to see a HUGE problem and insist on fixing it when the logistics are seemingly impossible to overcome? It’s commendable to try and solve big problems but it seems that the geeky egos of accountants often get in the way of reality.
CFO.com has a story about the FASB and IASB’s “dream” to get accounting standards down to one model for revenue recognition. ONE!
According to the article, the FASB’s revenue recognition rules are currently spread among 100 standards, so obviously there’s room for improvement but shrinking all that down to one model? Talk about herding cats.
We’re not hating on the standard setters (well, let’s face it, maybe a little) for considering this task but these dweebs can’t even get on the same page re: convergence timing so we’ll be taking the overs on the number of years when this single model pipe dream actually gets off the ground.

Revenue Recognition: Will a Single Model Fly?
[CFO.com]

Stanford CFO to Plead Guilty After Pleading Not Guilty

This after speculation earlier about whether Davis would flip. Looks like he’s going to sing:

James Davis, the former chief financial officer of Stanford Financial Group and who is facing charges related to an alleged $7bn fraud at the group, intends to plead guilty to the three charges against him, his attorney told the Financial Times.
Attorney David Finn, who is representing only Mr Davis, told the FT there would likely be a “procedural not guilty plea” entered at his arraignment, but that his client would ultimately plead guilty to the charges against him “once all the details are worked out.” Mr Davis is due to appear in court in Houston on July 13.

You got that ticket to hell stamped, Stan?
Stanford CFO James Davis “intends to plead guilty”, laywer [sic] says [FT Alphaville]

SEC Still Stonewalling, Considering Slowing Down the PCAOB Even More

The SEC gave Congress a little tease about what happened at the Commission re: totally missing the boat on this Madoff thing. But then again, not really.
Inspector General David Kotz made recommendations about ways that the Commission could improve its oversight over the financial industry because, obv, it had nothing to do with the fact that no one there had the background to detect classic Ponzi schemes.
Some recommendations that Kotz made included giving the PCAOB more oversight including jurisdiction over accounting firms that audit investment advisors and broker-dealers. That’s just what the PCAOB needs, more on its docket because it gets things done so quickly.
Kotz would also like to see an amendment to the Securities Act of 1940 that would require investment managers, including hedge funds, to place their securities with custodians that are registered with a national exchange. Kotz claims that this would prevent investment advisers from fraudulently using the proceeds received from new investors to pay old investors (a la Ponzi).
That’s all fine and dandy but Rep. Paul Kanjorski, of Pennsylvania has been asking for details on the Madoff ball dropping for the last two weeks and the Commission has been stalling. Kotz could only state that the Commission is “proceeding ‘in an expeditious manner.'”
Translation: We don’t have any idea how we missed the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Best we can expect, Kotz says, is that the report to be issued by the end of August. Which might be enough time to get Kanjorski involved in a sex scandal and maybe this will all just go away for the Commission.

S.E.C. Previews Its Madoff Report
[DealBook/NYT]

Deloitte Throws Up its Hands Regarding Missing Gold

deloitte.jpgThe Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) had a discrepancy between their book inventory of precious metals and the actual count, so natch, they called in a Big 4 accounting firm to do an audit and get to the bottom of this.
Deloitte got the honor of investigating and…wait for it…determined that there is gold missing. 17,500 ounces to be precise, worth about 15.3 million Canadian Dollars (approximately $13.2 USD). Oh, and there’s probably some silver missing too.
In classic auditor fashion, Big D issued a recommendation to the RCM to review its security.

Audit fails to find missing gold
[BBC]

Oliver Stone Movie on Goldman Sachs to be Coming This Fall

Because we love ourselves a good cat fight, we feel obligated to tell you about the current scratch and screech fest currently going on between Goldman Sachs and Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Taibbi wrote a less than flattering article on Goldman in Rolling Stone’s latest issue (which is not available online. Read: Lame).
Why, do you ask, would Goldman waste their time on an article in a formerly renown, now ridiculously corporate magazine? For starters, Taibbi describes GS this way, “The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.”
Not a lot of room for subjective interpretation there. Quoting a response from a Goldman spokesman via the New York Post, “The bank’s spokesman, Lucas Van Praag, [said]: ‘[Taibbi’s] story is an hysterical compilation of conspiracy theories,’ he wrote in an e-mail. ‘Notable ones missing are Goldman Sachs as the third shooter [in John F. Kennedy’s assassination] and faking the first lunar landing.'”
We admit, on one hand, that Taibbi might be a tad on the nutty side but the mere fact that Goldman is acknowledging the article with any kind of response puts us in the strangely curious camp.

Goldman Gotcha
[New York Post]

BDO, Looking to Spread Out Some Liability, Admits New Partners

BDO_International.pngAs you probably know, BDO Seidman is having a rough year. Tax shelter prosecutions and trials for the International Global Coordination firm that now falls on the U.S. make for some big liability exposure.
The obvious solution to this conundrum? Spreading the love!

BDO Seidman, LLP, is pleased to announce that 10 new partners have been admitted to the partnership, effective July 1, 2009. Five of the new partners are in the tax practice, four are in the assurance business line and one is in BDO Consulting. BDO Seidman, LLP is a leading national professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to private and publicly traded businesses.”I am very proud to welcome each of these very deserving individuals to our partnership,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO Seidman. “The key to maintaining momentum in our profession is a commitment to recruiting, training and retaining superior client service professionals. Each of these new partners is an example of our commitment to human capital development.”

What are the chances that these new partners are some of the most hated people in the firm? C’mon, $520 million judgment hanging out there, the bigwigs have to be thinking, “well, as long as we’re screwed, we may as well stick it to some people within the firm we don’t like.”
Congrats to the new partners!

BDO Seidman, LLP, Admits 10 New Partners
[BDO Seidman Press Release]

SEC Rule Would Crack Down on Celebrity Board Members

oj-simpson-mugshot.jpgNow that the SEC has got this Ponzi thing under control, it can focus on more important matters like getting famous people off companies’ board of directors because, you know, they don’t really know shit about the companies they serve.
Perfect example: Tommy Franks, former commander of forces in Iraq, who resigned his seat on Bank of America’s board last week, was on the audit committee. The AUDIT COMMITTEE.
That’s actually not even the best example. According to Bloomberg, everyone’s favorite acquitted killer, O.J. Simpson was on the audit committee of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation before he was charged with murder in 1994. O.J. Simpson. Audit committee. Yes.
We could go on to tell you about Lance Armstrong missing 11 board meetings but still getting paid over $70,000 by Morgans Hotel Group or Gerald Ford sitting on the Board of Traveler’s Insurance (owned by Citi) until he was 85 years old but you get the picture.
This is your SEC, citizens of America, getting their shit together since 1934.

Armstrong, ‘Celebrity’ Directors Targeted in SEC Rule
[Bloomberg]

Philip Morris: Hey, We Do Good You Know

The benevolence of a cigarette company is quite a touching thing. Footnoted.org has a post today showing how the mother of all cigarette companies is helping out various governments around the world:

Need proof? Just look at slide #13, which showed the price of a pack of Marlboros in the Ukraine climbing a whopping 78% since January 2008. Slide #12 shows how taxes have also increased dramatically in the Ukraine, rising more than four-fold since Jan. 2008. Despite these sharp price hikes, slide #14 shows that a pack of Marlboros is still cheaper than many other things that consumers might buy in the Ukraine, including a movie ticket, a bottle of Budweiser, a Big Mac, and Colgate toothpaste. Milk, bread, Coke and beer are cheaper than a pack of Marlboros, the slide shows.

That’s right, Ukrainians! Not only is Philip Morris helping your government, their product is cheaper than imported beer, fast food, and toothpaste.
We’re Philip Morris and we care about killing you cheaper than alcohol and unhealthy food. Die slowly with us!

Philip Morris is here to help…
[Footnoted.org]

PwC Needs a Lesson or Two in Spin

240px-PricewaterhouseCoopers.svg.pngIn, lets talk about anything but Satyam, PwC news, the largest Big 4 firm was rated highest among professional service providers on brand recognition in the Brand Finance Top 50 ranking of Best Brands of British Origin.
“Chairman of PwC [in the UK] Ian Powell said the recognition was ‘testament to the strength and reach of our clients, the talents of our people, and the contribution that we make to the wider community.'”
We won’t take anything away from PwC but sometimes bad news is the best news for brand recognition. So this whole Satyam thing is probably not getting the credit it deserves. Come on P. Dubs! Lemons into lemonade!

PwC most recognised professional services brand
[Accountancy Age]

Score One for U.S. GAAP

two thumbs up.jpegU.S. GAAP just got a little boost in its image versus its sexy rival, IFRS, courtesy of Audit Integrity, a research services firm.
Audit Integrity studied filings by European companies from 2001 to 2008, looking at filings both pre and post IFRS adoption. The objectives were, “to determine whether IFRS has been implemented consistently across Europe, whether it has resulted in a common method of reporting financial data, and how the depth and comparability of data under IFRS compares to U.S. GAAP.”
At first glance, one might think that with all the bashing of U.S. GAAP in recent years that this was IFRS chance to prove once and for all that it was the new cock of the walk.
Well, not so fast GAAP haters:

“Based on our analysis, we are not seeing a significant improvement in financial reporting when companies shift to IFRS,” said Jack Zwingli, CEO of Audit Integrity. “We found that IFRS is a common standard, but there are significant variances in IFRS reporting, in the completeness of information, the timeliness and the filing frequency.”

Sounds like IFRS ain’t all that does it? You want more?

The firm says overall there are indications that financial reporting is more consistent and more comparable under IFRS than before IFRS adoption in Europe, but it’s not clear that IFRS represents an improvement over U.S. GAAP. In fact, the firm’s report says GAAP filers may have an edge over IFRS filing in terms of the timeliness, depth and breadth of financial data provided to investors.

Ouch, IASB. You want the best part? The Europeans disclose less on executive compensation than we do here in America. You’re all familiar with how popular corporate executives are. To wit:

[Jack] Zwingli [Audit Integrity CEO] said he was also surprised that the analysis revealed IFRS generally provides less information about executive compensation. “It’s not good in the United States, but it’s better than it is in Europe,” he said. “There is more consistency in reporting and deeper coverage of data under GAAP than under IFRS.”

Seems like IFRS has got work to do…IASB, you can call us when you want to get serious.

Study Pokes Holes in IFRS Reporting Quality, Consistency
[Accounting & Auditing Update/Compliance Week]

Review Comments – 6.29.09 – Bernie Madoff Sentenced to 150 Years in Prison Edition

In honor of the vengeance justice handed down today by Judge Denny Chin, we found some of the better posts out there re: Master do Ponz getting smacked by the book:

Questions linger over $65bn fraud
[FT.com]

Guesstimate Bernie Madoff’s Sentence
[DealBreaker]

Madoff’s Little Helpers
[Clusterstock]

The Real Victims of Bernie Madoff
[Daily Intel]

Facebook Finds a CFO, Hopefully One that is Okay with Awkward Interaction

Facebook Inc. announced today that David Ebersman will be the company’s Chief Financial Officer:

Ebersman, 39, will oversee Facebook’s finance, accounting, investor relations and real estate functions. He will formally start in September, Palo Alto, California-based Facebook said in a statement today.

You’ll note that Ebersman will oversee “investor relations”. It’s probably no coincidence that this is not a task that falls on Mark Zuckerberg who “has been known to have awkward interactions with other humans”:http://valleywag.gawker.com/344440/60-minutes-scoop-zuckerberg-remains-awkward-with-humans.
Thus, another challenge that will face Ebersman in his new position will be actually interacting with his boss. We here at Going Concern predict that awkward encounters with Zuckerberg will definitely be the biggest unforeseen challenge that Ebersman will wrestle with.
The article does not elaborate on whether Ebersman’s status updates on the social networking site are trite observations about the weather, his busy weekend, or a bad day at work.

Facebook Names Former Genentech Manager Ebersman Finance Chief”:http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a1vS1Ub87oSA [Bloomberg]

Stanford CFO Flipping?

Chief Financial Officer Bean Counter Number-Maker-Upper Officer at Stanford Financial, James Davis, is appearing in court Wednesday to answer fraud and conspiracy charges.
Davis has spent the last few months cooperating with prosecutors and may flip on Stan the Man regarding the small matter of some money gone missing.
No agreement has been reached yet for Davis but considering the number of years being handed out and Stan’s potential fate of multiple centuries in prison, he may at the very least, consider cooperating.

Stanford CFO to appear in court
[Accountancy Age]

Deloitte May Be the #1 Firm of No Fun

heelys.jpgRegardless of who a client is or what their business is, accounting firms don’t like to lose them. Lost revenue, a little bit of a slap in the face, a promise that wasn’t delivered (which, let’s be honest, really isn’t all that rare).
For whatever reason, we find the story that Heelys, the skate shoe company, having fired Deloitte as their auditor, has to be an especially tough pill to swallow for the Big D.
Why, you may ask? How about the fact that Heelys MAKES SHOES THAT HAVE WHEELS ON THEM which might be something fun.
According to Reuters, Heelys gave Deloitte-period the heave-ho primarily because of cost considerations. That may be true but something tells us that the real reason might have been Deloitte putting the kibosh on Heelys request of the audit team to wear the skate shoes while working at the client’s HQ.
Deloitte, like all Big 4 firms, being the fun killer, likely argued that skate shoes did fall under acceptable attire in its dress code.
It was probably only a matter of time until the Heelys audit committee concluded that they had to find another audit firm with smaller sticks up their asses. Partners on the engagement are now quietly stewing with their decision that may have put their firm solidly in the #1 slot for hating all things fun.

Heelys dismisses accounting firm
[Reuters]

New Bail Hearing for Stanford Set for Monday Because He Just Might Split

Stan the Man will spend the weekend pumping iron in a Houston jail because all signs are kinda, sorta pointing to the possibility of him going on the lam after a judge granted the silver medalist in the Ponzi competition a measly $500,000 bail.
Stanford’s attorney called bullshit because “he had already shown the financier was no flight threat.”
Judge David Hittner didn’t buy it and remanded Stan to jail until Monday based on the evidence presented by prosecutors:

testimony from a pilot who flew Mr. Stanford to Libya and Switzerland before government officials raided his Houston offices; testimony from a friend of Mr. Stanford’s daughter who gave him $36,000 in cash, and claims that $100 million was withdrawn from a Swiss bank account Mr. Stanford controlled

C’mon, your honor, that’s just walking around money! My client can’t be expected to strut around without serious money on hand!

New Bail Hearing Set for Stanford
[WSJ]

PCAOB, We Need to Have a Talk

pcaob.gifPCAOB, we here at Going Concern want to help you get some respect. We really do.
We don’t think it’s fair that people think you’re slow at writing rules for auditors. Okay, maybe you could pick up the pace a little bit but we know that it takes a lot of work and patience to write those rules. But then we heard about this and we want to let you know that we aren’t angry, you’re just letting us down.
Reuters:

The U.S. audit watchdog voted on Thursday to defer its first inspection on 49 foreign auditors in areas such as the European Union, China and Switzerland for up to three years.

Like we said, we’re not mad. We’re disappointed.

US PCAOB delays 1st review of 49 foreign auditors
[Reuters]

Deloitte: Folding Like a Cheap Lawn Chair?

deloitte.jpgIs it possible that the spinelessness of the FASB is spreading some of the firms?
Motely Foley is reporting that MGM Mirage got the Big D to drop the going concern language from its “financial assessment” which we confirmed with the author, Bob Steyer, that indeed meant the audit opinion.
Doing a little digging on this whole sitch, we found that MGM has done some duct tape repairs to its balance sheet in order to convince its banks and Big D that nothing is fucked.
Deloitte, wanting to be troopers and all, probably just had to step back from the whole thing to get perspective. “Yeah, when you look at it from back here, $14.4 Billion in debt doesn’t really look that bad.”

MGM Back From the Brink — for Now
[Motley Fool]

Sleeping Beauty Larry to Be the Next Fed Chair?

summersleepy.jpgBecause we love ourselves a good conspiracy theory, we’ll pass along this little musing from Naked Capitalism:

Remember the White Paper that Obama just released? Doesn’t it give sweeping powers to the Federal Reserve? Didn’t Summers have a strong hand in crafting this white paper? And doesn’t Larry Summers know his name has been bandied about as a replacement for Bernanke? You see where this is going, right?

Whole thing here.
Diabolical scheme if it proves true but the scenario at DealBreaker is more our speed.

PCAOB: The Rodney Dangerfield of Bureaucracies

pcaob.gif It’s tough being part of a bureaucracy, especially if you’re doing something as glamarous as babysitting auditors. The CIA, FBI, NSA have got it easy. You get to catch bad guys, use guns, and Hollywood makes movies about you. Aside from the warrantless wiretaps and otherwise general big brotherishness, it’s cool.
The PCAOB doesn’t get that luxury. They get to poke around auditors’ work and then tell them how much they suck at it. Not so fun for anybody. They also get to write auditing standards. Take the watchdog aspect, multiply it times infinity, and that’s about the amount fun we’re talking about for writing rules on auditing.
But now people are saying they’re too slow in writing these I-already-want-to-kill-myself boring rules? Yep:

“Given how little they’ve accomplished in the standards-setting area, they don’t get a passing grade,” says Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant for the SEC.
Turner says he and a group of investor advocates wrote to the PCAOB in 2004, asking it to improve fraud standards. But the work remains undone, he says.
Bill Gradison, the board member whose term expires in October, calls the criticism fair. “We’ve been much slower than other standards writers,” he says.
By comparison, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, which sets international auditing standards, among other duties, finished revising its own standards in March. The process, which included 37 standards, took about five years

Man, now comparisons to the Europeans. They’re looking for some new blood at the PCAOB though, since Mark Olson is retiring as Chairman and another board member’s term is expiring.
But don’t you go calling them lazy! “the PCAOB is taken seriously by the auditing community and deserves credit for trying. ‘Anyone who says it isn’t is off the wall,'”
What a ringing endorsement.

COMPLIANCE WATCH: Oversight Board Sets Sluggish Pace
[WSJ]

Layoff Watch: Even Local Firms are Cutting Back

The bean counter bloodbath continues, even at local firms.
Pittsburgh area firm, Alpern Rosenthal cut a dozen staffers late last week citing “performance issues”. The firm is also requesting current employees “to take a week of unpaid vacation by the end of the year, when [they] will determine whether they institute a hiring freeze or adjust profit sharing.”

Pittsburgh-area accounting firms tighten up, cut staff as downturn lingers
[Pittsburgh Business Times]

Option A: Eat Dead Frog, Option B: Pay Legal Fees

We here at Going Concern appreciate it when people embrace their bitterness but sometimes we have to give special attention to someone that goes above and beyond the run-of-the-mill cynicism. Like this gem in an 8-K filed by Expeditors International:

When you come from a frame of reference, as we do, where $0 spent on legal expense would be the most preferred alternative, having to predict anything beyond that, by its nature, would become inherently and incredibly biased towards our own wants, desires and expectations. To us, this is somewhat akin to being asked to predict how many minutes after being force fed a dead frog we would throw-up…and the operative word is “force,” as we’d never elect to do either on our own.

Sheesh, somebody needs a hug. The rest of the excerpt, in all it’s drippy sarcastic glory is at Footnoted.org.

FASB Overseers Hope That Motley Crue-ish Tour Will Help Win Some Fans Back

Motley Crue.JPGThe Financial Accounting Foundation (“FAF”) trustees are going on a tour that will certainly rival the amount of groupie tail that Motley Crue was getting circa late 80s.
“The Financial Accounting Foundation trustees, who oversee the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), will meet with small closed discussion groups of investors, auditors, academics and regulators in New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as with the FASB’s standing advisory groups.”
It’s pretty clear that the FAF has the intention of spreading their seed knowledge around the country in order to win back some cred for the FASB.

FASB overseers to seek input on new strategic plan
[Reuters via Accountancy Age]

Moody’s Calls Out the USD Haters

USD.jpgRussia and China can suck it re: the U.S. Dollar, according to Moody’s, “In the absence of a credible alternative it’s hard to see abrupt changes and that’s not even in the interest of the creditors,” Pierre Cailleteau, managing director of sovereign risk at Moody’s, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. The credit rating “remains solid,” he said earlier at a briefing.”
Do you like apples?

Moody’s Says World Has ‘No Credible Alternative’ to U.S. Dollar
[Bloomberg]

IASB Discusses MD&A and No One Cares

Do you spend evenings and weekends reading annual reports as opposed to doing, say, anything? We thought so. So you’re definitely familiar with the cheerleading section in those glossy marketing pieces known as “Management Discussion and Analsyis” or “MD&A”.
Well the IASB has decided that MD&A isn’t worth getting too worked up about as three board members voted “meh”, against issuing an actual proposal that would give management guidance on content. Sayeth:

Because the proposal will not result in a financial reporting standard, issuing it is not an effective use of IASB resources or those of constituents who may feel an obligation to comment, say the three board members, Robert Garnett, Prabhakar Kalavacherla, and James Leisenring.

Common sense appears to be alive and kicking at the IASB. Hoo-RAH.

International Standard Setters Have Their Say on MD&A
[CFO.com]

Grant Thornton LLP Names New CEO, Looks to Coin More Inclusive Title of ‘Global 6 Accounting Organization’

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGGrant Thornton LLP has named Stephen Chipman its new CEO, replacing Edward Nusbaum who is taking the CEO position of Grant Thornton International. The changes take place on January 1, 2010.
In a bit of robotic communications work, the two vomit-worthy statements from the CEO’s are oddly similar.
Nusbaum on June 3rd:

‘I am greatly honored and look forward to the opportunity to lead Grant Thornton International,’ said Nusbaum. ‘I will dedicate myself to continuing Grant Thornton’s tradition of strong leadership in the accounting profession and in speaking out on issues of importance. I want the Grant Thornton brand to mean principled people providing superior service to highly satisfied clients around the world’

Chipman today:

‘I look forward to leading Grant Thornton LLP,’ said Chipman. ‘I will dedicate myself to taking action on a number of fronts, including continuing Grant Thornton’s tradition of providing strong leadership to the accounting profession and speaking out on issues of importance. I will also continue our focus on providing the Grant Thornton Experience for our partners, people and clients, and expanding our global service capabilities and corporate social responsibility agenda.’

Okay, they aren’t identical but, sheesh, put some thought into it guys. These statements read like you just found out your wives were cheating on you…with each other.
Boilerplate CEO statements notwithstanding, the other interesting tidbit that was not subtly inserted in today’s press release was the usage of “Global 6 Accounting Organization” by GT.
Look GT, we see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to sneak in this fancy little phrase that you think will catch on and it’s not working for us. You’re not in the cool kids club. You’re just not. We feel bad for you but you can’t just show up at the cool party while there’s toilet paper stuck to your shoe and expect to start high-fiving PwC and get laid by some KPMG hottie. Nice try.

Stephen Chipman named CEO of Grant Thornton LLP
[Grant Thornton Press Release]

Legg Mason to Financial Crisis: 100 Years, You.

financial-crisis2.jpgThat’s it. It’s official. Worst. Crisis. Ever. If Legg Mason is your gauge on financial crisises, that is.
And since it is such a momentous occasion, guess what this calls for…wait for it…executive bonuses!
Courtesy of footnoted.org, we learn that Chairman and CEO, Mark Fetting’s received approximately a $3M bonus for “leadership of the company during one of the worst financial crises of the last 100 years, which particularly affected financial services companies”
Footnoted goes on to give us some perspective:

Just to make sure, we did a quick check for the word crisis (or crises) at other financial services companies and didn’t come up with anything that even came close. While the word was used in several other proxies, it wasn’t used in a way to justify a bonus and there were no pronouncements about this being the “worst financial crises”.

Okay, so Legg has some melodramatic types writing their filings. But how about some chicanery?:

Equally interesting is that while the board set Fetting’s bonus at 21% of the bonus pool in June 2008, Legg Mason’s loss of $1.9 billion last year meant that there was no bonus pool. But that didn’t stop the bonus because as the comp committee writes in the proxy the net loss was due to just two items and without those two items, the company “would have had net income, and the plan would have produced a total bonus pool large enough to accommodate the annual incentive awards made. Although the terms of the plan do not explicitly provide for the exclusion of those items, the Committee considered the items to be extraordinary expense.”

Seriously, who’s going to let two measly items stop them from paying executives bonuses out of a bonus pool that didn’t really exist? This is financial wartime people, we will not be denied.

Legg Mason calls it: The worst financial crisis
[footnoted.org]

Corporate CEO’s Are Smarter Than You. It’s Got Nothing to Do with Having Insider Information

Are you a corporate executive with insider information? Do you have a six-figure mortgage and a significant other with a shopping addiction? Is it possible that you’re not buying the hyperbole about “green shoots”?
Apparently that’s the consensus out there according to the Financial Times:

Executives in charge of the largest US companies sent a signal of their concerns by selling far more shares than they bought this month, according to data based on Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

BFD, you say? To wit:

Share sales by so-called company insiders are outstripping purchases so far this month by more than 22 times. TrimTabs, the investment research company, said insiders of S&P 500 listed companies have unloaded $2.6bn in shares in June, compared with $120m in purchases.

Still not convinced? Maybe this quote from TrimTabs CEO, Charles Biderman will sway you, “The smartest players in the US stock market – the top insiders who run public companies – are not betting their own money on an economic recovery.”
Did you hear that? The smartest players aren’t betting their own money on the recovery. It’s not because they run a shitty company, no, no. It’s because they’re smarter than all of us.

Pessimistic executives cash out of shares
[FT.com]

Madoff Feeders Getting Some Unwanted Attention

The SEC, feeling confident these days, has filed a complaint against Cohmad Securities Corporation and its Chairman, Chief Operating Officer, and one of the brokers, saying they “actively marketed Madoff investments while ‘knowingly or recklessly disregarding facts indicating that Madoff was operating a fraud.'”
Call us Captain Obv but that sounds like they were either dumb or in on the scam. Either way, they can’t be too psyched about it.
An additional complaint has been filed by the SEC against Stanley Chais, an investment adviser who put all of the assets he oversaw into casa de Madoff.
Irving Picard, who might have the most thankless job in America, also sued both Cohmad and Chais, because, you know, a few people want their money back. The trustee’s complaint against Cohmad spells it out:

The trustee’s lawsuit asserted that fees paid to Cohmad by Mr. Madoff were based on records showing the actual cash status of customer accounts — the amounts invested and withdrawn — without including the fictional profits shown in the statements provided to customers. When a customer’s withdrawals exceeded the cash invested, Cohmad’s employees no longer earned fees from that account — even though the customer’s statements still showed a substantial balance, according to the lawsuit.

This arrangement indicated that Cohmad and its representatives knew about the Ponzi scheme and knew that the profits investors were allegedly earning were bogus, according to the trustee’s complaint.

Good luck explaining that.

Brokerage Firm and 4 Others Sued in Madoff Case
[New York Times]

SHOCKER: Doesn’t Appear that Stanford Auditors were Doing Any Auditing

allen-stanford_1018295c.jpgLast week’s indictment of Allen Stanford has brought up the always popular question when fraud, occurs: “Who are the auditors that were asleep at the wheel of this disaster?”
Well, in this case, the auditors were a local UK two-person shop, CAS Hewlett, which must be Queen’s English for Friehling & Horowitz.
It doesn’t appear that CAS Hewlett has a website, but they’ve been doing the Stanford “audits” for at least 10 years, so obv they’re legit. PwC and KPMG both have offices on Antigua but Stanford preferred to stay with its “trusted firm”. Totally understandable.
And the best part? The founder of the firm, Charlesworth “Shelly” Hewlett died in January, approximately a month before the story broke on the Ponz de Stanford.
This all adds up to who-the-fuck-knows if audits were even occurring and for us to speculate if Shelly needed to get got because Stan knew that the poo and fan were coming together. Just sayin’.

UBS Closer to Getting the McCarthy Treatment

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIf you’ve got a Swiss bank account, here’s hoping you opened it because it was convenient for your monthly skiing/Toblerone getaway.
The U.S. and Swiss governments have agreed to share more tax information in order to crack down on all the tax dodgers out there that send their money offshore. The timing of this agreement is is especially diabolical because the IRS is currently trying to get Swiss bank behemoth UBS to name names of over 50,000 American clients.
Hearings in Miami are scheduled for next month to see if the names can be released, however, the Swiss have stated that this may violate Swiss law of double-secret-no-tattling-on-clients.
Ultimately, the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament will decide if the new agreement is kosh but judging by the Obama Administration’s hard-on for closing tax loopholes, they’ll probably play ball.

U.S. and Switzerland to Share More Tax Data
[DealBook/NYT]

No Raises, Bonuses From Accounting Firms May Result in an Exodus that Moses Would be Proud of

moneybag.gifThere has been lots of gossip out there about accounting firms freezing pay and skipping bonuses this year. Not surprisingly, this has been welcomed with a resounding “fuck this” by many of you.
Tough job market and near-apocalyptic economic conditions notwithstanding, you can’t really blame people that are ready to jump ship after billing more hours than they ever have before and then are told, “Thanks for all your help this year. Oh, and we can’t even afford to give you a cost-of-living increase.”
Considering the layoff bloodbath that has occurred in the past 12 months, which includes partners, one has to wonder why the hell these firms are continuing to slash costs. Many survivors of the massacre will get over the whole “thankfully I have a job” mentality when they’re welcomed with a new low in gratitude from their employers.

Firms face struggle to keep hold of top talent
[Accountancy Age]

Face It People, Nothing Much Can Be Done About the Revolving Door

Revolving_Door2.jpgThere’s constant conspiracy theories bellyaching about certain companies getting their former big shots into public service and regulatory positions (we’re talking about you, Maxine Waters).
Well now there’s speculation about former Big 4 partners working at the IASB.
We get it, those who used to work at the big firms shouldn’t be writing the rules. So who the hell is going to do it? Shall we have the likes of Friehling & Horowitz appointed as the standard setters?
The large firms have the biggest pool to choose out of, so natch they’re going to have some of the better candidates to delve into this wonky rule-writing stuff. We’re probably lucky that there are people out there that actually want to serve on these boards, lots of Big 4 partners can barely turn on their computers.

In Case You Need Another Reason to Hate the French

french flag.jpgWalking around the PwC office in Midtown Manhattan, our blogospondent in the field happened across a couple of young ladies having the picture taken in front of the P Dubya sign out front, proudly posing as if it was their names on the building at 300 Madison.
Said blogospondent approached the young ladies and asked if they worked at the P Dub and they responded in heavily French accents, “yes”. As result of further prying, it was revealed that the ladies do work a lot during “busy times”, sometimes between 50 and 60 hours a week!
This compared to an American tax associate who we spoke to just a couple days before who, in the last fifteen days, had worked 185 hours.
Let’s recap: America – 185 hours in 15 days in the middle of June vs. France – 50-60 hours in one week during the “busy time”.
American vitriol towards the French may now ensue.

About to Get Canned? Depends on Your Response

With all the uncertainty out there, for the first time, number crunchers are walking on eggshells, because, you know, if anyone gets the hint that you’re not busy enough, before you realize it you’re turning in your badge and corporate card with $500 of still unexplained expenses on it.
Here at Going Concern, we’re looking out for you, so that’s why we’re going to lay out some indicators for you so you can tell if you are about to get axed or if you should just buckle down and call for take out because your ass isn’t going anywhere.
Here are some common responses to the awkward icebreaker that is common around most offices, “You busy these days?”:
• “Ugh, you know how it is” – You’re safe. Maybe it’s the bags under your eyes, your shirt being on inside out, or maybe you just reek of tequila because you spent the four hours prior to returning to work reliving your days at Tappa Megga Kegga. Unless you plan on going postal at the office, you’re not going anywhere.
• “Oh pretty busy” – Watch yourself and lay low. You’ve got stuff to work on but not enough to keep you at the office past 6 pm. Every once in awhile you’ll stay late and catch up on your Netflix queue in order for it to look like you’re not leaving GASP too early.
• “I’m working on a project for HR” – Dust of the resume. The only reason they’re keeping you around is to bide time until judgment day when the rest of the people are going down with you.
Rumor around the campfire is that some of the firms are billing far fewer hours than are budgeted which could spur some additional cuts so watch out for responses similar to the ones above. The bloodbath may not be over yet.

Grant Thornton and the Antichrist

al pacino_devil.jpgIt’s rather mysterious that the New York office of Grant Thornton is located at 666 Third Ave. As I’m sure our more pious readers know, the significance of the 666 is commonly known as “The Number of the Beast“. We won’t get into any more specifics than that other than to mention that it is a pretty creepy-ass looking number.
Is G to the T run by a secret group of Al Pacino-esque figures that are working against the forces of good?
Maybe not but the otherwise boring-assness of that particular lobby is def working too hard to not be noticed…