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November 27, 2022

Fed Governor Duke: Accounting Should Come With Incentives

motivation.jpgEditor’s note: Adrienne Gonzalez is founder and managing editor of Jr Deputy Accountant as well as regular contributor to leading financial/investment sites like Seeking Alpha and GoldmanSachs666. You see all of her posts for GC by going here. By day, she teaches unlicensed accountants to pass the CPA exam, though what she does in her copious amounts of freetime in the evening is really none of your business. Follow her adventures in Fedbashing and CPA-wrangling on Twitter @adrigonzo but please don’t show up unannounced at her San Francisco office as she’s got a mean streak. Her favorite FASB is 166.
What do you get when you cross a Federal Reserve governor and the AICPA? Well I wish I could say unicorns and rainbows but really all you get is Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke on, what else, regulation.
Regulatory Perspectives on the Changing Accounting Landscape doesn’t exactly sound like a party but what do you expect? Unemployment is up, revenues are down and let’s face it, things aren’t looking too good for the short term. You’ve got to give Duke some level of credit for trying.
More, after the jump


Firstly, we feel it prudent to point out that Duke is no CPA. She couldn’t tell a debit from a credit if her life depended on it, at least in j/e form, but we’re willing to bet as a banker she’s probably better at sniffing out capital requirements than, say, that brainiac Bernanke.

Given my background as a community banker, I feel it is crucial that an accounting regime directly link reported financial condition and performance with the business model and economic purpose of the firm. It is difficult for me to comprehend the value of an accounting regime that doesn’t make that link.
To be frank, it has been frustrating to try to assess that viability when the value of an asset is based on the nature of its acquisition rather than the way in which it is managed or the way in which its economic value is likely to be realized.

What’s so frustrating about assessing an asset? Either it’s worth something or it’s worthless. Any idiot can figure that out, even yours truly.
Duke implies in her speech that fair value is only useful if the instrument (read: creative and probably entirely made-up security) is being sold or desired by some third party (read: those gullible Chinese who bought all of our weak ass mortgage-backed securities back in the good old housing bubble days) and entirely useless for anything else. In other words, the proof is in the cash flows.
Leave it to a banker to assume that balance sheets are so easily manipulated by instruments passing from buyer to seller and somehow entirely irrelevant in the time in between. As a banker, we expected better from her. Surely she understands that capital requirements dictate those “useless” securities on the “assets” side of bank balance sheets count towards the bank’s overall viability? Apparently not.
In fact, Duke seems to think that fair value can backfire on smaller institutions who may not have the borrowing leverage of, say, a beast like Goldman Sachs. Or better, Lehman Brothers. Before they went bankrupt that is.
All in all, interesting thoughts from the Fed Board on this one but until they pull out someone with practical accounting experience, it might as well have come from Perez Hilton for all I care. Next!

motivation.jpgEditor’s note: Adrienne Gonzalez is founder and managing editor of Jr Deputy Accountant as well as regular contributor to leading financial/investment sites like Seeking Alpha and GoldmanSachs666. You see all of her posts for GC by going here. By day, she teaches unlicensed accountants to pass the CPA exam, though what she does in her copious amounts of freetime in the evening is really none of your business. Follow her adventures in Fedbashing and CPA-wrangling on Twitter @adrigonzo but please don’t show up unannounced at her San Francisco office as she’s got a mean streak. Her favorite FASB is 166.
What do you get when you cross a Federal Reserve governor and the AICPA? Well I wish I could say unicorns and rainbows but really all you get is Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke on, what else, regulation.
Regulatory Perspectives on the Changing Accounting Landscape doesn’t exactly sound like a party but what do you expect? Unemployment is up, revenues are down and let’s face it, things aren’t looking too good for the short term. You’ve got to give Duke some level of credit for trying.
More, after the jump


Firstly, we feel it prudent to point out that Duke is no CPA. She couldn’t tell a debit from a credit if her life depended on it, at least in j/e form, but we’re willing to bet as a banker she’s probably better at sniffing out capital requirements than, say, that brainiac Bernanke.

Given my background as a community banker, I feel it is crucial that an accounting regime directly link reported financial condition and performance with the business model and economic purpose of the firm. It is difficult for me to comprehend the value of an accounting regime that doesn’t make that link.
To be frank, it has been frustrating to try to assess that viability when the value of an asset is based on the nature of its acquisition rather than the way in which it is managed or the way in which its economic value is likely to be realized.

What’s so frustrating about assessing an asset? Either it’s worth something or it’s worthless. Any idiot can figure that out, even yours truly.
Duke implies in her speech that fair value is only useful if the instrument (read: creative and probably entirely made-up security) is being sold or desired by some third party (read: those gullible Chinese who bought all of our weak ass mortgage-backed securities back in the good old housing bubble days) and entirely useless for anything else. In other words, the proof is in the cash flows.
Leave it to a banker to assume that balance sheets are so easily manipulated by instruments passing from buyer to seller and somehow entirely irrelevant in the time in between. As a banker, we expected better from her. Surely she understands that capital requirements dictate those “useless” securities on the “assets” side of bank balance sheets count towards the bank’s overall viability? Apparently not.
In fact, Duke seems to think that fair value can backfire on smaller institutions who may not have the borrowing leverage of, say, a beast like Goldman Sachs. Or better, Lehman Brothers. Before they went bankrupt that is.
All in all, interesting thoughts from the Fed Board on this one but until they pull out someone with practical accounting experience, it might as well have come from Perez Hilton for all I care. Next!

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Are Today’s Accountants Already Occupying Wall Street?

Caleb and I had a talk last night and it made me think about this whole Occupy Wall Street thing. More importantly, it made me think about what I am and am not doing to support it. I haven’t been to a rally, even to take pictures (last time I tried to do that, I was the only one out in front of the Federal Reserve Board at 6 in the morning except for the lone Fed cop patrolling the perimeter).

I get that people are pissed off. I’m pissed off too. I’ve been pissed off, don’t tell me about being pissed off. I was lugging around aFed sign made on top of “Ron Paul ’08” acrylic three years ago, you don’t have to tell me about being pissed off. (Here I am in 2009 on SF Citizen in a “Bernanke 00%” t-shirt at an anti-Iraq war rally)

And I get that for some people, all there is to do is go downtown with a drum and some poorly-written signs on cardboard ripped from your mom’s Costco packages in the recycle bin. That’s totally fine, everyone has their own way of sticking it to the man.

For a lot of Going Concern readers, sticking it to the man means showing up every day in business casual pretending to give a fuck about COSO but actually knowing that it’s all a lie. They work you to the bone until you leave or submit and get promoted to manager. Partner if you’re lucky. Run on that hamster wheel, here have this bonus, keep going and one day you can beat your own subordinates into submission. Go, go, go… Many of you get that this is bullshit but keep showing up every day anyway, and to me, you are your own special kind of protester. Same as last year, motherfucker, it’s the ultimate form of rebellion.

Too much?


Point being, everyone has their own way of screwing the establishment. Francine does it railing against the Big 4. Bill Sheridan and Tom Hood do it at the MACPA with professionalism. Tom Selling does it by riling up fellow academics. Professor Dave Albrecht does it by being seen in public canoodling with known incendiaries like yours truly.

I do it by ripping on the IASB as often as I am allowed to, infiltrating the Hill to sniff out what’s the latest in CPA lobbying efforts and getting in as many F bombs as I can on the dry subject of accounting. That’s all I can do. I can’t abandon my day job to hang out in Manhattan eating vegan paninis. I can make and distribute offensive Bernanke fridge magnets.

I completely understand why people are attracted to Occupy Wall Street; the part I’m struggling with is why so many of the 99 Percenters seem obsessed with this thing called “fairness” that does not, in fact, exist. Is it fair that any of us have to drag our asses to work every day and do what we do? Is it fair that Becker costs $3,000 and doesn’t pass the CPA exam for you? Is it fair that many of you are drowning in student loan debt and seemingly forced to get Master’s degrees just to work in your field? Is it fair that Caleb gets listed in all the accounting publications and I’m stuck as the sidekick hack who always manages to piss people off? This world is unfair, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I have to write about accounting every day of my life, it’s un-fucking-fair, we get it.

In my view (for whatever that is worth, which is probably not more than our company pays me to write this post), the ultimate rebellion is assimilating and infiltrating the establishment to enact real change from the inside. Are partners scared as shit of this website? Yes. If they’re threatening you with termination if you even dare to write us for advice, we’re doing something right. And I didn’t even have to not shave my armpits to accomplish that (but Caleb probably shaved his).

Are any of you going to independently revolutionize the accounting industry? Probably not. But collectively, you have scared the pants off of lazy ass recruiters and partners across this country who thought you didn’t have it in you. They read us because they feel like they have to or else they’ll lose touch with what you guys are thinking, and it scares the living shit out of them. In my mind, that’s a far more effective message to send the The Establishment, whoever the hell they are.

I fully support the fundamental sentiment of Occupy Wall Street but much prefer fulfilling my incendiary duties here trying to get accounting kids riled up and questioning why they put up with the shit they do. Working mothers in public accounting should be allowed to have children. Interns should be allowed to ask questions (even dumb ones). Auditors should be expected to question last year’s logic. It’s not complicated but it’s important work that a lot of you do, and I hope that you get that.

It is not your fault that we’re here. Many of you just followed the rules.

Thanks for letting me be a part of that. Beats standing around with a fucking sign, that’s for sure.

Earlier:
Wanted: Accountants for Large Protest; Organizational Skills and Experience with Anything Slightly Resembling a Expense Reimbursement Policy a Plus [GC]