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Going Concern Editor’s Picks for 2015: Relationships at Work, Bad Auditing, Women in Accounting and More

The News Roundup is taking the day off today so that we may bring you a quick refresher of the notable stories from the past year.

Since motivation is in short supply this week, you'll forgive us if your favorite story didn't make the cut. Enjoy the recap.

KPMG has "the talk" with its employees
Back in January, we got our hands on an internal document that warned Klynveldians of the risks that relationships can cause in the workplace. The firm used its "Integrity Matters" newsletter to remind people that bumping uglies with either a co-worker or a client is fraught with peril. It even provided stats: 18 investigations into reported "improper relationships" with 3 partners and 1 senior manager separated from the firm.

Big 4's legal and creative services
Accounting firms provide all kinds of professional services but two areas got considerable attention this year that you wouldn't expect from accounting firms: legal and creative. Here in the US, both Deloitte Digital and PwC Digital got noticed for their size: $1.5 billion and $750 million respectively. That scale has them competing with more traditional advertising agencies who'd rather they BTFO and stick to taxes.

As for legal services, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert pointed out back in February that in the US, the law prevents the firms from providing legal services. However, on a global scale, all of the Big 4 have gotten noticed for their push into legal services, especially in the UK. While PwC seems perfectly fine telling people about their ambitions for building out their law practices, EY doesn't want law firms to worry their pretty little heads about it. Oh, and Grant Thornton is trying to take the high road on this matter, which make us think they're feeling left out.

Bad audits
The lowlights in auditing from 2015 were more than just horrendous PCAOB reports (although there were some of those, too). KPMG got roped into the FIFA scandal. BDO blew an audit and the SEC noticed. And Grant Thornton had all sorts of problems. Independence got them in trouble a couple of times, their shoddy audit of the Marine Corps got some attention and the SEC just slapped them for two audit failures earlier this month. 

Girls club
Cathy Engelbert and Lynne Doughtie became the first two female CEOs of Big 4 accounting firms. That's a pretty big milestone for two of the largest firms in the world, however, a recent survey from the AICPA shows that, overall, women still make up a small portion of the partnership group at larger firms, only 20% at firms with more than 100 CPAs. Small firms, with 10 and fewer CPAs, seem to do better where women make up 43% of the partners. This suggests that women dissatisfied with their careers at firms dominated by men are striking out on their own. 

If there's one thing I can't get enough of, it's not reading articles about generational differences. I gleefully pass up stupid articles about businesses marketing to Millennials and accounting firm leaders trying to explain how to relate to them. The easiest way to accomplish the latter is to take a cue from PwC Senior Partner Bob Moritz and try to think like one. PwC thinks Millennials want help paying back their student loans. Grant Thornton thinks they want unlimited vacation. Apparently, they don't want to golf. And they hate performance reviews, so Deloitte (and others) are trying to get rid of them. Let's all resolve to care less about Millennials in 2016.

And here's some lighter news from this past year:

Thanks for your continued support of Going Concern. See you in 2016.