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Monday Morning Accounting News Brief: PwC Cheating Costs Juniors $21k; Watch That Busy Season Stress | 11.20.23

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Good morning and happy pre-Thanksgiving Monday. It’s a short week so let’s just get this over with.

Here’s an article from AccountancyAge on mental health in the profession:

In the precise and structured realm of accounting, the topic of mental health is often an overlooked narrative. Behind the precision of financial statements and the clarity of audits, accountants confront a set of unique challenges.

Balancing demanding deadlines, adapting to rapidly changing technologies, and managing the expectations of accuracy and diligence, these professionals navigate a landscape where stress and mental well-being are significant considerations.

According to ICAEW nearly a third of accountants (30.4%) suffer from mental health issues, with more than half (51%) admitting depression and anxiety leaves them dreading going to work. More than two in five (43.5%) accountants believed their job was a key contributor to their poor mental health.

Accountants often face long hours, tight deadlines, and high-pressure environments, which can contribute to stress, anxiety, and burnout. Additionally, the profession requires ongoing study and exams, flexible working patterns, and the pressure of delivering accurate and timely financial information.

These factors can be manageable for some, but for others, they can lead to a decline in mental well-being, manifesting in various ways such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, or panic attacks. Research from the Healthy Professional Work partnership showed that more than half of accountants have experienced a mental health issue at some point in their lives.

About 80% of respondents to the study indicated their work stress is impacted by accounting cycles or the time of year

The Republic of Macon, Georgia celebrates two new CPAs, we love that these notices are still a thing at small papers around the country. Congrats to both!

Whitinger & Company LLC has announced that accountants Dane Denniston and Austin Lawrence recently received their CPA licenses.

Denniston, a native of Columbus, works out of the firm’s Fishers office. As a senior accountant, his primary responsibilities are professional tax preparation and auditing services for individuals, commercial clients, and nonprofit organizations.

Lawrence, a Winchester native, is a staff accountant in the firm’s Muncie office. Before joining Whitinger & Company as a Staff Accountant, he was a Tax Associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The PCAOB has been busy, they’re probably really proud of themselves. At least someone is.

The US audit regulator set up in the wake of Enron’s collapse two decades ago has set a record for fines in a single year, after a flurry of enforcement actions against accounting firms including PwC, Deloitte and KPMG.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board fined PwC’s Greek business $3mn on Tuesday and levied a $500,000 penalty on KPMG in Japan on Wednesday for failing to meet US standards in their audits of New York-listed clients.

Along with six smaller actions also announced on Wednesday, the settlements took the total amount of fines levied so far this year to $11.85mn against more than three dozen firms, eclipsing the previous record sum of $11.02mn in 2022.

Our article on the PwC Greece fine mentioned by FT above.

Here’s something from NY Daily News on a failed KPMG project (in their defense, it was a terrible project to begin with):

NYC Correction Dept. paid accounting giant KPMG $3M in failed effort to meet Rikers violence monitor deadlines

The Correction Department hired accounting giant KPMG in 2021 on a $3 million no-bid “emergency” contract to make sure it made deadlines in its plan to fix violence and use of force in New York City jails, records show.

There’s evidence that despite its price tag, the plan didn’t work as city officials hoped.

Correction officials continued to have trouble hitting the deadlines of their “action plan” to resolve problems at Rikers Island and other lockups, say multiple reports filed in 2023 by the federal monitor in the Nunez class action lawsuit over violence and use of force in the jails.

“Key problems include poor internal coordination on Nunez matters, inability to produce complete and relevant information, and to properly manage deadlines and priorities,” the monitoring team wrote in a July 5 report.

In its June 8 report, nearly a year after KPMG was hired, the Nunez monitoring team titled an entire section “Deadlines Ignored.” “Even with these deadlines, a significant number of requests for information go unfulfilled,” the report said.

Someone on Xitter (what the hell are we calling it now?) said Cherry Bekaert laid off about 60 people in Digital Strategy and Risk on Friday. As yet unconfirmed.

Interesting story from our ex-stepsiblings at Above the Law about how naughty law firms used fraud to support their aggressive growth. Let’s not repeat this in our corner of professional services OK?

‘Arrested In Dawn Raids’ Is Certainly One Way For A Law Firm To End

Axiom DWFM (not to be confused with legal services provider Axiom Law) was a UK law firm on the rise. As its LinkedIn page described the firm’s upward trajectory, “we are now becoming the preferred legal partner to many businesses within London, across the UK and internationally.” To further fuel that growth, Axiom DWFM started acquiring other firms, specifically Plexus and Ince.

The combined firm, Axiom Ince, employed around 1400 people.

The Serious Fraud Office has arrested seven people in dawn raids as it launches a criminal investigation into the suspected theft of £66m of client money from collapsed law firm Axiom Ince.

Early on Tuesday morning more than 80 SFO investigators and Met police officers bashed doors down at nine locations across the south of England to grab their targets and carry out searches.

The theory of the case is that the “£66m of client money” got diverted to fund the mergers and further growth, making this a sort of law firm Ponzi scheme.

KPMG UK’s partnership is half the size of PwC’s:

KPMG has cut its UK partnership to less than half the size of rival PwC’s, after shrinking its top rank for a fourth straight year against a backdrop of regulatory fines.

The number of equity partners at the Big Four firm, who own the business and share its profits, fell 7 per cent in the year to October to 467 after it failed to elevate any staff to its partnership in its latest promotion round.

The drop pushed the firm’s UK partnership numbers to their lowest level in more than 20 years, giving a bigger proportion of profits to those who remain.

Ten audit juniors at PwC UK have been fined £2,107 each ($21k USD total) for sharing exam answers.

The incident happened between 5 August and 10 September 2021 across a number of UK locations from London to Manchester, Stockport and Preston.

ICAEW disciplined the PwC staff who participated in a group chat where two assessment answer documents were ‘created, added to, used and shared to assist with the completion of a number of assessments’, ICAEW said.

The assessments were part of the training programme at PwC which were required to be completed by the staff.

ICAEW said the eight individuals ‘knew, or should have known’ that they ‘should not share answers or use answers shared by others’.

The first assessment was called Developing an Audit Plan; Fraud Risks and Responses v1; and the second focused on Understanding and Evaluating Controls; Designing Substantive Audit Procedures v1.

Incoming EY Global CEO Janet Truncale has her work cut out for her. Two things on her for your reading pleasure:

  • EY’s New Global CEO Challenged to Heal Rifts, Fix Audit Quality [Bloomberg Tax]
  • EY’s Janet Truncale: Project Everest survivor with a mountain to climb [Financial Times]

Speaking of EY, EY Australia admitted another staff member was involved in an alleged tax exploitation scheme. AFR:

EY Australia has admitted another staff member helped draft documents for a former partner who allegedly promoted tax exploitation schemes, but says the second person was working under instructions and is not accused of doing anything wrong.

The admission was made the big four accounting firm’s reply to a series of questions from Greens Senator Barbara Pocock after The Australian Financial Review revealed the Commissioner of Taxation was suing the ex-partner.

EY said Australian Taxation Office court documents “set out that an employee at EY drafted documents to give effect to the scheme. The employee is not accused of any wrongdoing,” the firm said in its reply to Senator Pocock. The other staff member is not a partner and not a party to the proceedings in the Federal Court.

“The commissioner has alleged that the documents were drafted at the direction of the former partner. There are no allegations against any other employee or EY,” the firm said in a statement to the Financial Review.

Alright that’s enough of that. If you noticed something different around here, you’re right! We got a little work done (things start sagging when you age and we’re going to be 15 next year which is like 60 in blog years). Do me a favor, if you come across broken links or any weirdness take a screenshot and send it to us so we can fix it. And as always, I encourage you to email or text if you see something interesting we should write about, I can only read so many Reddit posts in a day.

An early Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow ‘Muricans, I’m thankful for all of you!