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Monday Morning Accounting News Brief: Deloitte CEO Says He Doesn’t Deserve His Pay; The Accountant Shuffle | 7.17.23

grey cat on bed

Australian media is still all up in PwC’s colon, this time it’s telling us that partner pay at PwC Australia is “honestly eye-watering.” Partner pay figures were provided to the Senate as part of an inquiry related to the firm’s sharing of confidential government tax information.

It’s understood PwC’s ex-CEO Tom Seymour was the highest-paid partner at the firm in the 2021-2022 financial year, with a salary of between $4.45 million and $4.5 million.

On top of that, hundreds of PwC Australia’s big bosses are making seven figures.

There are 304 partners making $1 million or more, to be precise.

Also this: How the big four accounting firms infiltrated governments, earning more than $10b over a decade while taxpayers are in the dark:

They’ve been described as an infestation. They sit in government departments on secondment, occupy hundreds of boards across Australia and earn billions of dollars consulting to the public and private sector. The big four accounting firms — EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC — are now under the spotlight like never before.

These high priests of capitalism have been carrying on the dual role of auditing and consulting for years and have largely been left to their own devices to manage the conflicts.

It allowed them to quietly infiltrate government departments and powerful organisations and burrow their way into more and more work that could have been done by public servants.

What we have now is a public service that has been hollowed out and become far too dependent on consultants, who are expensive and operate in the shadows.

And this.

One last thing: Deloitte Australia CEO Adam Powick told a Senate inquiry he isn’t worth his $3.5 million ($2.4 million USD) salary:

“Are you really worth seven times the salary of the Australian prime minister?” she asked.

“No,” he answered.

“I happen to deeply recognise that I’m incredibly privileged to earn what I do for what I do.”

We’re told that Marcum’s private equity deal has fallen apart, thanks in part to Marcum’s $13 million PCAOB and SEC fines for terrible SPAC audits. This leaves the firm in a precarious position as they took out a $200 million loan for last year’s merger with Friedman. More on that later.

At least 500 staff at KPMG Netherlands cheated on exams. You’ll recall KPMG has been in trouble for this before in the US and Australia.

KPMG Nederland director Marc Hogeboom is also stepping down as boss of the accounting arm, but remains an auditor and partner at KPMG. He said in a statement he “should have been more alert to signals” that pointed towards workers sharing their answers.

The investigation was sparked after one employee reported to senior management that others were sharing the answers to mandatory tests between them. The 500 figure is an interim number and the investigation, which started last year and covers the previous five years, is continuing, KPMG said.

Withum partner and profession OG Ed Mendlowitz throws some jabs at Big 4 in his latest Accounting Today Voices column:

When I started my first job, my boss told me that “the young people today are not as good as when I started.” Actually, the new staff today are smarter, more resourceful and better directed at what they need to do. What I think changed is the attitude of the bosses trying to explain away their inadequacies in hiring, training and retaining staff. A major publication recently listed the top 100 best firms to work for and included a Big Four firm that had a 25% turnover rate last year (according to their own annual report). How is that a best firm to work for? Is the turnover the fault of the “young” staff or management?

Actually Ed, turnover is much less than that now (EY’s Carmine Di Sibio said in May the firm went from 20 to 12 “pretty suddenly”) but not because the firms suddenly became great places to work.

The accountant shortage showed up in an unexpected place. This is from U.S. companies are on a hiring spree for A.I. jobs—and they pay an average of $146,000 on CNBC:

The U.S. is leading the way in artificial intelligence jobs, and many of them easily pay six figures, according to new data from the global job search platform Adzuna.

Some of the most common jobs include tech roles you’d expect, like software engineer, product designer, deep learning architect and data scientist. But one fast-growing role where there’s “absolutely a shortage” of qualified applicants is tax manager, says James Neave, Adzuna’s head of data science.

Accounting and consulting firms are increasingly looking to hire accountants and tax managers with the right AI skills to make the business more efficient using large language models, he says.

The average tax manager job that’ll use AI pays $100,445 a year, according to Adzuna data. Overall, the average job using the skill pays $146,244.

Even in AI accountants get ripped off.

Faribault County in Minnesota is short-staffed:

With county auditor/treasurer Jessica Blair’s last day on the job, Aug. 10, fast approaching, the Faribault County Board of Commissioners took steps at their meeting on Tuesday, July 11, to ensure the county’s financial recording needs are met.

One of the actions taken by the board was to allow county coordinator Mark Daly to obtain quotes from at least two accounting firms to provide temporary accounting services until all three positions (county auditor/treasurer, deputy auditor, and deputy treasurer) are filled.

Another idea being considered, but not acted on, is to temporarily assign the accountant from the Highway Department to help in both the auditor and treasurer’s offices.

That poor accountant from the Highway Department.

A few other things:

Alright, that’s all I’ve got. Let’s make it a great week or at least a not terrible one. If you see anything of interest out there give me a shout.