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Monday Morning Accounting News Brief: EY Brings in a Crisis Expert; CEOs Deprioritize Talent in Deloitte Survey | 7.24.23

yellow dog wearing glasses

Monday already? Meh. Well here’s what’s going on.

EY is bringing in a crisis advisor to figure out why Project Everest went bust. FT:

The Big Four firm has engaged Lord David Gold to examine the process behind Project Everest, which collapsed in April after leaders of its US business blocked the global break-up, according to people familiar with the matter.

Gold led Herbert Smith, one of the UK’s top law firms, from 2005 to 2010 and has subsequently built a new business advising large companies facing high-profile problems with ethics, governance and corruption.

His review will attempt to identify shortcomings in EY’s processes and governance during its planning for the abortive break-up, the people said. It is also expected to consider who within the organisation was responsible for any failings, according to one of the people.

Gold’s work for EY may continue after he makes his initial findings, one of the people added.

Global boss Carmine Di Sibio, the driving force behind the attempted break-up, told partners last month that he would step down in June 2024 but insisted he was proud of what the firm had tried. He said it had “set the entire sector on a new course that will only become apparent in the years to come”.

The factors that led to the break-up plan’s demise are likely to fall under the microscope in Gold’s review, which is his latest high-profile corporate appointment.

Things are still going swimmingly for consulting firms in Australia:

Pay, sexual harassment and fraud claims put heat on consulting industry

From multimillion-dollar pay packets and allegedly fraudulent schemes, to sexual harassment claims and lack of transparency around wrongdoing in the consulting industry, the Senate inquiry into the multibillion-dollar sector lifted the lid on everything this week.

Now into its third round of hearings, the inquiry heard from consulting giants Deloitte, EY and Accenture, as well as other experts and former consultants. The probe was set up after the PwC tax leak scandal in which a partner marketed confidential information about government tax plans to clients.

The top brass from big consulting firms such as EY, Accenture and Deloitte did their best to impress on the inquiry just how different they were from the scandal-ridden PwC, which was forced to sell its government business for $1 this month in order to save it.

But what the inquiry found deeply disturbing was the lack of candour from the assembled bosses when it came to answering questions as simple as: “How much are you paid?”

And would you look at that:

The CEO of the Australian Government’s powerful Board of Taxation quietly exited the role on January 31 — just days after the eruption of the PwC tax scandal now sending reverberations worldwide.

That CEO was Christina Sahyoun.

Sahyoun, for entire term as Board of Taxation CEO, was simultaneously a current senior employee and tax partner of PwC Australia.

On “secondment” to the Board of Taxation — where she was paid an undisclosed taxpayer annual salary in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — Sahyoun has been an employee of PwC at all times since 2007.

“Sahyoun, PwC CEO Kevin Burrowes, and the Board of Taxation, are all refusing to say whether Sahyoun is one of the 63-plus people on PwC’s list”

Sahyoun herself, PwC Australia’s new CEO Kevin Burrowes, and the Board of Taxation, are all refusing to say whether Sahyoun is one of the 63-plus people on PwC’s “list” of current and former partners and staff to have received stolen Federal Government tax policy data.

Steven Wasserman wants everyone to know that the accountant shortage isn’t limited solely to accounting firms. And companies. And government (which he neglected to mention in his Forbes article). The start-ups are hurting too!

I believe that early-stage companies are being more negatively impacted by the accountant shortage than large companies. As a serial small company CFO, I have seen this shortage impact both a company’s day-to-day operations and its annual audit.

Early-stage companies often have small accounting staffs. In the companies where I have served as CFO, the total U.S. based accounting staffs were four or less employees, including the controller. An open accounting position requires the remaining accounting staff to absorb a significant amount of additional work. This in turn, pulls the controller into assisting with the transaction processing, which pulls the CFO into helping the controller, which limits the CFO’s effectiveness as a business partner.

Early-stage companies are competing for staff accountants with large companies. Because large companies often pay higher salaries and offer better benefits, early-stage companies often offer stock options as an incentive to attract talent. However, few early career employees place significant value on stock options.

From The CPA Journal: This year, after a push that has gone on for more than a decade, the New York State Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would permit non-CPA ownership of CPA firms (A.4189/S.2473A).

For the first time since June 2021, talent is no longer the biggest challenge CEOs face today with geopolitics, the economy and uncertainty rising to the top of their list per the Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey. A few more bullets:

  • Fifty-three percent of CEOs expect a recession in the second half of 2023 or 2024. Fourteen percent believe their country is currently in a recession; 32% do not believe their country will have a recession.
  • CEOs continue to invest in technology as they adapt to an ever-changing environment while managing a variety of implementation challenges.
  • Over half of CEOs surveyed are evaluating or experimenting with Generative AI while another 37% are at limited production use or pervasive adoption.

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder has been ordered to pay the NFL $60 million following an investigation, the football team was running the ole second set of books scheme:

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder will have to pay $60 million to the NFL in resolution after an investigation concluded the club improperly hid finances from the NFL and that Snyder inappropriately touched a former cheerleader from the organization, according to a report the league released Thursday.

“After extensive investigation, we have sustained both Tiffani Johnston’s allegation of sexual harassment by Mr. Snyder and Jason Friedman’s allegation of deliberate underreporting of NFL revenues by the Club to avoid its VTS sharing obligations,” the report stated.

“Although Mr. Snyder denied it, multiple witnesses informed us that Mr. Snyder pressured employees to improve the Club’s financial performance (‘every last dollar’ matters) and the evidence shows that, as one way of achieving higher revenues and lower costs, the Club, during the 2009-2015 seasons, wrongfully violated the sharing rules in order to retain greater amounts of shareable revenues through ‘VTS savings,'” the report read.

The Commanders, according to the report, had a “second set of books” in which they would keep records that only went to Snyder. The report found the Commanders concealed more than $45 million in revenue sharing.

Deloitte wants to “make Hawaii an irresistible place to work with diverse and long-lasting career opportunities” in military and intelligence according to Pacific Business News:

Military, intelligence and industry leaders can explore innovative human capital strategies to fulfill their complex and demanding missions — and more money is not always the answer. The array of challenges cannot be addressed in a silo or fixed simply by raising salaries. Top talent may be choosy. Flexibility and a wide variety of opportunities are now viewed as table stakes, along with a stable job and a paycheck.

To attract and retain skilled workers in this evolving landscape, organizations may need to create an irresistible talent experience — a magnetic association that people want to join and hate to leave.

A leadership piece on SmartBrief makes us ask: WHAT FIRM WAS IT??

In 2018, we switched accounting firms. I solicited opinions on the move from my top advisors beforehand and did my due diligence, but the move was a disaster. We got incorrect financial statements, missed payroll and created confusion for our customers. It would have been easy to pass the blame, make excuses or dump the problem on someone else. I didn’t. As the company’s leader, the final decision had been mine.

At an all-hands meeting, I owned it. I made it clear that the ill-fated decision had been mine alone and that I recognized it had caused chaos for our teams, customers and vendors. I apologized and shared my ideas for rectifying the situation. Then I asked for my team’s help and suggestions and expressed my confidence that by working together, we’d not only survive but prosper in the wake of the crisis. And we did.

Alright this is already running long, let’s get out of here. Hope you have a good week and as always, I’d love it if you’d give me a shout if you see anything interesting. Later.