No! It’s true! Forty-five percent think things are going to be WAYYYY better in the next months, just in time for Christmaskuh!
That’s up from 24% in December ’09.
John Ziegelbauer, national managing partner of Grant Thornton’s Financial Institutions practice, testifies:
Bankers across the country are starting to become more optimistic about both the U.S. economy and their own local economy…Their optimism about the economy is spilling over into their own banks, with bankers reporting that they are also cautiously optimistic about the number of people they expect to hire in the coming months. Overall, it appears that bankers believe that the economy has finally turned a corner.
Except that 55% of those surveyed expect to be the same (i.e. sucks) or get worse and don’t forget, no one is hiring.
On with the jobless recovery!
Primaries to Watch From Coast to Coast [WSJ]
There are eleven states that have primaries going on out there today so get out there and pull the lever for someone.
Swiss-US deal on UBS delayed by lower house snub [Reuters]
UBS still owes the IRS 4,450 names of clients as part of the deal that the U.S. reached with Switzerland re: tax evaders with UBS accounts. Small problem – the deal is hung up in Switzerland’s parliament, after the lower house of Switzerland’s parliament rejected it.
Why is this political jockeying even happening? Since the name naming is a big no-no in Swiss secrecy law, the parliamentary approval became necessary after a Swiss court blocked the transfer of the information in January. The names for retracted smackdown has an August deadline but if it is not met, the Swiss risk the the launch of a new tax case against UBS by the United States.
Clifton Gunderson Merges With St. Louis’ Humes & Barrington [Clifton Gunderson]
Clifton Gunderson has obtained St. Louis-based Humes & Barrington, in an deal effective June 1. The H&B staff of 53 will join the 7 partners in adding to the 1,900 professionals at CG. This acquisition was in addition to the purchase of Stockton Bates that we mentioned last week as well as the purchase of BKD’s Merrillville, IL location.
Corporate Governance is Top Challenge for Companies Considering an IPO, KPMG Survey Series Finds [KPMG PR]
Improving governance is biggest challenge as 64% of the companies surveyed looking to make a public offering listed it as a top challenge along with developing a robust business plan (40%) and preparation of financial track record (36%).
Jefferson Wells aligns with Baker Tilly Mexico [Milwaukee Business Journal]
Milwaukee-based Jefferson Wells has aligned with Baker Tilly Mexico to expand its operations in that country and the the Central America region. This marks the fifth expansion for JW in twelve months and is the first into Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
It has been well established in these pages and elsewhere that the SEC has had its share of problems. Take your pick: 1) missing the biggest financial fraud in the history of the world 2) hiring an army of porn-addicted accountants and lawyers to protect our markets 3) waffling on IFRS 4) did we mention missing huge frauds?
To be fair, the Commission has been working hard to redeem itself by cracking down on dubious activity (from Goldman to Overstock), hiring more fraud experts and giving those tranny porn-obsessed employees a second chance.
Regardless of the turnaround-in-progress, CFOs in this country seem to have ceased taking the SEC seriously. Sure the 10-Ks and Qs still get filed but those were in place long before the wheels fell off.
In a recent survey, Grant Thornton found that, despite a SEC deadline for public companies to utilize eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), a fair amount of CFOs don’t seem all that worried about reporting their financial statements using the technology:
64 percent of public companies do not currently report financial results using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL); and of those, half have no plans to in the future even though the SEC mandated that public companies have to report their financials using Interactive Data by 2011.
“It’s concerning that almost a third of public companies still have no plan on using XBRL to report their financials despite the requirement that all public companies comply with XBRL filing requirements by mid-year 2011,” said Sean Denham, a partner in Grant Thornton’s Professional Standards Group and a member of the AICPA’s XBRL Task Force. “I foresee a lot of companies playing catch up as the 2011 SEC deadline approaches.”
Whether this lack of action can be attributed to defiance, fear of technology, or pure laziness is not explained but we wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the SEC has an outright mutiny on its hands.
A third of public companies have no plans to use XBRL – despite SEC mandate requiring XBRL use by 2011 [GT Press Release]
Also see: XBR-Lax [CFO Blog]
Because times weren’t already cheerful enough around GT, they recently released a study which found that businesses are generally pessimistic about raises and bonuses this year.
From the press release:
The firm surveyed 496 U.S. CFOs and senior comptrollers from March 22 through April 5, and found that 53% plan no salary changes in the next 6 months, while 32% plan to decrease and 15% plan to increase. On the bonus front, there is also equal pessimism, 47% plan no change, 44% plan to reduce, and only 8% plan to increase.
Well – that certainly sucks.
We know raises are the last thing on the minds of higher-ups at GT, but come on, really? Imagine being a no-name staffer at GT grinding away on a report about how your clients are a collective group of Negative Nancy’s. With headcount discussions ongoing in several GT offices, one would be – and should be – concerned.
The freezes in salary and bonuses don’t really apply to the accounting firms because – as it has already been discussed here in great length – money should be flowing your way this summer. The underlying concern with this report is this – if your client isn’t giving its own employees a bump in pay, there’s no bloody chance your firm is getting a bump in fees, either.
Any and all resources will be applied to minimizing any talent exoduses from occurring.
So how will the firms find enough cookies in the jar to “support the current pipeline?” I checked in with a Big 4 auditor in New York who had this to share:
During casual conversation with my mentors, word is the firm will be pushing for leaves of absence again this summer for everyone who has not completely passed the CPA. The hope is for a decent percentage of staff members to do this to save on salaries.
Makes sense-ish. Temporarily cut staff salaries during a relatively quiet audit period. Will this be enough to cover raises and bonuses while client fees remain stagnant? Heavens no but it’s a start. As always, let us know if you learn of ways your firm plans to pinch pennies.
National survey finds employee wages and bonuses to remain stagnant over next six months [GT Press Release]
All the excitement (or lack thereof) amongst the Big 4 about raises this year will, at least for the next six month, will be rare compared to other companies. Grant Thornton’s survey of CFOs revealed that 53% don’t expect any salary changes in the next six months while 32% plan for decreases. That leaves a whopping 15% of those left in the survey that are planning wage and bonus increases over the next six months.
Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don’t trust Washington [AP]
So if you’re interested in running for office, this may be the year to do it.
PwC’s Administration of Lehman Translates to $24,000 Per Hour! [The Big Four Blog]
Naturally in most situations, there are winners and there are losers. While Ernst & Young is looking like a giant loser in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the whole thing seems to have worked out well for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
TBFB reports that, as the administrator for the UK piece of Lehman, the firm has gained control of over $48 billion in assets. Costs associated with these services (in the 18 months since the bankruptcy) are 0.65% of the assets recovered. A quick punch of your 10-key reveals that this is around $312 million or $24,000/hour.
In this morning’s Roundup, we told you about the ICAI belly-aching about the Big 4 circumventing the rules in India to the point of extreme annoyance but technically not breaking said rules.
Strangely enough, BusinessWeek has a story today that cites a KPMG report that found that fraud is on the rise in India due not to shifty international accounting cooperatives but rather to, among other things, the pressure of increased competition in the last two years.
As you might expect, fraud due to financial reporting is the biggest problem. The report cited, “weak rules and the inability of authorities to enforce regulation.” Other things mentioned as opportunities for chicanery:
• “Volatile economic conditions”
• “Increasing business and technological complexities”
So does that mean opportunities for fraud are ubiquitous? Do the respondents really believe that India is the only place where this is happening?
And the attitude/lack of self-control part of your triangle:
• “Diminishing ethical values”
• “Failure on part of managers to act against deviations from established policies and processes”
Diminishing ethical values? Deviating from established policies? Again, the respondents can’t think this is unique to India so shall we just assume that it’s more widespread there?
Some other contributing factors cited were “executives vying for higher pay, weak internal controls and increasing competition…for market share.” But wait! KPMG’s survey said that there were “’encouraging signs’ that mechanisms for detection of fraud through internal audits had improved.” That’s nice despite the fact that sounds similar to something that Overstock management said in their earnings call yesterday.
If you have “weak rules” accompanied by spineless bureaucrats that won’t even enforce those rules, of course you’re going to have some problems. ICAI seemingly wants to blame everything on the Big 4 probably because that’s the going trend these days. We’re not saying you can’t throw some blame towards PwC for missing the phantom $1 billion at Satyam but if your financial reporting regulatory infrastructure is akin to the something out of Deadwood, circa 19th Century, then maybe you should be more consider making some fundamental changes.
Fraud Rises in India as Competition Increases, KPMG Study Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]