So to speak. You see, someone at Papa Whiskey Charlie dropped a flash drive that contained a lot of pertinent Under Armour employees' information in the mail and yep! it's missing. Baltimore-based Under Armour Inc. told employees in an email message that an unencrypted thumb drive containing employee payroll information was lost in the U.S. mail […]
Britain's audit regulator, the Financial Reporting Council's accountancy and actuarial discipline board (AADB), has decided that even though its fine of £1.4 million of PwC in January was a record, it really didn't satisfy as a "credible deterrent." Accordingly, the AADB is floating some ideas on how to make the fines a little less "meh" […]
It's been 26 days since Deloitte resigned as the auditor of Daqing Dairy, which is an impressive streak considering the number of days between the previous two resignations was seven. This time around, the Green Dot is walking on SouthGobi Resources Ltd.: Deloitte & Touch LLP has resigned as an auditor “on its own initiative” […]
Two questions: 1) Isn't this pretty representative of local governments everywhere? and 2) When did PwC start auditing humans for competency? An audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers has revealed that 92 percent of the City Council of Nairobi workforce is incompetent. The appraisal commissioned in 2010 has recommended that the council trims its large and inefficient workforce. Town Clerk […]
You may have heard that yesterday, "as many as a dozen" tornadoes sorta had their way with the Dallas-Fort Worth, destroying homes and damaging property. Thankfully there have been no deaths reported. Usually when inclement weather threatens a city, there is some kind of advance notice. For all their short-comings, weather (wo)men typically get these severe […]
On Monday, we learned that Phil Mickelson's KPMG hat got a Twitter account. I know. Thankfully, it wasn't so much a shameless opportunity for Phil to strut around in a new lid with proper KPMG colors, as it was a shameless opportunity for Phil to strut around in a new lid with proper KPMG colors […]
Courtesy of lawyers representing The Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, who are suing the Green Dot over WG Trading Co., a firm allegedly used in a Ponzi scheme: Deloitte “acted in willful blindness of the scheme, and its auditing practices were so deficient that the audits amounted to no audit at all, or an egregious refusal […]
Earlier today we learned that Deloitte resigned as the auditor of Daqing Dairy Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed Chinese company. It was notable because this is the second resignation for Deloitte in [counting on fingers] seven days! That's not good! The other one was "baby products maker" and licenser of Harry Potter and Bob the […]
There probably aren't too many of them floating around out there, but if you happen to see one, see if you can get a second opinion: The SEC alleges that James Michael Murray raised more than $4.5 million from investors in his various funds including Market Neutral Trading LLC (MNT), a purported hedge fund that claimed […]
This story is a bit stale, but we're running with it anyway. The Sedona, Arizona Fire District ("SFD") engaged McGladrey to perform a special audit to evaluate its management and spending. SFD paid $190,000 for the pleasure, and at a recent meeting of the Governing Board, it was expressed by SFD Business Manager Karen Daines […]
Yesterday, Monday Morning Auditor that everyone loves to hate, the PCAOB, announced that they would be having an open meeting on March 21-22 that will focus on auditor independence and rotation. Sorry! I meant auditor term limits. Anyway, there are going to be several big names on various panels including Paul Volcker, Harvey Pitt, Arthur Levitt, […]
I believe this particular PCAOB-hostile grunt has spoken: Dear Mr. G – I hate to break this to you, but accountants do not respect the PCAOB. We HATE the PCAOB. This organization does nothing but bring misery to our lives, for no matter how good our work product is, this group comes along and finds […]
Accounting News Report, using data from Audit Analytics, puts out an Auditor Change Analysis every year and it usually finds its way into our inbox, however, because the analysis is a subscription-based publication (and a pricey one at that), reproducing the whole thing is usually not an option. This year we asked pretty please, and we got […]
Yes, even if it was Allen Stanford's auditor: CAS Hewlett, an accountant in the Caribbean nation of Antigua where Stanford operated a bank and numerous other business interests, received $4.6 million for auditing services, said Morris Hollander, a certified public accountant who testified as an expert witness. “Are amounts paid for auditing these companies in any way […]
Allegedly, this stunt was pulled earlier this morning in a Big 4 audit room somewhere in the Boston area. If you'd like to claim responsibility for this stroke of genius or have other samples to share, email us.
It's February which means important traditions are observed that include rodents, candy hearts, and of course, football. Handing out Oscars is another February tradition and that includes red carpets, a drunk baked Joan Rivers and, last but not least, PwC auditors in tuxedos. The PwC auditors are usually the butt of recycled jokes what with their average […]
Ed. note: Is busy season bringing out the worst in you? CPA exam seem hopeless? Having trouble finding the box of tickmarks in the supply room? Email us your problems and one of us will put you on the couch. GC, I recently decided to leave my position in a Big Four Advisory position after […]
Auditors are gatekeepers. Or something. They are trusted to keep client confidentiality on many matters and are entrusted with very sensitive information on a daily basis. They are paid handsomely for this so you can imagine the frustration a client must feel when something like this happens: Personal information about Regions Financial Corp. current and former […]
PwC India Chairman Deepak Kapoor is in Davos and must be engaging in some real brain busters. I mean, what savvy political mind could have passed along this little suggestion? "[W]e need to move with the times. A number of large countries such as the US and even some smaller ones like Sri Lanka have […]
Last fall, we reported that KPMG had issued an internal preservation notice to its employees in regards to "General Electric's Loan Staff Arrangements." As you may remember, this arrangement consisted of KPMG employees being loaned to GE to help supplement the work of the world's best tax law firm. Oh, and KPMG is the auditor […]
If you've been reading Going Concern for a while, you have probably heard the name Steven Thomas. If you're unfamiliar, he's a partner at the law firm of Thomas, Alexander & Forrester in Vencie, California and he's done quite all right for himself by suing auditors. Big auditors. He served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in […]
Back in October, the PCAOB officially proposed that audit partners be required to slap their name on the audit report of clients that register with the SEC. For those inside the profession, this proposal isn't exactly popular, as that would put a specific name and a specific face with audit failures. In other words, no […]
PCAOB Chairman James Doty shot the breeze with the SEC for awhile today, speaking about, among other things, how the Board would handle this boatload of Chinese filers who don't seem to know their asses from their elbows when it comes to accounting and their auditors who are similarly clueless. Doty assured the Commission that […]
E&Y worked hard ignoring whistleblowers, goat poo assets, and cowering to unqualified CFOs to earn those fees from that Titantic of an engagement, so don't you think you can waltz into court and demand they give that money back. Ernst & Young, which was sued by New York in 2010 for allegedly helping Lehman Brothers […]
The Indian Enron fuckshow otherwise known as Satyam has seemingly been in our lives since before Adrienne had tattoos. Even after settlements, new auditors, and delayed restatement after delayed restatement, one might think that we had heard the last of this godforsaken money pit. Nope! Indian software outsourcer Mahindra Satyam on Monday said it had filed […]
Back in August, the PCAOB issued a concept release on audit firm rotation and invited anyone who had the time and/or energy to comment on it (as did we). In the wonky little corners of the accounting blogosphere, there was strong opposition to rotation from Jim Peterson and Francine McKenna (although their reasons differ from your […]
Yesterday, we discussed Deloitte stinking up the joint with its PCAOB inspection report. While the firm, at large, probably puts out hundreds of quality audits, the PCAOB gumshoes found that 45% of audits stamped with a green dot had deficiencies. Today, the Board stuffed our stocking with Ernst & Young's inspection report and while it's not […]
According to our inquisitor, there was supposed to be word of a little holiday cheer pre-Hanukkah: Any word on PwC Bonuses being paid out at year end? Folks in the Northeast assurance practice were suppose to be notified by 12/20. Okay, gang. Now maybe I'm mistaken but if you recall, someone asked a similar question right […]
From the wild and wonderful world of Craigslist comes a small Las Vegas business who really needs a financial statement audit but doesn't quite have the money or the filing system to accommodate anyone who would insist on either: So anyone looking for extra work out there should get in touch ASAP. I'm sure this […]
Yesterday, the regulatory love child of Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley, the PCAOB, issued its 2010 inspection report for Deloitte. Deloitte was the third Big 4 firm to have their report issued this year with PwC and KPMG being issued just before Thanksgiving. While the reports for both PwC and KPMG were of the "we're […]
It's not really that odd that someone would sue an auditor for $100 million. It's also not unusual that a company (usually through some PR flak) would publicly rebuke the auditor in a news report or press release. What is unique is a company issuing a press release announcing their lawsuit against their audit firm that […]
Another Festivus miracle! The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) – an organization providing thought leadership and guidance on internal control, enterprise risk management, and fraud deterrence – has released, for public comment, an updated Internal Control – Integrated Framework (Framework) intended to help organizations improve performance with greater agility, confidence and […]
The Journal reports that four companies that were integral in hiding all the losses at creative accounting camera company Olympus all shared the same obscure auditor. Minoru Tanaka is still the auditor for three of the four companies although, for some strange reason, he was MIA in the report prepared by the panel that investigated the […]
Ed. note: Is your career somewhere in between mundane and craptacular? Email us at email@example.com and we'll help you improve your life slightly up from SUCK. GC, I'm a semi-frequent reader (hey I still have to get some work done) so I wasn't sure if this topic was covered, but I just got done reading your recent […]
Just when you thought the economy was looking up, out peeks the PCAOB with a friendly reminder to the auditors out there that current economic conditions warrant a tad more due care than usual.
Kids, allow us to introduce you to Staff Audit Practice Alert No. 9.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board today published a Staff Audit Practice Alert to assist auditors in identifying matters related to the current economic environment that might affect the risk of material misstatement in financial statements and, therefore, require additional audit attention.
“Today’s volatile economic environment may affect companies’ operations and financial reporting, which has implications for audits,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty. “The alert reminds auditors of their responsibilities under these conditions.”
Staff Audit Practice Alert No. 9: Assessing and Responding to Risk in the Current Economic Environment, updates Staff Audit Practice Alert No. 3, which was issued in December 2008, in light of current global economic conditions and recent enhancements to PCAOB standards.
Many of the matters discussed in Practice Alert No. 3, Audit Considerations in the Current Economic Environment — including fair value measurements, accounting estimates, going concern, and financial statement disclosures — continue to be critical in audits of 2011 financial statements. Certain of the PCAOB standards referenced in that alert regarding assessment of, and response to, risk, however, were superseded in 2010 with the Board’s adoption of eight new risk assessment standards (Auditing Standard Nos. 8-15).
“This practice alert discusses issues posed by the current economic situation and highlights certain requirements in the new risk assessment standards. Auditors should be alert to the new requirements contained in the risk assessment standards and how those requirements relate to audits performed in the current economic climate,” said Martin F. Baumann, PCAOB Chief Auditor and Director of Professional Standards.
We know you guys cannot wait to read this one, so by all means, knock yourselves out.
If you’re too busy to take the three minutes to read it, I’ll sum it up thusly: we’re doomed, so maybe SALY isn’t such a good idea after all.
So glad we’re all clear on that. Now, back to the JIT for all of you…
Bloomberg reports, that E&Y was sued for “negligence, malpractice and breach of contract in connection with audits of financial statements over a five- year period,” which sounds like the standard fair in these matters. The pleasant surprise being the brevity of the suit. “The two-page filing doesn’t provide any details of the allegations against Ernst & Young,” which may cause you to wonder if it’s really just a one-page lawsuit (unthinkable, I know) with the second page simply stating, “This page is intentionally left blank.” Of course the downside here (aside from another lawsuit being lumped on the pile) is that E&Y’s lawyers won’t get a chance to rack up many billable hours just yet. Which is to say, there is no downside. [Bloomberg, Earlier]
Now, I don’t know Professor Ketz personally, but my highly acute sarcasm detector is going batshit crazy. Less subtly, MACPA Editor Bill Sheridan gives us the timeline of the events that transpired starting with Enron’s filing. Bill gets a little weepy about the whole affair, writing:
Remember how utterly chaotic that time was? News that shook CPAs to the core surfaced almost daily, and the next day brought even worse news.
Okay, I was in college when Enron went bankrupt so I don’t remember things being “chaotic” unless you count the whole “9/11 was less than 3 months ago” thing. What I do remember was an Andersen partner who came to campus for our Accounting Society meeting (BAP didn’t have a chapter at my school) alone and he didn’t really seem to know anything more than what I imagine was being reported in the news and our faculty advisor noticed it too. So for him and his fellow partners, yes, things were probably royally sucking. And yes, things did get worse when Andersen was convicted* of obstruction of justice, surrendered their state licenses and closed up shop.
So maybe all that stuff is bad. Maybe it’s really fucking bad and it causes people to cringe to think about it but even Bill sees the upside:
You could argue that the profession is better off because of it. We took our lumps, rolled with the punches, and emerged on the far side stronger and more trustworthy than ever. “That which doesn’t kill you,” etc., etc. Still, I’m not in any rush to go through something like that again. Are you?
Jesus. Can we quit acting like Enron is still a big deal? Lehman Brothers was the size of ten Enrons. TEN. And Ernst & Young, no matter what happens, looks like idiots and continues to claim that they bear no responsibility and everything is still hunky dory. Andersen got off easy. Enron went bankrupt. The firm got fired. And fired again. And again. Then the firm died. The end. Their partners and employees moved on and everything was cool. I mean seriously, even C.E. Andrews got another job. If Ernst & Young continues on, they’ll have this hanging over them until something worse happens. Enjoy that.
But back to Enron. Thanks to Enron, we got Sarbanes-Oxley. We got The Smartest Guys in the Room. And we got that awesome Heineken ad. If you think about it, lots of you probably got your job thanks to Enron. Which means you probably owe your house, your spouse, your dog and a whole bunch of other shit to Enron too. You should be thanking your lucky stars that Jeff Skilling was such a ballsy mark-to-market wizard.
And yet people choose to remember it as, “That one time where we almost DIED!” And the mainstream press, in its blissful accounting ignorance, loves to dig it up in every article that is remotely accounting related.
I don’t know about you all but I’ve moved on. Enron was this bad thing that happened to the accounting profession but other bad things have happened – far worse things – and other equally bad things will happen. Maybe if people had learned something the last ten years and tried to do things better instead of maintaining the status quo, there wouldn’t be a French guy busting your chops. Here’s to the next 100 years. Thanks, Enron.
*SCOTUS overturned the conviction on a technicality (apparently an important one) but that doesn’t bring the firm back now, does it?
Today in KPMG is the PwC Triple-A team news, partner Erik Hansen has joined the P. Dubs Houston office as a risk assurances partner leading the firm’s Internal Audit Practice in the Oil and Gas Industry Sectors. I suppose it goes without saying that Mr. Hansen is pretty adept in the energy field, as well as auditing:
Hansen has served companies in the oil and gas industry on issues related to internal audit outsourcing and co-sourcing solutions, Sarbanes-Oxley assistance services, as well as other risk and control-related services. He has also served as an instructor in several KPMG training programs designed to provide partners and managers with the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective in the marketplace.
Enjoy Houston, Erik! Just keep your wits about you at the happy hours down there.
Provident Capital Indemnity Ltd’s former outside auditor admitted in federal court this week to participating in a $670 million fraud in the life settlement bond market, according to the Department of Justice.
56-year-old Jorge Castillo pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in Alexandria, Virginia, said in a call with reporters. He could face up to 20 years in prison.
Castillo admitted to conspiring with PCI president Minor Vargas Calvo to prepare false financial statements that reflected contracts PCI held with other reinsurance companies. Castillo admitted to prosecutors that he never audited PCI’s financial statements and that he was aware PCI did not actually enter into the contracts with other reinsurance companies listed on the company’s financials. PCI paid him about $84,000 from 2004 to 2010.
Castillo will be sentenced in a Richmond, VA federal court on May 22.
Actually, if you’re in to this sort of thing, it could make for some pretty interesting reading.
We pointed to a couple of reports this morning (and there are more) out there on the Board’s criticisms of the two firms, so we won’t repeat them here. The most notable thing seems to be each firm’s response to the report. KPMG went with the standard three-paragr��������������������er that promises that they’ll suck less at auditing in the future.
But as Floyd Norris pointed out, PwC’s Chairman and Senior Partner Bob Moritz as well as Assurance Leader Tim Ryan put their names on the firm’s response to the Board’s inspection that outlined what steps were being taken to improve the audit quality, which is a first. The firm also released this statement from BoMo, acknowledging the slight uptick in deficiencies:
PwC is built on our reputation for delivering quality. We also recognize that the role we play in the capital markets requires consistent, high-quality audit performance. We therefore are focused on the increase in the number of deficiencies in our audit performance reported in the 2010 PCAOB inspection over prior years. We are working to strengthen and sharpen the firm’s audit quality, including making investments designed to improve our performance over both the short- and long-term.
So you can all this – signatures, action plans, etc. – for what it’s worth but the messaging has certainly changed and it differentiates PwC from KPMG. Will have to wait and see if Deloitte or E&Y follow suit.
You don’t have to be Bob Woodward to recognize the formulaic nature of the CEO interview. Reporter goes to CEO’s office, asks loaded questions about the issues of the day, describes the view from the office, elaborates on the person’s exercise regimen, humble (or not so humble) beginnings, people they admire, yada yada yada. Cripes, reading these things makes you want to shave with broken glass but hey! editors get in ruts just li we’re stuck with the puff. By extension, interviews with Big 4 CEOs are worse because they typically occur with General Counsel sitting in the next room zapping their genitals every time a question is asked that necessitates “I can’t comment on that.”
Today’s example comes courtesy of Reuters who interviewed Deloitte’s Joe Echevarria. What prompted this little chat was the PCAOB’s release of Part II of the firm’s 2008 inspection report. It wasn’t exactly a flattering portrayal of a firm who, when asked to brush up on their audit skills, basically told the PCAOB to drop dead.
Accordingly, the firm is running damage control and that involves getting Joe E. in front of some friendly reporters (read: not Jon Weil or Francine McKenna).
Recently faulted by the main U.S. auditor watchdog, Deloitte has told its professionals that skepticism should be the No. 1 focus during the upcoming auditing season for annual financial reports, CEO Joe Echevarria said.
“I know there’s a heightened awareness about professional skepticism in the firm,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for heightened awareness to manifest itself in actions and documentation because humans are involved here.”
The natural follow-up question here would be, “But Mr. Echevarria, the PCAOB asked you to fix things in 2008-2009, are you saying that you’re now just ‘manifesting itself in actions’?” but that brings out the zapper. That’s okay, we’re all used to it. You know what else we’re used to? Talking about the “expectations gap”:
There is an “expectations gap” between what auditors do and what the public expects, but auditors do have an obligation to detect and report material fraud, Echevarria said.
Echevarria is also asked about auditor rotation, IFRS and (for some odd reason) its settlement over the Adelphia fraud in 2005. Why not ask about the swinging insider trading scandal? What about Taylor, Bean & Whitaker? What about associates sneaking bloggers into the downtown W? WHAT ABOUT THIS FAUX TARA REID MARRIAGE? People want these all-important questions on the record and yet it never happens. Sigh.
By the way since it’s obvious that some of you care about these details, Joe is from the Bronx and his office is in Midtown.
Deloitte pressing for more skeptical audits (God, the headline is even awful) [Reuters]
For some time now, quite a few people have been asking for PCAOB disciplinary proceedings to be made public. Since your beloved Board came into existence, the process of slapping around sketchy auditors has been secret much to the chagrin of those people that would like audit firms to take just a little bit [pointer and thumb about an inch apart] of responsibility when they royally screw things up. It’s all for the investors, you see. After some rib jabbing by Board Member Dan Goelzer and Chairman Jim Doty, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have picked up the flag by introducing a bill that would make the proceedings public:
The bill would change a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that requires the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to keep disciplinary proceedings against auditing firms confidential.
Undoubtedly, this will rankle auditors who would prefer that all the skeletons stay firmly stuffed in closets. Of course what many people forget is that the secretive nature of the PCAOB disciplinary proceedings are the exception rather than the rule:
[Grassley and Reed] argued that the PCAOB’s closed proceedings run counter to the public enforcement proceedings of other regulators. Not only the SEC, but also the Labor Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other government agencies use public proceedings, as does the self-regulating Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Nearly all administrative proceedings brought by the SEC against public companies, brokers, dealers, investment advisers and others are open, public proceedings.
The Reed-Grassley bill would make PCAOB hearings and all related notices, orders and motions, open and available to the public unless otherwise ordered by the board. The PCAOB procedure would then be similar to SEC Rules of Practice for similar matters, where hearings and related notices, orders, and motions are open and available to the public.
This all seems like a pretty good idea. I mean, what makes auditors so special? Exactly. They’re not. They just happened to go from self-regulated to regulated in a flash and had a few K Street types twist in some features to Sarbanes-Oxley that kept things under wraps.
The problem, as a few people have pointed out, is that the Board still isn’t really that tough on auditors. Sure, a few more people might suffer some public embarrassment (which we’re happy to point out), but will investors really be better off? That remains to be seen but at least we’ll all be able to revel in the good fun of mocking the offenders.
Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your problem(s) but only if you’re comfortable being mocked in an older sibling kind of way.
I know my question is somewhat specific but I just accepted an Internship offer for E&Y FSO Assurance in NYC and was interested in gaining some insight into the 3 divisions within FSO Assurance. First, I would love to hear your opinion on the pros and cons of each of the three sectors (Asset Management, Banking, & Insurance) including which EY is best known for. I was also wondering if there was a clear leader in each of those sectors in NYC and was wondering which of the Big Four was best nks so much for your help. I know I am still a year away from having to actually select one of those options but gaining people’s opinions never hurt. Thanks so much.
Congratulations on landing a sweet summer gig with Uncle Ernie. You’ll be working for a great firm in a great city making a great salary while fetching great coffee for your superiors. Cheers!
But really, welcome to New York. You’re smart in thinking ahead to the fact that where you start with your internship will lead to a fulltime offer with the same group. This is because internships are essentially training camp for your first year – make it through the summer successfully and you’re in the club. I did a little digging within my professional circle to uncover some of the EY clients that you’d have the potential of working on, as well as my own two Lincolns.
Insurance – Let’s start with this one because I have a feeling that the group consensus will be unanimous: DO NOT JOIN THIS GROUP. Sure, it is a small, “family-like” practice in the financial services industry, but you’re not coming to work for the warm and fuzzies (if you are, avoid public accounting altogether). You’re coming to make yourself a valuable asset to future employers – one, three, or ten years from now. Can you receive accelerated responsibilities and extensive interaction with your clients? Yeah, but that’s because your co-workers are jumping ship and no one within the firm wants to transfer to the Insurance group. Unless you have an absolute passion for the industry (which you don’t, since you emailed us), I would avoid this group. Stay in this group for five years (you know, to make the dream promo to manager) and you’re setting yourself up for a career working for an insurance (or re-insurance) firm.
Banking and Capital Markets – This group is bigger and more prominent than the Insurance group. It’s taken its hit in recent years because…ummm…the banking industry is in turmoil, but some of the pain has been buoyed by their growing Broker Dealer client base (also falls into this group). Potential clients include Bank of America (*gulp*), UBS Wealth Management (the shining star in the UBS sky), Icahn Securities, JG Wentworth, ING Financial Holdings, and Cantor “run for the hills” Fitzgerald. Sources tell me audit staff are constantly trying to take rotations to the asset management group, so take that for what it’s worth. Career advancement outside of public can take you to either a banking or hedge fund depending on your client exposure, but have you read the papers recently? Banking ain’t the hottest date to the prom to these days.
Asset Management – this is EY’s money train in New York when it comes to audit (and even tax) services. EY and PwC dominate this market in New York, and depending on whom you ask EY has a more rounded client base (blue chip and start ups). Premier clients include Eton Park, Reservoir Capital, Anchorage Capital, and Och Ziff Capital (do some Googling to get an idea about these firms). The exposure to different investment strategies and financial products you will see will be second to none. Don’t forget that you can count the relevant investment banks left standing on two hands, whereas there are thousands of hedge funds and private equity firms in the country (most of which are in the greater NYC area, too). Your easiest and most lucrative path out of audit and into the private sector will be with a background in asset management. Absolutely, positively, 100%.
So there you have it. As always, GC’er please chime in below with your comments.
Why do we let corporations pick their auditors? Why do we have only four big firms instead of a dozen, a score or more? Why doesn’t government do the audits, as the IRS does tax audits? Why is law enforcement handcuffed by inadequate budgets and rules that hinder investigations? Why are auditors allowed to quietly resign instead of being required to blow the whistle? Auditing needs a shakeup, fundamental restructuring and the accounting firms need a serious debate about their failings, practical and moral. [DCJ/Reuters]
I’ve gotten some crazy questions over the years but this one pretty much takes the cake. I’m not saying it’s stupid, nor am I saying it’s all that crazy, it’s just… well… out there, is all. Read on.
I’m a college student at the University of North Texas. Fraud has been a hot topic in my courses this month. We covered many scandals including Crazy Eddie, Barry Minkow, NextCard, Enron, and Bernie Madoff. This has got me thinking a lot about how I would react if I was in the shoes of the auditor. The students in my class always say to just report the fraud, however they never put themselves in the shoes of the fraudster to determine how the fraudster would act nor do they think about protecting the reputation o watched enough movies to know that if a fraudster finds out that somebody knows “too much,” then that person probably won’t make it home alive that night, unless they cooperate. I remember in that movie, “The Other Guys,” the auditing partner got killed because the fraudsters didn’t want him snitching out any information to authorities.
Another thing is that if it is found out that a partner is involved in fraud, this will ruin the firm’s reputation if this gets reported to the SEC. However, if the firm handles this internally, fire the partner, admit mistake, and let the public know that it doesn’t want anything to do with the partner, then perhaps only the partner would get in trouble and not the firm.
So exactly how are you suppose to act in situations of fraud? Of course AICPA tells us to first report it to your supervisor, then to the audit committee, and then the SEC. But still though, you got to get this out before someone kills you and you’ve got to handle it in a manner that best protects the reputation of the firm. Am I right? Also, have you ever heard of any auditors that were murdered because they knew too much? When you read about Enron or the Bernie Madoff scandal, there are talks about death threats, but you don’t necessarily hear about any murders involved. So it may be something that only happens in the movies.
Well, since you brought up Crazy Eddie, my first instinct was to pose this question to Crazy Eddie’s corrupt CPA, Sam Antar. Thankfully Sam obviously checks his Twitter account every five minutes and had some thoughts for me almost immediately.
“Yes, the potential is there. Depends on the client. Have that person contact me if worried,” he tweeted. Now isn’t that sweet? If anyone out there is feeling the heat, you know who to hit up.
His thought? It’s rare, if not impossible. Why would a fraudster whack the auditor? By the time the fraud is uncovered, it’s too late. The workpapers would likely document said fraud, so the fraudster would then be forced to whack the entire chain on up to the partner and who has time to do all that killing? “No logic in whacking outside auditor unless part of conspiracy,” Sam said.
That being said, does anyone remember Allen Stanford’s sketchy auditor C.A.S. Hewlett (“C.A.S.H.” get it?!)? He apparently kicked the bucket on January 1st (a real accountant would have kicked the bucket on December 31st, pfft), just a month before Stanford was charged with fraud (though he didn’t get arrested until June of that year). The circumstances surrounding his death were, uh, weird to say the least but I don’t think anyone is going to go so far as to say he got whacked.
Or how about Ken Lay? I mean, does anyone really believe he had a heart attack? There is even an entire website dedicated to exposing Ken Lay’s post-mortem life.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky, and I don’t expect you to know this since you haven’t made it out into the real world yet. What is an auditor’s job? Is it to uncover fraud? Or is it to verify with a minimum of certainty (a.k.a. “reasonable assurance”) that the financial information presented by a company is probably legit? If you answered the latter, you win. Forensic accountants dissect fraud, auditors simply check boxes. I’m sorry if this offends any of you hardcore auditors out there but in your hearts, even you guys know I’m right. Auditing is a joke, an intricate dance (read: performance) that exists more for entertainment than functionality. If you don’t agree with me, I’d be happy to name any number of companies that prove my point for me (let’s see… Enron, Worldcom, Overstock, Satyam, Olympus…).
What do you think the odds are that a first or second year auditor would even be able to detect fraud? Don’t you think the criminals behind it are at least clever enough to hide their wrongdoing from a bunch of fresh-faced kids with their SALY checklists? Look at the lengths Crazy Eddie went to – to success until their greed got the best of them and a chick ruined the whole scam. And that’s the thing, the auditors rarely uncover fraud, it’s usually the fraudsters themselves who end up exposing themselves though greed or just plain stupidity.
Whistleblowers don’t make friends but they don’t have to hire armed guards either. Like I said, by the time the fraud is exposed, it’s too late to start killing people to hide the truth.
And thanks to SOX, it is illegal to “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass or in any manner discriminate against” whistleblowers, so a more likely scenario is that revelations of fraud will come from within the firm, not from the outside auditors who are pissed off to be doing inventory counts on New Year’s Day.
You watch too many movies, kiddo. Just check the list, collect the bank recs and call it a day.
The CFTC’s action against PwC probably came as a result of a shocking CME Group announcement late Wednesday: “It now appears that the firm [MF Global] made … transfers of customer segregated funds in a manner that may have been designed to avoid detection.” These transfers, CME Group said, appeared to have taken place after its audit team showed up last week at MF Global to take a look and found everything to be in order. CME Group couldn’t have been hoodwinked like that if PwC had been doing its job all along. You can’t circumvent controls unless there are none or there are holes. It was PwC’s job to review controls and the adequacy of policies and procedures to support them. [Francine McKenna/AB, Earlier]
Once in awhile, management and their auditors don’t see eye to eye on things. If semi-well adjusted adults are involved, usually cooler heads prevail and differences are sorted out. On the other hand, if there are egomaniacs or individuals of Irish descent involved, then things can sometimes go badly. Not badly in the physical sense, mind you. Badly in the sense that auditors usually get fired. When that happens it usually raises eyebrows of investors and people start asking all sorts of questions. Luckily, footnote disclosures usually detail the dispute and everyone moves on. That’s precisely what didn’t happen at Olympus:
In May 2009, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, the then president of the camera-maker and medical equipment firm, announced that the contract for its then auditor, KPMG, had ended and that another global accounting firm, Ernst & Young, would take over. Kikukawa made no mention of any row with KPMG, although Japanese disclosure rules require companies to notify investors of “any matters concerning the opinions” of an outgoing auditor. In a confidential internal document, Kikukawa wrote to executives in the United States and Europe, revealing that there had been a disagreement with KPMG which he did not plan to disclose to the stock market. “The release to be published today says that the reason of this termination is due simply to expiry of accounting auditors’ terms of office,” Kikukawa said in the letter dated May 25, 2009, which was written in English.
You may have recently heard that Olympus is in a bit of situation. They up and fired their new CEO after he was on the job for two weeks because he was asking a few too many questions. You see, Michael Woodford was of the opinion that the $687 million advisory fee the company was paying for to a firm assisting them with a purchase the company in the UK was a tad steep and wouldn’t keep [yapping motion with hands]. Mr. Kikukawa – who has a reputation as an ‘emperor‘ – didn’t care for that, so he and the Board of Directors told Woodford that his services were no longer needed, chalking it up to Woodford being a little too British.
Fast-forward to today’s news – The accounting issue in question – goodwill impairment – was related to the company, Gyrus Group Plc., Olympus purchased back in 2009. And who do you suppose gave Reuters the memo outlining the whole we’re-firing-KPMG-because-they-disagree-with-us-and-we’re-not-telling-anyone-about-it thing?
The confidential letter was given to Reuters by former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford who was ousted after just two weeks in the job on October 14 for what he says was his persistent questioning over the Gyrus advisory fee and other odd-looking acquisitions. Woodford says the letter was addressed to him in his role as head of Olympus Europe at the time and to Mark Gumz, then head of Olympus Corp America.
Apparently this is no big whoop as long as it’s not material and “the numbers add up” says an accounting professor who has ties to Olympus. Oh! In that case, I guess everyone should just move along.
As has been reported, MF Global may have done some commingling of client money with its own which is a big no-no. This means the Feds are now on the case, which means typically cool-as-a-
cumcumber cucumber Jon Corzine could be sweating a bit. MF Global’s auditor, PwC, on the other hand, has it made in the shade (at least somewhat). Why? How? Alison Frankel over at Reuters tells us:
[E]ven if it turns out that MF Global was illicitly dipping into customer accounts, if that commingling of funds helped keep the business afloat, PwC is protected by in pari delicto.
If you’ve never heard of in pari delicto, that’s the obscure doctrine that says a bankruptcy trustee that’s representing the corporation can’t go after another party for stunts pulled by said corporation. In other words, if MF Global commingled funds, if (probably more like “when”) the trustee attempts to recover funds from PwC, the firm will be protected. Francine McKenna has been writing about in pari delicto since early 2010 saying that it’s “like a pair of needle nosed pliers by audit firm defense lawyers to diffuse a bomb” and last year’s ruling for KPMG in Kirschner v. KPMG and the favorable ruling for PwC in Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP reaffirmed that sentiment. PwC probably isn’t sweating this.
But what about PwC’s audit opinion on MF’s financial statements? The Grumpies pondered the idea of what might constitute grounds for P. Dubs to issue a going concern opinion for MFG:
Might that include four years (2008-2011) of massive losses, as occurred at MF Global? Might that include severely negative free cash flows for three of the last four years? Might that include an exposure to European sovereign debt that will lead to greater future losses? Might that include several downgrades in the credit ratings?
Say you’ve got a broker-dealer client that has no European sovereign debt exposure and isn’t covered by a ratings agency. You simply have massive losses for four straight years and negative free cash flow for three out of the last four and few signs that things are turning around. Do you think there’s any doubt about this business’s ability to continue as a going concern? What about substantial doubt? Throw in the Eurotrash debt and junky bond ratings again and where do you stand now? Yikes.
But PwC was cool with it. We probably know the why (money and client retention, natch). But how? Love to hear some opinions on that. No matter the answer, our lawyer friends will do well by it all.
Most people are of the opinion that government can’t do anything right. Education? Bah. Economies? Duh. Wars? YEESH. Oddly, politicians are quite fond of mocking the inefficiencies and mistakes of government to better relate to the common folk who don’t put much stock in the government’s operations. This means that politicians must find other people to hold responsible for the mistakes that are happening all around them. This also means that the art of blamestorming is the most coveted skill in all of politics (well, maybe after being able to lie through your teeth). Do things right and you live to fight another day. Do things wrong and you just look like an ass and then have to weather repeated calls for your resignation.
The German government is taking a fair amount of shit for missing a 55 billion euro accounting mistake. This size of a boo-boo can’t really be swept under the rug so, right on cue, the finance minister has turned on the blamethrower full blast:
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has summoned executives from the nationalized mortgage bank Hypo Real Estate (HRE) to explain how they made a simple accounting error that ended up raising Germany’s total debt load by 55 billion euros.Schaeuble, in the awkward situation of being humiliated by the windfall that will cut Germany’s debt levels, will also demand answers at a Wednesday meeting from the PwC accountancy firm that signed off on the report.
Schaeuble’s spokesman Martin Kotthaus tried to deflect any blame, saying the ministry received a certified statement from auditors that the balance sheets had been checked and approved. He said it was too early to tell exactly who messed up.
“It’s annoying, to put it diplomatically, when corrections of this dimension are necessary,” said Kotthaus, who was grilled at a news conference. “We had a certified audit of the annual accounts for 2010 and it said everything was in order.”
Right! A certified audit! If there’s anything we’ve all learned, it’s that audits are the one infallible stamp of approval that we can always turn to for confidence. Just ask Lehman Brothers. Or Satyam. Or Li & Fung. Or MF Global. Or Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. Or Koss. Or Countrywide. [breathe, breathe] Or World Capital Group. Or Sino-Forest. Or Colonial Bank. But aside from those, yeah, audits. Those things are solid.
The dynamics at both the PCAOB and the Big Four are horrible. The incentive at the Big Four is to keep prices down to the point at which it’s impossible for a new entrant to break into their charmed group; after all, if it means they end up cutting corners, the worst that happens is that they get gummed by the toothless PCAOB. [Felix Salmon/Reuters]
“Can you imagine a second-tier firm auditing a global bank at a time when there is already a lack of confidence in the marketplace?” He added: “They simply don’t have the skills or the market expertise.” He also accused some smaller rivals of being “quite lazy” about investing in their businesses. [FT]
Britain’s top accountants are to have their own books scrutinised after the consumer watchdog referred the business of checking companies’ figures for a full-scale competition inquiry. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it had been concerned for some time that the audit market is highly concentrated with low levels of switching and substantial barriers to entry. The watchdog estimates that in 2010 the “big four” firms, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young, earned 99% of audit fees paid by FTSE 100 companies, while between 2002 and 2010 only 2.3% of FTSE 100 firms changed their auditor. [UKPA]
The request, sources said, is seen as a direct response to the move by the U.S. regulators in the case of scandal-hit Longtop Financial Technologies Ltd, and to ensure that firms do not succumb to pressure to hand over documents to regulators outside of China. Last month the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked an American court to enforce a subpoena it sent to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s China practice for documents from its audit of Longtop.Two sources from the audit industry told Reuters that the Ministry of Finance and China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) met last week with the so-called ‘Big Four’ audit firms — KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and Deloitte — along with two smaller firms. The firms were requested by the government to conduct an urgent review of all audits they had done on U.S.-listed Chinese firms in 2010 along with work on U.S. initial public offerings by Chinese companies. [Reuters]
They really, really, really don’t appreciate it when you blow off their recommendations. Here’s the statement from the Board:
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, in anticipation of questions about the publication of previously nonpublic portions of its May 19, 2008 inspection report on Deloitte & Touche LLP, issued the following statement today:
“The quality control remediation process is central to the Board’s efforts to cause firms to improve the quality of their audits and thereby better protect investors. The Board therefore takes very seriously the importance of firms making sufficient progress on quality control is n inspection report in the 12 months following the report. Particularly with the largest firms, which are inspected annually, the Board devotes considerable time and resources to critically evaluating whether the firm did in fact make sufficient progress in that period. The Board can and does make the relevant criticisms public when a firm has failed to do so.”
So to clarify, Deloitte had until May 19, 2009 to get their methods up to par but failed to do so. To put this into a little bit of context, Jim Doty was not yet the Chair of the PCAOB and Barry Salzberg was still the CEO of Deloitte’s U.S. firm. Does this mean that the PCAOB has been stepping up its game and this is the first instance of many to come? Hard to say but the audits that this inspection report cover are nearly five years old, so it’s debatable as to the value of Part II being made public now.
For Deloitte’s part, here’s current CEO Joe Echevarria’s statement:
“Deloitte is committed to the highest standards of audit quality and as newly elected CEO, it is my foremost priority. Our commitment extends from the top and cascades throughout our entire organization. We place great value on the PCAOB’s input and continue to work with the Board in support of our shared objectives. We recognize that audit quality is fundamental to protecting investors and ensuring the effective functioning of the capital markets.
“We have complete confidence in our professionals and the quality of our audits, and agree that there were and always will be areas where we can improve. In our drive for continuous improvement, we have been making a series of investments focused on strengthening and improving our practice, and will continue to do so to make Deloitte the standard for audit quality.”
In other words, a non-response response. However, it’s much more measured than Deloitte’s response to the initial release of the report. Their response letter spelled out their feelings quite clearly:
Professional judgments of reasonable and highly competent people may differ as to the nature and extent of necessary auditing procedures,conclusions reached and required documentation. We believe that reasonable judgments should not be second guessed and therefore disagree with a number of comments as indicated[.]
Deloitte’s letter is located Appendix C. You can read the full report, including all the details from Part II that were previously unpublished, on page 2.
Your mother’s third favorite department store, Dillard’s, has fired PwC as their auditor over a dispute related to the timing of a “tax benefit related to its new real estate investment trust.” The Little Rock-based company replaced P. Dubs with KPMG (who will take every chance they can get to stick it to Team Autumn). Basically the two didn’t see eye on this matter (here’s the 8-K that explains it), Dillard’s asked the IRS for their opinion, who said the treatment was kosher and next thing you know, the audit committee was on the hunt for a replacement.
Anyway, this isn’t really news until you consider the fact that PwC had only become Dillard’s auditor in 2009. Deloitte had been the auditor of the company for 20 years and in many auditor-client relationships, that’s just the honeymoon phase. So that seems a little odd. And couple that with the most recent firing of PwC and you’ve got to wonder what’s the scoop is over at DDS. But all that pales in comparison to this:
In 2008, [Dillard’s] had a dispute with CDI Contractors LLC’s chief financial officer [Ed. note: Link is broken], John Glasgow.
At the time, Dillard’s owned half of CDI. It has since bought the half that it didn’t own.
Glasgow objected the way Dillard’s CFO James Freeman was conducting an audit of CDI. Glasgow disappeared during the dispute and was declared dead [Ed. note: Ditto] more than three years later, although no trace of him has been found.
After Glasgow’s disappearance, Dillard’s restated earnings for several previous years, blaming an accounting error by CDI.
The last thing we want to see are pictures of auditors on milk cartons.
Your auditor-of-a-Chinese-company-resignation news du jour:
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd , the world’s largest accounting and consulting firm, has resigned as auditors of Hong Kong-listed Real Gold Mining , more than four months after the Inner Mongolian miner was reported to have filed conflicting accouting [sic] reports.
Real Gold, which halted trading in its shares on May 27. is under investigation by the Securities and Futures Commission for corporate governance breaches. The miner’s announcement to the Hong Kong stock exchange late on Thursday said it was looking for a replacement for Deloitte, which resigned on October 12.
“The company is disappointed that Deloitte has decided to resign at this time but respects its decision,” the firm said.
I mean, you know how it is, when you lose $192 million. It’s a tough thing to forget. The Journal reports that the Garden State has renewed its lawsuit against E&Y saying “Those review reports were false, as E&Y knew or should have known that Lehman’s quarterly financial statements were not prepared in accordance with [GAAP].” When reached for comment, E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins’s voice was barely audible on a nearly worn out tape recording, “Lehman’s demise was caused by the global financial crisis that impacted the entire financial sector, not by accounting or financial reporting issues.” Wouldn’t it be nice if Chuck had Nick DeSanto sing the statement? With a rock accompaniment? At least it would liven up this story again. [WSJ]
For some time now, the PCAOB has been talking about making audit partners famous (at least to investors that are paying attention) in ways that they aren’t too thrilled about. Earlier today the Board issued a proposal for comment that will do just that.
The proposed amendments would:
• require registered public accounting firms to disclose the name of the engagement partner in the audit report,
• amend the Board’s Annual Report Form to require registered firms to disclos gagement partner for each audit report already required to be reported on the form, and
•require disclosure in the audit report of other accounting firms and certain other participants that took part in the audit.
So if you can consider yourself an astute observer of auditing policy and regs, they’d love to hear your thoughts. However, it would be greatly appreciated if you didn’t take your cues from the FASB letters and kept things constructive.
All of the Board Members made statements, including PCAOB Chairman Jim Doty (full statement on page 2) who sees this latest proposal as good sense:
I fail to see why shareholders in BNP Paribas, listed on the Euronext Paris exchange, should be able to see the name of the engagement partner in the audit report, but shareholders in Citigroup, listed on the New York Stock Exchange should not. Indeed, the names of engagement partners for some European companies that are listed on the NYSE are disclosed in U.S. filings. Why are shareholders in France Telecom to be favored over shareholders in AT&T?
And then there’s Steven Harris’s statement (in full on page 3). Harris, who is known to speak frankly about auditors, finds the proposal okay enough but would really like to see the audit partners’ John Hancocks:
While I support an identification of the engagement partner, I continue to strongly support, and would have preferred, a requirement for the engagement partner to actually sign his or her name on the audit report. My views, which I stated when the Board last publicly discussed the issue in July 2009, have not changed. Very fundamentally, I believe that nothing focuses the mind quite like putting one’s individual signature on a document.
And for good measure, he threw in this:
Many find it ironic that auditing firms in the United States, whose business is providing assurance about the transparency provided by others, resist publicly providing their own financial statements. There is no apparent reason that the auditing firms that act as gatekeepers to our securities markets should not be as transparent to investors as the companies they audit.
If you agree with Mr. Harris and happen to have a copy of your firm’s financial statements, feel free to pass it along. Or if you’d rather not wait to make your thoughts known on the Board’s proposals, you may drop them in the comments below.
I don’t watch Glee. Hell, I don’t even have TV. I did flip through the GQ spread with Lea Michelle and Dianna Agron but otherwise, I’m completely unfamiliar with any of the characters on the show. ANYWAY, I hear it’s popular. It’s so popular that regular people want to be characters on the show as overblown versions of themselves and are submitting auditions for a chance to do so. One of these regular people is Nick DeSanto, an auditor at Ernst & Young.
More about Nick – he worked for a couple of years at McGladrey before joining E&Y’s
FSO Media & Entertainment group, where he’s been for about a year. We spoke to him over email and by phone (he “visit[s] GC almost every day”) and that this audition is his first stab at breaking into showbiz. Can you imagine if he had been involved with the In a JIT project? His singing career would already be on the fast track, winning Tonys and such.
So go over and support him at his Glee Audition page by liking his page if you feel so inclined. And even if you don’t feel the urge, go and like/vote for him anyway. Just because your dreams won’t come true, doesn’t mean you can’t support someone who’s trying to do something to achieve theirs.
As we mentioned briefly, Deloitte has been sued for $7.6 billion by the bankruptcy trustee of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker and Ocala Funding, LLC. If you’ve never heard of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker then check out Jr. Deputy Accountant who’s been all over it since the Feds starting kicking down the doors. Long story short – TBW was a giant fraud perpetrated by its management, Colonial Bank owned a lot of TBW’s mortgages, Colonial failed, Bank of America bought up a bunch of the mortgages, Fannie Mae says they’re owed money, CHRIST, it’s a mess.
“Deloitte missed this fraud because it simply accepted management’s conflicting, incomplete and often last-minute explanations of highly-questionable transactions, even though those explanations made no sense and were flatly contradicted by documents in Deloitte’s possession,” one of the lawsuits says.
Of course Deloitte isn’t amused by this, as Deloitte spokesman Jonathan Gandal’s statement attests:
Gandal said the blame for the fraud and losses should rest squarely on Taylor Bean, Ocala Funding and Farkas. “The bizarre notion that his engines of theft are entitled to complain of injury from their own crimes and to sue the outside auditors they lied to defies common sense, not to mention the law,” Gandal said on behalf of Deloitte.
If this statement strikes you as a little confusing, then you’re not alone. First off, when Mr. Gandal is referring to the “the law” he’s probably referring to this. In less legalese, basically what Deloitte is saying is that Lee Farkas and his merry band of crooks are the ones responsible for this shitshow not the Green Dot and therefore, this whole thing is ludicrous. I mean, come on guys, what could a firm that just reported nearly $29 billion in revenue could possibly have done differently? Crooks are just far too smart far auditors. Just ask one.
They were so unimpressed with it, in fact, that they are fining the firm $900,000 and partner David Shane $100,000 to settle up.
Mickey G’s issued an unqualified audit opinion for One World Capital Group’s 2006 financial statements and also stated that the company’s internal controls were just fine and dandy. Neither of these things turned out to be true. And when you read the CFTC’s press release, you really have to wonder if anyone was really auditing this company:
[T]he order finds that One World’s 2006 financial statements were materially misstated in various ways including: (1) the 2006 Statement of Financial Condition states that liabilities payable to all customers were over $6.9 million, when in fact information available in One World’s records showed that it may have owed at least $15 million just to forex customers alone, for whom One World served as the counterparty; and (2) the 2006 financial statements materially misstated the nature of One World’s business by failing to reflect that One World served as the counter party to its forex customers for over 90 percent of its business, according to the order.
In addition, McGladrey failed to report material inadequacies in One World’s accounting system and internal accounting controls, including the lack of a customer ledger, and an accounting system that did not properly identify the number of forex customers or the amount of customer liabilities, according to the order. These material inadequacies reasonably could, and did, lead to material misstatements in One World’s 2006 financial statements, the order finds.
You may remember earlier this year when The New York Times broke a little story about General Electric’s tax savvy ways and the best tax law firm the universe had ever seen (aka the GE tax department).
The report�������������������� href=”https://goingconcern.com/2011/03/jon-stewart-reacts-to-ges-tax-savviness/”>a few people to get bent out of shape because the Times said GE was enjoying $14.2 billion in profit while “claim[ing] a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.” What that “benefit” really entailed was a mystery but many people jumped to the conclusion that it was a “refund” and ProPublica (possibly a little peeved that they got scooped) tried to set the record straight on the Times story.
Despite all the back and forth, everyone was pissed at GE. The company lost a Twitter joust with Henry Blodget and then a bogus press release went out claiming the company was returning the “refund” of $3.2 billion and the Associated Press ran it. Slightly awkward.
The latest twist comes from a tip we received earlier about a “Preservation Notice” sent to all KPMG employees yesterday from the firm’s Office of General Counsel (“OGC”).
URGENT TARGETED PRESERVATION NOTICE: GENERAL ELECTRIC’S LOAN STAFF ARRANGEMENTS
Please be advised that until further notice from KPMG LLP’s (KPMG or firm) Office of General Counsel (OGC), you are hereby directed to take all steps necessary to preserve and protect any and all documents created or received from January 1, 2008 through the date of this Notice relating or referring to the loaning, assignment or secondment of tax or other professionals to General Electric Company and its direct and indirect subsidiaries, affiliates and divisions (collectively “General Electric’s Loan Staff Arrangements”).
As Klynvedlians know, these preservation notices come out so often that you barely even notice them. When you do notice them is when the partner in charge of your team informs you about it before it hits your inbox. What follows is basically the biggest CYA exercise you’ve ever seen. They roll in giant dumpsters and every last scrap of paper you’ve ever written on gets throw in and eventually it gets shipped off to OGC. Your life doesn’t really change all that much other than you’re not allowed to delete another email EVER. At least that’s how I remember it.
ANYWAY, this notice seems a little different. Why exactly? Here’s a excerpt from McKenna’s post:
In defiance of [Sarbanes-Oxley] provisions, KPMG – GE’s auditor – provides “loaned staff” or staff augmentation to GE’s tax department each year. These “temps” perform tasks that would be otherwise the responsibility of GE staff. Sources tell me KPMG employees working in GE tax have GE email addresses, are supervised by GE managers – there is no KPMG manager or partner on premises – and have access to GE employee facilities. They use GE computers because the software required for their tasks is GE proprietary software.
This type of “secondment” to an audit client is never allowed. KPMG should know better.
YEESH. So any documents going back to January of 2008 that relate or refer to someone being assigned under this allegedly dubious arrangement must be preserved. You don’t have to be John Veihmeyer to know that’s a METRIC ASSTON of documentation. It’s not that GE’s tax needs are seasonal; they’re more like “perpetual” or “infinity times infinity.” A company with the best tax law firm already in house that also has an arrangement with a their auditor to throw a few more people at the problem indicates that they are working on this shit 24/7. For KPMG, it amounts to a nice little revenue stream and it keeps lots tax staff busy throughout the year.
But what caused the notice? That’s the question. Our tipster speculated that the PCAOB and SEC might be up to something but per standard operating procedure, neither will confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation or inquiry. KPMG spokesman George Ledwith did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Like we stated previously, these preservation notices are a dime a dozen but because this one deals with General Electric and presumably their tax compliance it qualifies as outside the norm. If you’re in the know or know of someone in the know or have anything else to add, email us or comment below.
Apparently he is still “cooperating with federal investigators” which leads some to believe that he might be giving them the lowdown on the Madoffs’ tax returns but really he probably is just trying to convince someone – ANYONE – to give back his beloved CPA. [Lohud via Forbes]
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board today announced a cooperative agreement with the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway for the oversight of audit work performed by public accounting firms that practice in the two regulators’ respective jurisdictions. “With this agreement, Norway’s FSA and the PCAOB are joining forces to improve audit quality and protect investors,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty. “I am pleased that the PCAOB is continuing to make progress in overcoming the obstacles that have in the past prevented PCAOB inspections in Europe.” [PCAOB]
But probably not in ways they would prefer:
In a recently updated standard-setting agenda, PCAOB Chief Auditor Marty Baumann says the board is working on the proposal to address concerns about audit transparency. The board published a concept release in July 2009 that asked for feedback on whether the engagement partner should be required to sign the audit report. Based on feedback to that release and subsequent discussions with the board’s advisory groups, the PCAOB is preparing a new requirement for audit firms to say in their audit reports which engagement partner at the firm supervised the audit and who from outside the audit firm participated in the audit.
Remember Longtop Financial Technologies? Deloitte resigned as auditors of the Chinese company back in May after LFT took some actions that were, shall we say, unusual for an audit client. Among them, “interference by certain members of Longtop management in DTT’s audit process; and […] the unlawful detention of DTT’s audit files.” And there may be some financial statement fraud going on, to boot. What’s even slightly weirder is Deloitte’s resig nt to Longtop’s Audit Committee that laid out the specifics:
[A]s a result of intervention by the Company’s officials including the Chief Operating Officer, the confirmation process was stopped amid serious and troubling new developments including: calls to banks by the Company asserting that Deloitte was not their auditor; seizure by the Company’s staff of second round bank confirmation documentation on bank premises; threats to stop our staff leaving the Company premises unless they allowed the Company to retain our audit files then on the premises; and then seizure by the Company of certain of our working papers.
Right. The auditors-almost-taken-hostage situation. Quite a doozy, this one. Based on the history between Deloitte and Longtop, one would think that Green Dot would jump at any chance to exact a little revenge on these shady bastards. NOPE!
From the crack squad at the SEC:
The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed a subpoena enforcement action against Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA Ltd. for failing to produce documents related to the SEC’s investigation into possible fraud by the Shanghai-based public accounting firm’s longtime client Longtop Financial Technologies Limited.
According to the SEC’s application and supporting papers filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the SEC issued a subpoena on May 27, 2011, and D&T Shanghai was required to produce documents by July 8, 2011. Although D&T Shanghai is in possession of vast amounts of documents responsive to the subpoena, it has not produced any documents to the SEC to date. As a result, the Commission is unable to gain access to information that is critical to an investigation that has been authorized for the protection of public investors.
“Compliance with an SEC subpoena is not an option, it is a legal obligation,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “The ability of the SEC to conduct swift and thorough investigations requires that subpoena recipients promptly comply with that legal obligation. Subpoena recipients who refuse to comply should expect serious legal consequences.”
Maybe the email/hand-written letter sent by carrier pigeon (whatever method of communication the Commission is using these days) got lost OR maybe no one at Deloitte Shanghai was in the translating mood that day but it seems slightly strange that Deloitte would just blow this off especially since Longtop screwed them 70 ways to Sunday. Of course these documents could show that Deloitte was really a bunch of pansies and we’re letting LFT run the show until the gross negligence got to the point that they simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. It’s anybody’s guess, really.
As you probably remember, Countrywide Financial once owned a lot of shitty mortgages. This wasn’t clear to many of the company’s investors so when the things turned sour, lots of those investors lost boatloads of money and then Bank of America came in to pick up the scraps. KPMG was the auditor of Countrywide and the shareholders sued both companies because, gosh, that’s basically what happens when a bunch of money is lost for no good reason and you had a front row seat for the action. Accordingly, the two firms settled with CTW shareholders last year for $624 million. KPMG, for its part, chipped in $24 million. That’s rumored to be in the ballpark of what John Veihmeyer spends every year on Notre Dame gear, so the firm was probably thinking it got off pretty easy. Unfortunately, things are just getting started since other countries hadn’t had a chance to jump into the mix.
From Zero Hedge:
Norway’s Government Pension Fund, which is another name for its Sovereign Wealth Fund, has just announced it is suing Bank of America for mortgage fraud. Not only that but it is also going after Countrywide, obviously, but far more importantly, is also suing KPGM [sic], the auditor on the Countrywide transaction, and, drumroll, ole’ Agent Orange himself [That’s former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo for those of you not up to speed].
So what, you say? Norway is just some Scandinavian wasteland with a lot of blondes and the occasional psychopath? Not the point!
[J]ust like the US lawsuit spigot opened ever so slowly at first, it is now gushing, and is absolutely certain that every company (ahem insolvent German banks) that ever bought a mortgage from Countrywide, Merrill and Bank of America will serve the local branch of the bank with a summons over the next month.
In other words, this little breakout may turn into a full-fledged epidemic.
Bank Of America’s Legal Woes Go Global After Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Sues For Mortgage Fraud [ZH]
The Fund suing large bank in the U.S. for fraud [DN.NO (Beware, the translation is brutal)]
Jonathan Weil has a column today on the train wreck that is Sino-Forest, the Chinese-Canadian timber company. In case you need caught up, there have been some questions about the company’s ability to report accurate disclosures and accounting. This led the research firm Muddy Waters to issue a not-so-flattering analysis of the company. Things like “Ponzi scheme” and “investing for the 23rd Century” don’t exactly get people jumping up and down for your company. Ask John Paulson.
Of course Sino-Forest didn’t do this all by themselves. They had credit rating agencies and auditors telling them everything was hunky dory for years and that’s Weil’s point. He reports that Fitch pulled its rating on S-F back in July and S&P finally pulled their rating this week. That just leaves Moody’s but guess who else is still hanging in there? Ernst & Young, baby! They’re still standing behind their audit opinions and showing no sign of budging. And JW is really curious to know who’s going to jump out of this tree first.
One question lingers: Which of the company’s paid opinion merchants will be the last to step aside? Will it be a credit rater? Or will it be the company’s auditor, Ernst & Young LLP in Toronto, which has yet to rescind any of its reports on Sino-Forest’s finances?
So far Ernst looks like the favorite, with only one rating company left in the hunt. Think of it as a contest between giant tortoises to see which one is slower. This time-honored ritual — of market gatekeepers waiting to blow the whistle until long after a scam has been exposed — has become so familiar, we might as well revel in the spectacle.
So these “gatekeepers” Weil speaks of – obviously this includes the Big 4. And it’s true that we’re all used to them waving their arms, screaming “DANGER!” in front of the burning heap that everyone has been aware of for ages (I didn’t say Lehman Brothers. Did you say Lehman Brothers? Who said Lehman Brothers?).
ANYWAY, E&Y should know that they have choices:
Ernst does have options, aside from bracing for the inevitable years of litigation and investigations. It could resign, explain why it is doing so and face criticism for acting too late. It could withdraw its previous audit opinions. It could insist to Sino-Forest’s directors that it be permitted to answer questions from the public about the work it has performed, as a condition of remaining onboard. Or it could hang on in silence, as it’s doing now, and watch its reputation endure more damage.
Could be that this is just another part of E&Y’s strategy. Sit tight while things play out, wait until things get really serious (i.e. bankruptcy, severe economic turmoil, civil charges, etc. etc.) and then come out swinging.
Tree Falls on Sino-Forest, Auditor Can’t Hear It [Bloomberg]
Ed. note: Our permanently ink-stained wench is still struggling with Internet connectivity after a small storm swept through the DC area, so we now present the following post that is republished with permission from Jr. Deputy Accountant.
A-ha! I hate to say I told you so (no I don’t) but, uh, I told you so.
In August of 2009, I caught PwC digging around on my site to find out more about the Colonial Bank failure, a failure which PwC itself oversaw and maybe just participated in (if indirectly, naturally). The year before Colonial’s epic failure, PwC auditors gave the bank the all clear.
“In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements listed in the accompanying index present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of The Colonial BancGroup, Inc. and its subsidiaries at December 31, 2008 and 2007 and the results of their operations and their cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2008 in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America,” read the opinion.
Anyway, fast-forward two years and here we are:
Colonial Bancgroup Inc (CBCDQ.PK) and its trustee filed a lawsuit against former auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC and Crowe Horwath LLP, charging them with accounting malpractice and professional negligence for not catching a fraud that led to the bank’s collapse.
The complaint was filed late on Wednesday in a Circuit Court in Montgomery County, Alabama.
It also accuses the auditors of breach of contract, saying that PwC’s independent audits of its financial statements violated generally accepted accounting standards and served to conceal the seven-year fraud that drained it of $1.8 billion and left it with hundreds of millions of dollars in worthless or nonexistent assets on its balance sheet.
Can someone please tell me why the PCAOB still has a job with this nonsense going on? Furthermore, why does PwC make $13 billion a year soaking its clients with audit fees? And why aren’t the people of the United States suing the shit out of these auditors too? Colonial was the 6th largest bank failure in U.S. history and cost taxpayers $3.8 billion.
Anyone else find it funny how they call the audit service arm “Assurance”? It has nothing to do with discovering fraud or giving investors actual peace of mind that the statements they are looking at are, in fact, prepared in accordance with GAAP. Rather it is a mafia-style pay-to-play protection ring that offers clean audit opinions in exchange for cash.
Vomit. All over Dennis Nally’s impeccably polished wingtips.
As we’re all aware, the Audit Committee is supposed to be one of the key tools in corporate governance. If management is messing around with financial reporting, disclosures or there’s trouble with the auditors, the audit committee should be all over it like stink on a monkey. The audit committee also is in charge of appointing/firing the auditors to prevent management from throwing out auditors who tell them things that they don’t like.
Dismissal of Auditor.
On August 17, 2011, Morris Publishing Group, LLC (“Morris Publishing”, “we”, “our”, “us”) dismissed Deloitte & Touche LLP (“D&T”) as its independent registered public accounting firm.
The decision to allow our management, at its discretion, to change auditors had been unanimously approved by our Board of Directors and its Audit Committee on July 18, 2011. [this is my emphasis]
The audit reports of D&T on our consolidated financial statements as of and for the years ended December 31, 2010 and December 31, 2009, did not contain any adverse opinion or disclaimer of opinion, nor were they qualified or modified as to uncertainty, audit scope, or accounting principles, except:
(A) The audit report as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 included the statements, “As discussed in Note 6 to the consolidated financial statements, on January 19, 2010 the Company filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. On February 17, 2010 the Bankruptcy Court entered an order confirming the plan of reorganization which became effective after the close of business on March 1, 2010.”
(B) The audit report as of and for the year ended December 31, 2010 included the statement, “As discussed in Note 10 to the financial statements, the accompanying 2009 financial statements have been restated to correct a misstatement.”
During the two fiscal years ended December 31, 2010 and December 31, 2009, and during the subsequent interim periods through June 30, 2011, there were no (1) disagreements with D&T on any matter of accounting principles or practices, financial statement disclosure, or auditing scope or procedures, which disagreements if not resolved to the satisfaction of D&T would have caused D&T to make reference in connection with their report to the subject matter of the disagreement, or (2) “reportable events” as defined in Item 304(a)(1)(v) of Regulation S-K; except as follows:
(A) We reported in April 2011 that management discovered errors in the accounting treatment for debt extinquishment such that our financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009, and the interim periods ended March 31, 2010, June 30, 2010 and September 30, 2010, should no longer be relied upon, and that the correction of these errors will be reflected within our Form 10-K for 2010 and subsequently filed interim reports; and
(B) as reported in our Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010, we identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting with respect to the operational effectiveness of controls in the area of accounting for complex non-recurring transactions. As a result of this material weakness, we concluded that our disclosure controls and procedures were not effective as of December 31, 2010.
We provided D&T with a copy of this Current Report on Form 8-K, and requested that D&T furnish us with a letter addressed to the Securities and Exchange Commission stating whether D&T agrees with our statements made in response to the disclosures required by Item 304(a)(3) of Regulation S-K. We subsequently received the requested letter, and a copy of such letter is filed as Exhibit16.1 to this Current Report on Form 8-K.
So it appears that Morris Publishing is definitely one of those clients. The kind that makes you wish that you had chosen a career that’s less likely to make you want to jump out of a window. Anyway, the aforementioned letter from Deloitte states the following:
We have read Item 4 of Morris Publishing Group LLC’s Form 8-K dated August 16, 2011, and we have the following comments:
1. We agree with the statements made in paragraphs 1 and 3 through 12.
2. We have no basis on which to agree or disagree with the statement made in paragraph 2.
In other words, Deloitte is saying, “Yes, we agree that your financial reporting is a mess and that your internal controls are awful. And if you want to admit that your audit committee is a bunch of lackeys for management, we’re not going to stop you.”
It’s been quite the year for the Chinese-based, reverse-merger clients of accounting firms. There have been curious press releases, audit workpapers held hostage, and the run-of-the-mill blowing off of auditor recommendations among other things. With all that, you probably figured the fun was over.
Not so! The latest in China-doesn’t-really-know-what-the-hell-it’s-doing news is the report that Ernst & Young has walked out on Zungui Haixi, an athletic footwear and apparel company listed in Canada. Why? Well, it’s not really clear but it sounds like Zungui has some explaining to do:
Zungui said auditor Ernst & Young LLP has advised its board that its has suspended its audit for the year ended June 30, 2011, until the company “clarifies and substantiates its position with respect to issues pertaining to the current and prior year”.
Ernst & Young recommended that the issues identified be addressed by an independent investigation, the company said in a brief statement that did not provide any details on the issues.
As we all know, “issues” could be just about anything from missing cash, to a CFO resigning. Hopefully it’s nothing quite so serious and the crack squad of investigators assigned to the task will get to the bottom of it and not wait for Roddy Boyd to pick it up.
Because the PCAOB is giving you until December 14th to make your views known.
“One cannot talk about audit quality without discussing independence, skepticism and objectivity. Any serious discussion of these qualities must take into account the fundamental conflict of the audit client paying the auditor,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty.
“The reason to consider auditor term limits is that they may reduce the pressure auditors face to develop and protect long-term client relationships to the detriment of investors and our capital markets,” Chairman Doty added.
Don’t fret anti-rotaters, the Board did invite everyone to weigh in on the idea that they “should consider a rotation requirement only for audit tenures of more than 10 years or only for the largest issuer audits.”
Sometimes, life is more important than work. For this former Big 4 auditor, a little life situation forced him out of the game before he got his 2 years and now he’s trying to elbow his way back in.
I worked in big4 audit for just over a year, but I had to leave the firm soon after that for family reasons (to care for a loved one). It’s been 2 years since then, and I haven’t worked at all (my choice). The good news is that I just passed 3 of 4 sections of the CPA, and I expect to finish it up this month.
The thing is – I need help getting back into the work world now. Do you have any tips for getting back “in the game,” so to speak?
If it helps, I’m really looking for a huge change of pace from big4 auditing – something where there’s little travel, and that’s not nearly as stressful as Big4. I think I would like something where there’s only a one or a few persons I’m reporting to, and where the nature of my work is much more technical/specialized. Something that involves technology would be a big plus (I love Info Tech, and I’m good with it). I’ve looked at private accounting/finance-type positions, but it seems many of them want a minimum of 2 years of working experience. Having Big 4 is great experience, of course, but is 1 year worth much? I also worry about what they will think of a 2 year gap on my resume.
I know a few small mom&pop-type tax CPA firms I could work for, but I worry the work-life balance in these jobs isn’t going to be too much different than Big4. I am also considering government positions.
Do you have any tips for someone like me?
Thanks very much.
~ newbie/CPA2be w/ ONLY 1 year of entry-level big4 audit experience
First off, it depends on where you are. If you’re in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, your options are limited (as I’m sure you’re aware) but if you’re in a major market, you’ve got the option to start networking. Like we’ve advised other folks, you can do this by hitting events held by your state society of CPAs, the AICPA, or other professional organizations.
Second, you’ve got a great excuse if anyone actually asks what you’ve been up to lately. Be honest but not too upfront about this; meaning you don’t have to badger HR about it but have a good explanation ready if you are asked.
You are correct that smaller firms aren’t much different than Big 4 in terms of the amount of work you’re going to be doing, the only difference might be travel. It sounds to me like you have some options, so I’d start by exercising those. Depending on how long you took off to care for your sick family member, you may not have to put in a full two years to get your license.
Based on what you’re looking for, I would suggest seeking out a small (not mid-tier) firm with a couple partners, not some multi-national with tons of clients. If you love IT, try to find someone already in this area willing to take you under their wing, or at least give you some good guidance from their perspective.
I’m not too worried about you, sounds like you have it figured it out and just wanted us to confirm that you aren’t completely fucked. You aren’t.
This just in:
To All U.S. Audit staff,
Please join me on Friday, August 5 from 2:00pm – 3:15pm ET for a webcast for you, our staff, where we will discuss our Audit compensation strategy to reward for results in a high-performance culture. During the call, we will also share what you can expect for this year’s process and overall timeline. (Webcasts are being held for all Audit professionals by level to allow sufficient time for Q&A.)
I look forward to speaking with you.
Chief Talent Officer
Deloitte & Touche LLP
Get excited, people.
FT Alphaville found this notable quote from District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s opinion (whole thing after the jump):
The TAC alleges that Lee told E&Y in June 2008 “that Lehman moved $50 billion of inventory off its balance sheet at quarter-end through Repo 105 transactions and that these assets returned to the balance sheet about a week later.” Assuming that is so, E&Y arguably was on 308 notice by June 2008 that Lehman had used Repo 105s to portray its net leverage more favorably than its financial position warranted, a circumstance that could well have resulted in the published balance sheet for that quarter being inconsistent with GAAP’s overall requirement of fair presentation. Accordingly, the TAC adequately alleges that E&Y misrepresented in the 2Q08 that it was “not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the consolidated financial statements referred to above for them to be in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles” notwithstanding Lee’s disclosure to it.
“Lee” you may remember is Matthew Lee Lee, the Senior VP for Global Balance Sheet and Legal Entity Accounting who also said this about E&Y’s reaction to his warning on Repo 105:
They certainly didn’t support it. On the Repo 105 issue, they knew about it; they did not appear to know that the number was so large.
Building rapport on a team is important. Getting to know the guy/girl next to you in the trenches makes for a stronger unit and the willingness to help each other out when necessary. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. The occasional happy hour. A pool party. And yes, sometimes team building can occur in more tantalizing environment. But with musical instruments? Apparently.
Internal auditors from the Department of Communities and Local Government spent almost £5,000 on a bongo drumming team-building event held at a burlesque club. The vitriolic exposé from the Conservative Party said the department under the Labour government “policed wasteful spending”. Apparently the club’s dancers, Lady Beau Peep and “showgirl sensation” Amber Topaz, were not present during the event.
Bongos help internal auditors spend £5,000 [Accountancy Age]
Any accounting students that happen to have an above-average aptitude for accounting or auditing will be happy to know that the PCAOB has been given the go-ahead to award fifty-two $10,000 scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year. There are some conditions, however, including:
• Be enrolled in a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in accounting
• Demonstrate interest and aptitude in accounting and auditing
• Demonstrate high ethical standards
• Not be a PCAOB employee or a child or spouse of a PCAOB employee
In addition, we think it makes sense that anyone with “Ernst” or “Young” in their name will be forced to undergo a more rigorous examination of their qualifications. Also anyone named “Arthur Andersen” should be immediately ineligible. If you have other conditions you’d like to see attached to these scholarships, leave them below.
And here’s the list of schools:
Brigham Young University
Central Washington University
CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
Eastern Michigan University
Florida State University
George Washington University
Georgia Southern University
Golden Gate University
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
Indiana Wesleyan University
Louisiana State University and A & M College
Michigan State University
Middle Tennessee State University
Missouri State University
North Carolina State University
Northern Illinois University
Nova Southeastern University
Rhode Island College
University of Alabama
University of Colorado-Denver
University of Connecticut
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of Hartford
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
University of Maryland-University College
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
University of Missouri-Columbia
University of North Carolina-Charlotte
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
University of North Texas
University of Notre Dame
University of Oregon
University of Pittsburgh
University of Southern California
University of Southern Mississippi
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Dallas
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Walsh College of Accountancy & Business
Weber State University
Perhaps you’ve heard that some U.S.-listed Chinese companies have had some trouble with their financial reporting. Often times this leads to CFOs quitting, auditors resigning or workpapers being held hostage. None of which are good. Occurrences such as these have been going on for a little while and more recently the SEC admitted that they had, in fact, heard something about it. Perhaps even more surprisingly, a Chinese official also confessed that some of these companies weren’t exactly on top of their shit and in some may not have the faintest idea of what they’re doing.
All this excitement has finally gotten the teams at the SEC and PCAOB worked up enough that it has been decided that they’re popping over to Beijing to meet with the country’s Ministry of Finance and the China Securities Regulatory Commission next Monday and Tuesday to see what’s what.
“This meeting is the commencement of our accelerated efforts with the People’s Republic of China to forge a cooperative resolution to cross-border auditing oversight. I believe we share a common objective with Chinese regulators to protect investors and safeguard audit quality through our mutual cooperation,” said James R. Doty, PCAOB Chairman.
The delegation will be led by Board Member Lewis H. Ferguson and include staff from the PCAOB’s Office of International Affairs and Division of Registration and Inspections, and the SEC Office of International Affairs and Office of the Chief Accountant. The delegation will meet with senior leadership of the Ministry of Finance and the CSRC.
“The purpose of this meeting is to provide an opportunity to exchange information about how each country conducts inspections of auditing firms and to move toward a bilateral agreement providing for joint inspections of China-based auditing firms registered with the PCAOB,” said PCAOB Board Member Ferguson.
Reuters reports that Ferguson considers the trip a “confidence-building exercise,” just in case you were still a little queasy on Sino-Forest, et al.
Editor’s Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at email@example.com.
So with the new found (and welcome) love for Advisory on goingconcern.com I feel comfortable posing my question:
I am currently a 2nd year at D&T audit in Dallas, I am contemplating a move to KPMG’s IT advisory, I currently make $54k and KPMG has offered me $60k. I have some IT in my background and enjoy IT related stuff but don’t want to be stuck in Audit support as an IT Advisory Associate. KPMG has promised me the ability to move within Advisory…so here is my list of questions:
1. Would that switch be the right move for my long term career growth?
DWB:I cannot speak clearly on what your long term career growth can or cannot be without knowing what your goals are. Being that you’re two years into your career, I’m not expecting you to fully know either. That said, I suggest that you look at this in two ways: 1) what are you long term career options if you stay at DT, and 2) what are your options if you leave and enter the advisory practice at KPMG? Weigh these options with your roughly outlined career goals and take it from there. In your favor is the fact that Dallas is a larger market for both firms, so options are not as limited as they would be elsewhere.
2. Should I take the opportunity to progress towards specializing in an ERP and get more technical with IT or eventually switch to M&A/Forensics (another interest of mine).
DWB: Listen – playing first base for the Yankees is an interest of mine but it simply isn’t going to happen. I’m not saying you can’t bounce over to M&A or Forensic (drop the “s” from the name and realize they’re two separate groups at KPMG), but I am hinting at the fact that it is going to be difficult. Advisory lines of business are BOOMING right now for the Big 4, which means they have the ability to go to market and hire individuals with relevant talent. Also, should you move out of IT, that’s just one more position KPMG would have to fill as well. I’m not doubting your talents, skillset, and drive, but I don’t plan on batting clean up anytime soon.
3. What do I do after a few years of KPMG IT Advisory experience? would I be considered for Controller type (because of my Acct degree and Audit exp) jobs or only CIO career path (due to the IT tag)?
DWB: If the market dips again, prepare to fight for your current job. Advisory lines at Big 4 are the first to get slashed when the going gets tough (more discretionary lines of business, too dependent on an active client base, etc.), and IT Advisory at KPMG was slaughtered back in 2008/2009. Also, your two years of audit experience hardly prepare you to compete with senior staff and manager public accountants interviewing for the same controller roles.
4. Am I getting paid a competitive salary at $60k?
Honestly, I have no idea. Can someone in the peanut gallery chime in? What are experienced associates in Dallas making in IT advisory these days? If my gut tells me correctly, you’re a steal for KPMG. One more thing I want to harp on, although I touched on it above in #2:
“KPMG has promised me the ability to move within advisory.” This line is out of the Recruiting for Dummies. The different business lines in Big 4 advisory – as close as they may work together – are very specialized in their skill sets. Being an expert on SAS 70 reviews does not automatically make you an expert with regards to historical due diligence analysis and breaking down a company’s EBIDTA numbers.
It’s not entirely clear why Jonathon P. Reuben’s services are no longer needed but you could easily conclude that the GCO wasn’t appreciated.
On June 20, 2011, the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of Glen Rose Petroleum Corporation (the “Company”) approved the termination of services of Jonathon P. Reuben CPA, An Accountancy Corporation (“JPR”), effective immediately.
JPR was the independent registered public accounting firm for the Company for the fiscal years ended March 31, 2010 and 2009. The reports of JPR on the Company’s financial statements for the years ended March 31, 2010 and 2009 did not contain an adverse opinion or disclaimer of opinion, and such reports were not qualified or modified as to uncertainty, audit scope, or accounting principle, except that the reports of JPR on the Company’s consolidated financial statements as of and for the years ended March 31, 2010 and 2009 contained an explanatory paragraph which noted that there was substantial doubt as to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern due to a deficit in working capital and incurring significant losses.
BDO will take it from here. Perhaps a nice welcome to the partnership gift for one of the newbies?
For anyone that missed it earlier, the PCAOB issued a concept release today putting out some ideas for changes to the auditor’s report. The members of the Board also took the opportunity to say a few words and Mr. Harris saw an opportunity to point some things out:
The events of the last few years have been a case study of the inability of auditors to provide investors with any meaningful signal about increases in financial reporting risks when management assessments or estimates change dramatically, or when debates over significant accounting issues become difficult or contentious.
And he added the following for good measure:
Out of the ten largest bankruptcies during the financial crisis, only two had going concern opinions. During the year leading up to their bankruptcy filings, the market capitalization of the eight companies without going concern opinions declined from a collective $75.5 billion in the year prior to their respective bankruptcy filings to a collective market capitalization of just under $700 million at the time of their filing – a 99% loss in investor value.
Now before you get all worked up about these, the Board is inviting everyone to throw out comments before September 30th, make other suggestions and participate in a roundtable during the third quarter in case you are inclined to heckle them for making your life more difficult. Anyway, here’s what they’ve got:
• An auditor’s discussion and analysis;
• Required and expanded use of emphasis paragraphs;
• Auditor assurance on other information outside the financial statements; and,
• Clarification of language in the standard auditor’s report.
These are just suggestions mind you, so if you’ve got something better in mind, feel free to share below.
SEC commissioners will vote today on proposed changes to broker-dealer auditing and reporting rules at a meeting in Washington. As with the 2009 rules, which tightened oversight of advisers’ custody of client assets after Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme was exposed, the new changes increase oversight of the minority of about 300 broker-dealers who hold customers’ cash.
The proposals — which would be opened for a 60-day comment period — would require that a broker-dealer’s internal controls be checked by a registered public accounting firm and would let regulators examine the broker-dealer’s audits. Broker-dealers would have to file quarterly reports describing whether they have access to client money and how any access is controlled. [Bloomberg]
Some clients treat their auditors like dirt. Given. To these haters, the financial statement audit is an onerous task that is mandated by the SEC and it amounts to an assault on liberty, capitalism and Ayn Rand’s genius. Accordingly, some clients try to push auditors around because typically they can. Today we bring you a rare example of a pushy-ass client going too far and an auditor standing up for themselves.
Ernst & Young resigned at the auditor of Life Partners Holdings Inc. in a letter dated June 6, 2011 after the CEO, Brian Pardo, WROTE IN A MEMO that he would “take action” against the firm if they did not sign off on the financial statemen t committee got wind of this little soapbox moment and promptly told E&Y about it.
From the 8-K Filing:
On June 6, 2011, Life Partners Holdings, Inc. (“we” or “Life Partners”) received a letter from Ernst & Young LLP (“Ernst & Young”) addressed to the Chairman of our Audit Committee (the “Resignation Letter”) confirming that it had resigned effective June 3, 2011, as our independent registered public accounting firm, as had been orally communicated to the Chairman of the Audit Committee on June 3, 2011. The resignation means that Ernst & Young will not certify our financial statements for the fiscal year ended February 28, 2011 (“Fiscal 2011”), which is necessary for completing and filing our Annual Report on Form 10-K for Fiscal 2011 (the “2011 Annual Report”).
The resignation follows a letter from Mr. Brian Pardo, our Chairman and CEO, to our licensee network (persons who refer purchasers to us) commenting upon the delayed filing of our 2011 Annual Report. The letter stated that it was Mr. Pardo’s position that we would “take action” against Ernst & Young if it did not promptly complete its audit and sign off on our financial statements without adjustment. Our Audit Committee wrote to Ernst & Young disclaiming the letter’s statements and asserting that the letter did not speak for the Audit Committee. Notwithstanding the Audit Committee’s disclaimer, Ernst & Young stated that the letter compromised its independence, and when considered with other recent developments, that it was no longer able to rely upon management’s representations, and that it was unwilling to be associated with the financial statements prepared by management.
Just for good measure, E&Y also stated that the company’s revenue recognition policy sucks, needs revised and they pulled their unqualified opinion over the 2010 financial statements. How’s that for “action”?
As noted by the first comment below, the second comment on a post over at Deal Journal has what appears to be the memo in question from Brian Pardo.
Message From Brian Pardo
Yesterday we filed for an extension of the time to file our annual10K which should have been filed by May 15th because the Auditors have not yet completed their part. Quite frankly I am confident that the SEC is interfering with us by trying to unnerve the Auditors (by asking frivolous questions) which has added to the delay in getting out the 10K which is done and ready to release. They are trying to force us to “restate” our revenue recognition criteria; one that has been in use for ten years now.
Restating for any period, for any reason is viewed by the market as an implicit admission that prior quarters were probably misstated, which they were not. We do expect to file shortly, but the WSJ called last night to print another negative article.
There is no reason to restate because any proposed adjustment is immaterial under GAAP guidelines. E&Y signed off on our revenue recognition criteria policy last year and every other audit firm has as well since we went public in 2000. However some of your clients will probably read about it in the WSJ or in some other supposedly legitimate news media. And, the shorts will no doubt make a big deal about it.
My position is we either ratify the 10k as is very soon or we will take action against E&Y as well as with the SEC in Washington. It is time to put an end to this nonsense! I believe E&Y is trying to mitigate problems they may have with the SEC at our expense. For instance, we were never told by E&Y that they audited at least one large organization in the Madoff matter.
We are well within GAAP boundaries regarding every of aspect of our financial statements including all materials created, used or reviewed in relation to our published financial statements. We have ten years of doing this the exact same way and every Auditor from every firm for the entire time has signed off on every single 10k over those last 10 years.
Brian D. Pardo
PS You are authorized to share my statement with concerned clients and Licensees, but, not the press although the matter is in the public domain now.
Chinese companies certainly have had their share of problems with financial reporting in the U.S. but I had no idea that it would come to this.
The Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of Weikang Bio-Technology Group Co., Inc. (OTC Markets: WKBT.PK – News) (“WKBT,” “Weikang” or the “Company”), a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Western prescription and OTC pharmaceuticals and other health and nutritional products in the People’s Republic of China, today announced that Grant Thornton (“GT”), one of the world’s leading organizations of independently owned and managed accounting and consulting firms, has verified that the cash amounts listed on the Company’s SEC filings for 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 are consistent with account statements obtained from WKBT’s banks directly by GT.
“Given the recent change in auditors and my new chairmanship of the WKBT Audit Committee, we authorized the Grant Thornton review to take place last week, and are now releasing the results,” said Jeffery Chuang, independent director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of WKBT. “Weikang continues to advance as a U.S. publicly-traded company and we are committed to high standards in the thoroughness of our financial information,” said Mr. Chuang, a U.S. CPA who is based in Southern California.
Obviously this is completely harmless compared to, say, threatening to take auditors hostage but as far as giant wastes of time go, it’s right near the top.
Back in March, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil called attention to a PCAOB report that was pretty harsh on KPMG-Bermuda’s audit of Alterra Capital Holdings. At the time he wrote the column, KPMG, the PCAOB and Alterra weren’t talking but then Alterra filed a 8-K admitting that they were the filer in question.
Today Weil lets the cat out of the bag again and yes it’s another KPMG client, Motorola: lockquote>Four years ago, inspectors for the auditing industry’s chief watchdog discovered that KPMG LLP had let Motorola Inc. record revenue during the third quarter of 2006 from a transaction with Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), even though the final contract wasn’t signed until the early hours of the fourth quarter. That’s no small technicality. Without the deal, Motorola would have missed its third-quarter earnings target.
The regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, later criticized KPMG for letting Motorola book the revenue when it did. Although KPMG had discussed the transaction’s timing with both Motorola and Qualcomm, the board said the firm “failed to obtain persuasive evidence of an arrangement for revenue-recognition purposes in the third quarter.” In other words, KPMG had no good reason to believe the deal shouldn’t have been recorded in the fourth quarter.
This may sound familiar to some of you that read PCAOB Chairman James Doty’s speech from last week when he said this:
PCAOB inspectors found at one large firm that an engagement team was aware that a significant contract was not signed until the early hours of the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the audit partner allowed the company to book the transaction in the third quarter, which allowed the company to meet its earnings target. Although the firm discussed the timing of the transaction with the customer, it failed to obtain persuasive evidence of an arrangement for revenue recognition purposes in the third quarter. The company had been an audit client of the firm for close to 50 years.
Weil writes, “KPMG has been Motorola’s auditor since 1959; it had been Motorola’s auditor for 47 years at the time of the Qualcomm deal.” So, yeah. How did he piece this one together? Elementary, my dear auditors:
Motorola’s identity was disclosed in public records last month as part of a class-action shareholder lawsuit against the company in a federal district court in Chicago. The plaintiffs in the case, led by the Macomb County Employees’ Retirement System in Michigan, filed a transcript of a September 2010 deposition of a KPMG auditor, David Pratt, who testified that Issuer C was Motorola. KPMG isn’t a defendant in the lawsuit.
Pratt also identified the Motorola customers cited in the board’s inspection report. It’s his deposition that allows me to describe the report’s findings using real names.
The oversight board said a significant portion of the company’s earnings for the 2006 third quarter came from two licensing agreements that were recorded during the last three days of the quarter. One was the Qualcomm deal that wasn’t signed until the fourth quarter. The board also cited other deficiencies in KPMG’s review of Motorola’s accounting for the transactions.
As is their wont, KPMG isn’t talking. Motorola isn’t talking (but maybe there’s another 8-K in our future?). The PCAOB, bound by the law -which, some say, is debatable – isn’t talking. My guess is that Jon Weil will continue to talk…er…write columns shining the lights on shoddy audits until the Board breaks its silence.
Dirty Secrets Fester in 50-Year Relationships [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
A hospital in Winnipeg is suing Deloitte after an ATM scam went undiscovered for over ten years. Luckily some vigilant RN, janitor or cafeteria worker (it’s not clear from the article) noticed something amiss and alerted the proper authorities.
Police arrested a long-time hospital employee last year after she allegedly skimmed $1.5 million from automated teller machine (ATM) deposits between 2000 and 2010.
According to a lawsuit filed last week, the fraud was uncovered by hospital staff, not the auditor. The lawsuit accuses Deloitte & Touche of preparing financial statements not in accordance with “generally accepted accounting principles” and “materially misleading” the hospital about its financial position.
“MHC says that D & T owed it a duty in contract and owed it a duty of care not to act negligently or make negligent misrepresentations to MHC and to ensure that cash and liquid assets as reported in the financial statements were not materially misstated.”
According to the lawsuit, a former finance clerk deposited Worker’s Compensation Board cheques into the hospital operated ATM, understated the amount and pocketed the difference.
All this trouble and no one was even taken hostage. Not good, Green Dot.
Misericordia Health Centre files suit against auditor [Winnipeg Sun]
Ron Fink at CFO Journal reports that CFOs that are breaking out in a rash due to auditor rotation anxiety might be having a knee-jerk hypochondriacal reaction.
You see, the company that the media loves to figuratively fellate, Apple, opted to put their audit business out to bid every five years and not only have costs gone down, “it has reported no problems with its financial results as a result of the change.” So now Apple is also more progressive and transparent with their corporate governance processes than your company. And you don’t have the iPad. [CFO Journal]
As you may have heard, PCAOB Chairman Jim Doty gave a speech at the University of Southern California yesterday where he discussed among other things, the possibility of mandatory auditor rotation and changing the standard auditor’s report. The prospect of these two changes aren’t exactly something auditors are stoked about but some people are of the opinion that a) auditors like to get a little too chummy with their clients which leads to b) not taking the “independence” thing too seriously and c) the auditor’s report, in its current form, its pretty much worthless.
You can read Doty’s entire speech over at the PCAOB website where touches on all of these but here’s one example around independence that probably qualifies for, in Doty’s words, “[an] approach [to] the audit with an inappropriate mindset”
[An] audit partner’s self-assessment claimed that he “overcame long-standing barriers against non-audit services at [two audit clients] with a series of well-planned meetings and supporting presentations with the Audit Committee Chair, the full Audit Committee, the CEO and the CFO at both companies.”
In response, his reviewing partner noted that he was –
highly alert to cross service line opportunities and has successfully penetrated both of his accounts where few services had been
provided in the past. The results of these efforts were a number of proposals and wins but the efforts will likely impact FY 11 in [a] more significant way.
Anyway, there are other stories of bad auditor behavior, so check the whole speech if you feel so inclined. And while Chairman Doty admitted that “We don’t see these problems in all the files we look at,” it causes he and others to wonder if “these audit partners are unaware of, or simply unconcerned about, the independence rule that should make such considerations irrelevant to their compensation, and why a firm would allow such unawareness or unconcern to continue unabated.”
So flagrantly bending the rules to the point where they might as well be breaking or stupidity? Neither is too flattering.
Welcome to the at-least-you’re-not-John-Edwards edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a first-year auditor has an opportunity to do a rotation with Transaction Services but feels that his senior manager has taken an aggressive cock-block position. Will our hero have to get their performance manager involved or resort to thinly-veiled threats?
I am a long time GC reader, and I usually only read the career advice postings to feel slightly better about my own situation. Now, however, I find myself with a question that I would love to put before the GC readership. I am a first year at a B4. I enjoy my job, but am always interested in a new opportunity. Recently, I was offered a rotation in transaction services that will last a few months. I accepted the opportunity, but the timing of the rotation was not set in stone. I just found out that a sr. mgr. on my biggest client is trying to keep me staffed on that engagement at the expense of the opportunity of taking the rotation.
I have made my interest in taking a TS rotation since day one, and my performance manager supports it 100%. He knows that I was offered the rotation, but not that the sr mgr is standing in the way. I would like to know how to proceed. Should I go over the sr mgr? Should I forget the rotation? I enjoy my audit clients and don’t want to be seen as someone who will leave as soon as a better opportunity comes along, but this is a particular interest of mine that I made know upfront.
Dear Cock-blocked Auditor,
Sounds like your senior manager has a non-sexual, professional crush on you. That can be a good thing but in your case, it’s a very bad thing. Your senior manager probably wants the best team possible and it sounds like that would involve you but you’ve got your own ambitions and those need to be respected. This especially true because TS has already offer has been extended to you. It’s not for someone else (senior manager or not) to stick their beak in your business and prevent you from following the career path you choose.
Having said all that, I suggest that you first talk to the senior manager on your audit engagement. You say that they are blocking the rotation but how do you know? Nothing in your email indicates that (s)he walked straight up to you, pointed a finger in your chest and said, “You’re mine, bitch!” It’s entirely possible that the SM kept you on to prevent you from getting picked up by anyone else. This will allow you to get the story straight before running off to your performance manager. If your suspicions are true (or you did experience a finger pointing incident), then it’s time to get your PM involved. If he is “100%” behind this opportunity like you say, then this should get resolved rather quickly. Transaction Services obviously wants you to work with them and it’s something you’re interested in doing. That isn’t complicated but these things do take time and that may be the hold-up.
So be patient but be direct. Until your rotation’s timing is finalized, there’s no need to get anxious but confirm the motivation behind the scheduling before you have to pull out the big guns. Good luck.
Nearly two years after Texas financier Allen Stanford was indicted in an alleged massive Ponzi scheme, investors have just filed a $10 billion proposed class action suit against his auditor—the giant accounting firm BDO.
The suit—filed Thursday in federal court in Dallas—says BDO did not only aid and abet the $7 billion dollar fraud…it was a “co-conspirator.” “BDO’s cozy relationship with the Stanford Financial Group was steeped in conflicts of interest and required ongoing deceptive and duplicitous manipulation of the facts to allow the Ponzi scheme’s exponential growth for over a decade,” the complaint says. “The result of this deception is the loss of thousands of investors’ life savings.” [CNBC]
On Monday, we reported on Longtop Financial Technologies was the latest Chinese company to have their CFO quit, auditor resign and be accused of being a massive fraud. This particular story was interesting as one of the reasons cited by Deloitte for dumping LFT included “the unlawful detention of DTT’s audit files.” These accusations were described in much more detail in Deloitte’s letter to the company’s audit committee that was filed with the SEC and you may even conclude that the staff were thisclose to being hos
We italicized and bolded the best part.
The Audit Committee
Longtop Financial Technologies Limited
No. 61 Wanghai Road, Xiamen Software Park
Xiamen, Fujian Province
People’s Republic of China
Attention: Mr. Thomas Gurnee, Chairman of the Audit Committee
Longtop Financial Technologies Limited (the “Company”) and together with its subsidiaries (the “Group”)
Audit for the Year Ended 31 March 2011
We hereby give you formal notice of our resignation as auditor of the Company.
Background and significant issues encountered by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA Ltd. (China) (“Deloitte”)
As part of the process for auditing the Company’s financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2011, we determined that, in regard to bank confirmations, it was appropriate to perform follow up visits to certain banks. These audit steps were recently performed and identified a number of very serious defects including: statements by bank staff that their bank had no record of certain transactions; confirmation replies previously received were said to be false; significant differences in deposit balances reported by the bank staff compared with the amounts identified in previously received confirmations (and in the books and records of the Group); and significant bank borrowings reported by bank staff not identified in previously received confirmations (and not recorded in the books and records of the Group).
In the light of this, a formal second round of bank confirmation was initiated on 17 May. Within hours however, as a result of intervention by the Company’s officials including the Chief Operating Officer, the confirmation process was stopped amid serious and troubling new developments including: calls to banks by the Company asserting that Deloitte was not their auditor; seizure by the Company’s staff of second round bank confirmation documentation on bank premises; threats to stop our staff leaving the Company premises unless they allowed the Company to retain our audit files then on the premises; and then seizure by the Company of certain of our working papers.
In that connection, we must insist that you promptly return our documents.
Then on 20 May the Chairman of the Company, Mr. Jia Xiao Gong called our Eastern Region Managing Partner, Mr. Paul Sin, and informed him in the course of their conversation that “there were fake revenue in the past so there were fake cash recorded on the books”. Mr. Jia did not answer when questioned as to the extent and duration of the discrepancies. When asked who was involved, Mr. Jia answered: “senior management”.
We bring these significant issues to your attention in the context of our responsibilities under Statement on Auditing Standards No. 99 “Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit” issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Reasons for our resignation
The reasons for our resignation include: 1) the recently identified falsity of the Group’s financial records in relation to cash at bank and loan balances (and also now seemingly in the sales revenue); 2) the deliberate interference by the management in our audit process; and 3) the unlawful detention of our audit files. These recent developments undermine our ability to rely on the representations of the management which is an essential element of the audit process; hence our resignation.
Prior periods’ financial reports and our reports thereon
We have reached the conclusion that we are no longer able to place reliance on management representations in relation to prior period financial reports. Accordingly, we request that the Company take immediate steps to make the necessary 8-K filing to state that continuing reliance should no longer be placed on our audit reports on the previous financial statements and moreover that we decline to be associated with any of the Company’s financial communications during 2010 and 2011.
We hereby consent to a copy of this letter being supplied to the SEC and the succeeding auditor to be appointed.
Section 10A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (U.S.)
In our view, without providing any legal conclusion, the circumstances mentioned above could constitute illegal acts for purposes of Section 10A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Accordingly, we remind the Board of its obligations under Section 10A of the Securities Exchange Act, including the notice requirements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. You may consider taking legal advice on this.
/s/ Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA Ltd.
c.c.: The Board of Directors
Welcome to the can-we-trade-twisters-for-raptures? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a small firm associate works in a sink or swim environment and he feels like sandbags are tied to his feet. Is there anything he can do to sink less?
Back to accountant who needs a life preserver:
How do I deal with not having much support at my office? I just started around 4 months ago as a staff accountant and anytime I have a question, my boss tells me to figure it out, to bring him the financials so he “can do (my) job for (me)” or to just move on to the next audit.
There are seven full time employees here and my boss and I are the only ones working through audits. I really want to learn the entire process of performing audits, but I can’t get anyone to help me. I’ve asked around, Googled and even asked him to guide me through the process. There has not been any training as to their methodology for auditing. Is this typical for very small local firms? I’ve heard the first year is the hardest and you dont really know anything. I feel like I’m trying to drink out of a firehose! Help!
– Doing My Best
Dear Doing My Best,
To quote a Scotsman from some terrible over-budgeted spoon-fed cinema: losers whine about their best and winners go home and fuck the prom queen. Since you work at an accounting firm (where no one really wins) and haven’t been in sniffing distance of a prom dress in ages, that advice doesn’t really do you much good. Lucky for you, I’m familiar with your plight.
Small firms are enormously diverse and you’re at an extremely small firm. I started my career in a similar situation, at firm with less than 20 people. In that scenario, it was difficult to get anyone to explain anything to me, “methodology” wasn’t really thrown around much (literally or figuratively) and training was virtually non-existent. So to answer your question: your experience is common at a small firm and the first year is extremely tough.
Now, as for what you can do about it – my advice would be to really think about your questions before you ask them. If you’re running to your “boss” every five minutes with a question, it’s not surprising that they might lose patience with you. Really try to work through problems until you’re absolutely stuck on something. Small firms are fond of “look at last year’s file” as standard operating procedure and you should do just that. Most of these clients won’t have much for changes and their business shouldn’t be complicated, so using last year’s files as reference will be helpful.
If you find yourself having done as much work as possible and are at a dead end, then go to your boss and explain exactly what you’ve tried to do and why you’re stuck in neutral. If you explain to them all the roads you’ve tried to take, then they might be more willing to point you in the right direction. If he/she is still unwilling to help, then you might consider calling them out for it or request to work on something other than audits. If you don’t feel like you’re learning anything because no one has taken the time to teach you anything, that reflects poorly on them not you. If they act like they’re above giving you any guidance, then it’s pretty clear that they suck at their job.
If you manage to make some headway, you’ll start to notice that things eventually begin to make sense and year two (granted you survive) will be much easier than the first. Good luck.