Fox Business Network’s ace news-breaker Charlie Gasparino reports that Citigroup’s management team, including CEO Vikram Pandit and CFO John Gerspach will not meet with CLSA banking analyst Mike Mayo since he’s been telling investors that the big C should be writing down their $50 billion in deferred tax assets.
Carlito reports that Mayo states that this refusal to write down the DTAs amounts to “cooking the books by inflating its earnings through an accounting gimmick.”
Simple question from Mayo via CG, “I’d like to know why all my competitors get meetings with Pandit and the key people there and I don’t.” It’s not like the guy is one of the top banking analysts in the entire world. It’s not like Citigroup has a solid track record of transparent financial reporting. Or did everyone forget that C has the U.S. Treasury as its backstop?
The KPMG audit team can weigh in on this at any time. Or just email us the details.
American Apparel’s downward spiral continues as Bloomberg reports that the company has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY over the company’s “change in accounting firms.”
If you’re just l started with Deloitte quitting as the auditors of APP late last month. At that time, Deloitte warned that the ’09 financial statements may not (read: definitely are not) reliable and that they were getting the hell out of Dov.
Former APP auditor Marcum – for reasons unbeknownst to us – went back to their old client to try and help them straighten things out. Here’s the latest from the “preliminary results” for the second quarter, while thetardy 10-Q remains elusive. These prelims (i.e. a wild stab?), that were filed today warn that things are likely to get worse before they get better:
Potential Restatement of previously issued financial statements
Effective July 22, 2010, Deloitte resigned as our independent registered public accounting firm. On July 26, 2010, we engaged Marcum as our independent registered public accounting firm. On July 28, 2010, we reported on a Form 8-K that we had been advised by Deloitte that certain information had come to Deloitte’s attention that if further investigated may materially impact the reliability of either Deloitte’s previously issued audit report or the underlying consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009. Deloitte has requested that we provide Deloitte with the additional information Deloitte believes it is necessary to review before any conclusions can be reached as to the reliability of the previously issued consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 and auditors’ report thereon.
Depending on the outcome of this review, a restatement of our financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 could be required. Any restatement may subject us to significant costs in the form of accounting, legal fees and similar professional fees, in addition to the substantial diversion of time and attention of our Chief Financial Officer, our other officers and directors and members of our accounting department in preparing and reviewing the restatement. Any such restatement could adversely affect our business, our ability to access the capital markets or the market price of our common stock. We might also face litigation, and there can be no assurance that any such litigation, either against us specifically or as part of a class, would not materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or the market price of our common stock.
But that’s not all! The company discusses a few more issues, “We are subject to regulatory inquiries, investigations, claims and suits. We are currently defending one wage and hour suit, one sexual harassment suit and responding to several allegations of discrimination and/or harassment that have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state counterpart agencies.”
At that point, the filing finally gets to the problem du jour:
In addition, in connection with our previously disclosed change in auditors, on July 30, 2010, we received a grand jury subpoena from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for the production of documents relating to the circumstances surrounding the change in our auditors. We have also received inquiries from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding this matter. We intend to cooperate fully with these requests and any related inquiries.
If consider all that, plus the fact that the company is spending cash like Pacman Jones at a strip club and that they’re likely to be in noncompliance with a major debt covenants at September 30th, it’s no surprise that the stock is off even more than when Deloitte first quit as auditors.
American Apparel Drops After Receiving Subpoena on Change in Accountants [Bloomberg]
Josh Stevens of Chicago was done with his corporate audit job. The glamour of cube farm life had lost its allure and lucky for him, a challenge that only an accountant could embrace.
He decided that he would accept the challenge from Internet sensation du jour Groupon to live on coupons for an entire year, “I had done corporate auditing for a year, and I decided I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle every day. I thought I’d go back and get more education, and right as I started working on those applications, this fell in my lap.”
“This” includes traveling all over this great land, living off of coupons but there are a few rules that could make things difficult for Stevens including:
• “Stevens can’t use or even touch money.”
• “He’s allowed only five visits from family and friends, with each visit lasting less than a day.”
• “Strangers, fans and supporters may donate a place to crash for the night, a car ride or plane ticket.”
So how does Josh handle not being able to have his skin touch cold hard cash and more or less being celibate (his girlfriend can’t visit him) for an entire year?
“It’s the logistics. It’s really hard to plan in advance for anything. You don’t know how to get from place to place. You don’t know where you are going to be so it’s hard to plan where you will go and who will give you rides.” Of course his ability to be a “cross between Anthony Bourdain, who is trying new things, and MacGyver, who has to be resourceful,” has proven helpful (e.g. getting manicures) as has his willingness to rely on the kindness of strangers (one couple let him stay with them for two weeks).
However, there was one instance where his adventurous nature backfired, “I kind of overdid it with a yoga class I did in Washington, D.C. I don’t know much about yoga. I think I just overstretched. I was fine that day. And the next day and then a day after that, all of my muscles tensed up, and I struggled with it for a few weeks.”
Despite this setback, Josh is plugging along and we’re rooting for him to win the $100k if completes the challenge. Hopefully he’ll spend some of the winnings on his girlfriend and maybe give yoga another shot.
“We thought auditors and investors would like to have an avenue to report violations of accounting and auditing standards and financial fraud.”
~ Claudius Modesti, PCAOB Enforcement and Investigations Division director. Last year, the Board fielded 179 tips – a record – that alleged wrongdoing by audit firms and their employees.
As we mentioned late yesterday, the PCAOB has been working hard these days. Late nights, weekends, ordering in and whathaveyou. Adrienne told you about the new eight auditing standards that you’re all expected to have memorized by Labor Day, and we wrapped up with Dan Goelzer snagging QOTD for the Board’s move towards open enforcement proceedings. This move will, presumably, be used in order to shame the pants off of those of you that dare to break the rules.
But the Board had one more thing to serve up yesterday and that was to put it out there that they don’t think too highly of the job auditors are doing supervising the worker bees:
“Through its inspections and investigations, the PCAOB has observed that supervision processes within firms are frequently not as robust as they should be, and that supervisory responsibilities are often not as clearly assigned as they should be,” said PCAOB Acting Chairman Daniel L. Goelzer. “Today’s Release seeks to highlight the Board’s views on the scope for using the authority provided in the Act to address those problems.”
For an industry that depends so heavily on a hierarchal structure, this does not bode well. There are several possible scenarios that led the PCAOB to jump in with their thoughts, including but not limited to:
1. Dozens of audit engagements of publicly traded companies have aloof partners that pop in once or twice a week, observe a handful of staff people feverishly ticking and tying, only to assume everything appears a-okay.
2. The PCAOB has incredible “luck” picking the biggest shitshow engagements.
3. The PCAOB is just blowing the shortage of experienced SAs out of the water.
4. Inspectors don’t buy the “we got this” story from the A1 and A2 running an accelerated filer engagement.
If you’re on one of these free-for-all audits, for crying out loud, get in touch. We want details.
Since the PCAOB was only up to Audit Standard 7 last time we checked and seems to take the conservative approach when it comes to issuing new ones, we have to say we were more than shocked to see them almost double their audit standards overnight. Gee, must be serious.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board today adopted a suite of eight auditing standards related to the auditor’s assessment of, and response to, risk in an audit.
The suite of risk assessment standards, Auditing Standards No. 8 through No. 15, sets forth requirements that enhance the effectiveness of the auditor’s assessment of, and response to ial misstatement in the financial statements.
The risk assessment standards address audit procedures performed throughout the audit, from the initial planning stages through the evaluation of the audit results.
“These new standards are a significant step in promoting sophisticated risk assessment in audits and minimizing the risk that the auditor will fail to detect material misstatements,” said PCAOB Acting Chairman Daniel L. Goelzer. “Identifying risks, and properly planning and performing the audit to address those risks, is essential to promoting investor confidence in audited financial statements.”
What does this mean for auditors? Let’s check them out.
AS No. 8 – Audit Risk. This standard discusses the auditor’s consideration of audit risk in an audit of financial statements as part of an integrated audit or an audit of financial statements only. It describes the components of audit risk and the auditor’s responsibilities for reducing audit risk to an appropriately low level in order to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatement.
AS No. 9 – Audit Planning. This standard establishes requirements regarding planning an audit, including assessing matters that are important to the audit, and establishing an appropriate audit strategy and audit plan.
AS No. 10 – Supervision of the Audit Engagement. This standard sets forth requirements for supervision of the audit engagement, including, in particular, supervising the work of engagement team members. It applies to the engagement partner and to other engagement team members who assist the engagement partner with supervision.
AS No. 11 – Consideration of Materiality in Planning and Performing an Audit. This standard describes the auditor’s responsibilities for consideration of materiality in planning and performing an audit.
AS No. 12 – Identifying and Assessing Risks of Material Misstatement. This standard establishes requirements regarding the process of identifying and assessing risks of material misstatement of the financial statements. The risk assessment process discussed in the standard includes information-gathering procedures to identify risks and an analysis of the identified risks.
AS No. 13 – The Auditor’s Responses to the Risks of Material Misstatement. This standard establishes requirements for responding to the risks of material misstatement in financial statements through the general conduct of the audit and performing audit procedures regarding significant accounts and disclosures.
AS No. 14 – Evaluating Audit Results. This standard establishes requirements regarding the auditor’s evaluation of audit results and determination of whether the auditor has obtained sufficient appropriate audit evidence. The evaluation process set forth in this standard includes, among other things, evaluation of misstatements identified during the audit; the overall presentation of the financial statements, including disclosures; and the potential for management bias in the financial statements.
AS No. 15 – Audit Evidence. This standard explains what constitutes audit evidence and establishes requirements for designing and performing audit procedures to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support the opinion expressed in the auditor’s report.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love rules and regs as much as the next girl – if not more – but I am of the thought that users of financial statements would be better served not by more rules and regs but by a more comprehensive auditor training program that starts in college. Am I asking too much?
Did we really need clarity on audit evidence? The PCAOB seems to think so and that’s fine, they are well-intentioned in their motive and you can’t fault them for that.
Geithner Pushes Tax Boost for Wealthy [WSJ]
“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the Obama administration’s economic case for letting tax cuts for high earners expire at the end of this year, saying that failure to do so would harm rather than help economic growth.
In a speech Wednesday in Washington, part of the administration’s broader strategy to overcome Republican opposition on the issue, Mr. Geithner said that keeping current tax levels even on a short-term basis “would hurt economic recovery by undermining confidence that we are prepared to make a commitment today to bring down our future deficits.” The government needs the revenue it would get from allowing tax rates for the wealthy to rise, he said.”
PCAOB Logs No Progress on International Inspections [Compliance Week]
“The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board isn’t yet making much headway in catching up on overdue international inspections, but the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill at least clears an obstacle the board has repeatedly blamed for its inability to meet its inspection mandate.”
Regulator fears auditors may abandon scepticism to meet deadlines [Accountancy Age]
“The Auditing Practices Board (APB), which sets standards for the industry, is concerned auditors might be abandoning their professional scepticism to meet contractual audit deadlines, and wants to coach them in how to be sceptical.
Audit contracts are often negotiated on the assumption few problems will be revealed, according to the APB. When a potential issue does arise timetables often have to be extended.”
A-Rod’s Home Run Ball: a Tax Headache for the Record Books? [WSJ]
The ball is reportedly worth around $100k and if the ball is technically Yankees’ property and the team were to give it to A-Rod, then he may owe tax and the Yanks would get a corresponding deduction. The team could also argue that the ball is technically A-Rod’s property and then neither would owe tax.
Of course then the question remains, what if A-Rod sells or donates the ball to a nonprofit? If he sold it, then it would depend on how long he keeps it (less than a year would be at ordinary rates, greater than a year would be at capital gain rates). While donating the ball after one year could net him a near full deduction.
TheStreet.com names Thomas Etergino finance chief [AP]
Tom starts his new gig on September 7th.
IRS Hits Wyclef With $2.1 Million In Tax Liens [The Smoking Gun]
Whether it’s the U.S. or Haiti, this is not how you want to start a Presidential campaign.
Delta Said to Plan New York JFK Hub Renovation for $1.2 Billion [Bloomberg]
Anyone that has been to Terminal 3 at JFK is aware of the problem.
As we’ve mentioned, it’s been a rough summer – hell a rough year – for KV Pharmaceutical. The company paid nearly $26 million to the Justice Department back in February, had massive layoffs in March and their Chairman and CFO back in June.
Last month, KPMG decided it had had all the drama it could handle and resigned as the auditor of the company.
But as the second half of 2010 gets into full swing, KV managed to find a new CFO and now they’ve managed to land a new auditor – BDO.
K-V Pharmaceutical Company (NYSE: KVa/KVb) announced today that the Audit Committee of its Board of Directors has engaged BDO USA, LLP (“BDO”) as the Company’s independent registered accounting firm.
The Company and BDO will commence work immediately on the planning, audit and filing of the fiscal year 2010 Form 10-K and will then follow with the review of its quarterly filings for fiscal year 2011. K-V’s fiscal year end is March 31.
Mr. Mark Dow, Chair of the Board’s Audit Committee, stated, “The Audit Committee and the entire Board is pleased to be able to announce the selection of BDO as the Company’s new accounting firm. BDO has extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry and also a previous relationship with K-V, and the Company believes BDO will be able to assess and complete its audit of the Company’s Fiscal Year 2010 financial statements expeditiously. We look forward to working closely with BDO to bring the Company back into compliance with all of its Securities and Exchange Commission filings as quickly as possible.”
Right! Staying compliant! That sounds a bit maj. Not only that but the New York Stock Exchange (sort of of a big deal in their own right) is sick of KV stinking up their big board with their 30-day average stock price hovering under $1.
The company has assured the NYSE that they’re on this stock price problem, “The Company will furnish to the NYSE on or prior to August 10, 2010 a response affirming its intent to cure this deficiency and outlining the steps it is currently taking and plans to undertake in the near term to restore compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards.”
Let’s just say BDO has their work cut out. KV has no internal controls to speak of, is having trouble convincing the FDA their products are safe and the SEC and NYSE breathing down their necks. Now maybe this won’t all translate into the auditors’ magic wand but there’s got to other potential clients in the St. Louis area with far less drama.
K-V Pharmaceutical Company Engages BDO USA, LLP as Independent Registered Accountants [PR Newswire]
Notice of Delisting or Failure to Satisfy a Continued Listing Rule or Standard; Transfer of Listing [SEC]
Back in June we told you about Satyam requesting just a wee bit more time to nail down their restatement of their financial statements. It wasn’t because KPMG and Deloitte weren’t working their asses off, it was more of commitment to get things right. Putting good numbers out there, repairing broken trust, so on and so forth.
Well! The three month extension ends next month but as you might expect, there’s a bit of a problem. More specifically, KPMG is now saying that they haven’t received the documentation necessary to finish the job. Unless everyone is okay with some wild-ass guesses, in which case they can proceed.
[F]or all its documents, KPMG had to depend on the [Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”), which is investigating the scam.
NDTV has learnt that KPMG’s analysis of the documents don’t match with the CBI’s. There is a discrepancy between the two which amounts to over [$200 million].
CBI has based its calculations on estimates of Satyam’s assets and liabilities while KPMG says they need documentation to base their estimates.
KPMG says that they didn’t get all the documents needed to make a clear assessment which is why the accounts are likely to be re-stated full of riders.
But again, if you’re cool with some double-entry hocus-pocus, that can be arranged. There’s a merger at stake after all, “This confusion in the numbers could hold up Satyam’s merger with Tech Mahindra, which needs the go ahead from market regulators in India and the US, since Satyam is also listed in the US.”
Good luck getting that U.S. approval.
Auditors don’t know the meaning of ‘competition’ [FT]
In a letter to the Financial Times, David Herbinet, the UK Head of Public Interest Markets for Mazars, takes issue with the notion (he says ‘puzzled’) that there is robust competition in the audit market, “Figures calculated from the most authoritative research available – the Oxera report that first spurred examination of the issue – show that a FTSE 100 auditor can on average expect to remain in place for an eye-watering 48 years and their FTSE 250 counterpart for 36 years. When the research was conducted more than 70 per cent of the FTSE 100 audits had not been subject to tender for at over, 97 per cent of current FTSE 350 audits are held by just four firms. If this represents fierce competition I would not like to see a stagnant market.”
Facebook Said to Put Off IPO Until 2012 to Buy Time for Growth [Bloomberg]
“Facebook Inc. will probably put off its initial public offering until 2012, giving Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg more time to gain users and boost sales, three people familiar with the matter said.
Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing, instead of holding an IPO in 2011 as investors speculated, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Facebook doesn’t discuss share-sale plans. Still, Zuckerberg, who holds board control, could push for a stock sale at any time, they said.”
U.S. Financial System Still at Risk, Says IMF [WSJ]
Get RIGHT out of town. “The International Monetary Fund says the U.S. financial system is “slowly recovering,” but remains vulnerable to crisis, in part because Congress and the administration have failed to streamline a regulatory system marked by turf battles and overlapping responsibilities.
‘We asked many times why bolder action could not be undertaken,’ said the IMF’s Christopher Towe, who oversaw the agency’s first broad review of the U.S. financial sector.”
SEC Charges Citigroup and Two Executives for Misleading Investors About Exposure to Subprime Mortgage Assets [SEC]
That includes former CFO Gary Crittenden who agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.
Colbert on the Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts [TaxProf]
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word – Ownership Society|
Hinn says he accumulated the deficit in the past few months because offerings at some international appearances did not cover expenses.
Hinn’s reputation as an advocate of prosperity gospel has attracted millions of followers but has also drawn criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups.
He is one of six televangelists who have been targeted by federal lawmakers investigating compliance with IRS rules for nonprofits.
Hinn has said on his website that external auditors ensure his compliance with IRS regulations and that in 2008, 88 percent of the money he collected was spent on ministry.
For starters, can someone tell the Hinnmeister that external auditors’ word doesn’t mean shit? Second, try shopping for your clothes somewhere other than the David Copperfield consignment store and maybe you won’t have trouble covering your expenses.
BP replaces CEO and posts $17 billion quarterly loss [Reuters]
“Oil giant BP Plc launched a plan to repair its battered image in the United States on Tuesday, ditching its xecutive and promising to slim down by trebling an asset sale target to $30 billion.
However, the company, the target of public anger over its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, tempted further ire by denying it needed cultural change and offsetting the costs of the spill, including expected fines, against its taxes.
The tax move will cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $10 billion.”
Northern Rock CFO Banned And Fined GBP320,000 Over Bad Loans [Dow Jones]
“David Jones, the former chief financial officer of Northern Rock PLC, was Tuesday fined GBP320,000 and barred from working in finance after the Financial Services Authority found he misled investors about the bank’s bad loans in the lead-up to the bank’s eventual collapse.
Jones most recently was CFO at Northern Rock Asset Management PLC, the “bad bank” of the nationalized lender after a restructuring of its operations. He left the company in April because of the FSA investigation, a week after two former colleagues were fined and banned for their roles in making the bank’s 2006 bad-loan figures appear better than they were.”
Where will those next gen clients come from? [AccMan]
And what will ask of their professional service providers? Right now, Gen X and Millenials don’t compromise much of the client base but that will change quickly when Baby Boomers start retiring en masse. What these new business owners will ask of their service providers is not quite clear. Similar to the demands currently placed on employers, service providers will have to be flexible and innovative.
Bernanke Says Tax-Cut Extension Maintains Stimulus [Bloomberg]
“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said extending at least some of the tax cuts set to expire this year would help strengthen a U.S. economy still in need of stimulus and urged offsetting the move with increased revenue or lower spending.
‘In the short term I would believe that we ought to maintain a reasonable degree of fiscal support, stimulus for the economy,’ Bernanke said yesterday under questioning from the House Financial Services Committee’s senior Republican. ‘There are many ways to do that. This is one way.’ ”
Accounting firm Kaufman Rossin & Co. settles case for $9.6M [Miami Herald]
Kaufman Rossin was the auditor of the two Palm Beach funds that invested over a billion dollars with convicted Ponzi Schemer Tom Petters.
And in case you forgot, convicted forensic accountant and suit lover Lew Freeman was the Chief Restructuring Officer for the Palm Beach funds. Quite the cesspool.
How Low Self-Esteem Can Cost You The Job [Forbes]
Are you a low talker? No one is suggesting that you don’t know what you’re talking about but the perception could be that you don’t and in turn, It could be affecting your career.
Lords to probe audit market [Accountancy Age]
“A recent report from the FRC and FSA criticised the role of auditors during the crisis saying they had failed to tackle management bias.
The Lords investigation will look at basic questions such as wether Big Four dominance increases the price of audit and whether the market needs to be opened up.”
Oracle’s Ellison: Pay King [WSJ]
$1.84 billion over the last ten years is not too shabby.
Sales tax holidays 2010 [Don’t Mess with Taxes]
Kay Bell has a rundown of the sixteen states that are having sales tax holidays right before the kids go back to school.
Rep. Charles Rangel broke ethics rules, House panel finds [WaPo]
“A House ethics subcommittee announced Thursday that it found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel violated congressional ethics rules and that it will pr robably beginning in September. The panel is expected to make the details of his alleged violations public next Thursday.
Rangel (D-N.Y.) has been under the House ethics committee’s microscope since early 2008 after it was reported that he may have used his House position to benefit his financial interests. Two of the most serious inquiries have focused on Rangel’s failure to declare $239,000 to $831,000 in assets on his disclosure forms, and on his effort to raise money for a private center named after him at City College of New York using his congressional letterhead.”
Geithner: Taxes on Wealthiest to Rise [WSJ]
“The Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday, setting up a clash with Republicans and a small but vocal group of Democrats who want to delay the looming tax increases.
Mr. Geithner said the White House would allow taxes on top earners to increase in 2011 as part of an effort to bring down the U.S. budget deficit. He said the White House plans to extend expiring tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans, and expects to undertake a broader revision of the tax code next year.
‘We believe it is appropriate to let those tax cuts that go to the most fortunate expire,’ Mr. Geithner said at a breakfast with reporters.”
FASB Requires More Disclosures Around Credit Risk [Compliance Week]
“Accounting Standards Update No. 2010-20, Receivables (Topic 310) calls for more credit risk disclosures to give investors a better view of the credit risk in a company’s portfolio of receivables as well as the adequacy of its allowance for credit losses. Under the update, companies will be required to say more about aging receivables and credit quality indicators in particular.
The new disclosure requirements affect financing receivables and trade accounts receivable, including loans, trade accounts receivable that are greater than a year old, notes receivable, credit cards and receivables for certain leases. The new disclosure requirement does not affect short-term trade accounts receivable, receivables that are measured at fair value or the lower of cost or fair value, and debt securities.”
Convicted accountant Lewis Freeman’s friends urge leniency [Miami Herald]
“Miami’s go-to forensic accountant” Lewis Freeman is to be sentenced today for stealing nearly $3 million from victims of fraud who he was appointed to protect. He faces a dozen to fifteen years in prison but his friends and supporters have turned on the pity party, sending nearly 300 letters to Judge Paul Huck, asking for leniency.
“[E]very one of those letter writers also asks the judge to show mercy, emphasizing that the affable New York native should not have to languish in prison because he has done so much for institutions like his alma mater, the University of Miami, Miami Children’s Hospital and the Miami Children’s Museum, among others.”
No need for non-audit ban, regulator claims [Accountancy Age]
“Accountants will not have to give up their non-audit work for audit clients, under proposed guidelines released today, which have not recommended an outright ban, suggested by politicians in the wake of the financial crisis.
The Auditing Practices Board, of the Financial Reporting Council, which publishes guidance for auditors, does not believe an outright ban on non-audit services should be enacted and has instead proposed to tinker with present disclosure requirements.”
Could This Be a Real Deterrent? [Floyd Norris/NYT]
Despite the usual fare in the SEC’s settlement yesterday, Floyd Norris writes that the $4 million fine for Michael Dell and other executives is “refreshing.”
WaMu Shareholders Win Court Investigation of Biggest U.S. Bank Failure [Bloomberg]
WaMu gets their very own Anton Valukas! Colorful claims to come? “Shareholders of Washington Mutual Inc. won court approval of a new investigation of the biggest U.S. bank failure, further delaying the company’s effort to reorganize in bankruptcy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath in Wilmington, Delaware, agreed that an examiner should be appointed to review WaMu’s assets, including the value of a potential lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for their role in the 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual Bank.”
Ex-IRS agent pleads guilty [WaPo]
John Venuti was also with KPMG from 2002 to until this past January. WaPo reports that he was a “tax consultant and principal.”
“According to the plea agreement, Venuti did not file federal tax returns from 2001 to 2006. Each year, though, he requested and was granted a six-month extension, and made a total of $97,060 in payments along with the extension requests. Authorities said he owes more than $789,000 in back taxes.”
Reckitt to Buy Durex Maker SSL [WSJ]
“Pushing further into the lucrative over-the-counter medical market, U.K. consumer-goods firm Reckitt Benckiser PLC agreed on Wednesday to acquire health-care-product company SSL International PLC, in a deal that values the world’s biggest condom maker at £2.54 billion ($3.88 billion).”
FASB Reveals Second Attempt at Standard on Contingencies [Compliance Week]
“The standard differs from one the FASB published in June 2008, which called on companies to use some conjecture and provide estimates of possible outcomes. Corporate counsel in particular buried FASB with objections that the proposed approach would force disclosure of privileged information, especially by giving legal adversaries access to information that would compromise the outcome of disputes. The current proposal steers clear of any requirement for companies to make any predictions or estimates about possible outcomes.”
FTSE 100 audits require “significant improvement”, inspectors find [Accountancy Age]
“Auditors have also been accused of altering documents before handing them to regulators and putting cost savings ahead of quality, in the review by the Audit Inspection Unit (AIU).
The report raised a number of concerns following its inspection of 109 audits from AIM and the FTSE 350.
The report also found some cases where partners signed audit reports before the audit was complete and one instance when an auditor tried to alter an internal file after the AIU requested it. Auditors had also changed internal materiality thresholds, which effectively reduced their workload, and had also not applied enough scepticism to internal asset valuations.”
Unfortunately she doesn’t name names but use your imagination:
“We have investigations in the pipeline, across products, across institutions, coming out of the financial crisis,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said after testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing.
Asked if the bulk of the cases have already been brought to light, she said: “Not necessarily, not necessarily.”
So it’s a grab bag really. Although, as you may recall, Dick Fuld is on the record that E&Y was on board with whatever the dorks in accounting were doing. Or maybe MS is just messing with Congress. The situation remains fluid.
BDO International CEO Jeremy Newman is a little concerned about the trend of lowball audit fees out there. Now, those aren’t his exact words, in fact he calls it ‘‘extreme downward pressure on fees’ which still seems far more than honest than “my US colleagues call ‘fee compression.’”
He’s worried because he thinks that all this slumming around for any little opining job will lead to shoddy audits:
There is increasing evidence that fees are being forced down to such an extent that one worries this will encourage audit firms to ‘cut corners’ to reduce their own costs and thereby reduce audit quality – particularly given that the buyers of audit services (ie clients) do not monitor or determine audit quality which is a role taken on by regulators who are not involved in the pricing discussion between the client and the audit firm.
Yes, the man has evidence, courtesy of:
Canadian Public Accountability Board – “CPAB has learned that certain audit committees are pressuring firms to significantly reduce audit fees. This stance may be incompatible with the audit committees’ important role … in helping to ensure the integrity of financial reporting.”
Australian Securities and Investments Commission – “We will also focus on audit quality for new or existing audits where audit fees appear low or appear to have been reduced for reasons other than changes in the underlying business of the entity being audited.”
And he rounds it out with a quote from a speech given by Stephen Hadrill, the Chief Executive of the UK’s Financial Reporting Council, “There is a role for the market in setting higher expectations of auditors. So far the market has not played that role. Quite the opposite. It is more likely to applaud lower audit fees than higher quality.”
So if you’re desperate to retain some business or provide “client service” through the Wal Mart method, you’ll be on your own. As long as Newman is running the ship at BDO, they will be choosing quality over quantity, “despite the pressure on us to reduce costs,” no matter what other firms (read: Igbay Ourfay) are doing.
A Bizarre Market [CEO Insights]
Yesterday, the PCAOB released a 90 page proposal on confirmations because, presumably, auditors collectively suck at using them.
If you take exception with that notion, so be it, but the Board thought that rolling out a standard was necessary to give the opiners out there some guidance so they can get a little more bang for the buck (and give interns and A1s something to do when there is absolutely nothing going on) from confirmations.
Tammy Whitehouse over at Compliance Week fills us in on some of the details:
PCAOB member Steven Harris said the proposed standard expands the use of the confirmation process by requiring auditors to confirm receivables that arise from credit sales, loans, or other transactions; cash and other relationships with financial institutions; and other accounts or balances that pose a significant risk to the financial statements. Currently, auditors are required only to verify receivables if they arise from the sale of goods or services in the normal course of business.
The standard also would relax the requirements for confirmations written on paper, reflecting advances in electronic communication. The proposal would allow auditors to use electronic media to send confirmation requests and receive confirmation responses, and it would make provisions under certain circumstances for auditors to use direct access to a third party’s records to obtain the audit evidence they need.
Throw in your 2¢ by September 13th and gird your loins for audits after Dec. 15, 2011.
PCAOB Proposes New Auditing Standard on Confirmation [PCAOB]
PCAOB Plans New Requirements for Audit Confirmations [Compliance Week]
You know what sucks? Getting sued. Ask Bill Michael, KPMG’s UK head of FS. He’s pretty sick and tired of all the sue-happiness going on in the world today. Sure, the financial crisis nearly destroyed the world as we know it but dammit, blaming auditors is downright ludicrous. Why? Because it’s unfair.
Bill Michael, UK head of financial services at KPMG, attacked what he described as “unfair”, “deep pocket” lawsuits which pay “little or no attention to the balance of responsibility between auditor and management”.
“We operate in a highly litigious environment where the balance of risk and reward has driven us to a world of caveats,” said Mr Michael. “Any corporate failure or financial loss invariably carries with it the risk of suing the auditor.”
Right. Because in law school they teach future litigators to “pay attention to the balance of responsibility between auditor and management.” Supposedly Bill Mike would like everyone to start respecting the Big 4 business model and leave them alone to do their work. Because in case you hadn’t heard, this is a life and death matter for accounting firms, you know:
“I can tell you, we are acutely aware of risk management and its consequences from both an individual and a firm perspective.
“You only have to look at what happened to a great firm like Arthur Anderson after its audit of Enron,” said Mr Michael. Arthur Anderson was eventually cleared after its audit of the collapsed energy trader, but the accountancy has already folded as a result.
He also criticised the “enormous rewards for failure” in the banking industry, drawing attention to the way some of those responsible for the collapse of major firms were able to move to other banks or hedge funds.
“The risk-reward relationship is not only lop-sided; it impairs our ability to provide broader observations,” said Mr Michael.
Describing the sometimes tense relationship between accountants and the firms they are auditing, he said that each review often started with the premise of “we don’t trust you”.
So in other words, get your witch hunt on with the banks and hedgies but leave us the hell alone. Nobody likes us the way it is.
H&R Block names Alan Bennett as CEO [AP]
This all came about since Russ Smyth resigned, made official by a two sentence 8-K filing, “On June 30, 2010, Russell P. Smyth provided H&R Block, Inc. (the “Company”) with notice of his resignation as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, and as a director of the Company. The effective date of Mr. Smyth’s resignation from these positions is August 29, 2010, unless the Board of Directors selects an earlier date.”
It seems like there’s a quasi-exodus in the C-Suite at HRB as General Couns ned on Friday and the company is still on the hunt for a CFO after Becky Shulman left in April.
Yahoo CFO Aims to End Buy-High, Sell-Low Record on Deals [Bloomberg]
Tim Morse told Bloomberg that the company has been doing things completely bassackwards, “You’ve seen our track record on M&A with buying really high and selling pretty low,” Morse said in an interview. “We’ve got to be careful.”
Some examples of doing things exactly wrong include, “Yahoo, the second-biggest U.S. search engine, agreed to sell its HotJobs website for $225 million in February after paying about $436 million for it in 2002. In January, Yahoo sold Zimbra, an e-mail and collaboration unit, netting $100 million. Yahoo bought it in 2007 for $350 million.”
Auditors could face grillings from analysts [Accountancy Age]
“Steve Maslin, chair of the partnership oversight board at Grant Thornton, envisages an expanded audit role which may involve greater face-to-face time with stakeholders, including question and answer sessions at annual general meetings.
‘Many investors believe there is valuable information that gets discussed by the auditors with management and audit committees to which investors do not have access – and I think they are right,’ he said.”
Legg Mason CFO resigns [Baltimore Sun]
Get your resumé in now.
FEI Announces 2010 Hall of Fame Inductees [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Come on down! “FEI’s 2010 Hall of Fame inductees: Karl M. von der Heyden, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Financial Officer of PepsiCo, Inc., and Ulyesse J. LeGrange, retired Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of ExxonMobil Corporation’s U.S. Oil and Gas Operations.”
National Taxpayer Advocate Submits Mid-Year Report to Congress [IRS]
Nina Olson’s mid-year report to Congress has plenty to wade through so that means none of the members will likely read it. Fortunately the IRS narrowed the three biggies (Taxpayer Services, New Business and Tax-Exempt Organization Reporting Requirements, IRS Collection Practices) into a much more consumable version.
Open Letter to the [SEC]: Investigate Troubling Issues at Amedisys Missed by Wall Street Journal [White Collar Fraud]
In Sam Antar’s latest WTFU letter to the SEC, he details some issues at Amedisys which weren’t covered in the Journal‘s report from back in April. Since we are into the whole brevity thing, we won’t get into the number crunching here but things look fishy. Plus there’s this:
On September 3, 2009, Amedisys President and COO Larry Graham and Alice Ann Schwartz, its chief information officer, suddenly resigned from the company. Amedisys provided no reason for their resignations and simply said that the two execs “are leaving the company to pursue other interests.”
In my experience, sudden, unexpected executive departures are often a sign of problems beneath the surface. And while it could be entirely coincidental, the trends at Amedisys appear to be consistent with my experience.
But Sam doesn’t believe in coincidences.
Last week we ran a post courtesy of Sheryl Nash at CFOZone that discussed the tough 2010 that KV Pharmaceutical was having. Well, it’s getting worse. KPMG, not completely adverse to risk, ps and has dropped KVP like a sack of spuds.
In an 8-K rammed through just before quitting time yesterday, “On June 25, 2010, KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) notified K-V Pharmaceutical Company (the “Registrant” or the “Company”) that it had resigned from its engagement as the Registrant’s principal accountant. KPMG’s resignation was not recommended or approved by the Audit Committee of the Registrant’s Board of Directors.”
What was the problem, you ask? Where do we start? There’s a lot in this 8-K so we’ve bolded the good parts for you:
KPMG’s report on the consolidated financial statements of the Registrant and subsidiaries as of and for the year ended March 31, 2009 contained a separate paragraph stating that “As discussed in Note 3 to the consolidated financial statements, the Company has suspended the shipment of all products manufactured by the Company and must comply with a consent decree with the FDA before approved products can be reintroduced to the market. Significant negative impacts on operating results and cash flows from these actions including the potential inability of the Company to raise capital; suspension of manufacturing; significant uncertainties related to litigation and governmental inquiries; and debt covenant violations raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
The audit report of KPMG on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2009 did not contain any adverse opinion or disclaimer of opinion, nor was it qualified or modified as to uncertainty, audit scope, or accounting principles, except that KPMG’s report indicates that the Registrant did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2009 because of the effect of material weaknesses on the achievement of the objectives of the control criteria and contains an explanatory paragraph that states “Material weaknesses have been identified and included in management’s assessment in the areas of entity-level controls (control awareness, personnel, identification and addressing risks, monitoring of controls, remediation of deficiencies and communication of information), financial statement preparation and review procedures (manual journal entries, account reconciliations, spreadsheets, customer and supplier agreements, stock-based compensation, Medicaid rebates and income taxes) and the application of accounting principles (inventories, property and equipment, employee compensation, reserves for sales allowances and financing transactions).
We’ll interject here with…why didn’t they just admit, “We have internal controls in place but they suck. Every last one of the controls is ineffective and we’re really not sure they’re being performed anyway. In fact, we don’t even employee people with accounting degrees. We have a weekend COSO crash course to get temps up to speed.” ?
Back to the filing:
As of the date of their resignation, KPMG had not completed the audit of the consolidated financial statements and the effectiveness of the internal controls over financial reporting of the Registrant as of and for the year ended March 31, 2010. KPMG had informed the Audit Committee prior to the date of their resignation that upon completion of their audit of the consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended March 31, 2010 they expected their audit report would contain a separate paragraph expressing substantial doubt about the Registrant’s ability to continue as a going concern and their report on internal controls over financial reporting would indicate that the Registrant did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2010 because of the effect of material weaknesses reported as of March 31, 2009 that had not been remediated.
We’d continue but it’s probably not necessary.
Jonathan Weil over at Bloomberg has a new column up today and he is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court decision in FEF v. PCAOB than say, everyone else.
JW is mostly wondering why we should keep having an “independent” PCAOB inside the SEC since the board members will now be at the mercy of the towing the political line inside the Commission, “While the court
Evergreen Energy of Denver dismissed Deloitte effective June 23rd according to the company’s 8-K filing. Hein & Associates, a local Denver firm, will take it from here.
It stands to reason that Evergreen didn’t appreciate the going concern opinions that Deloitte gave the company for its December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2008 financial statements but in cordial SEC filing fashion, there are no parting shots from the company.
Evergreen’s press release indicates that this was simply an opportunity to throw some action to another firm (most likely with lower fees), “With the sale of certain Buckeye assets and our exit from the coal mining industry, Evergreen Energy has transitioned into a green technology company. This is an ideal time to switch to a Denver-based regional accounting firm with substantial public company expertise in the clean technology and software industries that can more cost effectively meet our needs.”
Deloitte’s letter to the SEC is abruptly admits that everything is cool rather than flat out saying, “you’ll be sorry you ever ditched us, you losers.”
Similarly, Measurement Specialties, Inc. showed KPMG the door for Ernst & Young. The company says everything was hunky-dory between the two although there was a small matter of the internal controls around a significant joint venture of which the company had no control. Oh, and the effectiveness of internal controls of some recent acquisitions also couldn’t be determined. But it was cool and the company said, “it was in the best interests of the Company to change its independent registered public accounting firm.”
KPMG has NFI what that means saying in their letter, “we are not in a position to agree or disagree with Measurement Specialties, Inc.’s statements relating to the reason for changing principal accountants.”
We wish everyone nothing but happiness.
FSA accuse auditors of failing to question management bias [Accountancy Age]
The Financial Services Authority has decided that it was about time it called out a few people, “Auditors have become yes men who don’t adequately question management bias according to concerns raised by the UK’s chief financial regulators. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Financial Reporting Council today released a scathing discussion paper into the profession following concerns raised in the wake of the financial crisis. Among its concerns is that auditors ‘portrays a worrying lack of skepticism’ when scrutinising potential management bias.”
Not onl ef=”http://www.accountancyage.com/accountancyage/news/2265630/fsa-audit-report-regulator”>FSA wants new enforcement powers including the ability to ” fine, censure or disqualify audit firms.” The FSA also wants to meet with auditors several times a year, rather than just once, as well as direct access to audit committees.
Alex to Become Hurricane as Swells Reach Gulf Spill [Bloomberg]
“Tropical Storm Alex, the first named system of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened today, forcing the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and pushing swells toward the worst U.S. oil spill.
The storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, was 460 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, before dawn today, moving north-northwest at 8 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The circulating winds were near reaching hurricane status of 74 mph.”
New York state may tax out-of-state hedge fund execs [Reuters]
Desperate idea of the day from the brain trust in Albany, “Recession-hit New York could raise an extra $50 million a year by collecting income taxes from people who work for hedge funds in the state but live elsewhere, according to a legislative plan to raise revenue…A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said by telephone on Monday that it means hedge fund managers would be treated the same way as other commuters.”
Aprill: The Impact of Bilski on Tax Strategy Patents [TaxProf Blog]
In non-PCAOB SCOTUS news, the decision in Bilski v. Kappos addressing “Whether a ‘process’ must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (‘machine-or-transformation’ test), to be eligible for patenting….” was examined by Ellen P. Aprill of Loyola-L.A. regarding the impact on tax strategy patents:
“Bilski is at best a mixed bag for those who think tax strategies should be patentable. It gives little help and does allow business method patents, albeit somewhat begrudgingly. It demonstrates that for those who believe that tax strategies should not be patented, legislation is needed.”
Method Man pleads guilty to NYC tax-evasion charge [AP]
“Hip-hop star Method Man pleaded guilty to a tax-evasion charge Monday, writing a check on the spot for the final $40,000 restitution payment after owing about $106,000.” What, no cash?
U.S. Court to Hear Janus Appeal In Securities Case [Reuters]
“The lawsuit, brought on behalf of those who bought Janus stock from mid-2000 through early September 2003, alleged that the prospectuses of several of Janus funds created the misleading impression that the company would adopt measures to curb market timing, when in fact secret arrangements with several hedge funds permitted such transactions, to the detriment of long-term investors.”
G-20 Agrees to Cut Debt [WSJ]
“The wealthiest of the Group of 20 countries said they would halve their government deficits by the year 2013 and ‘stabilize’ their debt loads by 2016, a signal to international markets and domestic political audiences they are taking seriously the need to wean themselves from stimulus spending.”
Once you catch your breath from laughing, the President also cited the tax code specifically and his threatening to put some (i.e. Congress) in a tight spot:
“They might have to make deeper cuts in deficits to comply with its pledge. A White House statement said that government debt in the fiscal year 15, would be at an “acceptable level.” President Obama said that next year he would present “very difficult choices” to the country in an effort to meet deficit goals.
The president cited his disappointment with the U.S. tax code. ‘Next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up, ’cause I’m calling their bluff,’ Mr. Obama said.”
Bank auditors eyed for whistleblower role [FT]
A paper from the UK’s Financial Services Authority puts forth the discussion of requiring auditors to work more closely with regulators on irregularities found during the bank’s audit engagement.
“Experts say bank executives are nervous about the prospect of increased bilateral discussions between regulators and auditors. Auditors have been fearful the paper could thrust the profession into a regulatory spotlight it has so far avoided.”
Koss Fraud: We didn’t bother to look at the endorsements on our own checks, but Grant Thornton should have! [Fraud Files Blog]
Fraud sage Tracy Coenen presents her latest view on the Koss fraud mish-mash and how Koss management has managed to make themselves “look like absolute morons.”
BP Loses $22 Billion in Legacy of Share Buybacks [Bloomberg]
“The sum represents the hole after the 52 percent plunge in BP shares since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, resulting in the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP bought back more than $37 billion of its stock in a bid to return money to investors between 2005 and 2008. Those shares are now worth $15 billion, excluding dividends.”
Martin Ginsburg, Noted Tax Lawyer and Husband of Justice Ginsburg, R.I.P. [ATL]
Mr Ginsburg was a tax law professor at Georgetown for many years and was known for his great sense of humor, as evidenced by his faculty bio, noted by our sister site, Above the Law:
Professor Ginsburg is co-author, with Jack S. Levin of Chicago, of Mergers, Acquisitions, and Buyouts, a semi-annually updated treatise which addresses tax and other aspects of this exciting subject. The portions of the treatise written by Professor Ginsburg are, he is certain, easily identified and quite superb.
Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission Part 9: Overstock.com’s Excuses Simply Don’t Add Up [White Collar Fraud]
It appears Sam Antar has caught Overstock.com in another disclosure snafu but this time it isn’t really clear whether the company gave the wrong excuse, lied to the SEC or simply doesn’t know what they’re doing, “Overstock.com’s 2008 10-K report claimed that a reportable “gain contingency” existed as of November 7, 2008. However, the company contradicted itself and claimed to the SEC reviewers that reportable reportable ‘gain contingency’ did not exist on November 7, 2008.
If Overstock.com’s 10-K disclosure is true, the company’s explanation to the SEC Division of Corporation Finance can’t be true. Likewise, if Overstock.com’s explanation to the SEC Division of Corporation Finance is true, the company’s 2008 10-K disclosure can’t be true.”
Accounts bodies revise workplan [FT]
Well! You might have thought that Koss would just handle this Sue Sachdeva situation like gentlemen headphonesmiths but you would have thought wrong! Koss is suing S-squared and Grant Thornton for their respective roles in the alleged embezzlement of $31 million from the Brew Town company.
Well! You might have thought that Koss would just handle this Sue Sachdeva situation like gentlemen headphonesmiths but you would have thought wrong!
Koss is suing S-squared and Grant Thornton for their respective roles in the alleged embezzlement of $31 million from the Brew Town company.