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What’s With This AADB Investigation of KPMG?

Yesterday, the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) in the UK announced that they would be reviewing a decade’s worth of audits performed by KPMG for BAE Systems, the British Defense Contractor.

You see, the defense industry revels in some dark corners of the business world and BAE is no exception. The company plead guilty back in February that involved some “commissions” (some may call them “bribes”) paid to “third party agents” (some may call them “arms dealers”) to secure some business in various countries. Even though this was all settled recently the company was probably hopinforgotten about the whole thing:

The accounting probe threatens to reopen a damaging chapter in BAE’s history, eight months after the company paid almost $450m to settle a high-profile, transatlantic bribery investigation by the US Department of Justice and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.

Right. So now, presumably because they thought it would be fun, the AADB is curious about what KPMG knew about these “commissions” and “third parties”:

AADB said it would investigate KPMG’s advice to BAE on the operations of three of its offshore companies, Red Diamond Trading, Poseidon Trading Investments and Novelmight.

“The regulator is looking specifically at the audit of commissions paid by BAE to outside agents, any tax advice given by KPMG on commission payments and the status of three offshore companies linked to BAE … penalties could include an unlimited fine for KPMG,” said Credit Agricole analyst Thomas Mesmin.

Well! The prospect for unlimited fine is interesting, to say the least. For their part, KPMG is cooperating with the investigation because, well, what else are they going to do? A spokesman told Reuters, “[T]he firm does not believe there has been any act of misconduct [and that] it will be cooperating fully with the AADB to ensure that the matter is brought to a swift conclusion,” which, as we all know, runs on an audio loop on the firm’s automated press inquiries line.

Meanwhile, some people are just tickled pink with these developments:

Campaign Against the Arms Trade spokeswoman Kaye Stearman told the Star: “We are delighted to see that the AADB is investigating KPMG audits of BAE, even so belatedly. These subsidiary companies were crucial in channelling so-called commission payments. It is vital that this investigation is done thoroughly and well and that any fraud and collusion uncovered is severely punished.”

The thing is, KPMG’s (or any accounting firm) involvement with BAE (or any defense contractor) has to be one of mixed feelings.

On the one hand, you’ve got extremely profitable international businesses that build all these cool toys that fly, blow things up and go into space.

On the other, a lot of their customers are the shifty type, they probably keep lots of secrets and – OH YEAHtheir products are designed to kill people.

But once you get passed all that, you realize it’s simply a business needing professional services and who better to provide it than a Big 4 firm, amiright?

KPMG in UK probe over BAE accounts [FT]
KPMG to be investigated over BAE Systems audits [Reuters]
Warm response for KPMG investigation [Morning Star]

Accounting News Roundup: Brits Investigating Services KPMG Provided BAE Systems; How Many Times Did Harry Reid Vote to Increase Taxes?; PwC Scoffs at ‘Big 5’ Idea | 10.25.10

BofA Finds Foreclosure Document Errors [WSJ]
The Charlotte, N.C., lender discovered errors in 10 to 25 out of the first several hundred foreclosure cases it examined starting last Monday. The problems included improper paperwork, lack of signatures and missing files, said people familiar with the results. In certain cases, information about the property and payment history didn’t match.

KPMG investigated over BAE audit [Accountancy Age]
The investigation by the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) focusBritish Aerospace/BAE Systems between 1997 and 2007, looking at commissions paid by BAE to subsidiaries, agents or other companies.

Any professional advice, consultancy or tax work provided to BAE by KPMG during that period will also come under the microscope in relation to commission payments. The investigation will focus on commissions connected to three legal entities: Red Diamond Trading; Poseidon Trading Investments; and Novelmight.

Key Tax Breaks at Risk as Panel Looks at Cuts [WSJ]
The tax benefits are hugely popular with the public but they have drawn the panel’s focus, in part because the White House has said these and other breaks cost the government about $1 trillion a year.

At stake, in addition to the mortgage-interest deductions, are child tax credits and the ability of employees to pay their portion of their health-insurance tab with pretax dollars. Commission officials are expected to look at preserving these breaks but at a lower level, according to people familiar with the matter.

Harry Reid Voted to Raise Taxes ‘Only’ 51 Times [TaxProf Blog]
Apparently there was some talk that it was actually in the ballpark of 300.

Reflections on the Basel Committee Principles for Enhancing Corporate Governance [Marks on Governance/IIA]
News you can use.

Business leaders press administration for repeat on tax break [On the Money/The Hill]
The National Association of Manufacturers and other groups argue allowing companies to “repatriate” money earned abroad to the U.S. at a lower tax rate could spur the economy by providing businesses with a burst of cash they could invest in their companies.

“The business community is looking at ways to jumpstart the economic recovery and here is one you could do without increasing the deficit,” Dorothy Coleman, vice president of tax and domestic economic policy for the manufacturers.

PwC slates FRC idea to create Big Five [Accountancy Age]
Paul Woolston, head of public sector assurance at PwC, criticised the Financial Reporting Council’s suggestion the Audit Commission be used to create a fifth player in the audit industry, currently dominated by the Big Four – PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG.

“It is at least ironic that the FRC has said what it has, in that the Audit Commission itself has operated with a large monopoly,” he said.

“It is odd that the FRC is concerned about any one organisation having the market share.”

SEC Aims to Streamline Complaint Process [WSJ]
The launch is a step in the agency’s efforts to avoid bottlenecks and duplication in the handling of complaints, which traditionally have been fielded by individual SEC offices and filed there. Complicating matters is the variety of forms in which such complaints come—mail, phone calls, emails and interviews.

“This process is going to ensure that it’s all transferred into a structured format so that it can be more easily searched and analyzed,” Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement, said in an interview.

“We will have all of it in one place, searchable, which will do a lot for us in the long run,” he said.

Thus Far under Obama, the Only Individuals Paying Higher Taxes Are Smokers and Tanners, But They May Have Company Soon [Tax Foundation]
Jersey Shore quips go here.