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German Government Was Under the Impression That a ‘Certified Audit’ Would Find a 55 Billion Euro Accounting Error
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.
As you may have heard, 150 years ago today Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter which began the Civil War. This war turned out to be a pretty big deal as the Union victory effectively ended slavery. But what you may not be aware of is that it also led to the first income tax in our fair land.
From our friend and tax maven-cum-historian Joe Kristan (who somehow has time to post with less than a week to go in tax season):
The consequences of the war, surely unintended by the operators of this gun, included the end of slavery, a horrific death toll, and the first Federal income tax. While the tax was repealed after the war, the idea stayed alive; the federal income tax came back in 1913, and is still with us. So while you struggle with your 1040, save a word of “thanks” for General P.G.T. Beauregard and the rest of the Confederates who attacked Ft. Sumter.
Funny thing – lots of people in the South manage to have no tax liability so aside from LOSING THE WAR the whole thing is probably NBD.
Noted john and co-star of Parker & Spitzer, Eliot Spitzer, has a few choice words for everyone out there that helped facilitate all the corporate malfeasance from the last few years. Specifically, when your clients want to do something that you know is sketch and you gave them a pass before? That shit has to stop. And not with the attitude of “pretty please with sugar on top – no – Sugar, the brunette from last time.” For real, this shit has to stop.
“Facilitators — and we’re all part of it — lawyers, investment bankers and accountants. Our purpose is to be hired to justify the actions that are being taken by CEOs and others to run their businesses, and over time what has happened is that we have lost our backbone. We have lost our willingness to stand up and say, ‘Stop.’ There are a bunch of reasons for this. I’ve been in private practice and I know how those pressures are. We don’t like to look at our clients and say, ‘No, you can’t do that. I’m not writing an opinion letter that justifies that valuation.’ We don’t like to write a letter to the CEO saying, ‘No, you don’t deserve a 50 percent bonus.’ Those things don’t happen very often because we succumb to the pressures of our clients.”
The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.
A.O. Scott, currently movie critic for The New York Times, wrote a column in the Times‘ Week in Review (May 9. 2010) titled. “Gen X Has a Midlife Crisis.” He used film references such as “The Big Chill” for Ba recent “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Greenberg” for Gen X (his generation). He also references “The Ask,” a novel relating to Gen Xers as fodder for his view.
Scott characterizes Gen X as over-educated, insecure, coming of age in the late 80s and early 90s. He also ascribes to Gen Xers the phrases: “consumerist banality,” “the attempt to camouflage sincere confusion with winking insouciance,” “the obsession with generalizing a personal experience,” “we did what we could: the slogan of the underachiever, the excuse maker, the loser.” (Is his language off-putting to you too?)
I think it is unfair to characterize a whole generation this way, Further, there are big differences between the older and younger halves of the Gen X cohort (1962-1978) as there are with the Boomer generation, and my guess is that Scott is referring mostly to the Xers on the older end.
Yet the arts reflect the culture the artists are observing, so what do the patterns and kernels of truth in the films, books, etc, tell us? What will engage members of that generation to be the leaders and achievers they need to be?
* More than other generations, Gen X may blame Boomers for blocking their opportunity and their underachieving. Unlike Gen Y/Millennials, they are not typically optimistic about their future at times of economic setbacks, and they don’t expect help.
* Gen Xers don’t look to others (older or younger) to explain their confusion or uncertainty.
* Gen Xers have a harder time trusting than other generations, having seen how the workplace social contract broke down for their parents and has never been particularly welcoming to them. In the workplace, they typically do not and will not place a premium on helping others and “making your fellow players look great” (as stated in the most important rule of improv performance).
* Materialism is evident. They outdo the Boomers in pursuit of luxury brands and symbols.
* Gen Xers (and Gen Y too) want freedom as represented by time, rewards in money and time, and to decide how to spend their time. The aspiration is “The Four-Hour Work-Week.” They were the first generation to see technology enable that. They work hard to create flexibility at an early age rather than waiting to achieve seniority and retirement. Gen Y is even more adamant about flexibility.
* Xers are resourceful personally (though not necessarily in groups), yet often feel like losers.
* Gen Y trusts group consensus or group determined “truth.” They expect help and resent Gen Xers who don’t specify expectations and don’t give them guidance, and call them spoiled, entitled, and over-protected. If not addressed in an enlightened way, this tension doesn’t portend well for long-tern engagement and productivity in the workplace as we know it.
Since Gen Xers, for a short time at least, are the next generation of leaders we all must look to, how can they capitalize on the strengths of their generation – which are often overlooked? And how can all the generations support them in using those strengths such as: self-sufficiency, desire for flexibility, results-orientation, entrepreneurial attitude, getting the job done wherever and however they choose, and belief in merit-based rewards to change deficient and debilitating business models for the better in a global context?
This is an important topic for future discussion and needs to start with a sincere expression of respect and candid dialogue in a non-threatening environment.
© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2010. All rights reserved.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over 20 years, with a special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners (www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com). Phyllis is the author of The Rainmaking Machine and The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both West 2010). [email protected]. URL: www.pdcounsel.com.
Plus, one of the (alleged!) tax fraudsters is facing seven counts of manslaughter. Impressive.
James Pflueger, a landowner facing seven counts of manslaughter on Kauai for the deaths of seven people killed when the Kaloko dam broke in 2006, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury for tax fraud.
Altogether, five defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for the purpose of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service in its collection of taxes.
They include Pflueger’s son, Charles Alan Pflueger, who owns car dealership Pflueger Inc.; company chief financial officer Randall Ken Kurata; Charles Alan Pflueger’s executive assistant, Julie Ann Kam; and certified public accountant Dennis Lawrence Duban.
James Pflueger, 83, is the former owner of the company.
The Plfuegers are proven business people but they simply can’t be expected to have the first damn clue about these tax matters:
Dave Scheper, an attorney representing Charles Alan Pflueger, issued a statement denying any wrongdoing by his client and also vowed a vigorous defense.
“He is a proven businessperson who always acts in good faith, but he is not and has never pretended to be a tax accountant,” Scheper said.
So naturally, the blame is going straight to the CPA in this case, Dennis Duban, but not because he screwed over Pflueger & son and their sterling reputations but because he just plain sucks at preparing tax returns.
An attorney for Duban said he looks forward to arguing the case in court. “We are confident that after a jury hears all of the evidence, Dennis will be completely exonerated,” said attorney Michael Purpura.
This is one of those cases where it will take about five minutes of poking the accountant with a stick and he’ll flip.
Just a hunch.
A federal jury on Thursday convicted the co-founder of an Islamic charity chapter who was accused of helping smuggle $150,000 to Muslim fighters in Chechnya.
Pete Seda was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and one count of filing a false tax return. His lawyers said they would appeal.
But forget religion for a minute. What burns us up is that this guy Seda is blaming his accountant for the whole mess:
Seda claimed the money was intended as a tithe that his accountant failed to disclose on a tax return for the U.S. chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland, Ore. The foundation has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
On the other hand, isn’t throwing an accountant under the bus something all religions can embrace? We’re searching for the common ground here, people.
“Nic is happy that it is resolved.”
~ A TMZ “source,” on the settlement reached between NC and his former accountant, who were both blaming each other for Cage’s financial trubs.
Accounting News Roundup: GM Still Lacks Effective Internal Control System; The Ten Highest State Income Tax Rates; How to Know When Your Boss Is Lying | 08.20.10
GM filing warns on reporting [Detroit Free Press]
This may come as a shock but General Motors, despite filing paperwork for its IPO, admits that they still don’t have effective internal controls.
“[I]n regulatory filings about its upcoming initial public offering, GM warned potential investors that ‘our internal controls of financial reporting are currently not effective.’
Experts are divided on whether the warning — one of about 30 risk factors identified by GM in a document describing a planned sale of shares — is just an obscure accounting matter or a red flag that taints GM’s financial reporting
The 10 Highest State Income Tax Rates For 2010 [Forbes]
If you’re single and make $200k or $400k and married in Hawaii, you get dinged for 11%, the highest ranking state on the list. Dark horse Iowa comes in at #5 gets 8.98% of taxable income over $64,261. That’s above New Jersey and New York tied at #6.
Transocean accuses BP of withholding data on Deepwater Horizon and oil spill [WaPo]
Just when you thought the ugliness was slowing down (at least in the media coverage), ” Even as they work together to kill the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant BP and the deep-water drilling rig company Transocean are in an increasingly bitter battle over what went wrong on April 20 to trigger America’s worst oil spill.
The conflict flared Thursday when Transocean fired off a scathing letter accusing BP of hoarding information and test results related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 people, including nine Transocean employees. Signed by Transocean’s acting co-general counsel, Steven L. Roberts, the letter says that Transocean’s internal investigation of what went wrong has been hampered by BP’s refusal to deliver ‘even the most basic information’ about the event.
‘[I]t appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any entity other than BP from investigating the cause of the April 20th incident and the resulting spill,’ the letter states, and it demands a long list of technical documents and lab tests.”
How to tell when your boss is lying [The Economist]
Apparently cursing is a good sign.
Koss reports smaller quarterly loss on 14% sales decline [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
The company lost $423,450 for the six months ended June 30th. They spent $1.12 million on legal fees related to Suzy Sachdeva.