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Eliot Spitzer Would Like You to Find Your Spine

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.”

Spitzer Calls Accountants ‘Facilitators’ for Corporate Abuse [AT]

Your Client Dumps You Because…

Sometimes the reason for your firm getting the boot is pretty obvious and other times it isn’t. Fortunately for you, Tom Hood over at CPA Success lists the top seven reasons that your clients drop you like a sack of rocks and it sounds like the “It’s not you, it’s me” routine:

1. My accountant (CPA) doesn’t treat me right (two-thirds of the responses).
2. CPAs ignore their clients.
3. CPAs fail to cooperate.
4. CPAs let partner contact lapse.
5. CPAs do not keep clients informed.
6. CPAs assume clients are technicians.
7. CPAs use clients as training ground for new staff.

#1 seems a little vague (feel free to elaborate) to us but we’ve definitely seen 2 – 7 in action. We’d go so far to say that #4 and #7 are a little low on the list but that’s just our $0.02. Smaller clients, especially, want just a tiny bit of partner love every once in a while — lunch, bagels, anything! — but sometimes they’re lucky if they get a Christmas card.
Plus there are some clients that hate nothing more than an engagement team that turns over year after year. There’s nothing more annoying than answering the same questions every year by a different 22 year old accountant.
If you’ve got thoughts on, or additions to, the list drop them in the comments and discuss your client dissatisfaction experiences.

Is Beckstead & Watts a Real Firm?

beckstead&watts.jpgWe kid, we kid. We’re sure it’s a real firm but they don’t seem to have time for professional services these days.
B&W is the audit firm plaintiff in Free Enterprise Fund and Beckstead and Watts, LLP v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board that was heard before the SCOTUS earlier this month.
We were pointed to the B&W website which you might notice, is entirely devoted to its case against the PCAOB. As far as we can tell, there isn’t any indication that the firm provides, you know, professional services.
The page does link to the 2006 Accounting Today article that mentions Brad Beckstead as one of the “100 Most Influential People” because he serves as “the symbol of the very opposition to reform the law” but there’s no mention of his superstar auditing abilities.
Even stranger is the firm’s latest PCAOB report which could indicate that the firm is indeed open for business except the report states that the firm doesn’t have any professional staff or issuer audit clients.
So can we assume that the firm’s purpose of being is to serve as the poor audit firm that is taking on the PCAOB? We admire the gusto but what happens when the case is over? Seems like a lot of trouble just for spite.
2006 Top 100 Most Influential People.pdf
Beckstead & Watts PCAOB Report 6.29.09.pdf

CPAs Can Be Heros Too

hero.jpgCPAs clients’ have high expectations. Not only do you have to provide timely, exceptional service, you never know when your client might go off the deep end. And we’re talking your typical, frantic phone call, going off the deep end. We’re dealing with ‘My life is over, I can’t go on’ deep end:

[Barry] Schimel recounted how one of his clients was suicidal, so they spent 10 hours driving around talking about the clients’ problems until he got the client back home and safe. He believes the job of the accountant is to make the client successful and more profitable. “Your role is to turn obstacles into an opportunity for clients,” he said.

Not only does Schimel have clients that are in personal distress, he also has some that got the short end of the stick in the smarts department:

Another client was a trash-hauling company that didn’t know it was being charged extra at the dumping station because its drivers remained inside their trucks while the load was being weighed. Once Schimel’s firm pointed this out, the supervisors soon made sure their drivers got out of their trucks, lightening the scales.

This Schimel guy might be our personal hero. A CPA that literally saves lives and doesn’t rub their clients noses in shit when they do something stupid. Who knew this was even possible? Young CPAs, this is your idol.
How to Be a Hero to Clients [Web CPA Debits & Credits]

Are the Big 4 Driving Away Small Clients?

Ignore.jpgAccountancy Age reports today that smaller firms in the UK are cleaning up at the expense of the Big 4, specifically audit clients. The Four Horsemen are claiming cost pressure but small firms see it a little differently.
More, after the jump

Melissa Bowers, partner with Macclesfield-based firm Harts LLP, points to the Big Four’s practice of using senior partners to ‘seal the deal’ while leaving junior employees to do the grunt work, which has alienated smaller clients. This practice, combined with cost pressure, has driven audit clients into the arms of local firms. She has won work from clients who employed the same auditor for more than a generation…’It is possibly smaller work for them and they are possibly not giving them the same priority and attention.’

There’s no question that the cost pressure is an issue but what small clients really want, like a fat kid wants cookies, is some love from the partner. They’re not interested in a barely sober first year associate doing testwork. Clients want the partner to show up with the corporate card in hand ready to charm the pants off of them.
The other consideration is that clients just don’t care if they’ve got a big name on their audit:

Michael Good, partner at Oxford-based firm Critchleys, said that he believed smaller clients are no longer willing to fork out money for a big brand name firm. ‘They are asking themselves “do we need to pay the premium?” and “what are we getting for the premium?” and they are saying “actually not a lot”,’ he said.
‘Up to £20,000 for a big firm is not a big audit.’

We’d assume that here in the States, the sitch is no different. Small clients want to save money and they want to be someone special not just another contract that a partner has to take the rubber stamp to for the sake of his practice.
Discuss in the comments the trend here in the States. For you Big 4 types, are your smaller clients jumping ship because you’re treating them like the red-headed stepchild? Small firm bean counters are you picking up these clients? Feel free to get ugly about it, since most of you checked out on Monday, it will probably be a slow day.
Smaller firms clean up as recession sees audit clients shun the Big Four [Accountancy Age]