Last week we heard from a number of people on the topic of Citigroup’s internal controls that while it didn’t sound like they were quite up to snuff, KPMG was somehow cool with it and Vikram Pandit signed his name to it, saying that everything was hunky dory.
Now along with bloggers and journalists, the scourge of Citigroup, CLSA analyst Mike Mayo, has decided to get into the act:
Citigroup may have violated Sarbanes-Oxley with its 2007 10-K submission, in our opinion. The new information relates to letters from regulators that were only revealed earlier this year as part of the FCIC archive. We believe these letters between Citi and the Fed, Citi and the OCC, and the OCC with internal staff, imply that Citi should have known about internal control shortfalls for the year 2007 and was directly told about them by the OCC only eight days before the 10-K was signed. Also, Citi reported large unexpected losses with less than two months left in the year. Thus, the lingering question in our mind is why Citi signed off on its 2007 10-K as having effective controls in light of such problems. This information is still relevant today because it reflects on the magnitude of the risk shortfalls and what we feel is the higher-than-perceived task of turning them around.
That’s from Mayo’s update on the bank, dated today, and along with the “opinion” on a Sarbanes-Oxley violation, he has a few questions:
To what extent was the audit committee and board at Citi aware of the concerns voiced by various regulators at the time, and who gave the advice to sign the 10-K? To what extent has Citi’s board examined the issue since the release of letters from the FCIC? Has the SEC and DOJ looked into this matter?
We bolded that portion since it might – just might – be referring to KPMG and the apparent disregard everyone had for the letter sent to Citigroup from the OCC. Of course, not everyone always agrees with Mayo, namely Dick Bové who has gave HofK the thumbs up although it was obvious that he’d never heard of the firm. Bové hasn’t weighed in on this particular report but it’s only Monday.
Anyway, Citigroup remains steadfast in their thoughts on the matter, telling The Street’s Lauren Tara LaCapra that the “certifications were entirely appropriate,” although things increasingly seem to be pointing to the possibility that wasn’t the case. A message left for Marianne Carlton, a KPMG spokeswoman, hasn’t been returned.
The long-awaited PCAOB inspection report of KPMG came out on Friday and while we were excited for this unveiling, the Board managed to issue the report at around 4 pm on Friday. Since the Board lacks any sense of timing whatsoever, we opted to punt on our respective post until today because well, we’re human and not a soulless blogging robot as likely perceived by TPTB at the PCAOB.
It’s worth mentioning that this is the first PCAOB report that has been issued since the SEC’s final rule on the inspections that allows audit firms to postpone the release of the report simply by taking issue with any of the findings. Since any appeal could reportedly delay the report by “30 to 100 days,” it’s safe to assume that, with a report date of October 5th, KPMG didn’t have a beef with the findings. You could also assume that since the SEC is taking a peek at these reports now, there’s going to be a ten day lag on the release of the report to allow the Commission enough time to give it their extra-special sniff test.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand –
KPMG had eight issuers noted in the Board’s inspection report and the first two are doozies. “Issuer A” runs approximately two pages and includes failure on testing of “allowance for loan losses” to “test[ing] the issuer’s estimates of fair values of financial instruments” and goodwill impairment.
“Issuer B” is a little more interesting since one of the failures the Board found was related to deferred tax assets which makes us wonder if this is Citi, since analyst Mike Mayo was loudly questioning the bank’s treatment of its DTA. Francine McKenna not-so-subtly solicited guesses on Friday as to who this “bank” might be (even though no issuer is identified as such) but it does make us wonder.
The Board cites run-of-the-mill failures for the rest of the issuers (e.g. fair value testing, pension plan testing, failure to confirm cash[!]) and the House of Klynveld’s response letter was cordial and anticlimactic.
But if you’re KPMG, do you really care what the PCAOB thinks when you’ve got an adorable gnome-ish looking analyst giving you the tepid thumbs-up (despite not knowing your name)? That’s the only endorsement we would need.
And you know he’s not messin’ because that’s what he told Charlie Gasparino and God knows you best not lie to the Fox Business Network’s ace reporter. Sure Bové didn’t actually say “KPMG” (hell, he’s probably never heard the name) but he’s giving credit to auditors which is about as unheard of as Tiger Woods using Trojans with hookers.
Bové may have mentioned some other things about Mike Mayo, Citi, Deferred Tax Assets so on and so forth but we’re sure you’re not worried about that.
Btw, if you need to get caught up on just who Dick Bové is, go here. Courtesy of FBN:
On Citi’s apparent cold shoulder towards analyst Mike Mayo:
“It’s totally wrong. Mike Mayo is a brilliant analyst. He’s been in this business for a long period of time and does a superb job of following the industry. To say he can’t come in and speak to the company in my view is absolutely and totally incorrect.”
On whether Mike Mayo’s accusations against Citigroup’s risk management lapses are accurate:
“Absolutely. In September of 2008, Citigroup was effectively bankrupt. The reason why it was bankrupt was the reason that Mike cites. It was that the risk management procedures had completely broken down and it was not effectively managing its portfolio. Mike is right on that comment.”
On why we should believe Citi on its accounting reports:
“We don’t have to take Citigroup’s answer to Mike Mayo. We can take a look at the fact that this company is audited by an exceptional group of auditors. They are regulated by a large number of bank regulators…and they actually are being audited for their tax issues right now by the IRS. All three of these groups agree with the public statements of Citigroup concerning DTAs.”
“What is the basis for saying that these three groups which have seen the numbers don’t know what they are talking about, whereas people that have not seen the numbers, do know what they are talking about.”
On whether Citi has been given a clean bill of health by the SEC, IRS and the Fed:
“We do have an audited financial statement which is not questioning the DTAs. We do have bank regulators who could have memorandums of understating with Citigroup if they believed there was a problem. Citi is estimated to earn by Mike Mayo $9 billion this year. Next year he estimates the company to show a 33 percent increase in earnings to $12 billion. If there is a DTA problem, why is there a belief that the company can jump its earnings by 33 percent from 2010 to 2011?”
We’ve been assured by the wonderful people at Fox that we will have video of this momentous (and perhaps unprecedented) occasion just as soon as it’s available.
UPDATE: AS WE SUSPECTED! Not only was the initial report mis-transcribed, check out Dick’s reaction to Gasparino’s question, “It’s KPMG I believe, correct?” around the 2:37 mark:
Pretty obvious that the dude has never heard of KPMG in his life.