12 years ago my former colleague Caleb Newquist published a post titled “Do Accounting Firms Care if You’re On Drugs?” A good chunk of that post describes Wall Streeters getting blitzed at real estate investment trust companies because back in those days accounting news was extra slow and we wrote about a lot more finance-adjacent […]
From the mailbag:
Hi Caleb, I have a question about accounting firms in the Mid-West and whether or not drug testing is done pre-employment or on a random basis. I have searched the internet as well as Going Concern and have come up with a 50/50 mix of yes and no. It’s a tough question to find an answer to, and I can’t exactly ask around if you know what I mean. Seems like an appropriate question for Going Concern right?
It is an appropriate question, my fretful friend. Unfortunately, it is one that doesn’t have a definitive answer. Back in my House of Klynveld days in New York I worked on-site at a large investment bank that perilously close an amazing ‘shroom burger. This particular client required a drug test for all on-site contractors. KPMG did not require a drug test and I do not recall if employees were subjected to random testing.
As the headline suggests, we’ve covered this topic before, around this time last year. To my knowledge, no other Big 4 firms require a drug test as a condition of employment but clients are on a case-by-case basis. My suspicion would be that the second tier (i.e. GT, BDO, McG) would not require a test for condition of employment but anything’s possible.
Regionals are probably more of a crapshoot. Generally, it seems rare that a service-oriented business would subject anyone to drug testing since there isn’t any heavy machinery or children (aside from man-babies) around. In fact, we’ve all been privy to those co-workers who seem to be capital market servant rockstars when they’re unusually FOCUSED. Similarly, those that choose to fire up AK-47 after a rough day rather than pop Adderrall in the loo aren’t causing any harm.
My opinion is this – drug testing isn’t necessary for anyone until it starts affecting other people. Of course the policies of these firms are seemingly fluid, so if you’ve been subjected to a test randomly or just to walk in the door, let us know in the comments.
“The public has every right to conclude that auditors who hold themselves out as independent will stand up to management and notsuccumb to pressure to avoid rocking the boat.”
Recent data suggests that Wall Street types are still doing drugs with unsurprisingly regularity but their tastes have changed with the seriousness of the times.
That is, they’ve traded in the hard-charging llelo fueled days of ’06 – ’07 with a more reserved and apathetic ganja attitude of ’09 – ’10. Trading coke for pot. Blow fo e all know that accountants follow/chase the money so we can safely assume that their proclivities for drug usage have followed suit.
However, you rarely hear about drug abuse problems at accounting firms. So where is all this drug use happening? Apparently, it’s going down at REITs:
The highest levels of abuse seem to be at real estate investment trust companies, a sector that, incidentally, does more random testing than others.
But the test results generally capture drug use among new hires, candidates who knew that they would likely be tested. Random drug testing is rare, according to a spokesman for a bulge-bracket bank who asked to remain unnamed.
Among existing employees, psychologists and counselors say that drug abuse has not slackened. Some even say it is peaking, exacerbated by the credit crisis and the volatile and tenuous recovery that has ensued.
As the article states, random drug testing is already rare but where it happens the least isn’t mentioned.
But like we said, you rarely hear about the drug use that goes on at accounting firms. Which makes us wonder if it’s because it’s not happening period. To our knowledge – accounting firms don’t give employees drug tests as a condition of employment and simply defer to clients who require them (a certain Swiss Bank with proximity to shroom burgers comes to mind).
We’re not suggesting that every Big 4 office is like Bernie Madoff’s north pole but there’s enough of it happening that there is a presence within the firms.
It’s no surprise. You Big 4 types (and anyone at a CPA firm for that matter) go through your personal hell on a seasonal (or maybe a constant) basis so there’s probably a direct correlation with your usage and the time of year. For example – that tax manager that manages to work night after night after night with amazing focus as the final 2010 deadlines draw near? You think they just plug themselves in when they finally go home to recharge for the next day?
Plus, as you’re acutely aware, it’s not just the illegal drugs that are popular, “[T]he rage these days is a Pez dispenser with the head of a red devil. Inside? Pills of Oxycodone or Percocet.” And don’t forget the people that have been popping Adderall since college so they can study for 12 straight hours. That has simply carried over into the 14-15 hour days for X amount of consecutive days during busy season.
And don’t get us started on people who get addicted to fast food (a drug in its own right) in order to save time and eat at their desks. The chemicals in the food from [pick your chain] are just as addictive as any drug off the street or from the pharmacy and cause just as much damage to our bodies.
But as you’ve no doubt heard over and over in the peanut gallery, getting your work done is ultimately what matters. Come hell or high water. Come dependancy, insane weight loss or insane weight gain. And lots of people do whatever it takes to cope with that reality.
So? What’s the scoop these days inside your firm? Are drug tests just a section of your offer letter that you agree to, only to be never reminded of it again? Anyone every been tested? We understand that no one is operating heavy machinery out there but bad things can still happen, quite possibly in the name of client service.