Charlie Gasparino is reporting that the SEC probe in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy is “ramping up” and that the Commission is under hella-pressure to bring civil charges against Dick Fuld, Ernst & Young and whoever else is on the list.
It’s unclear if the SEC can muster the necessary proof to show that top executives like former CEO Richard Fuld or the firm’s outside auditor Ernst & Young intentionally misled investors about the health of Lehman’s balance sheet in the months before it filed for bankruptcy in mid-September 2008, according to people close to the probe…It’s unclear when any charges might be filed by the SEC, but people close to the inquiry say the SEC believes it does bring one, it must do so “very soon,” possibly within a few months given a combination of the outrage over the report’s findings and that Lehman’s bankruptcy is going on two years old.
Okay, so things are urgent but not that urgent. It’ll be Father’s Day maybe the 4th of July by the time we get a Mary Schapiro smackdown.
But that’s not all! Things are really serious at Ernst & Young now because Charlie reports that E&Y “has hired high-profile white-collar attorney William McLucas as its outside counsel in the matter, people close to the firm say. McLucas had been the SEC’s enforcement chief before entering private practice.” We checked with our friends over at ATL and it turns out that Mr McLucas is a partner at high-powered WilmerHale and was lead counsel to the special committee of the Enron Board that reported “hard-hitting findings” (sayeth he).
Since Mr McLucas doesn’t take shit from the likes of short-seller Jim Chanos, we’ll take Charlie’s word that things are pretty serious over at 5 Times Square.
E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins declined to comment.
A little more from inside E&Y to round out the week. We got a tip earlier in the week that there was an oddly-timed town hall going on in Chicago this week. Our tipster indicated that the meetings usually occur after the June 30 year-end or in September.
We asked around and from the sounds of it, the meeting amounted to an extremely sober pep rally. The need for a little HR cheerleading is completely understandable, considering the month E&Y has had.
“[T]hey just talked about how they know morale is down, yet no plans for how to fix it. Additionally, they said there would be raises this year, but no mention of how large or small…[and] your basic HR ‘Thank’s for your help’ stuff.”
We haven’t heard the details for the cause “low morale” but it’s quite possible that it could be due, at least in part, to the ehmanlay rothersbay uckshowfay. Plus, busy season is in the home stretch and most people are just over it at this point. As far as fix for morale, our suggestions of Canadidan Tuxes, Timberlands and Hitler videos are obviously being ignored with extreme prejudice. We’re all out of suggestions. Maybe they aren’t the best ideas but at least we’re trying.
The silver lining here is that comp increases are still on the agenda after the initial announcement made by Steve Howe back in January. If they go back on this promise — we’re confident they won’t — you can just blame it on Dick Fuld.
So maybe you heard about Ernst & Young and how they kinda, sorta didn’t bring up the shady accounting going on over at Lehman Brothers to the audit committee until a Matthew Lee, your fired whistleblower du jour, brought it up. Some people have suggested that if E&Y had made a single peep about this prior to, say, 2008, maybe we wouldn’t be having this discussion (okay, we’d probably still be having it).
The controversy over this incommunicado has now jolted the PCAOB into action as the they have announced an open meeting for Monday at 9:30 am sharp. Basically, they want to feel everyone out on a standard for required communication for auditors with the audit committees.
As Emily Chasan of Reuters notes, “The PCAOB has considered issuing rules on this issue for the past several years to formalize ways that auditors are expected to communicate with the audit committee of the company they are auditing,” but in classic reactionary fashion, nothing has been done up to this point. Now that we’ve had bankruptcy reports, recycled stories in the press, E&Y hating back the haters, and everything else in this shitstorm, the PCAOB is ready to talk about this.
So, if you’ve got no plans on Monday morning and happen to be in DC, head over to hear the discussion and throw in your $0.02. In the meantime, we’d love to hear some of your suggestions for mandatory talking points from the serious (e.g. accounting treatment that makes the partner even slightly queasy) to the über-ridiculous (e.g. biggest whore on the audit team).
“Efforts to manage the size of our balance sheet are routine and appropriate, and we believe our actions are consistent with all applicable accounting and legal requirements.”
~ Bank of America statement on the allegations that they engaged in balance sheet manipulation. A statement not so different from Ernst & Young’s on their final audit of Lehman Brothers.
• Dodd Seeks U.S. Inquiry Into Lehman’s Accounting [DealBook]
Late on Friday, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Lehman Brothers’ “accounting manipulation” that contributed to its bankruptcy. According to his letter, Dodd also wants the DOJ to investigate “other companies that may have engaged in similar accounting manipulation with a view to prosecution of employees or agents who contributed to any violations of the law.”
With the exception of Lehman, Dodd did not name any companies specifically. He wrote, “We must work tirelessly to reduce the incidence of financial fraud in order to restore trust and confidence in the financial markets. A task force investigation and taking appropriate Federal actions in these matters will contribute to these goals.”
• An Ernst & Young Response: Dear Audit Committee Member… [Re: The Auditors]
Ernst & Young is on the offensive, telling everyone who will listen their position on the results of the Bankruptcy Examiner’s report. The ubiquitous Enron and Andersen comparisons in the MSM — while cliché and misleading — have motivated E&Y to reach to audit committee members that ulitmately decide whether E&Y will be providing services to their companies. Francine McKenna posted the letter noting, “I guess they know where their bread is buttered: With the guys who hire and fire them in the Fortune 500.”
The firm addresses everything from the actual accounting, “The media reports that these were ‘sham transactions’ designed to off-load Lehman’s ‘bad assets’ are inaccurate,” to whistleblower Matthew Lee’s letter, “When we learned of the letter, our lead partner promptly called the Audit Committee Chair; we also insisted that Lehman’s management inform the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank of the letter.”
Naturally, the firm plans to defend themselves vigorously stating, “EY is confident we will prevail should any of the potential claims identified against us be pursued.”
• Obama Hails Vote on Health Care as Answering ‘the Call of History’ [NYT]
Last night, the Senate bill was approved by the House, 219-212, and it could be headed back to the Senate for final approval as early as this week. In a shocker, Democrat and GOP views on the bill don’t seem to be converging as one Dem legislator described it as “the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century,” while a GOP member described the bill as, “a fiscal Frankenstein.”
• GOP targets IRS in latest health battle [The Hill via TaxProf]
The GOP is still fighting the health care bill tooth and nail and this may be the most effective strategy we’ve seen so far. Forget about debating coverage, preexisting conditions, etc. etc. Just name drop the IRS and a large group of people may change their minds about the whole thing.
“This is a vast expanse of power,” said Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) during a Thursday call organized by Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee. He said the IRS provisions in the healthcare bill “dangerously expand, in an ominous way, the tentacles of the IRS and its reach into every American family.”
On the surface this appears to be the typical GOP “the IRS is eeeevilllll” pandering but the real concern should be that the Service already has a lot to do. The Hill reports that if taxpayers are required to purchase health care insurance but fail to do so they could face fines. The IRS would be responsible for administering and collecting these fines.
Add that to this small task, “The IRS retrieved $2.35 trillion in 2009 by processing 236 million tax returns. It also is working to reduce a $345 billion gap in the taxes it collects and should collect.” Not to mention they’re trying to update systems, answer more phone calls, getting into high speed car chases. There’s always a lot going on.
• Lehman’s Auditor Goes Blind From the Cooking [Bloomberg]
Jonathan Weil is not buying what Ernst & Young is selling. He reports that E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins denied that the firm had “mischaracertized [the Bankruptcy Examiner’s] findings,” and characterized it this way, “[B]y E&Y’s twisted logic, it would be possible for a company to lie in its financial statements about its off-balance-sheet liabilities, and still manage to account correctly for them in the same financial statements. Imagine that.”
Weil takes off the gloves and digs up some old bodies, namely: partners recently sentenced to prison time for tax shelters; Bally’s (including vice chair Randy Fletchall); HealthSouth; Cendant (man, he’s going way back). Weil then thinks out loud, “With that kind of track record, it’s a wonder anyone would accept anything this firm says at face value again.”
• Jerry York, Iconic CFO, Dies at 71 [CFO]
Served as CFO for IBM, Chrysler. Adviser to Kirk Kerkorian and board member at Apple.
From an upset Ernster on the Left Coast:
EY Blocks all Websites with “sports” because of March Madness. People in my SoCal office are all ticked off. This sucks. First it was pandora and now it is sports websites. What is next? Lunch breaks? Bathroom breaks?
Music, sports, food, bodily functions. That seems like the right order, doesn’t it?
Since our source sounds pretty upset, this must not be an annual ritual for E&Y. It’s also not clear if this some kind of punishment for everyone showing up hungover today or if it is somehow Lehman Brothers related. Let us know if you’re blacked out at we’ll send you updates.
UPDATE, 6:43 pm: Turns out this was just temporary, THANK GOD:
It turns out there was an internal webcast about Lehman Bros so they shut down all sports websites during the webcast because it was interferring with the webcast. Sports websites are back up but there were a lot of people who were ticked off and went home to work.
Damn you Lehman Brothers! We knew it! So now the question is, what was said on the webcast? Anyone take copious notes?
Okay then! Not exactly what you’d want to hear from a former SEC Chairman on Monday but what’s a former SEC honcho to do? Paint a rosy picture for everyone? Hell no! The man is gong to get real about this latest bank/accounting firm disaster. Barron’s ran down Harv to get his $0.02 on the whole Lehman/E&Y sitch and he he laid it out for Dick Fuld, E&Y, et al. as how to best handle this dicey situation.
Regarding the timing of a response to the report, you best explain yourselves ASAP and while you’re at it, none of that fancy-schmancy language. Everyone needs to be able to understand this:
If they want to avoid the logical consequences of the ReportÃ¢Â€Â™s conclusions-and none of those consequences are at all good for either Fuld or E&Y-they will need to come forward quickly with a very plain, easily understandable explanation of the errors or their defenses. The longer it takes them to do that, the less likelihood they will have of mitigating the publicity the ReportÃ¢Â€Â™s allegations have already received.
Consequences, you ask? How about indictments? How about no more SEC clients for E&Y? Next Andersen? Maybe! Shockingly, the SEC seems to be dragging its feet, per the usual standard operating procedure (emphasis original):
Many are wondering why there hasnÃ¢Â€Â™t been any action taken, and why the government hasnÃ¢Â€Â™t reported on the same events itself. Criminal prosecutions are possible, as are SEC civil actions. For Fuld, an SEC action could mean that he would forfeit his right to participate in the securities industry and possible disgorgement of monies he received over the years from Lehman. For E&Y, the SEC has the power to suspend their right to practice accounting, limit their ability to take on new clients, and impose remedial sanctions.
Yeah, that last part is kind of the crux. As you may recall, Andersen did not bite the dust because of the money it had to pay to Enron investors but because it’s reputation took such a bad hit that states began revoking their license even before the firm voluntarily surrendered its license to practice before the SEC. This occurred after Andersen clients started running away from the firm like a band of lepers. There’s no indication that’s what will happen to E&Y but there’s a 2,200 page report with E&Y’s name all over that says nothing flattering about the firm.
And say what you want about Harvey Pitt: bearded Bush yes-man, lawyer, whatever. As far as we can tell, he has nothing to gain by throwing out wild-ass speculation about what the possible outcomes could be.
If you’ve ever worked at a Big 4 firm, you’re aware that when big news hits the MSM, A) it’s never good and B) there is typically some sort of communication from management reiterating the firm’s position on the matter, everything is cool, thanks for your hard work, etc. etc.
With last week’s revelation of the bankruptcy examiner’s report on Lehman Brothers, E&Y seems to be following this protocol as it relates to the troops on the ground. As you would expect, leadership is keeping their heads about this while in the background in-house counsel is likely engaged in all-night smoky room strategy sessions.
We checked in with a few of our Ernst & Young sources to get an idea of what people were thinking and so far, there doesn’t sound like there are any signs of panic (yet!).
From one source:
Overall reaction from what I gathered is pretty muted. We did get a call from some of the higher-ups saying that we reviewed our work and that we feel that our audit was completely adequate and that Lehman’s failure was nothing more than the same systemic failure of two of the other major banks and that we plan to defend ourselves vigorously. Presumably, the examiner’s report really didn’t give any ah-ha moments….
[I]s there a possibility of a payout at some point? It’s possible. Are we worried that we’re the next Arthur Andersen? I don’t think so.
So at least on the surface, E&Y leadership is communicating that what came out in the report wasn’t surprising and that the defense of the firm’s position will be, as usual, vigorous.
That doesn’t of course stop the speculation:
I heard from a technical guy there was some concern because they didn’t issue a going concern opinion [for the previous audit].
And as you might expect, “I heard that [the firm] helped cook the books and is deep shit,” with the book cooking being arguable but pretty hard to prove and the “deep shit” aspect being a given.
Some Ernst & Young partners are probably losing sleep just thinking about the potential liability involved here but eventually they’ll get over it (until something else comes up).
No partner worth their salt got admitted to the partnership focusing on the downside. The problem is that when people use consistently use words like “deceptive” and “misleading” to describe Lehman’s accounting this reflects poorly on the firm since they were comfortable with the treatment.
And because it’s still busy season for a lot of people, they are focused on the shitstorm that currently surrounds them, not one that will likely drag on for years after they’ve left the firm (voluntarily or otherwise).
Anyone with more insight or thoughts on the matter, get in touch with us and we’ll keep you updated on the chatter inside E&Y.
“A successful lawsuit against E&Y could result in a court finding that the failure to properly advise the audit committee prevented Lehman from taking genuine steps to substantially reduce its leverage, which may have saved the firm from bankruptcy. Which is to say, E&Y could find itself blamed for all the losses to Lehman shareholders. That would be a stretch – such a claim would be speculative – but it still should be scaring the heck out of the partners.”
Maybe it’s because everyone is still working like crazy and couldn’t get away for a TV appearance. Maybe Jim Turley couldn’t find decent footwear but how CNBC managed to get only ONE accounting expert in on this panel to talk about the Ernst & Young, Dick Fuld, et al. Sarbanes-Oxley and the Repo 105 is beyond our comprehension. Throw in four journalists and a “fellow” and you’ve got yourself quite the free-wheeling discussion on the double-entry system.
Personally, “[N]ot technically violating the rules, that’s why the auditors could kind of sign off on it even though it was incredibly misleading and deceptive,” was our favorite line.
But the poor accounting expert seemed to be a nervous wreck. Aren’t wet bars standard?
Late yesterday, U.S. Bankruptcy Examiner Anton Valukus released a 2,200 page report that details the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It points the finger at Lehman execs for engaging in shady accounting that Ernst & Young knew about and was comfortable with. Lehman’s Board of Directors were not informed of the questionable accounting treatment.
To put it in more technical terms: Ernst & Young is in deep shit. The lead partner on the Lehman audwed more times than Dick Fuld for crissakes.
The accounting in question was known inside Lehman as “Repo 105.” These transactions moved billions of dollars off of Lehman’s balance sheet that were described by emails in the report as “basically window dressing” and their global financial describing them as having “no substance.” The Times reports that the treatment was so crucial to LEH that one executive, Herbert McCade, was known internally as the “balance sheet czar” and that he described in an email that the treatment was “another drug we r on.”
The really bad part for Ernst & Young is that they were okay with the “drug.” From the report, the lead partner stated that E&Y “had been aware of Lehman’s Repo 105 policy and transactions for many years.” For you wonky types, Lehman was accounting for these “Repo 105” transactions based on guidance from Statement on Financial Reporting Standard 140, Accounting for Transfers of Financial Assets and Repurchase Financing Transactions.
E&Y’s “team had a number of additional conversations with Lehman about Repo 105 over the years,” although they were not involved with drafting the policy nor did the firm provide any advisory services related to the transactions. According to the lead partner on the engagement, the firm simply “bec[a]me comfortable with the Policy for purposes of auditing financial statements.”
The problem, according to the Examiner’s report is that E&Y was okay with the treatment based on the theory:
Ernst & Young’s view, however, was not based upon an analysis of whether actual Repo 105 transactions complied with SFAS 140. Rather, Ernst & Young’s review of Lehman’s Repo 105 Accounting Policy was purely “theoretical.” In other words, Ernst & Young solely assessed Lehman’s understanding of the requirements of SFAS 140 in the abstract and as reflected in its Accounting Policy; Ernst & Young did not opine on the propriety of the transactions as a balance sheet management tool.
According to Lehman’s Global Financial Controller Martin Kelly, “Ernst & Young ‘was comfortable with the treatment under GAAP for the same reasons that Lehman was comfortable.'” Don’t you love it when things work out like that?
Ernst & Young has issued a statement that simply addresses the final audit that the firm performed: “Our last audit of the company was for the fiscal year ending Nov. 30, 2007. Our opinion indicated that Lehman’s financial statements for that year were fairly presented in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and we remain of that view.”
SO! E&Y is in a bit of a pickle. Civil suits have already been filed against both firms and more investigations will certainly be coming. If you’ve got some time over the weekend, take a flip through this beauty. We know there is accounting porn in there for some of you.
• JPMorgan, Citigroup Helped Cause Lehman Collapse, Report Says [Bloomberg]
There’s so much blame to go around: Dick Fuld! Every Lehman CFO that ever worked there! JP Morgan, Citi, Ernst & Young (who we’ll get to shortly), you’re all at fault too! But mostly Dick Fuld. He was putting lots of pressure on Lehman’s balance sheet magicians to reduce the bank’s debt. The report states that Fuld was “at least grossly negligent” and if it gets worse than that, you’ll certainly hear about it.
According to the Bankruptcy Examiner’s report, there was plenty of parties that didn’t help matters. JP Morgan and Citi were demanding more collateral from Lehman as the firm tried to stave off death while E&Y sat back as LEH got all hocus-pocus with their accounting. So pick a company or person you don’t like and point the finger. It sounds like an argument can be made.
All this amounts to largest bankruptcy in history and boy will it sell a helluva lot of books, movie tickets, and HBO subscriptions. Silver lining!
• Trader faces up to 6 1/2 years in prison [Bloomberg via Boston Globe]
Former Boston Provident CFO Ezra Levy pleaded guilty to securities and wire fraud after being accused of stealing $3 million from New York-based Boston Provident Partners, LP. Levy told the judge that he used the money to pay ‘personal expenses’ although no word on what the loot was. Presumably not a fleet of limos.
• We Bought A Toxic Asset; You Can Watch It Die [NPR]
Ever dreamed of owning just a small piece of a toxic asset just watch the slow, agonizing death? Of course! Some reporters at NPR chipped in to invest $1,000 in a bond with over 2,000 bad, really bad mortgages all for the sake of journalistic interest. If the team somehow manages to make money it’s going to charity.
• First things first: Don’t forget that it’s National Employee Appreciation Day 2010. [GC]
• Public employees union criticizes data loss deal [AP via CNBC]
Remember how PricewaterhouseCoopers lost the records of 77,000 Alaska public employees and retirees? PwC, trying to be a standup corporate citizen, took responsibility for the slip-up and promised those affected all kinds of stuff including identity theft protection, credit mo ty freezes. Hell, they said they would even reimburse any losses that occurred due to identity theft.
Shockingly, that wasn’t good enough for some people. The Alaska State Employees Association is pretty bent out of shape about the deal the state took and wants them to go back and get more. MORE. MORE!
Specifically, it wants the affected people to be automatically enrolled into the firm’s credit protection services, instead of being required to opt-in. The union also questioned why those services will only be available for a minimum of two years, though consequences of the data loss may pop up long after the services expire.
“We think that’s shortsighted to put a two-year period on it,” said union business manager Jim Duncan. “It doesn’t adequately protect our members or retirees.”
Alaska’s Department of Law is perfectly okay with the deal and if they could have gotten P. Dubs to give everyone lifetime guarantees, by God, they would have. But it wasn’t in the cards, “[Assistant attorney general Ed Sniffen] characterized it as a generous settlement that the Department of Law is pleased with. And unless new information indicates the parties weren’t negotiating in good faith, renegotiation is unlikely.”
Besides, if an employee becomes an identity theft victim, they can still sue PwC for damages. And that’s really what this country is all about; the ability to blame someone else and sue their ass.
• Levin To Chair Tax-Writing Ways And Means Panel [AP via NPR]
Representative Sander M. Levin (D-MI) will serve as the new Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee after Charlie Rangel gave up the Chairmanship under pressure for ethics violations.
Mr Levin represents the 12th district in Michigan and has served in Congress since 1982 and is the older brother of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).
Levin takes the gavel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially appointed Pete Stark of California. It’s entirely possible that Speaker Pelosi realized that Mr Stark might not be the most diplomatic member of the House; he has a history of just saying whatever comes to mind like:
• Calling Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) a “whore for the insurance industry.”
• Arguing with Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO): “You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp. Come over here and make me, I dare you. You little fruitcake.”
• That former President George W. Bush was amused by soldiers getting their heads blown off in Iraq.
Among other things.
• BP pays E&Y £54m in fees [Accountancy Age]
Now before you start screaming about the money, you should know that the fees are actually down significantly from the last two years. In ’08 E&Y got £67m and £75m in ’07. Beyond Petroleum says they’re doing things more efficiently in the ‘audit process’ and reducing tax and other services. See? Tough times all around.
Of course the investors are appealing but one win at at time, amiright?
The suits were filed in the fall by investors who lost millions in the LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection fund which had 95% of its fund invested with Bernie Madoff. The fund claims that it had $1.4 billion in net assets a month prior to Madoff’s arrest.
UBS acted as the custodian while E&Y was the auditor and were sued for “seriously neglecting” their supervisory duties for the fund. Investors in the fund filed more than 100 lawsuits against the two companies.
Luxembourg’s commercial court said in a ruling today concerning 10 test cases that investors can’t bring individual lawsuits for damages. The court said it’s up to the liquidators of the funds that invested with Madoff to seek the “recovery of the capital assets.”
In other words, UBS and E&Y, you’re going to get sued by Irving Picard de Luxembourg rather than 100+ pissed off individuals whose life savings went *poof*. Setting legal precedent aside, taking emotion of the equation works wonders for making an argument.
UBS, Ernst & Young Win Bid to Block Madoff Lawsuits [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
We might be a little late to the party on this but it just recently came across our desk and since trying to get a post up today is akin to turning water into wine, we’re running with it. And, frankly, if a large portion of you regularly read the “Public Accounting Report” we’ll be blown (BLOWN!) away.
The determination of the ranking isn’t entirely clear to us so we’ll just go for some superficial analysis on Crowe Horwath (#1 on the list) and the Big 4:
• Crowe Horwath #1 – Net gain of 24 clients; net gain in audited revenue of approximately $4 billion; net gain in assets audited of $18.4 billion; net revenue to the firm of $11 million.
• PwC #2 – Net loss of 8 clients; net gain in audited revenue of $34.9 billion; net gain in assets audited of $2.68 billion; net revenue to the firm of $8.4 million.
• KPMG #5 – Net loss of 1 client; net gain in audited revenue of over $12.9 billion; net loss in assets audited of $61.4 billion; net loss in revenue to the firm of $19.5 million.
• Ernst & Young #9 – Net loss of 30 clients; net gain in audited revenue of $5.3 billion; net loss in assets audited of $53.8 billion; net loss in revenue to the firm of $36.7 million.
• Deloitte #10 – Net loss of 7 clients; net loss in audited revenue of over $90.5 billion; net loss in assets audited of $718 billion; net loss in revenue to the firm of $74.7 million.
Crowe Horwath’s net gain of 24 clients is easily the highest of the firms presented and they’re the only firm that has increases in all the categories presented. Kinda makes you wonder why they had such a steady stream of layoffs in 2009. We’re open to suggestions and wild-ass theories on this topic.
On the losing end, Deloitte’s loss of huge clients due to the financial apocalypse has been noted by our contributor Francine McKenna and is noted by the PAR:
The firm landed the most wins of any of the Big Four firms for 2009, 46, garnering 3.5% of the overall SEC audit wins for the year. Overall, the Big Four won 7.5% of the auditor changes reported during the first three months of 2005. What relegated the firm to last place in the standings was two huge loses: UAL, to E&Y, and Merril Lynch’s acquisition by Bank of America.
All that added up to nearly $75 million in lost audit fee revenue for Deloitte. In terms of the number clients lost, E&Y managed to cruise to that title with net loss of 30 clients:
E&Y captured some sizable wins for the year, notably UAL/Chicago (Revenue: $20.19 billion) from Deloitte and Apple/Cupertino, Calif. (Revenue $32.48 billion) from KPMG. But its gains couldn’t offset losses for the year of Tyson, Sovereign Bancorp and Nalco Holding, to name a few notable losses.
The end result of this client musical chairs doesn’t really add up to much in terms of revenue for any of the firms. Even the $75 million lost by Deloitte is a drop in the bucket compared to their fiscal year ’09 revenue of $26.1 billion.
Peruse as you numbers see fit and feel free to wave the flag.
Today in unaudited stripper expense news, two Ernst & Young auditors have been accused in an SEC enforcement action for not investigating a “tax loan” that was misappropriated by a Chicago investment adviser.
John Orrechio founded AA Capital, Inc. in 2002 and he immediately started wining and dining potential clients (primarily unions) in Detroit and Las Vegas. In August of ’03, Orrechio started dating a Detroit stripper (as these stories often go) and he started spending truckloads of money on her and her family. Shortly thereafter, in 2004, Orrechio started taking money directly from client’s tax accounts to fund said his lifestyle and the lifestyle of said stripper.
Orrechio’s stripper fund must have ran dry at some point and he decided to pursue other methods of financing his
family fun time. Since he probably wasn’t too keen on letting everyone in on his little problem, Orrechio told his CFO, Mary Beth Stevens, that he owed a grip to the IRS because of his ownership in one of the affiliate private equity fund and that E&Y screwed up filing one of his tax returns:
Orecchio told Stevens that he needed to borrow money to pay his taxes. At Orecchio’s direction, Stevens withdrew $602,150 from AA Capital’s client trust accounts and then wired the money to Orecchio’s personal bank account.
Between May and December 2004, Stevens made three additional disbursements to Orecchio to pay his purported tax liability. During 2004, Orecchio received a total of four separate disbursements under the guise of the “tax loan” totaling approximately $1.92 million.
Ms Stevens, probably not wanting upset the boss (i.e. get in the way of a man and his stripper girlfriend), played ball. When the two auditors in question, Gerard Oprins and Wendy McNeely, learned of this tax loan, they are accused of doing, well, not much:
20. After learning about Orecchio’s purported “tax loan,” Oprins and McNeeley failed properly to evaluate the transaction or require other audit team members to do so. The audit team did not obtain any documentation reflecting Orecchio’s tax liability or the terms of the “tax loan.” They did not discuss the “tax loan” with Orecchio. They did not take steps to confirm Stevens’ statements that Orecchio “made a payment to the IRS for $1,921,050” or that the “tax loan” would be repaid by Orecchio or the IRS during 2005. They did not take steps to assess the collectability of the “tax loan.” They also failed to discuss Orecchio’s tax liability with their colleagues in Ernst & Young’s tax department who prepared the tax filings for AA Capital and its affiliated private equity funds.
21. Oprins and McNeeley also failed to scrutinize Orecchio’s “tax loan,” or require other audit team members to do so, in light of several red flags that the audit team encountered related to Orecchio’s spending habits.
This all led to an unqualified opinion issued by Ernst & Young on AA Capital’s and AA Capital Equity Fund’s (the affiliated private equity fund) 2004 financial statements. Because of the undisclosed stripper piggy bank, the actions of the auditors amounted to financial statements that weren’t in accordance with GAAP and an audit that wasn’t performed in accordance with GAAS.
An Ernst & Young spokesperson declined to comment.
The two auditors are accused of “improper professional conduct” which could result in the two not being allowed to appear or practice before the SEC, which, if you were to ask Harry Markopolos, will save you the trouble of working with idiots.
~ Update includes quote from Britt Aboutaleb of Fashionista
We meant to get to this on Friday but there was a social engagement occurring that couldn’t be avoided; you know how it is. Anyhoo, the Ernst & Young CEO sat down with Bloomberg last Friday to talk tax policy and we found a few things rather interesting. Watch and we’ll chat about some things after the jump:
First things first: How about the two hotties that Bloomberg threw at JT?
Second: why does the MSM always refer to the “Big 4” as the “so-called Big 4”? Does Big 4 carry some negative connotation in some corners of society or is it meant to be a not-so-subtle dig, like when you call the token short guy on your team “big guy”?
Third and of utmost importance: what’s with JT’s footwear? Are those Timberlands? Does he just put on whatever the wife lays out for him or did she happen to take all of his wingtips to the cobbler this week? OR did he just get back from hiking the Appalachian Trail à la Mark Sanford?
Whatever the situation is, they look like they’ve gotten some good use. We’re not sure what Jimbo likes to do for recreation but it must involve some rugged backdrops that may involve him wearing a flannel shirt and chopping wood.
Britt Aboutaleb, one of the editors of our sister site, Fashionsita, had these thoughts, “I can’t even see the shoes — they look like they’ve emerged from a swamp! Maybe he forgot the shoes he was supposed to change into after trekking through the snow? Or maybe he didn’t realize his feet would be caught on camera…”
God, we hope JT could have arranged for some car service rather than schlepping through the snow. On the other hand, maybe walking to interviews is part of a green initiative? Either way, he could have brought the shoes along and changed into them. Just a thought.
On the other, to say that this is a fashion faux-pas would be an understatement akin to saying “E&Y had a few layoffs last year.”
If you’re given the task of running down assets that are left over from a Ponzi scheme, you’d think somone would throw in a little something for the effort. That stolen money is going to find itself after all.
Well! Apparently this is not so, especially as it relates to UK recovery firm Vantis. Vantis has been scouring the Earth for any of the plunder left over from the Allen Stanford hide the $7 billion game.
Six months into it, Vantis can’t get paid for its treasure hunt services and now Ernst & Young has said that the firm’s very life is at stake if they can’t start convincing some people to pay up.
Among the excuses that Vantis is claiming are the fact that most of the assets in the U.S. have been frozen and that the U.S. liquidator Ralph Janvey doesn’t play nice.
But hey! They’re still confident everything will be hunk-dory, “The UK recovery firm said it remained ‘confident’ that it would be able to recover its fees ‘in due course’ but said the timing remained uncertain.”
So more or less you’re day-to-day, right? Welcome to the prestigious Club of Those Ripped off by Allen Stanford.
One of the best things about making partner is that, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up on a board of directors someday. You get a nice chunk of change for sitting in some meetings pretending like you’re responsible for a company. Pretty simple.
Just like Sue James, a former E&Y partner. She was introduced as one of the new directors at Yahoo! The 8-K filed by Yahoo lays out her comp:
Ms. James will participate in the current director compensation arrangements applicable to non-employee directors. Under the terms of those arrangements, Ms. James will receive an annual retainer of $80,000 for her service on the Board, an additional annual retainer of $35,000 for serving as Chair of the Audit Committee of the Board, and will participate in Yahoo!’s other compensation programs for its non-employee directors. In addition, Ms. James is expected to receive in February, subject to Board approval, a grant of restricted stock units under the Company’s 1996 Directors’ Stock Plan with the number of such units to be determined by the Board at the time of the grant
Not too shabby. The filing doesn’t outline her rights to the facilities but for that kind of money she could, at the very least, arrange to have a rent-a-john parked outside Yahoo! HQ.
As you’re all aware, your working environment is crucial to your productivity (or lack thereof). The slightest change can throw off your mojo for days or weeks at time. Maybe indefinitely.
So when we heard that the E&Y Long Island office had moved from Melville to Jericho we were concerned for the professionals in that office.
Brand new office in EY spirit, bright white, yellow partner and senior manager offices, orange walls in the enormous staff through manager room. We have super tiny cubes with really short walls where you just sit up an inch and you can see the person across from you. No space heaters or mini fridges allowed and you aren’t allowed to put up anything on you [sic] “cube” / “workstation” walls. They have to remain white. Oh and the bathroom requires a key in which you must walk from the far back of the office (where are seats are) to the front desk to get the key. There are 5 keys for men and 5 for women but the mens keys have dwindled down to 2 so you have to wait for someone to come back from the bathroom to go.
The team colors are a nice touch but the cube dwellers aren’t allowed to decorate? No pictures of spouses, kids, friends, dogs, cats, co-worker crush, favorite metal band allowed? What about the certificate you got from the latest in-house CPE? Can that go up? It sounds as though TPTB are insisting on the most sterile environment possible. No distractions. What about looking that person across from you dead in the eye while they’re eating with their mouth open? How’s that for a distraction?
Speaking of sterile environments, what’s with the bathroom keys? Are homeless people sneaking in and stanking up the joint? And they’re down to two keys for the men? Where did the other three keys go? What sadist is hoarding keys at the expense of other people’s excretory and digestive systems? Any ideas people? Maybe the keys just got flushed. Let’s get to the bottom of this mystery. Discuss.
From a soon to be ex-Ernst & Young SA:
Being employed by a big 4 is like being in an abusive relationship. You know its bad for you but its still kind of addictive.
Right on the money? Dead wrong? Addictive like salt & vinegar potato chips or addictive like the stuff that’s in Rush Limbaugh’s medicine cabinet? Discuss.
Grant Thornton’s global revenue results have yet to come out, however the Times Online is reporting lower UK revenues for the past fiscal year. This widens the gap between GT and Big 4 and possibly jeopardizes any hope of the ‘Global Six’ moniker making it into the mainstream.
This despite their ambitious efforts:
Two years ago, Grant Thornton unveiled ambitious plans to increase revenue to £500 million. It had just acquired RSM Robson Rhodes and appeared set for rapid growth. There was talk that it could close the distance on Ernst & Young and break the Big Four’s lock on blue-chip audit and advisory work.
This, as the Times notes, appears to be only a pipe dream now. They dish a little gossip about GT merging with E&Y which was de-nied pretty adamantly by the UK CEO, ‘That’s absolutely not true and I’ve no idea where it comes from.’
We really wish we could take credit for starting that rumor but alas, we can’t. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be the same if GT had to merge with someone. It is, however, worth speculating if any type of semi-mega merger would even be possible. We touched on this topic some time ago but that was for sport so we’re asking for serious speculation now.
If you’ve heard merger talk at any of your firms discuss — or just wonder aloud about which firms would/could/should get together — in the comments and feel free to opine on GT’s latest efforts in the Global Six campaign.
Grant Thornton slips further behind the Big Four [Times Online]
In last Tuesday’s Preliminary Analytics we mentioned the case of Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman accused of running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
The trial is in its first week and already there has been testimony from the star witness — Petters’ former office manager — that included a recording of Petters saying ‘This is one bi his own defense counsel comparing him to a cocker spaniel:
[Defense counsel, John] Hopeman countered that while Petters was an accomplished salesman, he didn’t have the corporate skills necessary to run companies.
“He has the attention span of a cocker spaniel — about 15 seconds,” the defense lawyer told the 10-woman, six-man jury. “He couldn’t read a whole book if his life depended on it.”
Okay, a couple things before we get to the crux.
• Most cocker spaniels we know have attention spans exponentially longer than fifteen seconds. It would be much more believable if defense counsel had said, “He has the attention span of a pomeranian and you can’t leave him home alone or he’s eats the furniture.”
• Petters couldn’t read a whole book if his life depended on it? Are we talking classic literature? Because if we are, then he’s got company. What about children’s books? Do magazines count? He strikes as a guy that could at least make it through the pro football season preview.
Now that the trial is underway we’ll be following the more interesting developments in the case but we’ll be especially interested in the litigation involving the auditors of the hedge funds that cycled funds to Petters’ businesses.
There is pending litigation in Texas that involves both Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen related to the audits the two firms performed for feeder funds for Petters’ businesses.
These feeder funds received purchase orders for high-end electronics from Petters’ businesses that were seemingly made by big-box retailers such as CostCo. The feeder funds then solicited money from investors, including the plaintiffs in the case, in return for promissory notes for Petters’ businesses. The merchandise on the purchase orders secured the notes. Allegedly, there was no merchandise and Petters used the money received to pay off other investors who were looking to get out and so on and so forth.
The feeder funds that are the defendants in this case are Arrowhead Capital Partners II, L.P. of Minnetonka, Minnesota, Palm Beach Finance Partners, L.P. and Palm Beach Finance Partners II, L.P. of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Stewardship Credit Arbitrage Fund, LLC of Greenwich, Connecticut. The general partners and investment managers of these funds are also listed as defendants.
E&Y served as auditors for Stewardship while M&P served as the auditors of Arrowhead. A small Florida firm, Kaufman, Rossin, & Co., P.A. served as the auditors for the two Palm Beach funds. The firms are being sued, naturally, for not detecting the alleged fraud. In this case, however, the firms may have it coming since the fraud was run by someone with the alleged attention span of a canine.
We spoke with Guy Hohmann, who is representing the plaintiffs in this case, and according to Mr. Hohmann, M&P has the most significant exposure in the Petters case as they also served as the auditor for Lancelot Investors Fund and Colossus Capital Fund, L.P. both Oak Brook, Illinois based hedge funds. M&P also faces litigation from the investors of those funds in Illinois.
Lancelot’s Vice President of Finance was Harold Katz, who just pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Mr. Hohmann was recently informed that before taking the job at Lancelot, Katz was a senior manager at M&P that worked on the Lancelot audit. M&P would not comment. It has been speculated now that Katz — who pleaded guilty September 2nd — is cooperating with authorities in the cases against Petters and Lancelot founder, Gregory Bell.
In another strange twist, Mr. Hohmann told GC that Lewis Freeman — the forensic accountant that is under federal investigation that we told you about last week — was appointed as the Chief Restructuring Officer of the Palm Beach funds. The Palm Beach funds are not currently listed as an active case on the forensic firm’s website.
We reached out to all the firms named in the lawsuit, McGladrey & Pullen declined to comment while calls to E&Y, Kaufman Rossin & Co., and Kenneth A. Welt, the current receiver listed on the Lewis Freeman website, were not returned.
According to the complaint, the amount lost by the plaintiffs was $24 million dollars, however, according to a October 6, 2008 Bloomberg article, the two Palm Beach Funds were responsible for approximately $1.1 billion of the alleged $3 billion the scheme while the Lancelot funds held approximately $1.0 billion with Petters. Mr. Hohmann’s understanding was that the Palm Beach funds had provided approximately $1.0 and that Lancelot held approximately $1.6 billion. Because of the complex web of companies in this case, the final dollar amounts may not ever be known.
So regardless of the fact that the case in Texas is in its early stages, future lawsuits from other investors could arise, and all three firms could continue to face significant litigation.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on any developments in the cases involving these accounting firms and will be following any noteworthy developments involving the Petters trial.
The case is SSR v. Arrowhead et al., District Court of Dallas County.
The Pacific Northwest Area leaders have a town hall meeting in the Area offices. The retiring Area Managing Partner and incoming partner both show videos of each other to “introduce” them to the little people. These videos brag about how one collects ferraris (shows other partner in his ferrari at the show room) and the other shows the incoming partner’s closet full of Jimmy Choo shoes. And the best part?? It was at this meeting where they tell people (everyone from admin to partners) that they are making 5% cuts in December…And then of course they proceed to go through multiple rounds of cuts – Dec, March, June and not sure if it is over.
We enjoy an Italian sports car as much as the next guy but for crissakes, using it to segue into layoffs? Do you think they ran this script by anyone or did they just wing it? If you’ve got other stories of tawdry behavior, by all means, pass them along.
WAY more prestigious than the Emmys mind you. No, E&Y has now managed to snag the coveted honor of counting the votes for the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class.
The other firms are, no doubt, insanely envious of E&Y for landing this prestigious gig but we have several important questions:
• Will the E&Y auditors have to memorize the winners and all of their sponsors?
• Shirts (let alone tuxedos) seem a little formal for a NASCAR event so what will the auditors wear?
• Instead of simply handcuffing the results to their wrists, will the auditors need guards armed with Desert Eagles to keep the crazies from highjacking the results?
• Instead of Dr. Horrible, who will make a special appearance to distract the audience during the explanation of the vote tabulation? Jeff Foxworthy seems too obvious.
• Will E&Y be paid in Bud Light as it seems to be accepted as legal tender in these circles?
Let us know your thoughts on E&Y’s new engagement and your ideas on responses to the questions posed above.
Hall of Fame Announcement Set For Wednesday [FanZone Sports]
What were these guys really saying? Other than accountants are NOT to be blamed for anything. Discuss. And for crissakes Jim, learn how to tie a Windsor knot.
That’s according to reports from Asia Sentinel. The liquidator of the now bankrupt Akai also, “extracted US$100 million from a local tycoon, Ho Wing-0n, who had allegedly conspired with the then chairman of Akai, James Ting, to strip the company of its assets. Ho himself was a former partner at Ernst & Young until 1990 and has been responsible for the Akai audit.”
Sounds like a nice little back-slapping/glad-handing/ass-grabbing arrangement and depending on how things progress, sounds like another one may be in place:
The size of the settlement against Ernst & Young reflects not only the size of losses sustained by Akai creditors but the years of organised sleaze attributable to Ernst and Young’s Hong Kong operation. If the civil settlements are not followed up by vigorous criminal prosecutions by the Hong Kong authorities, one can conclude that mutual back-scratching and old-boy principles override issues of corporate governance and the responsibilities of auditors.
As you may have noticed, we’re big fans of speculation so, for now, we’ll go along with whole HK Fuzz and auditors back-scratching scenario presented here if no criminal charges arise. E&Y has continually reiterated their willingness to cooperate in the investigation so you can make up your minds on what that all really means.
The liquidator, Borelli Walsh seems to be the catalyst of this case as the Sentinel speculates that if, “it been one of the other of the Big Four auditing firms it is likely that some clubby backroom deal would have been done which would have kept criminal activities well hidden and involved a settlement a fraction of that obtained by Borrelli Walsh.”
‘Clubby backroom deal’? You mean those are real? We’d be curious to know if E&Y in the States has even brought this up internally to address the press coverage. If those of you in the Ernstiverse are getting love letters from JT on this, kindly pass them along or discuss in the comments.
No Accounting for Accountants [Asia Sentinel]
Awhile back we told you about Salz’s dissatisfaction of the diversity at Deloitte, regardless of their long-standing commitment to it.
After the Web CPA piece, Dr. Phil is steppin cussing Deloitte’s recruitment of students on community college campuses in last Friday’s Business Week. The article points out up front that, “Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg likes to talk about the value of diversity. But of the 4,500 partners and other top executives at his firm, 92% are white.” We did the math, that’s less than 500 non-white partners.
So this is obviously a public relations problem that the firms would rather not have, since as we’ve noted, they love, love, love to point out how diverse they are, regardless of what others are saying. The facts simply seem to be that accounting, as an industry, doesn’t seem to be that diverse:
Continued, after the jump
For Deloitte, the hope is to reach high-potential people of color at community colleges, interest them in accounting, and then shepherd them through a university to a job upon graduation. If it works, it could turn around a troubling trend. In 2004, African Americans represented 1% of all CPAs, Latinos 3%, and Asians 4%, according to a U.S. Treasury Dept. report on the profession. By 2007 the figures were unchanged, if not down slightly.
Okay, so those numbers aren’t good for anyone. They’re especially not good for the image of the firms or the profession. Deloitte’s plan is to recruit on six community college campuses to try and convince the students that accounting is a kick ass career. Obviously that’s easier said than done:
Deloitte will have to do a fair amount of myth-busting. Many students believe accountants don green eyeshades and plunk away at calculators all day. So Deloitte is sending a brigade of up to eight staffers, including at least one senior partner, to enlighten, mentor, and ultimately guide potential recruits toward an accounting career. In visits to the campus classrooms, the partners plan to share workplace perspectives and explanations of how the industry has broadened to include financial, management, technology, and human capital consulting. “I don’t think students realize the vastness of what you can do in accounting,” says Gregory Brookins, a CPA and associate professor at Santa Monica Community College. “They feel like it’s a boring bean-counting job.”
‘They feel like it’s a boring bean-counting job’? GASP. How’d they get that impression?
Not everyone is on board with this plan, specifically, E&Y, “…it recruits from four-year universities where students get credits toward the CPA exam. That’s something “a two-year program doesn’t offer,” says Ken Bouyer, Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting for Ernst & Young.”
Plus, since accounting firms like to pitch their professionals’ merits when courting new clients, there is a worry that community college grads are jumping up and down to brag about their less-prestigious education regardless of the accomplishments they’ve made professionally.
So accounting firms and the accounting industry appear to have an old white boy’s club problem. Is Deloitte taking the right approach? Is E&Y’s attitude short-sighted? Discuss your thoughts in the comments.
Deloitte’s Diversity Push [BW]
We don’t know a damn thing about gemstones but we’ll go out on a limb to say that 10,700 carats is a lot. That’s the size of a “ruby” that E&Y has the esteemed pleasure of trying to sell, as the administrators of now bankrupt Wrekin Construction in the UK.
The stone was once valued around £11 million but turns out its worth closer to £100.
E&Y is now resorting to hocking this overpriced paperweight, that will certainly be re-gifted many times over, in Rock ‘n’ Gem Magazine in the UK and Colored Stone Magazine here in the Land of the Free.
Rare £11m gem becomes £100 rock [BBC]
Failed group’s £11m ruby ‘near worthless’ [The Daily Telegraph]
We don’t know what to make of the raid at the E&Y offices in Hong Kong that occurred yesterday. We’d like to think that it was something out of 24 where Jack Bauer was “forced” into an impossible situation where he had to shoot a sheisty auditor in the leg to find out where the “certain documents” were.
Alas, it sounds as though it was considerably less dramatic, falling way short of anything worthy of the Absurd-o-meter.
The HK Fuzz probably even talked it over before going to the E&Y digs and said, “We’re going where? Accountants? We don’t even need our guns for this one. Let’s just take coffee and bagels and they’ll probably do whatever we ask.”
We’re probably not far off as E&Y was sure to reiterate their intent to ‘engage with and further investigations into the Akai matter’. Bor-ing.
Not that we were expecting much but it would have been nice that if just once we’d hear about accountants stonewalling some authority figures. Instead, the Head of E&Y China is stepping down, which is hardly the same as a vast conspiracy that may or may not involve the President of the United States. Sigh. There’ll be a next time soon enough.
Hyperbole Earnings season begins, Big 4 style, as E&Y has reported its global revenues of $21.4 billion for its 2009 fiscal year.
The Americas saw a drop in revenue of 5.5% to $8.6 billion and all other areas saw drops as well except for in Japan where E&Y made everything up with a 20% increase. In USD, this was a 6.8% drop in revenues from the prior year with revenue of $23 bil.
More, after the jump
Transaction Advisory Services saw the biggest drop in revenues (14.8%), followed by Assurance (6.3%).
The Americas region also saw the largest drop in people, approximately 3,000 less than fiscal year 2008, a drop of 4.5%. Globally, the firm’s headcount was essentially flat with Japan, again, showing the largest increase of 12.1%.
Ernstiverse Global CEO and Chairman (not to mention Head Global Accounting Standards Cheerleader), Jim Turley:
“I’m extremely proud of how our people adapted to this challenging year, and how they’ve worked so well with our clients to help them through these difficult times,” said James S. Turley, Global Chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young. “Flat revenues certainly don’t tell the whole story of this year, as we continued our investments in people and in building our markets, while helping our clients with the unusual and difficult issues they faced. FY09 will be remembered more for these activities than for top-line results.”
So we’re curious, Ernsters. How will you remember FY09? Will you remember ‘investments in people and building the markets’ rather than the ‘top-line results’? Discuss in the comments.
Ernst & Young reports fiscal year 2009 global revenues of US$21.4 billion [E&Y Press Release]
Really, he said that global standards were ‘imperative’ which carries a much more serious connotation and we’d hate to sell Big Jim short:
‘It is imperative that there is one set of financial reporting standards for the world if the quality and comparability of investor information is to be protected.’
And in an amazing coinkydink, that’s what everyone at the G-20 said too:
More, after the jump
In a statement the leaders said they: “call on our international accounting bodies to redouble their efforts to achieve a single set of high quality, global accounting standards within the context of their independent standard setting process, and complete their convergence project by June 2011.”
Since so many big shots were in the Burgh, last week, JT figured he’d just put it out there that his firm was FIRST! to say, “Yeah, we’re down for redoubling our efforts! Whatever that is, we’ll do anything! Don’t know about the rest of you slackers but we’re damn proud to get on this. June 2011? No problem. Am I right people?”
Ernsters? Ready to double down? It’s imperative, you know.
Big Four firm backs G20 accounting stance [Accountancy Age]
Not too much explanation needed. E&Y auditors at the Emmys. Leave your caption suggestions in the comments. We’ll run a poll next week with the best submissions.
Late November is typically a time of year when most of you can coast a little bit. Oh sure, some of you certifiable types are still working like your miserable lives depend on it (and probably not charging the time) so we’ll ignore you for this particular post.
We learned yesterday that the New York and Philadelphia offices of E&Y are apparently so strapped for time during the eleventh month that the annual accounting & auditing update has been scheduled for the 21st which is on a…wait for it…Saturday. That’s EVERYONE, staff through partners.
Now maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation for this odd scheduling. Perhaps the rulers of the Ernstiverse aren’t down with the whole day of rest thing. Or they figure since you’re getting two days off the following week, your ass is lucky that you’re not working Sunday too. Whatever the case may be, E&Y seems to be good at making promises so don’t make plans.
When we heard that the accountants at E&Y with elephant-like memories were the butt of a joke on last night’s Emmys we weren’t really surprised. That being said, we weren’t really expecting a joke that would be that entertaining.
So, we were pleasantly surprised when 1) one of the E&Y reps, Mika Velga (sorry if we butchered the spelling), turns out to be a hottie and B) the sketch featured Dr. Horrible, courtesy of the comedic genius of NPH.
Video, after the jump
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Horrible, feel free to waste a few minutes of your morning getting caught up. Oh, and if you know Ms. Velga, tell her she has fans.
Today in dorks in tuxedos news, E&Y is finishing up their counting of the votes for this weekend’s Emmy Awards and hopefully they can handle it.
From the press release:
“We work very hard to safeguard the entire voting process and take the appropriate measures to preserve the accuracy and confidentiality of the awards,” explained Andy Sale, Ernst & Young LLP Lead Partner for the 2009 Emmy Awards. “Our team uses a combination of technology and traditional hand-counting methods to deliver accurate results.”
The technology methods must be terribly advanced for this complex engagement and since some partners can’t even send email, we’re a little concerned. Especially since three people memorize the list of 109 winners.
Plus, since this the 21st time E&Y has done the awards, we’re assuming there will be jager shots before, during, and after the show. Not only will this not help with the whole memorization issue but it could also jeopardize the envelope handoffs and projectile vomiting will blow whatever slim shot they had at hooking up with Christina Hendricks.
Good luck E&Y. Don’t f*ck it up. And if you have second thoughts on sharing results early, you know how to reach us.
Possibly following the Radio Station’s lead, E&Y’s New York office is giving consideration to ix-nay on the Holiday Party-nay.
This really makes sense since 5 Times Square is in the middle of all the action, everyone can go to TGI Friday’s instead. Separate checks of course.
E&Y did not immediately reply to our request for comment.
There’s been rumors about pay freezes at all firms and E&Y came out last month to say it’s happening mostly because it’s fair.
Since many of you Klynveldians are probably anxious for some kind of “official” word, we’ll pass this along:
Rumor is the Radio Station will be announcing raises and bonuses on Monday/Tuesday in the Southeast next week (rates are loaded online on the self service connection next Friday for all to see, so talk about waiting until the last minute).
Firm leadership is saying KPMG will pay market and market rates are down when compared to the prior year… so here’s to no raises!
Ernstinites got a voicemail announcing the news which didn’t seem to go over well, so here’s hoping that some kind of live feed from Tim Flynn’s office will be KPMG’s approach for this announcement with Q&A to follow of course. More personal that way, don’t you think?
If you’ve got information on your city or region matching the market rates, drop us an email to us or discuss in the comments.
UPDATE, 2:57 pm: Apparently the offices in the Mid-Atlantic are willing to sit down with you to discuss this as we received a tip that “roundtables” were held by partners to explain the merit increases. Beats a voicemail. If you participated in one of these sit downs or had similar meetings in your region, discuss further.
KPMG’s new arrangement with Rentokil has brought some differing opinions amongst the firms, even prompting PwC to take a not-so direct jab at the Radio Station for scooping Rentokil.
Today, KPMG’s head of audit in the UK, Oliver Tant, wrote a piece for Accountancy Age explaining the firm’s new “extended assurance”:
Continued, after the jump
Under the service, those responsible for corporate governance may ask KPMG to perform work beyond that which is required for the statutory audit, for example by testing a larger sample of controls or additional transactions and balances of lower value than the materiality level set for the statutory audit.
This work does not replace, conflict with or undermine the independence of the external audit it simply extends our understanding of the business and its controls and hence the breadth and depth of insight we can offer. That is why we call it extended assurance.
Mr. Tant also cites the savings passed along to the client, which is so hot these days. He also explains what “extended assurance” is NOT:
The service is not about merging the external and internal audit functions. A company can continue to have its own internal audit function and those charged with corporate governance will still be responsible for assessing the overall adequacy of a company’s control environment and the need for skilled internal audit expertise.
Ethical standards do not prevent the auditor from doing more than the bare minimum to support the audit opinion. We will identify and plan the work necessary to support our audit opinion independent of any further work we may be requested to perform.
As we mentioned, PwC has already made their opinion known and E&Y’s head of assurance in the UK, John Flattery has stated that they will not be “mirroring the arrangement.”
It’s already been speculated that this type of arrangement would not be allowed in the U.S. but there has been no indication that the U.S. firm is pursuing such arrangements.
Since independence is kinda, sorta important for auditors, and many of you are ramming these rules into your brains as we speak (or just waiting to see if you learned anything) discuss in the comments how you feel about the arrangement. Would it pass the smell test Stateside? Is KPMG evolving to the market or are they on thin ice? Are P. Dubs and Ernie being self-righteous dicks since they didn’t think of it first? Feel free to get ugly about it.
KPMG audit head defends controversial Rentokil role [Accountancy Age]
News from E&Y in SoCal is that those second year associates that were getting raises to put them at a pay level above the newbies are getting a 1% increase to put them there.
Personally, we’d rather be in pay raise Siberia with the rest of you than get 1% but a firm’s word is its bond. If Zitor has given you similar good news for your office, discuss in the comments or shoot us the details to our tips mailbox.
UPDATE, September 21st, 12:20 pm: Another tip out of Chicago confirms Uncle Ernie’s promise-keeping ways, giving the new 2nd Years, a 1% bump.
No doubt that you remember E&Y’s Grammy-worthy attempt at a theme song/torture method from last week.
We have now discovered that KPMG also thought this was worthy of the firm’s resources. The only problem we find is that the songs sound oddly similar in melody, atrocious use of harmony, etc. This kind of artistic double-agentry between the firms only reaffirms are suspicions about the firms working together in some sort of oligopolic conspiracy of which the purpose is, we haven’t figured out, except maybe to perpetuate the use of Excel.
After the jump, we’ve provided links to both songs here so that you can provide your expert analysis on which firm has the best song. And by best, we obviously mean drives you to agony similar to Alex DeLarge/Beethoven-esque levels. In addition, feel free to provide your favorite lyrics in the comments.
We really have to hand it to some of the creative minds at E&Y. The quality of what they produce is overwhelming. All this and they ban Pandora? We’ll never understand accounting firm reasoning.
Anyhoo, the offbeat clapping is one thing, Zitor is quite another, but now we present you with the following:
Today, in how your firm spent your bonus news, we present you with Zitor, an alien who somehow ended up in Uncle Ernie’s shop. Zitor then ended up being assigned a counselee for year-end reviews which is fairly realistic considering his lack of expertise and work experience.
Zitor was apparently designed and plugged into the Ernstiverse to demonstrate how to be completely unprepared for a the year-end review process as a counselor.
What’s odd is that most counselors seem to be using logic from another planet so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this was based on actual methods used.
Regardless of the genesis of this idea, it probably goes without saying that this had to be complete and utter failure for those of you with maturity levels above the age of 13. Nevermind that no one can decipher how accounting firms determine who the best performers are anyway.
Included with this frivolous attempt to relate to the troops, if you were so inclined, you could submit ideas for the line below from Zitor to end up in the next video for this “Coach from Another Planet”. While that sounds incredibly lame and worthy of our ridicule, we’ve decided to let you take a stab at it instead.
The line has been modified slightly to allow your much more creative suggestions to be submitted in the comments:
“At E&Y, we do not give feedback. We give ___________.”
Do your worst.
In another case of an auditor giving a Titantic-esque bank the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ routine, E&Y resigned as the auditor of Corus Bankshares, Inc., in a filing late last Friday.
This one really had no chance. After the Chief Accounting Officer resigned after five months on the job, family shareholders continuing to dump their shares, and filing their Q late, you can’t really expect Ernie to stick around.
E&Y had given the going concern paragraph kiss of death on Corus’s audit opinion earlier in the year and according to the last amended quarterly filing, Corus had over $7 billion in assets but negative equity. So, nature seems to be taking its course. Chalk it up, She Bair.
Ernst & Young resigns as Corus’ accounting firm [Chicago Tribune]
We just received word that Pandora is blocked for Uncle Ernie’s troops. We’re thinking if BW had got ahold of this news, E&Y would have dropped out of at least the top five.
We thinks this is a strange way to wish everyone a nice holiday weekend but we understand that everyone shows love differently. Anyone else out there now working in eerie 2001-esque silence? Confirm for us or discuss in the comments.
Received word late last night that layoffs went down out west yesterday. According to our source, the breakdown is as follows:
• Two in LA
• Two in Irvine- tax (one staff 1)
• One in San Diego – tax (staff 2)
• A few in Vegas- Audit only
We reached out to an E&Y spokesperson, who declined to comment.
Our source says it was performance based but that particular reason has been a matter of debate for some time. If you’ve got your own theories, discuss in the comments and send us any more details if you’ve got them.
Here’s hoping that Ern isn’t getting warmed up…
Actually we’re not sure but it would be pretty awesome if they did. A judge in New York has dismissed the case against GT, E&Y, and law firm Mayer Brown that was filed by customers of Refco’s currency trading-unit.
More, after the jump
There may still be a problem, according to Bloomberg:
[Judge] Lynch dismissed the case against Refco’s auditor Grant Thornton, outside counsel Mayer Brown and tax adviser Ernst & Young because the trustee who sued failed to allege enough facts in his complaint to show the defendants aided the Refco fraud. He said the trustee may file a new complaint.
So if you’re feeling it you can put on “Por Una Cabeza” but we think that GT and E&Y will probably get cut off mid-dip.
Grant Thornton, Ernst Win Dismissal in RefcoFX Suit [Bloomberg]
E&Y has officially entered the pay freeze zone, via a voicemail left for employees, according to multiple tips we received. This follows the rumor that was announced a couple of weeks ago.
The following factors led to freeze:
Excuses Reasons and our explanations, after the jump
• Fairness – “It’s fair that everyone’s pay is being frozen.”
• Market Competition – “Monkey see, monkey do”
• Invest in Top Performers – “Top Performers” is subject to interpretation.
• Market Pressure – “Our clients are biting the dust or they’re ditching us”
• Fiscally Responsibility – “It’s a recession”
One exception to the freeze is that second year associates will get a raise in order to put them at the level of or above the incoming new associates, which is consistent with the earlier rumors. Select cities and practices may receive increases but it doesn’t sound too promising.
Bonuses are being paid to those of you that got promoted and they break down as 5k to SA’s, 6.5k to Managers, 8k to Sr. Managers. Sounds like partners took a pay cut this year so dammit, no belly-aching. Just kidding, go ape. If you have your own interpretation on the reasons given for the freeze, discuss in the comments.
It appears that this from back in ’01 but for the love of God, who’s bright idea was this? We apologize for the small screen, we spent the better part of our morning trying to find the full size.
Would someone kindly tell Ernst & Young to get with the program? This country is falling apart at the seams and there are certain time honored traditions that we’ve all agreed on as TBTF.
So when we find out that the Hooters Casino in Vegas may go bankrupt and that E&Y warned of this back in March, we thought that it was a mistake. Of all the businesses out there, wouldn’t Ernie have the sense to help these poor saps cook the books so they can stay in business?
More, after the jump
Where in the name of God will divorced men and former college football players go to eat mediocre misshapen “wings” that come from, we’re pretty sure, a bird that was created by someone that we envision to be a cross of Doc Brown and Dr. Moreau? Served by women in skimpy, tight-fitting uniforms? IN VEGAS?
See the problem here? E&Y, would you care to explain yourselves?
Hooters Casino may go bust [The Deal]
It may still be a little early for the citizens of Arnie, especially if you’ve got the Friday morning cocktail flu, but whatevs. We got word that E&Y audit interns have gotten their offers nationwide and
Whale’s Vagina San Diego and L.A. are both getting $50k, no bonus. If you got a Masters, you’re getting $52k, no bonus (seems worth it now, eh?). No word on tax or advisory, so if you know these, fill us in.
Last year’s lucky little Ernies got a bonus so at the very least, that makes for a smidge of animosity. For all the love we’ve been giving Ern we haven’t got a lot of specifics on the actual details. Discuss in the comments or drop us the numbers at [email protected]
E&Y’s Dallas office sure appreciates their new associates because they’ll be the only ones getting pay raises this year. It’s either that or they want to the put them in the position for additional ridicule until the fresh batch of new associates comes on.
According to the tip we received, the announcement was made at the townhall meeting today and this is first office of any firm that we’ve heard of to make an official announcement to employees that pay was being frozen.
Those being promoted to a new level (e.g. SA to Manager) will receive bonuses but no details were given. We’ll update as we learn more.
Guest 6 @ 1:03 informs us that interns may be returning from their little rendezvous with their international counterparts to find out if they made the cut of those receiving full time offers. This is clearly a matter of “win or lose, we still booze”.
So whether you’re a proud new E&Y’er or you dreams of being a CPA-rock star have been blown to smithereens, let us know the details. If you’ve got the scoop on salaries and numbers discuss in the comments or send us tips to [email protected]
We just picked up one of the few Tweets that has made it through today:
This type of event will likely lead to many things including international hookups, late night skinny dipping (and probably urinating) in the pool, and widespread drunkenness of epic proportions.
If you’re down in Orlando this weekend for this three day extravaganza, send us your stories of debauchery to [email protected]. According to the website, the festivities are at Disney World, so don’t embarass
your firm yourself and try to keep the nudity out of the view of children.
International Intern Leadership Conference [EY.com]
Round two of our Firm Watch this week covers everybody’s favorite resident of Times Square, Ernst & Young. We’ll get started on E&Y’s trubs with the Schein lawsuit where the firm was recently found to be marginally negligent and were ordered to pay a smidge over $10 mil as a result. NBD really, as E&Y probably spends that much money screwing up the spelling of their name on cheesy coffee cups.
The more serious stuff on E&Y, after the jump
Here’s some major stuff that probably keeps some E&Y partners awake at night:
• Lehman Brothers – E&Y’s role in the collapse of Lehman Brothers has got little attention in the press, however, suits have already been filed by San Mateo County in California, the City of Long Beach, California and the Southern District of Texas. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to speculate that more suits are likely to be filed.
• Madoff Exposure – E&Y also has significant Madoff exposure, as the auditor of several feeder funds. D&O Diary has them listed as defendants in at least ten different lawsuits.
• Layoffs – There have lots of reports of layoffs at E&Y in the last month or so, many of which occurred in the tax practices in the Northeast, and many of those getting the axe were supposedly on visas. Real classy. This was a follow-up to layoffs that also went down in February. As if that’s not enough, there were also rumors of layoffs occurring monthly since September ’08 in the Detroit office. Plus, with lots comments about stealth layoffs at all levels, it sounds like it has been a bloodbath at E&Y.
So that seems to be the major stuff, from our view, for E&Y. Again, we want to know what we’re missing. We’re looking for tips and dirt on any of the things we discussed above and everything we didn’t mention. Email us at [email protected] and we’ll get all your additional gripes on here.
This is the final call for your firm’s schwag. The following submission is especially nice because someone at Ernst & Young was cool with a less than perfect item.
See this high-quality piece, after the jump
Quality in Everything We Do – Damn straight.
Deloitte has gotten dumped by UAL, the parent company of United Airlines, for E&Y. The change will be effective after D-Period finishes the 2009 fiscal year-end audit engagement. This continues the trend of heartbreak for Deloitte, who was kicked to the curb by Heelys over fees.
UAL claims that it doesn’t have any disagreements with Deloitte which we don’t really believe. They have to disagree on something. White Sox vs. Cubs fans at the very least.
More after the jump
Also, changing your auditor isn’t like changing your underwear (well, it might be hard for some). We’ve got the feeling some top brass at UAL were sick of shacking up with Deloitte. However, the article also states that UAL cited the mandatory rotation of the lead partner, “firms often choose to seek bids for audit work in anticipation of that rotation.” Okay, going out to bid to tease the other firms is one thing but actually opting for a change is quite another.
We’re guessing there’s more to this story, so if you’ve got some inside dirt on this latest break up, let us know at [email protected].
UAL hires E&Y to replace Deloitte as accountant [Reuters]
Color us surprised:
A Broward County jury on Wednesday dealt a small blow to Ernst & Young in a negligence and fraud lawsuit, deciding that the accounting giant was only marginally negligent for a local businessman’s losses in connection with the demise of Superior Bank in 2001.
UPDATE, 7:00 pm EST, E&Y Statement: We believe we should have prevailed and will seek appropriate relief from the courts.
Ernst & Young to pay $10M in Superior Bank lawsuit [Triangle Business Journal]
• Lawyer: Ernst auditing helped sink Hinsdale’s Superior Bank – Plaintiff Alan Schein is still claiming conspiracy on E&Y’s part. [Daily Herald]
• Securities Lawsuits Plummet in 2009 – Because they’ve all been filed already [CFO.com]
• Stanford case spreads its tendrils – For a Ponz that simply offered CD’s with out of this world interest rates, the international law and jurisdictional aspects will turn your head in knots. [FT.com]
• TD Ameritrade Settles Securities Case – “TD Ameritrade Inc. agreed to buy back $456 million of auction-rate securities from its clients as part of a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Pennsylvania securities regulators.” [WSJ]
We thought that Ernst & Young was advising the New York Fed on the winding down of AIG out of the goodness of their hearts but it turns out it’s actually about the money.
E&Y could make as much as $60 million advising the New York Fed, which is 50% more than the initial agreement, according to Bloomberg. The NYF is also reimbursing E&Y for expenses, up to 10% of the professional fees. This occurs after the parties had initially said $40 million would be the cap but $60 mil is it, we swear, no more.
And because E&Y is solid like that, the firm is billing out partners and directors at discounted rates ($775/hour). I mean, ’cause, let’s face it, this thing’s a mess and E&Y is going to be working hard, working late, working weekends.
Ernst & Young’s Maximum Pay for AIG Advice Swells [Bloomberg]