Naturally, my esteemed colleague Colin sent me this Forbes article to write up, presumably because […]
German Finance Minister Says No One Needs to Be Thrown Under the Bus for ‘Annoying’ 55 Billion Euro Glitch
Yesterday we learned that officials in the German government were a little surprised that a 55 billion euro accounting error wasn’t discovered by a “certified audit.” They’ve been quite the laughingstock in the German press, so they done their damnedest to find someone to throw under der bus. Well, today German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble basically put everyone at ease – there’s no one to blame!
The Finance Ministry knew “with certainty” on Oct. 13 that an accounting error had occurred after receiving notifications on Oct. 4, Schaeuble said at a press conference in Berlin today, adding the error is “annoying” because its magnitude can unsettle the public. “Here raves the lake and wants to have its victim,” Schaeuble said, citing from Friedrich Schiller’s drama William Tell. “That’s not my understanding” of how the biggest accounting error in Germany’s post-World War II history should be sanctioned, he said.
So rest easy, PwC. You’re off the hook for this one.
German Government Was Under the Impression That a ‘Certified Audit’ Would Find a 55 Billion Euro Accounting Error
Most people are of the opinion that government can’t do anything right. Education? Bah. Economies? Duh. Wars? YEESH. Oddly, politicians are quite fond of mocking the inefficiencies and mistakes of government to better relate to the common folk who don’t put much stock in the government’s operations. This means that politicians must find other people to hold responsible for the mistakes that are happening all around them. This also means that the art of blamestorming is the most coveted skill in all of politics (well, maybe after being able to lie through your teeth). Do things right and you live to fight another day. Do things wrong and you just look like an ass and then have to weather repeated calls for your resignation.
The German government is taking a fair amount of shit for missing a 55 billion euro accounting mistake. This size of a boo-boo can’t really be swept under the rug so, right on cue, the finance minister has turned on the blamethrower full blast:
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has summoned executives from the nationalized mortgage bank Hypo Real Estate (HRE) to explain how they made a simple accounting error that ended up raising Germany’s total debt load by 55 billion euros.Schaeuble, in the awkward situation of being humiliated by the windfall that will cut Germany’s debt levels, will also demand answers at a Wednesday meeting from the PwC accountancy firm that signed off on the report.
Schaeuble’s spokesman Martin Kotthaus tried to deflect any blame, saying the ministry received a certified statement from auditors that the balance sheets had been checked and approved. He said it was too early to tell exactly who messed up.
“It’s annoying, to put it diplomatically, when corrections of this dimension are necessary,” said Kotthaus, who was grilled at a news conference. “We had a certified audit of the annual accounts for 2010 and it said everything was in order.”
Right! A certified audit! If there’s anything we’ve all learned, it’s that audits are the one infallible stamp of approval that we can always turn to for confidence. Just ask Lehman Brothers. Or Satyam. Or Li & Fung. Or MF Global. Or Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. Or Koss. Or Countrywide. [breathe, breathe] Or World Capital Group. Or Sino-Forest. Or Colonial Bank. But aside from those, yeah, audits. Those things are solid.
Last week we mentioned that Deloitte and Munich-based Roland Berger were talking about getting cozy with both firms sounding pret-tay excited about the future. Turns out, no one had asked the Roland Berger partners how they felt about the whole situation.
Plans to merge Roland Berger Strategy Consultants with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu have fallen through after the Munich-based firm rejected the advances.
The two had been in advanced talks but directors at Berger overwhelmingly voted to remain independent.
Talks between the two firms had progressed so far it is believed they had already decided upon a new chief executive and were examining possible regulatory hurdles.
Over at the Financial Times, Adam Jones reminds us that this is a big wrench in Deloitte’s McKinsey-slaying plans, “[Roland Berger’s] decision to continue to go it alone is a blow to Deloitte’s ambition of eclipsing McKinsey in the market for strategic managerial advice.”
It’s a strange turn of events to be sure after last week’s PR lovefest but the FT reports that the Roland Berger was willing to put up his own cash to keep the green ink out of his firm:
Roland Berger said the vote to remain independent had been carried with a majority of “close to 100 per cent” on Saturday.
It added that partners in the firm – including Roland Berger, its founder – had agreed to put in more money to support the renewed go-it-alone plan.
People close to the deal talks suggested Mr Berger had agreed to invest about €50m ($68.5m) to help fund its expansion as a standalone business.
That’s not so much of a “No.” as it is a “Hell no.”
Namely, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants based out of Munich.
Supposedly the two will have their minds made up sometime next month but by the sounds of it, the two companies are flippin’ stoked about the possibilities:
“A merger opens up a unique opportunity for growth for both firms,” [Deloitte Germany Chief Executive] Plendl said.
Roland Berger confirmed the talks.
“Discussions with Deloitte are taking place to open new and fascinating growth prospects for our company,” Roland Berger Strategy Consultants said in an e-mailed statement today.
While that’s what is going in the foreground, Adam Jones over at the Financial Times was so bold to suggest that this just another step in Deloitte’s quest to “overtake McKinsey as the market leader in strategic advice for managers.”
Now we hadn’t heard about this McKinsey-slaying goal prior to today and it seems a little credulous to think that Deloitte is jockeying with McK, especially when you consider the domination of McKinsey in the eyes of those who work in the industry.
However, on paper Deloitte derives $7.5 billion from its consulting business which is nothing to sneeze at. Considering that and the fact that they haven’t exactly made their desire for mergers a secret, Deloitte this very well could be a step in earning another #1 notch in their belt (with matching suspenders).