September 21, 2020

Integrity

This Rabbi’s Good Deed Should Be a Question on the Ethics Exam

This situation easily reads like the kind of question you might see on the ethics exam if, you know, the ethics exam were actually about ethics and not the importance of CYA: 1. You have just purchased a cheap second hand $150 desk on Craigslist. It doesn't fit through the door, and when you go […]

Accountant Hopes Bankers Will Have the Integrity of Accountants One Day

Sir Michael Rake is currently the Deputy Chairman of Barclays. and, from 2002 to 2007, he was the Chairman of KPMG International. Last night, Sir Mike did quite the impressive thing — that is, he got all Dad on accountants and bankers by telling the former how proud he was of them while telling the […]

Big 4 Firm Doesn’t Appreciate the Insinuation That Former Big 4 Employees Are Anything Less Than 100% Objective When Choosing an Audit Firm

It has become increasingly clear that the front line of the war on audit firm oligarchs is in the U.K. While regulators and observers in the U.S. seem ambivalent about the Final Four Horsemen of the Financial Apocalypse, the British have seemed quite content to irritate the Big 4 with their Competition Commission's insistence that […]

Independence Questionnaires Are the Worst

I haven't had to fill out an "Independence, Integrity, and Objectivity" questionnaire since 2009. Just for kicks, I had a buddy send me a copy of one and I can't even read through it–partly because it's incomprehensible, but mostly because of the rage. Here's the first of 70 [!!!] questions: Have you performed, during the […]

Future CFOs, Partners Best Not Check Integrity at the Door

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

A strong moral compass can give high-potential managers a leg up the career ladder, according to the results of a recent survey.

One-third of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said that, other than technical or functional expertise, integrity is what they look for most when grooming future leaders. Interpersonal and communication skills also ranked high, cited by 28 percent of respondents.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, a provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.


CFOs were asked, “Other than technical or functional expertise, which one of the following traits do you look for most when grooming future leaders at your organization?”

Their responses:
• Integrity – 33%
• Interpersonal/communication skills – 28%
• Initiative – 15%
• Ability to motivate others – 12%
• Business savvy – 10%
• Other/don’t know – 2%

“History has shown time and time again the importance of ethics in business – even a single lapse in judgment by one employee can significantly affect a company’s reputation and its bottom line,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. “Leaders who are principled and forthright inspire this same behavior in their teams, creating a culture in which integrity is a core value.”

McDonald pointed out that communication skills also are requisite as executives take on greater responsibility.

“Especially during difficult periods, managers must be able to promote open, two-way communication with their teams,” McDonald said. “Executives in companies that have moved successfully through the downturn understand the importance of listening intently to feedback from employees and are always on the lookout for this skill in potential leaders.”

HP’s Actions in Hurd Case Do Not Impress

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

When HP announced the stunning resignation of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Hurd on Friday, it seemingly wanted the world to think it took the moral high road.

In its press release, the company said a probe into possible sexual harassment charges against Hurd and HP by a former contractor to HP found no violation of HP’s sexual harassment policy, “but did find violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.”

Ooh.


So, basically the company and Board were saying that ethics trumps performance, even when it comes to the guy widely credited for turning around the company.

The populists applauded, hoping that some companies have higher standards than, maybe, Wall Street, where the people who brought us the global financial crisis and caused millions of innocent people to lose their jobs also wound up being rewarded with huge bonuses.

However, these hopes were quickly dashed when we learned that poor Mark Hurd-who joins the growing ranks of the unemployed–will walk away with close to $30 million in severance.

So much for taking the high moral ground.

Now, defenders of Hurd’s package say his employment contract calls for this arrangement. It’s that simple. And a contract is a contract. Blah blah blah.

However, the reality is that if he were fired “with cause,” the company could have been off the hook from paying him anything. Hurd would have received zilch. Then their firing for breaching ethics would have had meat.

In most “with cause” cases, all the company needs to cite is an intentional breach of any of the company’s policies.

Of course, Hurd could have contested this decision and sued the company. But, that would have placed the onus on Hurd and enabled HP to take an even firmer ethical stand, which given its size and stature would have sent a loud and emphatic message to the business community.

But, alas, this was not the route HP’s Board wanted to go. In fact, the beginning of its press release announcing Hurd’s departure, says: “Hurd has decided with the Board of Directors to resign his positions effective immediately.”

On its subsequent conference call, the company reportedly said there was a legal settlement.

What does this mean? Either the company did not want Hurd to walk away with nothing. It could also mean it did not have a good case. It could also mean there were other undisclosed issues involved or Hurd might have some dirt on the company if there were a lawsuit and depositions were taken, even if it did not go to trial.

Of course, HP has its free market right to make a deal with Hurd.

However, don’t try to tell us you’re taking the high moral ground.

Three Things Accounting Firms Can Learn from Jim Joyce

Chances are good that at this time yesterday you didn’t know anything about James Joyce III. Today, America can’t stop talking about the poor sap. His Wikipedia page has been frozen and he’s a trending topic on Twitter.


BP sent Joyce a bottle of tequila this morning, the card reading, “Thank you for taking the heat off of us. Enjoy the spotlight. Remember to wear sunscreen. XOXO – BP”

Experts have varying opinions on what this means for baseball and the implementation of instant replay. What is easier to agree on is that Joyce deserves respect not for his poor call but for the fact that he was humble enough to admit that he was wrong, saying, “I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay. Biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it.”

If nothing else, Little Leaguers everywhere can learn from this moment. But the lesson doesn’t need to end there. What can every accounting firm take away from this situation in hopes of never pulling a JimJoyce* themselves?

Admit when you are wrong – Listen to your mother, George Washington, or whatever truth-telling role model you have in your life and fess up when you are wrong. Deloitte did just that back in April when they admitted to handling the “headcount adjustment” in poor fashion.

Don’t point fingers – I don’t know if you’ve noticed the bickering going on between E&Y and PwC recently, but it’s kind of…what’s the word for it…pathetic? First there was the “our raises are bigger than yours” spout from E&Y leadership. Boys, boys, keep it in your pants. Size doesn’t mat…oh wait, what? It does in this case? Well then. Brag away. Then PDubs’ London arm decided to pull a Joe McGinniss and set up camp a mere 10 meters from E&Y’s fish ‘n chips office. Awkward love affair or uber-competitive personalities? Either way it’s immature to act like this. Grow up.

Hide – Joyce is probably in the process of doing this (don’t expect him to return to the field anytime soon). But the newly branded McGladrey is leadership’s efforts to mask the fact that cuts are affecting morale and staff ranks. Perhaps no one commented on Caleb’s putting green post because no one is left. Just sayin’.

What else can your firm learn from Jimbo? Comment below.

*you heard that phrase here first.

Jim Quigley, Still ‘a Proud Aggie,’ Fails to Go Out on a High Note

Jim_quigley.jpgThat’s right, he’s proud. Never mind that the football team just finished their season 4 – 8. Sports aren’t everything.
The Big Q, swindler of unsuspecting journalists, took time away from calling CEOs on private jets to give a speech at Utah State (his alma mater) to faculty and students on ethics.
We won’t give you all the gory details since CNN probably is working on that piece right now. We’d hate to steal their thunder.


We will mention that Quigs is swelling with pride that USU’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business Scholars agree to “principles” which he quoted in the speech:

“I agree to conduct myself according to the highest ethical standards. I will accept personal responsibility for my conduct and any consequences for mistakes, accidental or intentional. I will be honest, truthful and fair in alof my actions and interactions with others. I will also demonstrate civil, respectful and courteous concern for and behavior toward others at all times both in and outside of the classroom.”

It seems like a fine group of sentences but I implore you: is it an oath/promise laminated on tiny cards? Hardly, dude.
Ethics and integrity aside, Quigs’ remarks seem like the standard boilerplate metaphors and clichés. Hell, he even quotes the Oracle in his conclusion, “Warren Buffett said: ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’ And, once lost, it can take years to rebuild.”
It works well enough but we would have rather heard Quigs wrap it up with “I’ve never gone to bed with an ugly woman but I’ve sure woke up with a few.” It would’ve brought the house down. High note, Quigs. Always look to go out on that high note.
Jim_Quigley_Utah_State_remarks.pdf

FASB’s Final Word on Fair Value Disclosures?

silenced.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
Of the 111 comment letters FASB published on Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures: “Improving Disclosures about Fair Value Measurements”, this one was my favorite:

Please don’t require Companies not SEC registered to spend any more money on reports under this rule.
Lloyd Amundson

Amen, brother.


The usual suspects left the usual complaints; BDO said excessive disclosures would be both costly and useless, Uncle Ernie implied it was an interesting concept but an expensive flop in practical application, and PwC prefers once a year disclosures instead of quarterly.
Verizon even got in on the action, insisting, “proposed additional extended sensitivity disclosures would unnecessarily complicate financial statement disclosures without providing any meaningful benefit to financial statement users.”
I think it is entirely reasonable to point out that FASB is feeling the pressure to converge and the IASB is encouraging slightly less optimistic financial statements. The IASB openly admits that it is under outside pressure to adopt such a stance:

Responding to requests by the G20 leaders and others, in June 2009 the IASB published a Request for Information on the practicalities of moving to an expected loss model. The responses have been taken into account by the IASB in developing the exposure draft.

The IASB continues:

The IASB will also cooperate closely with the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) with a view to agreeing a common approach to the impairment of financial assets.

Since when is this for the IASB to decide?
Political influences are nothing new to accounting rulemakers but what happens when those influences come from foreign bodies far outside of our control? It is a known fact that the European Union has a large stake in IASB, so how can we be sure their intentions are pure as we move forward at their urging?
The Financial Crisis Advisory Group, an international body set up by the IASB and FASB to advise them on standard-setting issues related to the financial crisis, warned recently that that political pressure on accounting standard-setters posed a threat to “the very existence of international accounting standards.”
Integrity in financial statements? Keep looking, not going to find any of that here.