I got a notification from Twitter the other day reminding me that it’s been 10 whole years since I joined. Wow, that long? I realized that I’d done it the week the economy started swirling down the drain in earnest back in 2008. Unlike my Twitter anniversary, we can argue all day over the actual […]
EY settled its litigation with the New York Attorney General today, paying $10 million to make Eric Schneiderman go away. The suit was originally brought by now-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over four years ago. EY claims that this was the “last significant lawsuit” remaining and said, “After many years of costly litigation, we are pleased […]
Not so fast, Ernst & Young. You may be able to rebrand and spout off a bunch of feel good hooey about integrity or whatever silly phrase you're using these days but you're gonna need a bigger rug under which to sweep Lehman, guys: A New York state appeals court on Thursday revived the New […]
This is rich. Michael Rapoport reports: Ernst & Young LLP has agreed to pay $99 million to settle investor class-action allegations that it turned a blind eye when its audit client Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. misled investors before the investment bank's 2008 collapse. The investors and Ernst "have reached an agreement in principle" to settle the […]
This week, lots of people are talking about the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy because five years is half of a decade and, well, it was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history so that counts for something. Yesterday, we linked to the DealBook story that explains why the SEC threw in the towel and for me, it's one […]
Nice try, Schneiderman. The New York attorney general has no authority to claim $150 million in fees that Ernst & Young earned from Lehman Brothers Holdings in the years leading up to Lehman's collapse in 2008, a judge ruled on Wednesday. The state had sought the fees as part of a lawsuit against Ernst & Young […]
Bloomberg reports that an internal memo states that the crack squad looking at the Commission is wrapping up their investigation and a stern talking to is the probably the worst it'll get for Dick Fuld et al.: Under a heading reading “Activity in Last Four Weeks,” the undated document reads, “The staff has concluded its […]
Ernst & Young Global CEO Jim Turley is being recognized for his work with the National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) and he wrote a blog post over at Bloomberg BusinessWeek explaining how he became such a theatre buff: “I grew up in St. Louis. From the time I’m old enough to remember, I was lucky enough […]
Welcome back to Saturday, folks. Once again, Saturday Open Thread is your opportunity to air any grievances, talk about your week, complain about failing the CPA exam, or berate Colin for the purple shirt he wore to the PCAOB open meeting on Wednesday. Let it all out, it'll help you head into Monday feeling slightly […]
E&Y worked hard ignoring whistleblowers, goat poo assets, and cowering to unqualified CFOs to earn those fees from that Titantic of an engagement, so don't you think you can waltz into court and demand they give that money back. Ernst & Young, which was sued by New York in 2010 for allegedly helping Lehman Brothers […]
I mean, you know how it is, when you lose $192 million. It’s a tough thing to forget. The Journal reports that the Garden State has renewed its lawsuit against E&Y saying “Those review reports were false, as E&Y knew or should have known that Lehman’s quarterly financial statements were not prepared in accordance with [GAAP].” When reached for comment, E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins’s voice was barely audible on a nearly worn out tape recording, “Lehman’s demise was caused by the global financial crisis that impacted the entire financial sector, not by accounting or financial reporting issues.” Wouldn’t it be nice if Chuck had Nick DeSanto sing the statement? With a rock accompaniment? At least it would liven up this story again. [WSJ]
Because business is good at E&Y. Not PwC good or Deloitte good but good enough.
Ernst & Young today announced combined global revenues of US$22.9 billion for the financial year ended 30 June 2011, compared with US$21.3 billion in 2010, a 7.6% increase. In local currency, revenues grew 5.3%. “We have had a very strong year in each of our four geographic areas. We continue to see very positive reactions to the way we have globalized our organization over the last few years, our investments in emerging markets and the great dedication and commitment of our people,” said Jim Turley, Global Chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young.
Also, Jimbo says that E&Y is “focused on building lifelong relationships with our people. This ensures we have outstanding talent to provide our clients the best service wherever they do business.” So if your heart belongs to show business, fine. But your ass belongs to Ernst & Young.
Jonathan Weil has a column today on the train wreck that is Sino-Forest, the Chinese-Canadian timber company. In case you need caught up, there have been some questions about the company’s ability to report accurate disclosures and accounting. This led the research firm Muddy Waters to issue a not-so-flattering analysis of the company. Things like “Ponzi scheme” and “investing for the 23rd Century” don’t exactly get people jumping up and down for your company. Ask John Paulson.
Of course Sino-Forest didn’t do this all by themselves. They had credit rating agencies and auditors telling them everything was hunky dory for years and that’s Weil’s point. He reports that Fitch pulled its rating on S-F back in July and S&P finally pulled their rating this week. That just leaves Moody’s but guess who else is still hanging in there? Ernst & Young, baby! They’re still standing behind their audit opinions and showing no sign of budging. And JW is really curious to know who’s going to jump out of this tree first.
One question lingers: Which of the company’s paid opinion merchants will be the last to step aside? Will it be a credit rater? Or will it be the company’s auditor, Ernst & Young LLP in Toronto, which has yet to rescind any of its reports on Sino-Forest’s finances?
So far Ernst looks like the favorite, with only one rating company left in the hunt. Think of it as a contest between giant tortoises to see which one is slower. This time-honored ritual — of market gatekeepers waiting to blow the whistle until long after a scam has been exposed — has become so familiar, we might as well revel in the spectacle.
So these “gatekeepers” Weil speaks of – obviously this includes the Big 4. And it’s true that we’re all used to them waving their arms, screaming “DANGER!” in front of the burning heap that everyone has been aware of for ages (I didn’t say Lehman Brothers. Did you say Lehman Brothers? Who said Lehman Brothers?).
ANYWAY, E&Y should know that they have choices:
Ernst does have options, aside from bracing for the inevitable years of litigation and investigations. It could resign, explain why it is doing so and face criticism for acting too late. It could withdraw its previous audit opinions. It could insist to Sino-Forest’s directors that it be permitted to answer questions from the public about the work it has performed, as a condition of remaining onboard. Or it could hang on in silence, as it’s doing now, and watch its reputation endure more damage.
Could be that this is just another part of E&Y’s strategy. Sit tight while things play out, wait until things get really serious (i.e. bankruptcy, severe economic turmoil, civil charges, etc. etc.) and then come out swinging.
Tree Falls on Sino-Forest, Auditor Can’t Hear It [Bloomberg]
FT Alphaville found this notable quote from District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s opinion (whole thing after the jump):
The TAC alleges that Lee told E&Y in June 2008 “that Lehman moved $50 billion of inventory off its balance sheet at quarter-end through Repo 105 transactions and that these assets returned to the balance sheet about a week later.” Assuming that is so, E&Y arguably was on 308 notice by June 2008 that Lehman had used Repo 105s to portray its net leverage more favorably than its financial position warranted, a circumstance that could well have resulted in the published balance sheet for that quarter being inconsistent with GAAP’s overall requirement of fair presentation. Accordingly, the TAC adequately alleges that E&Y misrepresented in the 2Q08 that it was “not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the consolidated financial statements referred to above for them to be in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles” notwithstanding Lee’s disclosure to it.
“Lee” you may remember is Matthew Lee Lee, the Senior VP for Global Balance Sheet and Legal Entity Accounting who also said this about E&Y’s reaction to his warning on Repo 105:
They certainly didn’t support it. On the Repo 105 issue, they knew about it; they did not appear to know that the number was so large.
FASB issued Accounting Standards Update No. 2011-03 to improve the financial reporting of repurchase agreements, also called “repos,” or other transactions that govern the transfer and repurchase of financial assets. The new guidance gives companies some new parameters to consider in determining whether a transfer is in fact a sale of an asset, and therefore qualifies for sale treatment, or whether an entity has retained some control over the asset and therefore cannot claim to have sold it. [CW]
John Carney points out that Bank of America, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo have all appointed new CFOs recently that are not accountants. It harkens him back to a time when another bank made a similar change.
Of course Carney is talking Lehman Brothers and Erin Callan. Oh and Ian Lowitt too. Both served as Lehman’s CFO prior to the bankruptcy. Funny thing – Francine McKenna wrote a post about the problematic situation of having a CFO with no accounting experience three months before Lehman went bankrupt. But BofA, JPM and Wells aren’t Lehman are they? GAAP is really NBD, right? [CNBC]
If you followed last week’s “Role of the Accounting Profession in Preventing Another Financial Crisis” hearing before the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment, you may have noticed that “Ernst & Young” was never uttered by anyone on the panel, although Lehman Brothers was mentioned a number of times throughout the hearing. Anton Valukas, the bankruptcy examiner for the Lehman, was there after all and “Ernst & Young” appears in his report probably thousands of times. So why wouldn’t Ernst & Young be mentioned? This is a hearing about the accounting profession preventing, after all and Mr Valukas has stated in his report and elsewhere that “colorable claims” could be filed against E&Y. Stands to reason that perhaps the firm would come up at some point.
Also, if you followed the hearing with us on our live-blog, you definitely heard Francine McKenna and I complaining about the sorry turnout by the members of the subcommittee. The majority of questions coming from the subcommittee chairman, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), with a few from Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The eight GOP members were nowhere to be found. Now maybe accounting isn’t the sexiest of topics but it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t an important hearing where many questions could have been asked of an industry that witnessed excrement coming into contact with an old Century. However, after a tip from a person familiar with situation, we may have an idea why there was such a pathetic turnout:
[T]he auditing firms did not like it they were holding the hearing and E&Y really was complaining to Reed that Valukas had been invited. As a result, the Republicans agreed that none of them would attend the hearing which in fact, none did.
Gotta love spiteful absence! Obviously we had to call around on this one and Ernst & Young spokesman Charlie Perkins declined to comment. As for the Republican members of the subcommittee, we have…well, nothing else to share at this point. But we’re hopeful! It’s entirely possible that all eight GOP members had something better to do than ask questions of industry experts that had a front row seat to the financial crisis, but then again the hearing was pretty early in the morning.
UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Senator Mike Crapo, the ranking member on the subcommittee, informed us that Mr Crapo was sick last Wednesday and canceled all his appointments for that day.
Because Jonathan Weil is wondering.
He noticed that Audit Analytics found that 699 SEC-registered companies filed restatements last year which was slightly higher than ’09. This was considerably less than the 1,566 restatements in ’06 but when it came to the number of banks that had restatements, he noticed something strange:
The figures for banks, in particular, look unnaturally low. Forty-four banks restated last year, one fewer than in 2009. Even more curious, there were 133 banks that issued corrections from 2008 through 2010. That was down from 169 banks during the previous three-year period, before the financial crisis took off in earnest, which makes no sense.
Here we had the greatest banking industry meltdown since the Great Depression. Hundreds of lenders failed. And yet the number of banks correcting accounting errors declined while the collapse was unfolding. There were no restatements by the likes of IndyMac, Washington Mutual or Lehman Brothers, for example. The obvious conclusion is the government has been giving lots of banks a free pass, as have their auditors.
Honesty for Banks Is Still Such a Lonely Word [Bloomberg]
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEHMQ.PK) filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008 and then quickly sold its prize investment banking assets to Barclays Bank (BARC.L). JPMorgan had been Lehman’s banker. The court papers, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan on Thursday, said that Barclays and Lehman called certain Lehman assets “toxic waste” and “goat poo” and knowingly excluded them from their sale agreement.
Jim Turley has been a willing participant in this whole thing so far but were far more interested in what you guys think.
Jimbo does admit that “we are not pleased to be in the spotlight like this” but per ushe, he takes it in stride and says, “it is something that we will deal with.”
2010. What a year, amiright? It got off to a bit of a rough start after our facelift but as the year went on, things stayed interesting…most of the time. Anyway, since most of you aren’t getting Jack Squat done this week, let’s take a look back at the year that was.
1. Compensation – Shocking revelation here, we realize but – YES! – it’s true, red about most in 2010. After two years of disappointment, the Big 4 and the aspiring “Bigs” (Grant Thornton, BDO, McGladrey) all returned to merit increases and bonuses this year. PwC shot out of the gate with Ernst & Young keeping pace while KPMG remained steady but slightly behind. Deloitte, lagging behind, made a late charge with the announcement of a mid-year adjustment, which may or may not have set off a rash spreading amongst the other firms to provide bonuses throughout their fiscal year-ends. Was it a successful 2010 on the compensation front? Some say “yes,” some say “no,” but there’s little doubt about what keeps your attention.
2. PwC Email Hottiegate – Unless you were in a coma during the second week of November, you were aware of the email that listed the top 10, errr 13, new female associates that came out of PwC in Ireland. The gents who passed around the list weren’t so concerned with using work email to give the ladies the Letterman treatment and the Irish brass didn’t take too kindly to the “tradition.” This story dominated our pages for a few days and the last we knew, a total of five employees had been suspended, the women weren’t planning on lawsuits and Adrienne gave her point of view (as a member of the fairer sex).
3. Ernst & Young and Lehman Brothers – We were really expecting a slow week leading up to the Christmas holiday but because the force is strong with Andrew Cuomo, our dreams were filled with Jim Turley trying to burn us with Montecristos. It all started in March when the bankruptcy examiner’s report put E&Y right at the center of the failure of Lehman and last week we finally saw Cuomo fire the first shot.
4. PwC Makeover – Change is usually met with wailing and gnashing of teeth and the updated look rolled out by PwC in mid-September was no different. Despite the rants about color schemes and geometry, Bob Moritz assured everyone that the majority of feedback was positive and that he was happy to answer any questions about the change that didn’t relate to autumnal hues and Legos™. As is typical in these situations, the bellyaching has died down and everyone is now distracted by their new iPads.
5. Large firm vs. Small firm – An anonymous reader submitted an essay on the main differences between life in the Big 4 (and aspiring Bigs) life and that of the lives working in the smaller firms. Most have wondered what life would be like in their bizarro public accounting existence and some have actually lived it. There are pros and cons to each but life at the small firm is decidedly different.
6. An auditor’s life:
7. Layoffs – 2010 saw fewer mass layoffs than the past couple of years but that doesn’t mean there weren’t spots of cuts here and there. Most notably were the nationwide cuts at McGladrey as well as the 500 cuts made by PwC in Florida. Grant Thornton was busy slimming down its exposure in smaller markets but layoffs were not always part of the “transition” as practices were often sold or employees were giving the opportunity to transfer. And last but not least, we learned that Deloitte claimed “our bad” on their cuts from May 2009.
8. Getting in trouble on the Internet – Whether you’re trying to win a trip to Whistler for you and your bros or emailing your buddy about putting the moves on a lady, there was plenty of idiotic behavior going on across the Internets. Adrienne laid out how to not behave but humans are creatures of habit and we’re sure there’ll be more exciting idiotic behavior in the coming year.
9. PwC Houston Happy Hour – The team happy hour. Typically a festive event filled with free booze, laughs and the occasional awkward advance. The latter allegedly took form of a partner towards an associate this past summer in PwC’s Houston office that resulted in a odd pick-up line, a sloppy kiss (our vision) and then a knuckle sand. The latest we heard was there were multiple associates approached, the partner-in-question was still with the firm and that the associate(s) involved were shipped off to other engagements. So all is well in H-town. PwC never returned our calls, emails or singing telegrams on this story.
10. Accounting Career Drama – One of the most popular series on GC is the career advice that we throw out here and there. Everything from trying to quit nicely during busy season to defection amongst Big 4 firms to explaining why your fantasy football roster is constantly on your computer screen. We’re here to help you get through the purgatory that is your time on Earth so if you’ve got a problem and want advice, email us at [email protected].
Too hot for PwC; thinking about law school?; a Big 4 failure in our future?; an accounting degree isn’t a scam like, say, a law degree; articulating the dress code; Ernst & Young manager censured by the PCAOB; how to screw up the CPA exam; Joseph Stack’s (the guy who crashed the plane into the IRS building) manifesto; accounting professor de-pants.
If we missed any of your favorites, feel free to recall your fondest memories on this here site. As we head into the new year, here’s a friendly reminder of how to get in touch with us:
• Like Going Concern on Facebook and leave a message on the board. You’ll have to work hard if you want to friend us.
We couldn’t do it without all your help, so keep it up in the new year so we can have an even more eventful 2011!
Over at Bloomberg, Jonathan Weil (who has the tendency to let the dust settle before chiming in) takes Ernst & Young to task for their lack of willingness to take responsibility for the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and digs up a bunch of old bodies in the process.
E&Y had established itself as a repeat offender long before Governor-Elect Cuomo filed his suit. In recent years we’ve seen four former E&Y partners sentenced to prison for selling illegal tax shelters, while other partners have been disciplined by the SEC for blessing fraudulent financial statements at a variety of companies, including Cendant Corp. and Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp.
In the Bally case, E&Y last year paid an $8.5 million fine, without admitting or denying the SEC’s professional-misconduct claims. The SEC also has imposed sanctions against E&Y three times since 2004 for violating its auditor-independence rules.
After that friendly reminder (which certainly makes some people wince), JW takes a look at the E&Y’s response to the suit, specifically the part where they more or less say that Cuomo is off his rocker, “There is no factual or legal basis for a claim to be brought against an auditor in this context where the accounting for the underlying transaction is in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).”
Weil says E&Y is missing the point entirely:
That isn’t an accurate depiction of the claims Cuomo brought, though. Cuomo’s suit unambiguously took the position that Lehman violated GAAP. What’s more, it’s not credible for E&Y to say that Lehman didn’t. (An E&Y spokesman, Charles Perkins, said he “can’t comment beyond our statement.”)
In the footnotes to its audited financial statements, Lehman said it accounted for all its repurchase agreements as financings. This was false, because Lehman accounted for its Repo 105 transactions as sales, a point the Valukas report chronicled in exhaustive detail.
The question is, of course, if this all adds up to fraud on E&Y’s part. Cuomo says it does. Weil says that E&Y needs to come up with a better story. Colin Barr, on the other hand, writes that E&Y could easily turn the tables:
The Ernst & Young statement suggests the firm will argue that it can’t be prosecuted under the Martin Act because Lehman, not E&Y, was the outfit actually producing the financial reports, and because it was Lehman, not E&Y, that was peddling billions of dollars of securities just months before its implosion.
In this view, E&Y was just a gatekeeper hired to vouch for Lehman’s books, something it will claim it did well within the confines of the law. This strikes lawyers who are familiar with the law as an eminently reasonable approach, if not exactly a surefire recipe for success.
“If I were Ernst & Young, I would assert I was not a primary actor,” said Margaret Bancroft, a partner at Dechert LLP and author of a 2004 memo that explained the Martin Act soon after Spitzer began brandishing it against Wall Street. “You can say that with more than a straight face.”
“Just gatekeepers,” and not “fraudsters,” is obviously the preferred view but the catch is, E&Y would be admitting that they are really shitty gatekeepers.
This was worth the wait.
Directly from the firm’s website:
Ernst & Young’s Response to New York Attorney General’s Complaint
New York, 21 December 2010 – We intend to vigorously defend against the civil claims alleged by the New York Attorney General.
There is no factual or legal basis for a claim to be brought against an auditor in this context where the accounting for the underlying transaction is in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Lehman’s audited financial statements clearly portrayed Lehman as a highly leveraged entity operating in a risky and volatile industry.
Lehman’s bankruptcy occurred in the midst of a global financial crisis triggered by dramatic increases in mortgage defaults, associated losses in mortgage and real estate portfolios, and a severe tightening of liquidity. Lehman’s bankruptcy was preceded and followed by other bankruptcies, distressed mergers, restructurings, and government bailouts of all of the other major investment banks, as well as other major financial institutions. In short, Lehman’s bankruptcy was not caused by any accounting issues.
What we have here is a significant expansion of the Martin Act. Although the Martin Act is almost 90 years old, we believe this is the first time that an Attorney General is attempting to use this law to assert claims against an accounting firm, rather than the company that took the alleged actions.
We look forward to presenting the facts in a court of law.
In other words, Andy – get lost; drop dead; suck it. AM Law Daily reports that E&Y has big guns on the case:
Miles Ruthberg, a former global litigation chair at Latham & Watkins, confirmed, via an e-mail to The Am Law Daily, that he’s representing E&Y in the suit along with Latham securities litigation and professional liability cochair Jamie Wine and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel white-collar defense and SEC regulatory cochair Barry Berke. Latham, which has previously represented E&Y, has been handling securities litigation against the accounting firm stemming from Lehman’s failure.
To mark this occasion, we present an appropriate video (BL-inspired):
Since Andrew Cuomo decided to make our lives insanely busy this week, we’ve been talking to lots of different people about what will happen next in the Ernst & Young saga. We stumbled across a couple of experts, Dr. Mark Zimbelman an Accounting Professor who specializes in fraud, forensic accounting and auditors’ detection of fraud at BYU’s Marriott School of Business, along with his son, Aaron Zimbelman, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign whose research interests include auditing, financial statement fraud and corporate governance.
We corresponded with the Zimbelmans by email for this interview. They have combined their positions to provide us with the answers to our questions.
Going Concern: Does E&Y risk losing creditability with the market at large (á la Andersen) because of these civil fraud charges?
Zimbelmans: We don’t think this case will hurt E&Y’s credibility, based on what we know at this point. Lehman’s accounting for Repo 105 transactions was in accordance with GAAP and appears to have been a common practice for similar transactions in the industry. In other words, E&Y was probably following the letter of the law in signing the audit opinion. In Andersen’s case, the firm had shredded documents and faced criminal charges. Until we see a clearer act of wrongdoing (e.g. a clear departure from auditing standards), we don’t see E&Y individually facing a significant loss of credibility. More likely, the auditing and accounting profession as a whole will take a credibility hit as individuals question the standards and industry norms adhered to by E&Y in auditing Lehman.
GC: Reports say that E&Y is in talks to settle – how do you interpret their willingness to settle rather than litigate in this matter?
MZ/AZ: We think a willingness to settle speaks mostly to the great deal of uncertainty associated with the litigation process in auditing cases. Jury trials in cases like these can be very unpredictable and may not be strongly related to whether or not E&Y actually did anything wrong. Juries tend to have a poor understanding of auditing and accounting issues and also tend to side with victims and against deep pockets. In this case in particular, were the case to go to trial, E&Y has a good chance to become a scapegoat for the collapse of Lehman and perhaps even the economic crisis as a whole. Even if the probability of a verdict against E&Y were fairly low, the damages assigned by a runaway jury could be devastating. This gives E&Y a strong incentive to settle, regardless of whether or not they did anything wrong.
GC: Is there any advantage to litigating?
MZ/AZ: If the requested settlement amount would be devastating to E&Y, the firm is better off litigating. The firm may also be better off litigating if the requested settlement amount is high and E&Y feels they have a very solid case that has a good chance at overcoming the common jury biases we discussed in the previous question.
GC: How would you react to those who feel that are calling for criminal charges against the firm?
MZ/AZ: We don’t really see any criminal behavior here–E&Y allowed Lehman to account for Repo 105 in accordance with GAAP and in accordance with what was fairly standard in the industry. Until we see evidence of potentially criminal behavior, calls for criminal charges seem absurd.
GC: Prediction time: what happens next? Fine of $X and….?
MZ/AZ: We doubt there are any criminal issues here. E&Y will likely try to settle as quickly as possible to get this behind them. Cuomo is likely to want a huge settlement because of the magnitude of the bankruptcy and because of the potential for a runaway jury. Given that Lehman’s bankruptcy was $691 billion, this settlement could easily exceed E&Y’s Cendant settlements which were over $600 million.
A trusted source emailed us that things were getting festive last night:
EY had their FSO party last night at Cipriani’s downtown. Used to be at Tavern on the Green.
This is good news. And not just because this is an upgrade from last year’s party. Despite all the bad press the firm is getting, the celebration will go on! It must go on! Now whether the Governor-elect was aware of this and purposefully decided to make a few people’s hangovers a little worse by filing the charges today, we can’t possibly know (but he does seem to have an innate sense of timing).
What we would like to find out is the mood at this fiesta. Were there a lot of long faces, grumbling about Hank Paulson, weeping in their single malts? OR did people manage to convince themselves that this whole thing is NBD and people had a good time – enjoying the open bar, power smoking Cohibas, making awkward sexual advances, partners dancing?
We need, and the people demand details, so if you were at the party email us the details.
Or throws another scalp on the pile, whatever you prefer.
The Journal is obviously very cozy with the Governor-elect:
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a lawsuit against Ernst & Young for civil fraud Tuesday, accusing one of the nation’s largest accounting firms of helping Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. hide its financial weakness from investors for about seven years before the bank finally collapsed in September of 2008.
Ernst & Young knew about, supported and advised Lehman on its “Rs, a type of debt the bank took on, but labeled as sales, which made the firm appear to investors less risky than it really was, according to the complaint. The audit firm also stood by while Lehman misled analysts and investors on conference calls and in financial filings about its levels of risk, particularly after the firm’s stability began to crack after the credit crisis began in 2007, said the complaint.
“Ernst & Young substantially assisted Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., now bankrupt, to engage in a massive accounting fraud,” Mr. Cuomo wrote in his complaint.
Now that the AG has pulled the trigger on this, we’re wondering what’s next. E&Y still isn’t talking, other than the statement they’ve been giving since the bankruptcy examiner’s report came out in March. One comment suggested a settlement in the nine figure range which would put them in proximity of the DOJ’s fine of KPMG back in 2005.
Colin Barr over a Fortune reports that Cuomo wants at least the audit fees back ($150 million, according to the complaint):
The complaint, filed in state Supreme Court, seeks the repayment of at least $150 million in fees the audit firm collected between 2001, when Lehman’s aggressive accounting began, and 2008, when the venerable bank collapsed, precipitating a global bank run.
“Our lawsuit seeks to recover the fees collected by Ernst & Young while it was supposed to be using accountable, honest measures to protect the public,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Something tells us that Cuomo won’t be satisfied by simply the audit fees; we’re talking about the largest bankruptcy in history, after all. If you feel like ballparking the fine, we wouldn’t turn away any outlandish guesses.
UPDATE: Felix Salmon also points out E&Y’s lack of communicado:
E&Y knew this was coming—we all did—but despite that fact, its only public reaction so far has been to refuse to comment. That doesn’t look good, and it forces us back to what the company said in the wake of the Valukas report—that its work as Lehman auditor “met all applicable professional standards,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
He also agrees with us that the fine will be greater than the $150 million and notes (not hiding his disappointment) that no partners were named, “E&Y will avoid admitting blame and also avoid criminal prosecution. […] [T]he only defendant is Ernst & Young LLP; there are no named individuals on the list. So E&Y’s partners are probably safe too. Sadly.”
Unless, of course, the SEC or PCAOB opt to take up that disciplinary slack. Don’t forget that some people think that Cuomo is making this move because he wants the “last scalp” before leaving the AG’s office for the Governor’s mansion. We realize pinning hopes on the SEC and PCAOB isn’t exactly comforting for those wishing to see more action but maybe Cuomo’s actions are the motivation they needed.
We’ll keep you updated throughout the day and if there’s any internal word from the hallowed walls of 5 Times Square, do email us the details.
“Could Ernst & Young have done a better job? Maybe, but claiming they could have done a better job doesn’t necessarily make them liable. Even the best of auditors can be fooled.”
~ Anthony Sabino, professor of law and business at St. John’s University
The Fox Business Network ace reporter is saying that Cuomo & Co. would like to settle this thing up ASAP (a “quick scalp” before AC goes to Albany) however it is definitely not happening this week because, “According to people at Ernst & Young […] one of the lead investigators in Cuomo’s office is on vacation.”
Also interesting is that Chaz reports that E&Y thought there wasn’t going to be such a rush to get this thing settled but now everyone is all worked up because the story got leaked.
As for the SEC stuff, we don’t know what to make of it since there’s been hardly any news about talks between E&Y and the Commission. Francine McKenna told us that Gaspo “got a lot of smoke blown up his tush,” which is typical for reporters who cover Big 4 firms once in a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice.
As we mentioned earlier, the Wall St. Journal has reported that out-going New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will be filing civil fraud charges against Ernst & Young related to its actions (mostly lack thereof) that led to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Charges are expected this week but everyone is talking about it now obviously (and we were hoping for a quiet week).
Anyhoo, we’ve rounded up some of the early
sound blog bites out there and we’ll keep you updated throughout the day. Of course, if you’re with E&Y and have any insight or hear some calming, soothing words from TPTB, email us t��������������������ore–>
In her column at Forbes, Francine McKenna is happy that Andrew Cuomo is actually doing something, which is more than can be said for the Feds:
Whether Cuomo is doing this on his own, in defiance of the Feds, or has their implicit blessing in light of the Federal Government’s seeming unwillingness to act, New York’s Attorney General is showing the world he’s the only one in the US with the nerve to shake this tree.
Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren is not so impressed, saying criminal charges are really what’s needed:
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo needs to get tough instead of this “window dressing” CIVIL business. He is soon to be the Governor of NYC and this is his last act as the State’s Attorney General. I hope this is not to appease Wall Street. Let a jury decide whether is is criminal behavior or not and whether anyone has committed a crime. As it stands now, Cuomo is blocking that determination with only civil charges.
Felix Salmon postulates that Cuomo is using the possibility of criminal charges to scare E&Y into a settlement:
On the other hand, a civil fraud suit is not a criminal prosecution. Even if E&Y fights the charges and loses, it probably won’t find itself on the receiving end of the kind of criminal charges which brought down Andersen. Still, I’m sure that Cuomo’s office is doing nothing to downplay the contingent existential threat here, in its negotiations with E&Y.
Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism is practically giddy and hopes that this will turn up the heat on Dick Fuld:
One can only hope turning up the heat on Ernst & Young will lead to the prosecution of Richard Fuld. The buck is supposed to stop with the CEO, particularly when they are paid as many bucks as Fuld received. Given the scale of looting that took place in the runup to and after the crisis, there is no hope of getting the banking industry back in its proper role of supporting the real economy until we see some senior bank executives in orange jumpsuits.
CNBC’s John Carney thinks that execs at both Lehman and E&Y should take the civil charges as good sign:
Why should executives at Lehman and Ernst & Young be relieved? Because the filing of civil charges rather than criminal charges may signal that prosecutors do not believe they can prove a criminal case. The key difference between criminal and civil charges in these contexts is the quality of evidence and it looks as if New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office has decided it doesn’t have the evidence to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Fortune’s Colin Barr is appalled that E&Y’s Global CEO Jim Turley believes that there wasn’t any chicanery going on:
Take this exchange between E&Y chief Jim Turley and Fortune’s Geoff Colvin, from a September interview.
Colvin: Would it be fair to say that the crisis was caused in part by some financial firms doing misleading things that were within the rules?
Turley: I don’t know that it would be fair to say they were doing misleading things.
It’s remarkable Turley would still say that two months after the financial firm of the best and the brightest, Goldman Sachs (GS), agreed to pay $550 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it misled investors in a bubble-era debt deal. The auditors weren’t involved in that one, but the Wall Street mindset was pretty obvious to everyone not running an audit firm.
Over at DealBook, Peter Henning has an interesting theory that the NYAG could be going after the accountants while the SEC focuses on individuals:
If the S.E.C. agreed to share the Lehman case with the New York attorney general, then it may be that the state took the accountants as the focus of its investigation while the federal government concentrates on individuals. Such a division of labor would allow each to husband resources by avoiding any duplication of effort in the investigation – and may be the reason the state is planning to file charges before the S.E.C. decides to act.
Emily Chasan at Reuters managed to get a statement out of someone (Charlie Perkins’s phone has likely exploded by now) although the firm is sticking to the talking points:
A spokeswoman for Ernst & Young said the company did not comment on speculation and repeated a previous statement made by the firm about its dealings with Lehman Brothers. “Throughout our period as the auditor of Lehman, we firmly believe our work met all applicable professional standards, applying the rules that existed at the time,” the statement said.
Matt Taibbi (whole post is worth a read) is calling for the paramedics:
My guess is that this suit is the beginning of the end for Ernst and Young and, who knows, may be the beginning of a series of investigations that ultimately take down the auditors and ratings agencies that made the financial crisis possible. Without accountants and raters signing off on all the bogus derivative math and bad bookkeeping, a lot of this mess would never have happened.
We’ll be updating this post with more reactions and as things develop.
We don’t recognize anyone but you’re invited to point any notables out.
And you just know that somewhere, Dick Fuld is slobbing around in a old CU sweatshirt, muttering about backroom number-crunching dweebs that are still in business.
Filed under: more mess to directly blame on the fall of Lehman Brothers and Uncle Ernie’s epic failure
FASB is being awfully kind to those who played a large part in that whole total financial meltdown issue by avoiding actual name-dropping in their latest exposure draft but we don’t need names to know who they are talking about. *coughLehmancough* Here’s the note from FASB yesterday:
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an Exposure Draft (ED) today to solicit input from stakeholders on its proposal to improve the accounting for repurchase agreements (repos) and other agreements that both entitle and obligate a transferor to repurchase or redeem financial assets before their maturity. The FASB requests comments on this ED by January 15, 2011.
“During the global economic crisis, concerns were expressed about a narrow aspect of existing guidance for determining whether a repo should be accounted for as a sale or as a secured borrowing,” notes FASB Acting Chairman Leslie F. Seidman. “The proposals contained in this Exposure Draft seek to address these concerns by simplifying this guidance.”
You hear that? You’ve got until January 15th to draw up your fantastic comment letters (please don’t disappoint us, we haven’t seen a good comment letter since North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union President James Blaine said of mark-to-market: “Theoretically arrogant; in practice insane; financially negligent and reckless. Other than that, I have no concerns.”) on this new repo accounting proposal.
Once again, FASB wants the input of the worker grunts to find out A) what the plan is and B) how they should go about implementing it.
Seeing as how comment letters are a hallmark of our fantastically cooperative profession maybe FASB is going about this the wrong way. After all, it would be the investors who relied on incorrect information on Lehman’s financial condition based on creative repo accounting (mind you, “creative” and “fraudulent” are not the same thing) who are most impacted by current rules and any changes, not the accountants putting together the financial statements. Surely they would know better than to rely on their own financial information.
If you are unfamiliar with the joys of repo accounting FASB has offered a quick primer:
In a typical repo transaction, an entity transfers financial assets to a counterparty in exchange for cash with an agreement for the counterparty to return the same or equivalent financial assets for a fixed price in the future. Topic 860, Transfers and Servicing, prescribes when an entity may or may not recognize a sale upon the transfer of financial assets subject to repo agreements. That determination is based, in part, on whether the entity has maintained effective control over the transferred financial assets.
The amendments in this proposed Update are intended to simplify the accounting for these transactions by removing from the assessment of effective control the criterion requiring the transferor to have the ability to repurchase or redeem the financial assets, as well as implementation guidance related to that criterion.
Clarification is always nice, I guess, but paint me skeptical, I don’t see additional guidance doing much for closing the giant gaping loophole that Lehman drove a truck through on its way right off the cliff.
Ernst & Young, take my word for it, will never be indicted by the U.S. government, as a firm, for its role in any Lehman fraud that’s eventually proven. It’s also highly unlikely – 1000 to 1 odds I’d say – EY will be fined by the SEC or the PCAOB, as a firm, in a civil or disciplinary case.
~ Francine McKenna says it’s a longshot.
Bernanke Signals Intent to Further Spur Economy [NYT]
“The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, indicated on Friday that the central bank was poised to take additional steps to try to fight persistently low inflation and high unemployment.
‘Given the committee’s objectives, there would appear — all else being equal — to be a case for further action,’ he said in a detailed speech at a gathering of top economists [in Boston].
Mr. Bernanke noted that ‘unconventional policies have costs and limitations that must be taken into account in judging whether and how aggressively they should be used.” But he suggested that the Fed was prepared to manage the riske most powerful tool remaining in the Fed’s arsenal of weapons to stimulate the economy: vast new purchases of government debt to lower long-term interest rates.’ ”
Lehman Brothers’s U.K. Administrators Billed $420 Million Since Collapse [Bloomberg]
“Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s European administrators have billed 262 million pounds ($420 million) for work since the bank sought bankruptcy protection in September 2008.
The administrators have recovered 11.9 billion pounds in cash in the 24 months since the bank’s collapse and more than 350 trading counterparties have settled what they owed according to a report today on the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP website.
‘We have achieved exceptional progress in the administration, dealing with some 29 billion pounds of securities and cash, having now returned almost 12 billion pounds of this to clients,’ Tony Lomas, the PwC partner on the Lehman administration, said in a statement. ‘Whilst there are still numerous major challenges to address, our actions to date have generated significant realizations for creditors which will be paid to them in due course.’ ”
Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls [WSJ]
“For anyone who doubts that the texting revolution is upon us, consider this: The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month—more than 100 per day, according to the Nielsen Co., the media research firm. Adults are catching up. People from ages 45 to 54 sent and received 323 texts a month in the second quarter of 2010, up 75% from a year ago, Nielsen says.”
Big Four can take losing a chunk of the audit market [Accountancy Age]
“Opening up a fifth of the FTSE-250 audit market would only hit the revenues of the Big Four by an average of £6m, according to Grant Thornton.
Welcoming the EC’s green paper on audit reform, which has made a raft of radical measures including mandatory rotation of audits, the firm said opening up the audit market would not hurt the Big Four.”
Mozilo and SEC in Deal Discussions [WSJ]
“Confidential talks begun in recent weeks appear to be moving toward a settlement in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s high-profile civil fraud case against former Countrywide Financial Corp. Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo and two other former executives, people familiar with the matter said.
Late Thursday, a status conference on the case was ordered for Friday, a move that could signal a new development in the suit. If no agreement is reached, a jury trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in federal court here before Judge John Walter.
It is also possible, people familiar with the matter said, that only one or two of the defendants would reach a settlement before the trial. Attorneys for both sides are preparing for trial in the event it goes forward, said people familiar with the matter.”
33% of IRS’s 106,000 Employees Are Eligible for Retirement [TaxProf Blog]
Do they simply love their jobs that much?
A little perspective on those 18,000 XBRL errors [CPA Success]
“It’s not that bad.”
[caption id="attachment_18945" align="alignright" width="150" caption="No more square?"][/caption]
It sounds like it!
Judging by the article over at Marketing Week ideas are being kicked around and since Audits the Emmys!” Perhaps, “Zitor works for us!” Or simply, “Our opinion indicated that Lehman’s financial statements for that year were fairly presented in accordance with GAAP!”
Let’s hear some ideas.
Ernst & Young looks to stand out among “big four” [Marketing Week]
Gosh, team. It’s been over two years since Lehman bit the big one and now all that’s left is bits and pieces (Barclays, pink sheets, Dick Fuld’s stonewalling testimony) and charges from the SEC that could eventually see the light of day (unless the sun burns out first). Oh! And Ernst & Young. They’re in the mix too, although some people we talk to have their doubts about any repercussions.
Anyhoo, there was a big auction at Christie’s in London today directed by the newly-branded PwC. After everyone got done ribbing the P. Dubs partner in attendance about the Atari design, the bidding started. Here’s a little taste of what’s been sold so far, courtesy of the Times:
• Corporate Sign from Canary Wharf building – £42,050. Bidding started at £5,000
• Gary Hume’s Madonna – £120,000 (most expensive item so far)
• A collection of five maps from circa 1720 – £1,875
• An 1870 collection of the works of one Bill Shakespeare
• Two etchings by Lucian Freud
• Photographs by Sebastião Salgado
• A 43.5-inch painted pine model of a 62-gun ship
Overall, the auction has topped £600,000, according to Accountancy Age but is still rising. You can probably still get a bid in if you hurry.
It turns out – without naming names (read: Dick Fuld) – the companies at the nucleus of the shit hitting the fan were just making bad business decisions. That’s all.
He also takes exception with the notion that E&Y committed malpractice.
And would like to explain exactly what the Bankruptcy Examiner does and points out that he didn’t have any problem with the accounting.
C-Suite Strategies [Fortune]
SEC Homes In on Lehman, ‘Funds of Funds’ [WSJ]
“The Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation into the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is zeroing in on an accounting maneuver used to give the appearance that the companyt levels, according to people familiar with the situation.
Agency officials also are probing whether former Lehman executives failed to adequately mark down the value of the huge real-estate portfolio acquired in the securities firm’s takeover of apartment developer Archstone-Smith Trust or to disclose the resulting losses to investors, these people said.
The narrowing probe could move the SEC closer to bringing civil charges related to Lehman’s collapse in September 2008, though a decision doesn’t appear imminent.”
Study Says Directors Favor Themselves, Not Shareholders [FINS]
“A new study found that directors who field whistleblowing claims are likely to discount charges that could threaten their board seats and will assign fewer resources into investigating such claims.
In weighing hypothetical charges, 83 veteran directors at large U.S. corporations said they would allocate 42% fewer resources on average to fraud tips that might ultimately cost them their board seats.”
Dubai World reaches $24.9 billion debt deal [Reuters]
“State-owned conglomerate Dubai World DBWLD.UL on Friday reached a formal deal to restructure around $24.9 billion of liabilities, partly easing recently heightened concerns over the Gulf emirate’s debt woes.
While Dubai World’s agreement with most of its creditors is seen as a positive step for Dubai, the announcement comes just days after a unit of Dubai Holding, the conglomerate owned by Dubai’s ruler, said it will delay repayment on a $555 million loan, the second time it has failed to meet a repayment deadline.”
Huguette Clark’s multi-million-dollar fortune remains in hands of her financial managers [NYDN]
“Millionaire recluse Huguette Clark’s $500 million fortune will remain in the hands of financial managers who are under investigation, a Manhattan judge decided Thursday.
Judge Laura Visitacion-Lewis tossed a request by Clark’s relatives to appoint an independent guardian to oversee her finances and property, including Fifth Avenue’s biggest co-op apartment.
The judge called the family’s concerns about Clark’s health and state of mind “speculative” and “insufficient” to merit wresting control from her lawyer, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler.”
Control Freak Q&A With Caleb Newquist [Control Freak]
Approva’s Control Freak blog asked me what I liked about being “control freaky.” Check out this post for the answer and more bits of wisdom from Adrienne’s favorite blogger.
Trump Offers to Buy Out Islamic Center Investor [WSJ]
“Mr. El-Gamal, founder of SoHo Properties, is one of eight investors who paid $4.8 million for a building two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The statement came following reports that real estate mogul Donald Trump was offering to buy one investor’s stake in the property.
In a letter to Hisham Elzanaty, an Egyptian-born Long Island businessman and a major investor in the project, Mr. Trump offered to buy his stake for 25% more than Mr. Elzanaty paid for it.”
Former GE Unit Executive Says He Was Pushed Out for Questioning Accounting [Bloomberg]
“General Electric Capital Services was sued by a former executive who claims he was forced out for questioning the company’s treatment of an asset.
Edward Gormbley, who worked for GE Capital from 2000 until he quit in September 2009, filed his suit today in state court in Stamford, Connecticut. The complaint also names parent General Electric Co. and its chief executive officer, Jeffrey Immelt.
Gormbley said he was punished for challenging the valuation of silicon-maker Momentive Performance Materials, an investment asset. GE Capital overstated Momentive’s value in December 2008 to improve its own balance sheet, he said. Valuing the asset correctly would have reduced ‘GE Capital’s earnings 100 percent,’ in the fourth quarter that year, according to the complaint.”
But next Monday, Wednesday or post-Labor Day, it could be a completely different story!
We’re waiting on the video from our friends over at FBN but for now here’s what the Fox Business News Breaking specialist has for us:
On who from Lehman Brothers will be charged by the SEC:
“There is a lot of speculation as to who will be charged in the SEC’s investigation of Lehman Brothers. As of right now at least, it will not be the former CFO Erin Callan.”
On how we know Callan is not being charged:
“Attorney for Callan Robert Cleary tells FBN she has not received a Wells Notice. As of right now she is not going to get charged. It could still come.”
On when the charges will be filed:
“This is an interesting development because the end game on this is clearly happening. And it’s the two year anniversary of Lehman’s bankruptcy Callan was one of the people putting out the positive image of the firm as it was imploding that’s what they are investigating.”
So there you have it! Things are day-to-day for Ms Callan (i.e. kicking it in the Hamptons, dating a fire fighter). The situation remains fluid.
“At least part of it is focused on the March 2008 capital raise where they went out and did a preferred deal. Erin Callan made some very positive bullish statements about Lehman. About how the nature of its finances would mean that it did not need more capital and three months later Lehman Brothers needed more capital and then came the decline of the firm.”
~ The Fox Business Correspondent/Ace Reporter insists that an announcement is “imminent.” That’s what the rumor mill says anyway.
Back in April when he was testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, FASB Chairman Bob Herz couldn’t really say one way or another what he thought about the repurchase accounting that Lehman Brothers was using.
At the time, Herz just said that FASB would work diligently with the SEC (no porn allowed), that Lehman skirted the disclosure rules and that they were going to get to the bottom of this, come hell or Barney Frank’s shrewd disposition.
In a recent meeting with his fellow double-entry wizards in Norwalk, Herz said that he was opening up ‘a very targeted scope project’ that will get to the bottom of this pile:
“Once we’re made aware that people are trying to structure around specific provisions in the accounting literature, it makes you think about whether those provisions need to be looked at,” he told the board. “We’ve asked the staff to take a look at that and come back with some recommendations in the pretty near term,” he said.
FASB Plans New Rules Around Repurchase Agreements [Compliance Week]
Unfortunately she doesn’t name names but use your imagination:
“We have investigations in the pipeline, across products, across institutions, coming out of the financial crisis,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said after testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing.
Asked if the bulk of the cases have already been brought to light, she said: “Not necessarily, not necessarily.”
So it’s a grab bag really. Although, as you may recall, Dick Fuld is on the record that E&Y was on board with whatever the dorks in accounting were doing. Or maybe MS is just messing with Congress. The situation remains fluid.
The PCAOB has issued its annual report on Ernst & Young having given the firm the third degree at its national office and 30 of its 80 U.S. offices. It inspected 58 audits performed by the firm but exactly who is, of course, a big secret (unless you tell us).
There were five “Issuers” that were listed in the report and some form of the word “fail” was used 25 times (that includes the footnotes).
[Issuer A] The Firm failed to adequately test the issuer’s loan loss reserves related to certain loans held for investment. Specifically, the Firm failed to reconcile certain values used in the issuer’s models with industry data, failed to test the recovery rates used in the issuerfailed to test the qualitative components of the reserves.
Damn those loan loss reserves!
[Issuer C] The Firm failed to perform sufficient procedures to test the issuer’s allowance for loan losses (“ALL”). The issuer determined the general portion of its ALL estimate, which represented a significant portion of the ALL, using certain factors such as loan grades. Data for this calculation were obtained from information technology systems that reside at a third-party service organization. The Firm relied on these systems, but it failed to test the information-technology general controls (“ITGCs”) over certain of these systems, and it failed to test certain of the application controls over these systems. Further, the Firm’s testing of the controls over the assignment and monitoring of loan grades was insufficient, as the Firm failed to assess the competence of the individuals performing the control on which it relied.
This loan thing appears to be a trend…
[Issuer D] The Firm failed to sufficiently test the costing of work-in-process and finished goods inventory. Specifically, the Firm’s tests of controls over the costing of such inventory were limited to verifying that management reviewed and approved the cost allocation factors, without evaluating the review process that provided the basis for management’s approval.
Hopefully that doesn’t blow back on an A1.
Anyway, you get the picture. The whole report is below for your reading pleasure. E&Y’s got its $0.02 in, however it was short and was mostly concerned about the firm’s right to keep its response to Part II (the non-public part)…non-public:
We are enclosing our response letter to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board regarding Part I of the draft Report on 2009 Inspection of Ernst & Young LLP (the “Report”). We also are enclosing our initial response to Part II of the draft Report.
We note that Section 104(g)(2) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires that “no portions of the inspection report that deal with criticisms of or potential defects in the quality control systems of the firm under inspection shall be made public if those criticisms or defects are addressed by the firm, to the satisfaction of the Board, not later than 12 months after the date of the inspection report.” Based on this statutory provision, we understand that our comments on Part ii will be kept non-public as long as Part ii of the Report itself is non-public.
In addition, we are requesting confidential treatment of this transmittal letter.
So this doesn’t mean much other than E&Y would prefer that no one know how it managed to tell the PCAOB to fuck right off as nicely as it could.
If you had the pleasure of being on one of these 58 engagements, we’d love to hear about your experience.
Financial-Rules Redo Passes Major Hurdle [WSJ]
Who knew that lobbyists could be so effective? “Democrats initially proposed the $18 billion tax on the nation’s largest banks and hedge funds to cover the cost of expanding gof financial services, among other things. But the small number of Republicans crucial to the bill’s passage balked at the fee, which was added at the last minute to the legislation.
With more than a year’s worth of work in the balance, Democrats ditched the levy on Tuesday. Instead, they agreed to offset the bill’s costs by winding down early the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and assessing a more modest fee on banks through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.”
Volcker Said to Be Disappointed With Final Version of His Rule [Bloomberg]
If you go to the trouble of getting your name on the rule, with specific ideas in mind about what said rule entails, you’d be pretty upset if lobbyists hacked up to the point that it’s hardly recognizable. Plus octogenarians are probably used to getting their way.
“Volcker, the 82-year-old former Federal Reserve chairman, didn’t expect the proposal to be diluted so much, said a person with knowledge of his views. He’s content with language that bans banks from trading with their own capital, the person said.
‘The Volcker rule started out as a hard-and-fast rule on risky trades and investments,’ said Anthony Sanders, a finance professor at George Mason University School of Management in Fairfax, Virginia. ‘But through negotiations, it was weakened and ended up with many loopholes.’ ”
How Not To Look Desperate When Looking for Your Next Finance Job [FINS]
Because we know there are plenty of you out there.
Deloitte names Craig Donnan managing partner in Cleveland [Crain’s Cleveland]
Cake party? Mr Donnan takes over for Pat Mullin who has been the managing partner of the office since 1999.
The future of the internal audit profession [Marks on Governance]
“If we are to be relevant, chief audit executives (CAEs) have to refocus on providing assurance regarding how well management identifies, evaluates, responds, and manages risks – including the controls that keep risk levels within organizational tolerances.”
The Problem With Unreported Income [You’re the Boss/NYT]
The problem being that if you’re going to have one helluva time selling your business if a decent portion of its revenues are unreported.
“Legal and moral issues aside, there is only one way to view unreported income when it comes time to sell the business: forget that money ever existed. If you can only manage what you can measure in business, then the same holds true for what you can sell.”
AIG hires ex-Lehman lawyer as compliance head [Reuters]
As long as AIG doesn’t ask about arcane accounting disclosures, this should work out fine.
UK watchdog launches Lehman audit probe [Reuters]
The UK’s Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB), investigative and disciplinary body for accountants, has started an investigation into the Ernst & Young’s final audit of Lehman Brothers’ UK operations for the year ending November 30, 2007.
E&Y, completely familiar with this drill, is sticking to their guns, “Ernst & Young’s audit opinion stated that Lehman’s financial statements for that year were fairly presented in accordance with the relevant accounting standards, and we remain of that view.”