The Accounting Ethicist Goes Off the Reservation
If there is a single thing I enjoy about this job, it’s definitely not my esteemed colleague Colin or whatever his name is, but the fact that I get to hang out – and subsequently, get to know – CPAs. Sometimes that’s on Twitter, or speaking at a Stanford class or scurrying through the secret tunnel underneath the Senate and House office buildings. I get to show up late (sorry, the BW Parkway sucks) to Tom Hood addressing a room of young CPAs, asking their opinions on how they want to shape the future of the industry. Somehow I even got invited to Council, and got to see the entire machine in action from the inside, surrounded by CPAs. It’s a pretty awesome gig.
So with that in mind, esome for me to watch a contact sort of deviate from the program. I’ve seen it happen here on GC, the “accounting industry standards” come wandering over here because they want to seem clued in to whatever it is we’re talking about. They’re both fascinated and mortified that we’ve taken accounting to this horrible place. They can’t look away. But they are also so distanced from what we’re doing that they can’t quite grasp the program. Still, they try.
I’m not narcissistic enough to take credit for this but let me just tell you what I saw.
Accounting Ethicist was a project by Seton Hall University Chair of the Department of Accounting and Taxation Mark Holtzman. The project is still there it’s just… uh… changed.
This all started when I inadvertently trolled Mark with a piece by Accounting Onion that accused accounting professors of being poorly assimilated to the idea of blogging. Mark wrote:
I’m sorry to say that accounting doesn’t make for very interesting blogging. See any interesting tax footnotes lately? How ’bout that new FASB proposal? IFRS is already a joke – how many bloggers do we need to point that out? Here comes “Little GAAP.” Is there anything interesting to say about “Little GAAP?” And while I’m at it, have you ever seen the list of topics at a AAA meeting? There could be more accounting professor blogs, yes, but who would want to read all that [email protected]?
Right. Who would want to read this bullshit?! To me that’s offensive, I’ve somehow spent the last two years writing about this crap (just swear, Mark, it feels good. You’re allowed to say crap on an accounting blog) and he basically said that my shit is a joke. I know I’ve written some bullshit in my day but every now and then I do genuinely care about what I’m writing about, so it’s shitty to imply that everything I do is too boring for any human being to digest. You CAN make more IFRS jokes, bro, they’re never-ending. It doesn’t have to play out like a fucking AAA meeting, though we’re not against showing up at one of those either. That’s the benefit to having a single location (here) for the profession to behave at its worst (you guys) and just get it out of their systems so they can effectively check those boxes (your job, sorry).
So, at the time Mark got trolled by us, his blog was pretty tame. He asked questions within the agreed-upon “respectable” limit hoping for a reaction. As anyone who isn’t us can tell you, talking about ASCs is not going to make for very lively convo with anyone, even people who are kind of into that tedious shit.
But then just now, Mark has reappeared (as FreakingCPA) dropping such headlines as “Hans off our GAAP!” That’s pretty epic.
In “Why do smart people do stupid nasty things?” he writes:
This obviously has many parallels to the accounting profession. Unfortunately, many accountants and executives have chosen to procrastinate and perpetuate frauds, rather than reveal them. Dr. Kahneman’s research shows that, when confronted with this choice, many people can’t accurately measure the risks.
He admits to reading GC so maybe we did have a small part of this transformation. I can only hope.
Rebranding can be dangerous but sometimes it’s exactly what a non-believer has to do to realize that there are people who do care about this tedious shit, you just have to package it in a way that makes them feel as though they are actually enjoying it.