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Accounting News Roundup: Mazars Would Like to See More Competition in the Audit Market; Citi CFO Settles with SEC; Colbert on Tax Cuts | 07.30.10

Auditors don’t know the meaning of ‘competition’ [FT]
In a letter to the Financial Times, David Herbinet, the UK Head of Public Interest Markets for Mazars, takes issue with the notion (he says ‘puzzled’) that there is robust competition in the audit market, “Figures calculated from the most authoritative research available – the Oxera report that first spurred examination of the issue – show that a FTSE 100 auditor can on average expect to remain in place for an eye-watering 48 years and their FTSE 250 counterpart for 36 years. When the research was conducted more than 70 per cent of the FTSE 100 audits had not been subject to tender for at over, 97 per cent of current FTSE 350 audits are held by just four firms. If this represents fierce competition I would not like to see a stagnant market.”

Facebook Said to Put Off IPO Until 2012 to Buy Time for Growth [Bloomberg]
“Facebook Inc. will probably put off its initial public offering until 2012, giving Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg more time to gain users and boost sales, three people familiar with the matter said.

Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing, instead of holding an IPO in 2011 as investors speculated, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Facebook doesn’t discuss share-sale plans. Still, Zuckerberg, who holds board control, could push for a stock sale at any time, they said.”

U.S. Financial System Still at Risk, Says IMF [WSJ]
Get RIGHT out of town. “The International Monetary Fund says the U.S. financial system is “slowly recovering,” but remains vulnerable to crisis, in part because Congress and the administration have failed to streamline a regulatory system marked by turf battles and overlapping responsibilities.

‘We asked many times why bolder action could not be undertaken,’ said the IMF’s Christopher Towe, who oversaw the agency’s first broad review of the U.S. financial sector.”

SEC Charges Citigroup and Two Executives for Misleading Investors About Exposure to Subprime Mortgage Assets [SEC]
That includes former CFO Gary Crittenden who agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.


Colbert on the Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts [TaxProf]

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Weiser’s Doug Phillips: Combination with Mazars Was the Next Logical Step

Last week Weiser announced that it was joining Mazars Worldwide as a member firm, a move that would alleviate their relationship to one of a joint venture to that of a full combination. Accordiess release the combined firm will employ 12,500 people worldwide after adding the 650 Weiser professionals to its international network.

Earlier in the week, we were fortunate enough to arrange a chat with Doug Phillips, Managing Partner of Weiser, LLP to discuss the new firm, the challenges of a cross-Atlantic combination, personnel and client reaction to the combination and the plans for future.

A Solid Business Case Made for a Global Strategy
Doug told us the that joint venture between Weiser and Mazars that begun in February 2000 has been great success for both firms, particularly in the last two years. “The business case for us here at Weiser and for Mazars came to a point where it was quite logical to elevate the joint venture to the next logical step of growth and maturity,” he told us. Doug insisted that this was not a “Resistance is Futile” situation for Weiser, because the firms were in fact combining as opposed to a takeover by Mazars.

According to Doug, the business case for the combination was one of primarily of global strategy. Both firms had experienced significant growth in the last 10 years; their clients’ needs became increasingly global in focus. Doug said, “It gives us a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. Existing clients will receive a higher quality of service and we will enjoy the advantage of proposing to new clients.”

Combining Transatlantic Cultures
With regards to the meshing of the firms’ two cultures, Doug said that navigating the tricky waters of an international combination wasn’t as challenging as you might expect, ” We’ve ‘dated’ for 10 years. We know each other’s strengths. We know each other’s weaknesses. The overarching cultural issue is the quality of service. The firms are identical in that regard.”

And to ensure that the Weiser is well represented at the global level, Doug was elected to the group executive board of the firm. This is committee of five that is responsible for running the global organization. “The importance of the combination is recognized by the fact that I took a seat on that board to ensure the effective integration of the cultures of the cross-atlantic combination,” Doug said.

Communication with Employees, Clients was Ongoing
Communication about the combination was ongoing at Weiser. “Things were business as usual and the only real change is that firm’s brand will change to WeiserMazars,” Doug told us. The same approach was taken with Weiser’s clients, “the communication process was ongoing. It’s been universally well received and applauded as a business step without concerns about what will be impacted because [clients] have the assurance that our people remain in place and our dedication to the quality of service remains unchanged.”

Future Plans
With regards to the future, there are no immediate plans for new offices or mergers with other firms but Doug does expect some new non-attest service opportunities for the firm that could result in the hiring of some new experienced professionals not already in-house, “We look forward to increasing the talent pool to provide higher quality sophisticated services to both our current clients and prospective clients.”