Accounting Body Picks New Chief [WSJ]
“Former Italian Finance Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa has been named to head the group that oversees international accounting rulemakers. Mr. Padoa-Schioppa will assume the chairmanship of the trustees of the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation in July. The foundation’s monitoring board appointed him chairman for a three-year term. The IASC Foundation oversees the London-based International Accounting Standards Board, selects its members and raises funds for its operations. It also helps promulgate the move toward a single set of accounting rules used world-wide.”
New York Reaches Deal to Raise Cigarette Tax [NYT]
Smokers might want to start hoarding cartons as Governor David Paterson and legislators have reached a tentative agreement to raise the cigarette tax in New York. Taxes on cigarettes in NYS, currently $2.75 a pack, would rise an additional $1.65. Taxes in New York City would rise to $5.85 a pack, marking the first city in America with a tax of greater than $5 on cigarettes.
The proposal would raise $440 million this year, according to the Times. The state’s budget deficit is approximately $9 billion.
Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission: Is Medifast Complying with Revenue Accounting Rules? [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is a little skeptical about a plethora of Medifast’s financial reporting and disclosures including: revenue recognition policy, “the company is possibly recognizing revenue up to 8 business days too early”; their low allowance for doubtful accounts, “the $100,000 reported for such an allowance does not seem reasonable enough given Medifast’s volume of revenues and the dates it either ships or delivers its orders to customers after processing them.”; and lack of deferred revenue liabilities, “Medifast’s financial reports going back to 2004 disclose no deferred revenue liabilities for customer orders processed before each fiscal year ended and either shipped or delivered after those respective fiscal years.”
This trifecta has Sam concerned enough that he’s asking the SEC to poke around a little more than they did the last SEC review in 2007, when the SEC found…nothing.
BP Chief Draws Outrage for Attending Yacht Race [NYT]
Probably seemed like a nice idea at the time, “BP officials on Saturday scrambled yet again to respond to another public relations challenge when their embattled chief executive, Tony Hayward, spent the day off the coast of England watching his yacht compete in one of the world’s largest races.”
BP, Transocean tap a well of Washington lobbyists and consultants [WaPo]
The obvious solution to CEOs attending yacht races, Joe Biden-esque articulation and such is paying someone a lot – a lot – of money to rep these companies. It’s pretty much the only option they have left.
BP unlikely to cancel dividend, but mulls several ideas: source [Reuters]
They may defer it, pay it in shares or “pay into a ring-fenced account until the oil spill liabilities become clearer.” All of which will please absolutely no one.
Auditors to reveal bank talks under new plans [FT]
Proposals by the ICAEW would require auditors to disclose their private discussions with bank audit committees afte showed that “the value of bank audits had shown investors especially were dissatisfied by the audit report. The internal process involved was perceived as helping to keep bank executives in check, but investors felt the report was only a box-ticking exercise.”
The Big 4 have historically resisted these types of proposals, arguing that it will expose them to additional legal liability.
Suggestions cited include assurance on the “front half of annual reports,” as well as an audit of the banks’ summaries of risks. The ICAEW said it was aware that this would add to the auditors’ workload.
Vantis trading suspension follows difficult financial period [Accountancy Age]
The court-appointed liquidator for Allen Stanford’s bank, Vantis, has had trading of its shares suspended by the AIM after the company was unable to obtain any funds for their services related to the Stanford case, among other financial difficulties.
Ernst & Young had issued a going concern opinion for the company back in February, warning that continued lack of cash flow would have to be remediated quickly for any possibility for the continuation of the business.
How the New Wealth Taxes Will Hit You [WSJ]
Are you one of those “rich” people? That is, do you have an adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more ($250,000 for joint filers)? If so, you’ll probably want to know that two new tax levies will come your way in 2013 as a result of the new healthcare legislation – a 0.9% levy on wages and a new 3.8% tax on investment income.
The 0.9% tax is on any wages over $200k/$250k. For example, if you are single and made $300,000, your additional tax would be $900.
Similarly, the investment income tax would tax any investment income in excess of the $200k/$250k threshold and the 3.8% tax would be applied. What’s investment income you ask?
Interest, except municipal-bond interest; dividends; rents; royalties; and capital gains on the sales of financial instruments like stocks and bonds. The taxable portion of insurance annuity payouts also counts, unless it is from a company pension. So do gains from financial trading, as well as passive income from rents and businesses you don’t participate in. All are subject to the 3.8% tax on amounts above the $250,000 or $200,000 threshold, as described above.
Income that is not considered investment income include: distributions from IRAs, pensions and Social Security, annuities that are part of a retirement plan, life-insurance proceeds, muni-bond interest, veterans’ benefits, and income from a business you participate in, such as a S Corporation or partnership.
KPMG considering move to 1801 K [Washington Businsess Journal (subscription required)]
KPMG might move their Washington, DC office location to 1801 K St. NW from 2001 M St. NW according to “real estate sources.” KPMG’s spokesman said that the firm is continuing to “examine all of our options.” The situation is fluid.
Open Letter to the [SEC]: Why You Must Review Medifast’s Revenue Accounting Disclosures [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar would like to put the SEC on notice that Medifast seems to be less than transparent when it comes to its disclosures, “it seems that Medifast is recognizing revenue upon shipment and not delivery. As a minimum, Medifast, like Overstock.com, should be required to expand and clarify its disclosures to avoid confusing investors.”
Mysterious letter rattles E&Y’s Iraq ambitions [Accountancy Age]
Ernst & Young has been trying to get its audit on in Iraq shortly after Saddam Hussein’s party ended in 2004. The firm has been providing services there, however not yet been approved to perform auditing services. E&Y has been claiming that it was making headway, “on the verge of obtaining an accounting license” but now a letter from somewhere within the dense Iraqi bureaucracy seems to have delayed those plans.
It came as a shock when the firm learned of a letter sent to the Iraqi Supreme Court, the Central Bank of Iraq, the Commission of Integrity gistrar and the Iraqi Banks Union, among other senior institutions, from the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors, which claimed the firm had been banned.
“It has been decided to forbid the accreditation of any financial statements audited by Ernst & Young (E&Y) company and forbid its operations in accountancy and auditing for governmental and private sectors in Iraq,” the letter stated.
The letter, in Arabic and signed by the Union Secretary Dr Rafed Obaid Al Nawwas, said the union reserved the right to go to “legal authorities to stop non-Iraqis from conducting audit and accountancy in Iraq”.
So in case you missed it, E&Y did not actually receive this purported letter but heard of it second-hand and then responded that the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors has no authority on the matter, since it’s just an “association of Iraqi accountants.” So it sounds like the AICPA of Iraq basically tried to tell the Iraqi version of the SEC, PCAOB, et al. that E&Y was not fit to be in country (if you’ve got another idea, by all means).
Iraq’s chief accounting regulator claims to not knowing about the letter and that E&Y is “just about to obtain its license” so this may be a nuisance more than anything else.
How Stanford is worse than Madoff [Fortune]
Mostly because CDs are the basic financial instrument that is usually held by little old ladies and other common folk. Not Kevin Bacon.
Unenrolled Tax Preparer: Preparer Regulation is a CPA Plot to Put Me Out of Business [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
Naturally, there are some unlicensed tax preparers that are taking the IRS’ proposed regulations a little personally. Peter Pappas at TLB tells us about one unlicensed preparer who did some bellyaching to the Service. This sage of taxes challenges anyone to question his expertise:
1. “I prepare my returns accurately and would challenge anyone to find errors.”
2. “I have seen numerous returns prepared by CPAs and other similar preparers that were incorrect. [the man strives for perfection]”
3. “I am willing to take some courses or some certification, but to become an enrolled agent or CPA would cause an undo burden on my business. [i.e. require me to work more than 8 hours a day]”
And that’s just a sampling. Mr Pappas kindly debunks all of these (and more):
1. “A self-serving declaration by an unenrolled tax preparer that the returns he prepares are 100% accurate is about as valuable as an NBA player announcing that nobody can guard him.”
2. “This is utterly irrelevant and, if anything, an argument for more regulation, not less…[This] is dumber than texting while driving.”
3. “Becoming an enrolled [preparer] would force Mr. Jamieson to make expenditures of time and money he does not wish to make, therefore, because he is not prepared to make those sacrifices he believes that people who have made them should get no benefit from it whatsoever.”
Barry Minkow Gives Medifast the Middle Finger [White Collar Fraud]
At this point we’re assuming it’s only the figurative bird, by way of a report that states that Medifast’s business model is effectively a multi-level marketing scheme.
Lehman case “backs” accounting convergence [Reuters]
Philippe Danjou, a board member at the IASB has been quoted as saying that Repo 105 would not have been allowed under IFRS, “From an IFRS perspective I would suspect that most transactions would have stayed on the balance sheet. It makes a case for convergence, it makes a case that we should not have different outcomes under different accounting standards when you have such big amounts.”
The G-20 asked the sages at both the FASB and the IASB to converge their rules by June-ish 2011 but some people don’t se c, as there are too many disparities on treatment of key issues between the two boards.
The Real Reason Behind Danny DeVito’s Crazy Eddie Movie Project Meltdown [White Collar Fraud]
Danny DeVito wants to make a movie based on the Crazy Eddie Fraud, which was perpetrated by, among others, Eddie and Sam Antar. The project has run aground primarily because of Eddie Antar’s life rights and the potential profit he would reap from the making of the movie. Danny D is disappointed by the developments and has sympathy for Eddie, discussing it in s recent Deadline New York article:
“He’s gone through tough times, and he’s not the aggressive tough guy they paint him to be,” De Vito said. “He’s in his 70s and the past has come back to bite us all in the ass. Peter [Steinfeld] and I told him we think there is a terrific story there, but we can’t do it with you involved, in any way. We’ve taken a breather, but we’re figuring out how to jump back in.
Sam Antar is not amused by this and chimed in with his side of the story:
Eddie Antar is plainly still in denial about his cowardice towards his own family and investors. There actually is a “family dynamic” that “explains Antar’s fall” as DeVito claims. However, Eddie Antar and other members of his immediate family are simply unwilling to give a truthful account of what really happened at Crazy Eddie, while Danny Devito is willing to accept Eddie Antar’s bullshit excuses for his vile behavior.
As Chipotle Sizzles, CFO Sells Stock [Barron’s]
Ten thousand shares at $144 and change will buy a bunch of burritos.
Medifast Lawsuit: Anti-SLAPP motions filed [Fraud Files Blog]
Back when we discussed forensic accounting, the aforementioned Sam Antar said that forensic accountants can look forward to “making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.”
Tracy Coenen, no stranger to this retaliation, is now fighting back against Medifast who has sued her and others for saying not so flattering things about the company:
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It’s basically when a big company tries to shut up a little guy with expensive litigation. In my opinion, Medifast sued me and others in an attempt to get us to stop publicly analyzing or criticizing the company and it’s multi-level marketing business model.
In filing an anti-SLAPP motion, we are essentially asking the court to rule in our favor and in favor of free speech. Consumers should have the right to discuss, analyze, and criticize companies without the fear of expensive lawsuits.
JPMorgan May Quit Tax-Refund Loans, Helping H&R Block [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Bloomberg reports that JP Morgan may discontinue its financing of 13,000 independent tax preparers, a move that will benefit H&R Block, according to a competitor:
“Block is the biggest winner in this,” said John Hewitt, chief executive officer of Liberty Tax Service, a privately held company in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that also may benefit…
The reason HSBC is exiting this industry, even though they’re making $100 million a year in profit from it, is because of reputation risk,” Hewitt said in an interview. “Bankers don’t like the consumer advocacy groups picketing outside their offices.”
Refund anticipation loans (RALs) are attractive to clients that need cash immediately, based on their anticipated refund. The business is controversial because the high interest rates can drive people further into debt and consumer groups oppose them vehemently.
Funding for smaller shops that offer these loans will likely lose the business altogether as large banks like JP Morgan discontinue the financing, thus driving the business to franchise tax prep shops like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty.