Updates appear below If we learned anything from yesterday’s indictment of six accountants — five of whom were employed by KPMG — it’s that there are even more questions that remain unanswered. Some of these questions are simple and some of them are complicated, but it seems worth the time to list them here. Is […]
Please enjoy this sponsored content brought to you by our graduate university partners. Interviews are one of those things that you either walk into with a little moxy or you walk in terrified. Ideally, you've done your research and know almost everything and anything about the firm and the person you're interviewing with, your resume […]
Our friends over at Vault are still working on their massive survey of accounting professionals and if you haven't yet gotten on that bandwagon, please do so here. It helps them help you, or something. Only Big 4 and other "top" firms need apply. Don't worry CBIZ people, you're invited to the party. They recently […]
It's the week before Labor Day so that means everyone checked out yesterday around 8:30 am. This seems like the perfect excuse to dish out some lightning round advice, so I dug through the mailbag to see what's what in the lives of the GC readership. If you have a career question, hit us up […]
Our resident CPA oracle, Adrienne Gonzalez is now fielding questions over at the original post that you see under "Upcoming Events." If you've never used CoverItLive, it's pretty self-explanatory — no registration is necessary and it functions similar to gchat or any other chat device. If you're incapable of figuring this out, email us and […]
KPMG CEO John Veihmeyer — Notre Dame alum, dedicated steward of an employer of choice — is on the guest list at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. We don't have his itinerary in hand but it stands to reason that he'll have a hectic schedule of interviews, networking, and general CEO-y stuff on […]
We like to answer reader questions from time to time, just so long as it's interesting. If your question is boring, it will be ignored. It's nothing personal; we just get a lot of them. Send us your best questions, career conundrums, and work-life problems to [email protected] Not an inside tip, as much as a […]
Do people accuse you of getting worked up over petty annoyances and you fear that no one understands your suffering? Email us your questions, complaints, and concerns so that we may make your world a better place. I have a question to the accounting world at large regarding vocab. What is preferred: analytic or analytical? After […]
As much as we'd like to believe we're a great resource for CPA exam candidates, it's easy for candidates to get confused by the wealth of exam information floating around out there on the Internet. While other websites and forums can be helpful for those seeking support from other candidates going through the same misery, […]
Are you wondering what happened to Colin's numerous typos? Curious why we don't let interns run our Twitter account? Want to see me virtually pie a failed CPA exam candidate on Skype? Editorial questions, comments and complaints are welcome, just don't expect us to actually read them. Hey there cynical GCerz I have a question […]
Have a question on anything from career limiting moves to plausible excuses for blowing off a random Tuesday to identifying that odor in the audit room? Email the Going Concern Brain Trust with your queries. And remember, there's no such thing as a dumb question; just dumb people who ask questions. So here's the deal. I […]
Ed. note: Stuck in a predicament at work? Not sure how to break it off with your busy season love interest? Wondering how best to prepare for bonus disappointment? Email us your questions. Anything goes. Dear Going Concern, A question from the great white north. I'm a second year auditor with a Big Four […]
Has busy season made you question everything and everyone around you? Great! Email us your troubles and we'll marginally improve your life. Howdy!I've combed through the many post on the site, but I haven't been able to find one about my situation. Here goes…I'm finishing up my second busy season at a small local firm […]
On February 18, South Carolina Hospitality Association CEO Tom Sponseller was seen around noon at the association's offices in Columbia near the State House but has not been seen since. When Sponseller failed to show up to his grandson's Boy Scouts event at 2pm, Sponseller's wife was concerned. She and other family searched for him […]
Good morning and welcome back, capital market servitudes. If you’re a PwC employee, you may or may not have heard some rumors that I might be making an appearance at the firm’s townhall meeting this week to chat up Chairman and Senior Partner Bob Moritz. Well, I’m happy to report that, despite a number (read: LOTS) of detractors and an intensive background check, I am being given 20 minutes with BoMo to ask him whatever I want. The problem is, I’m out of ideas.
Of course, that’s where you all can help. If you have questions that you’d like me to pose to Roberto, then please leave them below in the comments and we’ll add them to our current list of inquiries. Maybe you’re a PwC employee who wants to know where all the holiday cheer is. Maybe you’re wondering what Bob’s job entails when he’s not writing painful letters to auditing regulators. Maybe you’re a KPMG partner who is patiently waiting to HEAR BACK ABOUT A JOB. Whatever’s keeping you up at night, just let us know and we’ll squeeze in as many questions as time will allow.
This may be your one and only chance, so don’t let this slide. Go.
Why do we let corporations pick their auditors? Why do we have only four big firms instead of a dozen, a score or more? Why doesn’t government do the audits, as the IRS does tax audits? Why is law enforcement handcuffed by inadequate budgets and rules that hinder investigations? Why are auditors allowed to quietly resign instead of being required to blow the whistle? Auditing needs a shakeup, fundamental restructuring and the accounting firms need a serious debate about their failings, practical and moral. [DCJ/Reuters]
According to one CPAnet forum user, they are. Here’s the note the candidate wrote to the AICPA:
I recently took FAR and noticed I got the same question more than once (exact same question and answer choices) in different testlets. The same instance happened in prior exams last quarter as well, more noticeably in the new content areas outlined in the CSO’s (i.e. duplicated IFRS questions/answers). According to other candidates who’ve taken the exam this year, they have been getting duplicate questions also, sometimes several duplicated questions. Are these duplicates graded and weighted equally, or is one thrown out since it’s a duplicate? It doesn’t seem fair if they are both graded and weighted if you get the question wrong, but could be great if you got them right (essentially getting a free pass on the repeated question since you knew the answer). If both are graded it could ‘jip’ the candidate out of a passing score if they were close to 75 because an alternate question wasn’t asked in place of the duplicate. I’d appreciate any guidance you can give me and perhaps post this situation in the FAQ area since I know multiple candidates have had the same anomaly during their exams.
And here is the AICPA’s response:
You stated that you received the same question more than once. Similar questions may be in the test; however, they are not identical. We have special coding and technology controls in place to ensure that questions are not repeated within a testlet. [Off topic bit about pretest questions that has nothing to do with this candidate’s issue removed]
The candidate went on to take issue with the AICPA’s use of “testlet,” insisting that repeat questions did not appear within the same testlet but within the same exam.
While the AICPA has agreed to look into this candidate’s issue, unfortunately there is no way for him (or her) to review his exam and confirm his suspicions. I’m assuming here that the candidate has not yet received his score for FAR, and even if he did, he would have two options: score and review appeal.
A score review is a waste of money that almost never results in a changed score, and involves an automated process that essentially confirms exam quality control procedures. Since the advent of the computerized exam in 2004, less than 1 percent of score reviews have changed a failing score in a candidate’s favor.
The second option, an appeal, could be completely useless or incredibly insightful, depending on how the candidate answered the questions he feels were duplicates. An appeal is a slightly more involved process but would allow the candidate to view the multiple choice test questions or objective simulation problems that he answered incorrectly together with his responses. Appeals are not available in all jurisdictions.
For all the time and effort the AICPA puts into administering the CPA exam, I’m going to guess that the candidate mistakenly believed very (read: VERY) similar questions to be exactly the same. Anyone studying for the exam knows that just one word can change a question completely.
Welcome to the East Coast Earthquake edition of Help! My Accounting Career Is Doomed! In today’s edition, a young auditor is curious how much of an advantage a good golf game will give you on the road to partner/CFO. Not honed soft skills. Not a preternatural talent for Microsoft Excel. A laser-straight drive and wicked short game.
Back to our young duffer:
I am a first year audit employee for a large accounting firm. My question is this; how much does your golf game factor into your ascent to partner, or perhaps ascent to CFO after jumping ship to a private company? Thank you.
Not Tiger Woods
I’ll try to articulate my thoughts on golf as succinctly as possible for you: IT’S STUPID. The clothes are stupid (it’s double stupid that people can wear an outfit to work that also functions as a golf outfit). The rules are stupid. The announcers are stupid. The fact that you even have to ask this question is stupid because it just goes to show how shallow the accounting industry can be. “You’re a scratch handicap? Great! We’ve got some WASPy clients that value someone who knows their way around a double-dog leg par 5.” STUPID.
But back to your question – how much does exceptional short game combined with dazzling iron play factor in putting you on the fast track to partner? Simply put: Zero. Zero times Zero. Zero cubed. ZERO FUCKING INFINITY. On the scale of importance, your golf game ranks far below your ability to actually do something productive and far, far below your personal hygiene. Will it function as a nice ice-breaker with your senior/manager/partner who is also interested in what Davis Love III shot over the weekend? Possibly but will they think, “Ol’ Joe has some game, let’s promote him!”? HELL NO. If that does happen at your firm, then you work for shallow assholes. I’ve seen above-average employees with exceptional golf games get passed over for promotion. I’ve seen above-average employees with exceptional golf games get laid off. IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. if you can shoot in the 60s on a regular basis. Plus, what the hell are you doing at an accounting firm if you can shoot scores like that?
How golf became one of those things that “makes a difference” is beyond me but it has sure fooled a lot of people. In reality, golf is one of those things that accounting professionals think will give them a leg up on the guy who prefers to practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but in reality that guy is WAY SMARTER than you and, believe it or not, that still counts for something.
Though the following inquiry from what we assume to be a Going Concern reader was addressed to my dearest, most lovely editor, I’m hijacking it because I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time. While the idea of CPAs unionizing seems ridiculous to some, I’m sure more than a few of you have dreamily drooled at the prospect of collective bargaining power while two months in to the most horrendous busy season ever. Is it that silly of an idea?
I am a Big4 Tax Senior and had a question regarding the possibility/benefit of having a union. To my knowledge, one currently does not exist, but why? Entertain me for a second.
If every staff through manager (there ing managers in, so maybe just staff and seniors) were to band together and create a union across all service lines and all of the four firms, what would stop us from getting fair compensation and slightly better hours? If the threat of a strike of 70% of each of the firm’s workforce (who probably actually do 90% of the work on any given engagement) could happen at any time, would the partners really treat their subordinates the way they currently do? Maybe there’s something written somewhere that CPAs can’t join a union?
Imagine if this raise/bonus season were to go poorly, and the union decided that on March 1, 2012…every staff, senior and manager FROM ALL FIRMS would stage a walk out and go on strike until our compensation demands were met. What could the partners do? Could they realistically try to do all the work themselves? Could they really try and replace 60,000 employees (I am guessing on that figure)? Could they try and get all the work done out of India? I HIGHLY DOUBT ANY OF THESE WOULD BE REALISTIC OPTIONS. I can’t imagine the possibility of replacing a dozen auditors overnight with Accountemps personnel in the middle of an audit for a fortune 100 client.
I understand that the possibility of being able to coordinate such a union across all the firms would be next to impossible, but can someone tell me why/how it wouldn’t work assuming it was legal for us to do? Could you post up a poll of those who would be interested?
Wait a second, are you trying to tell us that you don’t feel you are fairly compensated? Are you prepared for the burden of union fees and the inconvenience of having to picket your downtown Big 4 office chanting “Hell no we won’t go!” in business casual should it come down to that?
Why stop at the Big 4? Second-tier capital market servants are just as mistreated as you are (or at least feel that way, and who are we to tell them they don’t get enough engagements to feel burned out?). Think of the collective bargaining power then.
I think part of the reason why anyone you suggest this to might think you’re one tax season away from the funny farm is that CPAs already have a large, powerful trade association which allegedly exists to serve its interests. Granted, the AICPA does more lobbying in Washington than it does to accounting firm partners about easing up on you poor shlubs who have to do all the work, but it’s still a trade association.
In an article about the recent showdown in Wisconsin between teacher unions and Governor Scott Walker, Ann Coulter wrote “the need for a union comes down to this question: Do you have a boss who wants you to work harder for less money? In the private sector, the answer is yes. In the public sector, the answer is a big, fat NO.” Well shit, there’s your answer. We already know how most of you in public accounting feel, no need to elaborate.
Former Congressional candidate and CPA Krystal Ball is all for unions, especially when it comes to balancing the gender inequality that still exists in this country. If criminals in Canada can unionize, why not CPAs? Well for starters, though it may not feel like it, most of you are paid pretty fairly compared to, say, McDonald’s cashiers, Starbucks baristas and Walmart greeters. It may not feel fair based on the service you provide (understandably) but in the big picture, making $50,000 a year fresh out of school in middle America ain’t too bad of a gig. You get vacations, safe work conditions, bonuses, insurance and even free CPA review materials if you’re lucky. I bet OSHA has never seen the inside of a Big 4 office to investigate a fatal Excel accident or random intern decapitation at the coffee machine.
Let’s keep in mind that, if necessary, the Big 4 probably could scrape up a motley crew of Indian and Sri Lankan accountants and reluctant partners to do the work while you’re out front calling Raj a scab. Is what you do all that difficult? Look at the moronic intern in your office… a little training and that guy is going to be doing your job in a few years.
Lastly, there’s the legal issue. With all the money the Big 4 throw at lobbying and keeping some of the country’s best lawyers on payroll, do you really think you stand a chance? Someone has to give you the OK to unionize and I just don’t see the Big 4 lawyer machine slipping up and letting that one through. You really are one busy season away from the funny farm if you believe otherwise.
But I’m 100% behind you guys if you try to go for it anyway. Si se puede!
From the mailbag:
I am considering becoming an experienced hire at PwC, however I have heard some strange things and can’t seem to get a solid angle on them. I have heard that PwC (still) doesn’t let you expense lunches when traveling. I’ve also heard that PwC is still on Windows XP with Office 2003, Lotus Notes email and using Lenovo ThinkPads. Can you please help me confirm or deny these rumors and add some color around them? Also, are there other things at PwC that I should be wary of? Is PwC the new KPMG?
Concerned Potential Recruit
To the best my knowledge, Concerned, I’ll address these one at at time:
1. I have heard that PwC (still) doesn’t let you expense lunches when traveling. – True. PwC does not allow you to expense lunches when traveling, although it’s my understanding that a “business lunch” is reimbursable.
2. I’ve also heard that PwC is still on Windows XP with Office 2003 – Partially true. P. Dubs is on XP but is running Office 2007.
3. Lotus Notes email – True. There were some layoffs of LN developers way back in the fall of ’09 but it’s our understanding that they still run it.
4. Lenovo ThinkPads – True. You were maybe expecting iPads? Those are for bonuses only.
5. Are there other things at PwC that I should be wary of? – I’d start here.
6. Is PwC the new KPMG? – Um, no. Unless you’re consider all the KPMG partners they’ve picked up makes it the “new KPMG.”
Afternoon, gang. As the busy season winds down, you might be thinking about your next career path. Lots of you have expressed interest in forensic accounting and fraud investigations and as luck would have it, I got introduced to Derek Royster, a partner with RGL Forensics in Charlotte, North Carolina. From his bio, Mr. Royster has been with RGL since 1997, having worked extensively with insurance companies and attorneys focusing the scope of his career on forensic accounting, the measurement of economic damages and litigation support. He has lots of letters behind his name and has provided testimony as a damage expert witness.
Mr. Royster has agreed to discuss his career and other aspects of a forensic accounting with GC but since you people are the ones with career decisions to make (whilst I just write about it) we thought it would be best to get your questions for Derek. So whatever you want to know about a career in forensics but were afraid to ask, this marks your opportunity to get the answers.
Leave your questions for Derek in comments below or (email them to us) and we’ll get the answers for you and post our discussion with him.
Welcome to the International Women’s Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an accounting major at UI and prospective Big 4 intern is having trouble relating to partners in his interviews. Can we help this future coffee gopher come up with some better ice-breakers?
I am a junior majoring in accounting at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign set to graduate in May 2012. I am in the process of applying to our school’s MAS program to get my 150 hours to sit for the CPA in the state of New York. Last fall, I had an office visit with PwC in NYC for their Summer 2011 Audit Intern. I was not given the job. A few weeks ago, I interviewed for Deloitte for their Winter 2012 Audit internship in NYC as well. I moved onto the second round but my second round interview was a 30 minute phone call from a partner. I thought the interview went well with him but I was not given an offer. I am now 0/2 in second round interviews with the Big 4. What am I doing wrong? I read somewhere about the facial hair article that partners generally do not come into contact with associates much and I am only interviewing for an internship. How can I connect with a partner who seems disinterested in interviewing college kids? I connect easier with HR and managers that do first round campus interviews but it’s hard for me to establish rapport with a partner. I do have another office visit scheduled in mid April for NYC EY-FSO so maybe the third second round interview will be the charm. These are the questions I usually ask managers and partners:
• Where did you see yourself 5, 10 years down the road when you first started?
• Did you take it step by step or did you know you wanted to become a partner?
• What has been your most rewarding moment or biggest accomplishment here?
• What are your plans for the next 5 years and what about the firm’s goals?
Dear Intern with no Ice Breakers,
Rather than complain about your lack of partner relations, you should simply be thankful that you’re not a grad assistant at UI. Since you didn’t ask for perspective I’ll let your lack of gratitude slide and address your query directly. Here goes.
You listed four questions that you ask of managers and partners and frankly, they’re terrible. They are trite, predictable and shallow. Plus they’re nearly identical, as they all are related career path. There are other things to consider, after all. Partners and managers want to know that you’ve really got something going on upstairs, not if you’ve read all the listicles on the Internet that have job interview tips. Also, partners are human (well, most of them) so asking them strictly business questions make you seem stiff and impersonal. If you can demonstrate an ability to relate a partner on a personal level, he/she will see you as a team player and someone who has interests outside accounting. You do have interests outside accounting, don’t you?
If you don’t have interests outside accounting: A) GET SOME and B) ask a question that isn’t about career path. What about work-life balance or volunteer opportunities sponsored by the firm or studying for the CPA exam and working OR what he/she likes best about their job? ANYTHING other than re-asking the question you just asked.
So next time you go into an interview and it comes time to ask a partner or manager questions, ask a diverse set of questions. If your questions are one a single track, your interviewer will think your brain is on a single track.
Last week we heard from a number of people on the topic of Citigroup’s internal controls that while it didn’t sound like they were quite up to snuff, KPMG was somehow cool with it and Vikram Pandit signed his name to it, saying that everything was hunky dory.
Now along with bloggers and journalists, the scourge of Citigroup, CLSA analyst Mike Mayo, has decided to get into the act:
Citigroup may have violated Sarbanes-Oxley with its 2007 10-K submission, in our opinion. The new information relates to letters from regulators that were only revealed earlier this year as part of the FCIC archive. We believe these letters between Citi and the Fed, Citi and the OCC, and the OCC with internal staff, imply that Citi should have known about internal control shortfalls for the year 2007 and was directly told about them by the OCC only eight days before the 10-K was signed. Also, Citi reported large unexpected losses with less than two months left in the year. Thus, the lingering question in our mind is why Citi signed off on its 2007 10-K as having effective controls in light of such problems. This information is still relevant today because it reflects on the magnitude of the risk shortfalls and what we feel is the higher-than-perceived task of turning them around.
That’s from Mayo’s update on the bank, dated today, and along with the “opinion” on a Sarbanes-Oxley violation, he has a few questions:
To what extent was the audit committee and board at Citi aware of the concerns voiced by various regulators at the time, and who gave the advice to sign the 10-K? To what extent has Citi’s board examined the issue since the release of letters from the FCIC? Has the SEC and DOJ looked into this matter?
We bolded that portion since it might – just might – be referring to KPMG and the apparent disregard everyone had for the letter sent to Citigroup from the OCC. Of course, not everyone always agrees with Mayo, namely Dick Bové who has gave HofK the thumbs up although it was obvious that he’d never heard of the firm. Bové hasn’t weighed in on this particular report but it’s only Monday.
Anyway, Citigroup remains steadfast in their thoughts on the matter, telling The Street’s Lauren Tara LaCapra that the “certifications were entirely appropriate,” although things increasingly seem to be pointing to the possibility that wasn’t the case. A message left for Marianne Carlton, a KPMG spokeswoman, hasn’t been returned.
Lucky me, I’ll be speaking with the AICPA about the successful launch of CBT-e as well as grilling them about the new format, their motivation behind the change, and all this nonsense about changing the passing score from 75.
Because you guys are the ones taking the exam and I’m just the one writing about it, I figured it would be appropriate to give you all the opportunity to weigh in on what I should ask. I swear I’m not being lazy as I have plenty of my own questions to ask but thought it might be nice for all of you with questions to have the chance to get them answered directly from the source.
You’re welcome to put your suggestions in the comments or, if you’re embarrassed because your question also makes you look like a big fat failure, please feel free to email me and I promise I’ll guard your identity like Caleb guards his yoga mat.
After hearing that KPMG was following suit with a mid-year compensation surprise, we’ve now been tipped that any hope you had of seeing a little extra moolah has been crushed:
Last night was KPMG’s New York Office (NYO) townhall meeting. During this meeting, close to 2,000 NYO employees of the firm gathered in a hotel in Time Square to listen to a series of presentations from the CEO, COO and Office Managing Partner (OMP). During this four hour presentation, they covered an array of topics, including: compensation and benefits, technology, etc.
Depsite hearing that the firm will be allowing staff (associates and senior associates) have KPMG email access on their iPhone, Android or BlackBerry phones, no further details were provided about what they will be paying for, if anything.
They also announced that they were keeping up with the average regarding compensation, but made it a point to mention that with every average, someone must be below the average, hinting that we were that someone. After finding out that there will be no mid-year bonsues or raises, some left the meeting rather disappointed… at least there was free booze and food (like any other normal KPMG event).
But wait! This sounded a little weird to us since our sources on the original story were solid, so we checked in with another source who told us the message was simply non-committal, “They didn’t really confirm/deny what was going to happen with the mid-year stuff.”
So all this “Yes? No? Maybe so,” probably isn’t so helpful but that’s where things appear to stand.
Back to our original tipster, who is now hearing talk of next fall’s associates receiving a boost in their starting salaries:
Later that evening, however, many of the recent hires (new associates in 2010) were beginning to hear that the 2011 new hires (for next year) were already receiveing salary adjustments (upwards into the $60,000’s), in addition to their already higher starting salaries and sign-on bonuses.
So my question is: Does KPMG plan on compensating the new associates (that started in 2010) that did not receive a sign-on bonus this year, or perhaps have any plans to bring their salary closer towards the industry average?
Starting salaries have been consistently rising over the years and with increased competition among the firms for the best recruits, you can expect that to continue. Whether that results in adjustments for KPMG’s latest class of new associates remains to be seen, since a mid-year surprise is still uncertain. We should say, however, expecting more money after being on the job for 2-3 months is a little presumptuous. We understand the frustration but, seriously? You can barely open Excel at this point.
As you hear more regarding the mid-year compensation (or lack thereof) email us with the scoop.
“If you wanted to irritate the raise-taxes folks with tax-hiking proposals designed to nettle and sting their tender flanks, what would you do?”