December 2, 2021

SEC

SEC Concludes That It Doesn’t Need to Kick Overstock.com on the Way Down

The financial gumshoes at the SEC have closed their investigation of Overstock.com and have concluded that no enforcement action is necessary. Naturally, former Arkham Asylum resident and current Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne sees this as a vindication: "We are the ones who brought all these matters to light, we made the corrections, we fully disclosed these […]

FYI: Those Jones, Moore & Associates Audit Opinions Aren’t Worth Much

There probably aren't too many of them floating around out there, but if you happen to see one, see if you can get a second opinion: The SEC alleges that James Michael Murray raised more than $4.5 million from investors in his various funds including Market Neutral Trading LLC (MNT), a purported hedge fund that claimed […]

Koss (Man and Company) Settles with SEC for Four Years Worth of Trainwreck Financial Statements

One-man C-suite Michael Koss and the company that bears his name settled with the SEC today, according to a Commission litigation release. This all stems from the dodgy financial statements the company put out from 2005 to 2009 that were carefully orchestrated by shopper-'til-you-stopped-her Sue Sachdeva. As for the punishment, well, it's kinda meh: The […]

Occupy the SEC Sends a 325 Page Comment Letter On the Volcker Rule

Ah, the Volcker Rule… an allegedly sublime piece of legislation that keeps the Goldman rats from doing things like betting against clients and raking in an extra million a day. Love it or hate it, you have to admit it's a step in the right direction if you're at all familiar with its intent. Of […]

Jeanette Franzel, CPA, CIA, CMA, CGFM, Is Your New Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Member UPDATE: And Not Everyone Is Impressed!

The overlords at the SEC have spoken and sweet Jesus in a manger, they like letters behind a name. Ms Franzel will replace Dan Goelzer who is a founding member of the Board and served as its perpetually acting chair from August 2009 to January 2011.  Franzel is dumping the Government Accountability Office, where she […]

Ex-BDO Partner Didn’t Realize You Were Asking About *That* $49,350

Bryan N. Polozola simply misremembered that he took that exact amount of money from a old employer. Problem is, he misremembered with the SEC: Polozola was the subject of a 2005 NASD (now FINRA) proceeding alleging that he took $49,350 in funds from a former employer for his personal use. Polozola neither admitted nor denied […]

PCAOB Has an Extra $20 Million to Spend on Field Trips to China

PCAOB Chairman James Doty shot the breeze with the SEC for awhile today, speaking about, among other things, how the Board would handle this boatload of Chinese filers who don't seem to know their asses from their elbows when it comes to accounting and their auditors who are similarly clueless. Doty assured the Commission that […]

Right Now KPMG CEO John Veihmeyer Is Locked in His Office Watching This Clip From “Rudy” Over and Over and Fighting Tears

This far from being Notre Dame's Jerry Sandusky moment but it still has to hurt.  The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Daniel Ruettiger and 12 other participants in a scheme to deceive investors into buying stock in his sports drink company. Ruettiger is widely known for having inspired the 1993 motion picture "Rudy." According to […]

SEC Needs More Time to Get Their Heads Around IFRS

A recommendation on whether U.S. companies should switch to international accounting rules will take a few more months, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s chief accountant said Monday. The SEC’s staff had been expected to make a recommendation by year-end on whether U.S. companies should adopt the global rules, known as International Financial Reporting Standards. But the staff needs “a few additional months” to complete its work, SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker said. [WSJ]

SEC Asking FASB About Looking Into That MF Global Accounting Thingamajig

Because, you know, it’s sorta tricky and it didn’t really turn out so well for Corzine & Co.

The SEC is in talks with the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets accounting standards, about “repurchase-to- maturity” agreements that MF Global used in off-balance-sheet accounting, Schapiro said today during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington. “We are talking with FASB about whether we need more disclosure of those,” Schapiro said.

Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) seems a little more urgent:

“How is it possible that someone is able to bet the farm here, multiple times, and it disappears from the balance sheet because of this repo-to-maturity technique?” asked Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, noting that the technique made it appear as though the risk had been “sold.”

“That is a loophole so big you can drive a Mack truck through it,” Conrad said. “If that’s not closed, we should ask ourselves what we’re doing.”

I think we all know what a lot of people at the SEC are doing.

MF Global Accounting Technique Under Review, Schapiro Says [BBW]

The Overworked SEC Makes Time To Entertain Teenagers

If there were candy involved in this, it might be considered creepy.

The SEC hosted a shadowing event at its Washington, DC HQ yesterday (what, no invite for AG?) as well as a few regional offices to show high school students interested in finance just how cool the SEC is and how much fun it is to work for a [dot]gov in the business of protecting investors or whatever it is the SEC purports to do these days.


Participating students are involved in the Academy of Finance, one of five career-themed academies that are part of the National Academy Foundation (NAF). More than 250 students are visiting SEC offices this week in Washington, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. The kids will hear from SEC Commissioners Elisse Walter and Troy Paredes and other SEC leaders in group discussions, and are then paired with an SEC professional to observe the workday. SEC staff members from various divisions and offices volunteered to be shadowed and, according to the press release, “are enjoying the opportunity to explain their work and interact with America’s next generation of financial professionals.”

“By shadowing an SEC employee for the day, students can learn about the SEC’s mission on behalf of investors and the work that we do on a daily basis to achieve it,” said Kathy Floyd, a Deputy Director in the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. “We hope to pique the students’ interest as they consider their own potential career paths in the financial services industry or in public service at an agency like the SEC.”

JD Hoye, President of the National Academy Foundation, added, “The National Academy Foundation provides students with experiences that allow them to see the real world applications of what they are learning in school and hone the skills necessary to excel in their careers. Through our partnership with the SEC, students gain a window into an important part of the financial industry, underscoring the relevance of their class work and exposing them to possible career paths.”

The shadowing program helps the SEC meet objectives in Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which calls for federal financial regulators to seek diversity in their workforce at all levels and, where feasible, to partner with inner-city high schools, girls’ high schools, and high schools with primarily minority populations to establish or enhance financial literacy programs and provide mentoring. Funny, I don’t think any of the dreadlocked teenagers that hang out on my corner are all that interested in finance and accounting beyond the math required to figure out how many 8ths are in an ounce but whatever, good for them.

It’s important to start them young. Way to go, SEC.

Hans Hoogervorst Would Like You to Look at the Example Brazil Is Setting

If anyone over the SEC needs a little help getting their heads around how to best get on board with IFRS, H-squared has found a prize pupil for you to emulate:

Addressing a conference in Sao Paolo, the former Dutch finance minister used Brazil as a “textbook example” of how best to implement global accounting standards. Hoogervorst […] praised the country’s full adoption and decision not to “tweak” the standards, saying this means global investors are “entirely comfortable” Brazilian companies’ financial statements.

Hoogervorst: Brazil embodies ideal IFRS adoption [Accountancy Age, Earlier]

The Big 4 and the Revolving Door

Last week the bane of Big 4 auditors existence, the PCAOB, broke their cherry on releasing Part II of an inspection report for a Big 4 firm. The honor went to Deloitte, who sufficiently blew off the Board’s recommendations for 12 months, which led to the release of Part II.

Bloomberg‘s Jonathan Weil, who usually sits back with popcorn while these things go down before chiming in, got to it today but with a twist that you probably weren’t expecting:


board members had recused themselves from participating in meetings or discussions this year concerning Deloitte, because of past or current ties to the firm, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The board members — Lewis Ferguson, Jay Hanson and the board’s chairman, James Doty — were appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in January. Doty had been a partner at the law firm Baker Botts LLP, where Deloitte is a client. Ferguson was a partner at the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which also represents Deloitte. Hanson, a former partner at the accounting firm McGladrey & Pullen LLP, has a daughter who works for Deloitte in its Phoenix office.

The board’s policy is to not disclose recusals, in spite of its mission to “further the public interest,” as if these are none of the public’s business. “Recusals are confidential,” Colleen Brennan, a board spokeswoman, said. Doty, Ferguson and Hanson declined to comment. A Deloitte spokesman, Jonathan Gandal, said: “The PCAOB itself does not comment on recusals, and as such it would be inappropriate for us to do so.”

It’s a pretty nice scoop by Jon and we’re all used to the silence from the PCAOB and Deloitte when someone gets the best of them but honestly, is anyone surprised? Does anyone care? The answer to the first question is “No.” The answer is the second question is “Maybe.”

With the exception of Mr. Hanson (family connection, we’ll give you that one), the recusals seem a little silly since neither Ferguson or Doty actually worked directly for Deloitte. Okay, so Baker Botts and Gibson Dunn have Deloitte has a client. Which Big Law firm doesn’t? It’d be pretty tough to find any DC lawyer who didn’t do some time at a firm that represented Deloitte. That goes for any Big 4 firm. They’ve all got deep pockets with lots of legal problems, of course they’re going to hire the best lawyers money can buy. Does that make guys like Ferguson and Doty unfit to make decisions with regard to that firm?

Well, for one year it does. Under the Board’s ethics code, Doty and Ferguson will be able to vote on matters involving Deloitte in January. Still, Weil doesn’t like the smell of it. And it doesn’t stop with the PCAOB:

[T]alk about being wired: The SEC’s chief accountant, James Kroeker, is a Deloitte alumnus. At the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which writes U.S. accounting rules, the wife of one board member, Russell Golden, is a Deloitte partner.

Look, we like Jon (even if he is a Colorado grad). But how do you find accounting policy makers who aren’t from the biggest, best connected firms that have the most resources? Should the Commission start appointing academics to develop policy? Eeek. Or maybe we’ll let the public make recommendations, “Yeah, my cousin’s a CPA out of Tulsa. Really knows his stuff. He’d be good.” Please.

Dan Goelzer’s seat is coming up and he’ll be replaced by a CPA. Weil hopes that the SEC will find “a qualified person without Big 4 allegiances” but with the revolving door spinning, he’d better hope for a wild card.

Goldman Sachs Envy Gains New Meaning at Big Four [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]

Former Deloitte Employee Swings to Settlement with SEC Over Insider Trading Charges

Remember Annabel McClellan? She’s the wife of former Deloitte partner Arnold McClellan who sorta got wrapped up into an insider trading mess with her sister and brother-in-law last fall. Annabel is also a former Deloitte employee who gave up the glamorous life of a Salzberg solider to be a stay-at-home mom. Oh! and she was working on swingers app called My Nookie that was on the verge of taking the scene by storm. The whole insider trading thing put those ambitions on hold due to the fact that Annabel may be looking at some jail time and she settled civil charges with the SEC yesterday for $1 million. The good news for Arnie is that if judge gives the settlement the thumbs-up, he’ll be off the hook who, prosecutors say, had no clue that the Mrs. was engaging in extracurricular activities:

McClellan, who pleaded guilty in April to one count of obstructing the SEC’s investigation, said she overhead her husband talking about the deals and passed the information to her brother-in-law, according to a transcript of her change of plea hearing.[…] McClellan told prosecutors that her husband wasn’t aware of or involved in passing information, according to documents filed in the SEC case.

Of course, if Arnie wasn’t aware that Annabel was trading under his nose, it makes you wonder with whom she was researching Amazon Squat and the Foldover.

Wife of former Deloitte partner to pay $1 million [Bloomberg]

Non-U.S. Survey: IFRS Is Getting More Popular

Global Reporting Standards are gaining popularity among investors and finance executives, according to a new report by ACCA. Around 170 senior executives and investors were questioned. More than 40% said international financial reporting standards improve access to capital, while around 25% believe the global standards have lowered capital costs. ACCA chief executive Helen Brand said: “Growing support amongst CFOs and investors for [IFRS] must be considered carefully” by US regulator the SEC as it debates converging US GAAP with international standards. “We believe a positive answer from the SEC would give a tremendous boost to the cause of financial reporting and more importantly the world economy.” [Accountancy Age, Earlier]

Did You Guys Hear the IASB Wants the U.S. to Adopt IFRS?

While the world is filled with torment, class warfare, famine, racism, war and uprising, those darn kids at the IASB are still concerned with one thing and one thing only. That one thing, obviously, is the U.S. adoption of IFRS.

Anyone else get the feeling Hans and Co. are getting a tad impatient with our heel dragging?


Piggybacking off the post Caleb was too lazy to write himself yesterday, we hear IASB chairman Hans Hoogervorst said in a Boston speech yesterday that adopting IFRS would offer U.S. public companies “the same financial reporting language for both internal management reporting and external financial reporting on a worldwide consolidated basis.” Where this is a benefit for us is entirely unclear to me, but that’s why I’m not chairman of the IASB.

Ol’ Hansy also promised that the U.S. would still play a pivotal role in shaping global accounting rules if we go ahead and trust them and adopt outright now. It is unclear whether that was a threat or not, as it is also unclear if he really thinks we’re that dumb.

This is the IASB chair’s first American speech, and in it he also said that the SEC can serve as a sort of emergency switch should the IASB decide to implement a rule that just won’t work in U.S. markets. “Such endorsement mechanisms provide an important ‘circuit breaker’ if the IASB produced a standard with fundamental problems for the United States,” he told the conference.

“So there is absolutely no danger of importing different enforcement standards from abroad into the United States,” he said. You hear that, kids? Absolutely no danger. Well crap, why haven’t we adopted these fabulous standards already then? It can’t possibly fail, the IASB told us it’s all good!

Hans Hoogervorst Doesn’t Want the U.S. to Worry Its Pretty Little Head About Losing Influence Over Accounting Rulemaking

Hoogervorst said U.S. sovereignty would be protected by the SEC having a final say before any IASB rule is introduced. “Such endorsement mechanisms provide an important ‘circuit breaker’ if the IASB produced a standard with fundamental problems for the United States,” Hoogervorst told an accounting conference. The SEC would remain in full control of enforcement. “So there is absolutely no danger of importing different enforcement standards from abroad into the United States,” the former Dutch finance minister added. [Reuters]

Deloitte All of a Sudden Caught in an Awkward Three-way with SEC, Chinese Regulators

“This is one of the biggest battlegrounds in the transnational regulation of accounting firms,” said Paul Gillis, a visiting professor of accounting at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. “Deloitte is between a rock and a hard place. This is a major escalation.” [WSJ, Earlier]

SEC Not Amused By Deloitte’s Failure to Produce Documents Related to Company That Held Their Audit Workpapers Hostage

Remember Longtop Financial Technologies? Deloitte resigned as auditors of the Chinese company back in May after LFT took some actions that were, shall we say, unusual for an audit client. Among them, “interference by certain members of Longtop management in DTT’s audit process; and […] the unlawful detention of DTT’s audit files.” And there may be some financial statement fraud going on, to boot. What’s even slightly weirder is Deloitte’s resignt to Longtop’s Audit Committee that laid out the specifics:

[A]s a result of intervention by the Company’s officials including the Chief Operating Officer, the confirmation process was stopped amid serious and troubling new developments including: calls to banks by the Company asserting that Deloitte was not their auditor; seizure by the Company’s staff of second round bank confirmation documentation on bank premises; threats to stop our staff leaving the Company premises unless they allowed the Company to retain our audit files then on the premises; and then seizure by the Company of certain of our working papers.

Right. The auditors-almost-taken-hostage situation. Quite a doozy, this one. Based on the history between Deloitte and Longtop, one would think that Green Dot would jump at any chance to exact a little revenge on these shady bastards. NOPE!


From the
crack squad at the SEC:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed a subpoena enforcement action against Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA Ltd. for failing to produce documents related to the SEC’s investigation into possible fraud by the Shanghai-based public accounting firm’s longtime client Longtop Financial Technologies Limited.

According to the SEC’s application and supporting papers filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the SEC issued a subpoena on May 27, 2011, and D&T Shanghai was required to produce documents by July 8, 2011. Although D&T Shanghai is in possession of vast amounts of documents responsive to the subpoena, it has not produced any documents to the SEC to date. As a result, the Commission is unable to gain access to information that is critical to an investigation that has been authorized for the protection of public investors.

“Compliance with an SEC subpoena is not an option, it is a legal obligation,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “The ability of the SEC to conduct swift and thorough investigations requires that subpoena recipients promptly comply with that legal obligation. Subpoena recipients who refuse to comply should expect serious legal consequences.”

Maybe the email/hand-written letter sent by carrier pigeon (whatever method of communication the Commission is using these days) got lost OR maybe no one at Deloitte Shanghai was in the translating mood that day but it seems slightly strange that Deloitte would just blow this off especially since Longtop screwed them 70 ways to Sunday. Of course these documents could show that Deloitte was really a bunch of pansies and we’re letting LFT run the show until the gross negligence got to the point that they simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. It’s anybody’s guess, really.

UPDATE: The Journal reports that Deloitte claims to be “caught in the middle of conflicting demands by two government regulators,” which could be seen as extremely convenient.

SEC Files Subpoena Enforcement Action Against Deloitte & Touche in Shanghai [SEC]
Court Filing [SEC]
Also see: S.E.C. Asks Court to Force a Release of Papers From China [NYT]

When Booking Bogus Revenue, Ideally Your CFO Is the Type to Not Give a Rat’s Ass

James Li and David Chow used to run a shop called Syntax-Brillian Company as the CEO and Chief Procurement Officer respectively. They sold high-def, LCD TVs under the Olevia brand in China. Problem was, they didn’t really sell TVs under the Olevia brand in China. According to the SEC:

[F]rom at least June 2006 through April 2008, Li and Chow engaged in a complex scheme to overstate Syntax’s financial results by publicly reporting significant sales of LCD televisions in China, when in fact the vast majority of these sales never occurred. Li and Chow initially concealed the scheme through the use of fake shipping and sales documents.

Of course, they couldn’t do it alone. They needed a CFO. A CFO who would backdate things when asked and ignore obvious signs of bogus revenue. That man was Wayne Pratt who, from the sounds of it, wasn’t too concerned about ANYTHING:

The SEC alleges that Wayne Pratt, Syntax’s Chief Financial Officer, ignored red flags of improper revenue recognition and participated in preparing backdated documentation that was provided to Syntax’s auditors to support fictitious fiscal 2006 year-end sales. Pratt also ignored indications of impaired assets, agency sales, and potential collectability issues.

So, budding criminals, get on the look out for a guy/gal who is accustomed to shrugging their shoulders and responding “Meh. Whatever.” to your demands. Should work out well for you.

Litigation Release [SEC]
Complaint [SEC]

What’s the Deal with Groupon’s Adjusted CSOI?

According to Bloomberg, Groupon’s operating income and other accounting trickery habits are being studied by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, part of a routine review of the site’s IPO. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

But Groupon seems pretty transparent about the unreliability of their methodology. I guess this is to say “don’t rely on this information, we’re kind of making some of these numbers up” so investors can’t say they weren’t warned.

Check out this June 2, 2011 SEC filing:

Our use of Adjusted CSOI has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider this measure in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP. Some of these limitations are:

• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect the significant cash investments that we currently are making to acquire new subscribers;

• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect the potentially dilutive impact of issuing equity-based compensation to our management team and employees or in connection with acquisitions;

• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect any interest expense or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments on any indebtedness that we may incur;

• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect any foreign exchange gains and losses;

• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect any tax payments that we might make, which would represent a reduction in cash available to us;

• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs; and

• other companies, including companies in our industry, may calculate Adjusted CSOI differently or may use other financial measures to evaluate their profitability, which reduces the usefulness of it as a comparative measure.

Because of these limitations, Adjusted CSOI should not be considered as a measure of discretionary cash available to us to invest in the growth of our business. When evaluating our performance, you should consider Adjusted CSOI alongside other financial performance measures, including various cash flow metrics, net loss and our other GAAP results.

Better yet, AQPQ explains the math behind ACSOI:

Groupon acknowledges that it is losing money when profits and losses are measured in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The firm claims, however, that its profits and losses are more meaningfully measured by a metric they call Adjusted Consolidated Segment Operating Income (ACSOI).

How does this number differ from profits and losses that are measured in accordance with GAAP? ACSOI apparently includes all of the revenues, but only some of the expenses, that are recognized by GAAP. By excluding certain significant expenses, Groupon manages to convert its losses into profits.

So what is the SEC going to find? Accounting methods already confessed to by the perps? Big deal.

Some Are Suggesting That the IASB Is Filled with a Bunch of Spineless Jellyfish

Representatives of large institutional investors told the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that they had serious qualms about the London-based International Accounting Standards Board replacing the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board as the primary arbiter of accounting rules in this country.

Speaking at an SEC panel focusing on investor views of international financial reporting standards, the representatives roundly supported the goal of establishing a single set of high-quality global financial reporting standards in the United States in the form of IFRS. But they suggested that the IASB, the current promulgator of IFRS, lacks the backbone and outreach capability of FASB — qualities that would be needed for a global system to succeed. [CFO]

PCAOB, SEC to Be All Up in China’s Business Next Week

Perhaps you’ve heard that some U.S.-listed Chinese companies have had some trouble with their financial reporting. Often times this leads to CFOs quitting, auditors resigning or workpapers being held hostage. None of which are good. Occurrences such as these have been going on for a little while and more recently the SEC admitted that they had, in fact, heard something about it. Perhaps even more surprisingly, a Chinese official also confessed that some of these companies weren’t exactly on top of their shit and in some may not have the faintest idea of what they’re doing.

All this excitement has finally gotten the teams at the SEC and PCAOB worked up enough that it has been decided that they’re popping over to Beijing to meet with the country’s Ministry of Finance and the China Securities Regulatory Commission next Monday and Tuesday to see what’s what.

“This meeting is the commencement of our accelerated efforts with the People’s Republic of China to forge a cooperative resolution to cross-border auditing oversight. I believe we share a common objective with Chinese regulators to protect investors and safeguard audit quality through our mutual cooperation,” said James R. Doty, PCAOB Chairman.

The delegation will be led by Board Member Lewis H. Ferguson and include staff from the PCAOB’s Office of International Affairs and Division of Registration and Inspections, and the SEC Office of International Affairs and Office of the Chief Accountant. The delegation will meet with senior leadership of the Ministry of Finance and the CSRC.

“The purpose of this meeting is to provide an opportunity to exchange information about how each country conducts inspections of auditing firms and to move toward a bilateral agreement providing for joint inspections of China-based auditing firms registered with the PCAOB,” said PCAOB Board Member Ferguson.

Reuters reports that Ferguson considers the trip a “confidence-building exercise,” just in case you were still a little queasy on Sino-Forest, et al.

Statement on Delegation to China [PCAOB]
U.S. audit watchdog, SEC plan Beijing visit [Reuters]

Broker-Dealers, Prepare Thyselves for More Intrusive Audits

SEC commissioners will vote today on proposed changes to broker-dealer auditing and reporting rules at a meeting in Washington. As with the 2009 rules, which tightened oversight of advisers’ custody of client assets after Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme was exposed, the new changes increase oversight of the minority of about 300 broker-dealers who hold customers’ cash.

The proposals — which would be opened for a 60-day comment period — would require that a broker-dealer’s internal controls be checked by a registered public accounting firm and would let regulators examine the broker-dealer’s audits. Broker-dealers would have to file quarterly reports describing whether they have access to client money and how any access is controlled. [Bloomberg]

Yes, the SEC *Has* Heard About the Trend of Accounting Problems at Reverse Merger Companies

The Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors about the risk of fraud, accounting problems and other abuses at companies that obtain stock listings through so-called reverse mergers.

The warning on Thursday comes amid a rash of accounting scandals involving China-based companies listed on U.S. exchanges through reverse mergers, or mergers with U.S. shell companies. “Many companies either fail or struggle to remain viable following a reverse merger,” the SEC said in an investor bulletin. Investors should be especially wary of reverse merger operating companies that are “nonreporting,” meaning they are not required to file reports with the SEC, the agency said. “Keep in mind that information from online blogs, social networking sites and even a company’s own website may be inaccurate and sometimes intentionally misleading,” the SEC said. [Reuters]

SEC Still Cleaning Up Waste Management

Former Waste Management Chief Accounting Officer Bruce Snyder settled a civil injunctive action with the SEC today. The action relates to a little incident when Brucey “among other things, prepared, reviewed, and signed a materially false or misleading Form 10-Q,” back in ’99.

Perhaps this case was handled as efficiently as possible but taking twelve years to wrap this up might be enough to encourage Mary Schapiro to ask some other people to get better at their jobs (that means, lay off the porn). [SEC]

Mary Schapiro Wants Accountants to Get Better at Their Jobs

Did you work hard this past busy season? Did you toil away for hours and hours to provide exemplary client service? Did you take one for the team when that creeper client contact wanted to dance at the end-of-the-year party? Great. Well done, good and faithful capital market servant. But guess who still isn’t satisfied? The SEC Chair, Mary Schapiro. Why? Well, it’s becuase you’re still not meeting investors expectations and the SEC is hearing about it. Everyone is demanding the best and you’re simply not cutting it right now.

“At the SEC, we have heard from investors that they are not as confident as they could be, and they have areas in which we all could expect more from accountants, from accounting standards, from regulators and from those who provide assurance through the audit process,” she said. “I believe that, when your customer asks for more, especially after the challenges of recent years, you need to listen.”

So maybe this is what KPMG is talking about when they say things are going to the next level?

SEC’s Schapiro Says Investors Expect More from Accountants [AT]

Is the SEC Actually Monitoring Social Media?

The SEC has stated its position on social media, and I use the term “social media” loosely. They have also warned of hot stock scams perpetuated through those same channels.

Remember this?

A document request list sent by the SEC to some advisers asks for a broad range of data related to social media use, according to a compliance alert from ACA Compliance Group. Among other things, the SEC is seeking to identify how often advisers use social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Digg, Redditt, as well as any blogs used by, or subscribed to, by the adviser. They are also looking at communications made by, or received by an adviser on any social media website including among others, blog postings, messages, and/or tweets.

MySpace? I doubt unscrupulous frauds will find many worthy targets there.

To me, it says that the SEC has no idea where the important information is when it comes to social media.

Look at the BlackBerry PlayBook recall. 900 units isn’t huge if you consider they moved 50,000 units on its first day. Then again, if it were an anointed Apple product, that would be a pathetic debut.

If the SEC is in the business of protecting the investor, it would want to have some kind of say in how useful, relevant and timely RIM’s information is to shareholders. Reasonable accounting authorities might also want to understand the impact of bad PR on the company’s overall financial health, instead of constantly wasting everyone’s time discussing how to account for a lease on the books. Please!

Like when the WSJ published this story about the PlayBook’s first day:

“The traffic’s not iPad crazy, but there is a buzz,” said a salesman. “We actually had 5 people in the morning when the store opened at 7.”

Early sales were also relatively strong at a Best Buy outlet in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, where there were “only a couple” of tablets left as of midmorning, a salesman said. While he declined to say exactly how many the store started with, he said the majority had now been sold. There were people waiting to buy the tablet when the store opened, he said.

At a Staples store in downtown New York City, on Broadway, a salesman said all 10 PlayBooks it had in stock sold out within a couple of hours of opening at 7 a.m. People are still coming in to ask for it, and the store is having them order online, he said.

Shit, if I held a bunch of RIM (disclaimer: this author is long RIM) and this were a reasonable market in which I might feel safer knowing the SEC is totally protecting my interests, I might want a rule that calculates exactly what that bad PR is worth to the company I own. To a shareholder, this sort of news means my investment just took one hell of a hit. Ten PlayBooks per store? Sad.

But instead, the SEC wants to know what blogs investors are reading. I’m sure that’s a productive use of their time and far more important than monitoring the digital pulse of investing as it pumps through the veins of social media.

GSI Group: Internal Controls Won’t Be an Issue Going Forward

GSI Group Inc. (GSIG) said it reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by consenting to a cease and desist order related to accusations that it improperly recognized revenue on certain transactions at its semiconductor business from at least 2004 through June 2008, partly because of insufficient internal controls. The SEC alleged that as a result, the supplier of precision technology and semiconductor systems had overstated revenue by 0.7% in 2004, 1.4% in 2005, 17% in 2006 and 5% in 2007 and by 13% and 5.6% in the first and second quarters of 2008. The company said it agreed to the settlement without admitting or denying the SEC finding and wasn’t charged with fraud or required to pay any penalties. “GSI fully cooperated with the SEC in its two year investigation and has undertaken a number of corrective actions and internal control enhancements,” said Chief Executive John Roush. [Dow Jones]

SEC Officially Falls Victim to PwC’s Competitive Poaching Strategy

~ Tell Kayla I’m sorry for butchering her last name for over two hours. It’s fixed now.

PwC has announced the appointment of Kayla Gillan, formerly SEC Chair Mary Schapiro’s Deputy Chief of Staff, as the firm’s head of the newly created Regulatory Relations Group. This confirms a report by Bloomberg from last week.

Ms Gillan is no lightweight as she is a founding member of the PCAOB, served as general counsel for CalPERS and Chief Administrative Officer for Risk Metrics. The ecstatic Bob Moritz: “[PwC is] extremely fortunate to gain the experience, insights and future contributions of such a highly accomplished professional, one whose career has been dedicated to serving investors and other market participants,” BoMo said, adding, “Kayla Gillan is an example of making the investment to drive this transformation.”

It’s been a busy spring for PwC landing and announcing new appointments of partners and principals starting back in February and continuing through the spring.

[via PwC]

Center for Audit Quality Thrilled That SEC Study Recommends Auditors Continue Auditing

I am pleased that the SEC’s Office of the Chief Accountant’s thoughtful study recommends retention of Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes Oxley Act for companies whose market capitalization is between $75 and $250 million. Section 404(b) requires independent auditors to attest to management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal controls over financial reporting […]. The study concluded that costs of Section 404(b) compliance have declined and financial reporting is more reliable when the auditor is involved with ICFR assessments. Importantly, the study found that investors generally view the auditor‘s attestation on ICFR as beneficial. [Cindy Fornelli/CAQ]

SEC Warns of Pre-IPO Investment Scams

The SEC seems awfully interested in social media these days, and we assume it has little to do with Caleb’s obnoxious Whole Foods foursquare check-ins. Their latest nemesis? Pre-IPO investment scams purporting to be offering shares in hot non-public companies like Twitter, Facebook and Groupon.

SEC staff is aware of a number of complaints and inquiries about these types of pre-IPO investment scams, which may be promoted on social media and Internet sites, by telephone, email, in person, or by other means.

In September 2010, a judgment order was entered in favor of the SEC based on allegations that a scam artist had misappropriated more than $3.7 million from 45 investors in four states by offering fake pre-IPO shares of companies, including Centerpoint, AOL/Time Warner, Inc., Google, Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Rosetta Stone, Inc. In addition, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a recent investor alert about these types of scams. While offerings of pre-IPO shares in a company are not uncommon, unregistered offerings may violate federal securities laws unless they meet a registration exemption, such as restricting the private offering to “accredited investors” — investors who meet certain income or net worth requirements.

Investors should be mindful of the risks involved with an offer to purchase pre-IPO shares in a company. As with any investment, we encourage investors to research thoroughly both the investment product and the professional offering the product before making any investment decision.

Since AOL/Time Warner went public in 2006, we have to assume the scam artist referenced above had been at this for quite some time before the SEC was finally able to bring down the heavy hand of justice on dat ass.

If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, check out FINRA’s Pre-IPO Offerings—These Scammers Are Not Your Friends:

In general, offerings of securities must either be registered with the SEC or meet an exemption under the federal securities laws—otherwise the offering is not legal. “Pre-IPO” speculation involves buying unregistered shares in a private company before the initial public offering of securities—and it can range from risky deals to outright frauds.

Wait, does this have anything to do with that whole Goldman Sachs Facebook embarrassment?

Beware emails from Nigerian princes selling pre-IPO shares in hot tech companies, people.

Anyone Who Gives a Rat’s Behind About IFRS Needs to Mark July 7 on Their Calendars

‘Cause there’s gonna be a roundtable.

The Securities and Exchange Commission staff announced today that it will sponsor a roundtable in July to discuss benefits or challenges in potentially incorporating International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) into the financial reporting system for U.S. issuers.

The July 7 event will feature three panels representing investors, smaller public companies, and regulators. The panel discussions will focus on topics such as investor understanding of IFRS and the impact on smaller public companies and on the regulatory environment of incorporating IFRS.

“We must carefully consider and deliberate whether incorporating IFRS into our financial reporting system is in the best interest of U.S. investors and markets,” said SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker. “This roundtable will provide an excellent opportunity for investors, preparers, and regulators to provide the SEC staff with valuable information that will help the Commission in its ongoing consideration of incorporating IFRS.”

See you there. If you manage to recover from your July 4th meat sweats, that is.

Former Deloitte Partner’s Wife Faces Prison After Pleading Guilty to Insider Trading

For those not in the know, San Francisco is already an overpriced third world toilet but Pacific Heights is the go-to for wanna-bes, socialities and trust fund babies who can afford the pricey rents and even pricier home values. According to earlier reports, Annabel McClellan fell in the “wanna-be” category, though we aren’t sure if the fact that her husband worked at the Deloitte had anything to do with that.

The Bay Citizen has the latest update in this sordid tale:

A Pacific Heights housewife will be heading to prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to insider trading and obstruction of justice charges.

In her plea agreement, Annabel McClellan says she gleaned confidential information about publicly traded companies by overhearing her husband, Arnold McClellan, then a partner at Deloitte Tax LLC, discussing details of deals he was working on. She then passed the information on to her sister, Miranda Sanders, and brother-in-law, James Sanders, who was involved in a trading business in London, according to the document.

James Sanders made money from the tips, including about £396,851 (about $648,000 at current exchange rates) from information about Getty Images, according to McClellan.

McClellan also says in the agreement that she obstructed justice by lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission about having obtained and passed on the information.

Both Arnold and Annabel McClellan had been named in a civil suit filed in November by the SEC, but Annabel alone faced U.S. criminal charges.

We’re not sure where this puts McClellan’s sex app – My Nookie – but we’re pretty sure she won’t be needing it behind bars; her only sex position in the years ahead will likely be Don’t Drop the Soap, or maybe Reverse Don’t Drop the Soap if she’s feeling particularly randy.

Meanwhile, let this serve as a lesson to partners: keep your trap shut in front of the Mrs., lest she act on anything she overhears you talking about and later get taken down by the authorities for sharing that information with the girlfriends and in-laws.

McClellan will be sentenced on September 20th. She faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and fines of up to $250,000. That’s 83,612 copies of My Nookie (priced at $2.99) if you are playing along at home.

Earlier: Insider Trading Charges Throw a Wrench into Former Deloitte Employee’s Plans for Sexy Mobile App

Lynn Turner Doesn’t Let Accountants, SEC, FASB Off the Hook for Their Part in Financial Crisis

Today’s testimony before the subcommittee of Securities, Insurance and Investment will be focused on the how the accounting industry can help prevent the next financial crisis and will feature many prominent figures. The first panel will feature James Doty, Chairman of the PCAOB, Leslie Seidman, Chairwoman of the FASB and James Kroeker the Chief Accountant of the SEC.

The second panel will include Anton Valukas of Jenner & Block and the bankruptcy examiner of Lehman Brothers, Cynthia Fornelli of the Center for Audit Quality, Thomas Quaadman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Lynn Turner, the former Chief Accountant of the SEC. Throughout the statement Mr Turner points to various defects within the accounting profession infrastructure. This includes the profession itself, “auditors helped contribute to a crisis in confidence” the efforts of the accounting rule-making body, “Clearly the FASB has failed to develop quality and timely standards,” and the hapless SEC, who “[lacks] the tools for the job.”

Mr. Turner’s written statement appears in full after the jump.

SenateBankingSecuritiessubcommittee04062011

PwC India Affiliates Settle with SEC, PCAOB Over Satyam Audit Failures

The affiliates – Lovelock & Lewes, Price Waterhouse Bangalore, Price Waterhouse & Co. Bangalore, Price Waterhouse Calcutta, and Price Waterhouse & Co. Calcutta – must pay $6 million to the SEC, $1.5 million to the PCAOB and are barred from accepting U.S.-based clients for six months. The SEC fine is the largest ever levied against a foreign-based accounting firm in an SEC Enforcement Action and the PCAOB fine is the largest in the regulator’s history. PW India must also “establish training programs for its officers and employees on securities laws and accounting principles; institute new pre-opinion review controls; revise its audit policies and procedures; and appoint an independent monitor to ensure these measures are implemented.” The SEC’s press releasilures “were not limited to Satyam, but rather indicative of a much larger quality control failure throughout PW India.”

More from Bob Khuzami & Co.:

“PW India violated its most fundamental duty as a public watchdog by failing to comply with some of the most elementary auditing standards and procedures in conducting the Sataym audits. The result of this failure was very harmful to Satyam shareholders, employees and vendors,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

Cheryl Scarboro, Chief of the SEC’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit, added, “PW India failed to conduct even the most fundamental audit procedures. Audit firms worldwide must take seriously their critical gate-keeping duties whenever they perform audit engagements for SEC-registered issuers and their affiliates, and conduct proper audits that exercise professional skepticism and care.”

For the PCAOB, Chairman James Doty:

“The reliability of global capital markets depends on auditors fulfilling their obligation to investors to perform robust audits, resulting in well-founded audit reports. Two of the PW India firms, PW Bangalore and Lovelock, repeatedly violated PCAOB rules and standards in conducting the Satyam audits. These confirmation deficiencies contributed directly to the auditors’ failure to uncover the Satyam fraud.”

And Claudisu Modesti, the Director of Enforcement:

“Accounting firms that audit U.S. issuers, including affiliates of international accounting networks, provide an essential bulwark for investors against issuer clients that are committing fraud. PW Bangalore and Lovelock repeatedly failed to meet their obligation to comply with PCAOB standards, and these failures contributed to PW Bangalore and Lovelock failing to detect the fraud committed by Satyam management.”

You can see both the enforcement actions on the following pages. As for the firm, here’s a portion from PW India’s statement:

The SEC and PCAOB orders found that PW India’s audits of Satyam did not meet US professional standards and, as a result, did not discover the fraud underlying Satyam’s 2005-2008 financial statements. The orders make clear that Satyam management engaged in a years-long fraud, going so far as to create scores of fictitious documents for the purpose of misleading the auditors.

These settlements, in which PW India neither admits nor denies the U.S. regulators’ findings, apply only to the U.S. regulatory enquiries into Satyam. Neither of the orders found that PW India or any of its professionals engaged in any intentional wrongdoing or was otherwise involved in the fraud perpetrated by Satyam management. The settlements mark the end of the Satyam-related U.S. regulatory enquiries concerning PW India and are a positive step and important milestone in putting the Satyam issue behind PW India. PW India remains hopeful of resolving the outstanding enquiry with the Indian market regulator.

Sounds a little defensive, doesn’t it? Here’s what PwC International Ltd. had to say:

PricewaterhouseCoopers International fully supports PW India’s decision to resolve these issues with the US regulators and is hopeful that an agreed resolution will also be reached with the Indian market regulator. The PwC network will continue to work closely with PW India as it fulfils its commitments to its regulators, its clients, and to the Indian and global marketplaces.

PricewaterhouseCoopers International is committed to a PwC presence in the vibrant and fast growing Indian marketplace.

“India is a key market for PwC and we are committed to working with our colleagues in India to build on a successful practice with quality at the centre of everything it does,” said Dennis Nally, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International. “The last two years have been challenging for PW India but I believe that PW India has learned the lessons of Satyam, made the right changes and is on a sound footing to move forward, dedicated to quality work.”

This may be a foreign firm but it makes us wonder if the SEC and PCAOB are just getting warmed up. Mr Doty and SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker will be on the tomorrow’s panel that we will be live-blogging and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

SEC_PW India

PW_India

The SEC Is Aware That Some Chinese Companies Have Shoddy Accounting

Or in some cases, just plain fraudulent.

In prepared remarks at an investors conference, Luis Aguilar said he is increasingly concerned about the proliferation of small private companies that elect to merge with public shell companies in lieu of more rigorous methods of becoming public, such as a traditional IPO. “While the vast majority of these companies may be legitimate businesses, a growing number of them have accounting deficiencies or are outright vessels of fraud” Aguilar said, speaking at a Council of Institutional Investors conference here.

And in case you missed it the auditing isn’t so hot either:

”There appear to be systematic concerns with quality of auditing and financial reporting,” he said. “Even though these companies are registered in the U.S., we have limitations when it comes to enforcing U.S. securities laws with them.”

US Securities Regulator Aguilar Sounds Backdoor-Merger Alarm [Dow Jones]
SEC official concerned with ‘back-door’ listings [MarketWatch]

Berkshire Hathaway CFO Would Like to Make a Bet with the SEC

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA, BRKB) took an accounting charge to reflect the declines of three stocks in its investment portfolio after regulators asked about the company’s policy for writing down investment losses. But Berkshire Chief Financial Officer Marc Hamburg complained that the current stock prices don’t reflect the worth of the shares, and predicted in a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that “each security’s market price will grow to at least the intrinsic value that existed” when Berkshire made the investments. [Dow Jones]

Be Careful What You Tweet, Mary Schapiro Might Be Watching

We’ve considered why your firm might want a social media policy in the past but it’s clear now that it’s not only wise to keep employees in check but to keep the SEC from breathing down everyone’s necks.

Regulation FD (fair disclosure) is meant to prevent selective disclosure by issuers of materialon and insider trading liability in connection with a trader’s “use” or “knowing possession” of material nonpublic information. The rules are designed to promote the full and fair disclosure of information by issuers, and to clarify and enhance existing prohibitions against insider trading.


Without a social media policy, any employee of the company tweeting or blogging about company events could broadly be assumed to be company communications. Whether or not these people are officially representing the company or not is irrelevant; selective disclosure could be as simple as a poorly-timed post about a company secret (i.e. “our awesome new product will be released in two weeks!”) on an employee’s Facebook page, which is public but limited to the employee’s 100 or so family and friends. In theory, an astute friend could take this as a buy signal, knowing X product will cause quite a storm once it hits the market. Welcome to insider trading: social media edition. Notice here that the intention is not what is important but rather the event itself. The SEC doesn’t care if the employee meant to pump up his or her employer’s stock but rather that the employee chose to selectively disclose information not readily available to the public that the employee is privy to to a limited group of people.

How far could the SEC take this?

The SEC’s guidance set forth three considerations to help determine whether information posted on corporate websites is considered “public.”

* Whether a company’s Web site is a recognized channel of distribution;
* Whether information is posted and accessible, and therefore disseminated in a manner calculated to reach investors; and
* Whether information is posted for a reasonable period so that it has been absorbed by investors.

The guidance goes on to clarify that statements made on blogs or other interactive websites are subject to the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and companies cannot require investors to waive protections under the federal securities laws as a condition of using such interactive websites.

The only control companies have in this is to have a very clear, intelligent social media policy that either limits or forbids disclosure of non-public information through blogs and social media. This isn’t new (this interpretation was released in August of 2008) but what is new is the rumor that the SEC is beginning to send deficiency letters to registered investment advisers it examines, specifically those who do not have a social media policy in place.

A document request list sent by the SEC to some advisers asks for a broad range of data related to social media use, according to a compliance alert from ACA Compliance Group. Among other things, the SEC is seeking to identify how often advisers use social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Digg, Redditt, as well as any blogs used by, or subscribed to, by the adviser. They are also looking at communications made by, or received by an adviser on any social media website including among others, blog postings, messages, and/or tweets.

According to the WSJ, an SEC spokesman declined to comment on the deficiency letters. However, an SEC official said at a compliance conference last month that misuse of social media is an issue on their radar in SEC examinations and enforcement. Misuse being defined as investment advisers who fake information on their LinkedIn profiles to buff up their appearance to investors.

Are Audit Committees Really Independent of Management?

A reader – who is a partner at a Big 4 firm – sent this to me awhile ago and I dug it out this week:

Question for you. Why is it OK for audit committee members to be selected and paid by management? Why is it OK that they are paid in the stock of the Companies that they govern? Considering the fact that the SEC has such disdain for the slightest perception of a lack of independence on the part of the auditors that report “directly” to the Audit Committees, it is odd that the governing body can be owners of the company as well. [By the way, let’s be real, management hires the auditors. The audit committees just accept it.]


Time to jump in – These questions feel rhetorical but I’ll take a stab at answering them anyway. If you look at a brief history of audit committees, you’ll see that the idea goes back nearly as far as the Securities and Exchange Acts of ’33 and ’34, first being endorsed by the NYSE in 1939. The SEC first made the recommendation that public companies compose their audit committees of independent directors in 1972. That was followed by the NYSE’s requirement for audit committee members to be independent in 1977. What does all this mean? Basically, it appears that it’s okay that management selects and pays audit committee members because it’s always been done that way. Similarly, it’s okay to pay them in stock because companies have always issued shares to directors, regardless of their respective committees. As far as who “hires” the auditors, our source has a better frame of reference than I but this probably varies from company to company. While many companies have audit committees that have no problem throwing their weight around, there are others whose members probably couldn’t find cash on a balance sheet.

Anyway, our source has some ideas:

If the regulators want to create a TRUE independent structure, why not create an Audit Committee Oversight Board (or the ACOB), and pay these members in shares of a Mutual Fund that’s tied to the overall performance of the stock market? Audit Committee members should be overseen by the SEC – perhaps indirectly by this ACOB. Now – this would empower the Committees, empower the auditors even further, and empower the shareholders of Companies with the knowledge that the Audit Committees were truly independent of management. This would be a stunning show of real governance in corporate America. Wouldn’t this be a true step toward preventing further financial crashes in America? What do you and your readers think?

I like the progressive ideas presented but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the massive amount of media I’ve consumed in the last 2+ years, it’s this – the ideal regulation and what it politically feasible are often miles apart and in the process of reconciling those differences, the final product is not at all what was intended. The SEC (who hasn’t exactly been on top of their game the last few years) is already fighting for every nickel and no amount of litigation releases will get representatives like Darrell Issa to back down from cutting their budget. Thus, a regulatory agency with shaky credibility has an uphill battle.

So would an Audit Committee Oversight Board, compensation changes and other reforms to the process be a “true step toward preventing further financial crashes”? Maybe. But as long as “fiscal responsibility” continues to be a political talking point, the SEC won’t have the ability to suggest reforms until we have another crisis and chances are, they’ll be the scapegoats…again.

Technology at SEC Good Enough for Viewing Porn, Not Reliable Internal Controls

Last year the Government Accountability Office issued a report that called attention to the SEC’s accounting system (or lack thereof). Reuters now reports that the SEC will admit in testimony tomorrow that the material weaknesses in their accounting system are largely due to technology that would make your grandparents laugh.

“These material weaknesses are unacceptable,” the SEC’s top division directors said in prepared testimony that was viewed by Reuters. They added the “root causes” of the problems stem from “years of underinvesting in financial system technologies.”

It should be noted that while the accounting systems were not quite up to snuff for the GAO, the equipment used by employees was sufficient for viewing a metric asston of porn, which we just learned moments ago, was even more widespread than initially thought.

SEC says its accounting problems stem from technology [Reuters]

‘Massive Accounting Fraud’ Du Jour: DBH Industries (nka Point Blank Solutions)

Maybe color blindness is the reason everyone misses the “red flags.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a supplier of body armor to the U.S. military for engaging in what it called “massive accounting fraud.”

The SEC alleges that DBH Industries, now known as Point Blank Solutions Inc. (PBSOQ), “engaged in pervasive accounting and disclosure fraud through its senior officers and misappropriated company assets to personally benefit” its former chief executive, David Brooks.

The regulator also charged outside directors Jerome Krantz, Cary Chasin and Gary Nadelman for their parts in the scheme, saying they were “willfully blind to numerous red flags” signaling the fraud.”

“As the fraud swirled around them, Krantz, Chasin, and Nadelman ignored the obvious and submitted to the directives and decisions of DHB’s senior management while themselves profiting from sales of the company’s securities,” said Eric Bustillo, director at the SEC’s Miami office.

SEC Charges Body-Armor Supplier For ‘Massive Accounting Fraud [Dow Jones]

SEC Whistleblower Program Not Exactly Knocking Anyone’s Socks Off

The corporate watchdog has received just 168 complaints alleging corporate fraud in the first 6½ months of the program’s existence, according to data the SEC provided to The Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. The tally is from July 22, 2010, when the program was launched, through Feb. 2, 2011. At that rate, the SEC is receiving less than one tip a day — hardly the flood that led the agency to delay staffing the program while it pleaded with lawmakers for more funding. [NYP]

SEC’s Storied Tradition of Producing Unreliable Financial Statements Makes for an Awkward Situation

Namely, the Commission would like a bigger budget because Dodd-Frank is making their lives increasingly difficult but since they got such bad marks from the GAO the Times reports that it might be just a tad inappropriate since, ya know, the SEC’s own numbers are, arguably, unreliable:

Since the commission began producing audited statements in 2004, the Government Accountability Office has faulted its reporting almost every year. Last November, the G.A.O. said that the commission’s books were in such disarray that it had failed at some of the agency’s most fundamental tasks: accurately tracking income from fines, filing fees and the return of ill-gotten profits.

“A reasonable possibility exists that a material misstatement of S.E.C.’s financial statements would not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis,” the auditor concluded.

The auditor did not accuse the S.E.C. of cooking its books, and the mistakes were corrected before its latest financial statements were completed. But the fact that basic accounting continually bedevils the agency responsible for guaranteeing the soundness of American financial markets could prove especially awkward just as the S.E.C. is saying it desperately needs money to increase its regulatory power.

S.E.C. Hurt by Disarray in Its Books [NYT]

Enron Whistleblower: WikiLeaks > SEC

“I don’t think the SEC’s culture is one that will make this effective one iota,” said Sherron Watkins, a one-time vice president at Enron, referring to expanded protections for whistleblowers included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. If she was in the same situation today as 10 years ago, when Watkins approached government authorities about accounting fraud at Enron, she would probably instead take her information to an organization like WikiLeaks, Watkins said. [Paper Trail]

The UK Invites the PCAOB Over for Tea (and Some Audit Probing)

Convergence may not be that far off after all, here it is 2011 and now we finally have U.S. and U.K. audit harassment agencies working together to share information and polish up that whole bit about protecting investor confidence in capital markets. It may or may not have something to do with the collapse of Lehman Brothers (personally I think the paranoid mistrust in foreign accounting systems – or perhaps just ours – goes back a tad more than that) but soon enough the PCAOB will have an in (after at least one failed attempt) and get a chance to harass inspect foreign firms. We anticipate that this announcement will bring it with it a fantastic new acronym so we can all keep track of who is who.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board today entered into a cooperative agreement with the Professional Oversight Board in the United Kingdom to facilitate cooperation in the oversight of auditors and public accounting firms that practice in the two regulators’ respective jurisdictions.

This agreement provides a basis for the resumption of PCAOB inspections of registered accounting firms that are located in the United Kingdom and that audit, or participate in audits, of companies whose securities trade in U.S. markets. The PCAOB previously conducted inspections in the United Kingdom with the POB from 2005 to 2008, but has been blocked from doing so since that time.

Acting PCAOB Chairman Daniel L. Goelzer welcomed the arrangement, which will lay the foundation for the PCAOB and POB to work together to promote public trust in the audit process and investor confidence in capital markets.

The PCAOB can thank the Dodd-Frank WSCRA which amended SOX to permit the PCAOB to share information with foreign audit agencies under certain conditions.

In light of this event, we’re wondering what happens when the two work together sharing “information.” Does it get a brand new acronym that celebrates this new dawn in inter-obnoxious-regulatory-gossiping (IORG) or does it become a hybrid acronym like the Public Professional Company Oversight^2 Board Board or PPCO^2BB? Surely we can do better.

Party at the PCAOB DC office this evening to celebrate, bring your own acronym suggestions and IFRS pocket guide.

See also:
The PCAOB Is Finally Invited to Europe’s Financial Statement Party [JDA]

(UPDATE 2) Who Will Be the New PCAOB Board Members?

~ Update 2 includes statement from PCAOB and clips from the SEC press release.

The SEC is set to make announcement circa any minute this afternoon and rumor has it that there might be last minute changes that amount to “horse trading among commissioners.” Intrigue at the SEC that has nothing to do with porn! Who knew?!?

Francine McKenna also seems excited about it:


Your wild-ass guesses are welcome at this time. We’ll keep you updated once we hear the names.

UPDATE: Silly us. Tammy Whitehouse over at Compliance Week had the potentials yesterday and we somehow overlooked it:

The SEC is expected to name John Huber, former director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, Lewis Ferguson, former general counsel to the PCAOB, and Jay Hanson, national director of accounting for audit firm McGladrey & Pullen, to three seats that have been open at the PCAOB for more than a year. It’s not clear whether one of those three will be appointed chairman, or whether that title will be granted to Daniel Goelzer, the acting chairman who has held down the fort since Mark Olson resigned in July 2009.

Granted, there are lots of rumors swirling about this “horse trading” so we wouldn’t be surprised if one of these guys (i.e. Huber, Ferguson or Hanson) got dropped for [fill in the blank].

UPDATE 2: And now, perpetually acting PCAOB chair Dan Goelzer:

“I am very pleased that the SEC has appointed three outstanding individuals to the Board. I look forward to working with Jim Doty, Lew Ferguson, and Jay Hanson in continuing to carry out the Board’s mission to protect investors and promote public confidence in audited financial reporting.

“At the same time, I want to thank the retiring Board members, Bill Gradison and Charley Niemeier, for their immeasurable contributions as founding members of the Board and for their years of dedicated service. Investors owe them a debt of gratitude.”

So the trade was Huber for James Doty (who is taking the Chairmanship), the former SEC General Counsel. INTERESTING (at least in some circles). Fro the SEC press release:

Mr. Doty is currently a Partner at Baker Botts LLP in Washington, D.C. He has represented clients on a wide range of securities law matters. He also counsels boards of directors and audit committees on problems arising under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and related issues. Mr. Doty served as the SEC’s General Counsel from 1990 to 1992. He received an LL.B. from Yale Law School, an M.A. from Harvard University, an A.B. from Oxford University, and a B.A. from Rice University.

Yale, Harvard, Oxford and Rice? Elijah Watt Sells winners, eat your hearts out.

Some Ernst & Young Employees Got Paid to Look at a Plethora of Porn

Really not sure why or how E&Y landed this gig but work is work.

Police may be called on to investigate reports [New South Wales] [Members of Parliament] or their staff accessed websites containing sexually explicit images of young people.

The findings were contained in an independent report by Ernst & Young, commissioned in September after an unauthorised audit of computer use in the NSW parliament showed “adult” websites had been visited from the offices of some MPs.

The report, tabled in parliament yesterday, says that of the 72 most-used websites on parliamentary computers over a 10-month period, 35 “appear to be adult-related sites”.

Nine contained sexually explicit images of young people, some of whom may be under 16.

Nearly 50% of the most-used sites over a 10 month period? And some that could involve minors (in NSW)! That’s impressive even by SEC standards.

(UPDATE 2) SEC Charges Deloitte Tax Partner with Insider Trading

~ Update includes clarification of partner’s employment status and statements from accused’s attorneys via MarketWatch.

~ Update at circa 7:20 pm ET includes statement from Deloitte

If you thought all this insider trading fun was just for hedge funds you would be sorely mistaken. Deloitte seems to have another case of a partner who can’t seem to control himself when he gets some insider info. Earlier this year, former Deloitte Vice Chairman Tom Fla> shelled out $1.1 million to settle charges with the SEC.

This time around, it’s still a family affair – husband, wife, wife’s sister and brother-in-law job – and it went overseas:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former Deloitte Tax LLP partner and his wife with repeatedly leaking confidential merger and acquisition information to family members overseas in a multi-million dollar insider trading scheme.

The SEC alleges that Arnold McClellan and his wife Annabel, who live in San Francisco, provided advance notice of at least seven confidential acquisitions planned by Deloitte’s clients to Annabel’s sister and brother-in-law in London. After receiving the illegal tips, the brother-in-law took financial positions in U.S. companies that were targets of acquisitions by Arnold McClellan’s clients. His subsequent trades were closely timed with telephone calls between Annabel McClellan and her sister, and with in-person visits with the McClellans. Their insider trading reaped illegal profits of approximately $3 million in U.S. dollars, half of which was to be funneled back to Annabel McClellan.

The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced charges against the two relatives — James and Miranda Sanders of London. The FSA also charged colleagues of James Sanders whom he tipped with the nonpublic information in the course of his work at his London-based derivatives firm. Sanders’s tippees and clients made approximately $20 million in U.S. dollars by trading on the inside information.

So not a bad haul. The kicker is, Annabel was also employed at Deloitte, working in the London, San Jose and San Francisco offices. The McClellans provided information to the Sanders on several companies including Kronos, Inc., aQuantive, Inc. and Getty Images.

The SEC brass gave their standard scolding. First, Enforcement Chief, Robert Khuzami, “The McClellans might have thought that they could conceal their illegal scheme by having close relatives make illegal trades offshore. They were wrong.”

And San Fran Director Marc Fagel, “Deloitte and its clients entrusted Arnold McClellan with highly confidential information. Along with his wife, he abused that trust and used high-placed access to corporate secrets for the couple’s own benefit and their family’s enrichment.”

But the real story here is the second instance of insider trading charges against a Deloitte partner this year. The firm successfully sued Tom Flanagan back in January but you have to wonder if there isn’t some flaw with the firm’s internal oversight. Not long after the Flanagan suit, we reported on the 475 reprimands for internal noncompliance in 2009. Those reprimands did not mention insider trading specifically but over 200 of them were related to independence violations. Pattern? You can weigh in below.

Anyone with any knowledge on this story is invited to get in touch with us. as it is not clear if there has been any internal repercussions yet. Messages (including voicemail, carrier pigeon and morse code) left with Deloitte have not been returned (see statement below).

UPDATE: McClellan’s attorneys are not amused by the SEC’s little stunt:

Lawyers for Arnold McClellan denied charges Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission that the former Deloitte Tax LLP partner was involved in a big insider trading scheme. “Arnold McClellan denies the SEC’s claims and will vigorously contest them,” Elliot Peters and Christopher Kearney of Keker & Van Nest LLP said in a statement on behalf of McClellan. “He did not trade on insider information, and there will be no evidence that he passed along any confidential information to anyone.” McClellan “had no financial incentive to commit the actions alleged,” the lawyers added. “He is a conscientious, law-abiding professional with a 23-year unblemished track record of client service at Deloitte to prove it. We will see the SEC in court.”

And just to clarify, McClellan is no longer with Deloitte, leaving the firm in June of this year. Deloitte spokesman Jonathan Gandal emailed us the firm statement (see below) still hasn’t returned our call (busy day, right?) but managed to give a statement to and was quoted by Reuters, saying that he was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations and “If the allegations prove to be true, they would represent serious violations of our strict and regularly communicated confidentiality policies.”

UPDATE 2: Here is the full statement from Deloitte:

“We are shocked and saddened by these allegations against our former tax partner and members of his family. If the allegations prove to be true, they would represent serious violations of our strict and regularly communicated confidentiality policies. Deloitte is committed to safeguarding non-public client information and has cooperated with the SEC throughout its investigation. The SEC does not allege any wrongdoing by Deloitte in this unfortunate matter.”

Complaint_Deloitte

GAO: SEC Basically Needs to Replace Their Entire Accounting System

“These material weaknesses are likely to continue to exist until the SEC’s accounting system is either significantly enhanced or replaced, key accounting activity in other systems is fully integrated with the accounting system at the transaction level, information security controls are significantly strengthened, and appropriate resources are dedicated to maintaining effective internal controls.”

~ From a report issued by the Government Accountability Office

Keeping the SEC Out of Our Hair Is Always on the Table

This all started when a shareholder asked Michael about this, and he said that we’re looking into it. Well, of course we’re looking into it.

~ Brian Gladden, CFO of Dell, comes off a little sassy discussing the possibility of the company going private.

SEC Intends to Take All the Time It Needs to Make Up Its Mind on IFRS

So any retiring knights out there feeling anxious can just cool it. And rubbing elbows with Deloitte talking about how great things will be isn’t going to make the Commission work faster.

That being said, Jim Kroeker will have you know that things are going along swimmingly, per the Commission’s press release:

“The staff has invested significant time and effort in executing the Work Plan, and we’ve made great progress to date,” said SEC Chief Accountant Jim Kroeker. “This progress report emphasizes the importance of transparency in the staff’s activities, and can help the public’s understanding of the magnitude of this project and the staff’s progress.”

So make no mistake; the SEC is on this. However, they do have some concerns, “[W]hether the international accounting rule maker is truly independent and whether IFRS is high quality.”

So if you could address those two things, that would be appreciated. Sir David.

Berkshire CFO Attempts to Kill SEC Curiosity

When you’re a folksy billionaire octogenarian, you can afford to have others do your dirty work. In the case of the Warren Buffet, he has Charlie Munger hate on accountants for anything and everything under the sun.

Similarly, when the SEC comes calling, the Sage of Omaha can ring up Berkshire CFO Marc Hamburg. On the one hand, you might expect WB to shoot the breeze with the SEC employees since they likely share a fondness for a certain film genre.


However, when the conversation turns to business, the old man probably claims that he has an interview on tax cuts, a bridge match with WHGIII or a lunch date with Z-Knowles. This allows him to turn the SEC scamps over to Hamburg who plays a little bit of a bad cop to the Buffet’s chatty, dirty Grandpa. The CFO then lets the SEC know, in no uncertain terms, that they’re barking up the wrong tree:

In an April letter, the SEC asked Berkshire why it was not recording write-downs on shares with $1.86 billion in unrealized losses, all of which had been in that position for at least a year.

Given the duration of those losses, the SEC said they appeared to be more than temporary and as such should have been written down.

In a detailed response, Berkshire Chief Financial Officer Marc Hamburg said most of the losses with more than 12 months’ duration as of December 31 were concentrated in Kraft and U.S. Bancorp, shares it had acquired in 2006 and 2007.

Hamburg said that as of December 31, Berkshire determined both companies had enough earnings potential that their share prices would eventually exceed the original cost of the stock. It also has the “ability and intent” to hold the shares until they recovered, he said.

“We believe it is reasonably possible that the market prices of Kraft Foods and U.S. Bancorp will recover to our cost within the next one to two years assuming that there are no material adverse events affecting these companies or the industries in which they operate,” Hamburg said.

And if this doesn’t work, they’ll just schedule Munger for another speech.

SEC questioned Warren Buffett’s Berkshire on loss accounting [Reuters]

Accounting News Roundup: Brits Investigating Services KPMG Provided BAE Systems; How Many Times Did Harry Reid Vote to Increase Taxes?; PwC Scoffs at ‘Big 5’ Idea | 10.25.10

BofA Finds Foreclosure Document Errors [WSJ]
The Charlotte, N.C., lender discovered errors in 10 to 25 out of the first several hundred foreclosure cases it examined starting last Monday. The problems included improper paperwork, lack of signatures and missing files, said people familiar with the results. In certain cases, information about the property and payment history didn’t match.

KPMG investigated over BAE audit [Accountancy Age]
The investigation by the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) focusBritish Aerospace/BAE Systems between 1997 and 2007, looking at commissions paid by BAE to subsidiaries, agents or other companies.

Any professional advice, consultancy or tax work provided to BAE by KPMG during that period will also come under the microscope in relation to commission payments. The investigation will focus on commissions connected to three legal entities: Red Diamond Trading; Poseidon Trading Investments; and Novelmight.

Key Tax Breaks at Risk as Panel Looks at Cuts [WSJ]
The tax benefits are hugely popular with the public but they have drawn the panel’s focus, in part because the White House has said these and other breaks cost the government about $1 trillion a year.

At stake, in addition to the mortgage-interest deductions, are child tax credits and the ability of employees to pay their portion of their health-insurance tab with pretax dollars. Commission officials are expected to look at preserving these breaks but at a lower level, according to people familiar with the matter.

Harry Reid Voted to Raise Taxes ‘Only’ 51 Times [TaxProf Blog]
Apparently there was some talk that it was actually in the ballpark of 300.


Reflections on the Basel Committee Principles for Enhancing Corporate Governance [Marks on Governance/IIA]
News you can use.

Business leaders press administration for repeat on tax break [On the Money/The Hill]
The National Association of Manufacturers and other groups argue allowing companies to “repatriate” money earned abroad to the U.S. at a lower tax rate could spur the economy by providing businesses with a burst of cash they could invest in their companies.

“The business community is looking at ways to jumpstart the economic recovery and here is one you could do without increasing the deficit,” Dorothy Coleman, vice president of tax and domestic economic policy for the manufacturers.

PwC slates FRC idea to create Big Five [Accountancy Age]
Paul Woolston, head of public sector assurance at PwC, criticised the Financial Reporting Council’s suggestion the Audit Commission be used to create a fifth player in the audit industry, currently dominated by the Big Four – PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG.

“It is at least ironic that the FRC has said what it has, in that the Audit Commission itself has operated with a large monopoly,” he said.

“It is odd that the FRC is concerned about any one organisation having the market share.”

SEC Aims to Streamline Complaint Process [WSJ]
The launch is a step in the agency’s efforts to avoid bottlenecks and duplication in the handling of complaints, which traditionally have been fielded by individual SEC offices and filed there. Complicating matters is the variety of forms in which such complaints come—mail, phone calls, emails and interviews.

“This process is going to ensure that it’s all transferred into a structured format so that it can be more easily searched and analyzed,” Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement, said in an interview.

“We will have all of it in one place, searchable, which will do a lot for us in the long run,” he said.

Thus Far under Obama, the Only Individuals Paying Higher Taxes Are Smokers and Tanners, But They May Have Company Soon [Tax Foundation]
Jersey Shore quips go here.

Accounting News Roundup: Debunking the Audit Industry Green Paper; Theories Behind the Tax Cut That Nobody Noticed; AIG Is Doing a Happy Dance | 10.22.10

The EC’s Green Paper, “Audit Policy: Lessons from the Crisis”: The Bureaucrats Blow Another Chance [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson dissects the European Commission’s Green Paper on the audit industry and isn’t impressed with what is inside.

Interesting Issues in Timing of Green Mountain Insider Stock Sales and Disclosure of SEC Inquiry [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is curious about GMCR executive Michelle Stacy’s sudden exercising of stock options. You see, GMCR was notified of the SEC investigation into their revenue recognition on September 20th. Ms. Stacy exercised and sold her options on the 21st. The company announced the SEC investigation on the 28th.

Regardless of what analysts think about Vermont hippies and their knowledge of revenue recognition, the timing will certainly get the attention of someone (who finds porn disgusting) at the SEC.

Why Nobody Noticed Obama’s Tax Cuts [TaxVox]
According to Tax Policy Center estimates, 96.9 percent of households enjoyed a tax cut that averaged almost $1,200. Just one measure—Obama’s Making Work Pay tax credit—put more than $116 billion into people’s pockets in 2009 and 2010.

Yet, a Times poll found that fewer than 10 percent of those surveyed had any clue. Remarkably, fully one-third thought their taxes went up—even though the actual number was about zero.

Poll: Financial crisis will force states to raise taxes [On the Money]
78% say it’s gonna happen.

Office Depot, execs settle SEC disclosure charges [Reuters]
The SEC had accused the company, its CEO Stephen Odland and former chief financial officer Patricia McKay of conveying to analysts and big investors that the company would not meet analysts’ earning estimates for the second quarter of 2007.

New Faces Enter Fray in Accounting [NYT]
Floyd Norris remembers the old cast at the FASB, IASB and introduces the new ones.


AIG Raises $17.8 Billion in Record AIA Hong Kong IPO [Bloomberg]
American International Group Inc. raised a record HK$138.3 billion ($17.8 billion) from the Hong Kong initial public offering of its main Asian unit, putting what was once the world’s largest insurer on course to repay its 2008 bailout.

AIG sold 7.03 billion shares, or a 58 percent stake, at HK$19.68 each, the top end of a marketing range, Hong Kong-based AIA said an e-mailed statement. It used an option to expand the sale offered from 5.86 billion, or a 49 percent stake.

Comment: EU audit proposals full of contradictions [Accountancy Age]
More debunking of the EC Green Paper.

Aetna CFO duties to expand under new CEO [Reuters]
Aetna Inc [AET.N] will expand the responsibilities of Chief Financial Officer Joseph Zubretsky to include leadership of the health insurer’s strategic diversification plans under the incoming chief executive officer.

Angelo Mozilo Wishes He Had John Elway’s Problems

Neither man is having a very good week but Moz got especially bad news today that might cause him to cut back on luxury items including 86ing the private jets with tanning beds and the two-tone shirt collection:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that former Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo will pay a record $22.5 million penalty to settle SEC charges that he and two other former Countrywide executives misled investors as the subprime mortgage crisis emerged. The settlement also permanently bars Mozilo from ever again serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded company.

Mozilo’s financial penalty is the largest ever paid by a public company’s senior executive in an SEC settlement. Mozilo also agreed to $45 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains to settle the SEC’s disclosure violation and insider trading charges against him, for a total financial settlement of $67.5 million that will be returned to harmed investors.

Former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo to Pay SEC’s Largest-Ever Financial Penalty Against a Public Company’s Senior Executive [SEC]

Accounting News Roundup: PwC Rakes in Fees on Lehman; Grant Thornton: Opening the Audit Market Wouldn’t Hurt Big 4; One in Three IRS Employees Are Eligible for Retirement | 10.15.10

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.”

Accounting News Roundup: Pols Line Up Against the Estate Tax; PCAOB Threatens to Stonewall Foreign Audit Firms; RubinBrown Forms LifeSciences Practice | 10.14.10

Estate-Tax Rises Again as Issue on Trail [WSJ]
“More than 250 current congressional candidates, mostly Republicans, have signed a pledge this year to support elimination of the tax, according to the advocacy group sponsoring the effort. The signers include 53 incumbents and more than half of Republicans running for House and Senate. During the 2008 elections, when the group first began seeking supporters, only 30 candidates signed up.

The estate tax has become a particularly hot issue in the West, including in Washington state’s Senate contest, and some rural House districts where Democratic incumbents appear vulnerable. a hotter issue in rural areas because it raises particular concerns among farmers and landowners.”

Religious group took alleged terrorist money [WaPo]
“A group of Ohio ministers has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the organization that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast because it received money six years ago from an alleged Islamic terrorist organization trying to finance illicit lobbying.

ClergyVoice, the activist group that wrote to the IRS commissioner Wednesday, complained that the Fellowship Foundation violated its obligation as a tax-exempt organization not to deal with such entities.

The foundation, an Arlington-based religious enterprise associated with a house at 133 C St. SE where several members of the House and Senate have rented rooms, acknowledged Wednesday that it had received two $25,000 checks, in May and June 2004, from the Missouri-based Islamic American Relief Agency.

The charity was included on a Senate Finance Committee list of terrorist financiers in January of that year.”

Dell’s Settlement of SEC Accounting-Fraud Claims Approved by U.S. Judge [Bloomberg]
“Dell Inc., the world’s third-biggest maker of personal computers, won a judge’s permission to pay $100 million to settle accounting-fraud claims brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The accord reached in July allows founder Michael Dell to remain chief executive officer after paying a $4 million fine. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon approved the settlement today at a hearing in Washington.

Dell, 45, and the personal-computer maker failed to tell investors about “exclusivity payments” received from Intel Corp. in exchange for shunning products made by rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the SEC said in a complaint filed in July. The payments allegedly helped Dell reach earnings targets from 2001 to 2006.”

US regulator threatens ban on Euro-firms [Accountancy Age]
“The US audit watchdog, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), is considering de-registering non-US audit firms based in countries where it has no power to conduct inspections, including Europe.

Rhonda Schnare, international affairs director at the PCAOB, said de-registering firms was one option on the table if nations did not co-operate with US audit inspectors.

‘Bringing enforcement proceedings against non-US audit firms is one option and the board is evaluating all of its options… The issue is one of the [PCAOB’s] highest priorities,’ she said.

‘The board cannot de-register firms without going through an extensive process that would involve bringing individual disciplinary hearings against the firms, and that is certainly one of the options the board has.’ ”


President Obama Proposes More Tax Credits for Higher Education [Tax Foundation]
“Even ignoring the possible issue of economic incidence and whether or not this credit would mostly lead to higher tuition instead of lowering the net price faced by students, one of the problems with this credit is the downside of tax credits known as “buying out the base.” The credit will indeed entice some additional amount of people at the margin to go to college. However, it will mostly give a huge windfall to those who were going to go to college in the first place. If more people in college is truly what you want, there are likely better ways to do it than via a refundable tax credit that doesn’t target those at the margin.”

Accounting firm RubinBrown forms team for life sciences [KCBJ]
“RubinBrown LLP, which is based in St. Louis and has offices in Kansas City and Denver, created the Life Sciences Services Group earlier this month.

The firm has identified about 15 existing team members to serve on the life sciences group, about five of whom are in Kansas City, said Todd Pleimann, managing partner of the firm’s Kansas City branch.

However, he said, the firm probably will add more to the team in the future, possibly hiring from outside.

‘We really feel that the life sciences, and particularly animal health, is really key for the Kansas City metropolitan area,” Pleimann said. “We know there is going to be a lot of growth in this area.’ ”

Does Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne Know When to Shut Up, Especially While the SEC Investigates his Company? [White Collar Fraud]
Apparently not.

Accounting News Roundup: Big Names Oppose Proposed Washington Tax; American Apparel Names Acting President; Oregon Gubernatorial Candidate Donates Home and Gets Burned | 10.08.10


SEC Accuses CHiPs Actor, Others Of Securities Fraud [Dow Jones]
“In complaints made public on Thursday, the SEC alleges that the actor, Larry Wilcox, and more than a dozen other penny stock promoters engaged in a series of kickback schemevolume and price of microcap stocks and illegally generate stock sales.

Wilcox, who starred as Officer Jon Baker on the long-running television show “CHiPs”, lives in West Hills, Calif., and is president and chief executive of The UC Hub Group, according to an SEC complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.”

Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon Line Up Against New Washington Tax [Janet Novack/Forbes]
“The Washington State fight over whether to impose a new income tax on well-to-do residents heated up Wednesday, as the group opposing the tax released a list of employers that have joined the anti-tax cause. Companies on the list include Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Weyerhaeuser and Safeco Insurance.

The tax, which will appear as Initiative 1098 on the state’s November ballot, would impose a 5% tax on income of more than $400,000 per couple and a 9% levy on income exceeding $1 million per couple.”

Rep. Levin: Fate of Bush tax cuts unknown [On the Money/The Hill]
This does not sound good: “The Senate is expected to move first on the issue, but Levin said even that was not certain.

‘It’s preferable that the Senate act first because we’ve seen that if they can’t act first they won’t act second because the Republicans block it and don’t provide the 60 votes,; he said, adding, ‘I think we’ll have to wait and see.’ ”

American Apparel names Tom Casey as acting president [Reuters]
Tom Casey just left the terminal case known as Blockbuster in August.

SBA Loans Jump, Despite Unsteady Year [WSJ]
“Small-business lending still hasn’t bounced back to pre-recession levels. But despite a rocky year, the number of loans backed by the Small Business Administration jumped about 30% in 2010.

The agency, which ended its fiscal year Sept. 30, says it approved $16.84 billion, or 54,826 small business loans, in the past 12 months. That’s up from fiscal 2009, when the SBA backed about $13.03 billion during the depths of the credit crunch. In 2007, the agency backed about $20.61 billion.”


Oregon Gubernatorial Race Roiled by Candidate’s Charitable Deduction for Donation of Home to Fire Department [TaxProf Blog]
You try and do something nice…

FASB Advances EITF Proposals on Goodwill, M&A [A&A Update/Compliance Week]
“The Financial Accounting Standards Board is proposing new updates to the Accounting Standards Codification around goodwill write-downs, business combinations, and revenue recognition for health care entities based on recommendations from its Emerging Issues Task Force.

In the proposal titled Intangibles – Goodwill and Other (Topic 350): How the Carrying Amount of a Reporting Unit Should Be Calculated When Performing Step 1 of the Goodwill Impairment Test, FASB and the EITF want to settle on one starting point for all companies to follow in deciding if goodwill needs to be written down.”

U.A.E. Drops Threat to Suspend BlackBerry [NYT]
Your vacation is back on.

Accounting News Roundup: SEC at “Bottom of the Barrel” When it Comes to Diversity; More on Competition (or Lack Thereof) in the Audit Market; Define “Rich” | 10.01.10

SEC Plans to Hire More Women and Minorities Amidst Poor Rankings [FINS]
“At a recent panel discussion and networking event at the agency, Commissioner Luis Aguilar spoke about the need to hire ‘the best and brightest,’ while acknowledging that in the past it hasn’t done a good job of recruiting women and minorities.

In his speech, Aguilar said that as of FY 2009, 89% of the SEC’s senior officers were white, 4% African-American, 3% Hispanic and 2% Asian. Along gender lines, 67% of the officers were male and 33% were female.

Moreover, in a recent survey published by the Partnership for Public Service, the SEC fell from 11th to 24th place on a list of the ‘Best Places to Work’ rankings. With regard to diversity, the SEC ranked 24th out of 28 agencies when it came to diversity. In other words, the bottom of the barrel.”

PCAOB Fires Shot on Audit Issues, Calls for Enforcement [Compliance Week]
“The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has published a report summarizing its observations after inspecting audits performed while credit market seized and the economy plunged into depression. The report says auditors generally didn’t adhere adequately to PCAOB standards when it came to some of the toughest areas in financial reporting through the credit crisis – namely fair value measurements, goodwill impairments, indefinite-lived intangible assets and other long-lived assets, allowances for loan losses, off-balance-sheet structures, revenue recognition, inventory and income taxes.”

Viacom Names New CFO [WSJ]
Controller James Barge succeeds Tom Dooley who jumped over to the COO seat.

Accounting niches [AccMan]
Are accountants doing enough to leverage their professional expertise?

Investors unhappy with lack of competition in audit market [Accountancy Age]
“The Association Of British Insurers (ABI), whose members account for almost 15 per cent of investments in the London stock market, is worried about the audit structure and said it has made its views known in a submission to a House of Lords inquiry into audit competition.”


H&R Block sees 5-cent hit from IRS policy change [AP]
Fewer rapid refunds doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

KPMG’s Fuzzy Math on Atlantic Yards [NYO]
The completion of the Atlantic Yards project remains on a timetable that runs parallel to the adoption of IFRS in the United States.

Tax the rich, whoever they are [Don’t Mess with Taxes]
Come out with your hands up!

Analysts Aren’t Concerned About SEC Probe of Vermont Hippies’ Revenue Recognition Policies

Somewhat related: It’s National Coffee Day. Does the SEC have no sense of timing?

Shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc (GMCR.O) fell as much as 18 percent on Wednesday, a day after it said U.S. regulators made an inquiry into some of its revenue recognition practices and its relationship with a vendor, which analysts said was M.Block & Sons.

However, most analysts believe Green Mountain’s accounting policies are sound.

“We are comfortable with Green Mountain’s revenue recognition policy, the fact that it does not have control over M. Block & Sons, unquestioned management integrity and strong auditors (PricewaterhouseCoopers),” Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Mitchell Pinheiro said.

At least this analyst knows the name of the auditors. We’re looking straight you, Dick Bové.

Green Mountain roasted on SEC probe; analysts unfazed [Reuters]

Accounting News Roundup: Doubt Over Taxes Reaching Fever Pitch; E&Y to Hire 6k Off Campus in FY11; Honest Answers on Tax Policy in an Election Year | 09.24.10

‘Consumers Are Paralyzed’ Over Tax Doubt [WSJ]
“Congress halted plans to pass a major tax bill before the November elections, leaving taxpayers and financial advisers unsure of how to plan for the future.

One of three scenarios face Congress when it returns from the election recess: It will extend all of the Bush tax cuts of 2001, which expire this year; it will hammer out a new law, perhaps using some of President Barack Obama’s budget proposals; or lawmakers will let the cuts expire, which would mean higher rates for all taxpayers.

Meantime, ‘consumers are paralyzed,’ said Dean Barber, a planner who heads the Barber Financial Group near Kansas City. ‘They have money to spend but they aren’t going to until they know where the tax burden will lie next year.’

The problem extends to business as well. ‘There are 29 million private businesses in this country, and they interact with our members,’ said Barry Melancon, head of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. ‘Universally we are hearing that businesses are paralyzed by lack of capital and uncertainty over taxes.’ ”

SEC Hiring for Multiple Offices [FINS]
“The SEC is hiring qualified talent for both its Division of Enforcement and its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). The agency is looking for candidates with experience in risk management, operations and accounting and other specialties.

In testimony given yesterday at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Robert Khuzami, director of the Division of Enforcement and Carlo di Florio, director of OCIE, spoke to their respective units’ hiring needs.”

Ernst & Young Previews New Campus Recruitment and Social Media Strategies [PR Newswire]
E&Y is hiring 6,000 campus recruits – both interns and new associates – this fiscal year. That’s an increase over last year’s numbers (although the press release doesn’t say by how much). The firm also states that 60% of its workforce will be Gen Y by the end of 2011.


Tax Policy in an Election Year [Tax Updated Blog]
Joe Kristan answers questions that politicians won’t.

Comtech Telecommunications Does the Right Thing by Fixing Errors in Latest Report [White Collar Fraud]
Sam is sending an autographed “WANTED” poster of his cousin “Crazy” Eddie as an “attaboy” for Comtech CEO Fred Kornberg for “[taking] the high road and corrected its errors without attacking a critic.” That “critic” being Sam, who reported on Comtech’s erroneous EBITDA calculation last July.

Whether this type of nostalgic temptation works for the other company execs that are on Sam’s radar remains to be seen.

Pastors to challenge IRS by endorsing candidates [AP]
One hundred men and women of the cloth will be endorsing political candidates from their pulpits this Sunday. If the IRS is doing its job, agents should be kicking down doors at many of God’s homes on Monday.

Accounting News Roundup: Liz Warren to Be Geithner’s Sidekick; Chicago Accountant Gets 23-Year Sentence for Ponzi Du Jour; Gibbs, Boehner Tweet Over Tax Cuts | 09.16.10

White House Taps Consumer Adviser [WSJ]
“President Barack Obama this week will appoint Elizabeth Warren to a lead role setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, two Democratic officials said, a move that will allow the White House to avoid a messy Senate fight over her role.

Ms. Warren, currently a professor at Harvard Law School, will be named an assistant to the president and special advisor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in charge of launching the new agency and setting its mission. She was a candidate to be the agency’s first director, a position that remains unfilled, but would likely have confirmation because of opposition in the Senate.”

What is Accounting? [White Collar Fraud]
It’s sort of like arithmetic but not really. Former Sam Antar nemesis, Howard Sirota, explains in a video over at WCF.

Chicago-Area Man Is Sentenced to 23 Years for Running 22-Year Ponzi Scheme [Bloomberg]
“Frank Castaldi, who ran a Chicago- area Ponzi scheme for 22 years that cost victims $31.6 million, was sentenced to 23 years in prison today in federal court.

For 22 years, Castaldi, 57, of suburban Prospect Heights preyed upon elderly Italian immigrants, U.S. District Judge John Darrah said today before handing down the sentence.

‘This is an offense of huge magnitude,’ the judge said after hearing from victims of the scheme in a packed courtroom. ‘It involved hundreds of victims. It involved millions of dollars.’

In an August 2009 plea agreement, Castaldi said he had raised more than $77 million from 473 groups and individuals. First charged in January of last year, he admitted to mail fraud and to trying to thwart a U.S. Internal Revenue Service probe.”

Regulators to Target ‘Window Dressing’ [WSJ]
“Federal regulators are poised to propose new disclosure rules targeting “window dressing,” a practice undertaken by some large banks to temporarily lower their debt levels before reporting finances to the public.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is scheduled to take up the matter at a meeting Friday and is expected to issue proposals for public comment. The action follows a Wall Street Journal investigation into the practice, which isn’t illegal but masks banks’ true levels of borrowing and risk-taking.”


Banks take over record number of homes in August [Reuters]
“A record number of homeowners lost houses to their banks in August as lenders worked through the backlog of distressed mortgages, real estate data company RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

New default notices decreased at the same time, suggesting that lenders managed the flow of troubled loans and foreclosed properties hitting the market to limit price declines, the company said.

Root problems of high unemployment, wage cuts, negative home equity and restrictive lending practices persist, however, pointing to lingering housing market pain.”

Jon Stewart: Robert Gibbs and John Boehner on the Bush Tax Cuts [TaxProf Blog]

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Faces of Debt
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Accounting News Roundup: Lehman Investigation Narrows, SEC to Bring Charges Someday; Dubai World’s Debt Deal; Trump Makes Offer to Park51 Investor | 09.10.10

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.”

PCAOB Puts Congress On Notice; Requests Public Enforcement Proceedings

Despite the setback that was the creation of the PCAOB, the Big 4 have to be pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay pleased with the privacy they get when it comes to the Board’s disciplinary actions.

Perpetually-acting chair Dan Goelzer wrote a letter to the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees saying that by keeping the proceedings mysterio and out of the public eye. The current arrangement “gives firms and auditors an incentive to drag out litigation, sometimes for years,” and that simply won’t do.

Despite the general public’s disinterest in all things accounting (until the shit hits the fan, of course), the Board is still trying to find its place as the relatively new kid on the bureaucratic block. This request seems to be an attempt at fitting in:

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s proposal would repeal a requirement that its disciplinary actions remain secret, according to a copy of the document reviewed by Dow Jones.

The public now is denied access to information about accountants that have been sanctioned or charged by the PCAOB, acting Chairman Daniel Goelzer said in an Aug. 24 letter to several members of the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee.

Since the federal government has been all about transparency lately, it would be surprising for Congress to take the Board up on the offer. The problem is, it won’t really do much to speed anything along and transparency will remain an issue. If you remember, last month the SEC issued its final rule on the PCAOB appeals process that goes into effect next week.

That rule will: allow firms to dispute findings during the inspection process; prohibit the PCAOB from making those disputed findings public until the SEC investigation is completed and the SEC still has the option to make findings permanently private, if it so chooses.

So even if Congress is convinced that the PCAOB’s plan to make the proceedings public is utter genius , accounting firms will still be able to drag things along (and keep things secret) as they see fit.

Accounting Board Seeks Public Enforcement [WSJ]

As Investigation Concludes, Allegations Against KB Home Remain Anyone’s Guess

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Finally some good news for KB Home.

The homebuilder said the Securities and Exchange Commission has concluded its investigation into the company’s accounting and disclosures and does not plan to recommend any enforcement action. The letter from the regulator concludes the SEC’s investigation, which began in October 2009.

“We are pleased to announce that the SEC has concluded its investigation,” said Jeffrey Mezger, president and chief executive officer of KB Home, in a statement.

There are no details about the nature of the allegations.


Same was true in October 2009 when the company first announced in its quarterly report that the staff of the SEC notified the company that a formal order of investigation had been issued regarding possible accounting and disclosure issues. At the time, it stressed that the probe should not be construed as an indication by the SEC that there has been any violation of the federal securities laws.

And this is exactly how it turned out.

What were the allegations? What prompted the SEC to look into the matter? Was it a disgruntled whistle-blower?

The answers would be instructive to other companies that could wind up as targets of SEC probes. Guess we’ll never know.

The good news here is that the SEC informed the company that the investigation was closed. Sounds basic, right?

Believe it or not until a few years ago the regulator did not often communicate to companies under investigation that the probe was completed and that no further action would be taken, leaving the company hanging and suspicion hovering for all potential customers and investors to speculate.

Their attitude at the time was that as a policy, the Commission does not disclose the existence of an investigation in the first place, so it typically won’t announce that one has ended.

KB Home, however, is no stranger to controversy.

The company was embroiled in the options backdating scandal. In April, former chief executive officer Bruce Karatz was convicted by a federal jury of four felony counts, including two counts of mail fraud, one count of lying to company accountants and one count of making false statements in reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was acquitted on 16 other charges.

In September 2008, Karatz agreed to pay $7.2 million to settle civil charges for his role in the stock-option backdating scheme that benefitted himself and other KB Home officers and employees.

Last November, a Texas homeowner filed a class-action lawsuit today against KB Home, Countrywide Financial and LandSafe Appraisal Services, claiming the three conspired to rig housing prices in Texas and Colorado, costing home purchasers millions of dollars and pushing homeowners into dangerous loans.

Earlier, a lawsuit filed against the same parties alleged they fraudulently inflated sales prices of KB homes in Arizona and Nevada.

Accounting News Roundup: Young, Single Women Make More Than Male Counterparts; A Burger King Buyout; Heiress Getting Visits From Accountant | 09.02.10

Young Women’s Pay Exceeds Male Peers’ [WSJ]
“The earning power of young single women has surpassed that of their male peers in metropolitan areas around the U.S., a shift that is being driven by the growing ranks of women who attend college and move on to high-earning jobs.

In 2008, single, childless women between ages 22 and 30 were earning more than their male counterparts in most U.S. cities, with incomes that were 8% greater on average, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data released Wednesday by Reach Advisors, a consumer-research firm in Slingerlands, N.Y.

The trend was first identified several years ago in the country’s biggest cities, but has broadened out to smaller locales and across more industries. Beyond major cities such as San Francisco and New York, the income imbalance is pronounced in blue-collar hubs and the fast-growing metro areas that have large immigrant populations.”

Burger King to be bought out at $24/share – CNBC [MarketWatch]
Whopperland’s stock is up 20% on the news that private equity shop 3G will shell out $24 a share.

KB Home says SEC investigation over [Los Angeles Times]
“Shares of Los Angeles-based KB Home soared on Wednesday after the home builder said an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the company’s accounting and disclosure procedures had concluded and no enforcement action would be taken.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that it had received a letter from the commission closing the investigation, which began in October. Details of the inquiry weren’t disclosed. KB Home closed at $11.45, up $1.14, or 11%.

‘We are glad to share with our investors and employees that the matter is now behind us, as we continue to focus on restoring the sustained profitability of our home building operations and generating future growth’ KB Home Chief Executive Jeffrey Mezger said.”


Heiress’ shady visitor [NYP]
“An accountant being investigated for his handling of 104-year-old Huguette Clark’s vast fortune has visited the hospitalized heiress in the past several days trying to get her to sign legal documents, The Post has learned.

Sources said they did not know if the accountant — convicted sex offender Irving Kamsler — obtained Clark’s signature on the documents after going to see her at Beth Israel Medical Center, but speculated that those files include a last will for the copper heiress.”

Bloomberg Stands By “Cowboy” Remark in State Cigarette Tax Dispute with Seneca Tribe [Tax Foundation]
Hizzoner isn’t apologizing to the Seneca Tribe after suggesting Governor David Paterson get a ‘cowboy hat and a shotgun’ to enforce New York’s cigarette tax. The Seneca Tribe wants an apology. Bloomy says it isn’t happening.

Accounting News Roundup: Ex-Dell Accountants Sued by SEC; Mosque Organizer Owes Back Taxes; Tax Reform Panel Disappoints | 08.30.10

SEC sues ex-Dell accountants over fraud [Reuters]
“The U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission on Friday sued two former top accountants of Dell Inc for manipulating financial statements to meet Wall Street earnings targets between 2001 to 2003.

The regulator said in its suit, filed at the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, that former Chief Accounting Officer Robert Davis, and former Assistant Controller Randall Imhoff had maintained a number of ‘cookie jar’ reserves — an improper accounting method in a bid to cover shortfalls in Dell’s operating results.

The SEC said the improper accounting led to Dell having to restate all its financial statements from 20g>Mosque big owes 224G tax [NYP]
“Sharif El-Gamal, the leading organizer behind the mosque and community center near Ground Zero, owes $224,270.77 in back property tax on the site, city records show.

El-Gamal’s company, 45 Park Place Partners, failed to pay its half-yearly bills in January and July, according to the city Finance Department.

The delinquency is a possible violation of El-Gamal’s lease with Con Edison, which owns half of the proposed building site on Park Place. El-Gamal owns the other half but must pay taxes on the entire parcel.”

States See Pickup in Tax Revenue [WSJ]
“Overall tax revenue increased 2.2% in 47 states that have reported their receipts for the three months ended June 30, compared with the same period a year ago, according to a report to be released Monday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York.

This marks the second quarter in a row of recovering tax collections—and follows five quarters of declines in revenue that hammered local-government budgets. The latest figures are still a mixed bag: Some states continue to see declining revenue, but those were offset by states that saw increases.”

KPMG Accounting Malpractice Verdict Affirmed but $38 Million Damage Award Vacated [Law.com]
Is this what you call a lose/win?

Relax! Iowa Is Funding Hollywood Again [Tax Update Blog]
That is a relief. But Joe Kristan reminds us how things went the first time around, “The film program collapsed in scandal last fall, and the film office director and two filmmakers face criminal charges. Iowa is on the hook for $200 million for credits already committed — about $66 per Iowan. ”


An S.B.A. Loan Program Goes Quietly [You’re the Boss/NYT]
The Small Business Administration’s America’s Recovery Capital Loan program (“ARC”) is being shut down just after a year in operation. At the outset, the 10,000 that were going to made available was thought to be too small. As of August 20th, the program had made less than 8,300 loans and it will be lucky if it reaches 9,000 by the time it expires next month.

Starting a new school year [Accounting Professor]
Fans of Professor David Albrecht has started a new blog; this is the first post.

Obama’s Tax Reform Panel: A Missed Opportunity [TaxVox]
“The paper, approved by the panel this afternoon, is filled with lots of useful information about our flawed tax system but leads nowhere. There are no recommendations. No revenue estimates. And no ownership by President Obama, even though he picked the panel’s members and staffed it with White House aides.

As a result, this report is a huge missed opportunity. Obama might have used this exercise to jump-start a debate over fundamental tax reform. Instead, the report does nothing to fill the policy vacuum that is being filled by an argument over what to do about the decade-old Bush tax cuts.”

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Drops Civil Suit Against UBS; PwC’s Diamond Deal; Roni Deutch Is Disappointed in Jerry Brown | 08.27.10

I.R.S. to Drop Suit Against UBS Over Tax Havens [DealBook]
UBS is finally dropping those 4,450 names it owes the IRS and skates past the civil charges.

3PAR Accepts Revised Dell Takeover Bid [WSJ]
“3PAR Inc. on Friday accepted an increased, $1.8 billion takeover offer from Dell Inc., a day after Hewlett-Packard Co. raised its offer in a bidding war for the data-storage company.

Dell’s revised offer matches H-P’s Thursday bid of $27 a share for 3PAR, whose software helps companies manage and store data more efficiently.

The fight over 3PAR illustrates how important it has become for tech companies to dominate the emerging technology known as cloud computing, in which data are managed and accessed over the Internet. Dell and H-P both sell storage products and see 3PAR’s assets as important additions to their portfolios as large technology companies seek to serve all the needs of corporate-technology departments.”

When Litigation Kills the Accounting Profession-Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned! [FEI Blog]
Jim Peterson of Re:Balane guest posted over at FEI Blog where he discussed his speciality – risk surrounding the Big 4.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Trying To Buy Consulting Revenue Again With Diamond Deal [Re:The Auditors]
Francine McKenna discusses PwC’s recently announced purchase of Diamond Management & Technology including whether some of Diamond’s consultants bailed early to avoid becoming a cog in the another public accounting firm, “Did some of the employees bail out before they were signed on as sterile strategists for an ineffective firm struggling under the weight of consulting ‘leadership’ with audit-shaped heads? I know for sure that there were significant groups of BearingPoint consultants that would have rather masticated glass shards than work for a public accounting firm again.”


Official Statement [Roni Deutch: The Tax Lady Blog]
Roni Deutch says Jerry Brown, California’s Attorney General-cum-Democratic nominee for Governor, is playing election year politics. Seems plausible.

Finance Execs React to Herz’s Retirement [CFO]
No one is panicking.

SEC vows more actions over crisis [FT]
The FT is finally getting to the story about the SEC bringing more actions, changing the culture with new teams, yada, yada, yada. Except not everyone is buying it, “[S]everal judges have questioned the SEC’s deals with Citigroup and Bank of America, and some plaintiffs’ lawyers believe the regulator has been too soft.

‘There’s no real difference now to what it was like before Mary Schapiro became chairman,’ said Jacob Zamansky, a lawyer for investors and longtime SEC critic.”

Boeing Postpones Dreamliner Delivery Until 2011 [WSJ]
You’ll have to come up with a different Christmas gift for the boss this year.

Accounting News Roundup: Deloitte Poised to Be the Biggest of the Big 4; A Guide to Avoiding Layoffs; Forensic Accountant Testifies That Stanford Skimmed Funds | 08.26.10

~ Sorry about the downtime yesterday. Our best people are on it like ConEd.

Deloitte to be world’s biggest accountant as partners sweep up £590m [Telegraph]
“According to Mr Connolly, when Deloitte publishes its global results in October the firm is set to reveal it has overtaken PriceWaterhouseCoopers to become the biggest of the “Big Four” accountancy houses globally.

However, Mr Connolly, who is set to retire in 2011, predicted the current financial year could prove even more successful despite describing future growth in the wider economy as ‘low and slow.’ ‘We have alrin the first quarter of this year, so I expect we shall return to double-digit growth. The M&A market has started to get much busier and our tax business is growing well again. Changes in regulation also mean good business for us.’ ”

Investors Gain New Clout [WSJ]
“In a decision years in the making, the SEC voted 3-2 in favor of the “proxy access” rule, which requires companies to include the names of all board nominees, even those not backed by the company, directly on the standard corporate ballots distributed before shareholder annual meetings. To win the right to nominate, an investor or group of investors must own at least 3% of a company’s stock and have held the shares for a minimum of three years.

Currently, shareholders who want to oust board members must foot the bill for mailing separate ballots, as well as wage a separate campaign to woo shareholder support. Both are too costly and time-consuming for most. Now, the targeted companies will essentially be footing the bill for the dissidents, including them in the official proxy materials. The new rule will be in place in time for the 2011 annual meeting season next spring.”

Celgene names new chief financial officer [Reuters]
Jacqualyn Fouse will replace David Gryska effective Sept. 27

Herz Resigns As FASB Chair [The Summa]
Professor David Albrecht’s take on Roberto Herz’s decision to step down.

3Par Accepts Dell’s Increased Takeover Offer [Bloomberg]
“Dell Inc. said 3Par Inc. has accepted its increased offer of $24.30 per share in cash, or about $1.6 billion, net of 3Par’s cash.”


Dodging the Ax: How to Avoid Layoffs [FINS]
“As professionals working in financial-services witness the ax drop around their companies, many are living in fear that they could be included in the next round of layoffs. However, there are measures you can take right away to help safeguard your position and make you seem indispensable to management.”

Stanford Used Skimmed $1.6 Billion For Loans To Start-Ups, Witness Says [Bloomberg]
“The $1.6 billion that indicted financier R. Allen Stanford is accused of skimming from the funds of his investors was actually loaned by his Antiguan bank to start-up entities and other businesses he controlled, a fraud examiner testified.

Forensic accountant Alan Westheimer testified before a U.S. judge in Houston today that Stanford Financial Group Cos. comptroller Mark Kuhrt and chief accountant Gilbert Lopez told him they believed the borrowing should have been publicly disclosed.

‘The funds were being passed through as inter-company loans to the entities that were the recipients of the shareholder loans,’ Westheimer said. ‘Within a short period, usually six months, Mr. Stanford would assume those loans and the recipient companies transferred those balances to their underlying capital.’ ”

Accounting News Roundup: Herz Departure Is a Gift for Banks; American Apparel Blames Deloitte for Late Filings; Your Commute Isn’t That Bad | 08.25.10

Herz Leaving Marks Boon for Banks [WSJ]
“A new front has opened up in the war over mark-to-market accounting. Suddenly banks find themselves with an unexpected advantage in the fight over how they should value their vast holdings of financial instruments.

Trprise announcement Tuesday of the departure of Robert Herz as chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. This will give banks an opportunity to push for a successor who is more friendly to their views on the mark-to-market question, as well as the overall idea that accounting should be for more than just investors.”

Former Chief Accounting Officer for Beazer Homes USA, Inc. Indicted on 11 Criminal Counts [FBI]
Michael Rand didn’t have a very good day yesterday.

Block ramped up federal lobbying efforts in second quarter, report says [AP]
H&RB lobbied their asses off from April to June spending $500k talking the ears off at the IRS, Treasury and SEC.

American Apparel Works To File Late 10-Q Before Nov 15 [Dow Jones]
The NYSE has put Dov & Co. on notice that they best get their act together if they don’t want to be sent slumming with the pink sheets. The company is promising to pull things together and if it weren’t for Deloitte quitting, everything would be a-okay.

Fact Checking Minority Leader Boehner’s Claims on “Small Business” and the “Bush” Tax Cuts [Tax Foundation]
In case you didn’t hear, John Boehner suggested that the President fire his entire economic team. Boehner is of the opinion that letting the tax cuts expire will hurt small businesses, citing the Joint Tax Committee. Tax Foundation takes exception with this, saying that the Ohio Congressman and House Minority Leader is misrepresenting the findings of the JTC:

“First off, the businesses that JCT is referring to are not necessarily ‘small.’ Saying the word ‘small business’ sounds good to the electorate because it brings up an image of a mom and pop store on Main Street America. But plenty of large businesses, as defined by net income or gross receipts, file their taxes under the individual income tax as opposed to the corporate income tax. Merely because a business is paying individual income taxes as opposed to corporate taxes does not mean it is ‘small.’ ”


Statement From Chairman Schapiro on Financial Accounting Foundation Developments [SEC]
“I commend the Financial Accounting Foundation for its ongoing efforts to evaluate and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the structure and operation of the Financial Accounting Standards Board by increasing the size of the Board. The Foundation has determined that this revised structure will facilitate the continuing efforts of the FASB to work with the International Accounting Standards Board on their important convergence work plan. In addition, this should enhance the ability of the FASB to address issues facing the U.S. capital markets and the needs of investors.

“I also would like to commend FASB Chairman Robert Herz for his more than eight years of service. During his tenure, Chairman Herz has served as an effective investor advocate to improve the quality of financial reporting standards around the world. I welcome the appointment of Leslie Seidman as Acting Chairman. During this interim period, I look forward to working with Acting Chairman Leslie Seidman and the FASB as they continue their important work.”

Twenty something day-trader nailed with $172M bill in back taxes, asks ‘What’s the IRS?’ [NYDN]
How does a barely surviving Spaniard end up owing over $170 million to the IRS? For starters, he really doesn’t owe the Service the money. The problem arose because he didn’t file a tax return for one year that he spent day trading. The Service concluded that he made $500 million.

China Traffic Jam Could Last Weeks [WSJ]
Today, be thankful for your commute. No matter how bad it was, at least the drive/ride ended.

Charlie Gasparino: “As of right now” Erin Callan Won’t Be Charged By the SEC

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.

Is the SEC Taking the “O” Away from the PCAOB?

The PCAOB has had a pretty good run of late. It all started with the SCOTUS handing them a loss that was really a win and the Board has, most recently, gotten ambitious with new risk assessment standards. What’s more is the call of acting Chair Dan Goelzer to have the Board’s enforcement inspections held publicly so audit firms can’t get all mysterio about what they did and did not do to warrant said inspection.

Well, the run of luck appears to have come to an end as the SEC issued a new rule that takes effect next month that marginalizes the Board to the benefit of the accounting firms it oversees (our emphasis).

Going into effect September 7, the rule explains how accounting firms can dispute the PCAOB’s findings during its inspection process. The firms have always had this ability under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but the SEC lacked a formal appeals process. (Indeed, the June 28 Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the constitutionality of the PCAOB, arose out of a small accounting firm’s dissatisfaction with its 2004 inspection report.)

A key feature of the process is secrecy. If an accounting firm appeals to the SEC, the PCAOB will be prohibited from making disputed portions of its inspection report public until the commission completes its review, which could take anywhere from 30 days to over 100 days. Moreover, the SEC could decide to keep the information permanently private if its reviewers determine that the PCAOB’s findings were “arbitrary and capricious.”

Meanwhile, the public will learn nothing about the appeals process or the issues under contention, which will further cloud the results of PCAOB inspections for the accounting firms’ corporate clients who read them. “Until now, the SEC has not restricted the transparency of inspection reports pending the opportunity to seek review,” a PCAOB spokesman tells CFO.

So let’s get this straight – if an accounting firm takes issue with anything in the PCAOB’s report, the firm can then run crying to the SEC – which makes that portion of the report secret – and then the report will sit dormant until that portion reads to their liking which can take 30 to 100 days? OH! And on top of that, if the SEC finds something to be ‘arbitrary and capricious’ that issue will never see the light of day?

It’s not like these inspection reports are being issued at a rapid clip (PwC’s and KPMG’s reports for ’09 are still MIA) or filled with details that are actually meaningful to regular folks (e.g. the clients inspected) and now the SEC is going to let the firms write their own inspection reports.

So much for that small matter of “Oversight.” At least the SEC is being (somewhat) transparent about a power grab.

Auditors Can More Easily Dispute PCAOB Findings [CFO]

American Apparel Goes Two for Two: Q2 Filing Late, Q1 Still Pending

Fashion cannot be rushed people. Ask the gang at Fashionista. They’ll tell you.

However, it is still a business which sometimes includes dealing with auditors and other outsiders that want various documentation and whatnot that can simply be delayed if it hinders the creative process. That is, if you keep your company private.

But the second you want to give the American public the opportunity to invest in your skinny jeans, leggings, and thong tanks, you’re playing on the SEC’s turf. This means things happen on a schedule. Delays, excuses or pervy CEO behavior will not be tolerated if it results in late filings.

American Apparel expects to report a loss in the second quarter and requested additional time to file its financial report after the resignation of its auditor, Deloitte & Touche.

It is the latest bump for the hipster clothing chain. The company said in May that it expected a loss for the first quarter, but it hasn’t filed that quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission either.

[…]

Deloitte & Touche resigned as American Apparel’s auditor after the accounting firm said it found material weaknesses in internal controls over financial reporting. Deloitte requested more information from the company to determine if there were problems in previous financial reports. American Apparel said Tuesday it was working to provide that information.

Dov! These 10-Qs are not optional! Plus, it doesn’t help that the financial data that you provide is less reliable than what the federal government issues.

Presumably Marcum was persistent (and comfortable) enough to get you to push the button before so what the hell man? You’ve got them back on your team so this should NBD. You best get the house in order before your stock gets banished to the sheets that are the same color as your undies.

American Apparel expects 2Q loss; request 2Q delay [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Earlier:
Deloitte Resigns as American Apparel Auditor; Hotness of Engagement Team Presumably Not an Issue

Accounting News Roundup: How Is Deloitte Like HP?; Moss Adams’ Bunting Appointed to IIRC; Small Businesses Remain Pessimistic | 08.10.10

U.S., BP Near Deal on Fund [WSJ]
“The Obama administration and BP PLC are close to a deal to use future revenues from the oil giant’s Gulf of Mexico operations to guarantee its $20 billion cleanup and compensation fund, a move that would give both sides an incentive to continue production in the Gulf, scene of the U.S.’s worst-ever offshore oil spill.

The Justice Department and BP said Monday they had completed talks to establish the fund, which is designed to cover damage claims from residents and businesses hurt by the spill and clean-up efforts by state and local governments. BP paid $3 billion into the fund ahead of sch Hurd, Deloitte and Tone At The Top [Re: The Auditors]
“The auditors serve the role of independent watchdog, guardian of shareholders interests in the capital markets . Their relationship to management should be adversarial – not friendly, cozy and comfortable. They are hired and fired by the Board, also supposedly independent. Given the way auditors are compensated, directly by the companies they judge, they have a difficult job. Their regulators guard those guardians and are supposed to make sure they do it.

So how does a Vice Chairman, one of those guardians, “dupe” his fellow partners and professional colleagues more than three hundred times, as Deloitte’s lawsuit against him alleged?

Deloitte has a culture of non-compliance.”

Oracle Chief Faults H.P. Board for Forcing Hurd Out [NYT]
Meanwhile, Larry Ellison wrote an email to the Times, “The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them.”

Moss Adams Partner Bob Bunting Helps Create Reporting Standards for Corporate Sustainability [Moss Adams]
“Bob Bunting, chairman of the Moss Adams LLP International Services Group and president of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), has been appointed to the steering committee for the newly formed International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC). The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced the formation of the IIRC today.

‘In addition to the annual reports publicly listed companies are required to file, an increasing number of companies are voluntarily producing corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports,’ Bunting said. ‘It’s an honor to be tapped for this role and to contribute input to developing a single standard for these reports. It’s a natural extension of the work I’ve been involved with at IFAC to help drive adoption of a single set of global standards for accounting, auditing, and professional ethics. It’s also a pleasure to be working alongside so many thought leaders in the world of standards setting and corporate sustainability.’ ”

Small business optimism sags in July [Reuters]
“Small business owners became more downbeat in July as expectations of weaker economic growth in the second half of the year reinforced a reluctance to hire, according to a survey published on Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said its optimism index fell 0.9 point to 88.1 in July.

‘Virtually all of the decline was due to weaker expectations for business conditions six months from now,’ said William Dunkleberg, the group’s chief economist.”


SEC Charges Seattle-Area Company and Former CFO With Phony Accounting of Infomercial Sales [SEC]
When did the SEC start putting photos up of the Regional Directors?

The SEC alleges that Karl Redekopp, the former CFO of International Commercial Television Inc. (ICTV), turned millions of dollars of quarterly losses into profits by falsely accounting for ICTV’s sales of the Derma Wand, a skin care appliance that purports to reduce wrinkles and improve skin appearance. Redekopp fraudulently recognized revenue before the Home Shopping Network had actually sold or delivered the product to viewers. He also improperly recognized revenue before a free trial period offered by the company had expired, and failed to reverse revenue from products that had been returned. Redekopp’s misconduct caused the company to falsely report millions of dollars in excess revenue in 2007 and 2008.

” ‘Redekopp violated fundamental principles of accounting to fraudulently boost ICTV’s bottom line and conceal its true financial health from investors,’ said Marc J. Fagel, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. ‘Unfortunately, ICTV’s auditors turned a blind eye to the company’s financial irregularities and failed to fulfill their role in investor protection.’ ”

Accounting PACs spread the wealth [Web CPA]
“Political fundraisers in the accounting profession began shifting their largesse toward congressional Democrats after they won control over both the House and the Senate four years ago.

But now with Tea Party activists screaming for the heads of incumbents and Republican candidates showing strength across the country, is the accounting profession resurrecting its overwhelming partisan support for the GOP in time for the mid-term elections?”

Flight Attendant at JFK Pulls Emergency Chute, Flies Coop [NBC New York]
Steve Slater was hit in the head by some luggage, was cursed at by the passenger who refused to apologize for it and Slater then proceeded to flip out. He cursed at all the passengers over the PA system on JetBlue Flight 1052, grabbed two beers and slid down the emergency chute after inflating it.

He was later arrested at his home in Queens, “Police sources said that when authorities found Slater he seemed to be in the midst having sexual relations.”

Ex-Deloitte Partner, Son To Shell Out $1.1 Million to Settle SEC Insider Trading Charges

Last we had heard of Thomas Flanagan, Deloitte had just taken him to the woodshed, successfully suing him for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and breach of contract related to Tom’s insider trading activities of Deloitte clients.

Now it’s the SEC’s turn to get in on this sweet action. The Commission charged Flanagan and his son, Patrick Flanagan for insider trading of Deloitte clients including Best Buy, Sears, Walgreens and Motorola.

Why Flanagan, the 38-year veteran of Deloitte and Vice Chairman of Clients and Markets, who thought that in the twilight of his career, the best move would be to engage in some insider trading is still a mystery. Since he was presumably pushing 60, one couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps his memory was going and he just totally spaced the independence thing.

But actually, no. Turns out, Tom Flanagan is just a liar:

According to the SEC’s complaint, Thomas Flanagan concealed his trades in the securities of Deloitte’s clients and circumvented Deloitte’s independence controls. He failed to report the prohibited trades to Deloitte, lied to Deloitte about his compliance with its independence policies, and provided false information to Deloitte’s personal income tax preparers about the identity of the companies whose securities he traded.

Flanagan & Son will be paying over $1.1 million in disgorgement and fines for their little stunt. And Robert Khuzhami had a little reminder for anyone else out there that thinks they can get cute, “Flanagan’s insider trading violated one of the most fundamental rules of public accounting. All audit firms should learn from this unfortunate episode and employ vigorous controls designed to ensure compliance with the SEC’s auditor independence rules.”

SEC Charges Former Deloitte Partner and Son With Insider Trading [SEC Press Release]
SEC Complaint Against Thomas Flanagan and Patrick Flanagan [SEC Complaint]

A Few People Noticed That New Century Execs Settled with SEC

There were just a few reports late on Friday about New Century Execs settling with the SEC over the failure to make certain risk disclosures. However, it’s worth mentioning that this is still more coverage than the settlement that KPMG reached with New Century that we reported on in late June – still no press release – but that’s neither here nor there.


SEC statement:

On July 29, 2010, the Commission accepted settlement offers from three former officers of New Century Financial Corporation. Brad A. Morrice, the former CEO and co-founder; Patti M. Dodge, the former CFO; and David N. Kenneally, the former controller, consented to the relief described below without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission’s Complaint. The settlement offers, which have been submitted to the Court for approval, are contingent upon the Court’s approval of a global settlement in In re New Century, Case No. 07-931-DDP (C.D. Cal.).

The Commission’s complaint alleges, among other things, that New Century’s second and third quarter 2006 Forms 10-Q and two late 2006 private stock offerings contained false and misleading statements regarding its subprime mortgage business. The complaint further alleges that Morrice and Dodge knew about certain negative trends in New Century’s loan portfolio from reports they received and that they participated in the disclosure process, but they did not take adequate steps to ensure that the negative trends were properly disclosed. The Commission’s complaint also alleges that in the second and third quarters of 2006, Kenneally, contrary to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, implemented changes to New Century’s method for estimating its loan repurchase obligation and failed to ensure that New Century’s backlog of pending loan repurchase requests were properly accounted for, resulting in an understatement of New Century’s repurchase reserve and a material overstatement of New Century’s financial results.

That “material overstatement” consisted of a $90 million profit in Q3 of ’06 that was actually a $18 loss.

Morrice, Dodge and Kenneally all agreed to cough up some of their ill gotten gains and were subjected to fines but they didn’t come close to Michael Dell sized proportions.

SEC Settles with Former Officers of Subprime Lender New Century [SEC]
Ex-New Century Managers to Pay $1.5 Million Over Subprime Lender’s Failure [Bloomberg]

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]

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Ownership Society
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Got Thoughts on Dodd-Frank?

No, Dodd’s hair and Barney’s thriftiness are not at issue here.

Mary Schapiro needs constructive comments from the peanut gallery because this thing is a week old and since some people at the Commission have the attention of Tom Petters, they can’t afford to lose focus.

Just jump over the Public Comments page and let ‘er rip. Any section you want get down with your wonky financial reform knowledge is welcome.

It has not even been a week since the President signed the regulatory reform legislation into law, but at the SEC we are already working to fully implement the dozens of studies and rulemakings required of our agency,” said Chairman Schapiro. “We recognize that the process of establishing regulations works best when all stakeholders are engaged and contribute their combined talents and experiences. We look forward to preliminary public comments in these areas.

Not only that! The SEC needs more people. This 2,000-some odd page behemoth is putting asses in cubes and more of the kicking ass and taking names will be had. Just two ways you can join the good times going on at the SEC.

SEC Chairman Schapiro Announces Open Process for Regulatory Reform Rulemaking [SEC]

Who Should the Next PCAOB Members Be?

Since the PCAOB is here to stay, the SEC figured it was probably best that they get some people sit on this thing to, ya know, help protect the investors, the public at large, so on and so forth.

The problem, as it appears to us, is that Mary Schapiro and the gang are plumb out of ideas for nominations. Accordingly, they’re out there looking for help from some of the best and beardest, including the Beard, acting PCAOB chair Dan Goelzer, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon and a few other noted notables.


However! Just because Mary Schapiro sent these people personal letters begging for some ideas, that doesn’t mean she won’t listen to yours. You can fire any names you have in mind to Board-recommendations@sec.gov. The Commission appreciates the help.

The SEC does point out that the appointees need to be “prominent individuals of integrity and reputation who have a demonstrated commitment to the interests of investors and the public, and an understanding of the responsibilities for and nature of the financial disclosures required of issuers under the securities laws and the obligations of accountants with respect to the preparation and issuance of audit reports with respect to such disclosures,” but we feel that’s subject to interpretation.

Hopefully the noms will include a few wild cards that could stir things up a bit. Sam Antar comes to mind, although the criminal record could be a bit of a problem. Francine might be up for it? We haven’t asked her yet, just throwing it out there. More suggestions welcome.

Spotlight on PCAOB Nomination Process [SEC]

“Who do I make the check out to?”

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter. We are committed to maintaining clear and accurate reporting of our periodic results, supporting our customers, and executing our growth strategy.”

~ Michael Dell doesn’t seem too broken up about today’s little setback.

Dell Is the Latest to Go the SEC’s Woodshed; Settlement of $100 million for Fraudulent Accounting, Disclosure Violations

Sure, it’s not $550 million and it’s certainly not Goldman Sachs but the SEC seems to be having a pre-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good July. On the other hand, some people think this settlement is more harsh than Goldman’s since Michael Dell was fined personally and Lloyd Blankein was not.

In addition to Dell, the man, the SEC charged former CEO Kevin Rollins and former CFO James Schneider for their roles in the disclosure violations related to payments the company received from Intel Corp. Former VP of Finance Nicholas Dunning and former Assslie Jackson were charged for their roles in the fraudulent accounting.

Washington, D.C., July 22, 2010 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Dell Inc. with failing to disclose material information to investors and using fraudulent accounting to make it falsely appear that the company was consistently meeting Wall Street earnings targets and reducing its operating expenses.

The SEC alleges that Dell did not disclose to investors large exclusivity payments the company received from Intel Corporation to not use central processing units (CPUs) manufactured by Intel’s main rival. It was these payments rather than the company’s management and operations that allowed Dell to meet its earnings targets. After Intel cut these payments, Dell again misled investors by not disclosing the true reason behind the company’s decreased profitability.

The SEC charged Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell, former CEO Kevin Rollins, and former CFO James Schneider for their roles in the disclosure violations. The SEC charged Schneider, former regional Vice President of Finance Nicholas Dunning, and former Assistant Controller Leslie Jackson for their roles in the improper accounting.

Dell Inc. agreed to pay a $100 million penalty to settle the SEC’s charges. Michael Dell and Rollins each agreed to pay a $4 million penalty, and Schneider agreed to pay $3 million, to settle the SEC’s charges against them. Dunning and Jackson also agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.

“Accuracy and completeness are the touchstones of public company disclosure under the federal securities laws,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Michael Dell and other senior Dell executives fell short of that standard repeatedly over many years, and today they are held accountable.”

Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Dell manipulated its accounting over an extended period to project financial results that the company wished it had achieved, but could not. Dell was only able to meet Wall Street targets consistently during this period by breaking the rules. The financial results that public companies communicate to the investing public must reflect reality.”

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., alleges that Dell Inc., Michael Dell, Rollins, and Schneider misrepresented the basis for the company’s ability to consistently meet or exceed consensus analyst EPS estimates from fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2006. Without the Intel payments, Dell would have missed the EPS consensus in every quarter during this period. The SEC’s complaint further alleges that Dell’s most senior former accounting personnel including Schneider, Dunning, and Jackson engaged in improper accounting by maintaining a series of “cookie jar” reserves that it used to cover shortfalls in operating results from FY 2002 to FY 2005. Dell’s fraudulent accounting made it appear that it was consistently meeting Wall Street earnings targets and reducing its operating expenses through the company’s management and operations.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Intel made exclusivity payments to Dell in order for Dell to not use CPUs manufactured by its rival – Advance Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD). These exclusivity payments grew from 10 percent of Dell’s operating income in FY 2003 to 38 percent in FY 2006, and peaked at 76 percent in the first quarter of FY 2007. The SEC alleges that Dell Inc., Michael Dell, Rollins, and Schneider failed to disclose the basis for the company’s sharp drop in its operating results in its second quarter of FY 2007 as Intel cut its payments after Dell announced its intention to begin using AMD CPUs. In dollar terms, the reduction in Intel exclusivity payments was equivalent to 75 percent of the decline in Dell’s operating income. Michael Dell, Rollins, and Schneider had been warned in the past that Intel would cut its funding if Dell added AMD as a vendor. Nevertheless, in Dell’s second quarter FY 2007 earnings call, they told investors that the sharp drop in the company’s operating results was attributable to Dell pricing too aggressively in the face of slowing demand and to component costs declining less than expected.

The SEC’s complaint further alleges that the reserve manipulations allowed Dell to materially misstate its earnings and its operating expenses as a percentage of revenue – an important financial metric that the company itself highlighted – for more than three years. The manipulations also enabled Dell to misstate materially the trend and amount of operating income of its EMEA segment, an important business unit that Dell also highlighted, from the third quarter of FY 2003 through the first quarter of FY 2005.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Dell Inc. consented to the entry of an order that permanently restrains and enjoins it from violation of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13. Dell Inc. also agreed to enhance its Disclosure Review Committee and disclosure processes, including the retention of an independent consultant to recommend improvements to those processes and enhance training regarding the disclosure requirements of the federal securities laws.

Michael Dell and Rollins settled the SEC’s disclosure charges, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, by each agreeing to pay the $4 million penalties and consenting to the entry of an order that permanently restrains and enjoins each of them from violating Sections 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act and from violating or aiding and abetting violations of other provisions of the federal securities laws.

Schneider consented to settle the disclosure and accounting fraud charges against him without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, and agreed to pay the $3 million penalty, disgorgement of $83,096, and prejudgment interest of $38,640. Dunning and Jackson consented to settle the SEC’s improper accounting charges without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations. Dunning agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000. In their settlement offers, Schneider, Dunning and Jackson consented to the issuance of administrative orders pursuant to Rule 102(e) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice, suspending each of them from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant with the right to apply for reinstatement after five years for Schneider and three years for Dunning and Jackson.

The SEC’s investigation is continuing as to other individuals.

James Blenko, Shelby Hunt, Jonathan Jacobs, Ian Rupell, Robert Peak, Brian Palechek, and Jeffrey Anderson conducted the SEC’s investigation in this matter. Litigation efforts in the ongoing case will be led by Jack Worland and Richard Skaff.

The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Federal Trade Commission in this investigation.

Accounting News Roundup: Bush Tax Cuts May Still Have Life; FASB’s ‘Religious War’ Rages; Facebook Might Do an IPO Someday | 07.22.10

Bush Tax Cuts Roil Democrats [WSJ]
“Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible.

They are the second and third Senate Democrats to come out publicly in recent days in favor of extending all the tax breaks for the time being. Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) made similar comments last week.”

Madoff’s Ghost Still Haunts SEC [Washington Wire/WSJ]
In testimony earlier in the week, SEC Chair Mary Schapiro told a congressional committee that many of the people that investigated Bernie Madoff – 15 of 20 enforcement attorneys and 19 of 36 examination staffers – have left the Commission. However, that isn’t good enough for Rep. Bill Posey (R – FL).

“Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida –- home to many Madoff victims -– said he wants to know if those SEC employees ended up at other regulatory agencies, working for companies they were supposed to regulate, or retired with government pensions.

‘There’s a necessity to know where they went,; said Posey. ‘It’s like letting a pedophile slink out the door or change neighborhoods. We’re dealing with the same type of problem here.’

Schapiro strongly disagreed. ‘These aren’t bad people. In some cases they were people who were very junior and not adequately trained or supervised.’ In other cases, she said, they were pulled from one project to another.”

Despite the proclivities of some SEC employees, we haven’t seen anything warrant that particular label.


FASB in “religious war” to bring in fair value [Accountancy Age]
Lawrence Smith believes in fair value, you might say, in a fanatical sense. The FASB Member was quoted in AA, “Some people have advised us that we shouldn’t say this, but I’ll say it – fair value, to some of us, is almost like a religious war out there and we are trying to deal with that as best we can.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a FASB member drop the relidge war rhetoric. Marc Siegel used similar language last summer, so there seems to be at least a smidge of seriousness behind .

Plus, at the rate things are going, the debate will soon reach Israel/Palestinian ignorability (word?) levels later this year.

Facebook IPO “when makes sense”, Zuckerberg tells ABC [Reuters]
That is, never.

Trust, but verify [MJS]
Starting now!

Is Mary Schapiro Talking About a Certain Lehman Brothers Auditor?

Maybe! After last week’s settlement with Team Jehovah and the financial reform bill allowing for a few more hands on deck, the SEC chair says there are some other smackdowns in the works.

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.

SEC chairman says more post-crisis cases in pipeline [Reuters]

Accounting News Roundup: Liberty Tax CEO Hints at Combination with H&R Block; Former NABA President Killed in Skydiving Accident; Sam Antar Has a Question | 07.20.10

Liberty Tax CEO Floats Combining With H&R Block [AP]
John Hewitt, CEO of Liberty Tax, is hinting that maybe he’d like to merge with H&RB, “John Hewitt, founder and CEO of Liberty Tax Service, said Monday he is trying to contact departing board member Thomas Bloch to discuss the potential for combining his privately held company with Kansas City, Mo.-based H&R Block.

‘With my leadership and the name and backing of the Bloch family, we could put a great company going back in the right direction,’ said Hewitt.”

We didn’t say it was a subtle hint.

SEC May Add 800 New Positions as Part Of Reform [Reuters]
At least try to keep the porn enthusiasts out, “The top U.S. securities regulator will need to add about 800 new positions to carry out its part of the massive financial reform legislation, the head of the agency said in testimony to be delivered on Tuesday.

Mary Schapiro, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said the agency is still crunching the numbers on costs and hiring, and expects the upcoming rulewriting task to be ‘logistically challenging and extremely labor intensive.'”

Two 70-somethings, Theodore Wilson and George Flynn, killed after mid-air skydiving collision [NYDN]
Messrs Wilson and Mr Flynn were both experienced jumpers and were having textbook jumps until something went wrong with approximately 100 feet to go. Mr Wilson was born and raised in the Bronx and he was a former president of the National Association of Black Accountants.

Job Hunting Is Often One Step Forward, Two Steps Back [FINS]
A recent study from the University of Minnesota suggests that people on the hunt for a new job are their own worst enemies, “The results won’t be news to anyone who has ever returned from a jog and mauled a chocolate cake or followed up a productive hour of work with some heavy Facebooking.”

In other words, if someone has a good interview, they’re likely to return home and vedge for the rest of the day, feeling good about their prospects, when the best thing would do is to land the next interview with another prospect.


BP Weighs New Way to Kill Gulf Well [WSJ]
“Oil giant BP PLC was Monday considering yet another method to kill its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well amid concerns that the cap it installed last week could be allowing oil and gas to seep out the sides.

Meanwhile, a federal panel investigating the disaster heard that the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig suffered a series of power outages and seized-up computers in the months before it exploded.

BP’s new containment cap has stopped the flow of oil since Thursday, but with the well now sealed at the top, government officials are worried that oil and gas could now be escaping elsewhere.”

Facebook Claimant Must Answer `Where Have You Been?’ to Succeed [Bloomberg]
“Paul Ceglia, the western New York man who says a 2003 contract with Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg entitles him to 84 percent of the company, will have to answer a critical question to pursue his claim, lawyers said.

‘The first thing that comes to mind is, where have you been all this time?’ asked Los Angeles litigator Bryan Freedman, who isn’t involved in the case.”

Answer: Been busy on Facebook.

Nokia Conducting Search for New CEO [WSJ]
Get your résumé in now.

I Have A Question [White Collar Fraud]
If Sam Antar is asking a question, something usually stinks. This time he’s wondering if someone had the NBTY Directors jumped the gun on some stock purchases prior the company’s purchase by the Carlyle Group, “If [CNBC’s David] Faber’s reporting is correct, does ‘early May’ mean before or after Michael Ashner and Peter White bought their NBTY shares?”

Dell, Man and Machine (Maker), Close to Settlement with SEC

In SEC-settlements-that-don’t-involve-Goldman Sachs news, Dell put their annual shareholders meeting on a brief kibosh because the company and founder Michael Dell are thisclose to settling charges for omitting disclosures for dealings with Intel Corp.

Dell Inc proposed a settlement with U.S. financial regulators over a long-running investigation of the computer maker’s accounting, and adjourned its annual shareholders meeting on Friday.

Dell adjourned the meeting until August 12 to give shareholders time to consider the discussions related to the settlement, which was announced shortly after the meeting convened.

It said earlier that the company and Chief Executive Michael Dell submitted a settlement proposal, which was still subject to approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as well as a U.S. District Court.

The probe into accounting matters began in 2005. Dell later acknowledged accounting errors and restated financial results from 2003-2007.

Nothing to get too worked up over probably since the company only set aside $100 mil but if the entertainment for the meeting had to cancel (e.g. Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders), there’s probably a lot of upset people down in Round Rock.

Accounting News Roundup: FinReg Brings Plenty of Change; Some Number Crunching of Goldman’s Fine; ATF: Sin Taxes Rose 41% | 07.16.10

Law Remakes U.S. Financial Landscape [WSJ]
The Journal asked twelves experts about the bill, many of whom are not nearly as impressed as the Deal Professor. “Congress approved a rewrite of rules touching every corner of finance, from ATM cards to Wall Street traders, in the biggest expansion of government power over banking and markets since the Depression.

The bill, to be signed into law soon by President Barack Obama, marks a potential sea change for the financial-services industry. Financial titans such as J.P. Morgan Chase &Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. may be forced to make changes in most parts of their business, from debit cards to the ability to invest in hedge funds.”

Apple May Offer IPhone Cases, Rebates to Address Flaw [Bloomberg]
Start forming the lines again, “Apple Inc., looking to avoid a recall of the iPhone 4, may give away rubber cases or offer an in-store fix to address a design flaw in the newest version of its top-selling product, according to analysts.

The company, which is holding a news conference at 1 p.m. New York time today, doesn’t plan to announce a recall, a person familiar with the matter said yesterday. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs may instead offer the giveaways or refunds to dissatisfied customers, some analysts said.”

Google CFO: Old Spice Is The Future [Tech Crunch]
Written on a horse: “You know you’ve got a viral marketing hit on your hands when the CFO of Google mentions it in an earnings call. Yes, I am talking about the Old Spice YouTube Tweetathon where the bare-chested Old Spice Man addresses people on Twitter via personalized commercials on YouTube.”

Goldman’s SEC Settlement by the Numbers: We Do the Math [ProPublica]
Effectively, it will be paid for by August 1.


AIG Says It Counted as Much as $2.3 Billion of Repos as Sales [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Somewhere a former Lehman CFO is screaming, “See, I told you everyone was doing it!”

“American International Group Inc., the bailed-out insurer, said it classified as much as $2.3 billion of repurchase agreements and $3.8 billion of securities- lending transactions as sales in calculating quarterly results.

In late 2008, ‘certain of AIG’s counterparties demanded significantly higher levels of collateral to enter into repurchase agreements, which resulted in sales rather than collateralized-financing’ treatment under accounting guidelines, the New York-based insurer said in an April 13 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission released today. The accounting didn’t materially affect any ratios or metrics the company publicly disclosed, AIG said in the letter.”

‘Sin Tax’ Revenue Surges [TaxProf Blog]
“The Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau has released its Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report, detailing a 41% increase (to $20.6 billion) in the amount of “sin taxes” on alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition collected by the federal government. Most of the $6 billion revenue increase resulted from the higher tobacco taxes included in the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009. Firearms and ammunition excise tax collection rose 45%, the largest annual increase in the agency’s history.”

The SEC Should Be Careful Not to Spend All $550 Million in One Place

Hopefully they’ll spread it around, you know, with lifetime memberships to: ladyboyjuice.com, kinkycomments.com, sexyavatars.net, cafebuckskin.blogspot.com et al.

Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay $550 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the largest penalty ever paid by a Wall Street firm, to settle charges of securities fraud linked to mortgage investments.

Under the terms of the deal, Goldman will pay $300 million in fines to the Treasury Department, with the rest serving as restitution to investors in the mortgage-linked security. Goldman will not admit wrongdoing, though it will admit that its marketing materials for the investment “contained incomplete information.”

That doesn’t sound nearly as fun but we understand a few people may have gotten hurt on this deal.

Goldman Settles With S.E.C. for $550 Million [NYT]

Despite Big Name Supporters, SEC Self-funding Falls By the Wayside

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

As President Obama gearsng financial regulatory bill, one little discussed but important potential provision that did not survive the final version would have provided for self-funding by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This is a policy advocated by people like New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Barney Frank as well as SEC chairman Mary Schapiro. It would enable the agency to use some or all of the fees and/or fines it collects to pay its bills.


In fact, other financial regulators are currently self-funded, including the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz points out that a proposal that the SEC should be able to fund itself based on the fees it collects was ultimately rejected. Instead, the conferees agreed that the SEC should continue to be subject to the Congressional appropriations process, and provided for certain baseline appropriations through 2015, according to the law firm. It adds that the proposed Act also requires the White House to submit unaltered to Congress the SEC’s annual budget, and establishes a $100 million reserve fund.

This is a controversial issue and current and past commissioners are divided over whether this is a good idea.

Opponents say self-funding would create a conflict of interest because it would increase the SEC’s incentive to seek the largest possible fines. Former commissioner Luis Aguilar, who supports self-funding, is sensitive to these concerns. So, he supported self funding, but only based on fees and registrations, not fines.

He had pointed out that the 2010 budget of slightly more than $1 billion is well below the $1.4 billion or so the SEC figures to bring in from those fee sources. Self-funding could also enable the SEC to attract better candidates by increasing the pay scale, something Representative Frank says he supports.

One former chairman told me last year he doubts Congress would go along with self-funding. He asserts the system of campaign finance has given the business community leverage over Congress, whose main lever of control over the SEC is its budget. “When big patrons come to see them and say stop the SEC, the power of the purse is critical to them,” the former chairman insists.

Back in June, 40 prominent securities lawyers fired off a letter asserting that a self-financed SEC “is one of the most important parts of the financial services reform legislation presently before you.”

They pointed out that from 2005 to 2009, the SEC collected about $7.4 billion from transaction and registration fees, which were turned over to the government, but Congress appropriated just $4.5 billion for the agency’s budget during that period. “The chronic under-funding of the SEC has severely impeded the SEC’s ability to keep pace with market and technology changes,” the lawyers stated. “After shrinking in size for a number of years, the SEC is only now beginning to grow again. Meanwhile, the securities industry and corporate activities it regulates have grown tremendously in size and sophistication over the last two decades.”

They noted that between 2004 and 2007 SEC enforcement and examination staff declined 10 percent and its information technology initiatives plunged 50 percent, while at the same time, trading volume doubled, the number of investment advisers jumped 50 percent and the funds they manage grew almost 60 percent.

In a speech in June, Schapiro insisted that self funding ensures independence, facilitates long-term planning, and closes the resource gap between the agency and the entities the SEC regulate. “In the process, it allows the SEC to better protect millions of investors whose savings are at stake,” she added.

Self funding also ensures an SEC that is more effective at identifying and addressing the kinds of risk that dealt a significant blow to the American economy, she told her audience.

Schapiro pointed out that in the immediate post-Enron era, the SEC saw significant increases in its budget. But funding dropped just as markets were growing in size and complexity. At the height of the pre-financial crisis frenzy, Schapiro added, the SEC was actually forced to reduce staff. “Only now can we afford to begin to develop the new technology that will allow us to evaluate, store and retrieve the kind of tip information that might stop the next major fraud,” she said.

Schapiro said self funding would have many benefits for investors: It would allow the SEC to increase its professional and technical capacity, to keep up with the financial industry’s rapid growth; It would enhance our long-term planning process, allowing the SEC to address the increasingly sophisticated technologies, products, and trading strategies adopted by the financial services industry; and, It would provide the flexibility to react to developing risks in the same way that our domestic and foreign counterparts did during the recent financial crisis, with rapid staffing and strategic responses that help control systemic damage.

She added: “To truly protect investors to the best of their abilities, they need the independence, planning ability and resources that self funding provides.”

Accounting News Roundup: Quasi-Exodus at H&R Block?; National Taxpayer Advocate Issues Report That Congress Won’t Read; SEC Might Want to Take a Closer Look at Amedisys | 07.08.10

H&R Block names Alan Bennett as CEO [AP]
This all came about since Russ Smyth resigned, made official by a two sentence 8-K filing, “On June 30, 2010, Russell P. Smyth provided H&R Block, Inc. (the “Company”) with notice of his resignation as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, and as a director of the Company. The effective date of Mr. Smyth’s resignation from these positions is August 29, 2010, unless the Board of Directors selects an earlier date.”

It seems like there’s a quasi-exodus in the C-Suite at HRB as General Counsned on Friday and the company is still on the hunt for a CFO after Becky Shulman left in April.

Yahoo CFO Aims to End Buy-High, Sell-Low Record on Deals [Bloomberg]
Tim Morse told Bloomberg that the company has been doing things completely bassackwards, “You’ve seen our track record on M&A with buying really high and selling pretty low,” Morse said in an interview. “We’ve got to be careful.”

Some examples of doing things exactly wrong include, “Yahoo, the second-biggest U.S. search engine, agreed to sell its HotJobs website for $225 million in February after paying about $436 million for it in 2002. In January, Yahoo sold Zimbra, an e-mail and collaboration unit, netting $100 million. Yahoo bought it in 2007 for $350 million.”

Auditors could face grillings from analysts [Accountancy Age]
“Steve Maslin, chair of the partnership oversight board at Grant Thornton, envisages an expanded audit role which may involve greater face-to-face time with stakeholders, including question and answer sessions at annual general meetings.

‘Many investors believe there is valuable information that gets discussed by the auditors with management and audit committees to which investors do not have access – and I think they are right,’ he said.”


Legg Mason CFO resigns [Baltimore Sun]
Get your resumé in now.

FEI Announces 2010 Hall of Fame Inductees [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Come on down! “FEI’s 2010 Hall of Fame inductees: Karl M. von der Heyden, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Financial Officer of PepsiCo, Inc., and Ulyesse J. LeGrange, retired Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of ExxonMobil Corporation’s U.S. Oil and Gas Operations.”

National Taxpayer Advocate Submits Mid-Year Report to Congress [IRS]
Nina Olson’s mid-year report to Congress has plenty to wade through so that means none of the members will likely read it. Fortunately the IRS narrowed the three biggies (Taxpayer Services, New Business and Tax-Exempt Organization Reporting Requirements, IRS Collection Practices) into a much more consumable version.

Open Letter to the [SEC]: Investigate Troubling Issues at Amedisys Missed by Wall Street Journal [White Collar Fraud]
In Sam Antar’s latest WTFU letter to the SEC, he details some issues at Amedisys which weren’t covered in the Journal‘s report from back in April. Since we are into the whole brevity thing, we won’t get into the number crunching here but things look fishy. Plus there’s this:

On September 3, 2009, Amedisys President and COO Larry Graham and Alice Ann Schwartz, its chief information officer, suddenly resigned from the company. Amedisys provided no reason for their resignations and simply said that the two execs “are leaving the company to pursue other interests.”

In my experience, sudden, unexpected executive departures are often a sign of problems beneath the surface. And while it could be entirely coincidental, the trends at Amedisys appear to be consistent with my experience.

But Sam doesn’t believe in coincidences.

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Probing HSBC Clients with Accounts in Asia; Saints Deny State Money Was Taxable; Pot Tax Helps Helps Another California Budget | 07.07.10

HSBC Clients With Asian Accounts Said to Face Probe [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
“The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of HSBC Holdings Plc clients who may have failed to disclose accounts in India or Singapore to the Internal Revenue Service, according to three people familiar with the matter.

‘This is a global initiative by IRS and the Department of Justice,’ said Robert McKenzie, an attorney at Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago who said he spoke to two people who got letters.

The probes show how the U.S. is expanding its crackdown on offshore tax evasion beyond Switzerland and UBS AG, the largest Swiss bank, sa tax lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP in New York. London-based HSBC is Europe’s biggest lender by market value.

‘It’s clear that the IRS and the Department of Justice are intending to pursue other depositors outside of Switzerland,’ Kaplan said. ‘They’ve announced it before, and they are moving forward in that regard.’ ”

A.T. Kearney, Booz Call Off Merger Talks [WSJ]
“A.T. Kearney Inc. and Booz & Co. called off discussions about a possible merger that would have given the two midsize firms greater scale in a highly competitive industry.

The two have flirted with each other multiple times over the years without completing a deal. The most recent talks occurred on and off over the past six months, says a person familiar with the matter.

The combined firm would still have been smaller than market leaders such as Deloitte LLP, McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Ltd in an industry where scale is increasingly important in wooing global business.”


Did Tax Ploy Help Saints Win Super Bowl? [Forbes]
If you feel so inclined, you could probably blame this on Reggie Bush but otherwise it’s probably due to some clever tax attorneys, “In a just-filed U.S. Tax Court lawsuit, the partnership owning the Saints acknowledges that it didn’t treat an $8.5 million annual payment from the state of Louisiana as income and therefore didn’t pay taxes on the sum. Rather, the team said the money was an addition to “working capital” and a nontaxable transaction.

The Internal Revenue Service insists the money should have been included in income by the franchise, owned for a quarter-century by auto dealer Thomas M. Benson Jr. The Tax Court case challenges that position.”

Pot Tax Helping Long Beach Plug Budget Deficit Faces Vote in California [Bloomberg]
“The city council of Long Beach, California, voted last night to pursue taxes on medical marijuana dispensaries, part of what may become a wave of communities turning to such proceeds to plug budget deficits.

The Los Angeles suburb with a population of almost 500,000 scheduled a public hearing on the drug levy for Aug. 3. If the council later approves the wording, a ballot initiative establishing a 5 percent tax on the city’s 35 dispensaries could go to voters in November, according to Lori Ann Farrell, Long Beach’s director of financial management.”

IRS Disbars CPA for Relying on Client’s Income and Expense Numbers [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
How much due diligence should a tax preparer perform to be comfortable with their clients numbers?

Ex-Qwest Accountant Says SEC Should Be Sanctioned [CBS4]
“The SEC has said [James] Kozlowski hasn’t shown that it acted in bad faith. It has accused him of ‘theatrical conduct,’ including filing ‘numerous losing motions.’ Kozlowski’s attorneys dispute that.”

What’s the Next Move in This PCAOB Situation?

Jonathan Weil over at Bloomberg has a new column up today and he is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court decision in FEF v. PCAOB than say, everyone else.

JW is mostly wondering why we should keep having an “independent” PCAOB inside the SEC since the board members will now be at the mercy of the towing the political line inside the Commission, “While the court

Supreme Court Ruling Could Expose PCAOB to More Political Pressure

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

We’re not quite as sure as others are that yesterday’s Supreme Court decision regarding SarbOx is so utterly meaningless regarding the future of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

Sure, the court said the law is still fully in effect, blah, blah, blah.

But letting the Securities and Exchange Commission fire PCAOB board members for any reason instead of “for cause” could easily subject the board to significantly more political influence.


While Floyd Norris says the commission is unlikely to fire anyone on the PCAOB, the fact is the has commission has thrown its weight around in similar fashion in the case of the Financial Accounting Standards Board when companies have complained to Washington about FASB’s accounting rule making.

What’s to stop them from complaining to the SEC that the PCAOB is being too hard on its auditors, and the SEC from succumbing to that pressure?

Much depends, of course, on who’s leading the commission. Mary Schapiro might not easily bend to the political winds, but her predecessor, Christopher Cox, clearly did just that in connection with FASB.

After all, when during a conference on accounting I asked Conrad Hewitt, the SEC’s last chief accountant under Cox, about the SEC’s threat to hold up approval of FASB’s budget unless it let the commission vet nominations to the board in advance, Hewitt said the SEC was acting properly in its heightened role as the FASB’s overseer under SarbOx.

Yet a FASB member privately insisted to me afterward that the SEC had no authority to do what it did.

And at another conference a few months later, I asked Hewitt what the White House was telling the SEC to do about exemptions for small companies from SarbOx’s requirements for internal controls, the infamous provision known as Section 404. At that, Hewitt, as somnolent a figure as ever occupied the job, sat up in his chair as if he’d just had a bucket of cold water thrown in his face, and insisted that the SEC was an independent agency.

But given what happened to Cox’s predecessor, William Donaldson, I think Hewitt’s reaction to this question was disingenuous.

And both of his answers help explain why the big argument on the court yesterday over the theory of “the unitary executive” and the ability of the president to fire “independent” agency personnel isn’t quite as irrelevant to the PCAOB’s future as most everyone else seems to think.

Were PwC and Grant Thornton Ignoring Overstock.com’s Accounting Issues?

Yesterday we briefly picked up the Overstock beat as Sam Antar pointed out that everyone’s favorite Salt Lake City resident got a little confused about when they knew about their gain contingency existed that resulted in some contradictory disclosures.

As you may misremember, this arose from the company for recoveries from underbilled fulfillment partners by improperly claiming that a ‘gain contingency’ existed under accounting rules.”

Now Sam has pointed us to some correspondence between the SEC and Overstock that indicates that PwC wasn’t concerned about the issue until the Commission pointed it out and succeeding auditor Grant Thornton was unmoved until Overstock brought it up:

Please tell us if, and the extent of, your auditors’ national accounting office involvement in these issues during audit of your 2008 financial statements or the reviews of your fiscal 2009 quarterly filings.

PwC served as our auditor during the audit of our 2008 financial statements. PwC has informed us that it did not consult with its national accounting office regarding the above issues when they were identified in Q4 2008 or Q1 2009. However, in connection with this response to your letter dated November 3, 2009, PwC has consulted with its national office in regard to both the fulfillment partner under billing and partner overpayment issues and based on context of this being an area that is a highly facts and circumstances based issue that requires significant judgment where reasonable parties have different views, PwC continues to concur with our accounting and disclosure consistent with its reflection of the underlying economics and our past practices of not billing or collecting for our billing errors, rather negotiating for future price concessions that were contingent on future sales.

Grant Thornton (“GT”) reviewed our Q1 and Q2 2009 quarterly filings. To our knowledge the GT local engagement team did not review these issues with its national accounting office at the time of our Q1 and Q2 2009 quarterly filings. In early October, as we prepared our response to your October 1 letter, we asked GT for its national office’s opinion. It was our understanding at the time that GT’s national office concurred that we had used an appropriate (if not preferred) accounting treatment. Only after we received your November 3 letter, did we become aware that GT’s previous “national office” opinion had in fact been an “informal request” only, and not a “formal request.”

In the case of PwC, it’s entirely possible that they just trusted that OSTK knew what they were doing and went along with it. Obviously a huge mistake. When the SEC came calling however, they moseyed through it again and rang up the accounting wonks at 300 Mad.

But the Grant Thornton engagement team, who came in after all this went down was seemingly on board with it without consulting with its own national accounting gurus even though the SEC was already on this like stink on a monkey. GT making an “informal request” of its national office on an SEC inquiry seems a little tepid.

HOWEVER! You have to remember that this is all in the words of Overstock which hasn’t always been forthcoming/reliable/truthful in its filings. Then again, maybe there’s something to this whole auditor “Yes men” thing.

Accounting News Roundup: G-20 to ‘Stabilize’ Debt by 2016; Auditors May Be Forced into Whistleblower Role on Banks; Yes, Taxes Are Historically Low | 06.28.10

G-20 Agrees to Cut Debt [WSJ]
“The wealthiest of the Group of 20 countries said they would halve their government deficits by the year 2013 and ‘stabilize’ their debt loads by 2016, a signal to international markets and domestic political audiences they are taking seriously the need to wean themselves from stimulus spending.”

Once you catch your breath from laughing, the President also cited the tax code specifically and his threatening to put some (i.e. Congress) in a tight spot:

“They might have to make deeper cuts in deficits to comply with its pledge. A White House statement said that government debt in the fiscal year15, would be at an “acceptable level.” President Obama said that next year he would present “very difficult choices” to the country in an effort to meet deficit goals.

The president cited his disappointment with the U.S. tax code. ‘Next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up, ’cause I’m calling their bluff,’ Mr. Obama said.”

Bank auditors eyed for whistleblower role [FT]
A paper from the UK’s Financial Services Authority puts forth the discussion of requiring auditors to work more closely with regulators on irregularities found during the bank’s audit engagement.

“Experts say bank executives are nervous about the prospect of increased bilateral discussions between regulators and auditors. Auditors have been fearful the paper could thrust the profession into a regulatory spotlight it has so far avoided.”

Koss Fraud: We didn’t bother to look at the endorsements on our own checks, but Grant Thornton should have! [Fraud Files Blog]
Fraud sage Tracy Coenen presents her latest view on the Koss fraud mish-mash and how Koss management has managed to make themselves “look like absolute morons.”


BP Loses $22 Billion in Legacy of Share Buybacks [Bloomberg]
“The sum represents the hole after the 52 percent plunge in BP shares since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, resulting in the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP bought back more than $37 billion of its stock in a bid to return money to investors between 2005 and 2008. Those shares are now worth $15 billion, excluding dividends.”

Martin Ginsburg, Noted Tax Lawyer and Husband of Justice Ginsburg, R.I.P. [ATL]
Mr Ginsburg was a tax law professor at Georgetown for many years and was known for his great sense of humor, as evidenced by his faculty bio, noted by our sister site, Above the Law:

Professor Ginsburg is co-author, with Jack S. Levin of Chicago, of Mergers, Acquisitions, and Buyouts, a semi-annually updated treatise which addresses tax and other aspects of this exciting subject. The portions of the treatise written by Professor Ginsburg are, he is certain, easily identified and quite superb.

Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission Part 9: Overstock.com’s Excuses Simply Don’t Add Up [White Collar Fraud]
It appears Sam Antar has caught Overstock.com in another disclosure snafu but this time it isn’t really clear whether the company gave the wrong excuse, lied to the SEC or simply doesn’t know what they’re doing, “Overstock.com’s 2008 10-K report claimed that a reportable “gain contingency” existed as of November 7, 2008. However, the company contradicted itself and claimed to the SEC reviewers that reportable reportable ‘gain contingency’ did not exist on November 7, 2008.

If Overstock.com’s 10-K disclosure is true, the company’s explanation to the SEC Division of Corporation Finance can’t be true. Likewise, if Overstock.com’s explanation to the SEC Division of Corporation Finance is true, the company’s 2008 10-K disclosure can’t be true.”

Accounts bodies revise workplan [FT]
Convergence 2.0.

Today’s taxes aren’t too bad [Don’t Mess with Taxes/Kay Bell]
Kay Bell provides some perspective on tax rates over the last century. The following graphic should help clear up any confusion.


Accounting News Roundup: New Rule from FASB, IASB Will Bring Leases on Balance Sheet; California’s Latest Revenue Idea; Madoff CFO Released to House Arrest | 06.23.10

New Accounting Rules Ruffle the Leasing Market [NYT]
The convergence efforts by the FASB and the IASB have managed to produce a consensus on lease accounting and it has repercussions on both sides of the balance sheet.

“The two boards have come up with a new standard, which will be completed next year and enacted in 2013, that will require companies to book leases as assets and liabilities on their balance sheets. Currently, American and foreign companies list many leases as footnotes in their financial statements. As a result of the change, public companies will have to put some $1.3 trillion in leases on their balance sheets, according to estimates by the See Commission. Because many private companies also follow GAAP accounting, the number could be closer to $2 trillion, experts said.”

Middle-Class Tax Boost Is Broached [WSJ]
Reaction to Steny Hoyer’s call in a speech for Congress to quit lying to themselves was not met with enthusiasm.

The Journal reports that the GOP has different ideas, including House Orange leader John Boehner is quoted in the Journal, “Mr. Hoyer’s speech brought a round of criticism from Republicans, who emphasize spending cuts instead, and oppose allowing any Bush tax cuts to expire. House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Mr. Hoyer was admitting ‘that he supports raising taxes on the middle class to pay for more government spending.’ ”

Rep. Oompa Loompa obviously didn’t hear the part of the speech where Hoyer addressed the “cut spending” broken record, “The eagerness of so many to blast spending in the abstract without offering solutions that come close to measuring up to the size of the problem.”


California could turn license plates into ad revenue space [Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal]
The latest out of the brain trust in Sacramento, “As California faces a $19 billion deficit, the Legislature is considering whether to allow license plates to become traveling ad spaces.

When the vehicle is moving the license plate would look like the ones we’re used to now, but when the vehicle stops for more than four seconds a digital ad or other message would flash. The license plate number would always be visible.”

Madoff crony sprung [NYP]
“Earlier yesterday, former Madoff CFO Frank DiPascali Jr. was released to house arrest.

A grizzled-looking DiPascali refused to answer questions about the report in Monday’s Post that Madoff told fellow jailbirds that DiPascali knows the identity of three people the Ponzi king gave money to shortly before his arrest.

A judge initially refused prosecutors’ requests that DiPascali be released so he could assist in their ongoing probe, but in February he won a $10 million bail package based on his extensive cooperation.”

BP confirms Bob Dudley in key Gulf clean-up role [AP]
Knock ’em dead!

Business Leader Slams ‘Hostile’ Policies on Jobs [WSJ]
“In comments marking one of the sharpest breaks between top executives and the Obama White House, [Verizon Communications CEO Ivan] Seidenberg used a speech at Washington’s Economic Club to unleash a list of policy grievances over taxes, trade and financial regulation.

Mr. Seidenberg’s comments are particularly notable because he heads the Business Roundtable, a group encompassing the chief executives of the nation’s largest listed companies whose members have enjoyed frequent access to the president and his top aides. Its leaders have advised the White House on topics from economic recovery to health care to clean energy.”

SEC Self-Funding Is A Mistake! [The Summa]
“In support of SEC self-funding, SEC chairs always argue in public that they lack sufficient and consistent funding to enforce securities laws and regulations. As proof, they point out that Congress occasionally cuts back on SEC funding.

What they don’t mention is that the budgetary review process provides an opportunity for Congressional oversight of the SEC. When the SEC is performing poorly, say due to the atrocious leadership of the Chairs (i.e., Cox and Schapiro), a Congressional budget cut is a natural and effective response. Of course SEC chairs want self-funding, it gives them a pass from oversight. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Accounting News Roundup: More Execs Say Benefits Sarbanes-Oxley Outweigh Costs; New Jersey Millionaire Tax Fails; Has the SEC Learned Anything? | 06.22.10

As Congress Mulls SOX Exemption, Survey Suggests Acceptance [Compliance Week]
Just when Sarbanes-Oxley compliance was about to get torpedoed by the financial reform bill, a new study comes out that shows companies are starting to see benefits from the legislation, “In its 2010 Sarbanes-Oxley compliance survey, Protiviti says 70 percent of executives in at least their fourth year of working to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley say they believe the benefits outweigh the costs. That’s a big swing from the first year the firm asked the same question and heard only 39 percenbenefits greater than the costs.”


Showdown Over Strippers [WSJ]
Some people in the Show Me State are not interested in living up to that name, “Last month, the Republican-controlled legislature passed one of the nation’s toughest state laws aimed at strip clubs and other adult-entertainment venues. It would ban nude dancing and the serving of alcohol in adult cabarets, force strip clubs to close at midnight and forbid seminude dancers to touch patrons.”

The legislation is currently awaiting sign/veto from MO Governor Jay Nixon.

Opponents argue that the state’s very economic recovery is at stake, “Club owners and dancers say that the venues rarely attract crime, and that the new rules would be so strict that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in state revenue could be lost at a time when Missouri’s economy is struggling to recover from the recession.”

JP Morgan Names Doug Braunstein CFO in Shake-Up [AP]
“JPMorgan Chase said Tuesday it is shuffling the positions of three executives, including naming a new chief financial officer. The shake up is part of a program JPMorgan Chase has put in place to have executives work across multiple divisions to broaden their experience. Doug Braunstein is taking over as CFO. He was previously head of the bank’s investment banking division in the Americas. Braunstein, 49, replaces Michael Cavanagh, who had served as CFO since 2004. Cavanagh was named head of the bank’s treasury and securities services business.”

Tropical Storm May Pose Threat to BP Spill Cleanup [Bloomberg]
The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season may enter the Gulf of Mexico as soon as next week, possibly disrupting BP Plc’s efforts to clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Thunderstorms in the Caribbean may strengthen into a tropical storm this week before heading into the Gulf between Mexico and Cuba, said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

“The first named tropical storm of the 2010 season appears more likely to form over the northwestern Caribbean late this week and will go on to represent a formidable threat to the Gulf, along with heightening concerns about the oil slick,” Rouiller said in an e-mail yesterday.

Forecasters are predicting this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, may be among the most active on record and hamper the U.K. oil company’s efforts to plug the leaking well. AccuWeather Inc. forecast at least three storms will move through the region affected by the spill.

New Jersey Democrats fail to extend millionaires tax [Reuters]
Garden State millionaires rejoice!

SEC Crazy Talk [Portfolio/Gary Weiss]
Sam Antar recently turned over 37,000 documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission but not because the SEC was getting nostalgic for the Crazy Eddie days.

The SEC wanted documents, emails etc. from both Antar and Fraud Discovery Institute founder Barry Minkow on companies that have been covered by both men. The information relates mostly from information obtained from short-sellers. However, Gary Weiss writes that the SEC also asked for emails that the two exchanged with two reporters and from Antar’s ex-wife.

Gary thinks that this poking around by the Commission is all too familiar, “Well, I think what we may be seeing is a repeat of the [David] Einhorn fiasco, and then some,” referring to the SEC’s investigation into Einhorn’s criticism and short-selling of companies.

Einhorn was eventually vindicated and the companies – most notably Allied Capital – outed for their shady practices. Why the SEC is digging around the very people trying to help them isn’t quite clear but then again the SEC doesn’t have the greatest track record.

Accounting News Roundup: IASC Names New Chairman; New York Tax on Smokes To Get Even Higher; Medifast’s Revenue Recognition to Get Another Look? | 06.21.10

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.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Set to Release More Names as Standoff Ends; SEC Drops Cassano Inquiry; Levin, McCain Want Stock Option Gap Closed | 06.17.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After a short standoff in Swiss parliament, Swiss lawmakers approved the agreement with the U.S. to turn over the remaining names of UBS clients, per the agreement between the two countries. The lower house dropped the referendum proposal that would have delayed the release of the names and likely caused UBS to miss the August deadline which would have resulted in new charges against the Swiss behemoth.

The Journal reports that a Swiss government is prepared to release an additional 1,200 names following the initial 500 released last year.

Lawmakers Weigh Changes tostor Protections [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Congress is kicking around the possibility of an office within the SEC to respond to whistleblower complaints. Brilliant!


McGladrey Mourns the Loss of Former Partner Ray Krause
Mr Krause passed away on Monday after 40 years of service to both McGladrey and the accounting profession. He served on many professional standard setting groups including AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council. H was memorialized by his friend and colleague Jay Hanson, McGladrey’s National Director of Accounting:

Ray died unexpectedly yesterday. He was on vacation in Orlando with his nine-year-old grandson doing what he loved—visiting Disney World.

Before his retirement six years ago, Ray spent more than 40 years with McGladrey. He practiced in a number of locations, including a long stop in the national office as national director of accounting. He retired as partner in 2004 but continued to work for the national office part-time in Rockford, Ill.

During his long career, he served in a number of professional standard setting groups, including the AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

Ray is best remembered for being the consummate professional and his easy-going style. He was very well respected in the accounting profession. Comments coming in from those that knew him include: “Ray was one of the true gentlemen of the accounting profession,” and “Ray was about as fine a human being as there is.”

He was a great mentor to many colleagues in the national office. His style of giving his complete attention to whomever he was talking to, providing understandable explanations for complex topics, probing deeply for all the facts, and his uncanny ability to help draw a conclusion with full understanding will be greatly missed. Ray could convey the message to someone that they were getting to the wrong conclusion with such delicacy that you didn’t even feel it, and felt good about the answer. He knew many of the “back stories” about how and why some of the most complex accounting standards came about, which is often important to understand what they mean.

Ray will be greatly missed by his daughter, son, four grandchildren and other family and friends. McGladrey and the accounting profession have also suffered a great loss.

Inquiry Ends on Cassano, Once of AIG [WSJ]
The SEC has dropped its investigation of Joseph Cassano, the former head of AIG’s Financial Products Unit, which means he won’t face civil charges in the unit’s role in financial crisis. The SEC is also declining to pursue charges against another AIGFP executive, Andrew Forster, who was also under scrutiny.

Senator sees big reporting gap in stock options [AP]
Senator Carl “Shitty Deal” Levin and new Snooki BFF John McCain “have proposed legislation that would require that the tax deduction for stock options not exceed the expense for options reported in financial statements.”

The two are a little rankled about the $52 billion gap between the amount of stock option expenses recognized for financial reporting purposes and the expense reported for tax purposes. Guess who’s getting the short end on that one?

Bank auditors were fully involved in developing report [FT]
John Hitchens, head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and a PwC Partner would like to dispel any notion that auditors will resist reform after taking it on the chin for the financial crisis:

As chairman of the ICAEW working group that produced the proposals, I would like to correct this impression.

Bank auditors from the six largest audit firms were fully involved in developing the report and supportive of all its recommendations, including the proposal that banks develop summary risk statements which auditors would then give comfort over.

Feel better?

U.K. Scraps FSA in Biggest Bank Overhaul Since 1997 [Bloomberg]
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will do away with the Financial Services Authority, replacing it with three new regulatory bodies and giving most of its oversight powers to the Bank of England.

Intuit Works to Restore Online Access [WSJ]
Any individuals or small businesses that use TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks have been in a world of hurt as online access has been down, down, down. “Some Intuit websites were beginning to come back online late Wednesday afternoon,” according to an Intuit spokesperson. The situation is fluid.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist from NYSE [CNN]
Meant to mention this yesterday since it was the DoD but you know how it goes. Anyway, see you another life FNM and FRE.

Accounting News Roundup: UK Launches Probe of E&Y’s Final Lehman Audit; Revolving Door at SEC Scrutinized; Swiss Upper House Rejects Referendum | 06.16.10

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.”


SEC ‘Revolving Door’ Under Review [WSJ]
Currently, the SEC does not have a cooling off period for former staffers that take a position with a private firm. Former staffers (i.e. lower-level employees) need only to provide a written letter disclosing the fact that they will be representing their new employer in an investigation.

The Journal reports that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) announced on Tuesday that an investigation into the practice had recently been launched by the Inspector General David Kotz, “[W]e are currently conducting an investigation of allegations very recently brought to our attention that a prominent law firm’s significant ties with the SEC, specifically, the prevalence of SEC attorneys leaving the agency to join this particular law firm, led to the SEC’s failure to take appropriate actions in a matter involving the law firm,” Mr Kotz said.

The Journal reports that law firm in question “could not be determined.”

There have been several instances of quick transitions of former Commission staffers to new representing their new firms, including the most recent example of an attorney leaving the Division of Trading and Markets for the Chicago-based high frequency trading firm Getco, LLC and an accountant from the enforcement division who represented his new employer in a nonpublic investigation.

IRS hatches new assault on ‘Survivor’ [Tax Watchdog]
Thanks reality TV gods, Richard Hatch is still in our lives. He still owes $1.7 million in taxes from 2000 and 2001.

The CAE’s real challenge – ethics, courage, and complacency [IIA/Marks on Governance]
Norman Marks responds to a commenter that believes that a Chief Audit Executive need not focus on auditing and communicating those results and risks but instead “be conscious of and responsive to management expectations,” and basically substantiate that internal audit isn’t a giant waste of money.

Mr Marks questions this notion in its entirety, “It’s fine to supplement essential assurance activities with the tangible value-adding programs…But, the assurance work has to be covered or (in my opinion) internal audit is failing to do its job. When that is a conscious decision, I have to question the ethics – and the courage – of the individuals involved.”

Swiss Upper House Rejects Call for Referendum on UBS Pact [WSJ]
The upper house in Swiss Parliament would like their counterparts in the lower house to leave their popular referendum idea wherever they found it. Presumably everyone understands that super secret Swiss banking as the world knows it is over and lower house is a little slow to catch on. They’re supposedly debating the referendum circa now.

Class Action Complaint against Amedisys uses Sarbanes-Oxley Act Corporate Governance Provisions to Battle Alleged Corporate Malfeasance [White Collar Fraud]
Amedisys got caught red-handed by the Wall St. Journal abusing the Medicare system and Sam Antar hopes that this is a sign of things to come:

The SEC rules under Sarbanes-Oxley for public company codes of ethics broadly define corporate malfeasance by senior financial officers, requires such companies to promptly report any misconduct, prohibits companies from ignoring any misconduct, and makes it relatively easy for investors to sue for misconduct.

Hopefully, more lawsuits will cite code of ethics violations by public company senior financial officers in the future.