The ex-CFO of Enron, oh humbly, asks: "If the internal and external auditors and lawyers sign off on it, does that make it okay?" History has shown us that, "that all depends." However, maybe things have changed? [via HBR]
Once in awhile, management and their auditors don’t see eye to eye on things. If semi-well adjusted adults are involved, usually cooler heads prevail and differences are sorted out. On the other hand, if there are egomaniacs or individuals of Irish descent involved, then things can sometimes go badly. Not badly in the physical sense, mind you. Badly in the sense that auditors usually get fired. When that happens it usually raises eyebrows of investors and people start asking all sorts of questions. Luckily, footnote disclosures usually detail the dispute and everyone moves on. That’s precisely what didn’t happen at Olympus:
In May 2009, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, the then president of the camera-maker and medical equipment firm, announced that the contract for its then auditor, KPMG, had ended and that another global accounting firm, Ernst & Young, would take over. Kikukawa made no mention of any row with KPMG, although Japanese disclosure rules require companies to notify investors of “any matters concerning the opinions” of an outgoing auditor. In a confidential internal document, Kikukawa wrote to executives in the United States and Europe, revealing that there had been a disagreement with KPMG which he did not plan to disclose to the stock market. “The release to be published today says that the reason of this termination is due simply to expiry of accounting auditors’ terms of office,” Kikukawa said in the letter dated May 25, 2009, which was written in English.
You may have recently heard that Olympus is in a bit of situation. They up and fired their new CEO after he was on the job for two weeks because he was asking a few too many questions. You see, Michael Woodford was of the opinion that the $687 million advisory fee the company was paying for to a firm assisting them with a purchase the company in the UK was a tad steep and wouldn’t keep [yapping motion with hands]. Mr. Kikukawa – who has a reputation as an ‘emperor‘ – didn’t care for that, so he and the Board of Directors told Woodford that his services were no longer needed, chalking it up to Woodford being a little too British.
Fast-forward to today’s news – The accounting issue in question – goodwill impairment – was related to the company, Gyrus Group Plc., Olympus purchased back in 2009. And who do you suppose gave Reuters the memo outlining the whole we’re-firing-KPMG-because-they-disagree-with-us-and-we’re-not-telling-anyone-about-it thing?
The confidential letter was given to Reuters by former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford who was ousted after just two weeks in the job on October 14 for what he says was his persistent questioning over the Gyrus advisory fee and other odd-looking acquisitions. Woodford says the letter was addressed to him in his role as head of Olympus Europe at the time and to Mark Gumz, then head of Olympus Corp America.
Apparently this is no big whoop as long as it’s not material and “the numbers add up” says an accounting professor who has ties to Olympus. Oh! In that case, I guess everyone should just move along.
We have better things to do than comb through the minutes of each accountancy board’s meetings, so thanks to the tipster who obviously doesn’t and sent in the following tip from the January 25, 2011 minutes of the Illinois Board of Accountancy:
b. Mr. [Richard] York led a discussion regarding a recent candidate caught cheating by Prometric. The Committee agreed with the Executive Director’s recommendation to void the candidate’s scores for that examination. It was agreed by the Board to implement a prohibition of testing privilege for 2-5 years as provided by Administrative Rule for future candidates caught cheating.
It’s common knowledge that if you are caught cheating on the CPA exam you should expect for your scores to be thrown out and will likely receive some sort of administrative penalty (such as being barred from taking the exam again for a certain number of years) but this is the first reference I have seen to an actual candidate getting busted.
How does one go about cheating on the CPA exam anyway? With countless questions completely locked down by the AICPA, how could a candidate cheat? Sharpie notes on the palm of his hand? Smuggled in snot rags?
The official line on cheating from the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric goes something like this:
The Boards of Accountancy, NASBA and the AICPA take candidate misconduct, including cheating on the Uniform CPA Examination, very seriously. If a Board of Accountancy determines that a candidate is culpable of misconduct or has cheated, the candidate will be subject to a variety of penalties including, but not limited to, invalidation of grades, disqualification from subsequent examination administrations, and civil and criminal penalties. In cases where candidate misconduct or cheating is discovered after a candidate has obtained a CPA license or certificate, a Board of Accountancy may rescind the license or certificate.
If the test center staff suspects misconduct, a warning will be given to the candidate for any of the following situations:
· Communicating, orally or otherwise, with another candidate or person
· Copying from or looking at another candidate’s materials or workstation
· Allowing another candidate to copy from or look at materials or workstation
· Giving or receiving assistance in answering examination questions or problems
· Reading examination questions or simulations aloud
· Engaging in conduct that interferes with the administration of the examination or unnecessarily
disturbing staff or other candidates
Grounds for confiscation of a prohibited item and warning the candidate include:
· Possession of any prohibited item (whether or not in use) inside, or while entering or exiting the testing room
· Use of any prohibited item during a break in a manner that could result in cheating or the removal of examination questions or simulations
Inquiring minds are dying to know what went down.
The scariest part is that in 2 – 5 years, this candidate can head back into Prometric and give it another shot. Looks like it’s payroll clerking it in the meantime.
And yes the perpetrator, Longtop Financial Technologies, is a Chinese company.
As we mentioned, Deloitte had some decent reasons for kicking LFT to curb, among them:
(1) the recently identified falsity of the Company’s financial records in relation to cash at bank and loan balances (and possibly in sales revenue); (2) the deliberate interference by certain members of Longtop management in DTT’s audit process; and (3) the unlawful detention of DTT’s audit files. DTT further stated that DTT was no longer able to rely on management’s representations in relation to prior period financial reports, that continued reliance should no longer be placed on DTT’s audit reports on the previous financial statements, and DTT declined to be associated with any of the Company’s financial communications in 2010 and 2011.
And because it seems to be the standard narrative in stories such as these, Longtop’s CFO has resigned and “The Audit Committee has also initiated a search for a new auditor.” Although were not sure if there’s a firm out there that will pick up a client who has engaged in hostage taking.
Recent data suggests that most of you sending emails regarding the person most likely to sleep their way to partner, the hot piece of ass that isn’t pulling their weight or a recruit from a certain school that asks less-than flattering questions about your firm, are getting way with passing it along to their friends and/or colleagues.
That being said, it does happen. One in twenty to be precise. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes people are reading your emails, especially if something goes viral within a firm and happens to sneak outside the firm. That’s when TPTB get on the horn and demand that people are held responsible.
Hey, nobody’s perfect right? When my particular reprimand came down, all I could do was laugh and say, “Yep, I did send that. Hell, it’s says “From: Caleb Newquist” right there. It was a bad decision on my part and I understand you have to do what you have to do.” And I moved on. Besides, I wasn’t the only one. It was communicated to me that literally hundreds of people were being reprimanded for forwarding the message so it was largely a damage control project and plenty of people were being told, “Don’t do that again. Ever.”
But for the most part, it sounds like most of your “inappropriate messages” fly beneath the radar, including:
Inappropriate jokes, angry messages sent in the heat of the moment, and scathing email replies forwarded to the wrong people are among some of the email gaffes that have landed office workers in hot water with their employers or clients.
One in five of those questioned said they had sent an inappropriate email in the heat of the moment, while almost a third said they had accidentally hit “reply all” instead of “reply”.
More than one in 10 of the 2,000 people surveyed admitted they had mistakenly sent an email criticising a colleague to the person they were insulting.
So while the Telegraph makes a point to note that 1 out of 20 people have been reprimanded for accidentally saying “God, can you believe the partner’s B.O. today?” in the “heat of the moment” it also shows that 19 people are having a great time sending inappropriate emails and not having any problems at all.
However, if you’ve been caught red-handed sending a dirty joke and/or discussing your booze-fueled business trip that may or may not have involved a party back at the hotel room, and were later asked to explain yourself, we’d love to hear about it below. And of course, send us any and all future inappropriate emails that would be 100% appropriate for these pages.
Not that we’re suggesting that you use your work email in an inappropriate manner. You’re representing your firm after all. Have the common sense to use a different email address.