You don't have to be Bob Woodward to recognize the formulaic nature of the CEO interview. Reporter goes to CEO's office, asks loaded questions about the issues of the day, describes the view from the office, elaborates on the person's exercise regimen, humble (or not so humble) beginnings, people they admire, yada yada yada. Cripes, reading these things makes you want to shave with broken glass but hey! editors get in ruts just like everyone else so we're stuck with the puff. By extension, interviews with Big 4 CEOs are worse because they typically occur with General Counsel sitting in the next room zapping their genitals every time a question is asked that necessitates "I can't comment on that."
Today's example comes courtesy of Reuters who interviewed Deloitte's Joe Echevarria. What prompted this little chat was the PCAOB's release of Part II of the firm's 2008 inspection report. It wasn't exactly a flattering portrayal of a firm who, when asked to brush up on their audit skills, basically told the PCAOB to drop dead.
Accordingly, the firm is running damage control and that involves getting Joe E. in front of some friendly reporters (read: not Jon Weil or Francine McKenna).
Recently faulted by the main U.S. auditor watchdog, Deloitte has told its professionals that skepticism should be the No. 1 focus during the upcoming auditing season for annual financial reports, CEO Joe Echevarria said.
"I know there's a heightened awareness about professional skepticism in the firm," he said. "It's going to take a while for heightened awareness to manifest itself in actions and documentation because humans are involved here."
The natural follow-up question here would be, "But Mr. Echevarria, the PCAOB asked you to fix things in 2008-2009, are you saying that you're now just 'manifesting itself in actions'?" but that brings out the zapper. That's okay, we're all used to it. You know what else we're used to? Talking about the "expectations gap":
There is an "expectations gap" between what auditors do and what the public expects, but auditors do have an obligation to detect and report material fraud, Echevarria said.
Echevarria is also asked about auditor rotation, IFRS and (for some odd reason) its settlement over the Adelphia fraud in 2005. Why not ask about the swinging insider trading scandal? What about Taylor, Bean & Whitaker? What about associates sneaking bloggers into the downtown W? WHAT ABOUT THIS FAUX TARA REID MARRIAGE? People want these all-important questions on the record and yet it never happens. Sigh.
By the way since it's obvious that some of you care about these details, Joe is from the Bronx and his office is in Midtown.
Deloitte pressing for more skeptical audits (God, the headline is even awful) [Reuters]