Accounting News Roundup: Who Saw Autonomy Coming?; What if $500,000 Was the Tax Cut Threshold?; Why Pants? | 11.21.12

PSA: Morning team, we're doing a half day today, we're taking tomorrow *and* Friday off and there will be no Between the Spreadsheets on Friday either. I know, I know. We'll get through this together.

Graphic: A Long Line of Accounting Scandals [DealBook]
It's not an exhaustive list, so feel free to share your favorites below.

Analysts Had Questioned Autonomy’s Accounting Years Ago [CNBC]
Hewlett Packard’s surprising announcement of accounting irregularities at Autonomy caught the market by surprise on Tuesday and led to a nearly 12 percent decline in the company’s stock. But Autonomy’s accounting had been questioned by analysts years ago. Paul Morland, technology research analyst at broking and advisory house Peel Hunt, told CNBC that he had noticed three red flags in Autonomy’s accounts in the years leading up to the HP acquisition:  poor cash conversion, an inflated organic growth rate, and the categorizing of hardware sales as software. [...] In an analyst note published by Morland in June 2009 titled “Accounting Red Flags,” when he worked at Astaire Securities, he wrote: “Although investors do not have access to the same detailed information as auditors, there are plenty of analytical techniques that can be used to help identify when a company’s performance might not be quite as good as it seems.”

In HP-Autonomy debacle, many advisers but little good advice [Reuters]
When Hewlett Packard acquired Autonomy last year for $11.1 billion, some 15 different financial, legal and accounting firms were involved in the transaction -- and none raised a flag about what HP said Tuesday was a major accounting fraud.

Olam Sues Muddy Waters, Carson Block After Accounting Questioned [BBW]
Olam International Ltd. (OLAM) filed a lawsuit against investment firm Muddy Waters LLC and its founder Carson Block, who this week questioned the commodity trader’s accounting methods and intensified the criticism today. The legal action was initiated in the High Court of Singapore following Block’s statements against the company at a conference in London on Nov. 19, Olam said today in a regulatory filing. The suit, which couldn’t immediately be confirmed in the court, is for slander, libel and/or malicious falsehood, Olam’s spokesman Aditya Renjen said. He declined to comment on the size of the damages sought. [...] “Olam’s disproportionate reaction is extraordinary in our experience,” Muddy Waters said in the letter. “Companies that attack criticism the way Olam does fail to understand that raising money from the public is a privilege.” [...] The supplier of 21 goods from cocoa to rubber said its finances have been audited by Ernst & Young LLP and are in compliance with the Companies Act and Singapore Financial Reporting Standards.

Nikki Haley admits South Carolina hacking gaffes [AP]
“Could South Carolina have done a better job? Absolutely, or we would not be standing here,” Haley said in releasing a report from Mandiant. The computer security firm was hired Oct. 12 to close the gap and determine what happened. That was two days after the Secret Service notified state officials of the breach. The release of Mandiant’s findings follow weeks of Haley saying no one was to blame and nothing differently could have been done. Haley said Mandiant showed the revenue department’s system was vulnerable because it did not require dual verification for someone trying to access tax returns and did not encrypt Social Security numbers. But the Republican governor blamed the debacle on antiquated state software and outdated IRS security guidelines. “This is a new era in time,” Haley said. “You can’t work with 1970 equipment. You can’t go with compliance standards of the federal government. Both are outdated.”

Hostess Brands Says It Fails to Reach Labor Deal in Mediation [DealBook]
Hostess Brands announced on Tuesday night that despite the help of a mediator, it had failed to reach a new labor agreement with the bakery workers union — and union officials said the company had indicated it would proceed with plans to liquidate. “It’s over,” said David Durkee, secretary-treasurer of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union.

Diamond Foods ex-CEO Mendes formally leaves company [Reuters]
Diamond Foods Inc's former Chief Executive Michael Mendes formally resigned from the company, nine months after being put on administrative leave following an accounting scandal that hurt the company's ability to do business. The company also fired its former chief financial officer, Steven Neil, it said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

Why feeling guilty may make you a better boss [BBC]
Recent surveys suggest that a sensitivity to feelings of guilt can be good for business, society and the individual.

FRC and ICAS investigate auditor competencies [Accountancy Age]
The FRC and ICAS have commissioned an investigation into the competency and professional skills of auditors. The review will look at what auditors are responsible for now and how this might change in the future, as well as the mix of attributes, competencies, professional skills and qualities that an audit team needs in order to perform public interest audits. Staffing models and training implications across the audit profession will also be looked at as part of the investigation.

What Happens if Congress Extends Tax Cuts for Those Making $500,000? [TaxVox]
According to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Obama could agree to such a deal without adding much more to the deficit than a Senate bill that extends for a year most of the 2001-2010 tax cuts for those making $250,000.
 
San Francisco orders nudists to put their pants on [SVMN]
In the end, the specter of unchecked bareness was too much even for a city where usually anything goes, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday to enact a public nudity ban. Moments later, boos and a sudden shedding of clothes by aggrieved audience members led to a hastily called recess as naked people loudly and lustily voiced their displeasure. Gerhardt Clarke, 55, of Oakland wore only a white stocking cap, white socks and white underwear briefs as he shouted about recalling Supervisor Scott Wiener, the ban's author. Clarke said he's confident he'll be able to keep on going starkers. Activists last week filed a pre-emptive lawsuit to block the city from implementing the ordinance, seeking redress for the right to undress. "This lawsuit will wipe out these fascist clones," Clarke predicted.

 

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