January 20, 2019

Accounting News Roundup: PwC Launching a Law Firm in U.S. | 09.21.17

pwc legal us

PwC Law

Over the past few years, we’ve discussed the Big 4 stomping around Big Law‘s turf. It’s mostly been happening abroad, but last year, I thought out loud that it would only be a matter of time before the Big 4 firms were offering legal services in the U.S. And now, oh, hey look, PwC is launching a law firm in the U.S.:

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is set to launch a law firm in the U.S., a clear sign that the concerted push into legal services by the Big Four accounting firms continues.

The firm, called ILC legal, will begin operating later this month with an office in Washington, D.C.. It will not offer U.S. law advice, but instead will assist U.S. clients on international issues and act as a marketing operation to generate work that can be referred to PwC’s existing legal services network.

I can’t help but channel Church Lady: Isn’t that convenient? And yes, it is! The guy in charge, Richard Edmundson said some things about that:

“We don’t regard ourselves as a traditional law firm,” he said. “We don’t look at legal services in isolation—it’s just one part of a broader offering.”

Large corporations are now “much more accepting” of accounting firms providing multidisciplinary services, including legal advice, he added.

I can hear the tagline now: “Come for the accounting, but stay for the legal and digital advertising.” If there’s one thing you have to admire about Big 4 firms, it’s that they are determined to solve all of their world’s business problems. And if Mr. Edmundson is to be believed, businesses are willing to let them try. What could go wrong?

Accounting bots

Good news, everyone, Alan is here to take some work off your hands:

Gappify is the latest company to roll out business accounting-related bot technology.

The company announced news on Wednesday (Sept. 20) that it has launched Alan, “bot” technology designed to assist business accountants. The solution is integrated into Gappify’s cloud accounting software and can complete various tasks related to accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll and other cash management functions, the company said.

Using robotics process automation technology, Alan automates tasks to help corporate accountants focus on more strategic and value-add processes. Gappify said Alan, which is not a chatbot, can handle both routine, mechanical processes as well as ad-hoc and specialized tasks.

Obviously, you’ll interface with it like this.

Wait a minute, though; if Alan can do “ad-hoc and specialized tasks” is there anything left for the humans? Yes, yes, I know “more strategic and value-add processes.” But is “value-add” also “specialized”? My feeling is that if robots can handle all the routine, boring stuff, but can do special stuff, too, shouldn’t we let them? Believe me, I’d be jumping at the chance to delegate ANR to a SnarkBlog 2000.

Hacks

Well, I guess Equifax has some company:

The Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement that it was still investigating the breach of its corporate filing system. The system, called Edgar, is used by companies to make legally required filings to the agency.

The agency said it learned in August that an incident detected last year “was exploited and resulted in access to nonpublic information.” It said the security vulnerability used in the attack had been patched shortly after it was discovered.

The hacking, it said, “may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading.”

But really, as far as hacks go, there is no comparison. Sure, the SEC collects a lot of information about public companies, and some of it is sensitive in nature. And, sure, most people would prefer if hackers didn’t access material, non-public information to enrich themselves. These days, people expect government agencies to have woefully inadequate security that’s vulnerable to cyber-attack. And right or wrong, the integrity of markets isn’t something that regular people get too worked up about.

Equifax, on the other hand, is in the business of collecting and organizing sensitive information of individuals. It’s mind-boggling to most people — especially the 143 million people affected — that a company with this much personal information for so many people would be caught with their pants down. So, the thinking goes, if anyone should have an impregnable cybersecurity system, it’s them!

Related: Someone Made a Fake Equifax Site. Then Equifax Linked to It.

Previously, on Going Concern…

I solicited CPA exam stories. In Open Items, an auditor wants to know the pros and cons between alternative investments and banking as industry specializations.

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