Editor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam Antar of White Collar Fraud. I won’t give him too many props (lest he think his wily criminal charms got to me) but our conversation was both relevant and disconcerting.
In case you aren’t acquainted with Sam, he’s the ex Crazy Eddie CFO who ripped them off and now does speaking tours talking about, well, crime. But there’s a lot more than that at work here, that’s just his schtick.
So what did I learn?
I believe my editor thinks I’m a doom and gloomer so here’s some good news: besides suggesting we start training more qualified forensic auditors fresh out of school, Sam insists there is a chance for real financial reform.
Do you take your reform advice from an ex-criminal? I remind you here that a tax cheat is in charge of the IRS, do with that information what you will.
Anyway, the point here is that financial statements lack integrity. Without integrity, investors are groping in the dark and criminals are able to execute their schemes. Foreign investors are scrambling to leave US capital markets, could that be because our statements are – generally speaking – unreliable?
So. Sam’s 3 step plan to restoring sanity to financial statements. Take it for what it is.
1. Redefine audit committees as truly independent. No member of the audit committee should derive a salary or other compensation from stock options or stock holdings. Period.
2. Committee members should be qualified. CPAs and securities lawyers are qualified to sit on an audit committee, not marketing managers and other “average” sections of the corporate population.
3. Forensic accounting should be standard curriculum in university accounting programs. Don’t eliminate 404(b), if a corporation can’t afford the audits required to be a public company, then don’t become one.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on that final point, I don’t think tedious audits are the solution. However, perhaps if we had more qualified auditors out in the trenches, I might be inclined to be slightly less skeptical about the effectiveness of more softcore audits.
Stay tuned as we’ll be picking Sam’s brain again soon.
GC Posts Referencing Sam Antar:
Grant Thornton: Patrick Byrne’s Pants Are on Fire
Obvious Sign of Fraud: You’re Having Sex with the Client