Try to Do Something Constructive this Weekend, Like Get the Whole IFRS Debate Settled

In what might be the biggest rager of the weekend, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) are meeting today and tomorrow in London to get down to brass tacks on the whole global meltdown thing.
Also on the agenda for the IFAC: Coming up with a plan to get one set of global accounting standards, and also figure out how to convince the likes of Maxine Waters to BTFO of accounting rules and stick to cooking up dead-end legislation on banning of credit default swaps.
Let us know how it goes.
Accountants’ Group Calls for Single Set of International Rules [Bloomberg]

Making CFO/Partner: A Guide

corp_ladder.jpgCFO.com has an article on “What to Do on the Way to CFO“. This encouraged us to come up with our own suggestions but we thought we’d expand our list to include you public accountants as well, so here’s a short list of our key suggestions on “What to Do on the Way to Making CFO/Partner”:
Develop a personality disorder – Whether it’s OCD, schizophrenia, or histrionic personality disorder, few bean counters make it to the highest levels without a screw coming loose.
Master the art of small talk – As a CFO or Partner you will likely have to engage with several “little people” in your organization that you are unacquainted with. Small talk is essential to avoid awkwardness in these interactions. Weather, weekend plans, sports are standard topics that will help you avoid the dreaded silence.
Maybe the most important thing is after the jump


&bull Get really passionate about accounting and finance Remember those Grant Thornton commercials that used to run on CNBC? That’s exactly the kind of passion that we’re talking about. If you find it difficult to talk to your spouse, friends, children, and especially co-workers about anything other than financing options for acquisition, key shortcuts in Excel, or how the general public doesn’t seem to appreciate the proposed changes to fair value accounting, then you probably don’t have what it takes to be a partner or CFO.
We realize that this is not an all-inclusive list and welcome your input on what other traits and skills are imperative to achieving the lofty and glamarous heights of a partner or CFO.

IRS Doesn’t Care for Kirk Herbstreit Burning Down His Own House

Kirk Herbstreit.jpgABC/ESPN college football commentator and former Ohio St. QB, Kirk Herbstreit and his wife donated their house to to the local fire department back in 2004 and the Herbstreits took a $330,000 deduction on their tax return.
In an extremely convenient coincidence, the IRS, for the first time, challenged the practice of donating individuals’ homes for such purposes the same year.
The Herbstreits were audited and paid back taxes and interest of $134,606 but are now suing the IRS to get that money back.
Apparently this is a matter of debate amongst tax wonks out there, some saying the donation is kosh and some saying it isn’t. You Michigan fans obviously hope Herbie gets stuck paying the extra scratch but the real question is whether Lee Corso is getting to the age where he’s burning down houses just because he’s totally gone senile.
Herbstreit ‘fire’ puts focus on IRS dispute [Columbus Dispatch via TaxProf Blog]

Have You Any Tchotchkes?

kpmg_hand_gel.jpgIn the spirit of Lehman Brothers’ desperation, we’re looking to find out which firm out there has the best chance of financing its next big settlement by virtue of hocking its tchotchkes on eBay.
Because no one can say with absolute certainty which big firm will be the next be rendered extinct (although there are some wagers on it) and thus, none of you working for any firm can be sure when all that schwag you’re accumulating in your cube farm will be worth anything, we thought we would get your submissions so that we can determine which firm has as shot at using auctions in cyberspace as opposed to closing up shop. At first glance, E&Y has nothing on eBay but books, so we’re guessing you guys have the most to prove here.
Check out another schwagtastic example after the jump


Some of you have probably checked out for the day already anyway, so you might as well start putting that camera phone to use and email your submissions to tips@goingconcern.com. Big firms, small firms, we don’t care, we know there are some real finds out there. Just like this beauty:
rubic's.jpg
The best submissions will be posted here and the respective firm’s ability to spend money on frivolous junk will be duly ridiculed.

PwC’s New Investigation Will Invite Terrible Bovine Jokes

cattle.jpgPwC has investigators all up in their grills again as another audit is going to be subject to an investigation. This time a sub-prime lender in the UK, Cattles.
Cattles is blaming the whole shitshow on a “breakdown in internal controls”, which has been the standard PR sound bite since before Enron.

The Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB), which regulates the profession, announced the inquiry on Thursday.The board, part of the Financial Reporting Council, said it would examine the conduct of PwC and its individual auditors concerning the preparation of financial statements of Cattles and Welcome Financial Services, its subsidiary, for the year ended December 31 2007 and for the six months ended June 30 2008.

According to one analyst referenced in FT Alphaville, Cattles was letting loans go 240 days delinquent before taking any impairment charges. Apparently PwC was okay with that practice.
And since the AADB is going to be looking at “individual auditor conduct”, what are they going to discover? Besides the partner and manager’s daily fat-cat lunches, obv. We invite your thoughts.
We’ve also got the feeling that this might be the type of engagement where you could include a high-def photo of the manager dry-humping the partner’s leg (wearing a leash and spiked collar, natch) as part of the audit workpapers and it would get signed off on anyway. But, like we said, it’s just a feeling.
UK watchdog opens probe into PwC audit of Cattles [Reuters]
Regulator probes PwC over Cattles audit [FT.com]

Scoping | 07.24.09

BuffettCarriesLunch.standard.jpgWarren Buffett to Teach Kids About Finance in New Web Cartoon [Bloomberg]
U.K. GDP Shrinks More Than Expected – “Hopes that the U.K. economy was on the road to recovery after a severe recession received a major blow Friday with official data showing output contracted far more than expected in the second quarter.” [WSJ]
After Buffett Rebuff, CIT Eyes a Breakup – “Conglomerates Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Leucadia National Corp. made a bid to buy parts of CIT Group Inc. but were rebuffed by CIT, according to people familiar with the matter, because the price was too low.” [WSJ]
The Man Who Sank New Jersey [Forbes]

Review Comments | 07.23.09

porn.jpgCouncil fired Scott Janke after learning of marriage to porn star Anabela Mota aka Jazella Moore – Last we checked, this was still America and bagging a porn star is in the Declaration of Independence or something [NYDN]
Dozens Arrested in New Jersey Corruption Probe – “Federal agents swept into New Jersey towns across several counties Thursday morning, charging 44 people, including three mayors and religious leaders, in a federal investigation into public corruption and money laundering.” [WSJ]
Wall Street Journal Coverage Of Crisis Finally Gets Serious – Cankles. Page one. Yes. [DealBreaker]
Microsoft revenue misses, shares tumble – In other news, Bill Gates is still rich. [Reuters]

Dear Becker,

olinto_cpa.jpgA reader was kind enough to share with us a letter they sent to Becker after the software expired and was rendered utterly useless.
Here’s an excerpt:
“The Becker lectures sang to me like a siren’s song. Much like poor Odysseus, I screamed for more. Yet, unlike Odysseus, there was no one there to keep me safe. Tim Gearty became the man that I yearned to be. He is smart, funny, humorous, debonair, more dashing than James Bond and full of more knowledge than Ken Jennings. His style rivals that of GQ’s Man of the Month.”
Check out more love for Tim Gearty and Peter Olinto in the whole letter, after the jump

Becker.doc

Don’t Worry, the IRS isn’t Getting Too Soft

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIn 2004, Congress wanted to lay the smackdown on individuals and entities using tax shelters. In order to scare the beejesus out those thinking about the practice, Congress enacted penalties of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for entities per non-disclosure to the IRS.
Problem is, Congress, who often pulls out the jump to conclusions mat, didn’t give the IRS any discretion on enforcement so Mom & Pop (who often don’t have kids) shops were getting hammered with fines they couldn’t pay:

In one case cited by the Small Business Council of America, a husband and wife followed the advice of a consultant and set up a limited liability company and Roth individual retirement accounts. When the IRS challenged the way the transactions were done and found income tax deficiencies of $6,812, it was required to impose a penalty of $1.2 million.

The IRS figured that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t really working the way it was intended and has suspended the collection of fines in order to make the penalties more proportional. Not to worry though, the IRS hasn’t decided whether or not apply the changes retroactively and are only suspending the fines until September 30. They wouldn’t want to tarnish their image as faceless cold-blooded bureaucrats.
IRS Halts Fine Linked To Tax Shelters [WSJ]

We’re Here to Listen to Your CPA Exam Stories Because We’re Solid Like That

Cpa_exam.jpgOkay, so the purpose of the Elijah Watt Sells post was not to make any of you feel like you’re lesser accountants. We just figured that a good portion of you were hung over today and the story of 10 individuals that got vomit-worthy scores on the CPA exam would get you past the nausea and running to the bathroom to lose that 3 am breakfast.
Now that you’re feeling better, we want to appeal to the rest of you. We want your CPA exam horror stories. Not because we want you to send you running back into the bathroom to sob in the stall. Not because some people we know passed all four sections in one sitting and don’t have any good stories. No, no. We want your stories because we here to listen to you. Besides, they’re probably funny now anyway. Aren’t they? Even if you’re still mortified or pissed off, this your opportunity to vent about it.
Sooooo, did you run out of gas on the way to the exam site? Did your computer crash with 10 minutes to go and you had to re-take the entire exam? We’re you caught cheating?!? Or watching porn? Impress us…

What’s the Move When You Get Fired for Looking at Porn?

inappropriate.jpgOkay number-crunchers, we realize you don’t have the most exciting jobs in the world and sometimes you need a little distraction from Excel. Totally natch. Checking out ESPN, Perez Hilton, Going Concern, Facebook is even encouraged in some circles.
Some of you might even be so bold to see what the latest uploads on YouPorn, XTube, et al. are. Fine. We get that. It’s just your biology running wild right? We totally understand. What we can’t understand is those of you that are blatantly watching two girls, one guy, and a Clydesdale reenact the Kama Sutra in your cubicle.
Of course, when somebody catches you drooling on your keyboard, you have to act completely dumbfounded about how such a graphic display of human and equine love could have ended up on your screen. Somehow your superiors don’t buy your stammered out explanation and you’re out on your ass. Time to find to new job that’s not so uptight anyway, right?
So when you’re sitting in the interview with the potential new boss and he/she asks you why you left your last job, how do you explain your penchant for bestiality in a way that gets you hired? The Journal seems to think honesty is the best policy. Just admit what you did and swear that you’ll never, never, never do it again. We’re not convinced this would go over well but whatevs.
Anyone been fired for “inappropriate” Internet use? Did you cover it up in your next interview with “management and I had differences”? Or did you do your damnedest to find a workplace with a less stringent web use policy? Discuss.
Getting Fired for Inappropriate Web Use [WSJ]

Elijah Watt Sells Award Recipients Make the Rest of Us Want to Puke

The AICPA announced the winners of the Elijah Watt Sells awards yesterday. For you mere mortals, this is an award for the 10 highest cumulative scorers on the CPA exam.
Glancing over the recipients we notice that two Big 4 firms (KPMG and Deloitte) enslave employ five of the recipients. A couple of recipients work in industry and a few more work for smaller, local firms.
This leads to the obvious question of why the hell P. Dubya and E&Y were totally shut out? Grant Thornton and BDO were also blanked. Are the honchos at the Radio Station and Big D giving the worker bees more time to study? Are P. Dubs, E&Y, et al. cutting out the bonuses for passing and thus destroying anyone’s motivation for passing? Are those of you looking to pass already choosing between eating and sleeping (and maybe sex) so studying just isn’t happening? Sells was a Big D founder so maybe the whole thing is rigged? Thoughts anyone?
Oh and congratulate the recipients while you’re at it (without vomiting on them).
AICPA-HONORS-TOP-CPA-EXAMINATION-PERFORMERS.pdf

FASB, Bankers to Continue ‘Religious War’ Over Fair Value

Apparently the wonks in Norwalk are girding up their loins to take on the banks again over fair value, described by FASB member Marc Siegel as a “religious war” (our pick would be The Crusades).
Under new preliminary proposals issued by the FASB last week, all financial assets, including loans would be marked to market every quarter and classifications like held to maturity, held for investment, and held for sale would go the way of the Dodo.
Jonathan Weil conceptulizes:

Think how the saga at CIT Group Inc. might have unfolded if loans already were being marked at market values. The commercial lender, which is struggling to stay out of bankruptcy, said in a footnote to its last annual report that its loans as of Dec. 31 were worth $8.3 billion less than its balance sheet showed. The difference was greater than CIT’s reported shareholder equity. That tells you the company probably was insolvent months ago, only its book value didn’t show it.

Got it? Well, banks are obviously not cool with this, as one lobbyist is quoted, “I guess the nicest thing I can say is it’s difficult to find the good in this.” I guess it’s on then bitches, as it sounds like the banks would much rather bleed out their orifices until the bitter, bitter end as opposed to report anything that is remotely transparent.
Accountants Gain Courage to Stand Up to Bankers: Jonathan Weil [Bloomberg]

H&R Block Still Loves McGladrey & Pullen

begging.jpgEarlier in the week we told you about McGladrey & Pullen falling out of love with H&R Block. Well, H&RB is not going to just let M&P walk away. The Company cares too much about this relationship:
“We believe the path proposed by certain of M&P’s leaders is fraught with significant business and financial risks and is not in the best interest of M&P partners, employees or clients,” Block CEO Russ Smyth in a release Wednesday. “Whether the full M&P partnership is willing to assume these immense risks remains to be seen.”
Nevermind the fact that H&R Block is the used car salesman of tax preparers. Nevermind that H&RB is probably responsible for the failed appointments of several Obama cabinet members. This about love lost (and probably sex lost).
H&R Block questions McGladrey & Pullen decision [Kansas City Business Journal]

Scoping | 07.23.09

Shakeshack_hamburgers.jpgObama Approval 49% Among U.S. Investors, 87% Overseas – “President Barack Obama has rock- star appeal among the investing class — except in his own country.” [Bloomberg]
Investment Bank Helps Boost Credit Suisse’s Net Income – Reigning in on the company wide Shake Shack outings is probably helpful too. [WSJ]
One-time gain boosts Ford results – Don’t call it a comeback [BBC]
Manure means money to handlers gathered in Iowa – Sometimes there’s money in shit [AP via Miami Herald]
Bardem Turns Down Role in ‘Wall Street’ Sequel – “The actor Javier Bardem has turned down a role in the sequel to Oliver Stone’s seminal 1980s treatise on greed, “Wall Street.” Mr. Bardem, who won an Oscar in 2008 for his performance in “No Country for Old Men,” was to have played the world’s villain du jour: a hedge fund manager.” [DealBook]

Ernst & Young Found to be ‘Marginally Negligent’ in Superior Bank Case, Will Pay Plaintiff $10M

Color us surprised:

A Broward County jury on Wednesday dealt a small blow to Ernst & Young in a negligence and fraud lawsuit, deciding that the accounting giant was only marginally negligent for a local businessman’s losses in connection with the demise of Superior Bank in 2001.

UPDATE, 7:00 pm EST, E&Y Statement: We believe we should have prevailed and will seek appropriate relief from the courts.
Ernst & Young to pay $10M in Superior Bank lawsuit [Triangle Business Journal]

Review Comments | 07.22.09

beer.jpgAmazon to Acquire Zappos.com for $847 Million – “Amazon says it is paying for the acquisition with 10 million shares of stock worth approximately $807 million. In addition, Amazon said it will provide Zappos employees with $40 million in cash and restricted stock units.” [Bits/NYT]
UK ‘is losing 52 pubs each week’ – Where will the UK accountants go for lunch? [BBC]
Who needs audit? [Accountancy Age]
Chrysler says dealer legislation could force liquidation – “Chrysler Group could again face the prospect of liquidation if legislation aimed at reversing its decision to terminate contracts with 789 dealers becomes law, a company executive said on Wednesday.” [Reuters]
Goldman Sachs Payments to U.S. Give 23% Return to Taxpayers – LB says “you’re welcome” [Bloomberg]

eBay Beats the Numbers Thanks to Lehman Schwag

ebay.pngAt least that’s what we’re guessing.
Bloomberg:
“EBay Inc., owner of the most visited U.S. e-commerce Web site, reported second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, a sign that Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe’s turnaround efforts are working.”
Whatevs. We’d argue beauties like this are the reason for the good Q.
EBay Profit Beats Estimates in Sign That Turnaround Is Working [Bloomberg]

Letter from the Editor – Welcome to Going Concern

accountant.jpgWorking in accounting or finance has a certain stigma associated with it. More times than not, when someone asks you the ubiquitous getting-to-know-you-at-a-party question, “What do you do?” and your response is, “I’m an [enter accounting/finance related position here]” the reaction is typically in some form of pity.

Whether it’s a look that says, “boring” or the inquisitor having to go through your painful explanation of what it is you actually do, it’s rarely a gr��������������������n.

Unless you embrace the stigma of boring, nerdy, introverts that are constantly swimming in spreadsheets, and delve into some self-depreciating humor, bitterness and ranting.

That’s what Going Concern is all about. We’ve embraced everything that makes accounting and finance so painfully dull and we’re going to turn it on its green eyeshade-wearing head.

We’re going to mock, maim, gossip, chastise, rant, and yes, maybe a little advocating, of everything associated with crunching numbers. We will bring you all the latest happenings around the world of the largest and well known firms and our analysis will be anything but accountant-like.

Check out our reoccurring features after the jump


Here are some regular features we will have (and definitely check out our archives):

Tchotchke Contests – Accounting firms love to hand out tchotchkes. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable reason for it but inevitably, your cubicle ends up filled with stress balls, Rubik’s cubes, umbrellas, etc. Some of this stuff handed out is a downright mind job. We want you to send us pictures of your strangest firm schwag.
Guess What I Got Asked to Do Today? – Every number-cruncher, at some point in their career, has asked themselves, “What did he/she just ask me to do?” Whether it’s picking up late-night dinner, footing the phonebook, or cleaning out a closet, we want your stories. The bad, the demoralizing, the thing that made you flip out.

Guess What My Intern Did? – Because having your first job or internship can be nerve racking, staff and interns sometimes do hilarious things unwittingly. Did they run out of gas picking up dinner? Shred workpapers that were signed off on by a partner? Come in hung over and puke on the client’s super-secret, there’s-only-one-copy-of-these files? We know you have these stories and you know you want to share them.

Stupid Auditor Questions – Don’t worry non-public accountants, you won’t be left behind on Going Concern. We know you have to deal with auditors. We know that auditors ask stupid questions. We want to hear what those stupid questions are. Don’t hold back, we know you want to cut loose. This is the place to do it.

What Job Would You Rather Have? – It’s 10 pm, you’re sitting in your beige cubicle, staring at a spreadsheet that has thousands of rows that are starting to blend together and you think to yourself, “How did I get here? Should I be doing something else? Anything other than this?” We feel your pain. Tell us what you would rather be doing. Picking up elephant dung? Window-washer? Artificially inseminating farm animals? Tell us your dreams of what you would rather be doing than working with Excel.

This is just the beginning but we need your help. We need your gossip, rumors, and story ideas for what you want this blog to be, because it’s for you, our loyal Going Concern readers. Send all tips via email to tips@goingconcern.com. We’ll always keep you anonymous unless you want to be named and if you want to tell us something off the record, that’s cool too, just let us know.

Now get back to your spreadsheets!

Trying to Decipher the Awkward and Scattered Sex Lives of Accountants

The blog Energized Accounting asks if accountants make better lovers. Now before you all squawking about how you’re an animal in the sack, let’s try to be realistic about this question.

First of all, this makes the assumption that accountants are getting laid in the first place. This is mostly farcical for a couple reasons: A) Lots of accountants have to choose between sleeping and eating already because of the hours they work. You throw in boot-knocking and some excel wizards are going to start starving to death; and 2) Unofficial statistics have shown that seven out ten accountants have no game. You may not know who you are but your friends do.

So based on that, 30% of you are getting some action. And since there is a rampant proclivity to date co-workers (which we will exclude for this exercise) among accountants that narrows it down to about 5% of accountants having sex with non-bean counters. As we mentioned, you’re working most of the time so where the hell is this hot sex happening? We’re thinking that national training sessions might be one spot, where you’re picking up prosties or random hot townies in whatever strange city you happen to land in? Accountants treat national training like Vegas so pretty much anything goes but what about the other 51 weeks in the year? Is that what is going on at those two hour lunches? Do some client locations have rooms set up for this like a swing-joint? Try to enlighten us without making a scene.

Big 4 Firms Will Probably Have to Cut Some Checks

Since BDO International Global Coordination was able to dodge the bullet in the Banco Espirito case, litigation against the Big 4 has been pretty quiet. Oh sure, you could bring up Schein v. E&Y but the money at stake isn’t that big and Schein is claiming Oliver Stone-type conspiracy theory so we’re hesitant to get too worked up about it.
However, if you’re craving bean counter courtroom drama it won’t be long until you’re up to your ass in Jack McCoy-types screaming about how crooked accountants are.
According to research firm, Audit Analytics, there are eight firms at risk for potential lawsuits related to King Ponzi alone along with six other potential lawsuits related to the financial clusterfuck.
Audit Analytics also was kind enough to pull together some data on who’s winning the race to pay out the most settlement. The top 50 malpractice suits against the Big 4 since 1999 break down like this, per Compliance Week:
1. E&Y – $1.92 billion
2. KPMG – $1.42 billion
3. PwC – $1.27 billion
4. Deloitte – $1.24 billion
Don’t expect the trend of the firms handing over asstons of cash to end anytime soon as settling these cases out of court seems to be best way for the firms to extend their seemingly shortening lives.

Guess What My Intern Did?

intern-where-is-my-report.jpgA commenter read our minds with regard to talking about interns, God bless ’em.
So today, in the spirit of the intern-season, we’re launching the first edition of “Guess What My Intern Did?” because sometimes they can do stupid things and we want to hear about it.
Examples could possibly include: any kind of shameless, awkward sexual advances on superiors; asking he/she to get a copy of an email from the asshole CFO; showing up to work hung over smelling like Ken Lewis; You get the idea.

Survey: No Confidence in Mark-to-Market

thumbs down col.gifThis may come as shock to some of you but mark-to-market accounting is unpopular. And when we say unpopular, we don’t mean your nerdy brother-unpopular, we’re talking George W. Bush-unpopular. Now before you go apeshit about “reality” and “economic cycles” will share some results with you from a survey provided by Valuation Research Corporation and then you can engage in your the steel-cage death dork match.
• According to the survey, 58% of respondents believe that market turmoil negates Fair Value Accounting’s validity
• Those who believed FVA was flawed and potentially not valid during market turmoil, almost 34% suggested a temporary return to historical cost accounting as an alternative
Regarding Level 3 Assets: A full 44% believed the bank values were within an accuracy of 10% and another 40% thought those values were as much as 30% off.
Regarding Level 3 Assets: Thirty-six percent believed hedge fund and private equity values were only within an accuracy of 10% and a full 49% thought those values were as much as 30% off.
Respondents were split when asked if mark-to-market should be suspended for the purposes of bank regulatory capital with 50% believing it should be and 50% believing it should not be.
So the take away seems to be that MTM doesn’t work and is pretty much not legit when the shit hits the fan, everyone trying to value Level 3 assets is using a dartboard, and nobody knows how to fix the problem.
Definitely interesting results but if anyone says, “Barney Frank knew what he was talking about”, projectile vomiting is going ensue.
Survey – No Confidence in Fair Value.pdf

BDO ‘Invites’ Partners to Retire in the UK

BDO-small.jpgBDO in the UK has “‘invited’ 24 partners to take retirement and is in the process of settling the details over the withdrawal of equity”, according to Accountancy Age. And by “invited”, we’re pretty sure BDO means, “pack your shit”.
According to Simon Michaels, the head honcho in the UK, the “withdrawal of equity” would not be an “unmanageable situation to deal with” which is sorta like saying “it’ll hurt for a little while but as soon as my ownership is bigger, I’ll be over it.”
This whole sitch across the pond compelled us to call a BDO rep here in the States to find out what might be going down for the American partners. We were told that there were no plans for dismissal of partners in U.S. and in fact, partners will likely to continue to be added to the firm. This jogged our hazy memory about our speculation that BDO was adding some partners last month in order to spread out some liability.
So it appears that since BDO International Global Coordination isn’t on the hook for the half a billion in liability from the Banco Espirito case, they can’t afford to keep all their partners. BDO in States, on the other hand, needs to spread out the love on the liability. Don’t you love it when everything makes sense?
Reality bites for BDO Stoy Hayward [Accountancy Age]

Scoping | 07.22.09

BlackRock chief attacks Wall Street earningsSomebody’s jealous. [FT.com]
Credit Card Disputes Tossed Into Disarray – “Two major arbitration firms are backing away from the business of resolving disputes between customers and their credit-card and cellphone companies, throwing into disarray a controversial system that prevents unhappy consumers from filing lawsuits.” [WSJ]
Federal reserve chief heads back to Capitol Hill– “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke heads back to Capitol Hill Wednesday, where he’s likely to face more tough questions about the central bank’s extraordinary actions to rescue the economy and its ability to take on even more responsibility.” [AP via Miami Herald]
Morgan Stanley Loss Misses Estimates on Debt Costs – Creative accounting can’t help MS…[Bloomberg]
Wells Fargo Says Bad Loans Rise in Second Quarter; Shares Drop – …Or Wells [Bloomberg]

Review Comments | 07.21.09

Ben_Bernanke.jpgBernanke Sheds Light on Exit Strategy – “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shed light Tuesday on the toolkit the central bank can employ to unwind its crisis measures, but he made clear to lawmakers that the economy remains too weak to start tightening monetary policy.” Better than no exit strategy [WSJ]
CIT Expects Loss of $1.5 Billion, May Seek Bankruptcy – “CIT Group Inc., the 101-year-old commercial lender seeking to avoid collapse, said it expects to report a loss of more than $1.5 billion for the second quarter and may need to file for bankruptcy if it’s unable to tender for notes maturing next month.” [Bloomberg]
Apple’s quarterly profit tops forecasts – The good results… [Reuters]
Yahoo sees drop in income from operations this quarter – …and the bad. [Reuters]
Which Of Alan Greenspan’s More Quotable Quotes Will Bite Him In The Ass On The Big Screen? [DealBreaker]
The Goldman Way to Celebrate: a Parody – Well played LB. Well played. [DealBook]

Promotion Watch: KPMG

Forgive us for being a little behind on this, we’re still twisting arms out there:
On July 15th, the Radio Station announced the promotion of 874 new Senior Managers and Managers. This compares to 1,228 that got the bump last year.
Some might say that there were less people up for promotion this year, hence the drop. Others might say “that’s because I got the axe and now live on government cheese”.
Click on the image below for a full-size view of the announcement (please note the crookedness as a sign of authenticity). Anyway, congrats to all the new taskmasters managers at KPMG!
kmpg_memo.gif

McGladrey & Pullen Doesn’t Love H&R Block Anymore

We’re deeply saddened to learn that McGladrey & Pullen and H&R Block are splitting up:

“This arrangement made sense in 1999,” said Dave Scudder, managing partner of McGladrey & Pullen LLP. “However, that operational and financial model does not serve us well as we address our future goals of client service, opportunity for our partners, and continued growth.”

Translation: It’s about the money.

“We are taking this action because we believe it to be in the best interests of our partners, our employees and our clients. We see great opportunities for success and growth for McGladrey & Pullen as a traditionally structured firm able to provide full service across all industry segments,” Scudder noted.

M&P also wanted you all to know that it’s not your fault, that they still love you but sometimes firms fall out of love.
McGladrey & Pullen News Release

Forbes: Senior Accountants Pay Rising in the Recession

Feel free to call bullshit on this because we’ve heard rumors about pay freezes at KPMG (they are getting back to us on this) but according to Forbes, senior accountants rank at #11 for “Hot Jobs Where Pay is Rising” in the recession. The list states median pay at $60,300. Not only that but apparently, there aren’t enough of you senior accountants:

There’s a shortage of senior accountants right now, and the recession has actually provided a chance for them to revive client relationships, believes Mark Koziel, senior manager of firm practice management at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “As long as there’s small-business America, as long as there’s big-business America, there will still be a need to do auditing and tax returns,” he says.

This strikes us as strange as there have been layoffs at several firms. The need for auditing and is obvious but those of you left are probably doing the work of two or three people.
UPDATE, July 22, 2009: KPMG got back to us re: pay freezes and had no comment

Paulson’s Threatening of Ken Lewis Gets the Barney Frank Stamp of Approval

paulson2.jpgBarney Frank is stumped. Trying to figure out why Maxine Waters is MIA is one thing, but picking the evil mastermind behind the shakedown of Ken Lewis is a completely different enigma.
Even if Paulson ordered the code red, the Sass from Mass is pretty sure that was the right thing to do because we need guys like HP on that wall. When you’ve got the imminent financial apocalypse knocking at your door, threatening a bank CEO of questionable sobriety cannot be handled by someone of meekness and mild temperament (ahem, B-squared).
Hank Paulson did before and he’d do it again. He’d just rather you said “thank you” and went on your way.
Frank Says No “Villain” in Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Deal [Bloomberg]

What Say You? Are Early Promotions a Crock?

corp_ladder.jpgIt’s about the time of year where the Big 4 start announcing promotions and with promotions come the inevitable debate about who got promoted, who didn’t, hating on some, congratulating others, and ugly debates over those that were promoted early.

Early or skip promotions are never short on controversy. As one source put it “[early promotions] are completely arbitrary and situational, merit generally doesn’t play into it”.

The claim will often be made that someone needs to fill an empty role on a team. Sometimes it is a purely bullshit political situation and there have even been cases where older associates are promoted early based on their age and other work experience regardless of their performance with the current firm.

In one case, another source told us about an associate that was promoted to manager in three years (i.e. promoted early twice) but it was pretty clear to the most of team (i.e. staff) that the person was hardly ready for the pressures and responsibilities of being a manager.
The other side of this debate are the professionals that are actually performing at a high enough level to warrant the early promotion (no, really). Granted the situation has to arise where the individual has the opportunity to take on greater responsibility and thus proves him or herself but if someone does step up (read: working 24/7) to the plate on several occasions, maybe the promotion is warranted.

Because of the hierarchal nature of accounting firms, this may not even be an issue in your office but it does happen with freakish regularity at other offices. Let’s us know what your office has done in the past and what is going on this summer now that were in swing of promotion season. Feel free to discuss in the comments or email us your inside info to tips@goingconcern.com.

Center for Audit Quality Continues to Be Made Up of Firms Doing Bad Audits

Per Web CPA, the Center of Audit Quality has re-elected the four members of its governing board:

Ernst & Young chairman and CEO James Turley has been unanimously re-elected to serve a second term as chair of the governing board. Michele Hooper, co-founder of The Directors’ Council, and AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon will extend their service as co-vice chairs. Harvard business administration professor Lynn Paine has been re-elected as a public board member.

BFD, right? Perhaps but it’s worth noting that the rest of the board is also primarily made up of representatives from large firms:

Crowe Horwath CEO Charles M. Allen, former SEC Commissioner Harvey J. Goldschmid, PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Robert E. Moritz (who replaced Dennis M. Nally on the CAQ board), Grant Thornton CEO Edward E. Nusbaum, Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg, McGladrey & Pullen managing partner David R. Scudder, KPMG CEO John B. Veihmeyer (who replaced Timothy P. Flynn on the CAQ board) and BDO Seidman CEO Jack Weisbaum

In case you’re not counting, all Big 4 firms are represented along with BDO and Grant Thornton. That’s all well and dandy and I’m sure these guys could at least audit their way out of a paper bag but has it occurred to anyone that all these “representatives of the industry” work for firms that continue to have problems with AUDIT FAILURE?
The list is long of pending litigation but the firms don’t really seem to mind because they’ll claim TBTF. They have the AICPA set out this nice little group, focused on “audit quality” in order to put out press releases about the “work” they’re doing, meanwhile, audits still keep blowing up. Yeah, I guess re-electing the same people will be fine.
CAQ Governing Board Re-elected [Web CPA]

Our Speculation About the Motivation Behind Deloitte’s Most Recent Survey

heelys.jpgBig accounting firms like doing surveys. We’ve often thought about the motivation behind the constant surveys and further wonder if firms ever josh the numbers around out of a personal vendetta against its rivals, enemies, former clients, etc.
Deloitte’s survey that states that American consumers are planning on spending less this back-to-school season causes us to speculate as to why the Big D would do such a survey? It’s a nice little press release we suppose. Shows that the firm is plugged into the current state of the economy, etc., etc. But then we got to thinking about how Heelys, the obnoxious shoes with wheels, recently dumped Deloitte because their fees were too high in favor of Grant Thornton.
Far be it from us to speculate about the temperament of a Big 4 accounting firm when it has business swiped away by a second-tier firm but isn’t it possible that Deloitte is bitter about the whole sitch? Isn’t it possible that Deloitte is merely putting out this survey as a way to scare consumers out of spending money on back-to-school junk like Heelys?
Back-to-School Shoppers Plan to Spend Less, Save More [Bloomberg]

Foxy Brown and Toni Braxton Hate Paying Taxes: Just Like the Rest of Us!

foxybrown.jpgtoni-braxton-b.jpgBeing a celebrity is tough. You see all that money roll in and then when you find out you have to pay almost 50% in taxes on it, that might just piss you off a little. It pisses off some celebrities enough that they just decide they’re not paying Uncle Sam jack. Then there are those that just forget to pay (*cough* Willie Nelson *cough*).

The two newest members of the tardy tax payers are hip-hop artist Foxy Brown and R&B singer Toni Braxton. Brown owes the IRS $641,558 in back taxes for the years 2003 to 2006. Braxton owes just over $71k to the IRS but she’s got some history of financial trubs: she filed for bankruptcy in 1998 with over $1 mil in debts so she’s probably familiar with the collection-type protocols.

Our advice to the two ladies would be take the Lehman Brothers approach on this and get some of that Foxy Brown and Toni Braxton schwag on eBay.

Foxy Brown’s prison jumpsuit from Riker’s? Toni Braxton’s Grammy trophies (or maybe just the underwear-is-optional dress)? We want to hear what kind of mementos you readers would be willing to plunk down your hard earned cash for to help these ladies out.

Foxy Brown, Toni Braxton In Tax Trouble [AllHipHop.com via TaxProf Blog]

Scoping | 07.21.09

First, some shameless promotion:
Breaking Media Launches Going Concern [Media Bistro]
New Finance Blog Aims To ‘Make Accounting Sexy’ [Media Post]
Site launched to follow accounting industry [Talking Biz News]
And the rest:
California Budget Deal Reached By Legislators, Schwarzenegger – “The deal, reached by legislative leaders after two months of frequently acrimonious negotiations, would slash spending for schools, public works and welfare programs amid the longest recession since the 1930s. If approved by the full Senate and Assembly, the agreement will also siphon money from municipalities, force companies and individuals to pay income taxes sooner and make it more difficult to receive state aid.” [Bloomberg]
Swiss Banks Freeze Out U.S. Clients – “In a sign that UBS AG’s high-profile spat with the Internal Revenue Service is chipping away at Switzerland’s private banking industry, some Swiss banks are cutting off or curbing business with American clients for fear of crossing U.S. authorities.” [WSJ]
‘Spy scandal’ hits Deutsche Bank – “Deutsche Bank has confirmed it faces a possible criminal investigation into spying allegations.” [BBC]

Review Comments | 07.20.09

ernst_young.jpgLawyer: Ernst auditing helped sink Hinsdale’s Superior Bank – Plaintiff Alan Schein is still claiming conspiracy on E&Y’s part. [Daily Herald]
Securities Lawsuits Plummet in 2009 – Because they’ve all been filed already [CFO.com]
Stanford case spreads its tendrils – For a Ponz that simply offered CD’s with out of this world interest rates, the international law and jurisdictional aspects will turn your head in knots. [FT.com]
TD Ameritrade Settles Securities Case – “TD Ameritrade Inc. agreed to buy back $456 million of auction-rate securities from its clients as part of a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Pennsylvania securities regulators.” [WSJ]

Lehman Working to Pay Off Debt, One Tchotchke at a Time

lehman tote.jpgIn a couple months it will be at the one year anniversary of the collapse Lehman Brothers. In order to catch you up on the firm’s progess in paying off the $250 billion in debt owed to creditors, we proudly present The Lehman Store, courtesy of eBay.
So far the Lehman Store has 100% positive feedback with comments such as: “Great Lehman tie and excellent delivery time.” and “A+ SELLER”.
Lehman couldn’t be more pleased, “‘We are really excited to be able to offer this to the public because there is a demand,’ said Lehman spokeswoman Kimberly Macleod in a telephone interview.”
There is a demand“, people. And since there are currently 66 items on the auction block, you’d better get on this, PRONTO.
Lehman Holds EBay Garage Sale, Hawking Trinkets to Pay Off Debt [Bloomberg]

IRS Agent Threatens to Kill Treasury Agents Then Throws a Conniption Fit

Perhaps buckling under the mere thought of looking through 52,000 different UBS accounts for tax evasion, an IRS Agent in Valencia, CA threatened Treasury Agents with “I’m going to kill all of you!” when they attempted to search his home.

When the agents tried to serve the warrant, Bront tried to rush back inside his home, where he kept three loaded guns, but a Treasury agent aimed a gun at him and another drew out a baton. After his arrest, he kicked the front seat of the law enforcement vehicle and pounded the door with his elbow before telling the agents he didn’t mean it when he threatened to kill them.

Not withstanding the seriousness of threatening federal officers, the image of a 49 year old man kicking the front seat of a car like a child that didn’t get any ice cream is almost too much for us to bear.

IRS Agent: ‘I’m Going to Kill All of You!’ [Web CPA via TaxProf Blog]

Ernst & Young Is Here to Help (For a Small Fee)!

ernst_young.jpgWe thought that Ernst & Young was advising the New York Fed on the winding down of AIG out of the goodness of their hearts but it turns out it’s actually about the money.
E&Y could make as much as $60 million advising the New York Fed, which is 50% more than the initial agreement, according to Bloomberg. The NYF is also reimbursing E&Y for expenses, up to 10% of the professional fees. This occurs after the parties had initially said $40 million would be the cap but $60 mil is it, we swear, no more.
And because E&Y is solid like that, the firm is billing out partners and directors at discounted rates ($775/hour). I mean, ’cause, let’s face it, this thing’s a mess and E&Y is going to be working hard, working late, working weekends.
Ernst & Young’s Maximum Pay for AIG Advice Swells [Bloomberg]

SHOCKER: Number of Fraud Cases in the Courts is High

In probably the most shocking news of the day, KPMG’s “fraud barometer” reports that the number of fraud cases in UK courts in the first six months of the year are the highest since the firm started issuing the report, 21 years ago.
Here in the states, the big sexy fraud gets all the attention but there is plenty of small fraud to go around. Plus, the bright side is, we’ve haven’t seen anything yet:

“These figures are bad, but the worst is yet to come,” Hitesh Patel, a partner at KPMG, said. “It will be a number of years before the impact of the recession fully feeds through into the fraud statistics.”

So our advice would be for any of you that are nervous about layoffs, look into getting transferred to the forensic accounting practice. You won’t be out of work any time soon.
Record total of fraud cases in court – and worse to come [FT.com]

Madoff Already has Respect in Prison and He Hasn’t Even Gotten Started

madoffjail.jpgWhenever you’re the new guy, things can be awkward for awhile. Not for Bernie Madoff. The Master de Ponz has been in prison for less than a month and the guy is thriving already:

Some of his fellow inmates, in fact, respect him for being a stand-up guy who pleaded guilty without implicating any of the other people strongly suspected of helping him pull off the fraud that swindled more than 1,000 people out of more than $65 billion over two decades. “He got a lot of respect from other inmates because he didn’t tell on anybody, he didn’t take everybody down with him,” the source said.

That’s right people, RESPECT.
The Post, never short on the melodramatic, is focusing on the inmates that are looking to slap around ole Bern to get themselves a little respect. We don’t buy it. Anyone looking to rough him up will have a change of heart as soon as they hear about the outstanding year over year double-digit returns he’ll get you on those Lucky Strikes.
UPDATE, 3:37 PM: A guy sometimes gets a little distracted from personal appearance when he’s being trucked around. Check out DealBreaker for Bess Levin’s take on Butner’s new Mr. Popular.
BERNIE IN THUGS’ SIGHTS [New York Post]

The Summer Corporate Outing: Be Bold!

speedos-for-jesus.jpgSince it’s summer, it’s inevitable that many of you will receive the an invitation to a company pool party, BBQ, ball game, etc. For many accountants, fashion is an afterthought at the office. Blue shirt or white shirt today? Black trousers or khakis? Not a terribly fashion forward bunch. In fact, we might go so far to say, fashion Neanderthals.
However, when an event outside of the office occurs, the need for non-work attire arises. Some bean counters will still don trousers and button-ups because well, they’re lame. For the more free-spirited among us, this is the opportunity to cut loose.
The Journal has a stuffy piece about what’s “appropriate” at these corporate outings. We here at Going Concern want you to ignore social conventions and go with your gut when preparing for these summer corporate get-togethers.
Do you look fab in a super-tiny speedo? We say ROCK IT! Looking to wear a t-shirt from your favorite strip club? Wear it PROUD! Been waiting for the perfect opportunity to wear that new skirt that shows off those fantastic gams? We’re ALL FOR IT!
The Journal is concerned about “knowing” your co-workers too well and their inability to get that image of you in your velour tracksuit out their heads. We say, GET YOURSELF OUT THERE! Life is far too short to be held down by fashion impotent bean counters who can’t pull off tight leather shorts.
Overexposed: Surviving The Corporate Outing [WSJ]

Clinton to Meet Swiss Minister, Discuss Friendship, Possibly Chocolate

300px-Toblerone-1.jpgThe whole UBS/IRS tug of war has achieved a whole new level of ridiculousness because now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the Swiss Foreign Minister on July 31, just prior to the deadline settlement date of August 3rd.
We’re expecting a lovely exchange of smiling, glad-handing, back-slapping, etc. but would implore with Secretary Clinton to do the right thing and get the Swiss Minister to pony up the Toblerones.
The Swiss deserve part of this blame for not seeing the genius in this offer but our American representatives in this case have not been pushing for it, deciding instead, that our need for a reformed healthcare system should motivate our Swiss friends to turn over the 52,000 American names.
The Swiss, who no doubt laugh at our bureaucratic nightmare of a healthcare system, are instead more concerned about their sovereignty and their long tradition of client confidentiality. They have vowed not to turn over any names and this doesn’t really fit in with the IRS’s plans to get billions in back taxes on the UBS accounts, hence the need to call in the big guns.
Swiss minister to meet Clinton ahead of UBS deadline [Reuters]

IRS Getting Back to Scaring People into Tax Compliance

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIf you’ve got a offshore bank account and are less than with it when it comes to tax compliance, it might be advisable that you talk to your accountant.
The IRS, who is becoming increasingly less cuddly under the Obama Administration, is stepping up its scrutiny of Americans with income derived from offshore accounts greater than $10,000.
However, because the Service doesn’t want to come off as a big meanie, it is giving everyone late to the game until September 23rd to file their Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR). If you’re the type that doesn’t concern yourself with such matters, here are some things you can look forward to:

Those who have inadvertently failed to report offshore income, even just a few hundred dollars, could be subject to a $10,000-a-year penalty going back several years. For those the IRS considers willful tax evaders, it is much worse. The IRS can impose a penalty of $100,000, or one half the value of the account, whichever is greater, per year.

Those of you that have been scofflaws on your offshore accounts, don’t fret. The IRS is allowing to confess your sins and report yourselves under their “voluntary disclosure program”. However, you will still have to be investigated by the Service’s criminal division which sounds about as pleasant as a rectal exam in front of all your friends.
IRS Gets Tougher on Offshore Tax Evaders [WSJ]

Scoping | 07.20.09

CIT Is Said to Obtain Urgent Loan to Prevent Bankruptcy – “Directors of the CIT Group, one of the nation’s leading lenders to small and midsize businesses, approved a deal Sunday evening with some of the bank’s major bondholders to help it avert a bankruptcy filing through a $3 billion emergency loan, according to people briefed on the matter.” Bullet dodged. [New York Times]
Scam victims ‘easily persuaded’ – “The scams the OFT has been highlighting range from the so-called Nigerian or advance free frauds, to bogus lotteries, fake clairvoyants and health cures, bogus investments and crooked racing tipsters.” Nigerian emails do have a certain charming prose that is difficult to resist. [BBC]
Sweden’s SEB bank posts 2Q loss – No doubt had some exposure to the Latvian souls brokers [AP via Miami Herald]
Charles Schwab denies Cuomo’s fraud allegations – “Charles Schwab Corp, the largest U.S. online brokerage, denied allegations by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of civil fraud in its marketing and sale of Auction Rate Securities (ARS).” Also, some less serious charges include running commercials with creepy half-human, half-cartoons moving and talking seriously about their depleted 401(k)s. [Reuters]
Evidence shows there’s no such thing as ‘recession-proof’ jobs – Bankruptcy lawyers might be the lone exception. Good luck getting into that. [Chicago Tribune]

Microsoft and Yahoo Return to Shamelessly Flirting in Front of Everyone

In rumored merger talk news, apparently Microsoft and Yahoo have started playing footsie again which annoys the living crap out of us. According to Bits Blog:

A handful of top Microsoft executives are in Silicon Valley meeting with their Yahoo counterparts to try to iron out remaining wrinkles in a proposed partnership, according to people briefed on the talks who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

Get it over with you two! T. Boone Pickens isn’t cock-blocking anymore so you don’t have any excuses. We’d all really prefer if you just got down to biznass instead of flirting in front of everyone and then saying that you’re not interested in each other. Nobody is buying it.
Yahoo and Microsoft Said to Be Closer to Search Deal [Bits via DealBook]

Scoping | 07.17.09

paulson2.jpgWhat’s email? – Paulson doesn’t use it, thanks for asking. Next question. [FT Alphaville]
Bank of America Posts a Profit on Trading Gains – “Bank of America, one of the nation’s largest and most troubled banks, announced on Friday a $3.2 billion second-quarter profit, a figure that exceeded analyst expectations.” Ken Lewis will be starting happy hour a little earlier than usual on this Friday. Circa now. [New York Times]
Citigroup profit soars on Smith Barney sale – “Citi’s profit was not driven by improved trading like other banks, and instead came from the gain on the sale of its Smith Barney unit and the increasing values of some of its riskier assets that had plunged during the credit crisis. The New York-based bank recorded an after-tax gain of $6.7 billion on the sale of a majority stake in its Smith Barney brokerage unit to Morgan Stanley.” Selling profitable assets usually ends up looking good. This should not be surprising. [AP via Miami Herald]

Review Comments | 07.16.09

Lawmakers End Questioning Of Sotomayor – “The Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up Thursday its questioning of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Republican senators asked Sotomayor again whether she would rule on cases based on her beliefs, and she assured them she would apply the law and court precedent.” [NPR]
Donaldson, Levitt Back FASB Off-balance-sheet Rules – “An ‘investors’ working group’ co-chaired by former Securities and Exchange Commission heads William Donaldson and Arthur Levitt Jr. has called for new Financial Accounting Standards Board rules on off-balance-sheet transactions and securitizations to be implemented ‘without delay.'” Without delay to the FASB means, sometime before the next decade. [CFO.com]
Jamie Dimon on CIT’s Troubles – Natch, he’s cool with them biting the dust [DealBook]

UBS Names Needed so We Can Pay for Healthcare Otherwise We’ll Have to Print More Money

obama_point.jpg“Rich people, I want your money.”
No, seriously. Hand it over.
We’ve covered the failure (so far) of the IRS to get UBS to name names on 52,000 Americans and we’ve heard some good suggestions but maybe chocolate isn’t what the Service is interested in.
The House passed a pricey healthcare proposal yesterday and B to the O wanted it to be “budget neutral” which means, “We’re in a deep hole you clowns. Don’t make it deeper.”
Charged with said task, they went to a cocktail party got to work and came up with a solution that they super-duper rich will foot the bill via taxes. That means, IRS, get your shit together, because Nancy Pelosi has had enough of rich people, that aren’t her, not paying their fair share of taxes. Swiss bank account holders beware, here are the gory details that you’ll be getting in on if your name gets dropped:

Under the $1.2 trillion plan passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, the wealthiest 1.2 percent of U.S. households would have to pay an additional $540 billion in taxes over the next 10 years via an income surtax of between 1 and 5.4 percent. For the super-elite, those in the top 10th of 1 percent (and presumably the type of taxpayers who have Swiss bank accounts), that works out to an additional $280,000 a year in taxes on an average annual income of $2.3 million a year, according to the Tax Policy Center.

So basically it looks as though the IRS needs to close the tax gap because…wait for it…there’s shit to pay for! We’re not slapping healthcare on the Federal Reserve credit card, no, no. Right here and now we start paying for stuff out of our own pockets. So get on these Swiss banks and get the names because they’re avoiding their patriotic duty.
Obama’s self-defeating war on the wealthy [James Pethokoukis/Reuters]

Vampire Squid, Broken Down

For you viewing pleasure, FT Alphaville has provided some illustrations so that we might better conceptualize Matt Taibbi’s labeling of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”, which still makes us wince.
All we’ll say is that includes Darth Vader so that makes it worth a look.
Vampire squid, illustrated edition [FT Alphaville]

Scoping | 07.16.09

JPMorgan Earnings Soar as It Finds Profit in Slump – “Even as it weathers the worst economic downturn in decades, JPMorgan Chase on Thursday announced a $2.7 billion second-quarter profit from stellar trading and investment banking results.” BO-NUS! BO-NUS! BO-NUS! [New York Times]
U.S. Regulators to BofA: Obey or Else – “Bank of America Corp. is operating under a secret regulatory sanction that requires it to overhaul its board and address perceived problems with risk and liquidity management, according to people familiar with the situation.” Obviously the FDIC’s idea of double-secret probation. [WSJ]
Citi close to secret deal with regulator – Wow! What a co-inky-dink! Citi is on double-secret probation too! [FT.com]

Review Comments | 07.15.09

US to unveil hedge fund legislation – “The Obama administration will on Wednesday unveil draft legislation that will require all US hedge funds with more than $30m in assets under management to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” You knew it was coming. [FT.com]
Private Equity Industry Says It Poses No Systemic Risk – “The private equity industry’s main lobbying group said Wednesday it supported legislation that would require all firms of a certain size to register as investment advisers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but urged lawmakers to avoid onerous regulations.” [DealBook]
Fed Upgrades Economic Projections, but Expect Worse Unemployment – Minutes did not show the over/under of minutes it takes for Hank Paulson’s dismembering of all the members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing tomorrow. [WSJ]

The Convergence Debate, Already Geeky, About to Get Geekier

Academics in the U.S. aren’t too psyched about the benefits of IFRS, according to Compliance Week:

The United States already meets a high level of reporting quality relative to other countries as a result of various “institutional features,” said [Peter] Wysocki [Professor at MIT]. Those include things like an active investor and analyst community, a rigorous audit process, and oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission, among others, he said.
“It’s a little difficult to argue a move to IFRS will result in significant improvement in reporting quality,” Wysocki said. “We’re already at a high level because we already have those institutional features in place.

The debate over convergence has reached Biggie/Tupac fever and now that U.S. GAAP has got American bookworms shouting about how IFRS isn’t all that, we expect that academics on the other side of the pond will get involved and the debate will get fiercely geekier.
Academics: Move to IFRS Won’t Boost Reporting Quality [Compliance Week]

Figuring it was About Time, the SEC Closes Tyco Case

Invoking their continuing motto of “Better Late Than Never”, the SEC closed the Tyco case today as Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz agreed to be banned from serving as directors or officers of a public company. The timing of this ban comes as a bit of surprise since these guys have been in jail since 2005 but we are talking about the SEC.

Since Bernie Madoff has a much longer sentence than the Tyco twins, the Commission will figure there’s no rush and he’ll retain his rights to serve as a director/officer until around 2020.

Settlement Ends S.E.C. Case Two From Tyco [DealBook/NYT]

Paulson: I Ordered the Code Red

paulson2.jpgBig day tomorrow for Hank Paulson as he finally gets to set the record straight re: Ken Lewis’s kneecaps. Our feeling is the threatening of bank CEO’s while taking a leisurely bike ride is second nature for Colonel Jessup Paulson and he probably doesn’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to. But since you clowns at Oversight and Government Reform went ahead and called the big guy to testify, he’ll humor you just this once:

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson plans to tell lawmakers he acted appropriately in warning Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis that the firm’s management could be ousted if it walked away from its deal to buy Merrill Lynch, saying such a move would have suggested a “colossal lack of judgment.”

We’re done here.
Paulson: Comments to BofA’s Lewis ‘Were Appropriate’ [WSJ]

SEC Promises to Suck Less Post-Madoff

140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngIt what amounts to a serious case of too little, too late, the SEC says that it will do more to protect investors in the wake of the Madoff scandal.
M. Schape and Co. would like you all (House Financial Services Committee) to know that they have been busy though. Working late. Working weekends. Working hard:

regulatory proposals include restricting short-selling in down markets, strengthening oversight of mutual funds, tightening scrutiny of investment advisers and making it easier for shareholders to seat directors on company boards. The S.E.C. is also working to identify emerging risks to investors, including so-called dark pools, or automated trading systems that do not publicly provide price quotes, Ms. Schapiro said.

See? Doesn’t that make you feel better? We’re the SEC, getting better at being less clueless since 2009.
S.E.C. Plans to Protect Investors More Post-Madoff [DealBook/NYT]

Scoping | 07.15.09

Young ‘depressed’ about money – Has everyone forgotten that spending makes us happy?!? C’mon people! Go out there and get pre-approved on something! [BBC]
Judge won’t drop charge vs ex-Bear Stearns exec – “A U.S. judge refused on Tuesday to dismiss an insider-trading charge against former Bear Stearns hedge fund manager Ralph Cioffi, court documents showed.” [Reuters]
Franklin drops out of group eyeing AIG unit: source – “AIG’s asset management business had drawn interest from both private equity and strategic buyers, sources told Reuters previously. Initial bids for the unit had come in around $500 million but it has taken the company several months to work out a deal.” [Reuters]

Review Comments | 07.14.09

HSBC Sued Over $578 Million ‘Fake’ Profit From Madoff – Simply stated, clawbacks are a bitch. [Bloomberg]
House Health Bill Slaps 5.4% Tax on Top Earners – “House Democrats Tuesday proposed new taxes on the wealthy to help fund an expansion of government health benefits. But the bill also includes a mechanism to peel back the tax increases if the revenue isn’t needed to fund the bill.” [WSJ]
IASB promotes ‘fair value’ rule change – “A radical shake-up of how banks and insurers report the value of financial instruments has been proposed by international accounting rule-setters in a bold attempt to resolve an intense dispute at the heart of efforts to prevent a repeat of credit crisis.” Don’t hold your breath on this. Banks won’t be down for it. [FT.com]

The SEC Has Now Mastered the Art of Stating the Obvious

140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngAnother press release from the SEC today stating how they’ve thwarted yet another Ponzi scheme.
Ponzis being the norm lately we’re not terribly impressed by this but what we did find surprising was the title of the Commission’s press release: “SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases” (that’s our emphasis).
Is the Commission making the assumption that those individuals that are actually reading the press releases need informed about what the money stolen is actually used for? Seriously, Bernie and Big Al don’t strike us Robin Hood types, even before indictments were handed out. No where in Bern’s statement at sentencing did he state:

Your honor, I’ve become increasingly despondent about the wealth gap in this country. I stole from the wealthiest individuals, investment companies, and charities possible in order to help the people that couldn’t help themselves. It was not my intention to take all my clients’ money. I merely wanted to level the playing field. I thought this method would be most effective as opposed to raising tax rates on the rich, which I’m personally opposed to.

Didn’t hear that did you? Let’s break this down: Bernie liked handjobs(and God knows what else, shudder) and Aston Martins. Stan liked doing bumps off hookers’ asses (we’re guessing here) and buying cricket teams (this is documented).
We will give the credit to the Commission for busting another scofflaw but we would now advise that knowing your reading audience is equally important.
SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases [SEC.gov]

Look Man, Not Even Ron Paul is Buying Your Fed Conspiracy Story, So Can We Drop it?

FatinaSalaheddineDarrellIssaUSCongressman.jpgBecause we know you haven’t gotten enough of the whole Bank of America/Merrill Lynch deal-under-duress drama, we’re happy to report that Representative Darrell Issa of California (seen at left, with, we can only assume, a constituent, not a high-priced call girl or his staffer’s wife, or his Argentinean soulmate) isn’t satisfied by B-squared’s testimony and likely won’t be satisfied with Hank “Just call me Lance Armstrong” Paulson’s testimony that is scheduled for Thursday.
No, no. Issa wants more information, “[he] wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner July 2 asking for all records surrounding an October 13 meeting and decision to use government bailout funds to buy equity in financial institutions.”
You think that’s good? He’s not done:

Issa also asked the Treasury to provide records and communications, including notes and e-mails from a range of officials, relating to the Bank of America-Merrill merger from August 1 though February 1. Issa also asked New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in a July 1 letter to provide transcripts of interviews with Paulson and any other communications with federal officials on the Bank of America-Merrill merger.

That’s right. Six months worth of emails and notes. Every single post-it that you did your best Jackie Treehorn sketch on MUST. BE. SAVED.
Issa, a believer in a Nixon-esque coverup at the behest of Bernanke, has clearly channeled his inner-Maxine Waters and will BE DAMNED if this is happening on his watch.
Lawmaker seeks more data in BofA-Merrill deal [Reuters]

Because the Other Option was to Start Hocking the Stanford Financial Shwag Received for Opening a New Account

r.jpgYour latest bit of hilarity regarding the Stanford Ponzi Party is that a group of plaintiffs is suing the government of Antigua and Barbuda for $24 billion because the island was allegedly a “full financial partner in the fraud”.
Alphaville isn’t buying it, and they not so accidently, put “Fraud Victims” in quotations which we find hilarious because it almost appears that Alphaville isn’t even buying the “victims” angle as so much as they’re buying the “morons” angle.
The post goes on to inform us that “$24bn is also 24 times Antigua’s 2008 GDP“. Which moves this particular case from the “frivolous” category to the “downright idiotic” category.
Nevertheless, one might conclude that any or all of the following is what got this thing off the ground:
1. Big Al is pulling the strings from jail in order to pay for his defense because, as we learned, he’s got no legit cash.
2. Ambulance Ponzi victim chasing attorney
3. Banana farmers in Antigua that really don’t have any alternative after getting shaken down by the EU.
So duped people are pissed and they want their money back. They have finally come to the conclusion that the original $8bil has been long ago spent on Scarface-size piles of blow and endless hours spent in houses of ill repute so they’re clutching at straws.
Our advice: Just sue the SEC already.
“Fraud victims” want $24bn from the government of Antigua and Barbuda [FT Alphaville]

Scoping | 07.14.09

maxine waters.jpgLawyer Gets 20 Years in $700 Million Fraud – We’ve heard that Butner is lovely this time of year. [New York Times]
Credit Swaps Investigated by U.S. Justice Department – We’re quite this is occurring at the behest of Maxine Waters because banning CDS is the only logical solution to solving this economic crisis. [Bloomberg]
Goldman executives sold $700m of stock – If there’s anything that Maxine Waters loves hating on more than CDS it’s L to the B and Goldman Sachs. BON-US! BON-US! BON-US! [FT.com]

Review Comments | 07.13.09

US budget deficit at $1 trillion – But the trade deficit is at a nine year low. Hoo-RAH! [BBC]
Ronald Crawford Named SEC’s First Chief Counsel For Diversity Initiatives – Because M Schape’s troops are sick of talking about stuff they don’t do right, they needed to make an announcement that wouldn’t have anything to do with actual watch-dogginess. [SEC.gov]
Even in Downturn, a London Banker’s Party Goes On – Even Homer Simpson has said, “It’s a party. It doesn’t have to make sense” [DealBook/NYT]

Madoff’s New Digs in North Carolina?

chicago-mls-jail.jpgBernie Madoff is “in transit” to prison per a story at Bloomberg. The story’s source was a spokesman from the Federal Correctional Institute in Otisville, NY, where the Master de Ponz requested to be housed.
CNBC has reported that he will serve his sentence in Butner, NC.
Butner has two lovely medium security facilities and one posh low security facility so it’s def not FPMITA prison but it’s not the cushy dorm-style and we would speculate that inmates are only allowed to use sporks at chow time and use Lucky Strikes to buy Juicy Fruit and other luxuries.
Bernard Madoff ‘In Transit’ to Prison, Spokesman Says [Bloomberg]

Jack Welch is Not Buying the Whole Work-Life Balance Thing

art.welch.cnn.jpgJack Welch, who is increasingly looking like Gollum these days, has been quoted saying that there is no such thing as “work-life” balance only “work-life choices”, according to a story in the Wall St. Journal.
The quotes were in context of women who choose between spending time with family and those that want to “reach the top” but you gents aren’t immune.
Accounting firms are constantly selling “work-life balance” as a priority but we’ll take Welch’s comments as gospel here since, nothing we’ve seen or heard makes us believe otherwise.
So next time you get the work-life rhetoric, you’ve got some published material for your back up your “I call bullshit” argument. You’re welcome.
Welch: ‘No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance’ [WSJ]

Stanford CFO Enters Not Guilty Plea, To Plead Guilty Soon Enough

As expected, James Davis, Stanford Financial’s Chief Number-Maker-Upper has entered his not guilty plea but his counsel has stated that his client will plead guilty to all the charges against him as early as next week. The initial plea has been made in order to finalize the plea agreement with Davis prior to his pleading guilty
This is all occurring while Stan the Man’s attorneys are in New Orleans appealing a Houston judge’s ruling that he has to pump iron in prison throughout his trial. Stan’s attorneys continue to maintain that their client is NOT a flight risk, which is kinda like saying that Bernie Madoff is NOT in jail.
Ex-Stanford CFO to plead guilty within 2 weeks: lawyer [Reuters]

Going Concern is Not Immune to the Michael Jackson Circus

1.michael_jackson_71246050015.jpgWe’ve been able to avoid the whole Michael Jackson debacle up until now. We couldn’t, in good blogging conscience, avoid this particular story.
The estate of Michael Jackson is probably going to have to turn over at least $80 million to the IRS and they get to cut the line right to the front to collect.
“As in a bankruptcy case, Jackson’s creditors will jockey for first crack at his fortune. But the estate’s initial obligation will be to pay the late star’s taxes, said Beth Kaufman, a Washington-based attorney specializing in estate tax issues. ‘There is no question that the U.S. government has first priority,’ she said.
Oh, and the Service is not going to take the royalty rights to She Loves You or I am the Walrus either:

To settle his tax bill, the executors of his estate may have to sell or borrow against lucrative but hard-to-value assets or ask the IRS for a multi-year extension. That could allow the estate to pay the tab over time with earnings from Jackson’s share in rights to songs by the Beatles and his own music — prized properties whose value will likely make the estate’s tax bill only bigger. “The government is not going to take a Beatles record as payment. They want to be paid in cash,” said Roy Kozupsky, a veteran estate lawyer in New York who has worked on behalf of several wealthy clients.

Reportedly, Jackson still made $40 million a year from his ownership of the recordings. This will no doubt make the calculation of the tax bill more complicated and thus, we’ll continue to be saturated with all the excruciating details about this story that we just don’t want to hear.
Death and taxes: Big IRS bill looms for MJ estate [AP via TaxProf Blog]

Scoping | 07.13.09

Stage Set For Sotomayor’s Confirmation Hearings – “As hearings begin, many observers believe only a major blunder could halt the 54-year-old federal appeals court judge’s march toward becoming the first Hispanic, and just the third woman, to sit on the nation’s mightiest bench.” [NPR]
CIT Group Scrambles to Survive, Avoid a Run – Here we go again? [WSJ]
Bank of America Said to Balk at Paying Backstop Fee – “Regulators contend Bank of America owes at least part of a $4 billion fee it agreed to pay in January — even without a completed legal document — because the company benefited from implied U.S. backing on about $118 billion of Merrill Lynch assets, such as mortgage-backed bonds, people familiar with the matter said.” [Bloomberg]

Review Comments | 07.09.09

Economists Oppose More Stimulus – Your rebuttal, Professor Krugman [WSJ]
Fed’s Bullard Says He Doesn’t See Economic Recovery Faltering – “We are going to have just the right policy to get the right inflation rate,” Bullard said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. “I do not buy into the stories about the Fed making a mistake one way or the other going forward.” You got a like a guy with confidence I guess [Bloomberg]
Madoff Trustee Says 15,400 Claims Were Filed – “The final tally of claims from victims of Bernard L. Madoff’s vast Ponzi scheme comes to more than 15,400, up from 8,800 claims filed at the end of June, according to an update provided on Thursday to the federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan.” Who’s putting this off? Did some just hear about this story? Not at the top of the do list to call Irv Picard and say “yeah, we had some cash in there”? [DealBook/NYT]

Michael Moore’s Next Child Movie Has a Name

The Michael Moore documentary that has been so feverishly anticipated now has a title: Capitalism: A Love Story.
For those of you not so familiar with Moore’s work, you can basically expect convenient statistics for Moore’s position and not-so-flattering footage of rich guys who might had a hand in some of the collapse. Master de Ponz, Prince Ponz, Angelo Mozilo, Joe Cassano, anyone whoever worked at a hedge fund, etc.
Michael Moore names his new economy themed film [New York Daily News]

Sweden, Probably Not Too Keen on Human Souls as Collateral, to Write Down Latvian Debt

800px-Flag_of_Sweden.pngIn what could be the most sensible reaction by bankers in quite some time, Sweden is writing down debt held by individuals in Latvia.
This move by the Swedes occurs, not so surprisingly, after the revelation that Latvian bankers were acting as soul brokers.
Swedbank, which is entirely made up of tall, stunningly attractive blondes that only purchase inexpensive, self-assembled furniture, stated that approximately 10% of the loans held by Latvian individuals would be written down, leaving many Latvian souls at risk of repossession by the Princes of Darkness Latvian Bankers.
Swedish Banks Prepare Latvian Debt Write-Down [DealBook/NYT]

A Job That You Probably Don’t Want: Citigroup CFO

200px-Citigroup.png Don’t mind if Uncle Sam is up in your biznass 24/7? Thrive in a thankless atmosphere? KPMG is your favorite Big 4 firm? We know that you don’t sleep. Job is yours.
The bastions of financial responsibility at Citigroup have announced a new CFO, the second in four months. The lucky SOB is John Gerspach who got the bump from Controller. Best of luck John. Now how about those dividend checks?
Citigroup Names Gerspach CFO; Kelly Shifted to Strategy Role [Bloomberg]

Scoping | 07.09.09

Dollar Will Remain World’s Main Reserve Currency – Sayeth Robert Gibbs, Obama mouthpiece. But there’s more, “‘There are a lot of people that have talked about it, but we don’t think that’s really serious,’ U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said”. Hear that? Not serious! Wa-hoo! GO TEAM AMERICA! [Bloomberg]
GM Will Exit Bankruptcy With $48 Billion in Debt – This will be the “new” GM. The “old” GM will get “unwanted assets, including contaminated factory sites, a parking lot in Flint, Michigan, and a nine-hole golf course in New Jersey.” Sounds like a winner! [Bloomberg]
U.S. jobless claims drop steeply – Calm down. It’s new jobless claims. It’s not like the unemployed are finding work. [Reuters]

Review Comments | 07.08.09

Six charged in shares fraud case – “Six employees of the Wall Street firm Sky Capital Holdings have been charged with carrying out a $140m (£87m) investment fraud in the US and Britain.” [BBC]
AIG in talks with MetLife over Alico – In case you didn’t hear, AIG owes some money [FT.com]
Hedge Fund Buys Buffett Lunch A Year After Losing 66% – Guess they really need some pointers from the Oracle. [Clusterstock]

WSJ: Entrepreneurs Win Tax Case Versus IRS

two thumbs up.jpegGet some coffee, we’re about to talk some tax law…
In a major win for small businesses, a U.S. Tax Court ruled in favor of farmers in Nebraska who claimed that losses from their LLC were not “passive” as the IRS has been arguing for years.
As a result of the ruling, losses from investments in LLP’s and LLC’s held by active participants will be allowed to offset said individual’s personal and investment income.
Prior to the ruling some losses were being carried forward for years until the investment produced a profit or was sold and because the case was heard in U.S. Tax Court, the ruling applies to all states.
The IRS, as always, seems to have outs. Sayeth the Journal, “The agency could appeal the Tax Court ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. It also could try to get Congress to change the law or try a new strategy to maintain the status quo.”
Okay, we made it through that…
Entrepreneurs Win Tax Case Versus IRS [WSJ]

Swiss Gov’t: You Want the Names? You’ll Have to Waterboard Us.

ubs.jpgWith only days until a showdown between the IRS and UBS, the Swiss Government has announced that it will stop the release of the 52,000 client names even if the U.S. Court orders the names to be released.
Now before you say, “Oh, Swiss Government, you’re so cute with your braided blonde hair and neutrality,” they sound pretty serious:

“Switzerland makes it perfectly clear that Swiss law prohibits UBS from complying with a possible order by the court in Miami to hand over the client information,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said. “On the basis of the Federal Council’s landmark decision, UBS will by no means be in a position to comply with such an order.” The Finance Ministry added that “all the necessary measures should be taken to prevent UBS from handing over the information on the 52,000 account holders demanded in the U.S. civil proceeding.”

We really feel that a few Toblerones would really go a long way to convincing the IRS that the names aren’t really that important. Just say the word IRS and we’re sure that they can make it happen.
Switzerland: Will Block UBS From Giving U.S. Client Data [WSJ]

H&R Block Suggests That You Start Saving Receipts

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgH&R Block announced yesterday that it expects the IRS to get less kind and gentle in the coming years as the Service attempts to close the $345 billion tax gap.
The announcement states that the IRS is nearly doubling its budget for next year and that last year, 1 in 99 individual tax returns were audited as compared to 1 in 202 in 2000.
Maybe the Democrats do want all our money…
Audits Double This Decade [H&R Block Press Release]

BKD Makes a Move, Albeit a Small One

bkd.gifNot sure how we missed this but whatevs. BKD made a move on a local Dallas firm, KBA Group LLP on June 1.
BKD will add eight partners, 95 employees, and approximately $16 million in revenues to its business.
According to AccountingWEB, “This expansion will allow BKD to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Texas market as it serves clients from its offices in Houston, San Antonio, and now Dallas.” Sounds like a BKD press release but if you say so…Enjoy the new boss, KBA!
BKD announces merger with Dallas-based KBA Group [AccountingWEB]

Scoping | 07.08.09

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgSwitzerland thwarts US tax deal – The Swiss Government is not down for any kind of deal. They figured offering Toblerones was the best they could do so now they want the IRS to drop it. [BBC]
Apple’s Disclosures on Jobs Said to Be Subject of SEC Review – “Apple Inc.’s disclosures about Steve Jobs’s health remain under scrutiny by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators over how his condition went from ‘relatively simple’ to “more complex” in nine days, said a person familiar with the matter.” [Bloomberg]
In California, Even the I.O.U’s Are Owed – “The only thing worse than being issued an i.o.u. rather than a check from the State of California may be not getting the i.o.u. at all — at least in time to meet the deadline of your bank.” Keep it up Cali and we’ll take your beaches away. [New York Times]

Review Comments | 07.07.09

Oil Price to Match Record $147 in Three Years, Pickens Says – And he says in ten years it will be $300 a barrel. Anyone listening? We didn’t think so [Bloomberg]
Pope Calls for New Economic Structure – Shit your holiness, you want the job? [Washington Post]
Greenberg’s Starr Prevails in AIG Court Fight – “A jury on Tuesday rejected claims that a sister company to American International Group Inc., at the direction of Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, AIG’s former chief executive, improperly seized control of millions of shares of the insurer’s stock.” [WSJ]

Partners at Grant Thornton are Just Getting Lazy

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGGrant Thornton is really making our lives easy today: “Grant Thornton has agreed to pay nearly £6,000 in fines and costs after it failed to correctly sign off 43 audit reports.”
Measly fine, obv but 43 audit reports? And a incorrectly signed off report is one that, “had not been signed off by a responsible individual of the firm”.
So apparently the Brits have got their interns signing off on the audits. Gold star for you today, GT.
ICAEW fines Grant Thornton over audit sign-offs [Accountancy Age]

Your Daily (Seems Like It Anyway) New Ponzi Scheme Update

The SEC alleges that from at least June 2006 through January 2009, Provident [Royalties, LLC] made a series of fraudulent securities offerings involving oil and gas assets through 21 affiliated entities to more than 7,700 investors throughout the United States. Provident’s entities made some direct retail sales of securities, but primarily solicited retail broker-dealers to enter into placement agreements for each offering, and those retail broker-dealers sold the stock to retail investors nationwide.

Dudes were promising 18% returns and that 85% of funds would be invested in “interests in oil and gas real estate, leases, mineral rights, and interests, exploration and development.” SEC alleges that less than 50% of the funds received were used for such investments.
SEC Obtains Asset Freeze in $485 Million Nationwide Offering Fraud [SEC.gov]

Someone is Getting Testy

r.jpgAllen Stanford is pissed. How on Earth can a man with those guns not be allowed to invoke his rights to counsel if you don’t let him get his mitts on some cash?
We’re not talking about a public defender here, judge. We’re talking downtown, probably wears a Stetson to the courthouse, Houston representation we’re talking about. Serious scratch.
“‘The government’s unfettered, and thus far successful, attempts to prevent Mr. Stanford from being able to mount a defence in his criminal proceedings amount to a deprivation of both his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,’ attorney Dick DeGuerin argued in in the filing.”
The judge is like, IDGAF: “Judge [David] Godbey replied to – and denied – that request last week, saying Sir Allen had ‘not shown that he has $10m dollars, or any lesser amount, in personal assets untainted by potential fraud.'”
Fine, but Stan would just like you to know that selling tickets to the gun show inside the joint doesn’t work the cons like it does the fine Texas ladies.
Stanford lashes out at federal prosecutors [FT.com]

SEC to Try and Get Less Bureaucratic, Miss Less Fraud

140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngDeciding that it was about time they got their shit together, the SEC announced today that it is reorganizing its enforcement division. The reorganization will eliminate supervisory positions in order to reduce bureaucracy and help speed up response to potential fraud.
Before the proposed changes, the Commission had been utilizing the opposite approach.
A few details because we know you’re craving them:

The overhaul unveiled this week dissolves the division’s lowest and largest tier of supervisors, the branch managers who oversee small teams of attorneys, the people said. Some may become front-line investigators; others may be elevated to assistant directors. Assistants, who currently supervise about 18 people each, would instead oversee only six. A plan to create specialist teams, using a similar management structure, is still being refined, [sources] said.

We’ll also note that the new Enforcement Director, Robert Khuzami, said the new “specialist teams” will help detect “patterns” more easily. Khuzami also noted that this brilliant plan was being kicked around before the whole Madoff thing, thankyouverymuch.
SEC Said to Reorganize Enforcement Unit, Trim Management Ranks [Bloomberg]

Hey California, Bank of America was Just Joking About Taking the IOU’s

california.gifLast week we told you about Bank of America doing California a solid by taking the busted state’s IOU’s. Well, the banks had the holiday weekend to think about it and after some barbecue, beers, and shooting roman candles at Ken Lewis, they pretty much decided that they weren’t so cool with the idea.
“A group of the biggest U.S. banks said they would stop accepting California’s IOUs on Friday, adding pressure on the state to close its $26.3 billion annual budget gap.”
Included in “biggest U.S. Banks” just happened to be BofA.
Turns out Bank of America had their fingers crossed all along because 1) There must have been talk about Cali’s so called “good word” over the grill; and 2) Ken Lewis was completely serious about getting the interest paid back in bourbon.
Big Banks Don’t Want California’s IOUs [WSJ]

Scoping | 07.07.09

U.S. House May Include Surtax on Wealthy in Health-Care Package – In this particular case, wealthy means greater than $200k [Bloomberg]
Obama Adviser Says U.S. Should Mull Second Stimulus – Because you knew it was coming [Bloomberg via Clusterstock]
NOT THE BAIR MINIMUM – She Bair might be playing in somebody else’s sandbox [New York Post]

Review Comments | 07.06.09

New GM to Be ‘Fully Launched’ This Month, Rattner Says – “A new company containing General Motors Corp.’s top assets is expected to be ‘fully launched’ by month’s end under a new board and majority ownership of the U.S. and Canadian governments, President Barack Obama’s top auto adviser said Monday.” [WSJ]
California Downgraded By Fitch – This could be the beginning of something bad…Moody’s, your move. [Clusterstock]
Tribune Said to Finalize Deal to Sell Cubs – The new era of losing begins. [DealBook/NYT]

‘Hannibal’ Scrushy is Accused of Hiding Assets


richard_scrushy.jpg
Because the entire blogosphere/media is still suffering from a serious 4th of July cocktail flu, we’ll jump back on HealthSouth briefly.
Richard Scrushy, whom former CFO Aaron Beam said he would take over Hannibal Lecter (uncanny resemblance) in a fight, has been accused of HealthSouth Corp of hiding assets in order to avoid paying down some of the $2.8-odd billion that he was ordered to pay to the company after the civil proceeding.
HealthSouth says that Scrushy has $600 million in offshore accounts plus real estate in other people’s names that should be turned over. Scrushy, who we understand is held behind glass, did not comment other than that he def recommends Chianti with liver.
HealthSouth accuses Scrushy of hiding assets [AP via Miami Herald]

CFO Confession: HealthSouth Edition

It might be a fair statement that we like to talk a little trash here at Going Concern. We do our best to embrace our natural inclination. However, every once in awhile we try to spread some positive news.
Today’s attempt at a positive story comes courtesy of Aaron Beam, a former CFO at HealthSouth. Beam was CFO at HealthSouth when the fraud first began in 1996. Beam describes his decision to make the numbers up this way, “one night, during the second quarter of ’96, I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and we credited revenue that did not exist and we debited assets that did not exist.”
Not exactly the most sophisticated fraud in the world but whatevs. The Street and Richard Scrushy demanded results.
And so it went, until Beam left in 1997. HealthSouth continued to commit accounting fraud until 2002 when it imploded. Beam testified against “Hannibal Lecter” Scrushy but the slimeball walked on the criminal charges only to be found liable for damages to the tidy sum of a shade under $2.9 Billion.
As for Beam, he spent 3 months in a non-FPMITA prison and now speaks to business students around the country about ethics and has a lawn-service business.

I’m trying to turn a big negative into a positive, because there is such a need for ethics in the business world today, and I’m in a unique position to talk about it. If we can teach college students that they’re going to face these kinds of temptations every day in the business world, we can make a difference.

WTG man, and hey, we’re being serious.
“I Should Have Said No.” [CFO.com]

BBC: Grant Thornton is Scheming for the Rich People

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGOkay, so large accounting firms don’t have the best reputations. They also have the tendency to be thick as thieves when they come under scrutiny. And the green eyeshade look has never been one that screams trustworthy.
But now, in what might be a bit of presumptuous awesomeness, the BBC is coming right out and calling Grant Thornton’s Growth Securities Ownership Plan (GSOP) a scheme. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions but the subtitle doesn’t strike us as being subtle: “A big accountancy firm has denied that it has been peddling a tax avoidance scheme to help rich people avoid paying the new 50% income tax rate from 2010.
Let’s break some of the key words and phrases down:
Peddling: Use of this word basically implies that narcotics are involved
Tax Avoidance Scheme: Implies a conspiracy of smart people to screw the tax authority on behalf of…
Rich People: Not the best time in history to be lumped into this particular demographic
WTG, G to the T. Not only are you trying to screw the taxing authority in Britain by virtue of the equivalent of slinging financial smack, you’ve got the audacity to do it on the behalf of rich people.
Accountants deny ‘new tax dodge’ [BBC]

Latvian Bankers Figure That Your Immortal Soul Will Work as Collateral

Latvian bankers apparently have some super-cosmic powers that have yet to be harnessed by others in the finance industry because they are taking peoples’ souls as collateral.
Call us skeptical but Latvian bankers would be the last members of the banking community to be the recipients of a Mortal Kombat-esque finishing move that would be reaped upon borrowers that turn out to be deadbeats.
If Matt Taibbi is to believed (and why wouldn’t he? He works at Rolling Stone after all), then this practice is obviously something that Goldman Sachs has already considered and Blankfein and Co. have utimately decided that bringing hellish powers to earth will just have to wait.
Would you pledge your soul as loan collateral? [Reuters via FT Alphaville]

Scoping | 07.06.09

•GM bankruptcy plan gains approval – Because anything less might get you a meeting with the President. [BBC]
•A Goldman trading scandal? – “On July 4, Aleynikov was processed on a ‘theft of trade secrets’ charge in a criminal complaint that was filed in federal court in Manhattan. As of this afternoon, he was still being held in federal custody pending posting of bail.” Someone is messing with GS? This aggression will not stand, obv. [Matthew Goldstein/Reuters]
•Stanford Funneled Millions Under Florida’s Nose – “But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from the state of Florida, which would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore, without reporting a penny to regulators. He got it.” Because if any state was going to be good for a little shady dealing with a Texas billionaire of questionable means, it would be F-L-A. [DealBook/NYT]