September 15, 2019

Firms

BDO Is Not Impressed with KPMG’s Business Tactics in Brazil

BDO announced a new member firm in Brazil today because…well, KPMG kindasorta poached their last one. Well, BDO Global CEO Jeremy Newman has had it up to here (i.e. eye-level) and wanted to point out that A) this not uncommon:

“BDO is not the first firm to have suffered as a result of our larger competitors using their dominant financial position to buy market share and we have expressed our concerns about this in BDO’s recent submission to the European Commission’s Green Paper on the role of the audit profession,” said Newman.

B) this is some shady dealings:

“These tactics are not driven by client needs but by one firm’s wish to buy market share and presumably achieve further economies of scale. We are concerned that when one firm looks to dominate it reduces choice for clients and leaves the market worryingly dependent on just a few players.

and C) these aren’t just fightin’ words. The most interesting accounting firm in the world will be taking action:

“BDO will be lodging an objection to this deal with the Brazilian competition authorities.”

Challenge extended.

BDO lines up complaint against KPMG Brazil [Accountancy Age]

Unfounded Rumor of the Day: Grant Thornton About to Announce a ‘Big West Coast Deal’

Remember those GT/Moss Adams rumors from back in January? At the time, our post sent both firms calling for plumbers but we still mangaged to get a copy of an email from Moss Adams CEO Rick Anderson that denied the rumor in an email to the firm’s partners. Everything has been quiet since then mostly because…well, it’s busy season. Granted, firm leaders like Stephen Chipman and Rick Anderson aren’t thigh-deep in spreadsheets like most of you so the fact it’s entirely plausible that while you’re all distracted, TPTB have been courting each other.

We received this brief note from a tipster yesterday:

Rumor is [Grant Thornton] [is] about to announce big west coast deal.


Our source originally speculated that a tax/valuation/consulting boutique was the target because of an old Andersen connection but then told us that the latest word from the west coast is that Moss Adams is back in the picture. In our original post, we went over the reasons for and against the GranMoss merger and frankly it still could go either way (we’re leaning “no” at this point). That said, Grant Thornton has been on a buying spree, most recently picking up some attest services from the LECG Corp. fire sale, so a merger of some kind wouldn’t be a surprise but WHO?? We’re listening to any and all well-founded or crackpot theories.

Moss Adams has declined to comment on the rumor thus far and Grant Thornton did not return an email requesting comment.

UPDATE: This just in from a Grant Thornton tipster:

While I have no actual basis for substantiating this, we have a Moss Adams wireless signal in our office in the central region. There is no Moss Adams office in our building, or even out state, its been there since about January when the rumors first popped up. I just thought it was interesting. I have no insight into any of this, I’m just a lowly peon staff…

Perhaps there’s an explanation for this but I’m no expert on the wireless signals and whatnot so I’ll leave it to you to reason this out.

Choosing Between a Big 4 and Mid-tier Firm Part XXIII

Welcome to the upset-special edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future public accounting foot soldier has to make a decision between a Big 4 firm and “GT/BDO type firm” but is stumped on what to do and can’t find a two-sided coin anywhere. The next best solution was, obviously, emailing us.

Want to know if you’re in a dead-end job? Trying to deal with stress in the waning days of busy season? Anxious about changes in your job? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll help you pull through.

Back to the indecider:

Hi Going Concern,

I have an offer from a Big 4 and a GT/BDO type firm and am having a tough time deciding. I wanted to ask which option will be better in the long-run if I want to start in public accounting, but then might want to move to a large publicly traded tech company? I guess my question is which route would give me better exit opportunities and long-term benefits should I decide not to stay in public accounting? (If I leave, I have a good idea of where I’d like to work on the corporate side.)

1. Mid-Tier Firm experience — having taken lead on small projects by my second year, more interaction with clients etc. Having experience with mid-sized (not public) tech companies, and experience with large, public companies that are not tech companies.

2. Big 4 — staying a little more than 2 years (enough to move up to Sr. Associate level but not staying too long beyond that) – and having worked on large, public tech companies. Having the Big 4 brand name on my résumé.

Also, there’s a chance that I might enjoy staying at the Mid-Tier in the long-term, but without being sure, I want to keep my options as open as possible.

Thanks. Any advice is appreciated.

Stuck in Indecision

Dear Stuck in Indecision,

I’m impressed that you’ve managed to cover all the angles here. You could possibly like each scenario without considering what it is actually want with your career other than “might want to move to a large publicly traded tech company” or “might enjoy staying at the Mid-Tier in the long-term.” You’re basically saying that you’re up for anything – hence, ” I want to keep my options as open as possible.” Your options are open all right since you’ve committed to exactly nothing. However I’m here to help, so here goes.

To keep it brief: all things being equal, go with the Big 4 firm. Here are some details – it’s likely that you will have the opportunity to work on smaller clients at a Big 4 firm, thus giving you the chance to “take the lead.” If you also have experience working for larger, publicly-traded companies (not as likely at a mid-tier), your experience will be more vast and allow you decide what it is you actually want to do (because, at this point in time, you don’t seem to have a clue). GT, BDO, McGladrey et al. are fine firms but you have a Big 4 offer – take it. You didn’t mention the people (a big selling point at most firms) so I’ll assume you’re indifferent or that they were all equal on this front. The network you build in a Big 4 firm will benefit you the long run and the experience will as well. Just don’t expect your firm to do well in “cool” contests. Good luck.

Chief Audit Executives Like Sarbanes-Oxley…No, They Really Like It

A new survey of more than 300 chief audit executives (CAEs) by Grant Thornton LLP finds that while nearly half believe that the shifting regulatory landscape poses the greatest threat to their company, a vast majority (88%) do not believe that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) should be repealed. Of those that believe SOX should be repealed, the cost of compliance is the main reason for doing so. “Since the passage of SOX, organizations have had to dedicate significant resources to comply with a host of new laws and regulations,” noted Warren Stippich, a Chicago-based partner and Grant Thornton’s national Governance, Risk and Compliance solution leader. “Based on discussions with various CAEs during the survey process, many believe that SOX brings a continued focus by management on financial and governance-related controls. However, CAEs believe that compliance audit processes are now well-defined and are currently exploring ways to contribute value creation to the organization well beyond compliance monitoring and reporting.” [GT]

BDO’s Tax Shelter Team Was Known as the ‘Wolf Pack’

I figured you guys should know that.

Ex-CEO Denis Field’s trial for his alleged lead-wolf role in the tax shelter case started last week, while the rest of his fellow wolves – Michael Kerekes, Adrian Dicker, Charles Bee Jr. and Robert Greisman – all pleaded guilty back in 2009.

Led by Field, BDO Seidman was one of the most aggressive tax-shelter marketers, starting in the late 1990s. Inside the firm, the tax-shelter team was known as the “wolf pack.” Field became CEO of the firm in 2000. Tax services accounted for nearly half of BDO Seidman’s $420 million in U.S. revenues in 2002, up from 28 percent in 1998.

Ex-chief executive of BDO Seidman on trial in tax-shelter case [CT]

Did Prosecutors Bungle Their Case Against BDO’s Former CEO?

Maybe! Denis Field’s lawyers certainly aren’t amused with the tactics:

Denis Field, ex-CEO of BDO Seidman, the world’s fifth largest accounting firm, claims Manhattan prosecutors intimidated his former firm into curtailing and eventually cutting off payments to his lawyers. In recently filed court papers, he claims that the government deprived him of his constitutional right to counsel and seeks dismissal of the case.

Field alleges that among other tactics, prosecutors threatened to indict the firm if it kept funding his defense. During a hearing on Thursday, U.S. Judge William Pauley III of the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over the case, closely questioned prosecutors about the accusations. A ruling is expected soon.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Back in 2007, the very same prosecutors – Stanley Okula and Shirah Neiman – pulled a similar stunt, “convincing” KPMG not to pay the legal fees for the partners and employees that were facing criminal charges for their roles in the firm’s tax shelter schemes:

That case was thrown out in 2007 after U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan found that prosecutors had improperly “coerced” KPMG into cutting off the legal fees of 13 former KPMG partners and employees. “KPMG refused to pay because the government held the proverbial gun to its head,” Kaplan wrote.

Two of the prosecutors called out by Judge Kaplan — Stanley Okula and Shirah Neiman — have also been involved in the Field case, a fact that is prominently noted by Field’s lawyers in their motion to dismiss. “The reason for the government’s conduct is obvious — as with KPMG, the prosecutors believed BDO ‘should not pay the fees’ of allegedly culpable individuals,” Field’s lawyers argue. They cited the KPMG case no fewer than 50 times in their brief.

So it appears that Okula and Neiman aren’t much for personal reflection and may have pulled out the proverbial gun again. But they’re making a case for themselves, saying BDO’s motivation for sticking Field with the tab isn’t related to them putting the screws to the firm, “the government argues that BDO stopped paying Field’s legal bills after the firm discovered that Field hid from the board a report, prepared by law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, warning that certain tax shelters that Field was promoting were questionable.” Hey! – you can even ask BDO’s general counsel, he’ll tell you that the firm’s decision had nothing to do with get the government off their backs. And if you can’t believe a lawyer, who can you believe?

Prosecutors on defensive in BDO Seidman fraud case [Reuters]

Future Family Man Is Going Back and Forth Between BDO and Big 4 Offers

Welcome to the Calebs-are-a-loyal-sort edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a non-tradish student is getting all wishy-washy about choosing between BDO and a Big 4 firm. There are lots of variables involved so we’ll get right to it. But first…

Is your busy season belt already busting? Need help choosing classes to reach the 150 credit hours required in your state? Worried your lack of WASPyness will hurt your career ambitions? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we can recommend an exercise regimen or a nice fine arts class. Skin color and religion, on the other hand, are above our pay grade.

Back to our decider du jour:

I work in industry accounting now as a college student and I dread the monotonous work of industry accounting. This has brought me to the conclusion that I may just enjoy public accounting more in regards to a long term career. I see my CFO, controller, and director all working crazy hours which leads me to believe that my decision between public and industry would not change my work hours enough to really affect my work/life balance.

Unlike the majority of college students in their 20s I have significant financial obligations including a mortgage, car payments, and everything else that comes with those expenses. I am also married (no kids) and my wife is a low paid professional in her industry (marginal income, just enough to get by, but not enough to carry the house hold alone).

As for my offers – I have received a full-time offer with BDO to begin in the last quarter of this year, and I have also received an internship offer with a Big 4 to begin in January 2012 (hopefully beginning full time towards the end of 2012/beginning of 2013). If I take the internship for the sake of going Big 4, I will have to take out extra student loans through my masters to subsidize my ramen noodle living in the period between the internship and full-time start date. I will also have to put off starting my family, which is a big deal for me and my wife since we would like to start that before she gets into her 30s (which would be next year).

I must say that I originally chose the Big 4 and called BDO to decline my offer and let them know what my choice was. They seemed disappointed to hear it and the partner told me he doesn’t usually take part in recruitment and would really like me on his team. This is when he pushed my original offer from Jan 2013 to begin a few months earlier if I would have liked.

Also, when I inquired about the benefits offered at the Big 4 I was perceived “pushy” and I was told that I should be grateful for being extended an opportunity with them that many students would do anything for. When I presented this issue to professionals at other firms as well as professors I was always reassured that my question and my choice of approach regarding benefits was completely valid and the firm overreacted.

I am not sure if going Big 4 will be worth the financial and family delay sacrifice, or if going BDO and foregoing the Big 4 prestige would be a better idea since I have a partner already favoring me there from the get go, and instead of incurring more financial liabilities (through the extra student loans I would need if I took the Big 4 internship) I would be able to start paying some off. Some advice to help me make my decision would be greatly appreciated!

Hopeful Future Partner

Dear Hopeful,

Since we received your note prior to our pithy warning on Friday, I’ll ignore your verbosity. AS FOR THE REST OF YOU, there’s something to be said for brevity – keep that in mind.

All right, then. You’ve got Big 4 vs second tier decision to make, the typical American debt load and a biological clock to consider. Christ, man. We won’t touch the latter two but will say: aside from drinking heavily, you really need to sit down with the Mrs. to figure a lot of this out.

As for your career problem, we’re a little confused. It seems like you’ve already turned down BDO and accepted the Big 4 offer but there must be get out of accounting firm jail free card that we’re not aware of. Put that aside and it sounds like BDO is bending over backwards for you and your Big 4 friends are a tad touchy about a pretty standard inquiry (but maybe you’ve got people skills like Dunstan Pedropillai). So if you’re back to making a decision between the two, going with BDO seems like your best move just based on the people you’ve encountered.

To address this situation a more general sense, do you honestly think “Big 4 prestige” is going to help your situation? Anyone – recruiter, partner, manager, staff – that tries to guilt trip you with “[you] should be grateful for being extended an opportunity with [us] that many students would do anything for” doesn’t give a damn about you and is more concerned about the power they hold over you with this “opportunity.” Tell them to stick it and get your career started. Your wife will appreciate it.

Moss Adams CEO Denies Grant Thornton Merger Rumor in Email to Partners

In reaction to our post yesterday about the rumor of Grant Thornton and Moss Adams being united in wedded CPA firm bliss, Moss Adams Chairman and CEO sent an email to MA partners yesterday afternoon. The email, sent to us earlier today, let the partners know that no one is out of the loop, “[L]et me start by assuring you that you did not miss a partner call, a partner memo or any other such communication dealing with this.”


Mr Anderson also wrote that he has spoken to Grant Thornton, “Since we last had the all partner webinar, there have been no substantive discussions with GT – I say no substantive discussions because I have been at an AICPA major firms meeting where I not only had casual discussions with the GT leadership team, but I had similar discussions with the leadership of most of the 30-50 largest CPA firms in the country, exclusive of the Big 4.”

So you can interpret things like, “no substantive discussions with GT” and “casual discussion with the GT leadership team” how you like but Mr Anderson made himself a little clearer near the end of the email, “I can absolutely assure you that while we have had discussions with a large number of firms (of all sizes) over the past 12 months […] there are currently no negotiations under way with any firm regarding merger. But I can also tell you that I and other [Executive Committee] members will be talking to some west coast firms over the next several weeks.”

Moss Adams has not responded to our most recent request for comment. Grant Thornton sent back our carrier pigeon with it’s head cut off (very Chicago), which is the closest thing resembling a response that we’ve ever received from the firm. We’ll keep you updated.

Unfounded Rumor of the Day: Grant Thornton and Moss Adams in Merger Talks

This week we learned that Dixon Hughes and Goodman & Co. would be wedded in CPA firm bliss on March 1st. We’ve also seen a couple of smaller mergers announced this week in the tri-state area: Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company LLP and Kahn, Hoffman & Hochman, LLP formed Kahn Hoffman & Hochman and Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC and ERE, LLP.

But eheard a rumor that trumps all of these:

The new rumor is that Grant Thornton and Moss Adams are merging. I have it on good authority (an industry consultant and the MP of a California firm).


Okay, so not exactly rock solid but intriguing enough for us to ask around. So far, Grant Thornton spokeswoman Kristi Grgeta has not returned our emails or voicemails and Moss Adams has declined to comment at this time. We’re poking around with other sources but still waiting to hear back.

So for now, let’s just go with the hypothetical. If GT and Moss were to combine, it would make them the 5th largest firm in the U.S., narrowly edging out McGladrey, with about $1.5 billion in revenues, going by Accounting Today’s most recent figures. Currently they are 6th (GT) and 11th (MA) on the AT100 list and 6th (MA) and 23rd (GT) on Vault’s flagship ranking. Their combined forces would have nearly 800 partners and over 7,100 total employees, if you assume no layoffs.

While all that might serve Stephen Chipman’s desire more dynamic clients (and perhaps more blogging fodder?), it would certainly require a few more hand-written notes. Not only that but GT already has a presence in every major market that Moss Adams does unless they’re looking to mine the Eugene, Oregon market for LOSERS and have reconsidered their divestment in Albuquerque. Also culturally, this seems like a strange fit as GT strikes us as pretty buttoned-down while Moss Adams is more laid back but maybe we’ve got that wrong. You tell us.

Regardless, Grant Thornton has voiced interest in merger possibilities and picked up Huron Consulting’s Disputes & Investigations practice last year, so who knows!? Both firms just closed the books on 2010 and maybe they’re laying some groundwork?

So, what do the GT and MA people make of this? Hell, anyone can chime in, we’re just finding this particular rumor pret-tay interesting. Some things make sense and some don’t, so we’ll leave it to you to hash out. And of course, if any of this sounds familiar because, you know, you heard something in a meeting about this very topic, email us. We’ll update you with anything we hear.

Sue Sachdeva Was Needlessly Paranoid About Grant Thornton’s Fraud Detecting Abilities

About a year ago at this time, we just started learning about Sue Sachdeva, the convicted embezzler extraordinaire of headphone cobbler Koss. It took a little less than a year for everything to get sorted out including quite the inventory of luxury loot, her emerging talent for stealing money, lawsuits, a guilty plea and a sentence of 11 years.

Since all that’s settled it’s on to the lawsuits and Suze was recently deposed in Koss’s lawsuit against Grant Thornton where she testified about many interesting things, including being a nervous nelly from the get-go:

Former Koss Corp. executive Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva worried each day that she would be caught embezzling money that eventually totaled $34 million.

“Fear was one thing. I thought it was imminent,” she said in a recent court deposition. “Their auditors, every time they walked in, I’d say, ‘This is it. They’re going to catch me.’ 

Turns out, S-squared was paranoid for no good reason because – as we all know – GT had no clue that she was lifting millions every year to pay off her AMEX, partly, she says, because they were throwing green auditors at the company every year:

Sachdeva said in the deposition that Grant Thornton considered Koss to be a well-run company and a good training ground for its new auditors.

“Every year, we’d have at least one or two new auditors come through, and I know Michael (Koss) and I both objected to that – getting kids right out of college and had to explain the business to them every time,” Sachdeva said.

Sachdeva said she never held back documents from the auditors. They didn’t question the amounts of money flowing in and out of the company, nor did they question the internal controls, she said. The lack of inquiries surprised her, she said.

Then there were the allegations that she was having regular three-vodka-shot lunches, according to an October article in Milwaukee Magazine:

Retailers who lunched with Sachdeva say she downed vodka shots at the North Shore Bistro with Julie and Tracy. “Then they all went back to work bombed,” says one shop owner.

One consignment shop owner recalls picking up Sachdeva and taking her to Harvey’s restaurant in Mequon. “Sue told the waiter she wanted her ‘juice.’ They knew that meant vodka,” says the shop owner, who was surprised by how much Sachdeva drank.

Well, it all kinda makes sense now doesn’t it? She was either paranoid because she drank or drank because she was paranoid. OR the amateur auditors drove her so batty and she had no choice but to get a little loaded. Anyway you slice it, the auditors seem to be ones to blame, which seems like a trend these days.

Koss embezzler feared discovery from start [MJS]
The Diva [Milwaukee Magazine]

Should an “Acting Senior Manager” Take a Job with Grant Thornton That Promises a Transfer?

Welcome to the Holly Jolly Hump Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an “acting” senior manager is being recruited for a gig with GT in a Mid-Atlantic office with the promise to transfer to another office after the upcoming tax seasons. Can he trust GT to make the deal happen?

Worried that your career (or bonus) is in jeopardy because your firm is in a bit of a jam? Not sure how to approach a potential dance partner? Caught in an awkward situation that involves hookers and cash but it’s really just one big misunderstanding? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to right these wrongs (or at least make you feel better about them).

Back to the actor:

I have 8 years experience in tax compliance as an acting senior manager on a large client. A former co-worker is recruiting me for a [Mid-Atlantic] GT tax position as a senior since I have no CPA. They are willing to have me work in [Mid-Atlantic] until 09/11 and then allow me to transfer to another office after 9/11.

My interview will be next week and will be with [Mid-Atlantic] partner and the partner from the office I want to transfer to. My questions for the group are the following. Does anyone know what the staffing is like in the tax group in [Mid-Atlantic]? (i.e. all new staff or good experienced people) Does GT pay well? My current salary is $98,000. Can I trust them to honor their word about transfering me after 9/11?

-Acting Senior Manager

Dear ASM,

We have to say, this is a very odd situation you’ve got so we’ll do our best to help you out. For starters, why don’t you have a CPA license? We’re sure there’s an explanation but an 8 year vet of the business with no CPA strikes us as odd. Written exam too scary? You’ve got a JD and figured the CPA wasn’t necessary? Perpetual BEC failure? Whatevs. Secondly, we’re get the impression that you want this job mostly for the transfer, so we’ll skip the “climbing down the corporate ladder” lecture.

Now, then. We can’t speak to the staffing situation in the office you speak of but it would be shocking if all the staff at GT south of Philadelphia and north of Raleigh were completely incapable of doing their jobs (if we’re off base, please share). The pay at GT will be fine but your work experience is a big bargaining chip. Use it wisely and be ready to lay out why your extensive experience should result in more money for you.

As for taking the word of GT partners, it’s a pretty good sign that a partner from your desired office will be there for your interview. Also, what motivation would anyone have by going back on this deal? Would they really give you the job only to betray you less than a year later? This strikes us as unlikely. Staffing needs are always up in the air so for them to give you this opportunity seems us as a pretty exceptional deal. Regardless, we’d ask to get something in writing. Chances are this has already happened, as we assume some of these discussions occurred over email but something official would be ideal. If they balk, then you’ve got cause to question their sincerity. Good luck.

Oh, and get your CPA for crissakes.

(UPDATE) Grant Thornton Employees Prohibited From Accessing WikiLeaks, Even in Their Spare Time

~ Update includes email sent to all KPMG employees and further details on communication within PwC.

Confirming some chatter in last Friday’s post on the banishment of WikiLeaks at Deloitte, notification at Grant Thornton was sent out late on Friday.

So not even after a long, hard day doing Stephen Chipman’slowed to read catty messages between diplomats or war logs on your personal computer. What’s next? Firmwide emails instructing lonely accountants not to visit Fleshbot (NSFW)?

Personal time aside, judging by the conversation on the Deloitte post, it appears that KPMG has also communicated ‘no peeky at wiki’ but we haven’t seen the official communiqué. And since all the major firms have contracts with the Feds, we decided to call around to see find out the scoop. So far, a source at PwC did inform us that the WikiLeaks website is accessible but no official policy on accessing the site has been communicated to the firm at large.

[UPDATE: We have learned that PwC’s Washington Federal Practice did receive communication prohibiting access, downloading, etc. etc. to WikiLeaks, however, as we’ve updated above, a firm-wide communication was not sent.]

Messages with E&Y and KPMG were not immediately returned. If there has been official lines have been drawn in the cyber-sand, kindly email us with any communication.

Earlier:
What if Accounting Firms Had Their Own Version of WikiLeaks?

UPDATE: The message from KPMG, courtesy of the sagacious Judge Sven Erik Holmes:

Date:December 10, 2010
To:All KPMG Personnel
From: Sven Erik Holmes, Vice Chair, Legal and Compliance
Subject:Government Notice Regarding Web site Access

PLEASE DO NOT DELETE THIS E-MAIL WITHOUT READING

In response to the recent well-publicized release of government documents on the WikiLeaks Web site, the federal government has begun notifying its contractors regarding restrictions on accessing classified documents included in that release. As a provider of services to several federal agencies, KPMG is a federal government contractor and has begun receiving such notices from its federal agency clients. This e-mail contains important instructions regarding access to such classified information, which are applicable to all firm personnel.

KPMG personnel should not access information marked or labeled as classified (including material publicly available on the WikiLeaks Web site or other Web sites) using government or KPMG computers or other devices that access the Web (such as PDAs or Smartphones) as doing so risks placing material that is still classified on non-classified systems. This restriction does not limit employee or contractor access to nonclassified, publicly available news reports (and other nonclassified material) that in turn reference classified material, as opposed to the underlying classified material itself (whether or not in the public domain).

The government’s notices remind us that federal contractors are obligated to protect classified information pursuant to all applicable federal laws, and to use government information systems, whether classified or unclassified, appropriately. Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents (whether in print, on a blog, or on a Web site) do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents. To the contrary, classified information, whether or not already posted on public Web sites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority.

If you believe that you may have downloaded classified information to a government or KPMG computer or other device that accesses the Web (such as a PDA or Smartphone), please contact [a KPMG lawyer who will ask you a ton of questions and probably scold you] in OGC at [lawyer’sname]@kpmg.com.

KPMG personnel are also reminded that firm policy requires personnel to maintain the confidentiality of any information that they obtain from a client in connection with a client engagement. It is important that the confidentiality of any such information be maintained.

Compensation Watch ’10: Grant Thornton Kicks Off Hanukkah

From the mailbag:

I work at GT as an associate in [a Southwest] office. Partner called to tell me i got a 1k bump to salary. It appears that GT is giving out raises in December. They are calling them market adjustments…

There seems to be confusion as to whether this is a bonus, lump sum raise, or spread out over the year. My partner told me it’ll be spread out over the year and it was a permanent raise. Others have been told it is a lump sum bonus. The new A1’s found out yesterday their starting pay was increased. I’ve talked with seniors and none of them have heard anything I know about, and they seem pretty pissed at the whole situation.

Are SAs getting blanked? Is this happening anywhere else? Inform everyone below or email us if you know the scoop.

A Partner Hopeful Can’t Decide Between KPMG and a Mid-Tier Firm

Welcome to the light-the-menorah edition of Accounting Career Emergency. In today’s edition, a lucky co-ed who is convinced she wants a career in public accounting has internship offers from KPMG and GT and maybe another from BDO. Multiple choice study skills won’t really help her so she turned us for our sage advice.

Is your career on life support? Worried that the long hours during the upcoming busy season might finally cause you to crack? Does your family remind you of Arrested Development? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll have no problem crushing your brother-in-law’s dreams of playing with the Blue Man Group.

Back to the multiple choice exercise:

I recently received an internship offer from both Grant Thornton and KPMG in Chicago. I more than likely will be getting an offer from BDO as well. Unlike many who go Big 4 then jump ship to industry, I want to make a long term career out of public accounting (i.e., hopefully make partner some day).

I liked the supposed “culture” and the people at all of the firms, but now I can’t decide which one I want to go with. I don’t know if going midsized will mean quicker promotions, and somewhat better hours (relatively speaking), or if the Big 4 prestige is even relevant long term within the public accounting field. Please help me make sense of this…

Dear Partner Hopeful,

Pardon us but we’ll briefly delve into semantics for a second – “midsized” isn’t really representative of GT or BDO (we’re not crazy about mid-tier either but we’re open to suggestions) as they both have vast international networks. It is also true that the Big 4 dwarf GT and BDO combined so a moniker for the non-Big 4 firms (because that also sucks) could be the most important debate to come out of your question. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, then. We’re impressed that you have your mind made up that you want a long-term career in public accounting. That was our initial aspirations as well and look how that turned out. All we’re saying is, don’t get ahead of yourself and the culture will wane, trust us.

As for the Big 4 vs. GT/BDO question – for starters, the promotion pace will be similar no matter where you go. Besides, do you really want to get to senior manager in 5-6 years just to sit there for 10 more before you make partner? Our guess is, nofuckingway.

Secondly, don’t ask about hours. They will be long no matter where you go. Get over it.

The most provocative part of your question is related to prestige. GT and BDO rank #5 and #6 in Vault’s latest ranking, so it’s not like you’re working for complete schlubs. Plus, Chicago, as you’re well aware, is where Grant Thornton and BDO are headquartered. Conventional wisdom may tell you that KPMG is a more prestigious firm regardless of location and that very well may be true. But if you’re working in the HQ city of GT or BDO, you’re likely to hobnob with some of the most high-ranking professionals within those two firms. Not taking anything away from KPMG Chicago, but you simply won’t get the same exposure to the firm’s national leadership as you would at Grant Thornton or BDO.

Bottom line is that all the firms are solid and if you’re sold on the people and culture, you’ll have no problem fitting in at any of them. But if you’re concerned with prestige and building your network, it’s worth considering the opportunity of getting exposure to the bigwigs at GT and BDO.

BDO Culminates 100th Anniversary with a Two-Hour Disney Production on the History of the Firm

As you probably know, BDO has spent 2010 celebrating the firm’s 100th anniversary in the U.S. Throughout the year there has been various celebrations along with Jack Weisbaum’s successful run as Dos Equis dopplegänger.

The apex of the firm’s centennial is going on as we speak in Orlando, at the firm’s Centennial Partners Meeting where 700 some-odd partners, alums and their better halves are celebrating the big one hundo.


A brief word from the most interesting accounting CEO in the world:

“In 1910, there were a little more than 2000 certified public accountants (CPAs) in the United States, that’s approximately the same amount currently working at BDO. Today, there are hundreds of thousands CPAs, but just a handful of national firms that have been able to grow and prosper across the country and build networks with member firms around the world,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO USA. “Our firm bears little physical resemblance to the firm Maximillian L. Seidman started a century ago, and it is sure to change drastically in the coming century. What will stay the same is our unwavering commitment to clients, our capacity to adapt to change and our ability to find opportunity in every challenge.”

In addition to the Weisbaum speech, last night attendees were treated the aforementioned two-hour Disney production about the history of the firm.

Entitled “Proud Past – Bold Future,” the firm’s story is told with an extensive cast and musical arrangements, interspersed with video interviews of BDO partners – from both past and present – as the firm’s progress is tracked over the past century.

A Disney production sounds nice but two hours? Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture and it only ran for 84 minutes. Not that you can fairly compare the 100 years of getting to know BDO to animated bestiality. There really is no comparison but we’re just hoping – for the sake of the audience – it was screened before the comfort food and booze.

Grant Thornton Employees in Chicago Feeling the Heat to Join Big 4

After reporting rumors that PwC was chasing Deloitte seniors in Chicago, now comes another report out of the House of Chipman:

Is it just me or is pwc trying really hard to bring in seniors in Chicago? The other day at GT, the same pwc recruiter called every S1 in audit asking if we’d be interested in moving over.

A few of us actually answered just to see what he had to say and he was pushing real hard in getting people to accept that if we made a move, we’d have to take a step down (S1 to move over to A3), and that they’d be making a large investment in keeping us long-term (at least through a promotion to manager). This is after we lost a S2 and an A2 who both moved to pwc. Plus, we’ve received several emails from other outside recruiters gauging our interest in the Big 4, not to mention my friends at the Big 4 trying to get me to send them my resume so they can refer me (for a much larger referral bonus, I’m assume). Not sure if this is juicy enough information, but that’s pretty much what’s happening right now over at G to the T.

Here’s the deal people – all the firms need people at the Senior Associate level. All the firms have made it known that they are hiring aggressively, both experienced and entry-level employees and the recruiters within the firms have jobs too. Besides, where are they supposed to look for the appropriate talent to fill their empty positions? Dunkin’ Donuts?

Grant Thornton, believe or not, has plenty of talented people and the Big 4 will take those people if they can get them. Management probably gets tired of all the bellyaching by employees about how short-staffed they are so the pressure is on the recruiters to get asses in the seats.

If you don’t want to be hassled by Big 4 recruiters, simply say, “I’m not interested, thanks,” and go on your merry way. But judging by all the complaining at GT, lots of employees are probably happy to entertain some options.

Sandra Guy, Recognized for Leadership in Diversity, Leaving BDO

We’ve learned from a tipster that BDO’s Head of Human Capital Sandra Guy was leaving the firm to ‘pursue other interests’ which we have confirmed with a BDO spokesman.

As of Monday, Sandi Guy, executive director of Human Capital, has left the firm to pursue other interests. Barbara Taylor, the firm’s general counsel, will oversee the Human Capital function on an interim basis until a replacement is identified.

“We thank Sandi for her many years of service to our firm and are grateful for her significant contributions,” says Jack Weisbaum, chief executive officer. “We wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Ms. Guy was recognized just last year for her work in diversity by American Society of Women Accountants (ASWA) and Profiles in Diversity Journal’sWomen Worth Watching in 2010.”

Grant Thornton’s New CPA Policy: Bonuses and Requirement for Promotion

Grant Thornton rolled out some policy updates today related to obtaining a CPA (full email after the jump), including some impressive bonuses for its newest employees (hired after April 15, 2010). The largest available is $10k if you happen to be of the Elijah Watts types and “are among the top 10 candidates earning the highest cumulative scores on the four sections of the CPA Exam in the country.”

Other bonuses include:

• $5k for passing all four sections within one year of full-time hire.
• $3k if you pass within 18 months of full-time hire.
• $7.5k for those in the top ten in their state but not good enough for national recognition.

The firm is also paying a small bonus ($1k) for current employees who have epicly failed so far but��������������������exam between August 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011.

While most people easily get hung up on the money aspect of things, the bigger change is the requirement for new employees (again, those hired after April 15, 2010) to have passed all four sections of the CPA prior to being eligible for promotion to Senior Associate. That goes for both audit and tax employees.


We covered CPA exam policies in a couple of posts earlier this year and the only other firm that has this requirement is PwC for the audit practice. The tax practice requires a CPA for promotion to manager.

So some pretty interesting developments at GT and it seems to be a fair transition – from a timing standpoint anyway – as those hired in the last six months can hardly find their ass with both hands, let alone be ready for a promotion to SA. But again, this is major policy change going forward and GT is, at the very least, making the case that they will be holding all of their associates to a higher threshold of performance than firms that don’t have such requirements.

Sound off your support or displeasure in the comments on the bonuses or promotion requirements below. And for the non-GTers out there, what do you think of your firm’s policy? Does it need updated to keep the pace with GT’s move? Are changes in the works? Keep us updated by emailing us at tips@goingconcern.com.

Policy update
Important information regarding CPA licensure

At Grant Thornton, we are a dynamic global organization that is committed to making a difference to our colleagues, clients, the profession and our communities. As part of our commitment to providing our clients with distinctive service and the highest quality, I am pleased to announce two important changes effective immediately.

Introducing the CPA Pass Bonus
It is our goal to continue to attract intellectually curious, talented individuals to our firm and to encourage them to pass the CPA exam and earn their license as soon as possible. As such, I am delighted to announce that Grant Thornton will now offer a CPA Pass Bonus.

Grant Thornton will pay professionals who joined the firm as entry-level associates from campus on or after April 15, 2010
· $5,000 – For passing all four parts of the exam prior to or within one year of their full-time date of hire

· $3,000 – For passing all four parts of the exam within 18 months of their full-time date of hire

· $10,000 – For those who are among the top 10 candidates earning the highest cumulative scores on the four sections of the CPA Exam in the country

· $7,500 – For those who are recognized as earning the highest cumulative scores on their initial sitting for the four sections of the CPA Exam within their state and were not national winners

To recognize a transition within the spirit of the new policy, Grant Thornton will pay a one- time “catch up” to experienced associates through senior associates

· $1,000 – For passing all four parts of the exam, if they pass during the August 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011 time period only

CPA requirement for promotion to senior associate
In addition to paying a bonus to those passing the CPA exam, the firm has made the decision to require audit and tax employees to have passed all four parts of the CPA exam in order to be promoted to senior associate.

For employees hired on or after April 15, 2010

· This new promotion policy is effective immediately.

For employees hired before April 15, 2010 or as experienced associates and senior associates:

· Employees who have not yet passed the CPA exam will be “grandfathered” under our current policy. In that regard, we encourage all individuals currently at the associate 2 level or above to pass the CPA exam within the next 2 years. However, they must be a licensed CPA prior to being promoted to manager.

For additional information, please see the CPA Pass Bonus Policy linked here.

If you have any questions about either of these changes, please contact your practice leader or local HR professional.

Lou

There’s Still Some Confusion About the BDO/Grant Thornton Situation in Hong Kong

The Wall St. Journal’s China Real Time Report stumbled upon the BDO/Grant Thornton poaching exodus merger situation (some may say, “clusterfuck”) in Hong Kong and we have no choice but to take issue with it.

The headline reads, “Missed It? Hong Kong’s Big Accounting Merger” and they mention the original report from the South China Morning Post. They manage to tone down the narrative but more or less tell the same story, full with quotes from BDO Hong Kong’s CEO Albert Au Siu-cheung:

On Wednesday, about a month after the joint press release, the South China Morning Post featured a front-page article describing the merger as a mass poaching of staff by BDO, “the biggest such raid in the city’s accounting sector.”

“It’s a bit sensational,” Au said, adding there was no raid. “Poaching is I pick a few heads here and there,” he said. “What you’re seeing here is the whole firm, meaning the partners and staff, coming to join us in BDO.”

In other words, “Sure it sounded bad but really it was just people making a choice”:

“There is no goodwill payment of any kind,” Au said. “I like to think they are voting with their feet. By that, I mean they think they’re joining a platform they have commitment to and believe in.” Clients were informed of the change and had the option to find another accounting firm. All clients have stayed with Grant Thornton for this merger.

Of course if someone at the Journal had rang up Grant Thornton International they would have likely gotten the story that we reported on last Friday which is that GTI booted the affiliate firm in Hong Kong and that BDO is kinda, sorta misrepresenting the situation:

They did not choose to leave, they were told to leave…[I]t is disingenous, or possibly wishful thinking, on the part of BDO to suggest that Grant Thornton is pulling out of Hong Kong. Many partners and staff from the former Hong Kong firm have already contacted the new Grant Thornton firm and clients will, of course, decide for themselves whether to move to BDO, which operates in the region as a loose affiliation, or remain with the more integrated, ‘one firm’ approach of Grant Thornton.

And of course there are the opposing press releases. The joint one issued by the BDO/GT firm dated October 7th that states:

Leading accounting firms BDO and Grant Thornton are pleased to announce that their firms have agreed in principle to merge their businesses and practise in the name of BDO Limited.

And the one from GTI, also dated October 7th that states something quite different:

Grant Thornton International gave its Hong Kong member firm notice on 20 September to leave the global organisation by March 2011.

With that mandate and probably few options, it appears that GTHK ran into the arms of BDOHK. BDO is using the Journal to disseminate a story that makes them look proactive and ambitious when in reality, none of this would even be happening if GTI hadn’t told their HK firm to get lost. The Journal – like the South China Morning Post – doesn’t mention that. Some people might consider that a major piece of the story.

We’ve put out a warning in the past about wandering into our corner of the sandbox without knowing what the hell you’re doing (or at least checking with us first) and you can consider this a friendly reminder about that. We’re more than happy to help because this accounting/accounting firm stuff is tricky when you don’t spend every single day reading and writing about it.

Grant Thornton: BDO Suggestion That We Are Pulling Out of Hong Kong Is ‘Disingenuous’

Following up on our post from Wednesday on the movement of 600+ Grant Thornton Hong Kong employees to BDO, we’ve received some correspondence from Grant Thornton International that clarifies the situation.

Turns out, a brief press release – whole thing after the jump – was issued by GTI last month that announced that the firm had given notice (confirming speculation in the comments) to its HK firm to GTFO by March 2011.

In email to Going Concern, GTI spokeswoman Hilary East broke it down for us:

They did not choose to leave, they were told to leave. Success in China is critical to the long term ambitions of G are committed to an integrated approach to the China market, which includes Hong Kong. While many partners in the former Hong Kong firm supported that strategy, their leadership was unable to agree amongst itself and separation became the only option. Grant Thornton China immediately set up a new firm in Hong Kong, led by a group of partners from the original Hong Kong firm with support from the 1500 partners and staff across mainland China.

The new firm that Ms East mentions, presumably is Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong which we mentioned in our previous post that will adopt the Grant Thornton name “in due course.”

But what about this article in the South China Morning Post that quotes BDO Hong Kong’s CEO as saying, “The opportunity to have a massive admission of so much established accounting talent is rare.” ?

Ms East elaborated for us:

[I]t is disingenous, or possibly wishful thinking, on the part of BDO to suggest that Grant Thornton is pulling out of Hong Kong. Many partners and staff from the former Hong Kong firm have already contacted the new Grant Thornton firm and clients will, of course, decide for themselves whether to move to BDO, which operates in the region as a loose affiliation, or remain with the more integrated, ‘one firm’ approach of Grant Thornton.

If you read the South China article, you won’t see a single mention of GTI giving the Hong Kong firm notice, unless you count the extremely vague and misleading passage:

Grant Thornton chief executive Patrick Rozario, who led the move to BDO, said the team decided to shift because of Grant Thornton International’s directive for the mainland member firm to lead Grant Thornton’s Hong Kong office.

“We consider BDO, which is run independently in Hong Kong and China, respectively, is a model that suits us better,” Rozario said.

No mention of the GTI press release. No mention of the new firm that GTI was setting up. No mention that some staff and partners were considering their options. The headline (and sub-hed) in the article is even ridiculously misleading: “Troubled accounting firm’s staff jump ship Grant Thornton to close as BDO gains full team”.

And why the article even brings up Gabriel Azedo’s disappearance is mystifying. It’s more than hella-stretch to suggest that the trouble caused by him has anything to do with GTI’s or BDO’s moves. Plus hardly anyone (including the Financial Times) gives a damn any more about his whereabouts. The guy has been on the lam for over a year and is probably some accounting Kurtz figure by now.

Grant Thornton International Separates From HK

Accounting News Roundup: Signs of Compromise on Tax Cuts; KPMG Caught in Between IRS, Wells Fargo; BDO Elects New Board Members | 11.05.10

White House signals compromise on tax cuts [Reuters]
A conciliatory White House said on Thursday it was willing to negotiate with Republicans on tax cut extensions, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took a hard line against compromises with President Barack Obama in a new Congress.

In the first possible policy shift since Democrats suffered heavy election losses two days ago, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs signaled Obama was open to talks on a temporary extension for the wealthy of Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year.

New York Court Sends “Amazon Tax” Case Back for More Information [Tax Foundation]
[T]he intermediate court of New York handed down its long-awaited “Amazon tax” opinion in Amazon.com, LLC v. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. New York requires companies with no property or employees in New York to collect New York sales tax if the non-resident company receives revenue from in-state independent affiliates.

Qantas Blames Rolls-Royce for Engine Failure [WSJ]
Qantas Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Alan Joyce on Friday said the design of Rolls-Royce Group Plc engines could have caused a mid-air failure that forced one of its A380 super jumbos to make an emergency landing in Singapore.

“This is an engine issue and the engines were maintained by Rolls-Royce since they have been installed on the aircraft,” Mr. Joyce told reporters at the company’s headquarters in Sydney. “We believe this is most likely a material failure or some kind of design issue.”

BBC strike silences Today and hits TV news [FT]
BBC journalists ignored the pleas of their editor-in-chief on Friday, taking strike action over plans to cut their pension benefits and driving familiar morning news programmes off the air.

The Today programme on Radio 4 was replaced with pre-recorded material, including a documentary on bird life in the Humber estuary, while Radio 5 Live and the BBC’s morning television news were produced with skeleton staff and unfamiliar presenters.

IRS looks into Wells Fargo tax deductions [MST]
A dispute between the Internal Revenue Service and Wells Fargo & Co. that has been quietly taking shape in a Minneapolis federal court could cost the bank hundreds of millions of dollars.

The clash involves “sale-in, lease-out” (SILO) transactions in which a tax-exempt entity transfers tax benefits to a taxpayer like Wells Fargo, in exchange for a fee. The IRS says Wells Fargo has claimed nine-digit losses for tax purposes on such deals, but the government considers them an illegal tax dodge.


BDO USA, LLP Announces Results of Board Elections [BDO]
Brian Eccleston, Scott Hendon, Albert Lopez and Brad Schrupp have each been elected to the firm’s board of directors. These elections, which are for a three-year term, are effective immediately.

“The partnership has shown wise judgment in electing these very deserving individuals and I am confident that the firm will benefit from the insight they will bring to the process,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO USA.

Actress’ name is mud in tax man’s eyes [Tax Watchdog/Detroit News]
Jaime Pressly is the actress and she owes $376k.

Exodus Watch: 600+ in Grant Thornton’s Hong Kong Office Move to BDO

What in the name of Stephen Chipman’s dubious accent is going on here? Why would a firm shut down an office in an emerging financiaosing six hundred partners and professionals to one of their rivals?

If you ask BDO’s Hong Kong Chairman and CEO Albert Au Siu-cheung, it has nothing to do with the disappearance of former GT managing partner Gabriel Azedo. It’s simply a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that found its way into the lap of BDO:


From the South China Morning Post:

“The opportunity to have a massive admission of so much established accounting talent is rare. This will strengthen BDO’s competitiveness in the local accounting industry,” Au said. “This will also create a bigger mid-tier firm allowing listed companies a choice for auditing and professional services in future.”

Au said the recruitment would be completed by the end of this year, and all staff and partners would become part of BDO, while Grant Thornton would cease operation in Hong Kong. Grant Thornton’s clients – including 130 listed companies audited by the firm – had been notified of the change and most agreed to make the switch to BDO, Au said.

Au said lawsuits involving Grant Thornton’s missing boss, former managing partner Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo, were not a factor in the move.

This is a head scratcher for sure. Although this isn’t the first time a major firm has had mysterio issues in H to the K. Last year, Ernst & Young’s office was raided for the firm’s involvement with Akai that ultimately resulted in the firm paying a rumored $400 million to settle the case.

We reached out to PR at Grant Thornton’s International office but since they’ve probably been at the pub for hours already, we’re still awaiting a response.

We did find this announcement from Grant Thornton International which states that the firm has a new “member firm” in HK but nothing about the movement of the 600 professionals:

Grant Thornton has announced the appointment of a new member firm in Hong Kong. The new practice, set up by Grant Thornton China, will begin trading as Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong but will adopt the name “Grant Thornton” in due course. The new firm will be led by Daniel Lin, an established and highly regarded member of the accounting profession in Hong Kong.

[…]

The new firm plans to have a staff of over 100 people within 12 months. Significantly, it will be fully integrated with Grant Thornton China and be part of a network of 10 offices providing seamless access to 65 partners and over 1,500 professionals across mainland China and Hong Kong.

Ed Nusbaum, chief executive officer of Grant Thornton International explains, “Grant Thornton has long been committed to a strategy of an integrated approach to serving clients across the China market, including Hong Kong. This appointment of Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong is a vital step in that strategy and our member firms, now over 100 in number, look forward to working with their new colleagues in Hong Kong.”

Okay, so a “vital step” includes the closing of an office the defection of 600 professionals and “130 listed companies” for an office with less than 100 people total? Can anyone – looking straight at you Ed – explain this? Since he’s pretty hard to nail down we’ll take your theories for now.

BDO Officially Resides in the First State

By all accounts, BDO as a firm, has had a decent 2010. There were the typical raises and promotions that were met with a giant “meh” by the BDO faithful.

The firm celebrated its 100th birthday last month, with offices marking the occasion in various ways. And probably most importantly, the Florida Appeals Court ordered a new trial in the Banco Espirito Santo case.


The decision in this case allowed the firm to jump off its deathbed reenergized, allowing Jack Weisbaum to continuing to moonlight as a TV commercial star as well as open a Raleigh, North Carolina office.

The good times continue with the addition of McBride Shopa & Co. including a message from Tom Shopa with a pleasant piano accompaniment in the background.

Jack W. was able to sneak away from a busy commercial shoot to share his feelings on the matter:

“The addition of the partners, professionals and staff formerly with McBride Shopa adds the important Delaware market to BDO’s existing presence in the Philadelphia and the greater Washington, DC area. We are excited about the many growth opportunities that this combination will bring to our clients and our future clients,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO USA.

The bright side for BDO is that since the Taxman is likely coming to Delaware, there will be plenty of new business opportunities.

Grant Thornton CFO Survey Reminds Everyone That the Job Market Still Sucks

But don’t just take the CFOs word for it, Stephen Chipman is hearing the same thing from the dynamic companies that GT is rubbing elbows with these days:

In a national survey of U.S. Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and senior comptrollers conducted by Grant Thornton LLP, the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, only 29% plan to increase hiring in the next six months, while 21% plan to decrease hiring.

A vast majority (79%) believe that the U.S. economy will not recover until the second half of 2011 or later, and more than half (59%) are concerned with a double-dip recession.

“These findings are consistent with what we have been hearing from our dynamic-organization clients,” said Grant Thornton LLP CEO Stephen Chipman. “Indecision stemming from a weak economy and the unknown impact of governmental tax policy and new regulation on business and individuals is causing paralysis, particularly as it relates to major business decisions, including expansion, expenditures and hiring.”

In related economic shitshow news, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are probably going to need more bailout cash. As you were.

How Are BDO Offices Celebrating the Firm’s 100th Birthday?

We’re merely echoing the question.


Apparently there is some go-karting happening in Charlotte which sounds fun, especially if there was a three beer minimum to get on the track.

Other things we’re envisioning:

• Gents of all body types in the Woodbridge, NJ office coming to work as The Situation (i.e. sans shirt).

Miami office employees are wearing their homemade “FUCK BANCO ESPIRITO” t-shirts (that could be any office really).

• At HQ in Chicago, CEO Jack Weisbaum reenacting Dos Equis ads only to substitute “Stay thirsty my friends” with “People who know – Know BDO”

What else is going on? Let us know.

Grant Thornton Is Done Selling: Acquires Huron’s Disputes & Investigations Practice

If you had to judge the state of Grant Thornton based on the activity over the past year, you might assume that the firm was headed downhill because of their disposal of several offices around the country. Despite the haters and accent conspiracy theorists out there, Stephen Chipman was confident about the future. So much so that he sent hand-written notes to all of you encouraging you to become GT evangelists.

Now this morning, we learn that this unleashing of dynamic potential clients could be taking shape:

Grant Thornton LLP said Monday it has acquired the assets of Huron Consulting Group’s disputes and investigations practice in a deal that will bring 60 people to Grant Thornton’s offices in Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

The acquisition is part of Grant Thornton’s strategy to double revenue in the next five years. Huron Consulting has divested itself of its disputes and investigations practice. Huron’s D&I employees will join Grant Thornton’s economic and advisory groups in four cities, including Boston.

Well! This is quite the acquisition. Since GT and Huron are both Chicago-based, there is likely a lot of connections here that helped make this deal happen. Huron’s press release states that the D&I group (the smallest inside the company) had been on the block because the overlords wanted to focus its efforts on “businesses [with] a more substantial market presence”:

The Company stated previously that it was evaluating the long-term prospects of its D&I service line, which had accounted for approximately 5% of the Company’s overall revenue for the first six months of 2010. “The Disputes and Investigations practice has been a part of Huron since our formation in 2002. We recently conducted a comprehensive assessment of all of our businesses and concluded that the divestiture of the D&I practice would enable management to devote more of its energies and financial resources to businesses where we have a more substantial market presence,” said James H. Roth, chief executive officer, Huron Consulting Group.

[…]

Huron is also revising its 2010 revenue guidance based on the divestiture of the D&I practice and other market factors impacting two reporting segments. When the Company announced second quarter results in July 2010, it provided a 2010 revenue guidance estimate between $600-$620 million.

Based on the divestiture of the D&I practice, the 2010 Company revenue guidance would have been reduced by $35-$40 million. In addition to the D&I divestiture impact, the Company is reducing its annual guidance by an additional $25-$30 million to reflect contract and project delays in two of its service lines: Healthcare and Accounting Advisory.

On the surface, it may look like a good deal for both companies but in reality it feels like Huron was desperate to sell a good revenue-generating unit (19% as of June 30, 2010) and since GT is definitely shopping for acquisitions, the firm was more than happy to take it off their hands.

This acquisition will allow GT access to a sexy area of advisory work (D&I consists of “business disputes, forensic accounting and investigative services, tax controversies and intellectual property disputes”) in key markets and presumably, they can hype the new group internally to expand it and compete for more business.

The only possible downside is that some inside GT may be concerned (we’re speculating here) about taking on more Andersen refugees but ultimately it looks like a good move and the first example of the firm making good on its new strategy. If you’ve got a different opinion, chime in below.

Grant Thornton buys Huron operation [Boston Business Journal]
Huron Consulting Group Announces Divestiture of Disputes & Investigations Practice to Continue Focus on Core Businesses [EON]

Grant Thornton CEO Admits That He Wasn’t Prepared for the Chicago Winters

Stephen Chipman also says that he misunderestimated the demand for his time. Who could have known?

Highlights/questions:

• The over/under is $2 billion by 2015. Who has action on this?

• Is everyone clear on the “the dynamic organization space”?

• What do we think of Stephen sans spectacles?

Merger and acquisition strategy? Who is GT going after? SC keeps it vague, per standard operating procedure. Accordingly, we welcome your rampant speculation.

Grant Thornton Didn’t Promote Me, Do I Go to PwC?

Today in accounting firm musical chairs, a SA3 who got passed over for promotion at GT has an offer to joining soon-to-be rebranded PwC as an SA1/2. WHAT TO DO?!?

Have a question about your career? Worried that you’re too hot for the Big 4 and your hot brain will be overlooked? Trying to decide if you should give it all up and join the circus? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll let you know if you should consider becoming the next human cannonball.

Back to our accountant in peril:

I’m a recurring S3 (financial) who was passed up on the manager position because of internal politics [Ed. note: reader admits that this is their opinion]. I have a offer with PWC to join their asset management group as a S1/S2.

Is this career suicide? I have until today to tell GT if i’m leaving or tell PWC that i have to rescind the offer.

I’ve had it with GT and although they said there is a good chance next [year] to make manager, i dont believe the hype.


Timing if of the essence, so we’re on this – Looking forward to a promotion to manager and getting passed over is a tough pill to swallow. All of your hard work that you’ve put in over the last five or so years (that feel like ten) no feels wasted. As you say, you’re not buying the hype any more and we don’t blame you. However, succumbing to your frustration and allowing PwC to knock you down a notch (or two) on the ladder is the last thing we think you should do.

You shouldn’t let any firm take advantage of your vulnerability and devalue your experience just because you were in Casa de Chipman. If you were an associate, the situation might be different but if you’re on the throes of making manager and now it might be at least another year before you’re even being considered for manager, feels like a disservice.

That being said, it doesn’t sound like you’re happy at GT. And being miserable at work sucks. If you’re crawling out of bed, hating your commute and the faces of your co-workers make you want to projectile vomit on their laptops, that’s a serious sign that you need to GTFO.

Luckily, you’ve got options, friend. If you trust your performance coach/counselor, ask them if there are possibilities within GT that you can explore (possibly a practice rotation?).

But if you’re truly burned out on GT, don’t do something rash like take the first offer thrown in front of you. Take your time and make the next career move that’s perfect for you. Don’t settle for the glitz of PwC just because they make it sound like the best shit since paperless audits (they aren’t that cool anyway). Your experience is valuable, go find a company that will reward you for it.

Comp and Bonus Watch ’10: BDO Having a Happy Hump Day?

From the mail bag:

I heard that BDO is communicating compensation adjustments and bonuses this week. Bonuses are to be paid on September 15.

Seems to be in line with our last post on BDO comp and bonuses, so if you’re get good or bad news this week regarding either, share with the group and keep us informed.

At Least One Grant Thornton Office Doesn’t Think It’s Too Early To Discuss Holiday Parties

From the mailbag, straight out of H-town:

Today, sept 1st, I got a save the date for the 2010 Christmas party. So yes GT Houston is having a Christmas party this year and apparently they are so excited about it, they wanted to let everyone know way in advance! Woot!

Is this some sort of retention tactic? Probably too little too late…..


Grant Thornton’s timing of this announcement is interesting on several counts. First, Christmaskuh was canceled by KPMG last year in early August. Since this is the first Holiday Ho down news we’ve received for any firm, this may be a good sign.

Second, our source’s suspicion is noted – is GT Houston employing a free booze morale booster here? Will the promise of catering, free hard liquor (at the very least beer and wine) and the opportunity for awkward sexual advances help rally that office back to indifference as opposed to downright morbidity? Oh and watch out for a certain PwC partner who might try to crash the party since he’ll likely be kept away from the booze at his own.

Discuss the early holiday cheer. And keep us informed about your firm’s/office’s holiday rager status.

Latest Grant Thornton Business Optimism Index Reaffirms That No One Has Any Idea What Is Going to Happen Next

Complete and utter meltdown to the point where are all fighting over chicken skins and muffin stumps? The next asset bubble to get us back to our mall-hopping weekends? It’s anybody’s guess really.

Grant Thornton LLP’s Business Optimism Index, based on a quarterly survey of U.S. business leaders, decreased significantly to 58.4 in August from a recent high of 67.6 in May. Business leaders are again becoming pessimistic, with only one-third (34%) expecting the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months, down significantly from 63% in May. The hiring outlook has also dimmed; only 38% of business leaders report that their companies will ramp up hiring in the next six months.


So the one thing we can count on is that unemployment will be hovering above 9% until at least the next presidential election. Got it.

Grant Thornton LLP Business Optimism Index drops 10 points [GT]

Stephen Chipman’s Toast to Bob Herz

“Bob Herz led the FASB during the most challenging time in its history,” said Grant Thornton LLP CEO Stephen Chipman. “He has been a tireless leader with an unwavering focus on the users of financial statements and we are grateful for his service to the profession and wish him well in his retirement. We also extend our congratulations to Leslie Seidman as she takes up the mantle as acting chairman and stand ready to help her and the FASB establish accounting standards that are right for the marketplace and for the dynamic organizations [Ed. note: they’re part of the new strategy, as you may recall] we serve.”


Trite statement as it may be, at least SC said something (we’re looking straight at you Veihmeyer, Moritz, Salzberg, Howe).

Grant Thornton LLP CEO statement regarding Bob Herz retirement [GT]

Stephen Chipman Wants You To Share Grant Thornton’s New Strategy with Your Loved Ones

On Friday we gave you the review of the recent video conference that featured Stephen Chipman discussing Grant Thornton’s new strategy “Unleashing Our Potential” in an accent that may or may not be fake.

Over the weekend we were fortunate enough to have another source at GT send us the following hand-written note that was sent to all employees prior/in coordination with the video:


This more personal form of communication shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Back in the spring, Chip-to-my-Lou sent a message to Grant Thornton partners encouraging to scribble down some warm thoughts for all those nights and weekends in busy season. An email is so cold and sterile and since SC knows what’s good for the goose is good for a British Gentleman, here you have his own very words and thoughts to serve as a reminder that his blog is no substitute for his elegant penmanship.

After being mesmerized by the prose, the next thing that caught us off guard was Steve-o’s call for you to be unleashing your potential hours before you even plop down in the cube farm. This means you should be unleashing your potential while you lie in bed, in the shower and during your god-awful commute. Likewise, you are still unleashing that potential on the god-awful commute back home after your 12-15 hour day or at the local pub (but don’t unleash and drive).

What’s also strange about this note is the plea that you share “Unleashing Your Potential” with your friends and family. Maybe there are a lot of people out there that like discussing innate corporate strategy (and what it really means) with their loved ones but our source was not impressed, “why would my family and friends care about GT’s strategy?”

Forget our source’s sour attitude for a moment. We want to hear from those of you that immediately sat down your significant other to share this news with them. How did they take it? We’re they completely enamored with this new path in GT’s quest to bring back the “Big 5”? Or did they interrupt you saying, “Honey, I want you to listen to what Stephen wrote to me. To us,” to tell you that this letter was the last straw and that your relationship was over?

What about your buddies at the upcoming Fantasy Football draft? Will you be telling them about the new strategy, possibly risking your expulsion from the league? Or at your next girls night? Will this English gentleman (fake accent or not) get you all swooning over purple hues and roses?

Let us know how it goes.

UPDATE: Naturally, a reader noted a misspelled word in Stephen’s letter that we overlooked. As you might suspect we don’t get too hung up on things but the Chief of Staff really should have caught this.

PCAOB Is Still Overachieving: Issues Inspection Reports for BDO, Grant Thornton, PwC

Well team, despite the little setback for the PCAOB earlier this week, Team Peek is not discouraged. In fact, they were so motivated by the SEC’s little stunt that they thought they’d churn out three major inspection reports today, just to show everyone that they get to say what’s what with these accounting firms (even if it is in an indecipherable combination of vague and wonky prose).

BDO, Grant Thornton and PwC all got their papers issued today, which leaves just KPMG as the last major U.S. firm to not have their report issued. We’ll give you the quick and dirty on these three but if you want the gory details, you’ll have to read them in depth yourself (some o know). We’ll go in alphabetical order so no one gets bent out of shape.


BDO had eight issuers mentioned in its report. Issues included not testing the underlying data used by a specialist, failure to identify a departure from GAAP before issuing its audit report, loan losses and “[failure] to perform sufficient procedures to evaluate the reasonableness of a significant assumption management used to calculate the gain on the sale of a business,” among others.

PCAOB_2010_BDO_Seidman_LLP

GT only had five issuers listed in their report with problems including two instances of departures from GAAP that weren’t identified before the issue of the audit report, testwork related to fair value determination of illiquid assets and testwork around revenue recognition. Steve Chipman got away from the teleprompter long enough to sign the letter to the PCAOB himself, along with Trent Gazzaway, the National Managing Partner of Audit Services.

PCAOB 2010 Grant Thornton LLP


Nine issuers were noted by the inspectors for P. Dubs. Various issues ranging from inadequate testing of foreign locations, loan loss issues (that’s a given) and fair value (another surprise). PwC’s response made it sound like they actually enjoy the whole inspection process, “We continue to support the PCAOB and we wish to convey our sincere appreciation for the professional efforts of the PCAOB staff.” Wonder if the engagement teams that were inspected feel the same?

PCAOB_2010_PricewaterhouseCoopers_LLP

More Than A Few People at Grant Thornton Aren’t Buying Stephen Chipman’s Accent

Earlier in the week, Grant Thornton CEO Stephen Chipman gave team GT a taste of experienceAugust which was supposed to be a rousing battle cry as SC leads the U.S. firm into second half of 2010 and beyond.

Because we didn’t really have anything better to do, we asked around to see how things went and it sounds like if you bothered to sniff some glue prior to the 90 minute presentation, you probably enjoyed it. For the rest, not so much. A source attests:

Really, really horrible.

They had it set up in what they tried to make look like a TV studio – but may have just been a cleared out a staff area with some curtains and mood lighting. It was 90 minutes long.

GT’s new internal battle cry is now “Unleashing our Potential” and the market focus is going to be “Dynamic companies”. It’s the same crap that gets spouted each year for the last decade, just dressed up in a different package.

First, they had Chipman’s Chief of Staff, some Senior Manager ask Chipman a handful of scripted questions with scripted responses – and the 4 different teleprompters you could see on occasion would back up that claim.

We’re going to chime in here for a second – “Chief of Staff”? Is this a typical position in most large accounting firms? What does this guy make? How did he get the job? It’s doubtful that he’s anything like Rahm Emanuel. If you have any insight on any or all of these, please enlighten us.

Back to the review:

After that, they had Chipman run a roundtable with different members of senior leadership – again, mostly scripted. They also allowed 3 senior managers ask – again – scripted questions that resulted in canned responses from Chipman.

In essence – they wasted 90 minutes of everyone’s time, obviously laid out some cash for the production (4 different camera angles, a few teleprompters etc.) and told us nothing – the production came of as small-time…actually, the production came off as middle-market quality – or maybe it was a dynamic production that was unleashed on GT personnel.

The general consensus is that no one likes Chipman as the face of the firm – he is bland, uninteresting and some of us think the accent is fake.

We checked with one additional source on the bogus accent theory and they had this to say, “No I think it’s real I just think he has a hard time reading from a telepromter, he has to speak slower.”

So who knows!?

Bottom line is that GT employees got treated toa low-budget set, softball questions that addressed the firm’s vague strategy of “unleashing potential” on “dynamic clients” and a “bland” CEO whose British-ness is being called into question (at least by some). FOR 90 MINUTES. Are we missing anything?

Grant Thornton Picks Up Four Tax-Exempt Experts from WTAS

We’ve confirmed that Grant Thornton has poached four tax-exempt experts from WTAS, LLC. Presumably beefing up their NFP practice is part of the experienceAugust that Stephen Chipman told the GT troops about last week. Grant Thornton employees received an email last night about the news:

“In line with the strategic plan of our firm and in support of our growing not-for-profit industry practice we are pleased to announce that four experienced tax professionals, formerly of WTAS LLC, have joined our Firm. Frank Giardini, who lead WTAS’ National Exempt Tax Advisory Services Practice (ETAS) as well as Ron Taxin, ETAS Director, Russlee Armstrong, ETAS Director and Andrea Kyzyma, ETAS Manager recently joined us. These individuals bring over 70 years of combined experience in providing tax services to significant non- profit organizations, especially in the higher education and healthcare industries. They have served the tax needs of many large public charities and private foundations. Frank and his group are based out in our Philadelphia office, but will serve clients in both the Northeast and Southeast regions. This group will also play a key role assisting our national NFP tax leader, Dan Romano, in serving GT’s national clients as well as supporting the NFP tax professionals throughout the firm.

A source familiar with WTAS, confirmed these departures, saying that they occurred earlier this summer and thought the move was “a good opportunity for them.” Emails and morse code messages sent to Grant Thornton have not been returned.

Compensation and Bonus Watch ’10: Who Knows BDO?

After coming out the near-death experience thanks to the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal, you’d figure TPTB at BDO would continue shoveling the good news out while they could. On the comp front, a tipster tells us that while there are rumors that raises are bonuses are coming, no one has a clue as to what they’ll be:

Can you run a discussion on BDO compensation increase and bonuses? Raises would be effective 10/1, and currently there have been no formal communications from senior mgmt regarding this topic. In the local offices, there has been word that there will be raises and bonuses, but no numbers have been thrown around.

In other words, if you’ve got the goods BDO peeps, kindly spill it. It’s about time you started talking. If you’re not comfortable voicing yourself, email us and we’ll handle it.

KV Pharmaceutical Will Get to Know BDO

As we’ve mentioned, it’s been a rough summer – hell a rough year – for KV Pharmaceutical. The company paid nearly $26 million to the Justice Department back in February, had massive layoffs in March and their Chairman and CFO back in June.

Last month, KPMG decided it had had all the drama it could handle and resigned as the auditor of the company.

But as the second half of 2010 gets into full swing, KV managed to find a new CFO and now they’ve managed to land a new auditor – BDO.


BPR:

K-V Pharmaceutical Company (NYSE: KVa/KVb) announced today that the Audit Committee of its Board of Directors has engaged BDO USA, LLP (“BDO”) as the Company’s independent registered accounting firm.

The Company and BDO will commence work immediately on the planning, audit and filing of the fiscal year 2010 Form 10-K and will then follow with the review of its quarterly filings for fiscal year 2011. K-V’s fiscal year end is March 31.

Mr. Mark Dow, Chair of the Board’s Audit Committee, stated, “The Audit Committee and the entire Board is pleased to be able to announce the selection of BDO as the Company’s new accounting firm. BDO has extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry and also a previous relationship with K-V, and the Company believes BDO will be able to assess and complete its audit of the Company’s Fiscal Year 2010 financial statements expeditiously. We look forward to working closely with BDO to bring the Company back into compliance with all of its Securities and Exchange Commission filings as quickly as possible.”

Right! Staying compliant! That sounds a bit maj. Not only that but the New York Stock Exchange (sort of of a big deal in their own right) is sick of KV stinking up their big board with their 30-day average stock price hovering under $1.

The company has assured the NYSE that they’re on this stock price problem, “The Company will furnish to the NYSE on or prior to August 10, 2010 a response affirming its intent to cure this deficiency and outlining the steps it is currently taking and plans to undertake in the near term to restore compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards.”

Let’s just say BDO has their work cut out. KV has no internal controls to speak of, is having trouble convincing the FDA their products are safe and the SEC and NYSE breathing down their necks. Now maybe this won’t all translate into the auditors’ magic wand but there’s got to other potential clients in the St. Louis area with far less drama.

K-V Pharmaceutical Company Engages BDO USA, LLP as Independent Registered Accountants [PR Newswire]
Notice of Delisting or Failure to Satisfy a Continued Listing Rule or Standard; Transfer of Listing [SEC]

Grant Thornton Is Nearly Done ‘Transitioning’ Offices

Earlier this week, Grant Thornton CEO Stephen Chipman sent an email out to the troops, letting everyone know what’s been going at GT has been over the last 6 months or so. Turns out, quite a bit has been going on! Never mind the blogging for a second, we’re talking about the offices that have been closed or sold around the country. Namely Albuquerque, Honolulu, Madison and Greensboro.

SC gets to all those and he does mention the sale of the “Manufacturing Transaction Services practice, based in Detroit” which, we’re pretty sure, is the Supply Chain Advisory practice they sold to KPMG. The email doesn’t really tell you anything that we haven’t already but it is in some nice Chipman prose, if that’s your fancy.

But for good measure, we also learn that the firm has “transitioned out of our regional community hospital practice in Wichita,” which is news to us.


BKD picked up GT’s community hospital practice and everything should be finito by August 31st. But that’s the last of ’em! The only other news is that August, apparently, is going to be an exciting month for Grant Thornton because that’s when SC & Co. are going to communicate the “full details of [the firm’s] new strategy.” We have no idea what means but it’s sure to make August considerably more exciting than normal.

As many of you know, Grant Thornton’s Senior Leadership Team has been deeply engaged in the process of refining the strategic direction of our firm. Our strategy unleashes our potential as a global provider of distinctive client service and includes focusing on our “chosen” markets—those markets that offer the greatest opportunities for the growth of our business and the development of our people.

During experienceAugust, when we come together as one firm, I will be communicating to you the full details of this new strategy. Today, I want to personally share with you the news that, as part of implementing the strategy and better positioning us for growth in our chosen markets, the firm’s senior leaders have made the difficult decision to transition from a few locations and practices.

The firm will be closing and transitioning offices located in Albuquerque, Greensboro, Honolulu and Madison. Additionally, we have transitioned out of our regional community hospital practice in Wichita and our Manufacturing Transaction Services practice, based in Detroit. We expect all six of these transitions to be completed by August 31, 2010.

Beyond these, I want to assure you that the firm has no additional planned office or practice transitions. Below, I share with you details about each of these changes. Additionally, I will be providing you with more information during the August 10 all-employee video conference.

Transition plans for affected offices
In Albuquerque, Grant Thornton has signed a letter of intent for Moss Adams LLP to acquire our practice. Moss Adams LLP is the eleventh-largest accounting and consulting firm in the U.S., and its Albuquerque office is the largest accounting practice in the state of New Mexico.

Our Greensboro office will consolidate into our firm’s Raleigh and Charlotte offices, where we will continue to serve our Carolinas-based clients.

In Honolulu, two former Grant Thornton partners—Patrick Oki and Lawrence Chew—have purchased the office. Patrick and Lawrence will be the partners in their newly-formed firm, PKF Pacific Hawaii LLP. PKF Pacific Hawaii will assume Grant Thornton’s office space, transition existing employees in Honolulu and continue to provide audit, tax, and advisory services in Hawaii.

Our Madison office will merge with our Milwaukee office, where—in conjunction with our Appleton office—we will continue to serve the greater Wisconsin marketplace.

Transition plans for affected practices
In Detroit, we completed a transaction for KPMG to acquire our Manufacturing Transaction Services practice, a provider of a highly specialized niche service offering to the automotive sector. We continue to have a growing and successful Detroit office and we remain fully committed to providing audit, tax, and advisory services to the automotive industry.

In Wichita, we completed a transaction for BKD to acquire our regional community hospital practice.. We are fully committed to our practice in Wichita and are excited about the opportunities for growth under our new managing partner, Lori Davis.

Honoring our colleagues
The decision to transition these locations and practices was not an easy one. We determined our course only after lengthy deliberation, and with the greatest consideration for the best interests of our business, clients and our people. To those of you who sit in the affected offices, and who are leaving the firm as a result of these transitions, it has been a privilege and honor to work with you. On behalf of the entire firm, I want to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for your service and wish you the greatest success going forward. Your contributions to Grant Thornton have been enormous, and your offices and practices will stand as proud parts of the firm’s history.

Investing for growth
As we look ahead to executing on our strategy, this realignment of our resources and geographies will better position us for growth and will help us to build greater market share in our chosen markets. It enhances our ability to focus on the development of our people and providing our clients with an exceptional and distinctive client experience. I look forward to sharing more details—and my excitement— about the new growth strategy next month, when unleashing our potential will launch in tandem with our new fiscal year.

In closing, I want to thank you for all that you do to make a difference at Grant Thornton. I am confident that August is the start of one of the most exciting times at our firm to date, and I look forward to beginning this new chapter together.

Stephen

Jeremy Newman and BDO Will Not Be Taking Part in Your Lowballed, Low Quality Audits

BDO International CEO Jeremy Newman is a little concerned about the trend of lowball audit fees out there. Now, those aren’t his exact words, in fact he calls it ‘‘extreme downward pressure on fees’ which still seems far more than honest than “my US colleagues call ‘fee compression.’”

He’s worried because he thinks that all this slumming around for any little opining job will lead to shoddy audits:

There is increasing evidence that fees are being forced down to such an extent that one worries this will encourage audit firms to ‘cut corners’ to reduce their own costs and thereby reduce audit quality – particularly given that the buyers of audit services (ie clients) do not monitor or determine audit quality which is a role taken on by regulators who are not involved in the pricing discussion between the client and the audit firm.

Yes, the man has evidence, courtesy of:

Canadian Public Accountability Board – “CPAB has learned that certain audit committees are pressuring firms to significantly reduce audit fees. This stance may be incompatible with the audit committees’ important role … in helping to ensure the integrity of financial reporting.”

Australian Securities and Investments Commission – “We will also focus on audit quality for new or existing audits where audit fees appear low or appear to have been reduced for reasons other than changes in the underlying business of the entity being audited.”

And he rounds it out with a quote from a speech given by Stephen Hadrill, the Chief Executive of the UK’s Financial Reporting Council, “There is a role for the market in setting higher expectations of auditors. So far the market has not played that role. Quite the opposite. It is more likely to applaud lower audit fees than higher quality.”

So if you’re desperate to retain some business or provide “client service” through the Wal Mart method, you’ll be on your own. As long as Newman is running the ship at BDO, they will be choosing quality over quantity, “despite the pressure on us to reduce costs,” no matter what other firms (read: Igbay Ourfay) are doing.

A Bizarre Market [CEO Insights]

BDO Does Some Ribbon Cutting, Opens Raleigh, NC Office

More good news out of B to the D to the O as the firm announced today that it is opening an office in Raleigh, North Carolina (full press release after the jump). This will be the 39th office in the U.S. and fourth in North Carolina. The firm also has eight affiliate offices in the state.

In the process, the firm managed to pick up former Ernst & Young audit partner Michael Dannar (a refugee perhaps?).


The good times at BDO have been aplenty lately as the firm just admitted five partners on July 1 and was given a mulligan on the Banco Espirito lawsuit. Oh and don’t forget that the firm fka BDO Seidman is celebrating its 100th birthday all year.

No word if there will be cake or freakishly large scissors at the celebration but nevertheless, it’s good to see some expansion in the Tar Heel state for a change.

BDO USA, LLP EXPANDS NORTH CAROLINA PRESENCE WITH NEW RALEIGH OFFICE

Chicago, IL – BDO USA, LLP, one of the nation’s leading professional service organizations, has announced an expansion of it’s presence in North Carolina with the addition of a new office in Raleigh. The Chicago-based firm, which now has offices in 39 cities around the country, had previously serviced clients in this market through its Charlotte practice. Pending a move to permanent office space at 5430 Wade Park Boulevard in August, the new practice, which will have approximately 15 staff, will be temporarily located at:

BDO
5410 Trinity Road, Suite 310
Raleigh, NC 27607

The Raleigh business community will now have more direct access to BDO’s full array of services which include assurance, tax, risk advisory, financial planning, business restructuring, litigation and fraud investigation services. Michael Dannar, previously with Ernst & Young, has joined the firm as a partner and will assist in serving the firm’s assurance clients in Raleigh and throughout the southeast. Mr. Dannar has significant experience working with colleges, universities and other non-profit organizations.

“We have been working with clients in Raleigh for a number of years now and the time is right for us to establish a permanent presence. This new office will enable us to better serve our clients in this growing market,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO USA. “We are also happy to welcome Michael Danner to the partnership. His knowledge of the market will be a valuable resource to our firm.”

BDO SEIDMAN FACTS:

• BDO is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1910.
• BDO represents companies ranging from Fortune 500 multinationals to closely-held private businesses.
• BDO had $620 million in revenues in 2009 (6/30/09). Over the past four fiscal years, the firm has averaged double digit growth (10.2%).
• As an independent member of BDO International Limited (the fifth largest global network of accounting firms), the firm can leverage the resources of more than 1,000 member firm offices in 115 countries around the world.

ABOUT BDO USA

BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. For 100 years, BDO has provided quality service through the active involvement of experienced and committed professionals. The firm serves clients through 39 offices and more than 400 independent alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent Member Firm of BDO International Limited, BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of 1,138 offices in 115 countries.

BDO USA, LLP,a limited liability partnership, is the U.S. member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms. For more information please visit: www.bdo.com.

Promotion Watch ’10: BDO Names Five New Partners

Fresh off their win last week in a Florida Appeals Court, BDO announced the admission of five new partners today in a press release (in full after the jump).

The new partners are Joseph Carr (Chicago – Tax), Anthony Lawrence (Grand Rapids – Assurance), Hoon Lee (San Francisco – Tax), Bryan Polozola (Dallas – Assurance) and Julie Valpey (National – SEC) and they get their big chairs effective tomorrow.

Congrats to the new partners and remember to keep the celebration under control.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BDO USA, LLP, ADMITS 5 NEW PARTNERS

BDO USA, LLP, IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT 5 NEW PARTNERS HAVE BEEN ADMITTED TO THE PARTNERSHIP, EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2010.

Chicago, IL– BDO USA, LLP, is pleased to announce that 5 new partners have been admitted to the partnership, effective July 1, 2010. Two of the new partners are in the tax practice, two are in the assurance business line and one is in the national SEC group. BDO is a leading national professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to private and publicly traded businesses.

“I am very proud to welcome each of these very deserving individuals to our partnership,” said Jack Weisbaum, CEO of BDO USA. “A key to success in our profession is a commitment to recruiting, training and retaining superior client service professionals. Each of these new partners has excelled in their specific technical area while providing the highest level of client service.”

The newly elected partners include: Joseph Carr (Chicago – Tax), Anthony Lawrence (Grand Rapids – Assurance), Hoon Lee (San Francisco – Tax), Bryan Polozola (Dallas – Assurance) and Julie Valpey (National – SEC).

About BDO USA
BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. For 100 years, BDO has provided quality service through the active involvement of experienced and committed professionals. The firm serves clients through 38 offices and more than 400 independent alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent Member Firm of BDO International Limited, BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of 1,138 offices in 115 countries.

BDO USA, LLP,a limited liability partnership, is the U.S. member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms. For more information please visit: www.bdo.com.

Accounting News Roundup: Financial Reform Finalized; Banco Espirito v. BDO 2.0; Small Win for Skilling, Big Loss for PCAOB? | 06.25.10

U.S. Lawmakers Reach Accord on New Finance Rules [WSJ]
By the end of this one, can’t you picture an exhausted Barney Frank with his tie loosened to mid-torso, pants undone with fly wide open open and some staffer dabbing his sweaty brow?

“After more than 20 hours of continuous wrangling, Congressional Democrats and White House officials reached agreement on the final shape of legislation that would transform financial regulation, avoiding last-minute defections among New York lawmakers that had threatened to upend the bill.

After months of uncertainty about how the U.S. would craft new rules, the agreement offers thince the financial crisis of how markets and the government will interact for decades to come. The common thread: large financial companies are facing a tougher leash.”

Just in case you missed it yesterday, former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt isn’t nearly as excited as some people about the bill. The President is expected to sign the bill before July 4.

Sidenote on this one: how the Journal managed to slip Maxine Waters through as one of a dozen “players” in this bill should cause you to question – if even for just a minute – the credibility of the paper.

Florida Appeals Court Turns Down Heat, For Now, On BDO Seidman [Re: The Auditors]
Francine’s take on the decision by the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal to order a trial in the Banco Espirito v. BDO case. An event she isn’t thrilled about, “My doubts about the efficacy of a new trial are based on the disappointing, frustrating and completely unsatisfying way the court and the judges in this case have proceeded. Some of the additional comments raised by the Appeals Court do not bode well for this plaintiff’s chances next time around.”


Supreme Court Rolls Back a Law Born of Enron [NYT/Floyd Norris]
In more Congressional ineptitude (at least in the eyes of the SCOTUS), former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling won his case at the high court, arguing that “the concept of committing fraud through depriving an employer of ‘honest services’ was not adequately defined in the law,” Floyd Norris writes.

In other words, the “idea” of fraud being a kickback or a bribe is obvious and was defined. Manipulating mark-to-market and off-balance sheet accounting rules or “something else equally outrageous” were not and thus the law was unconstitutional. Long story/short, Norris writes, is that

Funny story on the way to this Skilling outcome – if the SCOTUS rules against the PCAOB (it is expected on Monday), “It will blame Congress for writing bad laws,” Norris writes. And who forced Congress into action on Sarbanes-Oxley?

BP: Oil-Spill Cost Hits $2.35 Billion [WSJ]
Has anyone handicapped this? Obviously the $20 billion reserve is a good ballpark figure but the overs have to be a pretty solid bet on that. Takers?

Caturano being acquired by RSM McGladrey [Boston Business Journal]
The firm fka RSM McGladrey purchased Caturano and Company, the fifth largest firm in Boston. The deal, if approved by H&R Block, would make RSM McGladrey…the fifth largest firm in Boston.

BDO Wins New Life as Florida Appeals Court Orders New Trial

In what amounts to a HUGE win for BDO, the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami has ordered a new trial in the case between BDO and Banco Espirito Santo:

A Florida appeals court has thrown out a $521 million jury verdict and ordered a new trial in a dispute over audits between accounting firm BDO Seidman and a major Portuguese bank.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled Wednesday that the 2007 trial was wrongly divided into three phases.

That meant jurors decided BDO Seidman should pay punitive damages too early in the case.

BDO Seidman was sued by Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santmed on a Miami company later exposed as a huge fraud. The bank claimed BDO Seidman was negligent for not detecting the fraud, costing the bank $170 million in losses.

Jurors awarded the bank $170 million in losses plus $351 million in punitive damages.

We reached out to the Steven Thomas, lead counsel for the Banco Espirito for his reaction:

This case has been sent back for another trial because of the procedural ‘bifurcation’ issue. We are pleased that the effort and hard work the jury put into this case was recognized by the appellate court, and we specifically note that the Court did not dispute BDO unethical conflicts of interest or its negligence. The evidence of BDO Seidman’s failures of even the most basic auditing procedures is so overwhelming that we expect a new jury will reach the same conclusion as the original jury. We look forward to trying this case and reminding everyone of BDO Seidman’s neglect of its public duty and the enormous conflict of interest they had.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, undisputed negligence cited by Mr Thomas, the mood inside BDO is one of vindication. From the firm’s press release not yet posted on the firm’s website:

The firm is pleased to announce that the Third District Court of Appeal of the state of Florida has unanimously overturned a 2007 jury verdict against the firm and ordered that the Bankest case be retried in the 11th Circuit Court. The Court of Appeal concluded that:

• The Trial Court erred in its original decision to trifurcate the trial, ruling that it was prejudicial to have allowed the case to be presented in three phases. This made it possible for the jury to find BDO grossly negligent without, at the same time, considering the conduct of other actors, including representatives of Banco Espirito Santo.

• The Appellate Court further concluded that the evidence of reliance on BDO’s audit opinions was insufficient to sustain the claims of the Bankest investors, save for the one individual who testified at trial.

• The Trial Court improperly allowed into evidence prejudicial hearsay testimony and documents that further served to deprive BDO of a fair trial.

The Appellate Court concluded, “We have carefully considered every substantive and procedural authority that might be applied to preserve at least some of the jury’s findings. In this case, no such balm is found.”

“We are very pleased that the Appeals court has reversed the lower court verdict. We have consistently stated that we were confident that the jury’s erroneous verdict in this case would be reversed on appeal. The addition of punitive damages at the time only served to emphasize the injustice that took place at the trial court,” said CEO Jack Weisbaum. “A new trial will be in accordance with the Court of Appeal’s decision and we will prove that BDO acted at all times consistent with its professional obligations and that its audit opinions were based on the proper application of generally accepted auditing standards.”

So we’ve got a new trial with a re-energized BDO and a tenacious plaintiff. It sounds like BDO will stick with its defense strategy of “we did no wrong,” so this should be fun.

Florida Third District Court of Appeal Decision [PDF]

(UPDATE 3) McGladrey’s Giant Putting Green Cake Will Ensure That Everyone Gets to Celebrate Their Rebranding

Webcam chat at Ustream

In the best example that we’ve seen of accounting firm make-up sex, today the RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen announced that they will now be branded under one name…McGladrey. Since the deciders on the name checked imagination at the door, the firms make it up to all of us with the best possible solution – building a giant putting green cake.


One of the duffers sponsored by McGladrey, Chris DiMarco, will attempt to chip in on the green later today and with any luck you’ll be able to watch it above as it happens.

As exciting as that is, it isn’t entirely clear whether or not this also serves as a tasty distraction from the layoffs and restructuring that is going on McGladrey. Kick that around if you like but also consider the fact that Natalie Gulbis doesn’t seem to be jumping out of this thing at any point in time, and that is a travesty that cannot go unnoticed.

UPDATE: We’ve been assured that the cake’s tastiness or lack thereof will be communicated to us later today. Whether or not there will be pre-cake jays, gallons of Vitamin D milk to wash it down or couches to pass out on has not been determined. Discuss and keep us updated. Spare no details – flavor, frosting, texture, etc.

UPDATE 2: Okay you guys – who witnessed this sorry-ass display? Natalie wouldn’t have disappointed the crowd like these losers. And then someone skulls one right into the camera? Video is completely gone right now. Unbelievable. Get back to us on this cake.

UPDATE 3: The report on the cake is in:

1) The cake is, actually, pretty big. And, it’s all cake, except for the part of the logo, which is made of rice krispie treats.
2) As for a slice of that cake…quite good, actually. The cake part is marble, and very soft and tasty. I nabbed what might be a corner piece with the “rough” frosting. It’s a lot of frosting. A lot.

I’d give the cake a solid A-. There will be a lot to save in the next few days!

Two minutes later we got his follow-up:

I had to stop eating it halfway through — I think I’d go into diabetic shock if I ate any more of it. The grade gets downgraded to a B+.

RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen, LLP, Launch New “McGladrey” Brand [McGladrey]

Layoff Watch ’10: McGladrey Makes Nationwide Cuts

Over the past month, we have heard lots about layoffs at RSM McGladrey/McGladrey & Pullen but we didn’t have much for details.

Frankly, we still don’t know a lot but we’ll go with what we’ve got. So far we know about reductions in the New York, Chicago, Quad Cities, Florida and Seattle offices and everything we’ve been told indicates that they are occurring elsewhere.


First the Emerald City:

I was ample. There is a new geographic restructuring going on. Instead of multiple “economic units” there will be only three regions. Many HRs and CFOs from different offices are losing their jobs. Consulting people talk about 100 positions that will be eliminated across the country. 10 people were let go from Seattle Economic Unit which includes Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia offices. We were informed about the reorganization somewhere around 04/12 and laid off at the end of the month. I think everybody received severance.

We’re not that familiar with past cuts in the RSM/M&P world but the big cuts in consulting seem to trail the Big 4’s by a year or two, although if some of these smaller clients are giving into the Big 4 lowballing then perhaps this is the natural progression.

Meanwhile:

Their Florida Private Club operations group closed the Club IT Consulting Group and layed off the staff. Some of the staff have been part of the firm for more than 20 years and were profitable.

Chicago just layed off the Operations Consulting Staff yesterday, [approximately] 10 people. This group was left to dangle in the wind, sink or swim on their own without marketing or sales assistance or access to the firm’s client-base Naturally it failed.

This firm’s actual layoff numbers are always reported low because they chase people out prior to layoffs in an attempt to camouflage the numbers. Their tactics to accomplish this include poor performance evaluations for staff, unreasonable margin requirements, constant peer pressure meetings regarding performance and head to head comparisons. This creates a dysfunctional relationship between groups and actually motivates groups within their own company to compete with one and other. Only so much people can take and then they leave. Just what the firm wanted.

Considering the economy in Florida, the demise of RSM’s private club operations in that corner of the over-leveraged world wouldn’t come as much of surprise. That being said, you might expect that veterans of the firm would be accommodated somehow with other internal opportunities.

As far as the “chasing” this is Jack Welch’s magical forced ranking method that the Big 4 has accepted like its own creation.

We reached out to both RSM’s corporate spokeswoman and their general counsel, both of whom have not responded to our request for comment. We also contacted an H&R Block spokesman to see if they could elaborate on these layoffs from the parent company level but again, our requests have gone unanswered. H&RB had their own layoffs last month however, there is no indication at this point whether cuts at H&RB would have anything to do with those at RSM/M&P.

We’re still accumulating details on these cuts, so get in touch with us about details on your office or discuss below. And don’t be shy, we know you McGladrey types been hesitant to call on us in the past.

Accounting News Roundup: Tipsters Expose Fraud More Often Than Most Controls; What if the PCAOB Is Unconstitutional?; BDO Could Question Forensic Accountant’s Credibility | 06.01.10

Something Wicked This Way Comes [CFO]
A recent Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) study discovered that “[o]f the top eight controls ranked by effectiveness, only one — surprise audits, which cut fraud losses by 51% — is part of the traditional accounting-based control structure. Financial-statement review, internal audits, and Sarbanes-Oxley-mandated certifications by CEOs and CFOs all ranked below the nonaccounting controls in terms of effectiveness in preventing fraud.”

Controls have no match for good old human conscience, “tips expose fraud three times as often as do management reviews, internal audits, or account reconciliations.”


The problem however, is that employees may not be getting the training about how to report fraud if they know it’s happening, “an unsupportive corporate culture and poor employee training leave potential whistle-blowers unsure of whom to talk to.” Plus the baddies are doing their best to dissuade them, as Sam Antar told CFO, “[They] don’t go down without a fight, they don’t fight fairly, and they are going to intimidate whistle-blowers — that’s the nature of their game.”

Accounting for Crisis [Portfolio.com]
Gary Weiss writes over at Portfolio about the impending decision in Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB and he’s not impressed with the FEF’s argument, “claiming that the board would give our Founding Fathers heart attacks because its members are appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and not the president and can’t be removed except for cause.”

That despite the PCAOB’s lack of fireworks in its daily activities, “The PCAOB has not exactly rocked our world—and obviously its existence did nothing to keep Lehman from its Repo 105 book-cooking scheme. But getting rid of it, particularly on specious Constitutional grounds, would be a blow to the cause of more accurate financial statements.”

The odds say that the SCOTUS will affirm the lower court’s decision but just in case, Gary agrees with Interim PCAOB Chairman Dan Goelzer that Congress needs to act fast if the Court surprises us and reverses the decision.

Clifton Gunderson buys Stockton Bates [Philadelphia Business Journal]
Philadelphia-based Stockton Bates will join Clifton Gunderson’s 1,900 employees and 300 partners effective today. Stockton has 32 employees between three offices in Philadelphia, Lancaster, PA and Haddonfield, NJ.

BDO Seidman fights claims brought by fraudster Lew Freeman [South Florida Business Journal]
Convicted forensic accountant Lewis Freeman testified in the case of ES Bankest and BDO. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Freeman’s conviction could call his credibility as a witness into question as well as the Bankest bankruptcy proceedings, where Freeman acted as the court-appointed receiver.

Layoff Watch ’10: H&R Block Cutting 400 Positions, Closing 400 Locations

Has the risk of violence become too much?

No, it’s actually quite a bit more boring than that – cost savings. The company states that it will decrease its operating expenses $140-$150 million by 2012. CEO Russ Smyth was quoted in the Kansas City Star that “There aren’t as many people who need their taxes done when there are a lot fewer W-2s going out,” referring to the higher unemployment rate in the company’s customer base.

HRB’s headquarters in Kansas City will cut 165 of the 400 jobs lost.


The timing of this announcement is interesting because we’ve heard a few rumors (but virtually no details) about layoffs at RSM McGladrey, an HRB subsidiary, but they aren’t as forthcoming with the press releases and aren’t returning our calls. If you have any details about layoffs at RSM or its on-again off-again affiliate, McGladrey & Pullen, get in touch with us.

Full HRB press release:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) today announced a broad strategic realignment of its field and corporate support organization. Overall, the company expects these changes to decrease annual operating expenses by $140 – $150 million per year by the end of fiscal year 2012.

Russ Smyth, president and chief executive officer of H&R Block, said, “We operate in a challenging and competitive environment, and to be successful we must find new ways to provide better value to our clients. This requires that we narrow our focus and invest in a few key initiatives that will have the greatest impact on attracting and retaining clients in our retail and digital channels, while eliminating other activities and their related costs.”

Approximately 400 positions are being eliminated throughout the organization as part of the measure. The company also has closed approximately 400 under-performing tax offices out of its network of 11,000 retail tax locations.

“Changes like these are never easy and we appreciate the hard work and loyalty of the affected associates,” Smyth said.

“However, these steps are necessary to improve our business performance and better serve our clients.”

H&R Block expects to incur a pre-tax charge for severance-related costs of approximately $28 million, most of which will be incurred in the fiscal quarter ending July 31, 2010.

BDO Breaks Barrier to Be First Accounting Firm to Land on Obscure Employer List

First off, we can’t remember the last time BDO graced these pages twice in one day. You’d think something would come out of B to the D to the O more often but whatevs. BDO 2.0 today is a little bit of good news for the firm in the form of an exclusive spot on an obscure “Best Places” list.

God forbid our lives be devoid of a ranking in the last half of May but since it’s graduation season and there are some job hunters out there that need to start paying back school loans and credit cards debts, perhaps the timing isn’t so bad. A list we might add, that did not previously have an accounting firm on it. Progress people. Progress.


BDO shattered the glass ceiling on Experience’sBest Places to Work for Recent Grads” that “picked 20 organizations whose entry-level hiring and retention practices are exceptional.” The list is specifically aimed at those companies that are hip to the Gen Y crowd, although we don’t really know any “recent grads” list that wouldn’t be.

Regardless, BDO has some decent company on the list that includes Accenture, Kellogg’s and Morningstar but BDO is the sole accounting firm. The fact that not a single accounting firm (let alone a Big 4 firm) is on the list is a travesty of the highest order. We then realized that the list’s very nature is severely flawed.

It’s too short. Any employer list with less than 50 companies on it simply cannot be taken seriously.

And since there were no accounting firms on last year’s list, this might as well have been random list of companies thrown together for the sake of keeping communications professionals busy.

This year, the Experience folks must have recognized their gross error and that since no employer list could be taken seriously devoid of a professional services firm. Not wanting to make it too complicated, BDO’s inclusion be probably chalked up to an alphabetical advantage.

Best Places to Work for Recent Grads [Experience]
BDO Press Release

BDO Not Thrilled with the Legal Advice It Got Re: Tax Shelters

BDO’s Tax Solutions Group was going gangbusters back in the late 90s and early aughts. Unfortunately, the party more or less ended in December 2000 when the IRS served notice to the firm that some of the products were not ingenious tax planning strategies but rather illegal tax shelters. The DOJ launched an enforcement action in 2002 and just last year BDO partners started pleading guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy and some other fun charges.

BDO isn’t crazy about shouldering all the shame and embarrassment so it has decided to sue the law firm Morgan Lewis for “professional negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and constructive fraud.” BDO alleges that ML’s breach amounted to “disastrous results” which is likely referring to the tax shelter shitshow. They just want their $9 million back that they paid in fees and call it a day (they’re saving up!).


Morgan Lewis finds this all very amusing, stating that they advised BDO only on minor issues. ML is represented by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher led by James Fogelman, who made his client’s position very clear:

Morgan Lewis called the lawsuit a “sham” and contended it only advised [BDO Partners] on a few minor questions — none of which involved the questionable tax products. “There was nothing that Morgan Lewis knew about to warn BDO concerning BDO’s own conduct. … There was nothing more BDO needed to know,” Fogelman wrote.

The only time Morgan Lewis opined on a tax product, the firm contends, was in February 2000, when BDO asked it to weigh in on a tax shelter dubbed the Sentinal Transaction. Morgan Lewis responded that the tax shelter was “unlikely” to expose BDO to criminal convictions. In its motion to dismiss, the firm said, “[I]t does not appear that anybody has ever been convicted of any federal crime based on the Sentinal Transaction.”

And Morgan Lewis doesn’t simply want to be vindicated in this matter, they want to be right AND they they would like BDO and DLA Piper (BDO’s counsel) to have sanctions slapped on their asses for lying through their teeth in their complaint. ML contends that they presented evidence disproving the allegations but BDO and DLA must have decided that a bitter fight would be more fun.

And it is.

BDO Seidman Seeks $9 Million in Fees Back From Morgan Lewis [The National Law Journal via Law.com]

Hey Ladies, Have You Thought About Working for BDO?

As most of us know, women are overrepresented in public accounting yet not necessarily rewarded for their hard work, dedication, and deftness in handling both career and family (for first and second years, substitute “family” for “sleeping with hot coworkers”). Knowing that, we’re thrilled to tell you that BDO has been chosen as one of the 2010 Best CPA Firms for Women by the American Society of Women Accountants and the American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants. The award is an initiative of the ASWA and AWSCPA joint Accounting/MOVE project, a national research effort to measure progress and advance women at public accounting firms and corporate accounting employers.

The Accounting/MOVE project was especially impressed by BDO’s promotion of women within the firm tied directly to BDO’s training and retention initiative.


If you recall, BDO was conveniently left out of the Working Mother 100 best companies in 2009 list last year.

As a working mother AND woman myself, I find it appropriate to point out that not all women are mothers so it doesn’t necessarily mean any progress has been made on BDO’s work/life policies. It would be awfully presumptuous of everyone – and, frankly, a tad sexist – to assume as much. For some women, work/life balance simply means spending less time at work and more time hooking up with coworkers or pursuing other hobbies and activities that don’t involve dirty diapers and scrubbing crayon drawings off of the wall.

BDO Named a Best CPA Firm for Women by American Society of Women Accountants and American Woman’s Society of CPAs [Business Wire]

Did RSM McGladrey Enforcers Get to Lane Kiffin?

Nat was aware of the problem early on:

Since this was Tweeted Tuesday, RSM McGladrey likely got their enforcers on this ASAP telling LK, “this is not happening” because he started campaigning for NG late on Wednesday.


In spite of these efforts, L to the K still holds a commanding lead. Once these things get rolling they take on a life of their own.

Upset Alert: Sexiest Woman Alive Madness Bracket Busters [Esquire]

Is RSM McGladrey Worried That Natalie Gulbis Isn’t Sexier Than Lane Kiffin?

It’s bracket season and while many of you are trying to get out of work to watch hoops, the good folks at Esquire have a much more pressing matter at hand.

The Sexiest Woman Alive Bracket is: “A single-elimination battle royale: sixty-four women, seven rounds, one readers’-choice champion, and not a single Kardashian,” and RSM McGladrey’s own Natalie Gulbis is a number one seed.

Her first round cruise match is against…Lane Kiffin?

Yes, Lane Kiffin. For those of you not pigskin inclined, Lane Kiffin recently left his job as the University of Tennessee football coach for the job at the University of Southern California.


As you might expect, Volunteer fans didn’t take too kindly to a young first-year coach bolting for the sunny confines of L.A. This is not lost on the folks at Esquire and they opted to include the Trojan coach in this year’s bracket.

And as it stands right now, Natalie is trailing Lane in the first round match-up with just under 35k votes to Kiffin’s 46k-ish votes. How does Kiffin, who at first glance does not even qualify for this particular bracket, manage to hold on to what seems to be a insurmountable lead? Is it possible that LK is sexier than Natalie?

Plus, if this lead holds up, isn’t this a public relations disaster for everyone involved? How will RSM explain this to their clients? Will this lead to a desperate move by the firm to drop NG in favor of someone else, say a newly recovered sex addict — who’s a little down on his luck re: sponsors — that will be playing in the Masters?

Vote for the Sexiest Woman Alive! [Esquire]

The Purpose of H&R Block’s Free Shred Day Is Not to Demonstrate How to Destroy Evidence

As you’re all aware, accountants suffer a myriad of stereotypes. The public’s notion that we shred anything and everything with pure, unadulterated joy to cover our asses is due mainly to folks like David Duncan, the Arthur Andersen partner who so famously ordered the shredding at Enron.  That sort of thing inspired this spot for Heineken:


So H&R Block, parent of RSM McGladrey, has decided that it will educate some of the fine residents in Spartanburg, South Carolina about the less dubious purposes of shredding financial information.

In order to increase awareness of the importance of being financially secure, H&R Block is hosting a Shred Day at Cleveland Village, 1564 Asheville Hwy in Spartanburg from 10am – 2pm on Saturday, March 20. The public is invited to attend to safely dispose of sensitive paper materials, learn about how to protect their ID, and find answers to any tax related questions.

We think this is fine idea on the part of H&RB although we foresee one problem. Since South Carolina has gone to great lengths to regulate “subversive organizations”, will this little demonstration of document destruction backfire? Will it allow the terrorists in the Palmetto state to destroy any and all evidence that would otherwise declare their intentions to overthrow the government? Is Glenn Beck aware that this being allowed to happen?

H&R Block Hosts Free Shred Day [Spartanburg News]

(UPDATE) RSM McGladrey, McGladrey & Pullen Officially Reconcile

– Update includes response from RSM McGladrey spokesperson

Well, it’s official. RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen are back together, having signed a new definitive agreement and putting the brief fallout behind them.

In a statement released by RSM McGladrey on Friday, both firms made good on their promise to kiss and make up after announcing there intentions to do so in December.

Both RSM President C.E. Andrews and M&P Managing Partner Dave Scudder are putting this whole misunderstanding behind them.

“With the completion of these agreements, our focus is on moving forward and building the success of our respective firms by enhancing client service and accelerating growth,” said C.E. Andrews, president of RSM McGladrey, a wholly-owned subsidiary of H&R Block. “We have a clear opportunity to enhance our competitive position by taking the collaboration between our firms to a new level.”

“We now have the framework to build on our heritage of delivering the highest quality services to all our clients, while providing growth opportunities for our people and ensuring the independence of M&P,” said Dave Scudder, managing partner of McGladrey & Pullen. “We look forward to increased collaboration with RSM McGladrey and the renewed sense of enthusiasm and commitment that both firms have brought to this process.”

In spite of the boilerplate statements, it’s not entirely clear if the new agreement between the two firms puts each of them back in the same position prior to the breakup. An RSM spokesperson did not immediately return our email seeking comment on these details. A RSM spokesperson returned our email and informed us that the new agreement is the same as the old arrangement and it is effective for five years, at that time it will automatically renew for additional five years. H&R Block, RSM McGladrey’s parent company, will be filing an 8-K this week with the SEC that will include the signed agreement.

Additionally, some developments that we ponder for personal amusement: will the recombined forces of the two firms be enough to break the absence from the Fortune 100 List? Will M&P will reap any benefits from the Natalie Gulbis ad campaign bonanza? We’ll stay on these…

At the end of the day, we’re sure everyone at both firms is pleased that the issue is resolved for the rest of busy season. Who knows, maybe it was just a distraction for partners but at least you won’t be getting any more emails about it.

Let’s Speculate as to Why Certain Accounting Firms Weren’t on the Fortune 100 List

Disappointment.jpgBy now you’ve digested the Fortune list to the point of nausea, so we’ll dispense with rehashing the firms that we covered last week.
What we do want to address is the obvious absence of Grant Thornton, BDO, and RSM on this year’s list. Hell, they aren’t on any of the lists going back to 2006. Are these omissions meant to be a thumb in the eye to these storied firms?
Perhaps they blew their lobbying budgets on the BusinessWeek lists? OR maybe — GASP — they just don’t GAF?


We’ll dispel with that for now and assume each of these firms were dying to be on this year’s list. Accordingly, the reason for their exclusion leaves ample room for wild-ass guessing:
Grant Thornton – We realize Steve Chipman just started his new job and he’s trying to get a blog up and going but for crissakes, how does he explain this to you? Will this regime change make a difference? He didn’t mention it on the call so should we assume this disappointment will continue in perpetuity? Could the Koss fiasco be the reason?
RSM McGladrey – This one doesn’t make any sense at all. Does anyone at Fortune know that RSM sponsors this woman? Aaaaannddd, we realize it’s too late for this year but RSM is now helping get Yele Haiti’s house in order. Please note both of these for next year.
BDO – They owe Banco Espirito half a billion dollars and they’ve been planning a 100th birthday extravaganza. Maybe campaigning for the list isn’t at the top of their to do list but still.
If any of you GTBDORSMers have any idea just what the hell is going on (i.e. why this gross oversight has gone on for at least five years), fill us in.

Yele Haiti Names RSM McGladrey as New Accountants

Thumbnail image for alg_singer_wyclef-jean.jpgAre you paying attention Fortune? After last week’s controversy around the finances of Yele Haiti, RSM McGladrey has been appointed to administer the donations pledged to Wyclef Jean’s foundation.

Yele Haiti has also retained Grant Thornton, who filed the three years of tax returns for the foundation just last August.


All the hubbub was over the foundation less than timely filing of its tax returns and paying expenses on the behalf WJ’s production company.
Not filing tax returns is one thing but there is some debate over whether the payment of expenses is actually anything to worked up over:

John Colombo, a University of Illinois law professor specializing in tax-exempt organizations, said tax laws permit such fees.
“If you told me the organization raised $1 million and it all went to him, then I would have some issues,” Colombo said. “Paying him an arm’s length salary for services he actually performed just isn’t a problem.”
But Alvin Brown, a tax lawyer who runs the site IRSTaxAttorney.com, said such transactions were “scary” and “could be viewed as fraud.”

“Viewed as fraud” isn’t the same as “is a fraud” but we after the last week, Yele Haiti has heard worse.
Wyclef’s Haiti Charity Gets New Accountants [AP]
Earlier:
We Knew Accounting Firms Were Helping Haiti

RSM McGladrey Does the PGA a Solid, Sponsors Golf Tournament

RSM McGladrey’s C.E. Andrews was on CNBC today to plug the The McGladrey Classic, the new PGA Tour event that has NOTHING TO DO WITH TIGER WOODS.
C to the E to the A also isn’t too worried whether or not his firm got a deal sponsoring the tournament at the rumored $3 – $3.5 million since the wheels were already in motion before the “Tiger event” (read: everyone on Earth knows that he’ll screw anything). He’s just stoked that the firm has their name on a tournament (although it’s not so obv from his demeanor).
As for PGA commish Tim Finchem, he hasn’t talked to him and he says he won’t until T Dubs is ready. According to the commish, they’ll prepare appropriately at that time which will probably involve having local hookers on site at the events.
Basically the unspoken element here is how grateful the PGA is to have RSM do them a favor in their time of need.

Happy Birthday Natalie Gulbis!

natalie_bday.jpgGirl is 27 today so leave her some bday wishes in the comments.
It must be an extra special day since the RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen kissed and made up last month.
Plus, since the marketing campaign has been such an unmitigated success it might be nice for the reconciled firm to throw a little extra scratch her way. Happy Birthday NG.

Web CPA: McGladrey & Pullen Partners Vote to Go Back to H&R Block, RSM McGladrey

gulbis3.jpgWell, sons and daughter of McGladrey, the reconciliation is done. Your feuding parental firms will be engaging in some awkward corporate make-up sex:

An arbitration ruling, which was handed down Nov. 24, favors H&R Block and RSM, enforcing the restrictive labor covenants involving employees of the two firms.

About 650 McGladrey partners began meeting in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday and voted Thursday to approve the agreement after the M&P board, including managing partner Dave Scudder, had earlier approved the deal.


The whole thing has been pretty ugly as far as we can tell and according to Allan Koltin, CEO of PDI Global, a consultancy firm that advised both firms, M&P didn’t have any choice but to go back:

The enforcement of some of the terms of the original agreement by the arbitrator seems to have forced M&P’s hand. “Once the arbitration ruling came out and McGladrey & Pullen found they were prohibited from providing tax services for a couple of years, that was the end right there,” said Koltin. “There was no way they could be independent as an audit-only firm and compete effectively without also providing tax services.”

The original non-solicitation agreement said that M&P could not provide services such as tax preparation for between 18 and 24 months if it terminated the agreement, effectively limiting the firm to audit services. “Once they saw the writing on the wall, it became obvious that the two sides were going to come together,” said Koltin.

So this appears to be awkward. Did M&P think this through or even read the non-solicitation agreement before they told H&RB/RSM to drop dead? Did they legitimately think they could get by just offering the audit services for two years?
While we were rooting for the firms to make nice, there may be some of you that are less enthusiastic about the House of McGladrey being all under one roof again. We’d like to hear from the troops on the ground about this whole thing. Feel free to get in touch or just put it out there in the comments.

McGladrey & Pullen Partners Vote to Reconcile with Block [Web CPA]

UPDATE: The full press release can be seen here.

Are RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen Getting Back Together?

natalie-gulbis-4.jpgMaybe! For those of you looking for any ray of hope of RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen making nice, consider this your sign.
H&R Block, the parent company of RSM, announced yesterday that they, “[expect] a dispute regarding a subsidiary’s deal with an accounting firm to provide consulting to midsized businesses will be settled soon.”
Block CEO Russ Symth also told us yesterday that while nothing is official he’s pret-tay, pret-tay, prety-tay optimistic that the two firms will be able to kiss and make up:

“We are very optimistic that this is going to be settled within a few weeks,” Block CEO Russ Smyth told investors during a meeting after Block released its second-quarter financial results earlier Tuesday.
He warned, however, that while it appeared the matter would have a good outcome, “We are not across the finish line yet.”

We’ll go on record that we’re rooting for the firms to get back together. Reconciliation makes for a heartwarming story during the holiday season. Especially since we’ve learned that not even an insanely rich celebrity athlete and a Swedish model don’t seem meant to be.
Prior to any official reconciliation between the firms, several questions are worth mentioning: 1) What’s Natalie’s opinion? 2) Is RSM buying M&P a huge rock, a house in Sweden, or performing some other demonstration of materialistic love as part of the reconciliation? 3) How will the make-up sex work? Will M&P even go there? D) See #1.
If you’ve got thoughts on any of these questions or if the RSM/M&P troops have feel like talking about their firms’ chances of making it work, discuss in the comments.
H&R Block Subsidiary Nears Settlement With Auditor [AP via ABC News]
Prior GC Coverage of RSM McGladrey/McGladrey & Pullen Drama:
RSM/McGladrey & Pullen: ‘Breaking Up is Like Pushing Over a Coke Machine’
McGladrey & Pullen Might Want to Think This Whole Divorce Thing Over
H&R Block is Not Letting McGladrey & Pullen Leave Until They Talk About This
McGladrey & Pullen Doesn’t Love H&R Block Anymore

RSM McGladrey Fails to Mention Natalie Gulbis Once in Interview

Thumbnail image for natalie-gulbis-.jpgWhich is shameful since everyone is aware that it would be the most effective way to recruit people to their firm. Nevertheless, FINS has a nice chat with the firm’s HR chief Kimpa Moss who speaks about the firm’s current-non-Natalie recruiting process, their use of social networking, etc. etc.
According to the interview, RSM just welcomed 400 newbies this fall and is always on the look out for experienced servants of the capital markets.
She did, however, manage to dodge the layoff question:

[FINS Reporter Kyle] Stock: Did RSM downsize during the crisis?
Moss: We really match our client service work force to the demand in the marketplace, but we don’t really comment in specifics on the changes in our work force from year to year

Layoffs are simply none of your beeswax, thankyouverymuch. Accordingly, we invite the members of the RSM/M&P fam to expand on Ms. Moss’ particular account of the layoff situation. Don’t make us prod.
We also found the following exchange especially interesting (our emphasis):

Stock: Did RSM see the global financial crisis as an opportunity to grab market share?
Moss: We track closely with our clients, so as they feel the impact, we feel the impact. But it does open up the question: ‘Are there more sectors we should be focusing on?’ And on the talent side, due to circumstances at other firms, there are a lot of people who we were able to approach. We’ve definitely done a lot of experienced hiring in the past year.

Now maybe we’re taking the above statement wildly out of context but what could Ms. Moss possibly be suggesting? Circumstances like, the banishment of Google Talk, the shameful denial of live streaming music, or bonuses in the form of tighty-whities? If we’re way off base here, feel free to comment with your own interpretation.
Annnnd speaking of undies, we’re more than a little disappointed that FINS passed up on the opportunity to inquire about the potential marketing rivalry that RSM that has on its hands. For now we’ll assume that RSM is counting on PwC’s continued dismissal of advertising genius and the RSM will enjoy it’s success of effective advertising (despite not mentioning it at all).
RSM McGladrey’s Kimpa Moss: A Nonstop Talent Hunt [FINS]

Gold Star of the Day: RSM McGladrey

natalie-gulbis-3.jpgNot for being stellar bean counters though. No, RSM’s gold star is due to some brilliant minds in the marketing department that decided that an ad campaign featuring Natalie Gulbis might be a good idea.
“The power of being understood” rolled out in today’s print version of the Wall St. Journal and will be followed by “a series of online, print and radio executions” according to the firm’s press release.
All we can say is, “What the hell took you so long?” We’ll give RSM credit for coming to their senses.
Natalie is Understood [RSM McGladrey]

New McGladrey Directors to Check Out Natalie Gulbis?

gulbis3.jpgMaybe! RSM McGladrey/McGladrey & Pullen announced new directors in their Charlotte office today which is obviously exciting for them. We also think it’s nice that the press release still has both names of the firm together.
That gets us to wondering if M&P is heeding our advice? Regardless of that whole situation, it’s nice to see them come together for the sake of the new directors. Sort of like when bitterly divorced parents show up at their son or daughter’s graduation. Very touching.
Along with these promotions, the national finals for the McGladrey Team Championship start on Sunday at Pinehurst and you-know-who is going to be there.
Obviously we’re very curious as to whether these new directors will be in attendance to get a look at Natalie’s swing. Two McGladrey directors are actually playing in the tournament, so unless NG has a clause in her contract that says she doesn’t have to golf with accountants, there’s an outside shot one of those lucky ducks might end up in her group.
So if you’re in the area, it might be worth checking out since A) Obvious answer; and B) the silent auction has some cool stuff if you’re willing to drop some coin. Oh, and it benefits the Special Olympics, so that’s good too.
This is it! [RSM McGladrey Golf Blog]

RSM/McGladrey & Pullen: ‘Breaking Up is Like Pushing Over a Coke Machine’

natalie-gulbis-.jpgAt least that’s one expert’s opinion. Allan Koltin, CEO of PDI Global, Inc., based in Chicago, thinks RSM McGladrey and McGladrey & Pullen will eventually be getting back together.

“I think what you’re seeing now is just the flexing of some muscles,” [said Koltin.] “What (RSM’s termination notice) does is reinforce what [RSM Parent, H&R] Block said before, which is that, if need be, they will go to the mat with them on this one.”

That’s a fine assessment but we all know what this is really about. The Gulbis factor. RSM/Block can go on and on about ‘administrative services’ and whatever hell else they think that’s in M&P’s ‘best interest’ but we understand the unmentionable factor here.
Sooner, rather than later, M&P had better come to their senses in this whole mess and realize that being associated with Natalie Gulbis is by far the best thing any accounting firm has been able to pull off since…yeah, pretty much anything.
McGladrey, RSM move to reconciliation [KCBJ (Subscription Required)]

McGladrey & Pullen Might Want to Think This Whole Divorce Thing Over

gulbis3.jpgThe accounting firm soap opera between McGladrey & Pullen and RSM McGladrey continues as RSM has filed notice terminating the two firms’ agreement and, under no circumstances, will they allow M&P to come crawling back to them without RSM’s involvement.
This was all included in a filing with the SEC, made by H&R Block, who is obviously the pimp in this whole love triangle.
Personally, M&P should probably consider going back to RSM’s sorry ass just to take advantage of the Natalie Gulbis exposure.
Judging by the firm’s response to our earlier mistake, they won’t be listening to us. Poor thing is caught in middle of this whole mess. Natalie, if you ever need to talk, don’t hesitate.
RSM McGladrey wants say in any reconciliation with McGladrey & Pullen [KCBJ]

Firms Sponsoring Golfers – An Analysis

Accounting firms don’t do much advertising. It’s got something to do with ethics and since the CPA exam is ancient history for some we can’t talk specifics.
Firms do like to sponsor stuff related to golf. Tournaments, players, etc. One recipient of accounting firm cash has been widely followed here but now we recently discovered another firm sponsoree that, we feel, may rouse as loyal of a following as Phil.
natalie.jpgThis is Natalie Gulbis who is sponsored by RSM McGladrey.
Natalie works with RSM in partnering with the Special Olympics Golf Program and will be a contributor to RSM’s new golf blog.
We’re not really into golf so we can’t really debate who has a better game or who garners better exposure for their sponsor so, after the jump, we’ve presented a more superficial analysis:


phil-mickelson.jpgnatatlie 2.jpg
We admit that we know nothing about promotion or advertising but if you’ve got opinions on which firm seems to have found the better golfer to sponsor, discuss in the comments.

Funny homeless guy sign

You Know That Guy Who Panhandles on Your Block? He May Be a CPA.

Anybody out there looking to help their fellow CPA, who’s down on his luck?
The Wall St. Journal is reporting that the former BDO Seidman LLP CEO, Denis Field may have to pay back a portion of $180 million that is being sought by prosecutors in the tax shelter case that involves Field and six others.
Natch, everybody has denied wrongdoing. The charges include conspiracy and tax evasion. Good luck with that.

Prosecutors Seek Ex-BDO Seidman CEO, 6 Others To Forfeit $180M
[WSJ]

BDO

Jeremy Newman Just Wants to Be Clear, We are NOT Declaring Victory Over Banco Espirito…YET

BDO_International.pngAfter throwing an all night rager last week when BDO International Global Coordination skated on the $521M verdict, Jeremy Newman, BDO Boss, wants everybody to chill.

Newman said he had always been confident that BDO International’s arms-length approach would be proved but added: ‘There is still the risk of a further appeal, as well as the appeal by the US firm.’

See? Staying cool. Not out of the woods yet. But when we beat those bastards on appeal, then we are getting down.

Newman stays cool after BDO victory
[Accountancy Age]