ANR

Accounting News Roundup: Why Did Power Integrations Fire Their CFO?; Spain Making ‘Sweeping Austerity Measures’; GM May Want GMAC Back | 05.12.10

Power Integrations fires chief financial officer [AP]
Not to worry Power Integrations investors, Bill Roeschlein’s firing “was not related to financial statements or regulatory issues,” according to the company. However, he is currently the “subject of a felony domestic assault criminal complaint filed in Missouri,” which he denies and naturally he will “defend himself vigorously.” Unfortunately, that might cut into the job search.

Spain joins euro zone austerity bandwagon [Reuters]
Spain has agreed to “sweeping austerity measures,” cutting civil service pay 5% and freezing it for 2011. The country will also cut approximately 13,000 public sector jobs.


Minority Owner Sues Cuban, Calls Mavericks ‘Insolvent’ [NYT]
Ross Perot, Jr. is suing SEC target Mark Cuban, accusing him of turning the Dallas Mavericks into a financial catastrophe. The Times reports, “Perot is seeking damages, the naming of a receiver to take over the team and the appointment of a forensic accountant to investigate its finances. Perot said that Cuban’s actions had diminished the value of his investment in the team and violated his and other minority owners’ rights.”

Cuban, as you might expect, isn’t impressed with Charts Boy, Jr.’s loserness. He wrote in an email to the Dallas Morning News, “There is no risk of insolvency. Everyone always has been and will be paid on time. Being in business with Ross Perot is one of the worst experiences of my business life. He could care less about Mavs fans. He could care less about winning.”

Failed Bomber’s Resume Fail [FINS]
Faisal Shazad’s resumé sucks.

Is G.M. Looking to Buy Back GMAC? [AP]
Sources say that GM is interested in buying back GMAC (now known as Ally Financial) “so they can offer more competitive lease and loan deals.” The U.S. Government currently owns 56% of GMAC and 61% of GM, who plans to announce its first quarter earnings next week.

Accounting News Roundup: In Defense of Sherrod Brown; Former H&R Block CFO Gets the Parachute; Intuit Snatches Up Medfusion for $91 Mil | 05.11.10

Sen. Sherrod Brown Prods SEC/FASB to Fix Accounting Standards [The Summa]
This is Professor Albrecht’s take on Senator Brown’s amendment SA 3853 to the S. 3217: Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010. The Professor is less concerned about this particular attempt at financial accounting legislation, reasoning that the SEC and the FASB have had plenty of opportunities to fix these issues (e.g. repurchase accounting) and have passed them up.

Given the severity of the problems, and the inability of today’s standard setters to gird their loins and solve the problems, is it appropriate for Congress to pass a law directing the SEC and its standard setter to produce a desired outcome? Absolutely. Accounting standard setting is an inherently political process, as I explained in my popular essay, “Economic Consequences and the Political Nature of Accounting Standard Setting.” Because the SEC has passed on its legislative charge to establish accounting standards that adjudicate between competing economic interests, and because the private standard setters follow their own political agendas when preparing accounting standards, it behooves Congress to step in when things get too far out of whack with national priorities. Such is the case here.

In other words, s— or get off the pot, FASB and SEC. The argument is a fine one, however, if legislation of accounting has to force the FASB’s into action, where does it end? When FAS 157 was being decried as the cause of all our problems, Barney Frank called in Bob Herz, scared the living bejeesus out of him, and got the result he wanted. Is that preferable to this situation? That depends. At the very least, the Sherrod Brown method susceptible to the influences of others while the B. Frank method skips the voting and signing stuff altogether (which has proven tricky in the past).

Former H&R Block CFO gets $620,000 cash in severance [KCBJ]
Becky Shulman (no relation to the Commish, as far as we can tell) is getting $620k for walking away from H&RB along with automatic vesting of 148,725 outstanding stock options. There’s no indication that she is eligible for lifetime complimentary tax prep service.

Intuit to buy Medfusion in $91M deal [SV/SJ Business Journal]
Intuit, owner of QuickBooks, Mint.com, Quicken, etc. has now added Medfusion to its stable, expanding its SaaS holdings. The deal is scheduled to close this July, the 4th Quarter of the company’s fiscal year. CEO Brad Smith, from the press release:

“This transaction expands our software-as-a-service offerings with a solution currently used by more than 30,000 healthcare providers, the vast majority of whom are essentially small businesses. The combination of Medfusion’s industry-leading patient-provider communication solutions and Intuit’s expertise in creating innovative solutions that improve the financial lives of small businesses and consumers, will help us create new solutions that make the clinical, administrative and financial side of healthcare easier for everyone.”

(UPDATE) Accounting News Roundup: Europe’s $1 Trillion Deal; PwC Gets Some Action in Dubai; The Longest Auditor-Client Relationships | 05.10.10

EU Crafts $962 Billion Show of Force to Halt Euro Crisis [Bloomberg]
With the Euro under pressure, the European Central Bank has hatched a plan to “offer financial assistance worth as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion) to countries under attack from speculators.” EU countries are chipping in 440 billion in loans, the EU’s budget throws in 60 billion, and 250 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

The funds will be available to those countries that experience a financial crisis similar to Greece. Portugal and Spain have debt to GDP ratios of 8.5% and 9.8% respectively, exceeding the EU’s mandated limit of 3%. package approved last week, receiving 110 billion euros “after agreeing to unprecedented austerity measures,” triggering riots in the country.


Dubai Holding Hires Debt Advisers [WSJ]
Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, a part of Dubai Holding (not to be confused with fellow Dubai conglomerate Dubai World) has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to help them with a teenie debt restructuring project. DH’s debt issues come about after Dubai World is still working to restructure the $14 billion in outstanding debt that it has with its creditors after a slight panic late last year.

UPDATE: KPMG and Deloitte are getting in on the fun as well, as the Financial Times reports that they have been engaged to advise Dubai Group and Dubai International Capital, respectively.

You Complete My Audit [CFO]
Had your auditor for awhile? If you want to crack the top 100 of longest auditor-client relationship, you’d have to be putting up with the same firm for over 50 years. According to the CFO’s analysis of Audit Analytics data, the longest auditor-client relationship belongs to Deloitte and Proctor & Gamble who have been together since 1890. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ longest relationship is with Goodyear Tire & Rubber, starting in 1898; Ernst & Young with Manulife Financial, 1905; KPMG and General Electric go back to 1909.

Of the 100 companies that have stuck with their auditors the longest, 97 of those companies were with Big 4 firms:
• PricewaterhouseCoopers – 34
• E&Y – 25
• Deloitte – 24
• KPMG – 14

Straight Talk about Brutality of White Collar Crime from a Convicted Felon [White Collar Fraud]
GC friend and forensic sleuth Sam Antar recently had some a two part interview produced that from his recent speaking presentations at Stanford Law and Business Schools. Part one is below and you can see part two over at WCF.

Accounting News Roundup: Times Square Gets Back to the Grind After Bomb Scare; Down with the Corporate Income Tax; The Politics of Spending | 05.07.10

Times Square Goes Back to Work After Bomb Scare [FINS]
FINS checked in with several companies who have locations in the Times Square area to see if things are back to normal after last weekend’s failed bombing. Most companies are officially mum on the issue including our favorite TS resident, Ernst & Young, who was quoted as to have, “reached out [to their employees] on an informal basis.”

And by “informal” apparently that means “nothing” in some cases We checked with a couple of our own sources at E&Y and we were told that they had not received any communication at all. If there’s an email floating around out there, let us know but it sounds like any reassurance of safety was passed around on a post-it note.


A.I.G. Said to Dismiss Goldman [NYT]
Back in the game AIG! Thanks for the good times GS, Citigroup and Bank of America will take it from here. All it took was a little money for AIG to realize that they were in an abusive relationship.

Time to Junk the Corporate Tax [WSJ]
Michael Boskin argues for dumping the corporate income tax in an op-ed in yesterday’s Journal, citing several reasons that it sucks big time including double taxation, “Corporate income is taxed a second time at the personal level as dividends or those capital gains attributable to reinvestment of the retained earnings of the corporation. Between the new taxes in the health reform law and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, these rates are soon set to explode.”

…And that stakeholders ultimately bear this cost, “the corporation is a legal entity; only people pay taxes. In a static economy with no international trade, the tax is likely borne by shareholders. The U.S. economy is neither static nor closed to trade, and taxes tend to be borne by the least mobile factor of production. Capital is much more mobile globally than labor, and the part of the corporate tax that is well above that of our lowest tax competitors will eventually be borne by workers.”

The Political Economy of Consumption: ‘Tis Better To Give, and Give, and Give [Tax Vox]
This sums up why America’s deficit problems and citizens personal debt problems will never be fixed:

Not to stereotype, but nations do have personalities. Italians eat. Russians drink. Americans spend. And when anything—or anyone—gets between us and our consumption, watch out.

Recessions make us grumpy in part because we can’t consume as much as we like. In the depths of the current downturn, the savings rate in the U.S. topped 5 percent. But retail sales have been rising since October, and the savings rate has fallen in half. I suspect Americans won’t really feel better until we drive our savings rate back to zero.

Accordingly, politicians have to pander to masses about “cutting taxes” and “reducing spending” when it’s very simple and popular to the do the former, while in reality it’s very difficult and unpopular to do the latter.

Accounting News Roundup: Will an International Audit Regulator Become a Reality?; GMAC Shopping for a CFO Candidate; FASB Sued for Antitrust Violations | 05.06.10

Audit chief welcomes debate on international regulator [Accountancy Age]
The idea of an international audit regulator is being kicked around in the EU with about as much seriousness as returning to the moon. That is, it’s absolutely something to be discussed but at this point nobody’s firing up the boosters just yet. IFRS has been proved to be, putting it lightly, a challenge but ever since the Lehman Brothers/E&Y fiasco, reform of the auditing business doesn’t seem far behind.

And while the idea is being entertained, the hurdles to an international regulator sound a little familiar:

Ian Powell, senior partner at PwC UK, said the establishment of an international regulator is “worthy of debate” but believes global consensus among nations may prove difficult.

“Most countries think their regulation is good and it is their system which should be applied – that is going to make it difficult to convince them to give up their system,” he said.

“If you talk to virtually any regulator in any country they do want to see more globalisation of regulation, but the big problem is there are certain political issues that are different in different countries.”

GMAC Said to Consider Ex-Citigroup Banker Yastine as Next CFO [Bloomberg Businessweek]
GMAC is hot on the trail for a new CFO after their last one bolted in March shortly after his TARP testimony. The ward of the state is said to be considering Barbara Yastine, who formerly was the CFO at both Credit Suisse’s and Citigroup’s investment banking groups.

FASB Defendant in Suit Alleging Antitrust Violations and Patent Misappropriation [Silicon Economics, Inc. Press Release]
Silicon Economics, Inc. is suing the FASB, alleging “antitrust violations and with willfully attempting to misappropriate patented technology,” according to the San Jose-based company’s press release.

The lawsuit concerns Silicon Economics’ EarningsPower Accounting™ (EPA™) – a patented method developed by the company to improve the accuracy, validity, and usefulness of financial statements. Silicon Economics recommended the merits of EPA to FASB in response to FASB’s request for public comment on the objectives of financial accounting (No. 1260-001, July 6, 2006). FASB claims that its website terms and conditions gave it ownership of Silicon Economics’ technology, even though such terms were not part of FASB’s invitation for public comment or otherwise disclosed to Silicon Economics.

Accounting News Roundup: Dissecting Overstock.com’s Q1 Earnings; The “Audit the Fed” Drum Still Has a Beat; AMT Patchwork Continues | 05.05.10

Can Investors Rely on Overstock.com’s Reported Q1 2010 Numbers? [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is skeptical (an understatement at best), that Overstock.com’s recently filed first quarter 10-Q is reliable and he starts off by citing their own words (his emphasis):

“As of March 31, 2010, we had not remediated the material weaknesses.”


Material weaknesses notwithstanding, Sam is a little conpany’s first quarter $3.72 million profit that, Sam writes, “was helped in large part by a $3.1 million reduction in its estimated allowance for returns or sales returns reserves when compared to Q1 2009.”

Furthermore, several one-time items helped the company swing from a net loss of nearly $4 million in Q1 of ’09, including nearly $2 million in extinguishment of debt and reduction in legal expenses due to a settlement. All this (and much more) gets Sam to conclude that OSTK’s Q1 earnings are “highly suspect.”

UBS Dividend in Next 2-3 Years ‘Symbolic’: CFO [CNBC]
UBS has fallen on hard times. The IRS, Bradley Birkenfeld, a Toblerone shortage and increased regulation and liquidity requirements have all made life for the Mother of Swiss Banks difficult and CFO John Ryan told CNBC that could hurt their ability to pay their usual robust dividend, “They (capital regulations) are essentially rigorous to the extent that it is unlikely we’ll be able to pay anything other than a very symbolic dividend over the next two or three years,” Cryan said.

While that is a bummer but a “symbolic” dividend is still an improvement over “we’ve recently been informed that the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department will be demanding that we turn over the names of our U.S. clients.”

Effort to expand audits of Fed picks up steam in Senate [WaPo]
Going after the Fed makes for good political theatre (*ahem* Ron Paul) and rhetoric to fire up the torches of the populist masses. The “Audit the Fed” drum continues to be beaten by the likes of Rep. Paul (R-TX) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to much success and Sanders is quoted in the Washington Post as saying “We’re going to get a vote.” Pols want to crack open the books at the Fed to find out what the ugliest of the ugly is inside our Central Bank.

Ben Bernanke isn’t hot on the idea because letting the GAO sniff around may expose the Fed to short-term political pressures. For once AG – not a fan of the Beard per se – sides with BSB. As she said last fall:

It’s right there in the footnotes – pulling out the closest Fed annual report I’ve got (Richmond Fed 2007), both Deloitte and PwC agree that the Fed is a special case in Note 3: Significant Accounting Policies:

“Accounting principles for entities with unique powers and responsibilities of the nation’s central bank have not been formulated by accounting standard-setting bodies.”

The note goes on to explain why government securities held by the Fed are presented at amortized cost instead of GAAP’s fair value presentation because “amortized cost more appropriately reflects the Bank’s securities holdings given the System’s unique responsibility to conduct monetary policy.” Right there, you can see why auditing this thing might be a problem.

This might be one of those “careful what you wish for” scenarios.

Why We’re Going to Keep Patching the AMT—And Why It Will Cost So Much [Tax Vox]
The Alternative Minimum Tax has been a unmitigated failure in the eyes of many tax wonks. Congress has been talking reform in this area for some time and yet, the AMT remains largely unchanged, relying on temporary fixes that could eventually turn into a disaster:

Last year, about 4 million households were hit by the tax, which requires unsuspecting taxpayers to redo their returns without the benefit of many common tax deductions and personal exemptions. That would jump to 28.5 million this year, except for what’s become an annual fix to the levy, which effectively holds the number of AMT victims steady.

Here’s what happens if Washington does not continue that “temporary” adjustment. If Obama gets his wish and extends nearly all of the Bush taxes, the number of households hit by the AMT would soar to more than 53 million by the end of the decade—nearly half of all taxpayers. AMT revenues—about $33 million last year—would triple this year and reach nearly $300 billion by 2020. That is a nearly 10-fold explosion in AMT revenues.

Howard Gleckman argues that the AMT is too big of a political threat to let members of Congress let this sneak by and that the patchwork will continue but that it probably shouldn’t, “The President can assume the AMT will be patched indefinitely, but assuming won’t pay the bills. Unless he is willing to raise other taxes or cut spending to pay for this AMT fix, he’ll have to borrow more than $1 trillion to kick the can down the road for the rest of this decade.”

Accounting News Roundup: Rajaratnam Claims KPMG “Tricked” Him into Illegal Tax Shelter; United, Continental Agree to ‘Merger of Equals’; Some Thoughts on iPad for Accountants | 05.03.10

Galleon’s Rajaratnam Said He Was Duped in Illegal Tax Shelter [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Raj Rajaratnam, who is awaiting trial in an insider trading case set to take place this fall, claimed that he was “tricked into investing in an illegal tax shelter,” that was developed by KPMG and “tax shelter promoter” Diversified Group, according to a lawsuit from 2005.

Rajaratnam and Galleon co-founder Gary Rosenbach won a $5.8 million in an arbitrator’s judgment against Diversified Group and its president in 2009. KPMG was not mentioned in the judgment and neither Rajaratnam’s attorney nor KPMG would comment on the current r if the firm had made a payment to Raj.

Rajaratnam and Rosenbach said they were induced to invest in a shelter called “OPS,” or Option Partnership Strategy, which was developed by KPMG and Diversified as a way to generate fees for the firms.

“The OPS shelter was essentially an illegal basis-shifting scheme which — unbeknownst to plaintiffs — relied upon a disingenuous reading of the federal tax code,” his lawyers wrote in the complaint.

Prosecutors will be interested to know what Rajaratnam said under oath in his suit against KPMG to determine if any of his statements will be useful in their insider trading case.

United, Continental Agree to Combine [WSJ]
United Airlines and Continental Airlines have agreed to combine, in a stock swap valued at $3 billion.

The “merger of equals” would create the world’s largest airline that would control 21% of the total domestic capacity and be 8% larger than Delta Air Lines in terms of miles flown, serving 370 destinations. Assuming the deal does not raise any antitrust concerns and contracts for employees are approved in a timely fashion, the companies plan to complete the transaction in the 4th quarter of this year.

iPad for business – the taste test [ZDNet]
Dennis Howlett tested out an iPad and since some of you have, at the very least, wondered about it for your own professional use, here’s his take on Numbers, a spreadsheet application that he says is “gorgeous to look at” but has several drawbacks:

I found it was possible to create a confusing error formula. Ahem. That will require fixing. While Numbers has masses of functions (see illustration), there is no ability to create Pivot Tables. Those are the accountant’s stand by for reporting and the like. It’s boring but essential stuff. Without Pivot Tables, the iPad won’t get a sniff in the hands of this powerful and influential group. There is an alternative for the future. Some smart developers out there will build reporting applications that can run over the Internet. It is one of the gaping holes in the SaaS/cloud story requiring urgent attention.

Any other thoughts on iPad for accountants? Weigh in.

IIA Proposes New Standards for Internal Auditors [Compliance Week]
The Institute of Internal Auditors is requested comment on proposals for new standards that would include a requirement for internal auditors to provide audit opinions and to additional explanation of the responsibility of internal auditors for the work of contractors.

Grant Thornton closing Triad office, moving operations to Charlotte [Triad Business Journal (subscription required for full article)]
Grant Thornton finally got around to announcing the closure of its Greensboro/Triad office. We reported on the closure back in February. The firm announced that the “vast majority” of its approximately 30 employees would be moving to the firm’s offices in either Charlotte or Raleigh. The TBJ reports National Director of Communications, John Vita’s comments: “We remain committed to the Triad marketplace, however, we believe it can be best served over the long term by attracting the highest quality professionals who wish to work out of our larger offices in Charlotte and Raleigh.”

Accounting News Roundup: ‘Enron’ Opens to Mixed Reviews; Grant Thornton Closes Madison, WI Office; New CFO at Credit Suisse | 04.30.10

With ‘Enron,’ Financial Misdeeds Hit Broadway [DealBook]
“Enron” opened on Tuesday at the Broadhurst Theatre and is receiving mixed reviews. Given the time and subject matter, brief and inadequate descriptions of the accounting techniques involved (e.g. champagne metaphor to explain mark-to-market) were necessary and some didn’t appreciate the patronization:

At the after-party for “Enron,” the most common complaint about the play was the incessant use of metaphors and monologues to explain financial topics. It took up a large amount of time in the show and some audience members felt like they were being “talked down to.”

“I know what mark-to-market accounting is,” said one audience member who did not wish to be identified but did not work in the financial industry. “I felt like they were bashing me over the head with their juvenile explanations.”

Regardless of the “one-dimensional view of this multifaceted accounting technique” and its “lacking of dramatic depth,” “Enron” also has raptors and mice in suits. That, along with choreography using light sabers has led some to call the show “visually stimulating.” If your subject matter includes accounting rules, putting them in an acid trip seems like a good approach.

Grant Thornton to close Madison office [Business Journal of Milwaukee]
Grant Thornton is closing its Madison, WI office, consolidating those operations in Milwaukee. The firm stated “its goal is to retain as many of the Madison office’s 61 employees as possible,” and that it is “committed to assisting all employees during this transition.”

This latest move follows the Grant Thornton office closure in Greensboro, NC that occurred earlier this year.

Credit Suisse Taps Mathers as New C.F.O. [DealBook]
David Mathers is currently the COO and Head of Finance for the investment banking unit at CS. He takes over for Renato Fassbind in October.

Accounting News Roundup: Would IFRS Prevented Repo 105?; The Crazy Eddie Movie Hits a Snag; JP Morgan May Bolt Tax-Refund Loan Business | 04.29.10

Lehman case “backs” accounting convergence [Reuters]
Philippe Danjou, a board member at the IASB has been quoted as saying that Repo 105 would not have been allowed under IFRS, “From an IFRS perspective I would suspect that most transactions would have stayed on the balance sheet. It makes a case for convergence, it makes a case that we should not have different outcomes under different accounting standards when you have such big amounts.”

The G-20 asked the sages at both the FASB and the IASB to converge their rules by June-ish 2011 but some people don’t sec, as there are too many disparities on treatment of key issues between the two boards.


The Real Reason Behind Danny DeVito’s Crazy Eddie Movie Project Meltdown [White Collar Fraud]
Danny DeVito wants to make a movie based on the Crazy Eddie Fraud, which was perpetrated by, among others, Eddie and Sam Antar. The project has run aground primarily because of Eddie Antar’s life rights and the potential profit he would reap from the making of the movie. Danny D is disappointed by the developments and has sympathy for Eddie, discussing it in s recent Deadline New York article:

“He’s gone through tough times, and he’s not the aggressive tough guy they paint him to be,” De Vito said. “He’s in his 70s and the past has come back to bite us all in the ass. Peter [Steinfeld] and I told him we think there is a terrific story there, but we can’t do it with you involved, in any way. We’ve taken a breather, but we’re figuring out how to jump back in.

Sam Antar is not amused by this and chimed in with his side of the story:

Eddie Antar is plainly still in denial about his cowardice towards his own family and investors. There actually is a “family dynamic” that “explains Antar’s fall” as DeVito claims. However, Eddie Antar and other members of his immediate family are simply unwilling to give a truthful account of what really happened at Crazy Eddie, while Danny Devito is willing to accept Eddie Antar’s bullshit excuses for his vile behavior.

As Chipotle Sizzles, CFO Sells Stock [Barron’s]
Ten thousand shares at $144 and change will buy a bunch of burritos.

Medifast Lawsuit: Anti-SLAPP motions filed [Fraud Files Blog]
Back when we discussed forensic accounting, the aforementioned Sam Antar said that forensic accountants can look forward to “making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.”

Tracy Coenen, no stranger to this retaliation, is now fighting back against Medifast who has sued her and others for saying not so flattering things about the company:

Anti-SLAPP motions have been filed in the Medifast lawsuit by me and by my co-defendant, Robert FitzPatrick. My motion can be read in its entirety here, and Fitzpatrick’s can be read here.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It’s basically when a big company tries to shut up a little guy with expensive litigation. In my opinion, Medifast sued me and others in an attempt to get us to stop publicly analyzing or criticizing the company and it’s multi-level marketing business model.

In filing an anti-SLAPP motion, we are essentially asking the court to rule in our favor and in favor of free speech. Consumers should have the right to discuss, analyze, and criticize companies without the fear of expensive lawsuits.

JPMorgan May Quit Tax-Refund Loans, Helping H&R Block [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Bloomberg reports that JP Morgan may discontinue its financing of 13,000 independent tax preparers, a move that will benefit H&R Block, according to a competitor:

“Block is the biggest winner in this,” said John Hewitt, chief executive officer of Liberty Tax Service, a privately held company in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that also may benefit…

The reason HSBC is exiting this industry, even though they’re making $100 million a year in profit from it, is because of reputation risk,” Hewitt said in an interview. “Bankers don’t like the consumer advocacy groups picketing outside their offices.”

Refund anticipation loans (RALs) are attractive to clients that need cash immediately, based on their anticipated refund. The business is controversial because the high interest rates can drive people further into debt and consumer groups oppose them vehemently.

Funding for smaller shops that offer these loans will likely lose the business altogether as large banks like JP Morgan discontinue the financing, thus driving the business to franchise tax prep shops like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty.

Accounting News Roundup: Goldman CFO’s ‘Unfortunate’ Response; EU Prepares to Scrutinize Auditors; SEC Chief Accountant: June 2011 Deadline for Convergence Is ‘Arbitrary’ | 04.28.10

Carl Levin To Goldman CFO: When You See ‘Sh–ty Deal’ E-mail, ‘Do You Feel Anything?’ [TPM]
Late in the proceedings of yesterday’s epic Senate subcommittee hearing (involving some of the Almighty’s finest), Goldman CFO David Viniar may have had a bit of a Freudian slip when he responded to potty-mouth Senator Carl Levin’s badgering.

Levin asked Viniar how he reacts to hearing about the email. “Do you feel anything?” Levin asked. Viniar replied: “I think that’s very unfortunate thich got a smattering of laughter from around the room. Levin asked Viniar how he reacts to hearing about the email. “Do you feel anything?” Levin asked. Viniar replied: “I think that’s very unfortunate to have on e-mail,” which got a smattering of laughter from around the room. “On an e-mail?” Levin shot back angrily. “How about feeling that way?” Viniar started to backtrack: “I think that’s a very unfortunate thing for anyone to have said in any form.” “How about to believe that and sell that?” Levin asked. “I think that’s unfortunate as well,” Viniar responded.

That unfortunateness is in no particular order.

Brussels to scrutinise role of auditors [FT]
The EU has had it with auditors in their current form and is turning their stink eye towards the profession with a whole lot of skepticism, especially since Ernst & Young got in trouble over you-know-what.

Michel Barnier, the new EU internal market commissioner, joined the debate on Tuesday saying that the role of auditors needed closer scrutiny now that the financial turmoil of the past two years was subsiding.

“I’m convinced that it is the right time to launch a real debate at European level on the subject of audit. This conviction is reinforced by the questions recently raised in the context of the audit of the accounts of US bank Lehman Brothers,” Mr Barnier said.

The FT reports that the EU is kicking off this increased level of scrutiny by publishing a green paper this fall on the subject that will examine the way “audit firms are owned and governed…the concentration in the audit market and its implications on financial stability, the emergence of small and medium-sized practitioners, the audit of smaller companies and international standards on auditing,” and also the supervision of global audit firms.

PwC pays £427,000 damages over valuation work [Accountancy Age]
The original suit was for £35 million; that would a W for P. Dubs.

Miami accountant’s workers accused of aiding fraud [Miami Herald]
Two employees of “Miami’s go-to forensic accountant if you want to get ripped off” Lewis Freeman have been charged with conspiring with him in the embezzlement scheme that he pleaded guilty to last month.

SEC Chief Accountant Says Convergence Need Not Be Completed by June 2011 [Journal of Accountancy]
No rush on that, sayeth James Kroeker, on convergence by June 2011:

SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker told the JofA Tuesday that he would support the boards’ cutting the number of projects due in June 2011, provided there was good rationale for a delay.

“June 30, 2011, is an arbitrary deadline and it’s not one that’s been put in place by the SEC or by our road map,” said Kroeker.

Accounting News Roundup: Improving the External Audit; Another Accounting Firm Bolts Greensboro, NC; AICPA Opposes Nonsigning Tax Preparer Rule | 04.27.10

Weighing the Worth of an External Audit [Compliance Week]
Does the external audit still have value? Some people have questioned that notion. Despite that grave assessment, there are still many that believe that the external audit has value. However, most have no illusions about the challenges before the profession.

Colleen Cunningham has a post up at Compliance Week with her thoughts:

[W]e need a fundamental shift away from the rules and complex accounting standards we currently use in the United States. The move to International Financial Reporting Standards would certainly help. IFRS is based more on principles and concepts, and while some people worry that these are “lesser” standards than U.S. GAAP, I believe that we will see more transparency about choices, options, and assumptions through enhanced disclosure under IFRS…

Perhaps the audit opinion should be less boilerplate to allow the auditors to provide more information and commentary. This could add needed transparency. Unfortunately, the litigious environment in which we operate would make this a risky proposition.

We like these ideas but more information and commentary would mean…more professional judgment! Hopefully the PCAOB would be okay with that idea because the trend seems to be that auditors can’t be trusted to do their jobs.

Dixon Hughes will close GSO site, shift staff to H.P. [Triad Business Journal]
Dixon Hughes is the latest firm to pull up the stakes in Greensboro, North Carolina. What is going on down there?

Jones Soda Announces Change of External Audit Firm [Market Wire]
Organic soda company drops Deloitte. Peterson Sullivan will take it from here.

AICPA Submits Comment Letter on IRS PTIN Proposal [Journal of Accountancy]
The AICAP submitted a letter to the IRS re: the proposed reg that would, among other things, require Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN) for tax professionals that don’t sign the returns. T

he AICPA isn’t so thrilled with this idea, and the JofA reports some of their thoughts, “(1) a successful implementation of registration and use of PTINs, along with the imposition of Circular 230 on all preparers should be sufficient to address unethical and/or incompetent tax return preparation and provide tremendous gains to tax administration in general; (2) it may cause confusion among taxpayers about the relative qualifications of tax return preparers; and (3) the additional burdens to the tax preparers and pass through of these costs to the taxpaying public should be considered.”

Accounting News Roundup: Audit Committee Chair Resigns from WellCare Health; PwC, E&Y Officially Cut Iran Ties; Repo 105 = Pointless, Repugnant Practice | 04.26.10

Director Resigns at Wellcare Health [WSJ]
Regina Herzlinger was the chair of the audit committee of WellCare Health Plans, Inc., a Tampa-based provider of Medicaid and Medicare plans, but resigned last week amid controversy around the company’s accounting practices. The Wall St. Journal reports that Ms Herzlinger said that internal audits discovered the company overbilled the Illinois Medicaid program by $1 million “and potentially overcharged states for almost $500,000 worth of maternity care.” She also stated that the company “ran afoul of Georgia’s requirements that it account for eachhich it paid providers, resulting in a $610,000 fine.”

WellCare also paid an $80 million fine to the State of Florida last May for a criminal investigation “into allegations that it had defrauded Florida benefits programs for low-income adults and children” as well as $10 million to the SEC for an investigation into its accounting. At least they’re keeping some attorneys busy.


Ms Herzlinger alleges that she was not renominated to her position on the board of directors for raising questions about the accounting practices at the WellCare as well as corporate-governance issues.

The Company claims that “good corporate-governance practices require it to bring in new board members periodically to provide a fresh perspective,” so at least they’ve got that point covered. The Journal also reports that the company is pulling the materiality card, saying that the “accounting errors Ms. Herzlinger identified were relatively small and the company’s own internal controls indentified them, indicating that its processes are working well.”

Lehman Investors Add Auditor Ernst & Young to Suit Over Deals [Bloomberg]
Charlie Perkins, the Lucas van Pragg of Big 4 accounting firms, has to be getting sick of repeating himself:

“Throughout our period as the auditor of Lehman, we firmly believe our work met all applicable professional standards, applying the rules that existed at the time.”

Countrywide Investors Said to Settle Lawsuit for $600 Million [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
KPMG is listed as one of fifty defendants in the lawsuit in California.

Companies Feeling More Pressure to Cut Iran Ties [NYT]
PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young have both cut their ties with Iran, following KPMG, the Times reports. This results in grand total of zero Big 4 firms with affiliates in Iran.

United Against Nuclear Iran (“UANI”) President Mark Wallace received letters from both PwC and E&Y:

This week, Mr. Wallace’s group received letters from both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young assuring the group that they had cut ties with Iranian firms. PricewaterhouseCoopers wrote that the Middle East member of the company’s global network had had a “cooperating firm relationship” with Agahan & Company, an Iranian firm, but that it expired last year. Ernst & Young said it cut its ties in 2001 to the Tadvin Company, one of Iran’s largest accounting firms, even though Tadvin was still listed on its Web site this year.

Mr. Wallace called that a breakthrough because by publicly avoiding Iran, the American accounting firms that audit so many other companies send an important signal. “What it says is if it’s too risky for the Big Four accounting firms,” he said, “it should be too risky for other companies.”

It’s pretty obvious Mr Wallace doesn’t know anything about Big 4 accounting firms re: risk.

A manifesto for accountants [Tax Research UK]
Richard Murphy has some suggestions for the Accountancy Age manifesto.

Repo 105 Explained With Numbers and Detail [The Summa]
“Right now, I just don’t see what the big fuss is all about. The number differentials are just too small. Although a repugnant practice, Lehman didn’t accomplish much of anything with Repo 105 use.”

Accounting News Roundup: Ernst & Young Settles with HealthSouth Bondholders; SEC Accountant Tried to Access Porn 16,000 Times in a Month; The Best Accounting Rules Won’t Fix Everything | 04.23.10

UBS to Pay $217 Million to Settle HealthSouth Case [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
After the better part of a decade, Ernst & Young has finally settled with the bondholders of inpatient service provider HealthSouth. Bloomberg is reporting that the firm agreed to pay the Company’s bondholders $33.5 million after settling with shareholders last year for $109 million. HealthSouths’ investment bank, UBS settled with shareholders and bondholders for $117 million and $100 million respectively.

The $2.7 billion fraud resulted in guilty pleas from 15 executives, including five former CFOs but an acquittal of CEO Richard Scrushy. Scrushy managed to wind up in prison on bribery charges instead and is currently serving 6 years and 10 months. As is typical in these matters, both UBS and E&Y ponied up yet denied any wrongdoing.


GOP ramps up attacks on SEC over porn surfing [AP]
The official SEC porn report has been leaked and some interesting things that are new include:

• One guy had so much porn on his computer that he had to bring in CDs and DVDs to help expand the collection. He thought it wise to keep these at the office.

• “An accountant” was blocked from accessing sites 16,000 times yet still amassed a “collection of ‘very graphic’ material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter.” He refused to ” testify in his defense” and was suspended for fourteen days.

• Seventeen employees were “at a senior level” with the highest salary reported over $222k.

Darrell Issa (R-CA) is not amused by this porn bonanza, saying, “[it is] disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse,” according to the AP. Based on this response, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Issa ensnarled in a porn scandal of his own before this year’s election.

Best accounting rules are not enough [FT]
A reader responded to the epic article published by the Financial Times, raising the notion that “one set of high quality accounting standards” will not solve the world’s problems.

Those who prepare and use accounts very often have a different perspective on accounting questions from accountants as such, whether or not they have had an accounting qualification in the past…

[T]he report on Lehman explicitly did not address the question of accounting arbitrage. This was because Lehman used an accounting rule to disguise from the markets the weaknesses in the balance sheet in a way which, as the examiner reported, was invalid even if the rule itself was completely valid in all jurisdictions.

This points to the fact that the best accounting rules possible are not enough – the financial reporting chain has other links: corporate governance, auditing and regulation.

Accounting News Roundup: Schapiro Says Timing of Goldman Suit Not Political; Old Madoff Stomping Grounds Close to Foreclosure; IRS Launches Inquiry into Florida GOP Credit Card Spending | 04.22.10

SEC Chairman: No Heads Up on Goldman Lawsuit [WSJ]
Mary Schapiro would like everyone to know that just because they laid the smackdown on Goldman Sachs last Friday instead of, say, last year is that A) she’s still new at this job and B) the SEC does (and most certainly does not) what it wants when it wants. Even if it is an election year, the POTUS and his agenda have nothing to do with it.


“I started this job 15 months ago, in the wake of a serious financial crisis and with the view that the SEC must regulate Wall Street and vigorously enforce the securities laws. We will neither bring cases, nor refrain from bringing them, because of the political consequences. We will be governed always and only by the facts and the law.”

Lipstick on the collar [NYP]
The Post is reporting that the Lipstick Building, where Bernie Madoff had his North Pole offices is sliding ever closer to foreclosure. The report states that the Royal Bank of Canada is looking to get rid of its $210 million mortgage on 885 Third Ave.

“[T]he Lipstick Building’s problems are the direct result of having been purchased at the height of the property boom. RBC’s $210 million loan was provided as part of a complex financing structure used by Israel’s Metropolitan Real Estate Investors — led by Haim Revah and Jacob Abikzer — to pay $648.5 million for the property in 2007.”

Feds launch inquiry into Florida GOP credit-card expenses [Miami Herald]
The IRS is poking around the credit card activity by some Florida Republicans including the leading contender for its U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio. The IRS has opened a “preliminary inquiry” to determine if there is enough evidence to launch a formal investigation.

The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times both obtained credit card statements of Mr Rubio that reportedly include, “repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife, and purchases from retailers ranging from a wine store near his home to Apple’s on-line store. Rubio also charged the party for dozens of meals during the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee, even though he received taxpayer subsidies for his meals.”

Mr Rubio insists that there “absolutely nothing to this,” and that “We don’t believe it’s income,” which sounds like some famous last words prior to a full blown IRS investigation.

Accounting News Roundup: Arguments Against the VAT; PwC Donates $500k to Expand Diverse Talent Pipeline; Tax Documentary Needs a New Name | 04.21.10

Conservatives and the VAT [TaxVox]
Howard Gleckman at TaxVox explains that the two main arguments that conservatives have against a Value Added Tax (“VAT”) is that 1) it will put trillions into the Treasury that liberals will spend with reckless abandon. Plus the American people would not realize that they were paying so much to the Feds and 2) that it’s “too efficient.”


Re: #1 he essentially says (and we agree) “how is this different than the current situation?” and Americans are already clueless about how much they pay in taxes:

Americans seem entirely unaware of how much they pay in income taxes. The Tax Policy Center estimates that a typical American remits less than a dime in income tax for every dollar he or she earns. Ask the next 10 people you see how much of their income they paid in taxes just a week ago and I suspect none of them will get it right.

As far as #2 is concerned, he cites the idea “tax law distorts economic decision making,” and explains that “the worst possible tax system is good because it will punish the economy to the maximum possible extent.” That is, some argue that a complex system prevents more wasteful spending (chew on that for awhile).

He concedes that it wouldn’t be a perfect system but in case you haven’t heard, our government has a revenue problem (yes, he says spending needs to be cut too) and raising income taxes is about as popular as Al Gore at an Oil Barons Ball.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Announces $500,000 in Grants to Expand Diverse Talent Pipeline [PR]
PwC will shell out $150k to Bryant University, The University of Southern California and Wake Forest University and $50k to Florida International University to help spread the good word of tax careers to minorities, “[The Universities] will use the funds for scholarships and hands-on career exploration programs for students from groups that have historically been underrepresented in the accounting field, including African-Americans/blacks, Latinos and Native-Americans.”

An Inconvenient Tax: Philadelphia Premiere! [Tax Girl]
While this looks like a moderately interesting documentary, the title is terribly unoriginal.

An Inconvenient Tax – Trailer from Life Is My Movie Entertainment on Vimeo.

Accounting News Roundup: Lehman Unsecured Creditors Want Ernst & Young Docs; Court Doesn’t Allow “Geithner Defense” for Non-Geithner Taxpayer; Contenders for the Head of Deloitte UK Shape Up | 04.20.10

Lehman unsecured creditors seek probe Ernst & Young [Reuters]
The unsecured creditors of Lehman are justifiably nervous about getting anything bank in the wake of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. The next best plan of attack, as you might of expect is poke around E&Y to see what they’ve got laying around. Of course Ernst & Young won’t just turn over “certain documents” and make “its employees and partners submit to an oral examination” so the creditors are asking the bankruptcy court to order them to do so.


Tax Court Rejects “Geithner Defense,” Says Reliance on TurboTax Does Not Excuse Taxpayer From Penalty for Errors on Tax Return [TaxProf]
Please note for any of you that will try to pull that excuse:

“Although the Court concludes the errors in petitioners’ tax preparation were made in good faith, petitioners have not established that they behaved in a manner consistent with that of a prudent person. Before the trial petitioners stipulated that they did not consult a tax professional or visit the IRS’ Web site for instructions on filing the Schedule C.

We do not accept petitioners’ misuse of TurboTax, even if unintentional or accidental, as a defense to the penalties on the basis of the facts presented.”

Contenders shape up to replace John Connolly – Deloitte’s big hitter [Times Online]
The head spot for Deloitte in the UK will be up for grabs next year as John Connolly will step down after ten years at the helm. The Times Online reports that even though two candidates have been identified by sources, no campaigning will be allowed, “Mr Connolly conceded that the issue of succession was “in the air” but said that the firm wanted to avoid open competition between potential successors. “We don’t allow people to go around the country calling meetings and giving presentations about why they will be a great leader,” he said.”

Accounting News Roundup: Over 50% of CFOs Aren’t Planning on Salary Increases; Americans Don’t Trust Politicians; PwC Cleans Up on Lehman Bankruptcy | 04.19.10

National survey finds employee wages and bonuses to remain stagnant over next six months [GT Press Release]
All the excitement (or lack thereof) amongst the Big 4 about raises this year will, at least for the next six month, will be rare compared to other companies. Grant Thornton’s survey of CFOs revealed that 53% don’t expect any salary changes in the next six months while 32% plan for decreases. That leaves a whopping 15% of those left in the survey that are planning wage and bonus increases over the next six months.


Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don’t trust Washington [AP]
So if you’re interested in running for office, this may be the year to do it.

PwC’s Administration of Lehman Translates to $24,000 Per Hour! [The Big Four Blog]
Naturally in most situations, there are winners and there are losers. While Ernst & Young is looking like a giant loser in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the whole thing seems to have worked out well for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

TBFB reports that, as the administrator for the UK piece of Lehman, the firm has gained control of over $48 billion in assets. Costs associated with these services (in the 18 months since the bankruptcy) are 0.65% of the assets recovered. A quick punch of your 10-key reveals that this is around $312 million or $24,000/hour.

Accounting News Roundup: Deloitte ‘Encyclopedia’ to Join IASB; South Carolina’s $60 Million Accounting Snafu; CFO Job Market No Longer ‘Totally Dead’ | 04.16.10

Deloitte’s Paul Pacter Appointed to IASB [Web CPA]
Paul “Financial Reporting Encyclopedia” Pacter will resign his part-time position at Deloitte to take a seat on the IASB. Since 2000, he has been on Deloitte’s IFRS leadership team and has worked as the Director for small and medium sized entities for the IASB.

Sir David Tweedie said in a statement that “Paul is a walking encyclopedia on global financial reporting. He served as the determined leader of the development of the IFRS for SMEs, is an expert in both IFRS and U.S. GAAP, and in his spare time has run one of the most popular financial reporting Web sites on the Internet. He will bring a global perspective and immense energy to the board.”


Nearly $60 million accounting error means state budget cut [Charleston Business Journal]
Relative to other states that shall remain nameless, South Carolina’s problems aren’t really a BFD but somehow $60 million being “erroneously…counted as part of the state’s general fund,” as opposed to being earmarked for specific appropriations is still not good.

As a result of this little booboo, $60 million in budget cuts must be found with less than three months until the end of the state’s fiscal year. Such a short time frame could presumably lead to some desperate slash and burn methods. And here we thought the subversive organization legislation would have been a huge revenue stream for the Palmetto State.

Is There a Pulse in the CFO Market? [CFO]
Apparently the CFO job market is no longer ‘totally dead’ as it was from December 2008 to October 2009 and since some are feeling ‘overworked and under appreciated’ (just like you!) there promises to be a bit of a CFO exodus.

Accounting News Roundup: The Psychology of Cheating on Your Taxes; The Silver Lining in Sarbanes-Oxley; Is It Time to Go Solo? | 04.15.10

Happy Tax Day! It was a breeze right? Hopefully you tax pros have wrapped everything up and the extensions are out the door so you can enjoy a relatively easy day. And if you’re in DC, don’t forget to get yourself a Blizzard.

Why we cheat on our taxes [MSNBC]
Sorry rich folks but it’s mostly your fault that people cheat on their taxes. Yes, that’s right. Once again, the wealthy need to explain themselves with their richy rich ways. Never mind that the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code that encourages the 1040 malfeasance, it’s the perception that the wealthy are all cheating on their taxes (that’s how they got rich after all) so the little guy needs to do whatever it takes to get his.

While the country’s federal tax code is considered progressive, some people feel that it grants the wealthy many loopholes — something that further perpetuates the resentment among those who believe the tax burden can sometimes fall unjustly on those who are least able to afford it.

“Many wealthy people earn income, such as capital gains, that is taxed at lower levels than regular income,” Callahan said. “So, in some cases, a wealthy guy sitting by his pool, living off his stock portfolio is paying a lower tax rate than the guy cleaning his pool. Tax evasion scams by the wealthy are so often revealed, and so there’s the perception that the rich cheat heavily on their taxes. There’s truth to that perception, which is what keeps it alive.”

While the attempt at the psychology behind cheating is a worthy exercise, the facts remain that the wealthy are paying more than their fair share of taxes. Or just ask them, they’ll tell you.

Something to Like about Sarbox [CFO Blog]
Forget Section 404. A less debatable benefit from SOx is Section 403 which “shortened the time between when officers and directors make a change in their stock holdings and when they report it through a Form 4 filing, from within 10 days at the end of the calendar month to just 2 business days.”

Harvard Professor Francois Brochet reviewed more than 50,000 filings from 1997 to 2006 and argues that, not only does Section 403 allow investors to react to insider trades more quickly (which prevents bigger drops in stock prices on suspected bad news, he argues), it allows smaller companies to trumpet their company’s prowess even if they’re not widely covered by analysts. Oh, and the cost is virtually nil compared to 404 compliance.

Hanging Your Own Shingle: Starting a CPA Business [FINS]
Now that today marks the end of another tax season/busy season is it time for you to move on or is it time for you to be the boss?

A recent survey of CFOs indicates that most companies are in no rush to hire and with layoffs coming and/or your post-busy season burn out raging, you’re probably weighing your options. FINS reports that “Roughly three-quarters of the country’s 44,000 tax businesses are one-person shops, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). And almost half of tax accountants work in companies with fewer than 10 employees,” so there’s plenty of people already on their own. Plus, there’s no sign of the tax code getting any simpler, so more and more taxpayers will be needing a professional to help them.

Accounting News Roundup: Bank America Lands a CFO; FASB, IASB Can’t Guarantee Convergence; Maine to Tax Medical Marijuana | 04.14.10

Bank of America Names an Outsider as CFO [WSJ]
Charles Noski will be the new Bank of America CFO, effective May 11th. He most recently was the CFO at Northrup Grumman, which he left in 2005 and prior to that held the same position at AT&T. He has also served as a advisor to Blackstone Group and is currently a director at Morgan Stanley and Microsoft. It is reported that he will give up his director seat at competitor Morgan Stanley. Noski began his career at Haskins & Sells (now Deloitte) for seventeen years and was a partner.

This ends BofA’s quest to land a CFO after former finance bigwig Joe Price moved into a new role under new CEO Brain Moynihan back in January.


IASB says “no guarantee” of full US accounting convergence [Accountancy Age]
The FASB and IASB, try as they might, have announced that they simply cannot guarantee that they will pull off 100% unadulterated convergence. The two boards have struggled to get their cerebral minds together on a number of “important technical issues” and are holding out for the possibility that they may not resolve any of their remaining differences.

The two boards issued a statement which warned, “Although our recent experiences with joint meetings show that we have been able to resolve differences on several projects, there is no guarantee we will be able to resolve all, or any, of our differences on this project.” The two cite “different imperatives that pushed our development timetables out of alignment,” in the struggle for converging the two sets of rules. While the FASB and IASB are warning that accounting rule convergence may be impossible, the statement indicates that the two still aim to finalize their work by the mid-2011 deadline.

Medical pot users to pay sales tax [Bangor Daily News via Tax Policy Blog]
The Pine Tree State will taxing its medical green that is sold at state-sanctioned dispensaries. The Maine Revenue Service had argued that since marijuana is currently issued for medicinal purposes, that the it should be treated as a prescription drug and thus, not taxed. However, since a prescription isn’t necessary to obtain medical marijuana, Maine lawmakers disagreed and ultimately decided to administer a levy on the sale of state-issued grass.

Accounting News Roundup: More Dodgy Accounting from Lehman Brothers; Deloitte Announces $100 Million Investment in China; Less Than 100% of Tea Partiers Believe They are Overtaxed | 04.13.10

Lehman Channeled Risks Through ‘Alter Ego’ Firm [NYT]
That alter-ego firm is Hudson Capital and the Times reports that while HC “appeared to be an independent business, it was deeply entwined with Lehman,” citing a Board of Directors controlled by the bank, Lehman’s 25% ownership, and many former LEH employees working at HC. Hudson reportedly provided LEH with financing “while preventing ‘headline risk’,” but the relationship was designed specifically to maximize the utility of Hudson “without jeopardizing the off-balance sheet accounting treatment,” according to memo cited by the Times.


Deloitte To Spend More Money In China For Business Expansion [Dow Jones]
Deloitte is investing $100 million in China over the next three to five years, hiring 1,000 to 2,000 new employees per year, per Global CEO Jim Quigley and Deloitte China CEO Christopher Lu. This follows a five-year, $150 million investment by the firm announced in 2004.

Quigely told Dow Jones, “When I have made my investment decisions as the CEO of Deloitte, the market where we are investing the most is in China. We’ve now expanded. So another $100 million is coming this direction as we continue to want to grow our business here, and take advantage of the opportunities available to serve China companies and to serve companies outside of China who want to invest here.”

66% Say America Is Overtaxed [Rasmussen via TaxProf]
If you needed a poll that shows that Americans hate taxes in order to convince you, Rasumussen is all over it. 66% of people surveyed believe Amecians are overtaxed, as opposed to 25% who disagree. The issue is severely divided politically with 81% of Republicans believing they are overtaxed as opposed to Democrats who were split on the issue. 73% of those surveyed that did not affiliate with either party believe they are overtaxed while 96% of the Tea Party movement believe they are overtaxed.

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Criticized for Fewer Large Corporate Audits; PCAOB Has No Confidence in Auditors; New York State Looks Forward to UBS Windfall | 04.12.10

IRS audits fewer corporate taxpayers: critic [Reuters]
According to a Syracuse University research group, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (“TRAC”), the IRS is doing fewer audits of large corporations, using the Service’s own data to report its conclusions. TRAC looked at “number of hours spent on cases that had been closed in any given year,” saying the the IRS has cut the audit hours of companies with $250 million+ in assets by a third.

Accounting News Roundup: Charlie Rangel Has a Primary Challenger; Does Your Salary Define You?; PCAOB Wants Auditors to Consider Big Weird Transactions | 04.08.10

Rangel Challenged by a Historic Foe [WSJ]
Someone finally realized that Charlie Rangel’s constituents in New York’s 15th District have maybe had enough of Chuck and his “pay taxes as I wrote them, not as I pay them” ways. Rangs will be challenged in the primary by New York State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, according to the Journal. Not only does Mr Powell have an upper hand in the ad campaign department but there’s a bit of history here.


Powell Number III, sire of IV, was defeated by ChaRang back in 1970 amid his own ethical trubs. ACP 4th Edition insisted to that this had nothing to do with sweet, sweet revenge, “It has nothing to do with revenge or anything like that. Anyone with that record in public service would be interested in higher office.”

It won’t be easy for ACP4 however. He was flicked away by Rangs in a primary challenge back in 1994 and was recently convicted of “driving while impaired,” which actually seems worse than hogging rent-controlled apartments, since that could result in, you know, someone getting killed.

My Paycheck, My Self? [FINS]
Does your salary define you as a human being? Or, at the very least, does it feel that way? Master pay czar Ken Feinberg had to snoop around some people that pull down some hefty scratch and he found out that the human psyche can easily be affected by their pay stub.

PCAOB Issues Staff Audit Practice Alert on Auditor Considerations of Significant Unusual Transactions [PCAOB]
Don’t worry about the plain old vanilla transactions auditors, the PCAOB needs you to be on the lookout for significant unusual transactions. What that entails, we don’t really know but we’ll assume that means any transaction, and the PCAOB means any transaction, that looks remotely out of the ordinary, has a funny name (that may or may not include a “105”), requires smokey-filled room approval etc., definitely give it a second look. Or a third.

Accounting News Roundup: ICAI Claims Big 4 Is ‘Bending Laws’; There Is No FASB, IRS Conspiracy; Aggressive IRS Blamed for More Americans Severing Ties | 04.06.10

‘Big four audit firms bending laws in India’ [Times of India]
A committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India that is investigating the Satyam fraud is claiming that the Big 4 is “circumventing laws while providing auditing services in the country.” According to the Times of India, the committee has claimed that the firms have been granted permission to provide consulting services but not “taxation services, auditing, accounting and book keeping services and legal services.” The firms are able to provide these services through affiliate firms like Price Waterhouse Bangalore vis-à-vis Lovelock & Lewes who were responsible for the Satyam audit.

The committee states that “Indian firms and [multi-national accounting firms] are defacto the same entities providing the assurance, management and related services and as such their operations are designed to circumvent the provisions of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949,” and that information sought from some local firms has not been provided to determine if they have partnered with the Big 4.


Debunking the FIN 48 Conspiracy Theory [CFO Blog]
When the IRS proposed its latest rule for disclosing uncertain tax provisions it debunked a theory concocted by some that the FASB was in cahoots with the Service to provide treasure maps for companies that take aggressive tax positions. It was thought that when the FASB was developing FIN 48 (aka Topic 740) in 2006 that they were siding with the IRS in requesting companies to report specific information about those positions.

Not the most interesting conspiracy theory we’ve ever heard but a conspiracy theory nonetheless. Anyhoo, FIN 48 requires less detail about the uncertain positions than the new IRS proposal, thus, debunking the conspiracy, at least in former FASB member Edward Trott, “I think FIN 48 accomplished exactly what was intended…The IRS’s proposed rule makes it clear that [FASB] was able to provide information to investors without providing a gold mine of information to the IRS.” You can go back to your illuminati theories now.

More Americans Give Up Citizenship As IRS Gets Aggressive Overseas [Dow Jones via TaxProf Blog]
Just over 500 people renounced their citizenship or permanent status in the fourth quarter of 2009. The report, citing public records, states the figure is more than all of 2007 and double of 2008. Mostly people are creeped out by future tax increases and more regulation, including the requirements to report details of foreign bank accounts.

While that does drive some people out of the US of A, the IRS claims that there has been a push to get some out who have already surrendered their passports, “The IRS says some of the swelling of numbers of expatriations towards the end of 2009 occurred because the agency made a push to notify people that had already surrendered their passport, but had not completed the process by submitting the IRS form. Until that form is received by the IRS, these people are still subject to U.S. tax.” Or in other words, “GTFO and stay out.”

Accounting News Roundup: EU Threatens Convergence; IRS Is Not Hiring 16,500 Agents to Enforce Mandatory Healthcare; Charges Look Unlikely in AIG Probe | 04.05.10

Accounting convergence threatened by EU drive [FT]
Somewhat of a bombshell was dropped over the weekend when an EU politician suggested that funding for the IASB could be subject to its willingness to buckle to political pressure, according to the Financial Times. Michel Barnier, the EU’s new internal market commissioner would like ‘issuers – more banks and more companies – and more prudential regulators represented on the governing board [of the IASB],’ and suggested that it was too early to determine if the IASB’s scant budget of $6.5 million would be increased.

The FT reports that the EU pols “believe prudential regulators should be morovernance so that accounting can be used as a tool for financial stability,” despite the feeling of other countries (e.g. U.S. and Japan) that accounting rules “should not be the subject of regulatory intervention but should focus on providing an accurate snapshot of a company’s value.”


This difference in opinion on what the purpose of accounting is could disrupt the convergence process which won’t do much to impress the G20 chaps who demanded some progress on the global accounting sitch.

IRS Expansion [Factcheck.org via TaxProf Blog]
Those 16,500 new IRS agents you keep hearing about, or is 17,000? Whatever it is, Factcheck.org was posed the question about this small army of tax enforcers that will be marching into your home, heavily armed and stealing your freedom by forcing you to buy healthcare that you don’t want.

Are you prepared for this shock? Turns out, it’s not true:

This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS “agents” would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true.

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

Plus, Doug Shulman testified before the House Ways & Means Committee that the Service will not be auditing individuals, rather, “insurance companies will issue forms [some possibilities here] certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. ‘We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage,’ Shulman said.” So maybe this is what Anthony Weiner was trying to explain to Bill O’Reilly?

Federal Prosecutors Leaning Against Charges in AIG Probe [WSJ]
If you were thinking that it would only be a matter of time before Joe Cassano was charged with pushing the financial apocalypse button, you’re about to be severely disappointed. The Journal is reporting — citing “people familiar with the matter” eight times or so — that the former head of the AIG Financial Products unit is not likely to be charged by the Department of Justice for deceiving PricewaterhouseCoopers about AIG’s exposure to credit default swaps.

The DOJ was initially under the impression that Cassano had not informed PwC about an adjustment that AIG had made to make the losses from the CDS look just horrendous as opposed to catastrophic. When PwC came back with a material weakness on AIG’s internal controls, they abandoned the adjustment. The DOJ’s investigation turned up some notes of a PwC auditor that show that Cassano had told the firm about the adjustment thus, covering his ass. The Feds haven’t officially made up their minds about charging Cassano but this element was considered a “central issue.”

Accounting News Roundup: Former Dell Staff Facing SEC Action Related to Accounting; Herz, Tweedie to Present on Global Issues at GWU; NASBA Taking Back Some March Scores? | 04.02.10

We’ll be posting on a lighter schedule today. Hopefully many of you are enjoying a long weekend.

Dell says several former staff may face SEC action [Reuters]
Some former Dell employees are facing possible SEC actions related to the company’s accounting. The Commission started its inquiry back in 2005 and Dell disclosed that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York had subpoenaed documents shortly after in 2006. This all led to the Accounting Code of Conduct that the Company implemented last fall. The company stated that it believes ‘monetary penalties’ will be part of the settlement but otherwise they’re keeping a lid on it.

FASB Chairman Robert H. Herz and IASB Chairman Sir David Tweedie to Discuss Global Accounting Issues at The George Washington University [FASB]
Herz and Tweeds will be at G Dubs on Wednesday, April 7th kicking around global accounting issues. “Greater Global Transparency in Financial Reporting: Lighting the Path for Investors” starts at 6 pm and is free and open to the public, so you best get there early before the groupies overrun the joint.


NASBA Takes Back (Some) Passing CPA Exam Scores for March [JDA]
In what could amount to the worst April Fool’s joke in history, Adrienne is reporting over at JDA that NASBA is taking back some of the scores for March after extending the test dates in the third month:

[F]rom a reliable source within the Big 87654 that test-takers outside of the blizzard-affected areas have actually gotten their scores taken away and thrown out. Yes, that means all of you who put it off until the very last minute and rescheduled for the March extension are pretty much screwed unless you also got snowed in on top of it. Yes, those of you who paid for and passed the exam in March.

Huh. We’re checking into this. We’ll get back to you if we learn more.

Accounting News Roundup: KPMG Dodges Madoff Feeder Fund Lawsuit; SEC May Disclose More Details in Settled Lawsuits; Tax Code? Now There’s an App for That | 04.01.10

KPMG wins dismissal of Madoff feeder fund lawsuit [Reuters]
A class action lawsuit brought against KPMG by Meridian Horizon Fund, L.P. and other investors in Tremont Partners was dismissed yesterday in New York. Tremont had more than half of its assets were Berns andKPMG audited Tremont funds in 2006 and 2007.

Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that the plaintiffs’ case did not show that KPMG had any intent to deceive the investors in Tremont. Emily Chasan reports that Judge Griesa wrote, “Merely alleging that the auditor had access to the information by which it could have discovered the fraud is not sufficient,” and that the firm would have had to botch the engagements so badly that it would have amounted to “no audit at all.” He did not rule out the possibility of Meridian re-filing their lawsuit in the future.


SEC may require more details of wrongdoing to be disclosed in settlements [WaPo]
The SEC is thinking about disclosing more details in their civil action settlements; a move that would do away with the quick and dirty “neither admitted nor denied the charges.” This could result in a more transparent process where violations of the law are — God forbid — disclosed in detail.

Securities lawyers said a more detailed public record of cases could make defendants less likely to settle and make it easier for shareholders to file class-action lawsuits piggybacking on the SEC’s claims. It could also lead to embarrassment for executives if the agency publicized their roles in violating securities law, even if they are not personally charged.

God knows we can’t have executives embarrassed.

The Tax Code and Regs for Your iPhone [TaxProf Blog]
Who wants to schlep around the physical tax code?

Accounting News Roundup: Tax Freedom Day Is Nigh; Does the U.S. Government Need a Going Concern Opinion?; Google CFO Does Okay for Himself | 03.31.10

Tax Freedom Day 2010 Is April 9; Historically Massive Deficits Promise Later Tax Freedom in the Future [Tax Policy Blog]
This year April 9th marks, Tax Freedom Day. That’s 99 days of work for you to pay all your federal, state and local taxes for 2010. This is only one day later than last year but two weeks earlier than 2007, according to the Tax Policy Blog. However, TPB notes that the earlier tax freedom isn’t really much to get excited about.

Tax Freedom Day does not count the deficit even though deficits must eventually be financed. Since 1948, when Tax Freedom Day was first calculated, the difference between what governments are spending and what they’re collecting has never been as great as during 2009 and 2010. If Americans were required to pay for all government spending this year, including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, they would be working until May 17 before they had earned enough to pay their taxes—an additional 38 days of work.

Expressing a Going Concern Doubt on the United States Government, Not According to GAAP [JDA]
Speaking of deficits, what does the U.S. Government’s deficit look like on a GAAP basis? Somewhere in the nabe of $4 trillion. But before you get all huffy about spendy Democrats, this is true bipartisanship at work. The deficit that includes social security and medicare was $11 trillion in 2004 and was all over the map throughout the aughts. Anyone thought of giving the U.S. a GCO?? AG notes that it’s a bit of problem when the government can’t even make things look rosy, “[W]hen even the government accounting makes things look bad (see: pensions), you really know you’ve got a problem on your hands.”

Google’s Schmidt Got $245,322; CFO Paid $24.7 Million [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The $24.7 million in total comp that Patrick Pichette received for ’09 was up from $7.63 million in ’08, the year he joined the company. Most of this year’s haul was from $10.9 mil in stock awards and $10.8 in stock options. His salary was only a measly $450k.

Accounting News Roundup: Treasurer Is Not a Disclosure-Worthy Position at Overstock.com; SEC Investigating Repurchase Accounting; Deloitte Considers Camping at World Financial Center | 03.30.10

Another Key Departure at Overstock.com: It Went Unreported, Too [White Collar Fraud]
Criminal-turned-forensic sleuth Sam Antar is reporting on his blog that SEC problem child Overstock.com had another key employee depart the company but this time, the Company failed to report it publicly. Gary Weiss was tipped off about the departure of Richard Paongo, the former Treasurer at OSTK, in an anonymous post that was confirmed on Mr Paongo’s LinkedIn profile.

It appears that Mr Paongo’s departure occurred around the same time as ex-CFO David Chidester’s which was reported to the SEC.


Sam notes the requirements of an 8-K disclosure:

If the registrant’s principal executive officer, president, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer, principal operating officer, or any person performing similar functions, or any named executive officer, retires, resigns or is terminated from that position, or if a director retires, resigns, is removed, or refuses to stand for re-election (except in circumstances described in paragraph (a) of this Item 5.02), disclose the fact that the event has occurred and the date of the event.

So maybe OSTK figured that Paongo’s was worth sharing with investors? Sam says, “Apparently, it’s Overstock.com’s position that none of the above applies to Rich Paongo. However, Paongo’s departure from Overstock.con [sic or maybe not?] can be viewed as a material event requiring disclosure amid an expanding SEC investigation and given Paongo’s role at the company.”

Whether or not Paongo’s departure qualifies as a disclosable event might be arguable but the timing of his departure is certainly noted. In semi-related news, Overstock still has a couple of days before the 10-K extension runs out, so we’re likely to hear more out of SLC.

S.E.C. Looks at Wall St. Accounting [NYT]
With Repo 105 on everyone’s brain, the SEC figured it should snoop around and see who else is using the repurchase agreements. Bank of America and JP Morgan have already admitted that they use repurchase agreements but Mary Schapiro remains coy about what companies are getting the crook-eye.

Deloitte eyes sticking with World Financial Center [Crain’s New York]
Deloitte is in the market for about 600,000 square feet to house some its New York employees and one possibility is that the firm will set up camp at World Financial Center where it is currently the largest tenant. The firm is also reportedly considering 825 Eighth Ave.

Crain’s reports that Casa de Salzberg was looking for 1 million square feet last year, considering possible locales at 11 Times Square and 277 Park Ave. Deloitte insists that it was never looking for 1 million square feet and will be perfectly happy to cram the employees from the current two non-WFC locations into one place.

Accounting News Roundup: Accounting for Healthcare Reform Begins; Should Small CPA Firms Partner with Large Firms on Projects?; Lawsuits Against Accounting Firms Rising Fast in UK | 03.28.10

The healthcare party is over – now comes the (accounting) hangover [FT Alphaville]
Now that healthcare reform is behind us, the matter of sorting out the impact on corporations now falls to the accounting professionals in those companies as the first quarter winds down this week.

FT Alphaville notes that AT&T, for one, has already filed an 8-K that states that it will “take a non-cash charge of approximately $1 billion in the first quarter of 2010 to reflect the impact of this change.” The change that the company is referring to is the “Medicare Part D subsidy” which, under the new law, is no longer eligible for a write-off against a company’s taxes. The subsidy is given to companies to help to pay prescription drug benefits to its employees.


FTA cites a report by Credit Suisse that shows many companies’ (including Goodyear Tire, International Paper and The New York Times) first quarter earnings will be impacted significantly by new healthcare legislation. And it also appears that it will cause companies to take a second look at the benefits they currently provide to employees, as Ma Bell stated in its filing that it “will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company,” as a result of the legislation.

Why solos and small firms shouldn’t “partner” with larger CPA firms on projects [Fraud Files Blog]
Tracy Coenen recently had a large firm approach her to see if she’d be interested in helping them out with some “Fraud Risk Assessment services.”

The larger firm asked her if she would be interested in “a partner/subconsultant” arrangement. Tracy explains why this isn’t a good situation for solo practitioners like herself, “[T]he consulting firm doesn’t have the know-how necessary to provide their client with the services they need. But they’re not about to let something silly like competence stand in the way of collecting fees! They will find a way to do it.”

Tracy says that the larger firm will ask you to discount your billing rate, train their staff, and ultimately, give them the secrets to your practice, “Don’t lose money by discounting rates, training someone else’s staff for those discounted rates, and creating a competitor for yourself who uses your proprietary methodology.”

U.K. Accounting Suits Reached 5-Year High Last Year, Study Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The number of lawsuits filed in the UK against accounting firms in the past year is greater than the last five years combined according to Bloomberg. The thirteen suits filed in 2009 is more triple than the four suits filed in the previous five years. Although the number of suits is considerably smaller than the 61 suits filed after the collapse of Enron, et al. in the 2002-2003 time period, Jane Howard, a partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP, is quoted that it’s not clear whether things are just getting started, “What is still hard to tell is whether this sudden rise in claims will subside quickly or whether accountants will face a higher number of claims over the coming years.”

Accounting News Roundup: Marion Barry’s Latest Trouble; IRS Phishers Go After the Gullible; Doug Shulman Is Sick of Being Asked if He Prepares His Own Taxes | 03.26.10

IRS officials file lien against Marion Barry [WaPo]
If you’re not familiar with Marion Barry, let’s just say that the guy has been in fair amount of trouble over the years. Check that, dude has been in a lot of trouble. Yet, somehow this man still somehow manages to get elected to public office in Washington, DC. The latest trouble involves a tax lien that has not been paid for taxes owed from 2005 to 2008, according to the Washington Post. It’s only $15,000 but considering what he could potentially spend it on (e.g. crack, girlfriend) the IRS kinda wants it.

It’s not like the Service hasn’t been trying to get the back taxes owed. They’ve been garnishing his wages $1,350 every two weeks and his attorney is quoted as saying that this “isn’t a new thing.” We agree. We’re been used to the idea of Marion Barry being an elected criminal for quite some time now.


IRS Phishing Scams on the Rise [Tax Girl]
A random email from the IRS requesting things like your SSN#, your shoe size, bank account number and should be taken as seriously as an IKEA give away on Facebook. If the Service wants to get your attention, they do it by snail mail people. Lesson over.

Tax writers can’t figure out the tax code, either [The Daily Caller]
When the IRS Commish was asked again about using a tax preparer, the Daily Caller quotes his curt response as, “I don’t have time for this … If you want an interview, you can call my office,” and sped away. He’s crackin’. Maybe he should just try doing his own taxes. Joe Biden used to!

Accounting News Roundup: The Tanning Tax Isn’t Fair; Dubai World Gets Another Life; Guy Hands Won’t Have to Go to London | 03.25.10;

Does New 10% Tanning Tax Discriminate Against Whites? [TaxProf Blog]
Are you being unfairly taxed just because you want some extra Vitamin D?!?


Dubai World, Nakheel Get $9.5 Billion Injection [WSJ]
For now at least, it appears that Aidan Burkett, Deloitte’s rock star restructuring expert has saved the day at Dubai World. DW will get $9.5 billion from the Dubai Government and plans to pay $26 billion to its creditors that include HSBC, Lloyds, Standard Chartered and RBS.

The complex deal that has taken months to draw up involves Dubai World issuing two tranches of new debt and converting $8.9 billion, or 38%, of its existing obligations into equity, the company said.

The new debt won’t be guaranteed by Dubai government, which has previously been a thorny issue between creditors and the city-state’s advisors.

Citi Loses Bid to Move EMI Trial [WSJ]
Remember Guy Hands, the founder of Terra Firma Capital, who hates taxes so much that he asks that his family come to visit him in Guernsey so that he doesn’t risk his non-resident status for England?

Well, you’ll be happy to know that Citi’s bid to get the trial moved to London was rejected by Judge Jed Rakoff so Hands won’t have to worry his pretty little head. Had the motion to move the trial been granted, Hands’ non-resident status could have been jeopardized and he may have had to pay taxes due to England. And, God forbid, do some of the traveling to see his family.

Accounting News Roundup: The SEC’s Porn Problems Somehow Get Worse; The Daily News Offers Free Tax Help While the Sun-Times Has More Obvious Tax Advice | 03.24.10

SEC Employees Were Masturbating to Kiddie Porn While Your Economy Tanked [Gawker]
So this whole SEC/Porn fiasco has taken an unsuspecting and disturbing turn for the worse. Gawker has obtained documents that show that there have been sixteen investigations of SEC employees surfing the web for the likes of ladyboyjuice.com, kinkycomments.com, sexyavatars.net, cafebuckskin.blogspot.com and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Even more awkward is that it was discovered that one of the Commission’s porn connoisseurs computers contained videos that “potentially contained child pornography” and was referred to the FBI. Protecting our markets, people. Protecting our markets.


Readers turn to Daily News Tax Hotline for free help filing tax returns [NYDN]
Can’t afford a CPA? NBD. Just call up the Daily News. Their annual tax assistance hotline runs today and tomorrow from 10 am to 4 pm. The DN partners with the NY State Society of CPAs so you can rest easy that it won’t be Rush & Malloy.

Don’t pay taxes with credit card [Chicago Sun-Times]
Not such a good idea.

Accounting News Roundup: Joint Taxation Committee Explains IRS Penalties Under Health Care Bill; Madoff Owes New York $1 Mil in Taxes; ACORN Shutting Down | 03.23.10

What Happens If You Don’t Buy Health Insurance under Health Care Reform Bill? [Tax Policy Blog]
Believe it or not, there is misinformation out there about the health care reform bill. No, it’s true!

One big fear is the IRS getting all up in your shit for not buying health insurance. According to some, heavily armed IRS agents will kick down your door if you haven’t made the necessary arrangements for coverage, take your children away and kick your dog as they exit your house with your money and your freedom. Fortunately, Tax Policy blog has presented the Joint Taxation Committee’s explanation of what would really happen if you decided to skip on the coverage.

The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

NY is newest Madoff victim [NYP]
Apparently Berns didn’t sort out all of his affairs before taking his permanent vacation to the Carolinas. He owes nearly $1 million taxes to New York State according to the Department of Tax and Finance’s list of largest delinquents.

Acorn to Shut All Its Offices by April 1 [NYT]
After getting dropped from the VITA list by the IRS and getting snubbed by the Census Bureau, Glenn Beck’s favorite NPO is closing up shop on April Fool’s Day. Beck will certainly be on hand to see the headquarters burned to the ground to assure that the American people aren’t being duped again.

Accounting News Roundup: Dodd Requests Investigation of Lehman “Accounting Manipulation”; Ernst & Young Makes Case to Audit Committee Members; House Passes Health Care Reform | 03.22.10

Dodd Seeks U.S. Inquiry Into Lehman’s Accounting [DealBook]
Late on Friday, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Lehman Brothers’ “accounting manipulation” that contributed to its bankruptcy. According to his letter, Dodd also wants the DOJ to investigate “other companies that may have engaged in similar accounting manipulation with a view to prosecution of employees or agents who contributed to any violations of the law.”

With the exception of Lehman, Dodd did not name any companies specifically. He wrote, “We must work tirelessly to reduce the incidence of financial fraud in order to restore trust and confidence in the financial markets. A task force investigation and taking appropriate Federal actions in these matters will contribute to these goals.”


An Ernst & Young Response: Dear Audit Committee Member… [Re: The Auditors]
Ernst & Young is on the offensive, telling everyone who will listen their position on the results of the Bankruptcy Examiner’s report. The ubiquitous Enron and Andersen comparisons in the MSM — while cliché and misleading — have motivated E&Y to reach to audit committee members that ulitmately decide whether E&Y will be providing services to their companies. Francine McKenna posted the letter noting, “I guess they know where their bread is buttered: With the guys who hire and fire them in the Fortune 500.”

The firm addresses everything from the actual accounting, “The media reports that these were ‘sham transactions’ designed to off-load Lehman’s ‘bad assets’ are inaccurate,” to whistleblower Matthew Lee’s letter, “When we learned of the letter, our lead partner promptly called the Audit Committee Chair; we also insisted that Lehman’s management inform the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank of the letter.”

Naturally, the firm plans to defend themselves vigorously stating, “EY is confident we will prevail should any of the potential claims identified against us be pursued.”

Obama Hails Vote on Health Care as Answering ‘the Call of History’ [NYT]
Last night, the Senate bill was approved by the House, 219-212, and it could be headed back to the Senate for final approval as early as this week. In a shocker, Democrat and GOP views on the bill don’t seem to be converging as one Dem legislator described it as “the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century,” while a GOP member described the bill as, “a fiscal Frankenstein.”

Accounting News Roundup: GOP Says Healthcare Bill Will Expand IRS ‘Tentacles’; Jonathan Weil Counts Some of E&Y’s Bodies; RIP Jerry York | 03.19.10

GOP targets IRS in latest health battle [The Hill via TaxProf]
The GOP is still fighting the health care bill tooth and nail and this may be the most effective strategy we’ve seen so far. Forget about debating coverage, preexisting conditions, etc. etc. Just name drop the IRS and a large group of people may change their minds about the whole thing.

“This is a vast expanse of power,” said Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) during a Thursday call organized by Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee. He said the IRS provisions in the healthcare bill “dangerously expand, in an ominous way, the tentacles of the IRS and its reach into every American family.”

On the surface this appears to be the typical GOP “the IRS is eeeevilllll” pandering but the real concern should be that the Service already has a lot to do. The Hill reports that if taxpayers are required to purchase health care insurance but fail to do so they could face fines. The IRS would be responsible for administering and collecting these fines.

Add that to this small task, “The IRS retrieved $2.35 trillion in 2009 by processing 236 million tax returns. It also is working to reduce a $345 billion gap in the taxes it collects and should collect.” Not to mention they’re trying to update systems, answer more phone calls, getting into high speed car chases. There’s always a lot going on.

And in case Rep. Boustany needs caught up, the Service is already auditing more people and trying to collect every dime nickel penny it can.

Lehman’s Auditor Goes Blind From the Cooking [Bloomberg]
Jonathan Weil is not buying what Ernst & Young is selling. He reports that E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins denied that the firm had “mischaracertized [the Bankruptcy Examiner’s] findings,” and characterized it this way, “[B]y E&Y’s twisted logic, it would be possible for a company to lie in its financial statements about its off-balance-sheet liabilities, and still manage to account correctly for them in the same financial statements. Imagine that.”

Weil takes off the gloves and digs up some old bodies, namely: partners recently sentenced to prison time for tax shelters; Bally’s (including vice chair Randy Fletchall); HealthSouth; Cendant (man, he’s going way back). Weil then thinks out loud, “With that kind of track record, it’s a wonder anyone would accept anything this firm says at face value again.”

Jerry York, Iconic CFO, Dies at 71 [CFO]
Served as CFO for IBM, Chrysler. Adviser to Kirk Kerkorian and board member at Apple.

Accounting News Roundup: Satyam Auditors Barred by PCAOB; TheStreet.com Pulls an Overstock.com; How High Are Your State’s Property Taxes? | 03.18.10

US accounting watchdog sanctions Satyam’s auditors [Reuters]
Siva Prasad Pulavarthi and Chintapatla Ravindernath, the two auditors that were arrested in India for their roles in the Satyam fraud, have been barred by the PCAOB from “being an associated person with a registered accounting firm.”

The Board who released the two orders against the men on Monday, that describe their efforts to get them to testify about their roles in the engagement last spring but they refused to cooperate, “After several attempts to accommodate Respondent with respect to the dates and location of testimony, including a delay to allow new counsel to become familiar with the matter after Respondent changed counsel, Respondent, through counsel, informed the Division in January 2010 that he would not comply with the Demand for testimony.”


TheStreet.com To File Annual Report Late On Accounting Review [WSJ]
TheStreet.com announced yesterday that it was pulling an Overstock, delaying the filing of its 10-K for 2009. The Company, founded by sound effects specialist Jim Cramer, said that in a filing that it and Marcum (its auditor) needed to “focus attention on matters related to the Company’s previously-announced review of the accounting in its former Promotions.com subsidiary.”

In other words, the SEC is snooping around the accounting which typically is not a good sign (just ask Jim!). Despite this little bump in the road, the company assures everyone that it will “be able to file its 2009 Form 10-K on or before the fifteenth calendar day following the prescribed due date.”

Lowest and Highest Property Taxes [Tax Policy Blog]
This map, courtesy of Tax Policy Blog, shows Texas claiming top prize for highest property tax (as a % of median home value), with New Jersey not far behind:

Accounting News Roundup: Overstock.com Filing 10-K Late; Avoid Tax Related Status Updates on Facebook; IRS Is Getting to Most of Your Calls | 03.17.10

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Try to stay sober-ish at lunch today.

Overstock.com Delays Filing 10-K, Reports Even More GAAP Violations, While Patrick Byrne Hides [White Collar Fraud]
Yesterday marked another SEC deadline that has come and gone, and if you’re one of those teams that has a client filing late, this means that your life is still not yours. Case in point, the KPMG team tasked with turning the ship around at Overstock.com still has some work to do as they filed form 12b-25 yesterday afternoon, notifying the SEC that the 10-K would be a tad late.


“Overstock.com nonchalantly lumped in its latest GAAP violations with other GAAP violations previously disclosed by the company on January 29, rather than separately disclosing them,” writes Sam Antar (emphasis original). Here are the new booboos:

Identification of amounts related to customer refunds and credits not properly included in the Company’s monthly reconciliation of customer refunds and credits to third party statements to determine the completeness and accuracy of returns expense.

The accounting for certain external audit fees on a ratable basis, instead of as incurred.

The recognition of co-branded credit card bounty revenue and promotion expense on an immediate recognition basis, instead of over time.

The late recognition of a reduction in the restructuring accrual for a new sublease and the recognition of interest expense related to the accretion of the restructuring accrual.

The Company reports that the filing will be delayed “until it has completed the restatement process and all procedures necessary,” to get things right. Patrick Byrne is nothing, if not thorough. Oh, and they mentioned that they’ll be reporting material weaknesses in their internal control system but, BUT! that they are still going to report their first annual profit. Shareholders can tepidly rejoice.

IRS Uses Social Networks for Tax Probes [Web CPA]
The IRS has decided that the best way to discover your tax dodging ways is to look for clues in the one place no one can resist being completely and uncomfortably honest: Facebook.

Web CPA reports, “The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released documents uncovered from Freedom of Information Act requests, showing that the IRS as well as the FBI and other government agencies have been using social media sites like Facebook to collect information for investigations.”

Right. We suggest you stop talking about the six-figure 1099 you got that didn’t have any withholding and that you didn’t bother making estimated tax payments. Or roll the dice, lock up your privacy settings and continue with the financial TMI. Your choice.

TIGTA: IRS on Track to Meet Goal of Answering 71% of Taxpayer Phone Calls After a 12-Minute Wait [TaxProf Blog]
The IRS is making good on its promise to ignore less than 30% of the phone calls from taxpayers needing help with their 2009 tax returns. They’re also getting to each caller in less than twelve minutes which is pretty good considering all the shit they’re putting up with these days (planes, packages full of personal items that might be a something, people having seizures, overzealous agents). If you’ve got an extra twelve minutes, call them up and thank them for their service.

Accounting News Roundup: Sarbanes-Oxley’s Credibility Takes a Major Hit; You Shouldn’t Hate the IRS; You Especially Shouldn’t Tell Inappropriate Jokes About the IRS | 03.15.10

The Valukas Report on Lehman Brothers: Sarbanes/Oxley’s Credibility Takes a Dive [Re:Balance]
Has the Vakulus report exposed Sarbanes-Oxley as a, dare we say it, a waste of time? Perhaps that’s a stretch but the question of its effectiveness in the case of Lehman Brothers is certainly worth noting, “if Sarbox didn’t have an impact on Dick Fuld and Lehman, what possible good has it wrought?” asks Jim Peterson.

CNBC tried having this discussion on Friday although it didn’t seem to get anywhere. And some may say that SOx has resulted in a many positive developments, although this latest disaster may indicate that overwhelming support of legislation should be a sign that something doesn’t smell right, “the hindsight revelation of the Valukas report is that the inability of Sarbox to reach global-scale problems shows the futility of legislation so politically anodyne that it passed the US Senate by a vote of 96-0.”


In other words, SOx was sold as the cure-all to the problems revealed by Enron et al. and it made for some nice pandering during an election year. Once the election was over, Congress figured their work was done and nearly eight years later people are asking questions. The question now is, who will pick up the Lehman/E&Y torch in this cycle? There’s less than eight months until election day!

Why I Don’t Hate the IRS — and Neither Should You [Politics Daily]
Okay, so maybe the IRS isn’t perfect but using planes, guns or more subtle forms of dissatisfaction doesn’t really help matters.

“While it may be superficially gratifying, it is absurd to use the IRS as a whipping boy. Is there anyone who really believes that we could live in a world where citizens expect the government to provide benefits without raising the taxes needed to pay for them?”

Last we checked, the answer to that question is yes, starting with the fans of Joe Stack’s Facebook page.

TIGTA Is Investigating 70 Jokes/Inappropriate Statements About the Attack on the Austin IRS Office [TaxProf Blog]
Aaaannnd another thing. If you think you can tell semi-serious jokes about the IRS plane crash, you will be dealt with in a swift and serious manner. Expect to receive yearly financial rectal exams for the rest of your time on Earth. Someone in Utah should be paying especially close attention.

Accounting News Roundup: Lehman Failure Was a Team Effort; Boston Provident Ex-CFO Faces Prison After Guilty Plea; Who Wants to Watch a Toxic Asset Die? | 03.12.10

JPMorgan, Citigroup Helped Cause Lehman Collapse, Report Says [Bloomberg]
There’s so much blame to go around: Dick Fuld! Every Lehman CFO that ever worked there! JP Morgan, Citi, Ernst & Young (who we’ll get to shortly), you’re all at fault too! But mostly Dick Fuld. He was putting lots of pressure on Lehman’s balance sheet magicians to reduce the bank’s debt. The report states that Fuld was “at least grossly negligent” and if it gets worse than that, you’ll certainly hear about it.

According to the Bankruptcy Examiner’s report, there was plenty of parties that didn’t help matters. JP Morgan and Citi were demanding more collateral from Lehman as the firm tried to stave off death while E&Y sat back as LEH got all hocus-pocus with their accounting. So pick a company or person you don’t like and point the finger. It sounds like an argument can be made.

All this amounts to largest bankruptcy in history and boy will it sell a helluva lot of books, movie tickets, and HBO subscriptions. Silver lining!


Trader faces up to 6 1/2 years in prison [Bloomberg via Boston Globe]
Former Boston Provident CFO Ezra Levy pleaded guilty to securities and wire fraud after being accused of stealing $3 million from New York-based Boston Provident Partners, LP. Levy told the judge that he used the money to pay ‘personal expenses’ although no word on what the loot was. Presumably not a fleet of limos.

We Bought A Toxic Asset; You Can Watch It Die [NPR]
Ever dreamed of owning just a small piece of a toxic asset just watch the slow, agonizing death? Of course! Some reporters at NPR chipped in to invest $1,000 in a bond with over 2,000 bad, really bad mortgages all for the sake of journalistic interest. If the team somehow manages to make money it’s going to charity.

Accounting News Roundup: Record Number of ‘Nonpayers’ of Income Tax in ’08; IRS Getting Used to Threats?; Donations for Chile Bill Passes House | 03.11.10

Record Numbers of People Paying No Income Tax; Over 50 Million “Nonpayers” Include Families Making over $50,000 [Tax Foundation via TaxProf Blog]
For all the bellyaching Americans do about taxes, a large portion of them have managed to turn “Tax Day into a payday.” What the hell does that mean? It means that a growing number of people are considered to be “nonpayers” or people that get back every dollar withheld on their paycheck.

Sounds great, right? It’s my money, F the government, etc, etc. Well, the Tax Foundation is a little concerned because as the federal budget continues to grow, the income tax system becomes a less effective method of financing expenditures:


“[R]ecently released IRS data for the 2008 tax year show that a record 51.6 million filers had no income tax obligation. That means more than 36 percent of all Americans who filed a tax return for 2008 were nonpayers, raising serious doubts about the ability of the income tax system to continue funding the federal government’s ballooning expenditures.”

The Foundation concludes that if the trend of credits continues, the more people will get used to the idea that their refund from the Feds is annual windfall rather than an even greater inefficient government. “As the number of refundable tax credits continues to grow, more and more tax filers are seeing the IRS as a source of income, not something to which taxes are paid.”

Eye Opener: Threats against IRS workers continue [Federal Eye/WaPo]
Despite so many people being “nonpayers” people still hate on the IRS, as we’ve covered. And actually, the IRS is okay with that. It’s expected:

“It would be a little naïve to think that we don’t get some threats over the course of doing business,” said IRS Communications Director Terry Lemons.

Perhaps it would be naïve but there seems to be shit going down every week. When does the ‘over the course of doing business’ become “day-to-day challenges that we deal with”?

House Passes Chile Earthquake Donations Bill [Web CPA]
Yesterday, the House approved the extension of the deadline for donations made to victims of the earthquake in Chile, to considerable less fanfare than the Haiti bill from back in January. Presumably, Congress is under the impression that voters aren’t that concerned about what goes on in the southern hemisphere, thus the need for grandstanding on this issue isn’t needed.

The bill, sponsored by new Ways & Means Chair Sander Levin (D-MI) and Dave Camp (R-MI), would allow donations made through April 15, 2010 to be included on your 2009 tax return.

Accounting News Roundup: CFOs, Staff Are Getting Worn Down by Guidance; Miami Forensic Accountant to Plead Guilty; Big 4 In Pari Delicto Defense Strategy | 03.10.10

A Growing Contagion: Accounting Fatigue Syndrome [CFO Blog]
Anyone getting worn out from all the guidance that is coming from the alphabet soup of regulators? You’re not alone and there appears to be an epidemic, something that CFO Blog has deemed “Accounting Fatigue Syndrome.” The long/short of it is that things are only going to get more complex as FASB and IASB continue to converge their rules and guidance continues to come out of both rule making bodies.

“Like many finance executives, Terry Lillis, CFO of Principal Financial Group, is tired. The constant stream of guidance from regulators and accounting standard-setters — plus the expected inflow of more to come over the next few years — has created “huge accounting fatigue” among his finance staff”


What’s the solution to AFS? How about just getting out of the biz altogether? “While the panelists gave no hope to CFOs who wish the standard-setters would either slow down or cut back on their agenda, they did offer one tip for ending accounting fatigue. ‘If I were a CFO, the first thing I would do is look at my early-retirement provisions,’ quipped J. Edward Grossman, a Crowe Horwath partner.”

High-profile Miami accountant Lew Freeman to plead guilty to fraud [Miami Herald]
A couple of weeks ago we told you about “go-to” forensic accountant turned swindler Lewis Freeman and his legal trouble.

Today he is expected to plead guilty in Miami to embezzling $2.6 million from his clients. Prosecutors have alleged that Freeman, “wrote 162 unauthorized checks to himself totaling about $6 million from the accounts of five failed businesses once under his company’s control, but put back about half of the money.” Freeman has been cooperating with investigators since his arrest but still may face 10 – 20 years in prison.

In Pari Delicto: Are Auditors Equally At Fault In The Big Fraud Cases? [Re: the Auditors]
Francine tackles PwC and KPMG’s defense strategy involving in pari delicto to avoid their roles in fraud cases.

The way I see it, the in pari delicto doctrine is being used like a pair of needle nosed pliers by audit firm defense lawyers to diffuse a bomb – huge liability for some of the biggest frauds in history. The in pari delicto doctrine attempts to pull the auditors’ tails from the fire by excusing any of their guilty acts due to the approval of those acts by potentially equally guilty executives.

Accounting News Roundup: KPMG Survey: Half of Execs Want Option to Adopt IFRS Early; PW India Plea Rejected on Satyam; Two-thirds of States Have Raised Taxes Since Recession Began | 03.09.10

Half of US execs want to use IFRS early-survey [Reuters]
KPMG surveyed some shot-callers and lo and behold, half of them are ready to get down with International Financial Reporting Standards before the SEC’s target date of 2015. That’s if the SEC is even down with the whole idea.

KPMG’s surveyed also discovered that executives would like the SEC to be a little more transparent with their plans re: IFRS. You know, other than more meetings.

“Many U.S. companies with subsidiaries around the world are already using IFRS for statutory reporting,” said Janice Patrisso, partner and national IFRS leader at KPMG. “For them, having the option to synchronize it all up front at the U.S. company is a positive.”

Patrisso said companies with international subsidiaries that have already made conversions to IFRS were looking at the way those units had chosen to use the rules. They are also preparing for changes U.S. and international accounting rulemakers are making to converge the two sets of rules.

It’s nice to see some pushback to the SEC’s waffling. Despite where you fall on the IFRS debate, most people would agree that allowing businesses to make their own decisions about what financial reporting method to use (as long as it is consistent and high quality). Especially since the AICPA recognized the IASB as an official standard setter, thus giving private companies the go-ahead on IFRS, shouldn’t public companies be allowed the same freedom?

While the SEC spends the next five years trying to figure out what all this means, some businesses already see where this is going and don’t want to waste time. The SEC isn’t so enthused.

PW plea on Satyam probe rejected [Business Standard]
Pricewatherhouse India really wants everyone to forget about Satyam. Their latest plea to the Securities regulator in India, the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) has been rejected BUT apparently the firm is going to try making their case again. Sigh.

Don’t get any illusions about this case making any progress, “The next step is for ICAI’s disciplinary committee to send notices to the PW auditors charged by law enforcement agencies in the fraud case…this could happen only after the auditors, under judicial remand, are in a position to argue their case before the committee.” And we complain about the bureaucracy here.

CBPP: 33 States Have Raised Taxes by $32 Billion/Year [TaxProf Blog]
You may have noticed a state fiscal crises here or there in the last couple of years and by God, they’re trying to do something about it. Unfortunately, the most common solution, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is the raising of taxes. Thirty-three out of 50 states have taken a number of measures from eliminating tax exemptions and broadening tax bases to good old fashioned higher sales, income, or property tax rates.

Accounting News Roundup: Alaska Union Criticizes Lost Data Deal with PwC; Levin Appointed to Ways & Means Chair; E&Y Received £35m in Audit Fees from BP | 03.05.10

First things first: Don’t forget that it’s National Employee Appreciation Day 2010. [GC]

Public employees union criticizes data loss deal [AP via CNBC]
Remember how PricewaterhouseCoopers lost the records of 77,000 Alaska public employees and retirees? PwC, trying to be a standup corporate citizen, took responsibility for the slip-up and promised those affected all kinds of stuff including identity theft protection, credit moty freezes. Hell, they said they would even reimburse any losses that occurred due to identity theft.

Shockingly, that wasn’t good enough for some people. The Alaska State Employees Association is pretty bent out of shape about the deal the state took and wants them to go back and get more. MORE. MORE!

Specifically, it wants the affected people to be automatically enrolled into the firm’s credit protection services, instead of being required to opt-in. The union also questioned why those services will only be available for a minimum of two years, though consequences of the data loss may pop up long after the services expire.

“We think that’s shortsighted to put a two-year period on it,” said union business manager Jim Duncan. “It doesn’t adequately protect our members or retirees.”

Alaska’s Department of Law is perfectly okay with the deal and if they could have gotten P. Dubs to give everyone lifetime guarantees, by God, they would have. But it wasn’t in the cards, “[Assistant attorney general Ed Sniffen] characterized it as a generous settlement that the Department of Law is pleased with. And unless new information indicates the parties weren’t negotiating in good faith, renegotiation is unlikely.”

Besides, if an employee becomes an identity theft victim, they can still sue PwC for damages. And that’s really what this country is all about; the ability to blame someone else and sue their ass.

Levin To Chair Tax-Writing Ways And Means Panel [AP via NPR]
Representative Sander M. Levin (D-MI) will serve as the new Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee after Charlie Rangel gave up the Chairmanship under pressure for ethics violations.

Mr Levin represents the 12th district in Michigan and has served in Congress since 1982 and is the older brother of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).

Levin takes the gavel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially appointed Pete Stark of California. It’s entirely possible that Speaker Pelosi realized that Mr Stark might not be the most diplomatic member of the House; he has a history of just saying whatever comes to mind like:

• Calling Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) a “whore for the insurance industry.”

• Arguing with Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO): “You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp. Come over here and make me, I dare you. You little fruitcake.”

• That former President George W. Bush was amused by soldiers getting their heads blown off in Iraq.

Among other things.

BP pays E&Y £54m in fees [Accountancy Age]
Now before you start screaming about the money, you should know that the fees are actually down significantly from the last two years. In ’08 E&Y got £67m and £75m in ’07. Beyond Petroleum says they’re doing things more efficiently in the ‘audit process’ and reducing tax and other services. See? Tough times all around.

Accounting News Roundup: SEC Official Explains His Porn Habits; Private Companies May Embrace IFRS Quicker; New Bill Would Ax Tax Tardy Fed Employees | 03.04.10

Porn Nightmare Never Ends for SEC Official [FINS]
Whatever your porn preferences, you’re probably not sharing them with complete strangers. If you are, the cloud of awkward around you has got to be so thick that you may as well have leprosy. However, if you have the unfortunate luck of getting caught viewing this art form at work, then you might be forced to discuss your preferences, how often you’re engaging in the activity, among other things:

[T]he really juicy stuff begins when he’s asked about accessing Web sites like tgirlhotspot.com and ladyboyx.com (warning, very NSFW): “Our records show that on Wednesday, August 13, 2008, beginning at 1:57 p.m., you made approximately 85 attempts…to access a Web site called tgirlhotspot.com. Do you have any recollection of attempting to access this site?”

The employee answers: “I do not personally have recollection of it, but it would not surprise me.” To which the inspector — and the reader — responds: “Okay. That’s fair.”

Seriously, who can remember every instance that they’ve visited ladyboyx.com? Does the guy have a photographic memory? Maybe on certain images but date, time, and spreadsheet you had open that you could quickly jump to in case someone came to close? That’s asking a little much.

Should the U.S. Forget about Private-Company GAAP? [CFO Blog]
Now that the Blue Ribbon Panel for private company GAAP has been announced, it makes some people wonder if the non-SEC types will just ignore this whole song and dance the Commission is doing get with the IFRS program ASAP. Ahh, the advantages of being a private company…

Even though both the BRP and the SEC will release their musings on their respective topics in 2011, private companies already have options, “[T]he U.S. private sector has already set some IFRS wheels in motion. In 2008, AICPA recognized the IASB as an official standard-setter, which means U.S. auditors are allowed to issue opinions on private-company financial results filed using IFRS.”

It’s doubtful that IFRS reporting will spread like H1N1 among private companies but while the SEC twiddles the private sector seems to recognize where all this is ultimately going.

Jason Chaffetz: Ax Hill staff tax cheats [Politico]
Since all the members of the House are up for reelection this year, everyone needs something solid to campaign on and apparently Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has found his stump.

Chaffetz is introducing legislation that would extend an IRS policy — termination employees that haven’t paid their federal taxes — to all federal departments and agencies.

In 2008 alone, 447 House employees and 231 Senate workers didn’t pay their taxes, according to figures from the IRS, Office of Personnel Management and Department of Defense.

“We have over 600 staffers on Capitol Hill not paying their taxes. That’s just not acceptable,” Chaffetz said in an interview with POLITICO. “It’s disingenuous to take federal taxpayer dollars and not pay your full share of taxes. It’s wrong.”

Between to the two bodies in Congress, over $8 million are owed in taxes. We don’t have to remind anyone how little money this is grand scope of the federal government. But hey! Rep. Chaffetz has an election to win and by God, this could be the ticket. Some other notable delinquent federal employees include the Postal Service at $257 million; Dept. of Veteran Affairs at $131 million; Army and Navy owe $81 million and $61 million respectively.

But pointing out those people wouldn’t make for very good press.

(UPDATE) Accounting News Roundup: Rangel Says He’s Not Quitting as Ways & Means Chair; IRS Is Sitting on $1.3 Billion in Unclaimed Refunds; SEC Adding Muscle in New York | 03.03.10

Rangel Loses Support in House [WSJ]
You can ignore what’s written below, except the part about rent-controlled apartments.

Charlie Rangel will not be quitting (temporarily sayeth Charlie Rangel) as the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. If you (read: Republicans) want him out, you’ll have to vote him out. Bad news for Chuck is that the Republicans in the House and several of his fellow Democrats are poised to do just that, “As many as 30 House Democrats could join 178 House Republicans in voting to oust Mr. Rangel as head of the Ways and Means Committee…a substantially higher number than in previous votes on his removal.”

Never mess with people when it comes to rent-controlled apartments. They’ll turn on you like Judas.

In the meeting, Mr. Rangel refused to quit as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and instead said he’d think overnight about the matter before deciding whether to step down or face an uncertain vote.

After the one-hour meeting broke, Mr. Rangel told reporters he would stay on.

“You bet your life,” he said. Pressed further, Mr. Rangel, raising his voice, said emphatically: “Yes, and I don’t lie to the press.”

There you have it. You want Rangs out? It’ll be over his dead body. Since he’s 79, it might just come to that.

Taxpayers Have $1.3 Billion in Unclaimed Refunds [TaxProf Blog]
That’s just for 2006. California leads the charge with over $150 million, followed by Texas with $114 million, and Florida with $110 million. 1.4 million tax-hating Americans have until April 15th of this year to claim and then the money goes straight to Goldman Sachs.

SEC to beef up its NYC office in 2010 [Reuters]
Here’s a possible gig for those of you that are still looking for work. The not-so-new but constantly improving (?!?) SEC is looking to hire a few good men and women for its New York office. Having got the scratch to put a few more hands on deck, the Commission is looking for 18 people for its enforcement team and 15 for its examination staff. There’s no indication that this will solve the SEC’s “idiots” problem but maybe you can at least land a job.

Accounting News Roundup: Substance at Utah IRS Building Was ‘Non-hazardous’; Goldman Sachs Discloses Its Bad Publicity Risk; Resort Where Tiger Gave Apology Files for Bankruptcy | 03.02.10

Suspicious substance at IRS called non-hazardous [KSL5]
After everything that has happened lately that is IRS-related, somehow that white powdery substance showing up at an IRS building and three employees having seizures is one giant coinky-dink.


Goldman Discloses a New Risk: Bad Publicity [DealBook]
Team Jehovah pushed the button on its 10-K yesterday and because they’re the type of company to keep everything on the up and up, they put it out there that when every media source calls you out each time you break wind, you have a entirely new problem:

“Press coverage and other public statements that assert some form of wrongdoing, regardless of the factual basis for the assertions being made, often results in some type of investigation by regulators, legislators and law enforcement officials, or in lawsuits.

…adverse publicity…can also have a negative impact on our reputation and on the morale and performance of our employees, which could adversely affect our businesses and results of operations.”

You don’t think the name calling and nuclear testicle jokes can affect the bottom line? Think again. PwC bought it. Shouldn’t you?

Sawgrass Resort Linked to Tiger Woods Apology Files Bankruptcy [Bloomberg]
At present, avoiding any contact with Tiger seems to be prudent.

Accounting News Roundup: Is the ‘Era of Sloppy Accounting’ Over?; Rangel Running for Reelection; Supreme Court to Hear Skilling Appeal | 03.01.10

Companies are making fewer accounting mistakes [USA Today]
“In another potential boost to investor confidence, the era of sloppy accounting appears to be ending,” declares USA Today. Okay but perfection is unattainable people, so until machines take over for you, keep at it. In the meantime, the results presented by Audit Analytics certainly indicate that things are going in the right direction.

We don’t want to be the party pooper here but if accounting is less sloppy, i.e. more sophisticated, doesn’t that mean that the methods for massaging the accounting are also more sophisticated? Just chew on that while you check the the findings.

The article lists three reasons for the improvement in reporting:

There is steady and ongoing improvement. The number of companies with restatements and the number of restatements have declined in each of the past three years.

Mistakes are getting caught sooner. Among the companies with restatements, errors covered a period of 476 days, or less than a year and a half. That’s down 7% from 2008 and well below the 716 days, or nearly two years, of problematic numbers restated in 2006.

Restatements are less serious. Restatements reduced companies’ reported earnings by $4.6 million on average last year, down dramatically from the $7.2 million and $23.5 million hits in 2008 and 2006.

Even though it’s virtually impossible to eliminate restatements, we must admit that these are encouraging trends. Another thing to keep in mind is that accounting rules are becoming increasingly complex so it’s not like things will be on cruise control from here on out.

Defiant Rep. Charles Rangel vows reelection bid despite uproar over alleged ethics violations [NYDN]
Ethics violations be damned! The 79-year-old announced over the weekend that he would be seeking reelection. It would be his 21st term in Congress, first winning election in 1970. Even if Rangs is able to do another victory dance, holding on to his Chairmanship of the Ways & Means will be a different matter entirely. PBO has already distanced himself from Chuck and some are saying that even Nancy Pelosi is getting creeped out a little too.

Skilling Asks High Court for New Trial Minus ‘Tar and Feathers’ [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The Supreme Court will consider Jeff Skilling’s appeal today in the Enron scandal that he was convicted of four years ago. Skilling’s attorneys will argue that the trial should not have been held in Houston where it would have been “impossible” to get a fair trial.

Skilling’s appeal says the atmosphere in Houston when the trial began in January 2006 was one of hostility toward him, fed by unrelenting and “searing” media coverage. The appeal points to a Houston Chronicle column titled “Your Tar and Feathers Ready? Mine Are” and a local rap song, “Drop the S Off Skilling.”

The 12 jurors reflected that antipathy, Skilling contends. During pretrial questioning, three said they were “angry,” three said they had negative feelings toward Skilling or doubted his impartiality and one said that all CEOs were “greedy,” according to his appeal.

Skilling is currently doing far worse than tar and feathers (probably NBD in this day and age), serving a 24 year sentence in a Colorado prison. If the SCOTUS rules in his favor on the “jury-bias” issue Skilling would get a new trial which open old wounds and could create a media circus (we hope).

Accounting News Roundup: Rangel Chastised by Ethics Panel; Settlement Reached for Ex-Deloitte Exec on Insider Trading Charges; Madoff Auditor Sentencing Delayed | 02.26.10

Panel Admonishes Rangel for Taking Trips as Gifts [NYT]
Charlie Rangel had a Congressional ethics committee rule that he “violated gift rules” when he accepted corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean. While that is certainly bad news for Rangs, the committee is far from finished with its investigation as they continue their inquiries about Chuck’s “fund-raising, his failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a Dominican villa, and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.”


Following typical political grandstanding protocol, Republicans are calling for CR to step down from his post as the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Comittee:

“In this time of great economic uncertainty, struggling middle-class Americans deserve better than to have a tax cheat chairing a powerful Congressional committee that directly impacts the financial livelihoods of millions of hard-working people,” said Ken Spain, the communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Ex-Deloitte Exec Settles Insider Trading Charges [Web CPA]
John A. Foley, who “settle[d] the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations”, was trading on inside information on a number of Deloitte clients including rubber shoe factory Crocs, along with YRC Worldwide, Inc., Spectralink Corporation and SigmaTel, Inc.

The trades yielded Foely and his fellow cheaters just over $200k which would buy a helluva lot of ugly shoes.

Madoff’s New City accountant’s sentencing put off until September [LoHud]
David Friehling, the worst auditor ever, was scheduled to be sentenced today for his little part in the Madoff Ponzi scheme has been delayed until September. Friehling’s continued cooperation was the reason for the delay in sentencing. Although he faces over 100 years in prison, Judge Alvin Hellerstein told DF that his cooperation will be noted when final sentencing is determined. Presumably, that will knock it down to well under a century of doing time.

Accounting News Roundup: Koss Sues AMEX for Sachdeva Spending Spree; IRS Worker’s Widow Sues Stack’s Widow; Twitter Feeds for Tax Pros | 02.24.10

Koss sues American Express over Sachdeva purchases [MJS]
Headphone factory Koss is suing American Express (the whistleblower!) for not reporting alleged embezzler extraordinaire Sue Sachdeva sooner.

Koss alleges that AMEX knew about Suze paying her credit card with Koss funds in February 2008 but then did nothing about it until August 2009; a month when SS spent $3.5 million on high end threads.

Sue Sach was finally exposed last December after allegedly making off with $31 million. So more or less, Koss is suing AMEX for $20 million because Koss’ management was far too busy to pay attention to their own company. The good news is that a whistleblower that happens to be corporation gets about as much gratitude as a human whistleblower. Consistency!


IRS worker’s widow sues Texas suicide pilot’s wife [AP via NYDN]
The widow of IRS employee Vernon Hunter is suing Sheryl Stack, widow of Joseph Stack, in order to determine if JS had a life insurance policy or other assets. The suit alleges that Mrs. Stack should have “should have warned others about her husband,” apparently because someone bitching about the IRS regularly flies a plane into a building.

Four Twitter Feeds for Tax Pros [FINS]
FINS put together their top four Twitter feeds for tax professionals yesterday and lo and behold, we ended up on the list! Thanks to FINS for including us but a special thanks goes to people like Terry “Dozer” and wives that shoot at their greedy husbands. They make our jobs easier.

Accounting News Roundup: Bipartisan Tax Reform Bill to be Introduced; PCAOB Offers More Documentation Guidance; Iowa Congressman “Emphasizes” with Joe Stack | 02.23.10

A Bipartisan Plan for Tax Fairness [WSJ]
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) co-wrote an op-ed to introduce their bill for tax reform: The Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2010.

The magic word! Bipartisanship! No one will argue against this bill with the magic word in there. Well, we’ll see. In the meantime they plugged all the things voters like to hear:

• Most taxpayers will be able to use a one-page 1040.

• In some cases the IRS will prepare the return for you; all the taxpayer will have to do is sign date and return.

• Reduce the six tax brackets to three: 15%, 25%, and 35%.

• Tripling the standard deduction.

• The first 35% of long-term capital gains income would be tax exempt.

• Flat corporate tax rate of 24%.

Sounds simpler, anyway.


PCAOB Offers Guidance on AS7 Documentation [Compliance Week]
Don’t worry auditors, this is just a little guidance on Auditing Standard 7: Engagement Quality Review that was requested by the SEC. All it says is that if your engagement happens to be royally f—ed up (i.e. “significant engagement deficiency is identified”) then you have to include enough documentation so that some strange auditor, with some experience, can understand why your engagement is such a mess. Nothing extra but don’t leave out the gory details.

Steve King To Conservatives: ‘Implode’ IRS Offices [Talking Points Memo]
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) is the winner of open-mouth-insert-foot (Joe Biden is awfully quiet these days) this week after saying that he “emphasized” with Joe Stack and that he encouraged listeners at the Conservative Political Action Conference to “implode” other IRS offices.

This may be blown out of proportion since no one typically gets hurt in an implosion but we don’t think the likes of Glenn Beck should be allowed near explosives of any kind.

Accounting News Roundup: Deloitte Consulting Is on a Hiring Spree; IFRS = Fool’s Errand?; Wesley Snipes Thoughts on IRS Plane Crash | 02.22.10

Deloitte Consulting is Hiring [BusinessWeek]
According to BW, Deloitte is making 50 – 60 offers to experienced consultants a week, 800 new MBAs and undergrads have started with the firm in the last six months and 1,000 more offers will be made to 2010 graduates. That’s an impressive hiring spree from where we stand.

What’s not clear from the article is why the hiring is occurring at such a furious pace. You would think with the addition of 4,000 BearingPoint employees, hiring at the firm would be muted but apparently that’s not the case. The article cites DC’s utilization rate at 80%, so there’s plenty of work and DC is “inordinately high market share in mergers and acquisitions and other deals of more than $5 billion in value” and a new focus on “implementation” and “putting together strategy” for their clients.

While there’s no reason to doubt the hiring numbers, the article cites few specific examples of why the all the new blood is needed. If DC is unable to develop new business in a weak economy, the 80% utilization rate might be temporary.


The Holy Grail of Accounting Is a Fool’s Errand [The Summa]
Professor David Albrecht doesn’t mince words on the issue of International Financial Reporting Standards, “Let me say it again, so no one can possibly misunderstand: The United States quest to join in a single set of global accounting standards (either by convergence or by adoption of IFRS) is a fool’s errand–completely absurd, pointless and useless.”

Okay but in case you’re not inclined to take him at his word, he goes on to explain:

What makes this a fool’s errand is there exists no reason for it. No one has explained what benefits exist that outweigh the need for regulation on a country by country basis.

I understand that the partners of some of the largest auditing firms will get rich, as will certain regulators that facilitate the convergence (such as David Tweedie, Mary Schapiro and James Kroeker).

What I don’t understand is why a move to a more independent private accounting setting organization with increased reliance on large audit firms will produce more effective government regulation when such actions in the past have resulted in less effective government regulation.

It’s almost a certainty that the market would become more reliant on the largest firms if the U.S. moved to IFRS and firm failure is a big concern since some are already preparing for it. Maybe the U.S. regulators are making like the ostrich?

And since the Big 4 were pushing IFRS at Davos and the SEC seems to be going along with things (tepidly) maybe the Professor is onto something here?

Snipes asks ‘What’s new?’ about IRS plane crash [AP via TaxProf]
Well, to our recollection, no one has flown a plane into an IRS facility to complain about tax law.

Accounting News Roundup: Chief Accountant ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ on Convergence; Grant Thornton Auditors Barred by PCAOB; PwC’s front row seat at AIG, Goldman Dispute | 02.19.10

James L. Kroeker [Web CPA]
The Chief Accountant sat down for a Q&A with Web CPA to talk about the Tiger Woods press conference, the upcoming Oscars, and how his own “situation” is far more impressive than anything you’ve seen on Jersey Shore.

Actually, no he didn’t. He talked about what you’d expect him to talk about including the so-called SEC roadmap that we’ve been wondering about:

We’ve been turning our focus back to the proposed roadmap. The staff has spent innumerable hours over the late summer, throughout the fall, and now the beginning of this year turning our attentiomment letters. It’s not that the volume of comment letters is extraordinary, but the depth of thought is particularly impressive

So in other words, those of you that took the time to write the letters, it’s your fault the Commission is so far behind. Sounds to us like your 50 page, single-space masterpieces aren’t exactly breezy reading. But don’t worry, they’re muscling through.

When asked about the June 2011 convergence “deadline”, Kroeker said that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the FASB and IASB will get the lion share of the work done even though the IASB has been sending mixed signals lately. At least someone is confident.


PCAOB Disciplines Grant Thornton Auditors [Compliance Week]
The PCAOB layed the smackdown on two Grant Thornton auditors this week for not questioning some the accounting policies of Imergent, Inc., a Salt Lake City tech company.

Partner Ray O. Westguard and manager Jennifer Nakao, were barred from practicing public company audit work for two years and one year respectively for their lack of auditorness.

According to the PCAOB, the two failed to question the revenue recognition policies and the allowance for doubtful accounts of Imergent, despite the fact that these two issues were addressed by the concurring review partner. Regardless of those concerns, the issues eventually led to an SEC investigation, the restatement of the financial statements for FY ’03 and ’04 and the firing of GT as the auditor. Maybe Grant Thornton should just avoid Salt Lake City clients altogether.

A Prisoner’s Dilemma: AIG and Goldman Sachs Game Each Other And PwC [re:The Auditors]
Our contributor Francine McKenna describes PwC’s front row seat for the negotiations between AIG and Goldman Sachs while the two were attempting to sort out their differences:

Why did PwC decide to point the finger at AIG? Neither AIG nor Goldman Sachs had been willing to defect or betray each other thus far, per the prisoner’s dilemma, even to save them both. The dispute had been going on for more than a month, more than a quarter, more than a year. It may have been excusable for PwC to allow a mismatch in valuation on the same assets in two of their clients for a month or a quarter due to timing differences in access to information. But a serious, contentious mismatch for more than a year, through several 10Q’s, and now going on two 10K’s?

The rest over at RTA.

Accounting News Roundup: Microsoft Says Financial Reporting Model ‘Broken’; Average Tax Rate for Top Earners Fell to 20-year low in ’07; U.N. Climate Chief to Join KPMG | 02.18.10

Financial reporting based on bygone era, Microsoft says [Accountancy Age]
Softie’s Technical Accounting Director Bob Laux says that the financial reporting model is waaaaayyyyy behind the rest of the world in providing relevant information. In a letter to the IASB, Mr. Laux describes the broken model:

“In essence, we have a financial reporting model largely based on a manufacturing economy and the industrial age, while the economy has moved to the information age and the financial reporting model has failed to change accordingly,” he said.

He also said that arcane accounting rules, creative accounting to meet analyst expectations, etc. are all ‘symptoms of a bigger problem – a broken financial reporting model.’

This is probably the most poignant example of the “historical financial reports are of limited use” argument that we’ve ever heard. No one uses historical financial statements to make decisions about investing anymore. Sure there are fundamentals that you can derive from them but ultimately you have outdated information that’s part of a large compliance exercise and in this day and age, few people (including Microsoft, apparently) have little use for that.


Tax Rates for Top 400 Earners Fall as Income Soars, IRS Data [Tax.com via Bloomberg]
If you’re wealthy (Chris Rock definition) then you’ll be happy to know that your taxes during 2007 were the lowest they had been in 20 years, according to statistics provided by the IRS.

The top 400 earners paid an average effective tax rate of 16.6% during the ’07 while in 1993, the average effective rate was 29.4%. KA-ching. Now before you rich haters get all worked up, there is another way to see this data:

Bill Ahern, director of policy and communications for the Tax Foundation, a Washington research group that advocates lower taxes, said the 2007 data doesn’t reflect the current economic circumstances.

“In a good year like 2007, it’s not surprising to see that the owners and managers of the nation’s largest firms made a fortune,” Ahern said. “Notice that two-thirds of their 2007 income was in capital gains, which have dropped like a rock since then.”

Regardless of how you feel about the widened gap, it’s not a stretch to say these facts will be exploited as populist pandering during the upcoming election cycle, as Democrats see their popularity slipping.

U.N. Climate Chief to Resign [WSJ]
Yvo de Boer will be resigning his position with the United Nations to join KPMG as an adviser on climate and sustainability as well as working with several universities on the issue.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but I believe the time is ripe for me to take on a new challenge, working on climate and sustainability with the private sector and academia,” said Mr. de Boer, who has led the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change as its executive secretary since September 2006…

“I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business,” he said in a statement.

Plus the money is probably good. Pretty impressive for KPMG to bag such a high profile dude on a still-emerging issue. Seems that KPMG et al. are making a seriou push into climate change as the IFRS and XBRL opportunities are slow to develop.

Accounting News Roundup: IASC Chair Says Convergence Is Still Happening; Walgreens to Buy Duane Reade; Church Accountant Gets Jail Time | 02.17.10

Convergence plan will ‘facilitate’ possible IFRS adoption [FT]
Apparently the FT piece in yesterday’s Roundup on the IASB throwing its hands up over convergence with the FASB was DEAD WRONG. That is, if you ask the Gerrit Zalm, the Chairman of the Trustees of IASC Foundation. He wrote a letter to the FT telling them that they’re mistaken and that the International Accounting Mavens are super proud of the work they’ve done with the FASB and that they’re pretty sure that Bob Herz and Co. will eventually come around:

I was surprised to read your interpretation of recent enhancements to the governance of the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) Foundation (“IASB softens stance on convergence”, February 16), and in particular your assertion that a constitutional emphasis on adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) represents a weakening of the trustees’ support for the ongoing work to converge global accounting standards.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The trustees of the IASC Foundation strongly support the work plan that the International Accounting Standards Board has established with the US Financial Accounting Standards Board, which will reduce the differences between, and improve, IFRS and US standards. By reducing differences and thereby reducing any cost of transition, convergence will “promote and facilitate” the possible adoption of IFRS.

So instead of getting all worked up over the FASB doing its own thing, just sit tight and let the IASB work its magic and we’ll have converged standards before you know it. The whole process is like herding cats on acid, so everyone just cool it.


Walgreen to Acquire Drugstore Chain Duane Reade [WSJ]
Don’t worry, the Journal is reporting that “nearly ubiquitous” (the “nearly” isn’t necessary) chain will still retain its name in the $1 billion deal. Confusion avoided.

Former church accountant sentenced to 17 months for theft [Springfield News-Sun]
Have we weeded out all the accountants that steal yet? Diane Maddy stole over $300,000 from her church from January 2003 to December 2006 and in August of 2008 and 2009.

Besides, “WTF lady, who steals from a church?” what caused her to take a break for 18 months and then another break for 12 months? Maybe walking out of a house of worship with huge grips of cash caused her to think twice (three times!)?

Listen up accountants who are thinking it: don’t steal. Just because you have access to money doesn’t make it yours. How many “accountant pleads guilty to theft” stories do we have to read? Now we have church accountants stealing? This is the bottom people.

Accounting News Roundup: Earnings Management and ‘Quadrophobia’; Deloitte vs. PwC on Loan Losses; Joe Francis’ Tax Lien Dropped | 02.15.10

Happy President’s Day! As we mentioned on Friday, we’ll keep you company throughout the day but it will be a little lighter schedule than normal. Most of you are suffering from a Valentine’s Day/Chinese New Year/Olympic Fever hangover anyway.

For Some Firms, a Case of ‘Quadrophobia’ [WSJ]
Shout if you’ve heard this before: a study profiled by the Journal states that “many companies tweak quarterly earnings to meet investor expectations, and the “companies that adjust most often are more likely to restate earnings or be charged with accounting violations.”

So here’s another study on restatements and the companies that you . BFD right? Earnings management is rampant. What makes this particular study unique is the authors looked at the frequency of companies rounding their numbers up to meet expectations and discovered that the number 4 appears less frequently in general and especially in the earnings of companies that restate their financial statements. Naturally, they call it “quadrophobia”:

When they ran the earnings-per-share numbers down to a 10th of a cent, they found that the number “4” appeared less often in the 10ths place than any other digit, and significantly less often than would be expected by chance…

In theory, each digit should appear in the 10ths place 10% of the time. After reviewing nearly 489,000 quarterly results for 22,000 companies from 1980 to 2006, however, the authors found that “4” appeared in the 10ths place only 8.5% of the time. Both “2” and “3” also are underrepresented in the 10ths place; all other digits show up more frequently than expected by chance…

In their most intriguing finding, the authors found that companies that later restate earnings or are charged with accounting violations report significantly fewer 4s. The pattern “appears to be a leading indicator of a company that’s going to have an accounting issue,” Mr. Grundfest said.

So it’s safe to say that you can add Quadrophobic to Patrick Byrne’s list of potential ailments.

Deloitte chief reignites accounting debate [FT]
Deloitte CEO Jim Quigley told the Financial Times that banks should “account for losses in two radically different ways to meet the opposing demands of politicians and accountants.” We’re not crazy about trying to please everyone but Quigs might have a good point here.

This would require banks to report two separate line items on their income statements, one for “incurred losses” and one for “expected losses”. Incurred losses report loan losses as they occur while “expected losses” would require banks to calculate an estimated loss provision over the lives of the loans.

PwC hates this idea saying it would ‘muddy the waters’. Richard Murphy thinks PwC is still living in fantasy land, “PWC is arguing against is anti-cyclical provisioning to ensure capital retention. To put it anothjer [sic] way, PWC wants pro-cyclical accounting that encoruages recklessness.”

Since the waters are already pretty f—ing muddy we’re not sure that it would do much harm. Users of financial statements already have a mind-numbing amount of information to dig through, one additional piece of information — a crucial piece in the case of bank financial statements, we might add — shouldn’t cause too much headache.

Joe Francis Off the Hook for $33 Million Tax Bill [TMZ]
Joe Francis’ IRS troubles seem to have magically disappeared, as TMZ reports that the IRS has dropped its $30+ million lien against the Douche of the Decade.

That eliminates one possible motive for the IRS shotgun shopping spree.

Accounting News Roundup: Madoff Family Members to Face Tax Fraud Charges; Satellite TV Sues Over Taxes; Accountant Steals from Homeless | 02.12.10

Ed. note: Many apologies for the downtime yesterday. As I understand it, the combination of Olympic Fever and President’s Day caused our servers to start the weekend a couple of days early. Fortunately we have our best people on it and the servers have been pistol-whipped back into submission (for now). Please bear with us.

Prosecutors Set Sights on Madoff Kin [WSJ]
Specifically on brother Peter and spawn Mark and Andy who all still deny knowing anything. The charges are said to be tax-fraud which indicates that history’s worst auditor David Friehling, who also prepared the Madoffs’ tax returns, is giving the prosecutors golden information.

Peter worked as the Chief Compliance officer at BLMIS while Mark and Andy worked in the “market-making division”. In Irving Picard’s suit against Madoff family members, it states that between the three of them they withdrew over $50 million after investing under $2 million.

In other Madoff news, ex-“CFO” Frank DiPascali was released yesterday on bail pending sentencing. He is also cooperating with prosecutors and his attorney said that he was ‘thrilled’, presumably since, you know, he’s out of jail for a few days before he goes back forever.


Satellite TV sues to end taxes [DMWT]
Purveyors of reality TV and other small screen creations, Dish Network and DirecTV are suing Massachusetts over a “5 percent tax on satellite services”.

Along with suing Mass, the companies have put their lobbyists to work:

A federal bill, H.R. 1019, also is pending in Congress. The State Video Tax Fairness Act would prohibit any state from imposing a discriminatory tax on any “means of providing multichannel video programming distribution services.” As for the term discriminatory tax, the legislation defines it as one where the net tax imposed on one program provider is higher than what is assessed another.

And God knows the satellite TV companies can’t be discriminated against. Apparently these taxes will prevent them from providing hundreds of channels that no one watches. We wouldn’t be able to watch Jersey Shore without these companies. Did you ever think about that?

Reebok Founder’s Accountant Accused of Stealing $25 Million [FN]
Paul Fireman paid his longtime accountant Arnold Mullen $800,000 a year. Figuring he had more coming to him, Mullen stole $25 million more from Fireman and the Reebok founder’s charity for the homeless. Jesus, man. Try asking for a raise.

Accounting News Roundup: Obama Is ‘Fierce’ for the Free Market; Bailout of Greece Imminent?; Shoeboxed.com Solves Receipt SNAFUs | 02.11.10

Obama Says He’s ‘Fierce’ Free-Market Advocate, Rejects Critics [Bloomberg]
The POTUS has a message for everyone that likes throwing around words like “socialist” or “Mao”. He and his gang are pro-business, “President Barack Obama said he and his administration have pursued a ‘fundamentally business- friendly’ agenda and are ‘fierce advocates’ for the free market, rejecting corporate criticism of his policies.”

Now whether or not you buy this story, the Berg is reminding us that things haven’t been so bad since BO took office, “the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of stocks has risen more than 25 percent and the economy rebounded from a 6.4 percent decline during the first three months of last year to 5.7 percent growth in the fourth quarter.”

Whether you believe that President secretly dresses like Castro or you’re happy that Bloomberg is giving him credit for the “rebound” after a year in office, we expect him to run with the “turn around” story. He’s got to help out all the poor saps running for re-election after all.


EU Leaders Agree on Greece Support [WSJ]
Since things are getting slightly out of hand over in Greece some of the European leaders got together to talk about it. They came to the conclusion that they can lend a hand ‘if needed’.

Since the world seems to be in the habit of bailing out irresponsible behavior — according to the Journal, “Greece for years violated rules against overspending” — we’re guessing the “needed” part is imminent:

Greece’s fiscal problems—a heavy debt burden and wide fiscal deficits—have spurred fears of a sovereign default and sowed worry of serious trouble in the 16-nation euro zone. Thursday’s summit has become the bloc’s clearest opportunity to reassure financial markets.

It wasn’t clear that investors would be soothed. The euro, which has gyrated for several days amid rising and falling hopes of help to Greece, slipped slightly after Mr. Van Rompuy appeared in front of the stately library where the leaders were meeting to read his statement.

Zee Germans aren’t so thrilled with the whole idea since, “The euro zone is built around the idea that each nation manages its own fiscal affairs,” and they’re notoriously thrifty. Of course letting Greece go the way of Iceland is a big risk and EU members apparently have even floated the idea of ringing up the IMF which some feel would be an abomination.

Service Offers Receipt Scanning for Accountants [Web CPA]
Perhaps you’ve heard of Shoeboxed.com, which if you have, why on Earth aren’t you sharing it with every accountant that you know?

The long/short is that your client walks in with his/her records for the past year so you can prepare their business’ tax return. You give them the crook-eye since you’re already drowning in files. You tell them to send all their receipts to Shoeboxed who will scan them in and “the data is then extracted and entered, automatically categorized, and securely archived online.”

You, the accountant, can now access this information through your Shoebox account in your favorite tool: spreadsheets. Not only will this cut down on the paper in your office, you won’t have to physically threaten as many clients. Everyone wins!

Accounting News Roundup: Former SEC Enforcement Chief Predicts More Lawsuits; Morningstar Buys Footnoted; Citi Teams Up with Gazprom | 02.10.10

Former SEC Top Cop Sees More Lawsuits [CFO]
Former head of SEC enforcement Linda Thomsen believes that the Commission will be looking to charge more companies for “aiding and abetting actions,” which means accountants, attorneys and investment banks will find themselves privy to more lawsuits.

Last summer Senator Arlen Spector introduced legislation that would expand the ability of plaintiffs to sue those that indirectly assist the commitment of fraud.

Ms. Thomsen cited the “scheme liability” theory in Enron cases against the likes of Citi, J.P. Morgan, and Merrill Lynch as being the most successful in holding aiding companies responsible for furthering a fraud.


Morningstar acquires footnoted! [Footnoted.org]
Morningstar, the financial research firm, acquired footnoted.org the blog that digs through SEC filings to find little nuggets of treasure from obscene executive pay packages to shareholders cursing in letters to their board of directors.

Terms were not disclosed on the deal but founder Michelle Leder did state that “While I negotiated mightily for the keys to the Gulfstream, the corporate apartment in Paris, the company yacht, the lifetime consulting contract and, of course, a tax gross up — all crazy perks we’ve written about in various M&A deals — I came up empty handed. That’s because Morningstar doesn’t believe in those sorts of things. Nor do I.”

This was a perfect opportunity for the ultimate ironic moment but alas, it has passed. Congrats to Michelle and the rest of the footnoted team.

Citigroup Courts Gazprom [FINS]
Being in business with a state-owned energy company can’t be a bad thing. Citigroup has been courting the Russian behemoth, Gazprom “to buy energy-intensity credits from three Tianjin heating utilities that had exceeded efficiency targets set by the city. The savings were then bundled into carbon-emissions allowances that could be sold or traded to other buildings that had over-polluted, according to the Journal.

The bank sees that this is an opportunity to get in on the bottom of the cap-and-trade schemes, “The bank and gas giant are effectively laying the framework for carbon trading to take off in Asia,” and teaming with Gazprom will allow that to happen.

Accounting News Roundup: New IASB Short-change Investors; Can California’s Budget Process Be Fixed?; The SEC Dream Team Profile | 02.09.10

Investors Dissed as Two Appointed to IASB [The Summa]
Investors appear to have been short-changed by the latest appointments to the IASB. Dr. Elke König and Darrel Scott both have corporate accounting backgrounds and represent decidedly different ideas about what accounting rules should be, according to Prof. Albrecht, “Corporations prefer flexible accounting rules so that similar transactions can be accounted for differently by companies or even by a single company. Investors prefer more rigid accounting rules so that transactions are accounted for in a uniform manner.”

Further, the purpose of financial reporting is quite different between the IASB and the FASB, “In the United States, the purpose of financial accounting is widely viewed as providing information to investors so they can make the best investment decisions. In contrast, the purpose of financial accounting under the IASB is to help companies raise capital.”


Fixing Seasons of California Discontent [WSJ]
California is approaching the last few months of its fiscal year and that means one thing: another huge budget shortfall! The Journal reports on the State Legislature trying to fix it’s impotent ways:

Two groups are pushing ballot initiatives they say would purge that chaos from Sacramento’s budget process. A bipartisan group, California Forward, is pushing a reform to let legislators pass budgets by a simple majority instead of the current two-thirds threshold. Repair California, which is affiliated with a pro-business group, is gathering support to hold a constitutional convention to rewrite state laws. Such a convention could alter the budget process and other facets of governance in California.

California Forward would like to put a measure on the November ballot that allow the legislature to pass budgets with a simple majority but require a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. That sounds like something, plus these IOUs are just plain embarrassing:

“We just have to stop the madness of these IOUs being issued and these horrible budget delays,” said Bob Hertzberg, a former Democratic speaker of the California Assembly who is co-chair of California Forward. “It sends a message…that California is dysfunctional.”

Yeah, we’ve gotten that message; specifically about the legislature.

S.E.C. Enforcers Focus on Avoiding Madoff Repeat [NYT]
The Times profiles members of the new SEC Dream Team where Bernie Madoff is not to be spoken, “Many here refer to the scandal…as ‘the event’ or ‘the incident.'”

It was an incident all right.

Of course, the mind-numbing bureaucracy didn’t help, “Under Ms. Schapiro’s predecessor, Christopher Cox, investigators had to get approval from the five S.E.C. commissioners to negotiate financial penalties against corporations. She lifted that restriction. Enforcement lawyers had always had to get permission from the commission to open an investigation involving subpoenas. She has authorized the enforcement division to do that on its own.”

Now that Team Khuzhami can get down to business without all the rubber stamping, we’re expecting great things. It’s not like they can get worse.

Accounting News Roundup: PCAOB Inspections Fall Behind in Europe, China; Schwarzenegger Cleared of Tax Lien; Private Equity Faces Tax on Carried Interest | 02.08.10

European Union, China Resist PCAOB Audit Inspections [Compliance Week]
PCAOB inspectors have had a helluva time getting access to the necessary information they need in Europe and China and it has caused the international inspections to fall way behind. Because they wanted to be upfront about it, the Board issued a list of the firms that should have had inspections performed in the past four years.

The majority of the firms on the list are international affiliates of the Big 4 and many of the remainder are affiliates of second-tier firms like Grant Thornton and BDO. The PCAOB didn’t give any particular reason that it was being stonewalled in its press release last week, just that “information necessary to conduct inspections was, and continues to be, denied”.


IRS clears Schwarzenegger of $80,000 tax lien [AP via Mercury News]
As he promised, Arnie has been cleared of the $80k tax lien that was issued to him last November.

At the time, it was claimed that it was a “paperwork snafu” which looks to have been more or less correct as “[Scharzenegger] was not notified until late last year because the IRS had sent mail to his home instead of his office. Due to security precautions, the governor does not receive mail at his home.” For the trouble Ah-nuld has to pay $20.50 of administrative fees which might get the IRS an extra box of shotgun shells.

Private equity firms brace for tax battle [Reuters]
Private equity firms have a tendency to be easy targets for a federal government that is looking to increase tax revenues. Following that idea, last week’s budget rollout proposes taxing carried interest at the ordinary rate of 35% that would raise $24 billion over the next ten years. As you might expect this is not a popular idea:

while high-profile buyout firms may seem an easy target, the question is a controversial one. Critics argue that raising the taxes paid by the private equity industry will also hit small partnerships and venture capital, and may not even raise as much revenue as governments hope.

$2.4 billion a year for 10 years doesn’t seem to be all that much in federal government dollars and we’re not sure the government will spend it better than the private equity but it serves is an easy target for politicians pandering during their election year “look how I’m taking on the greedy” speeches.

Accounting News Roundup: Satyam Auditor Gets Bail; SEC Drops Civil Charges Against Broadcom Execs; PCAOB Launches Redesigned Website | 02.05.10

PwC auditor Srinivas gets bail in Satyam case [The Economic Times]
According the Economic Times, the Supreme Court in India “said since the case was based on documents, all of which has already been seized by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it would be of no use to keep the accused in jail, where he had been lodged since his arrest in January 24 last year.” They also report that the “chargesheet [runs] over 55,000 pages” which seems like a good enough reason to just forget this whole thing.

Seriously, they were just able to come to the conclusion that he didn’t need to be in jail because the documents were TLDR? What army of accountants is on this thing? Will this never end?


Ex-Broadcom Officials off SEC Hook [WSJ]
Despite all the horn tooting the SEC has been doing, they still manage to mess things up pretty regularly. After criminal charges were dropped against Broadcom executives due to “evidence in the criminal case showed prosecutors tried to influence the testimony of three key witnesses, improperly contacted witnesses’ attorneys and leaked information about grand jury proceedings to the media,” the civil charges have been subsequently dropped.

The Broadcom case if you recall, involved a back-dating scandal but far more interesting were the allegations that Broadcom co-founder William Nicolas III was “conspiring to distribute illegal drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine,” and providing prosties to clients in underground quarters built specifically for said purposes.

But now Nicolas is sober and it’s all been thrown out and the SEC once again looks like idiots. Sobriety and an incompetent SEC makes for a feel good story.

PCAOB Launches a Redesigned Web Site [PCAOB Press Release]
It was official yesterday although the new look seems to have been up all week. Acting Chair Dan Goelzer managed to wake from his nap to throw in his boilerplate statement, although by the looks of the guy, were not sure he knows how to use email let alone give an opinion on the website: “The redesigned Web site enhances the PCAOB’s transparency efforts by making registration, inspection, standard setting and enforcement information more accessible and user-friendly to the investors, auditors and other interested parties who use our site.”

In other news, it appears that despite the decent salary no one wants to be the non-acting Chairman. Not that it’s an important position or anything.

Accounting News Roundup: Surprise! Global Accounting Standards Face Delays; Don’t Die in These States This Year; Canada Has a National Accounting Competition? | 02.04.10

Global accounting rules may face big delays [Reuters]
Here’s a shocker: the convergence of accounting rules may not get done in a timely fashion. Considering that the SEC seems to be avoiding the issue and everyone seems to be waiting on them:

“The next six months are going to be defining,” said Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CEO James Quigley, who describes his position as more hopeful than confident that a single set of standards will be agreed soon. “The key is what the SEC’s position is going to be,” he said.

Great to know. Plus, the timeline keeps getting longer. Forget 2011; Bob Moritz says we’ll be lucky if we get this wrapped up by the end of the decade, “[Moritz] said that the original date of 2014 for one set of rules could easily extend to 2020.” A show of hands for just throwing this on the scrap heap along with tax reform?


Where Not To Die In 2010 [Forbes via TaxProf Blog]
So if you’ve been enjoying the impotence of Congress with regards to the federal estate tax, thinking that it won’t be long before that rich uncle of yours will kick the bucket and you’ll dodge the estate tax. Sure they could retroactively reinstate the tax but it’s worth the gamble isn’t it? Plus, we’re still talking about the likes of Charlie Rangel. It’s possible that he could have forgotten that there’s problem. If a Rangel can forget about his financial situation he can surely do the same for the good of his country, can’t he?

Despite Rangs and Co., there are nineteen states out there that can still get a little piece of your rich relative’s action, whether it’s an inheritance tax or an estate tax:

Maybe this isn’t reason enough to the pull up the stakes but now you can’t say you weren’t warned.

National accounting competition begins in Winnipeg [Winnipeg Free Press]
We weren’t aware such a thing existed in the world, let alone our own continent. Plus, what does “an accounting-focused case competition” consist of? We’ve obviously not been paying attention because this is the 9th go-round for the Gathering of Accounting Associates Professionals and Students Conference (GAAPS).

Since Winnipeg doesn’t have a hockey team anymore, it’s understandable that they would like to attract people to their city for something; but this?

Accounting News Roundup: Is Your Next Job in Government? New Overstock.com CFO Isn’t a CPA; Death to Tax Reform Commission | 02.03.10

Obama’s Budget Plan to Create Government Finance Jobs [FINS]
The biggest beneficiary of CFOs not hiring may be the Federal Government. We mentioned in the routhe SEC got a decent boost in the POTUS’ proposed budget and likewise, so did the Treasury Department, “Department employment levels are projected to increase by 253 workers since 2009. Last year’s headcount of 1,089 workers is expected to grow to 1,266 in 2010, and reach an estimated 1,342 workers in 2011.”

Some of the areas within the Treasury that could benefit have yet to be created under the Financial Reform Initiatives including the Office of National Insurance and the Financial Services Oversight Council. We’re sure that Congress will get their act together in time so some of you can consider these potential employers.

One group in the Treasury that won’t have to wait is the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence who was appropriated just over $1 million for new personnel. Whether or not you get to carry a weapon is not clear so just take it easy with all your 24 fantasies. Besides, financial people are the ones who usually end up dead on that show.


Why Overstock.com and David Chidester Parted Ways [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar would like to know why David Chidester and Overstock.com came to a “mutual agreement” for Chides to leave the company. With new Overstock auditor KPMG on board, someone with eleven years experience at the company, that functioned as both the CFO and the Senior Vice President Internal Reporting and Information, might be able to help make the transition easier. Nope!

Sam postulates that the Chidester might have known too much, ” I believe that their so-called ‘mutual agreement’ is based on Patrick Byrne not wanting David Chidester to stay around and David Chidester not wanting to be around to answer questions as KPMG continues its audit of the company’s financial reports.”

KPMG is playing catch up with this new engagement and now they are dealing with a new CFO, Steve Chesnut, who Sam reports, “joined the Overstock.com in January 2009, was not around when most of the financial reporting improprieties under investigation were committed by management,” and isn’t a CPA. He’s got a less enviable job than KPMG.

Obama’s Tax Reform Commission: RIP [Tax Vox]
Remember President Obama’s Tax Reform Commission? They asked you, the American Taxpayer, to give them ideas on tax reform and, by God, you delivered. After going through all that ingenuity, the commission announced that it get back to those ideas “after the holidays” to get crackin’ on our tax code.

Well! It appears that was time well spent because now it sounds like the tax reform commission is being put out to pasture. Tax Vox reports this exchange from yesterday’s budget briefing with Office of Management and Budget dreamboat Peter Orszag:

“Q: The President was supposed to receive tax reform recommendations in December and that was delayed indefinitely. Is there a possibility that that could be folded into the fiscal commission’s review, or is it just on the back burner?

DIRECTOR ORSZAG: I would imagine that it will be folded into the fiscal commission. I would imagine that — again, the commission will be examining a variety of things, including tax reform.”

We’ll just assume everyone’s ideas are being thrown on the scrap heap. Thanks for your help though!

Accounting News Roundup: SEC Budget Gets a Boost; PwC Wants More Audit Committee Disclosure; Madoff Ex-CFO to Sell New Jersey Home | 02.02.10

Obama Seeks 12 Percent Budget Increase for SEC [AP via NYT]
Figuring the troops could use some help, PBO’s new budget will increase the Commission’s budget to $1.3 billion, including $419 million for new enforcement personnel.

In addition to the feds generous appropriation, the Commission is also budgeting for $1.7 bil in fees from new stock registration for 2011. Mary Schapiro seemed pleased saying that the truckloads of budget dollars will “do a great deal to help us keep pace with the continuing growth of the markets and provide necessary resources to support important regulatory initiatives in 2011.”

Whether or not $3 billion is going to save the sinking ship will remain to be seen although the “throwing money at the problem” solution seems to be in full effect.


We need more disclosure from audit committees: PwC [Accountancy Age]
Someone had to say it! PwC seems to have had enough of the give, give, give action they’ve been doing and would like a little transparency sent their way courtesy of the audit committee.

In a submission to the UK’s Auditing Practices Board P. Dubs “believes there should be new disclosures which articulate the principles that audit committees apply in deciding whether the auditor should provide non-audit services.”

It’s not good enough that you won’t engage us for non-audit services, we want to know why! It’s important that we know. And for those of you that feel that non-audit services undermine independence, you simply don’t have all the facts, and therefore should BTFO.

Madoff’s Ex-Finance Chief to Give Up NJ Home [NYT]
Frank DiPascali, not so much a CFO as he was a really good liar, has agreed to sell his home in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The feds will being doing the honors and it will come with all the appliances, furniture, etc. which probably makes for a decent deal. This is possibly where one would insert a Jersey Shore reference but we don’t know anything about the show other than most people on it aren’t from New Jersey. Happy hunting.

Accounting News Roundup: Obama’s Budget Proposal; Davos Wraps Up; FINS’ Top Tax Blogs

Obama Offers $3.8 Trillion Budget With Focus on Boosting Jobs [Bloomberg]
The $3.8 trillion budget calls for an additional $100 billion in stimulus spending and would increase the federal deficit to $1.6 trillion. “The $1.6 trillion deficit forecast for the current year represents 10.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, making it the biggest by that measure since World War II, according to administration figures.”

The most impressive part is that the WH blew all the other forecasts out of the water, “The White House deficit projection exceeds other forecasts. The Congressional Budget Office has forecast this year’s shortfall at $1.35 trillion. The median of 39 analysts survey by Bloomberg News is for $1.37 trillion this year and $1.10 trillion next year.” Look! We’re going to dig the hole way deeper than anyone thinks!

As we mentioned last week, the spending freezes that will dig us out of said hole that were proposed last week would aim to cut that deficit to less than $1.3 trillion in 2011 and $828 billion in 2012; just in time for the election.


Leaders in Davos Admit Drop in Trust [DealBook]
After all the chocolate, blondes, and awkward interviews, the other thing that is pretty obvious is that no one knows what the hell is going to happen, “the one certainty seemed to be continued uncertainty.” It’s nice to be confident about something.

Plus, everyone pretty much agrees that if you’ve got even a sliver of power in government or business, you are not to be trusted. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a news flash, what with the near financial apocalypse and all but Tim Flynn said we were moving towards the green light of trust. Is this not the case? Did TF just figure, “I’m out of here, I’ll just say whatever I feel like.”? One can’t help but wonder if he’s shooting from the hip a little bit. Oh well; all in all, good times. Good Davos times. See you next year (right?)!

The Top Five Tax Accounting Blogs [FINS]
For those of you that are inclined towards the tax side of the house, FINS presents its top five picks for wonky tax goodness that you should be reading if you’re not already. TaxProf Blog, The Tax Policy Blog and Don’t Mess with Taxes are three that we are intimately familiar and a couple we just discovered: Tax Watch and A Taxing Matter.

Accounting News Roundup: IASB Chairman Won’t Converge at ‘All Costs’; Phony IRS Agent Racks Up $55k Hotel Bill; Stuy Town to Become “Trump Town”? | 01.29.10

IASB plans no fair value changes for EU-chairman [Reuters]
Sir David Tweedie has put his foot down again, so listen up. The IASB is not going to bend over backwards for you, the EU, or the FASB when it comes to fair value, get it? The world is at stake here. You non-knights out there need to just BTFU and let the man do his job. Tweeds told reporters in Brazil that the EU can stick it, “‘We cannot always allow Europe to tell us what to do. This is global. We are the IASB, not the European accounting standard board'” Got it?

You too, FASB. SDT said that he won’t converge accounting standards at ‘all costs,’ because he knows not everybody likes to place nice and seems to be okay with that. The man has short-timer’s so he doesn’t really care what you do. Have a nice life, Bob Herz.


Woman charged with posing as IRS agent [San Francisco Chronicle via The Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
Sheryl Lynn Vertoch had been staying at the Inn Marin Hotel in Novato, California for over seven years telling the staff there that she was an IRS agent. Among her many adventures working in fantasyland, were testifying in the Enron case and being only one of six IRS agents that could investigate large public companies.

This all sounded good enough for the staff at Inn Marin, until Ms. Vertoch couldn’t pay her bill starting in 2008. The story was the IRS was getting stingy and wasn’t going to pay her until her current investigation was over. The owner of the hotel — finally fed up with an apologetic IRS — phoned the cheapskates up to complain because this was an outrage to hang this hardworking federal employee out to dry.

The IRS blew Vertoch’s “cover” and she’s now been arrested for impersonating a federal employee and she’s got a $55,000 hotel bill to deal with.

Trump says he’ll jump at StuyTown takeover [NYP]
The Post is reporting that Stuy Town may become Trump Town, although it’s not entirely clear where we’ll see the iconic Trump name on the equally iconic brick buildings. The Donald joins many other high profile investors interested in the property including Wilbur Ross and WinnCompanies. One thing is for sure, whoever comes out top in this thing will certainly have no trouble following the Tishman/BlackRock fiasco.

Accounting News Roundup: Obama Talks Taxes in the SOTU; SEC Issues Guidance on Climate Change Disclosures; Video of Dennis Nally in Davos | 01.28.10

Tax Portions of President Obama’s State of the Union Speech [TaxProf Blog]
The POTUS gave his first State of the Union address last night and he talked about a lot of things over his 70 minute chat. Luckily if you didn’t manage to watch, listen, or were simply screaming at the TV during the whole thing, Paul Caron summed up the tax portions for you, “Let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.”

Whoa, what was that part about small businesses? ” I am also proposing a new small business tax credit — one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.”

Is he talking about — GASP — bonus depreciation? And eliminating capital gains taxes? Maybe! Regardless, the President has his work cut out for him since he’s dealing with an angry populous and negotiating with some resistant players across the aisle (who would likely propose the same ideas).


SEC Issues Interpretive Guidance on Disclosure Related to Business or Legal Developments Regarding Climate Change [SEC.gov]
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that companies will get all Al Gore on you with Climate Change talk but they will have to expand on the existing disclosures. Mary Schapiro isn’t interested in their opinion on the matter anyway; she’d rather that issuers just explain the impact of certain areas that may require disclosure. Pesky regulation, treaties with foreign countries, impacts on their business, you get the idea. Filings aren’t complex enough anyway.

PwC Chairman Nally Says CEOs Are `Cautiously Optimistic’ [Bloomberg]
Looks a little cold over there in Toblerone land but Dennis looks like he’s enjoying himself. He also isn’t surprised that people aren’t as freaked out as, say, a year ago but dang it, things are still a little hairy.

Accounting News Roundup: Sam Antar’s Latest Suggestion for KPMG; Is the IRS Getting Soft? Blogging Tips for Accountants | 01.27.10

Open Letter to KPMG: The Ties That Bind Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne With Deep Capture LLC [White Collar Fraud]
Patrick Byrne’s indirect stalking of his critics on Facebook through the Deep Capture website has now been brought to the attention of KPMG, courtesy of Sam Antar:

You must investigate Overstock.com’s (NASDAQ: OSTK) relationship with Deep Capture LLC as part of your continuing audit of the company and take steps to require management to make disclosures under Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 57 (SFAS No. 57) governing “Related Party Disclosures.”

At the direction of Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, the company has used Deep Capture’s resources, such as its web site, as a conduit to intimidate, harass, threaten, smear, and pre-text company critics. For example, Deep Capture Managing Partner Judd Bagley violated Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and deceptively posed as “Larry Bergman” in an effort to gather personal information and spy on Overstock.com ‘s and Patrick Byrne’s critics, including me (See Item 3 Safety and Item 4 Registration and Security).

Altogether, Judd Bagley posted on DeepCapture.com the names of 7,483 “Facebook friends” of Patrick Byrne’s critics and that list included spouses, minor children, and other people that have nothing to do with Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, or Byrne’s delusional short selling conspiracy theories.


IRS Plans New Disclosures on Uncertain Tax Positions [Compliance Week]
The IRS, in a surprise move, is now requesting more information from corporate taxpayers when they take uncertain tax positions. Now before you start belly-aching, Doug Shulman would like everyone to know that he could have been a lot harder on you:

“We could have asked for more – a lot more – but chose not to,” Shulman said. “We believe we have crafted a proposal that gives us the information we need to do our job without trying to get in the heads of taxpayers as to the strengths and weaknesses of their positions.”

That almost sounds like an apology, Doug. Are you getting soft on us?

Building a Blog Following [Blogging Suits]
Yours truly did his best to give some advice to the budding accounting bloggers out there over at Blogging Suits:

Despite the reaction of strangers, the content and purpose of your blog is yours to decide and there are certain techniques that can be utilized that will keep your readers engaged and coming back (no matter how “boring” a subject might seem):

Blog regularly – For any blog to be successful, regular content is paramount. I’m not suggesting that you dedicate your entire day to posting but you should commit to posting to at least twice a week. Long periods without posting will turn readers off and they’ll assume that you’re not serious about keeping them informed.

Don’t get excited, no one is expecting you to keep the schedule we do here at GC. Besides, we have taskmasters walking around that shock us every 20 minutes to keep us going.

Accounting News Roundup: IKEA Shelters Profits Through Charity Holding Company; Obama to Call for Spending Freeze; Quitting Your Job on Good Terms | 01.26.10

Flat-pack accounting [The Economist via TaxProf Blog]
Oh the Swedes. They’re pretty clever with the flat-packed furniture but the entity structure is a whole other matter. The Economist reports that IKEA’s profits are largely sheltered from taxes by virtue of its holding company, which just happens to be organized as a foundation. The foundation’s stated purpose is to more or less educate you on matching the drapes with the paint you chose for the living room:

If Stichting Ingka Foundation has net worth of at least $36 billion it would be th charity. Its value easily exceeds the $26.9 billion shown in the latest published accounts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is commonly awarded that accolade.
Measured by good works, however, the Gates Foundation wins hands down. It devotes most of its resources to curing the diseases of the world’s poor. By contrast the Kamprad billions are dedicated to “innovation in the field of architectural and interior design”. The articles of association of Stichting Ingka Foundation, a public record in the Netherlands, state that this object cannot be amended. Even a Dutch court can make only minor changes to the stichting’s aims.
The Kamprad foundations compare poorly with the Gates Foundation in other ways, too. The American charity operates transparently, publishing, for instance, details of every grant it makes. But Dutch foundations are very loosely regulated and are subject to little or no third-party oversight. They are not, for instance, legally obliged to publish their accounts.

This allows IKEA to pay as little as 3.5% tax on its profits. Ragnar Danneskjöld would be proud.
Obama to Call for Three-Year Freeze on Some Federal Spending [Bloomberg]
In case you’re unaware, the POTUS is giving a big speech tomorrow evening where he’ll talk about, amongst other things, a three-year spending freeze for domestic programs to get the deficit under control.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce, Interior and Justice Departments are among the executive branch agencies subject to the freeze, officials said, while the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and unspecified international affairs programs would be exempt.

With the DoD and DHS exempt from the freeze, one would think that GOP types would be pleased with this idea. Not so.

A spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio was critical of Obama’s plan. “Given Washington Democrats’ unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you’re going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest,” the spokesman, Michael Steel, said yesterday.

Wait a minute. Wouldn’t going on a diet right after the pie-eating contest be the perfect time?
How Many Ways Can You Say Goodbye to a Job? [WSJ]
The temptation to go out in a blaze of glory by virtue of a BodySuit man type stunt is only for the boldest of souls. The Journal has plenty of advice on how to bow out gracefully, despite the temptation to use all your vacation, return to work and then give notice.

Some 60% of workers say they intend to leave their jobs when the economy improves, according to a survey by Right Management, a talent and career-management consulting firm in Philadelphia. It might be tempting to give the boss an earful if you land a new job in the coming months. But the way you quit can have a long term impact on your career.

Taking your fancy Swingline isn’t such a good idea either.

Accounting News Roundup: Obama Signs H.R. 4462; Sam Antar Warns KPMG; Mary Schapiro Found an Employee by Reading His Op-ed

Obama signs H.R. 4462 making Haiti donations deductible on 2009 tax returns [AccountingWEB]
The bad legislation officially becomes law with the POTUS’ signature. The new law applies only to cash contributions and you still have to provide documentation to substantiate your claim. For those of that donated by text message, your phone bill that shows the donation will suffice.
Open Letter to KPMG: A Warning About Overstock.com, Your New Audit Client [White Collar Fraud]
There’s no doubt that the new audit team has a difficult task on its hands, taking Overstock.com as a new client. Sam Antar sent KPMG an open letter giving the firm some advice:

I believe that you should cut your potential exposure and resign. Some clients are simply not worth the risk. Since I don’t believe that you will resign, I feel that I owe you some advice just for old time’s sake to avoid another audit meltdown similar to what happened at Crazy Eddie.


However, I have my doubts that any firm can properly audit Overstock.com given its apparent lack of effective internal controls, its management integrity issues, and its continued willingness to violate GAAP and SEC disclosure rules.

There’s no way to be certain how all this will work out. Maybe KPMG will solve all of Overstock’s problems and everything will be fine and dandy. Regardless, we’ll be watching.
At SEC, a Scholar Who Saw It Coming [WSJ]
Henry Hu will head the new Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation at the SEC. Mary Schapiro found this latest member of the Commission’s dream team in a somewhat unorthodox fashion:

In a Wall Street Journal opinion article in April 2009–which Ms. Schapiro says prompted the job offer from the SEC–Mr. Hu suggested Goldman Sachs Group Inc. used a kind of derivative called a credit default swap to turn itself into an empty creditor of AIG. He wrote that this may have encouraged Goldman to push for extra collateral from AIG, even when that threatened AIG’s existence.

The Journal reports that Mr. Hu wrote an article in 1993 warning about derivatives so while there would be an urge to chide the SEC for ignoring warning signs but we’re used to that.

Accounting News Roundup: Haiti Relief Passes Senate; Accounting Job Surge? CPAs Basically Control People’s Lives | 01.22.10

Senate votes for faster tax breaks for Haiti gifts [WaPo]
As expected, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation yesterday that allows taxpayers to deduct donations made for Haiti relief efforts. You have until the end of February to donate so that it may be included on your 2009 return.

Maybe it’s bad legislation but we’ve been over that.

CPA Jobs Set for Surge. But When? [CPA Trendlines]
That’s the question, isn’t it? Rick Telberg, who has done a great job of tracking the Bureau of Labor Statistics on accountants, points out that while the latest BLS forecasts a 22% increase (279,400 jobs) by 2018, there’s no indication that it’s happening now:

[M]any tax, accounting and finance professionals are still slogging through the Great Recession. The Association for Financial Professionals, for instance, reported that about one in four respondents say their organizations will contract in 2010. At the same time, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of private companies found 43 percent of CEOs and CFOs still budgeting no expansion over the next 12 months to 18 months. The data just seem to reinforce economic uncertainties and a weak outlook.


The BLS is looking past the past the recession for the jump in opportunities but just when the hell will that be? Just because the economy isn’t contracting currently, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future and this “recovery” has been tepid at best.

Theismann to CPAs: You Are the Conscience of America [Web CPA]
Joe Theismann gets it. He knows that without all of you out there in CPA land, your clients don’t stand a chance. They’d be finished. Finished!

“You’re the conscience of America,” Theismann told conference-goers. “You are the survivors in tough times. With accountants, I’m not looking for someone to file taxes and do my financials. I can do that myself online. In your position you can basically control people’s lives.”

So get out there and control somebody’s life. Joe Theismann is expecting it.

Accounting News Roundup | 01.21.10

How to find the “best and brightest” [CPA Success]
This may be a better topic for the friendly HR professional but figuring out who these future accounting rock stars are before they show up on their first day is “more art than science”, as Tom Hood notes.
Popular to some old-school thought, GPA does not always indicate who’s going to dominate in the real world and “soft skills” — besides being a terrible term — are in more demand than ever.
Help The The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Help Haiti [Re: The Auditors]
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is having a drive today and since Francine’s friend is the CFO, we’ll be glad pass around the news:

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Guillermo Becerra, is the CFO of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. I asked him how I could help him, and the Red Cross, during what must be an incredibly busy time post-Haiti earthquake.


“The Chicagoland community will come together on Thursday, January 21 to give to the American Red Cross as we help the people of Haiti recover from the catastrophic earthquake that devastated their country last week.
The Chicago Helps Haiti media relief drive begins at 5 a.m. and lasts until 11 p.m. Nearly every TV and radio station in our area will be promoting this fundraising effort throughout the day. You can help too, by giving via phone or online, and sharing your thoughts here, on Facebook or Twitter, and by asking others to give.
To give from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. CALL 1 (877) 565-5000 or visit www.chicagoredcross.org/haiti

Plus, we’re guessing that if you give, your 2009 tax return isn’t much of a concern.
If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe [NYT]
The Times is concerned that you have a shitty password which puts you at a huge risk of being hacked by someone sitting in their parents’ basement.

Imperva found that nearly 1 percent of the 32 million people it studied had used “123456” as a password. The second-most-popular password was “12345.” Others in the top 20 included “qwerty,” “abc123” and “princess.”

You know who you are, ye with stupid passwords. Also, don’t even think of changing it to “654321” because that drops in at #19.