Big 4

Alexandre Bilodeau Is KPMG Canada’s Phil Mickelson

When our Olympic Fever started last weekend, we had no idea what would happen. Sure there would be torches, majesty and endless montages but if you had told us that we would discover that KPMG has got dibs on a marketing dynamo like Alexandre Bilodeau, we would have said NFW.

AB was the first gold medalist for Canada in the Vancouver games. He won the Freestyle Men Ski competition on Sunday and now he’s got people just throwing money at him.


However, Al has had KPMG as a sponsor since 2006 (longer than Phil!) when he competed in Turin, Italy (the old man is a tax partner). All these new companies that want a piece of Golden Boy are going to have to get behind T Fly and Co. because Al strikes as a loyal guy.

KPMG Canada nailed this one. This dude is young, handsome, and doesn’t have to worry about a slimeball rival returning to steal the thunder. Now if he could only win the U.S. Open…

A Lawsuit Seeks To Find Out How Old is Too Old to Become a Partner at PwC

[caption id="attachment_3069" align="alignright" width="260" caption="That's a good one Bob but you really shouldn't tell old people jokes"][/caption]

Or any firm for that matter. There’s probably some opinions on this but allegedly at PwC it’s 54 on the low end and if you’re approaching the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 60 then you’re definitely not getting the bump.

The reason we bring it up is that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has granted new life to an age discrimination lawsuit against PwC. Two advisory professionals, Harold Schuler and C. Westbrook Murphy’s lawsuit alleges that P. Dubs de-nied their admittance because they were close to the Firm’s mandatory retirement age.


The partner track at accounting firms is a long and tough road the way it is and for partners to allege age discrimination seems like insult to injury.

The DC Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs deserve some closure on whether or not the bigwigs in New York really snubbed them based on their age:

Judge Douglas Ginsburg said a 2008 D.C. Circuit ruling involving Schuler entitled the plaintiffs to a “reasonable inference” that PricewaterhouseCoopers’ decisions not to promote them were made in New York, where the firm is based.

“PwC says (the earlier case) ‘does not control’ because it addressed only PwC’s adoption and maintenance of a discriminatory policy, not the ‘discrete decision’ not to admit (Schuler) to partnership,'” Ginsburg wrote. “To which we say: Pettifoggery and piffle!”

Nice touch, Judge Ginsburg. So this means the case goes back to the district so they can get to the bottom of this.

We left messages at the other firms to find out what their mandatory retirement policies were to get some context on the age issue but so far we haven’t heard anything back. We’ll update you with those if we hear back from anyone.

It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out since we’re pretty confident that their is no document anywhere at 300 Madison that says Schuler and Murphy were just too old to become partners. If we were to take a wild-ass guess, we’d say that the firm will point to performance reviews, etc. to rationalize the snub even if these guys were rainmakers.

PricewaterhouseCoopers age bias lawsuit revived [Reuters]

PwC’s Oscar Partners Get Teased, Possibly Need Adult Diapers

As we mentioned earlier this week, PwC loves Oscar time. It’s easily the biggest display of Big 4 shameless self-promotion and no one — not even us, (sans Francine?) — can blame them.

The Carpetbagger has a chat with two of the partners, Rick Rosas and Brad Oltmanns that touched on a number of things, like exclusivity, “there’s only been 12 partners to do this” and secrecy, “we go to a very quiet, windowless room in an undisclosed location”. but just because they’re counting ballots don’t get the idea that they aren’t working:

During the telecast, Mr. Rosas and Mr. Oltmanns stand at either side of the stage, with the 24 sealed envelopes containing the winners’ names, ready to be handed off to the celebrity presenters just before they walk to the podium. “It is work,” he said. “We’re standing literally in one spot for three hours or so, no rest room breaks or anything, because we have to be ready when the presenters get on the stage.”

Jesus, no bathroom breaks? Sounds brutal. Does PwC front them for a bag or Depends or something? What if they make a Starbucks right before the show? That could be problematic. Plus, you’ve got puny movie stars that used to be funny giving you a hard time:

“We do get teased from time to time especially by some of the comedians,” Mr. Oltmanns said. “I remember one year Jack Black said he was going to come over and rip the briefcases out of our hands and give us a good beating.” Did he? “No. I think each of us are larger than him, so he did not.”

Seriously. Don’t fuck with these guys. They have to keep their cool when Halle Berry walks by and their bladders are about to burst. Could you handle that?

PwC Basks in the Oscar Gold

Man, PwC is on a tear this week. Along with the announcement of the three-peat yesterday for the Training 125, the firm also rolled out its press release on the upcoming Academy Awards.

The firm is proudly counting the ballots for the 76th year in a row but this year there are ten best picture nominations and that’s a new wrinkle for the vote counters at P. Dubs.

Now we’re not going to insinuate anything like Slate did back in 2007 where they somehow made a superficial connection between scandals at PwC to their ability to count ballots. That’s just foolhardy and we wouldn’t entertain such a notion here.


Quite the contrary, this should be the biggest slam dunk engagement that PwC has. Sure there are some archaic mechanical issues (e.g. the U.S. Mail) but at the end of the day they’re just counting ballots. The biggest risk that PwC faces is someone trying to rip their arms off with the briefcases still attached. Besides, we’re sure there is a security device on the briefcases that will destroy the entire contents if opened by anyone other than a PwC partner.

But we digress.

Back to the boilerplate press release, PwC drops all kinds of facts on us including that it takes ten total days (between the nominating and the final ballots) and approximately 1,700 “person-hours” for the team to count the ballots by hand.

This begs the question: could the Oscars be indirectly responsible for PwC being embroiled in the wage and hour lawsuits? Is our insatiable demand for red carpets and Brangelina driven the importance of this annual event beyond health care reform, financial regulation, and U.S. GAAP/IFRS convergence and thus, created the sweatshop engagement that is the counting of the Academy Award ballots?

This prestigious engagement may have its benefits (e.g. tuxedos, the opportunity for awkward sexual advances on celebrities) but at what cost, dear reader? What cost?

AIG Adopts Big 4 “Forced Ranking” Method

Good news servants of the capital markets! Remember how we talked last summer about forced ranking and how it’s rampant within the Big 4 performance ranking system? No? Put it right out of your minds? Had occurred to you because you’re delirious from the lack of sleep, poor diet, et al.?

Well as soon as busy season
is over, we’re sure it’ll come back to you; in the meantime, you’ll be happy to know that everyone’s favorite ward of the state, AIG is now joining you in implementing what might be the worst possible method of rewarding its employees.

American International Group Inc. is rolling out a plan to revamp how it doles out annual incentive pay to its employees, as the government-controlled insurance giant moves away from retention bonuses that have proved controversial over the past year.

The new initiative, called a “forced distribution” system, is being pushed by Chief Executive Robert Benmosche. Under the plan, thousands of AIG employees will be ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 based on their performance relative to their peers, and their annual variable compensation, which may include bonuses, will be determined by their rank. Individuals ranked in the top 10% will get far more relative to their peers.

Yes! The 1 to 4 ranking scale. That’s not quite as shrewd as PwC’s 1 to 3 scale and it’s at least simpler than KPMG’s 9 box but AIG employees have every right to be concerned about this arbitrary ranking system.

Warden Robert Benmosche doesn’t care though, there were too many rock stars, “Mr. Benmosche said performance-appraisal systems previously in place at AIG weren’t discriminating enough. In one case, he said, there was a ranking system with four categories, but about half of the people got the highest rating, and half got the second rank. ‘You can’t have 50% in the top,’ he said.” Bobby B also said that AIG is “unlikely to impose a requirement that underperformers leave.” Write that one down.

Our contributor Francine McKenna who has written both here and on her blog about forced ranking told us, “Investors will get contrived ‘performance’ enforced by cutthroat atmosphere that further encourages excessive risk taking.”

In addition, Ravin Jesuthasan a “talent-management” consultant (not involved with AIG’s change) who was quoted in the Journal (our emphasis), ” [Mr. Jesuthasan said] the approach can work in turnaround situations by helping to foster more accountability, but could be risky if not communicated well or “if links to consequences like compensation and employment are not properly thought through.”

Any of that sound familiar?

AIG Plans Revamp on Pay [WSJ]

(UPDATE) PwC Did Not Foresee the Sexting Phenomenon

We heard a rumor today that PwC is currently renegotiating their cell phone contract because, yes, they underestimated the amount of texting that would be done by employees on work phones. Foiled by Gen-Y again!

We realize it’s hard to believe that the numero uno Trainer would somehow not educate its people to avoid sending hundreds of sexually explicit messages to the person in the next row when they simply could have pull together some instructions on cubicle sex. This would have alleviated at least some of the problem.


Well it’s too late now, you randy fools. You’ve no doubt cost the firm millions in charges because you couldn’t compose yourselves.

On the other hand, who were the geniuses sitting around 300 Mad trying to figure out what the texting plan was right for P. Dubs? We know Bob Mortiz wasn’t in on it. Did they consider the fact that PwC employees might be a bunch of savages that would be spending every waking hour sending photos and dirty limericks to their spouses and FWBs?

We understand that firms are trying to save money these days but jesus, it’s common sense to spring for the unlimited texting plan.

UPDATE, Friday, Feb. 12th: We heard back from a source who shared this:

I think they give us something like 100 a month (not positive) which doesn’t affect me, but some people in my office laugh about how much they go over.

Let’s say it is 100 a month. Depending on your prowess, one sexting encounter could conceivably use up a whole month. Someone tell PwC Ops (or whoever is in charge of these things) to go for the unlimited plan.

PwC Achieves Dynasty Status on Training Magazine’s Top 125

Did you think that the Big 4 domination of all magazine lists was over? Jesus, were you wrong. Not only is PwC numero uno on Training Magazine’s Top 125, they’ve been in the top spot for three years running. Clearly this is solidifies the dynasty for P. Dubs.

Personally we don’t think it would be that hard to get on this particular list. You fly everyone to a relatively large city that has bars, casinos, and strip clubs near the hotel and you’ll get some positive feedback regardless of the boring topics discussed.

The magazine lists its criteria for measurement (and, shockingly, our criteria wasn’t mentioned) so we can understand how this index of companies was cooked up:

• Training tied to business objectives

• Demonstrable results

• Number of trainers

• Employee turnover and retention

• Leadership development

• Tuition assistance

• Training technology and infrastructure

• Certification

• Training budget and percentage of payroll

Because we know you’re wondering, only two other firms made it on to the list: KPMG at #5 and Grant Thornton at #103. So this begs the question: WTF E&Y and Deloitte? Completely SHUT OUT? Are your efforts being expended elsewhere? Deloitte’s diversity trainings don’t count? What about the Deloitte University plans; doesn’t that count for something? Sorry, E&Y; the donuts and secure bathrooms obviously don’t help you on this list.

Never mind those losers; back in Titletown, you had better believe P. Dubs put out a press release. Our favorite part being the last paragraph before the “About” section where it catalogs every list the firm has ever been on for the past decade and a half. We get the picture P. Dubs. You can make it on to lists. Good job. Please feel free to notify us directly for the next one.

Digitial Issue [Training Magazine]

Ex-Ernst & Young Partner Sentenced to One Year and a Day for Securities Fraud

James Gansman, a former E&Y partner in transaction services, was sentenced to one year and one day in jail on Monday after being convicted on six counts of securities fraud last year.

Gansman had provided his mistress, Donna Murdoch, with tips on mergers that Ernst & Young were advising which she subsequently traded on. Despite the help, Murdoch needed more money and she began an affair with another man who used the tips to make trades.

To add insult to injury, Murdoch ultimately cooperated with investigators and testified against Gansman. She is still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to fifteen charges of securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and making false statements.

Beside making bad relationship choices, Gansman’s hot tips were in violation of E&Y’s “written policies and the duty of trust owed to the firm’s clients.” That extra day in prison should give him just enough time to study better decision making.

Ex-Ernst & Young Partner Gansman Sentenced To 1 Year, Day In Prison [WSJ]

(UPDATE) Was Deloitte’s Warning to Merrill Lynch Lacking Urgency?

Updated to included statement from Deloitte

By now you’ve heard that Ken Lewis and former BofA CFO Joe Price are in a bit of pickle, thanks to NYAG Andy Cuomo.

Long/short is that Drew has filed civil charges claiming that these two ignored advice to disclose information about the losses at Merrill Lynch and went ahead with their plans that ended up screwing just about everyone in the entire world.


According to the complaint, Deloitte was right in the middle of the action back in December of ’08 as the auditor of ML and from the sounds of it, they kinda-sorta encouraged ML’s counsel to disclose the losses saying:

given the losses through what it looks like will be November when it closes, given the fact that you have another couple of billion of dollars coming down the road in goodwill impairment, we believe it’s prudent that you might want to consider filing an 8K to let the shareholders, who are voting on this transaction, know about the size of the losses to date

Okay, so “prudent that you might want to consider” sounds like a “you can disclose the losses if you want to but we’re not making a BFD out of this” but Andy’s complaint sure presents it as a legit warning. We’re not saying that Thomas Graham, the Deloitte partner on Merrill, needed to be hyperventilating while telling ML’s Chief Accounting Officer David Moser that they “might want to consider” the disclosure but Moser was worried enough to tell in-house counsel about it.

Maybe Moser didn’t bring it up because he knew that lawyers don’t take anything auditors say too seriously. If everyone who claims to be worried, was legitimately concerned, perhaps they should’ve considered some double exclamation point usage. Oh well; next time!

We haven’t seen a statement from Deloitte anywhere and they haven’t gotten back to us at this time. Deloitte provided us with the following statement:

Deloitte personnel have testified as part of the New York attorney general’s investigation. Some of that testimony is cited publicly in the attorney general’s complaint. Deloitte is not a party to this proceeding, and due to professional standards, we cannot comment further on confidential client matters.

At the end of the day, BofA’s own general counsel tried to tell KL what’s what and he ultimately got fired so Deloitte ends up being a small fish in this whole situation (i.e. “not a party to proceeding”). Cuomo wants to be governor for crying out loud. Voters don’t give a shit if you file civil complaints against auditors.

NYAG_Complaint

Plaintiffs File Brief in Big 4 Overtime Lawsuit

Last summer we initiated our coverage on the wage and hour lawsuits against the Big 4 and other firms that have been filed in California. As you may remember, the case that is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the key case as it may decide how the rest of the cases proceed.

Just a quick refresheramicus (i.e. friend of court) briefs following in early November.


The plaintiffs’ amicus briefs are scheduled to be filed tomorrow and while Mr. Kershaw would not share any names with us, he did inform us that there were some notable supporters that will be filing briefs. Parties claiming support via web (though it is not clear whether they are expected to file as amicus) include among others, labor union UNITE HERE.

The briefs are under seal at the request of the defendants who are claiming proprietary privilege.

In the past, the 9th Circuit has been accused of having a liberal bias which could be perceived as an advantage to the plaintiffs. While Mr. Kershaw agreed that the 9th Circuit was more “worker friendly” in the past, he told us, “After eight years under the Bush administration, the court has considerably more conservative justices.”

According to the 9th Circuit’s website, former President George W. Bush appointed seven justices while in office. Of the 47 justices currently serving, 21 were appointed by Republican Presidents and 26 by Democratic Presidents.

Despite the political makeup, Mr. Kershaw believes, as he did when we last spoke with him on the matter, that the evolution of the law of the exemptions (i.e. who, among other things, is and is not eligible for overtime) will demonstrate that the plaintiffs were not “learned professionals,” and will prevail in case.

Lead counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Norman Hile of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP did not respond to our request for an interview.

We reached out to all the firms; receiving responses from only BDO, who provide the following statement: “We believe that the employee in this case was properly classified as exempt. This case has been stayed pending resolution of the PwC appeal. As is our policy on matters of litigation, BDO does not intend to comment further until this case is resolved.” We were also informed that in the BDO case that the class certification was denied by the trial court and the appeal was also denied.

In the case of Hood & Strong, LLP, we were referred to their attorney, Jonathan R. Bass of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass, who we spoke with briefly about his case, Kathleen McFarland v. Hood & Strong LLP.

Mr. Bass indicated to us that the lawsuit against his client is only one of four that is being tried in state court and would not necessarily be affected by the ruling in Campbell. He further indicated that these lawsuits are something that his client, and most likely all the defendants, did not anticipate, “it is not likely that any of these firms considered the possibility of their employees being treated as anything other than exempt.”

No other firms listed as defendants responded to our request to comment.

Ultimately a decision in Campbell may not be known until 2011 at which point the litigation could actually proceed or be settled. We’ll continue to follow these cases as they progress.

KPMG Boston Is Sprucing Up the New Headquarters, Sans Sign

This morning we shared with you the news about Deloitte’s new nightlight in San Jose. Back on the right coast, KPMG Beantown is getting a little redecorating done themselves although it sounds a little more substantive than a sign that can’t send morse code to San Fran in case someone needs an extra intern.

KPMG bestowed Jones Lang LaSalle with the honor of designing the interior of the new digs at Two Financial Center and it sounds like all Klynveldians will be infinitely more productive at the new HQ. 96,000 square feet of pure auditing, tax, and advisory bliss:

The interior will enhance workflow efficiency and accommodate KPMG’s growth requirements, which include capacity for 692 employees. Highlights of the build out, valued at $5.8 million, include: a central reception area on floors one and two, a large conference center with full media capabilities, an employee café, dedicated Human Resources suite and open office areas.

By the sounds of it they’re implementing some sort of Feng Shui strategy that will result in robotic efficiency.

We’re thinking that less than $1 mil a floor sounds like a decent deal but no sign? How the hell is that worth it? It probably wasn’t up to the gang at JLL but they could have at least looked into it. If the British invade again, a warning from the four blue squares would go a long ways towards KPMG’s national security cred.

Deloitte San Jose Re-signs Lease for a Nightlight

We got pointed to an article about Deloitte’s San Jose office signing a new 10 year lease (subscription required) which is pretty ho-hum although since a $50,000 Deloitte sign sealed this particular deal it made us think back to the idea of the Big 4 and shameless self-promotion.


According to the San Jose Business Journal, the mere idea of a Deloitte sign was the ultimate temptress, “permission to put a sizable sign near the roof of the 16-story building was too tempting to pass up.” This despite the a 25% vacancy rate in downtown San Jose and a 20% vacancy rate in Silicon Valley. All that and we learned that when the sign is illuminated it’s only visible as far away as I-280 and U.S. Route 87.

Couldn’t they get something brighter? If it were us, we’d be looking for something akin to the Aurora Borealis.

Having never been to the Deloitte offices in San Jose (we’d love a tour though, virtual of course, or maybe just some still images of the cube farms) we can’t tell you if the troops out there were in desperate need of an upgrade in facilities. WTFK, maybe everything at 225 W. Santa Clara St. is tip-top. Aaaannnnnd maybe it was the best deal to stay put but the fact that the sign was the clincher seems a little, well, shameless.

More Deloitte Construction:
Deloitte’s Version of Delta Chi Breaks Ground Tomorrow

Dennis Nally: Satyam Scandal Has Damaged PwC Brand

While kicking it in Davos, Dennis Nally had to have known that eventually he was going to have to answer questions about his mother of all nightmares, Satyam. Having just passed the one year anniversary of the cat being let out of the bag about, you know, totally bogus numbers, everyone is talking about it. In India.

CNBC India caught up with Nalls and considering everything that’s going down, DN doesn’t seem worried. He’s leading P. Dubs full steam ahead into India; there’s no crying over failed audits, “Without question the firm has had real challenges in India but that has not changed my outlook and view on the importance of India economy to global economic picture.”


Stoic; as he should be. Not that the firm hasn’t had to do a little damage control. But no worries; Dennis is a man with a plan, “We just need to continue to deliver, service our clients, respond to their needs, help them deal with their issues and challenges. If we do that and we do that consistently over a period of time the PwC brand in India will be as strong and as good as it has been in the past and where we want it to be into the future.”

Plus, this is a blip, an outlier, a rare occurrence, “Any one-off instance can do harm to your brand and that is the reality. Our job is to make sure we are doing everything and we have done a number of things in India to ensure that this would not happen again,” so there’s no cause for concern.

This isn’t Tiger Woods brand damage we’re talking about. It will all be a distant memory before you know it.

Satyam scam has hurt PwC brand: Global Chairman [Money Control]

PwC Accepts Responsibility for Losing Personal Records of Alaska Public Employees

In Alaska news that doesn’t involve Sarah Palin, it emerged late last week that PwC lost the personal records of 77,000 public employees and retirees who participated in the State’s Public Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System in 2003 – 2004.

Alaska had engaged P. Dubs as expert witnesses in a lawsuit against its former actuary Mercer and turned the data over to the firm for analysis during the discovery process. PwC discovered that the data vanished in December and PwC notified the state last week (nobody wants to share bad news during the holidays).


PwC has accepted responsibility for the whole mess and has agreed to pay for identity theft protection, credit monitoring, and security freezes (if necessary) for the 77,000 employees affected. The firm will also reimburse any losses suffered by any of the participants.

The firm must have realized that there was little upside to disclaiming responsibility, as this would inevitably lead to a sentence in a Sarah Palin speech that involved PwC opposing God, guns, and regular Americans. Populist rancor would ensue and the firm would be run out of Alaska within a week (give or take).

This is the second SNAFU for PwC in the last month. The firm issued a press release on January 15th announcing that someone was sending bogus PwC checks to random people advising them that they had been selected to be secret shoppers. It’s not clear as to whether this is a sign of the wheels coming off or simply bad luck. We’ll keep you informed of any additional slip-ups.

State Acts Promptly to Safeguard Alaskans Against Potential Identity Theft [State of Alaska Department of Law]

Big 4 at Davos: Jim Quigley is Long Dubai

He’s not really sure how much is debt (Jim, it’s a metric asston) is being restructured but Quigs believes that Dubai will come out of it a-okay.

Black holes aside, Quigs also wants to see global accounting standards which puts him firmly in the camp with the other half of Jim-squared and Knight of Accounting David Tweedie.

We’re not sure when this interview was done but could someone get JQ a cup of coffee or something? The guy seems a little stiff. Plus, no red light/green light of trust from Fox Business? They have got to start getting more creative over there.

Who Will Be the Next Chairman of KPMG?

Yesterday we told you the sad news that Tim Flynn will not be serving another term as Chairman of KPMG.

After taking the time to compose ourselves and realized that life will somehow go on, we had questions. Figuring you had some of your own, we’ll throw a few out there for some discussion. These will range from the obvious (i.e. headline) to the inane but they are all of equal importance:

• Why Tim? Why?

• Is the Davos trip the last hurrah and if so, what is doing to celebrate/reflect/mourn?

• If he’s not taking Tim Geithner’s job then what? Will T Fly defect to one of the other Big 4? Launch a blog? Ponzi scheme?

• How does Phil Mickelson feel about this and does this mean he will keep TF on the bag or is this an honor reserved only for the Chairman?

We may not have covered everything here so chime in with your questions or simply respond to those we’ve put out to the group. And please, if he happens to change his mind, notify us immediately.

Tim Flynn Will Not Serve Another Term as Chairman of KPMG

Tim Geithner better be paying attention. This could be your successor.

As you may know, my five-year term as U.S. Chairman ends in June of this year. Late last week, I informed the Board and subsequently announced to the partners, that I have decided not to serve an additional three-year term as U.S. Chairman after my initial term ends this June, as permitted by the firm’s governance.

This decision was made after much thought and personal reflection. KPMG’s partnership agreement has a well-defined and time-tested set of protocols in place whereby the Board of Directors is expressly responsible for managing the succession process for Chairman. Over the next 60 days, the Board will execute that process, the planning for which began late last summer.


Our firm has an outstanding group of partners and an effective, seasoned leadership team that is focused on our partners and employees, our clients, and the marketplace.

You have my personal commitment that I and the entire leadership team will remain focused on these key priorities throughout the remainder of my Chairmanship.

Thanks for all you do every day for KPMG.

Chairman_Succession

Ernst & Young Shares the Glory of Its Fortune 100 Victory

Shockingly, many of you don’t get too excited where your firm falls on the F100BCTWF list. Well, in case you’ve forgotten, your firm cares. They care a lot and they want you to care too because dammit, this is important. Somebody over at E&Y got to thinking and decided that bribing you with pastries was the solution to get you Scrooges to appreciate the firm’s 12th year on the list aaannnd being the highest ranking accounting firm on this year’s list:

We’re guessing Jim Turley might be phoning someone in order to save him all the bearclaws, so you best get there early.

Tim Flynn at Davos: We’re Moving Toward the Green Light of Trust

After wondering aloud if the Big 4 was just going to spend the entire week at Davos chasing blondes and eating chocolate some of the more easily rankled of you pointed out that Tim Flynn was all business and had already given an interview with CNN. Plus, since we saw Dennis Nally this morning it would seem like there is work being done. God forbid the guys do anything fun while they’re over there.

Anyhoo, we finally got around to watching TF’s chat with Richard Quest at Davos and we thought he did a pretty bang-up job. One thing we would have done different — if we were T Fly that is — was ask DQ why we were excluded from the last CNN interview. “What about it CNN? I’m not good enough for APEC piece but you’re happy to include me on this little campout?” Or something to that effect. We imagine that he was asked to keep it cordial.


Back to business: The one thing that threw us off was the red light/green light of trust thing. Trust doesn’t really strike us a color, least of all green. Think about it: Green = money = Goldman Sachs. Plus, has T Fly seen those tea party people? They don’t trust anyone. See why we’re confused? If you get it, please explain, but watch first.

KPMG Haiti Relief Effort Details

We finally nailed down some specifics from a trusted source on KPMG’s efforts to assist with Haiti relief.

The Americas Region (U.S., Canada, Central and South America, and Israel) have contributed $300,000 to the efforts so far, with a total goal of $500,000. These are the combined contributions of the both the firm and its employees. The International firm has pledged $500,000.

All contributions are going to UNICEF and Save the Children.

If you’ve got updates on your firm’s efforts or if you would like to notify us of what your firm is doing to assist the efforts in Haiti, email us at tips@goingconcern.com

Earlier:
We Knew Accounting Firms Were Helping Haiti

Are the Big 4 Laying Low at the World Economic Forum?

The World Economic Forum kicks off tomorrow and as expected, the Big 4 bigwigs will be there in full force.

Having been through their share of busy seasons, the fearless four of Jim squared, Dennis, and Tim are no doubt glad to be on this getaway.

Their hearts and minds never stray too far from all of you serving the capital markets back at home but it is a great opportunity for them to explore the land of secretive banking, blondes and Toblerones. Plus, there are some meetings and whatnot where they spread their wisdom amongst the other grand poobahs of the world.


Despite the presence of the Fab Four, Big Four Blog points out that the firms’ websites don’t hardly make a mention of their participation at the rager in Davos:

[We] could find hardly a mention of this on the firm’s websites, contrary to prior years when a press release would proudly proclaim their participation. Are the Big Four firms keeping a low profile this year? We wonder why?

Why would they possibly want to keep their profiles on the DL? Are they taking their cues from the Times? Are they still amped/disappointed by the Fortune results?

Are they nervous about their next sit down with CNN, who may not leave it there this time? Ideas? Hopefully they’ll loosen up and enjoy themselves.

PwC Motivates the Troops with Just Two Words

More examples of motivation are rolling in as we pick up speed during this most wonderful time of the year.

The latest token of gratitude comes courtesy of P. Dubs. While some people need gift cards to remind them that the next ten weeks will be worth the pain but one PwC office knows that such superficial bait won’t motivate everyone. It requires something more, something meaningful:

Picture 3.png

This goes above and beyond getting off your chair, walking all the way over to someone’s cube-pod, looking them straight in the eye and saying, “You’re awesome!”

This involves handing a piece of paper (below) to this awesome person and then telling them how kick ass they are. Then high-five, chest-bump, fist-jab ass-slap, whatever the hell it is you’re doing these days to top it off. It’s the little things that make it special. Now get to it.

You’re Awesome! Award-1.pptx

Putting Accounting Firms’ Quest to Dominate Magazine Lists into Perspective

We’ve hypothesized about accounting firms’ quest to dominate every magazine list on Earth. Admirable goal, no question but the motivation has escaped us.
Until now. We’ve been enlightened:

Going back to the dominating magazine lists – its a lot like the bald middle aged guy (Big 4 accounting firms) that buys a Corvette (magazine awards) to compensate for a lack of equipment size (crappy work environment) to attract the ladies (slaves).

That pretty much clears it up.

Deloitte Has Stepped Up the Motivational Techniques to Include PowerPoint, Gift Cards

Yesterday we shared with you some motivational words of wisdom from Deloitte. Today the firm is stepping it up a notch, not just offering words, but a PowerPoint presentation informing the troops about Winter 2010 C.P.R. (Cash, Prizes, & Rewards). The long/short is that Green-Dotters will be eligible to win gift cards starting tomorrow, once in February, once in March, and a grand prize on March 31st.
While we’re impressed with this particular method of distraction/motivation, the best part is that there is a key slide that includes an admission that they know, that you know, that your life is temporarily over:
Picture 3.png
Whether your slim chances of winning one of these gift cards is worth A) your skin not seeing a ray of sun for three months B) not having any semblance of a social life or C) your significant other screaming “That’s it! It’s so over! You can sleep at the f—ing office if you like being there so much!” has to be determined by you and you alone.
CPR 2010.ppsx

The Latest Challenge for KPMG Employees

Team, KPMG has submitted a challenge to its employees in the Florida/Carolinas/Puerto Rico neck of the woods, and we felt compelled to include the rest of you, just for the sake of expanding the brain pool:

Name the Business Unit Contest
January 22, 2010
How do you describe the most scenic business unit in the nation? From the mountains and outer banks of Carolina to the Everglades and beaches of Florida and the rain forests and blue waters of Puerto Rico, we have it all!
As the former FBU and CBU business units come together, we thought it would be fun to invite each of you to participate in a contest to name the new BU. In addition to bragging rights, a prize will be awarded to the person who submits the winning name.
Remember…be creative and have fun!
Send your ideas to US-FBU CSS COMM Leadership Mailbox by Friday, January 29, 2010. A prestigious selection committee will make the final selection and the winner will be announced by Friday, February 5, 2010.

Lost of questions here: 1) It’s busy season; between reading this fine publicaion, trying to get laid, and wallowing in disappointment, who has time to come up with name for the FlorinasRico business unit? 2) Who’s on the prestigious selection committee and how did they get this cushy gig? 3) Does Phil Mickelson figure into this prize in any way, shape or form? 4) If yes, will Tim Flynn be caddying for you, Phil or both?
You’ve only got until Friday to submit ideas, so we suggest you get on this ASAP.

What Are the Diversity Goals of the Accounting Firms?

GOALS.jpgLast week when Deloitte announced the appointment of a new Chief Diversity Officer, we surmised that the reason for such a position is so firms can promote their diversity 24/7. Finally realizing that this wasn’t physically possible, we started wondering what kind of objectives a Chief Diversity Officer would set for their firm.
Deloitte’s press release from last week states that the new CDO, “will be responsible for Deloitte’s diversity strategy and will lead its continuing efforts to attract, retain and develop the best talent in the marketplace.” Isn’t attracting the best talent something the firms are constantly doing? The statement seems to indicate that “responsible for diversity strategy” is mutually exclusive from “attracting the best talent in the marketplace.” So are goals for the diversity strategy different? If so, are they SMART, like our little chalkboard friend suggests?
If the goals are based on percentages (i.e. measurable), then we’re in luck because the Fortune one-hundo included diversity information that stated what the percentage of minorities and women were at each firm on the list (sorry omitted firms).


Ernst & Young – 29% minorities; 50% women
Plante & Moran – 6% minorities; 54% women
Deloitte – 32% minorities; 44% women
PwC – 27% minorities; 49% women
KPMG – 27% minorities; 48% women
We emailed and left a voicemail for John Zamora, the new CDO at Deloitte, to get some perspective on these numbers (for Deloitte) but have yet to hear back. We mostly want to know if these numbers are acceptable or if not, and if they aren’t, what percentages the firm is attempting to achieve (if those are part of the goals).
In the meantime we do know that all of the Big 4 have Chief Diversity Officers (technically E&Y’s is an inclusiveness officer) and P&M has a Diversity Council so there seems to be people assigned to this issue at every firm, large and small.
Furthermore, all of the Big 4 appear on the Diversity Inc’s list of Top 50 Companies for Diversity for muptiple years, so we know that they have been recognized for their diversity efforts.
So that’s why we’re confused; what exactly are the goals of these firms with respect to diversity? Are they looking to dominate the Diversity list, like they do the best places to intern list? Is this all about dominating magazine lists?

Motivating Words During Busy Season, Deloitte Edition

From a friend of GC:

If you’ve got your own words of encouragement for this busy season for Deloitte, or your own firm, feel free to share. Or if you’re feeling creative send us your poster to share with the group.

Technology SNAFU of the Day: DeloitteNet 2.0 Has a Case of the Mondays

We were notified last week about some exciting news for the capital market servants at Deloitte. DeloitteNet 2.0, the D’s new and improved internal intranet debuted today and the message was, because of this upgrade, your busy season, hell, your LIVES we’re going to be infinitely better:

Scheduled to launch Monday, January 25, DeloitteNet 2.0 is the result of an organization-wide effort to upgrade and redesign our intranet. It will include a new content structure and navigation, a new search engine, your very own “My DeloitteNet” site, and much more…
DeloitteNet will still be your go-to resource for the latest news and information. It will still provide access to essential tools and resources to get your job done, as well as offer access to the applications you need to manage your life here at Deloitte.

Not only that but Deloitte’s very own social networking phenomenon, D Street, would be fully integrated into the new intranet including a “My status” feature in case you want to tell everyone about the weather or how much you hate Mondays.


All this excitement was scheduled to kick off today with much fanfare. Many of you raced into work this morning, not being able to sleep last night in anticipation of this occasion were devastated to be greeted by this:
Thumbnail image for DeloitteNet2.0.jpg
Maybe too many people were distracted by the diversity debate or caught up thinking of new ideas for Project JARED.
Regardless of the cause, we’re sure everything is hunky-dory by now (?) and you’re all enjoying the plunders of DeloitteNet 2.0.
Earlier:
Big 4 Technology: Open Thread

The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: KPMG #88

Last, but definitely not least, on the F100BCTWR is the House of Klynveld. We figure that if you judged the HoK based solely on the fact that it sponsors a golfer who can manage to keeps his pants on for five minutes, they dominate this list. Unfortch, Fortune takes additional variables into account out of respect for the process.

KPMG – Previously ranked #56. It’s great because, “[The] firm introduced a sabbatical program allowing employees to take leaves of four to 12 weeks at 20% of pay. Some 450 employees immediately signed up for it. Employees average 25 paid days off.” Thoughts?


Other interesting stats per the snapshot:
New Jobs (1 year): -1,581
% Job Growth (1 year): -7%
% Voluntary Turnover: 12%
No. of Job Openings at 1/13/2010: 2,700
Most common salaried job: Senior Associate with average salary of $78,100

So the numbers aren’t so hot compared to others. Not to worry though! TF is out there rallying the troops even jumping across the Hudson every now and again just to check on everybody. What more could you ask for?

Earlier:
Ernst & Young #44
Plante & Moran #66
Deloitte #70
PwC #71

Tweets and Pokes: How the Big 4 Is Recruiting the Next Crop of Accountants

BelushiCollege_CPA.jpgNo one here is arguing that there is a vast disparity between the intern program experience and the stark reality of working in public accounting. What’s bothersome, however, is the smoke and mirrors that the firms use to convince recruits that their careers should start in one location over another. This begins and ends with spending exorbitant amounts of time and money on campus, growing multi-yeardressing up public accounting as one’s best bet if you want to work globally.

It has come to the point where the firms’ online presence is two-faced. One side of the proverbial coin shows the straight-laced, information-packed websites that industry and employees see. Flip it over and you’ll encounter extensive and oftentimes flashy sites targeting tomorrow’s crop of new hires:

Deloitte
E&Y
KPMG (warning – mute your speakers)
PwC

Accounting never looked so sexy.


Many of these sites are taking advantage of the technology that students use, which makes sense. E&Y spent thousands on creating a presence on Facebook, one that would show advertisements to a select target of majors. KPMG chose to go the YouTube route, primarily to promote its Global Internship Program. PwC’s campus-focused site has its own “.tv” brand. And of course, Twitter.

All of these methods of communication and established online web presences are fine and dandy, albeit expensive to maintain (marketing teams are dedicated at each firm solely for campus recruiting needs). However, what about the relationships with the students? Recruiters target students as freshman, four to five years prior to any chance of return on investment. Honors programs are sponsored by firms; same goes for professor salaries. Every Big 4 hosts their version of a “leadership summit” – these generally take place one or two years prior to being eligible for an internship. These multi-day summits occur under the sun and are attended by the respective firm’s national leadership. Trust falls and scavenger hunts in sunny Florida. Or Arizona. Or California. Every year. At every firm.

By the way, that bonus you were expecting? Sorry, can’t find the money in the piggybank.
In defense of the Big 4’s marketing gurus; their work is paying off. BusinessWeek’s 2009 ranking of “best” internships has the Big 4 in the top five: Deloitte is #1; KPMG, #2; E&Y, #3, PWC #5. This translates to the same firms taking the top four spots in BusinessWeek’s ’09 rankings of best places to launch a career. This comes as a no-brainer when you consider the vast majority of new hires were former interns. The Kool-aid has been known to have long-term effects.
But the questions remain – is the multi-million dollar recruiting campaigns run by each Big 4 firm worth it? Are these rankings worth the time of students and the decisions they need to make? And what happens after your career has been launched? What’s the next step?

Daniel Braddock, your friendly Human Resources Professional could very well be considered the hypothetical love child of Suze Orman and Toby Flenderson. Following his varsity jacket wearing college days, he entered the consumer markets as an auditor for a Big 4 firm in New York City. He spent three brisk years as an auditor before taking the reins of stirring the HR kool-aid. He currently resides in Manhattan. Daily routines include coffee breakfasts and scotch dinners. You can follow him on Twitter @DWBraddock.

The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: PricewaterhouseCoopers #71

Next on the F100BCTWF is PwC. While one of you (yes, we’re speculating that it was an inside job) was irked enough at P Dubs to send bogus checks out to randos, enough of you still love the place to keep it on the list.

PwC – Previously ranked #58. More lemons into lemonade from Fortune, “Accounting firm had minor layoffs (less than 1% of the staff), canceled 2008 year-end holiday parties, and gave two extra paid holidays to employees.”


Other interesting stats per the snapshot:
New Jobs (1 year): 402
% Job Growth (1 year): 1%
% Voluntary Turnover: 8%
No. of Job Openings at 1/13/2010: 5,097
Most common salaried job: Manager/Supervisor with average salary of $93,274

Still not sure about that number of job openings but it’s less unbelievable than the 11k that Deloitte had in their snapshot.

We still get the feeling that PwC is the biggest of Big of Brothers what with everyone’s utilization getting extra special attention. We’re not saying utilization can’t be considered but motivating employees with something more useful, like say, tighty whiteys, may be a better approach. Certainly wouldn’t hurt the ranking.

Earlier:
Ernst & Young #44
Plante & Moran #66
Deloitte #70

Ernst & Young “Believes” It Will Have Pay Raises This Year

guarantee.jpgGreat news Ernstiverse! If you didn’t have the pleasure of hearing it yesterday, Steve Howe, your Americas Area Managing Partner, announced that he “believes” that you’ll be back to pay increases this year, but he’ll let you know for sure as you get closer to the “salary adjustment date”. Sounds like a guarantee to us!

Plus! Being a general believer in resolutions (and noticing you haven’t don’t anything about that paunch), we heard that the firm will now reimburse “reasonable fitness fees incurred while traveling.”


No doubt Steve-o was in a good mood yesterday after seeing that E&Y was the highest ranking Big 4 firm on the F100BCTWF list and he felt like spreading more good news. In his mind, the title was never in doubt but it’s still nice to see the confirmation.

SH makes three accounting firm big shots to announce that happy times are here again in 2010. Along with soon-to-be blogger Stephen Chipman and the original shot-caller, Bob Moritz, the thawing of salaries might be gaining momentum.

The question does remain: will T Fly and Dr. Phil make similar announcements? Have they already? Are they saving it for a better time, say, mid-February when many of you will be close to losing your shit and are about to storm out once and for all? If they’ve made guarantees, kindly let us know, we’d like a superfecta if possible.

(UPDATE) Ernst & Young Partner Sentenced to Prison for Role in Tax Shelter Scheme

prison.jpgIn accountants going to jail news, E&Y partner Robert Coplan was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in creating tax shelters for wealthy clients from 1998 to 2006.
In addition to the jumpsuit (denim?), Mr. Coplan was ordered to pay a $75,000 fine and peform 120 hours of community service, half of which must be counseling of tax professionals about his time as a scofflaw.


Judge Sidney Stein said that while Mr. Coplan was an otherwise all right guy, the sentence was for ‘general deterrence’ and that he understood that ‘there was pressure coming from higher-ups at Ernst & Young’.
Judge Stein is scheduled to hand out more prison time to former E&Y partner Martin Nissenbaum today, while former partners Richard Shapiro and Brian Vaughn tomorrow.
Presumably all the men have access to a toilet without too much hassle.
UPDATE, Friday 8 am: Martin Nissenbaum was sentenced to two-and-a-half years. Not sure why he got 6 months less than Coplan but we’re sure he’s thrilled with the outcome.
E&Y partner gets prison over tax shelter scheme [Reuters]

The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Deloitte #70

Continuing our F100BCTWF coverage, we find Deloitte next in the pecking order at #70. This extends Deloitte’s streak of umpteenththousandth straight years on the list. Congrats.

Deloitte – Previously ranked #61. Fortune cites Delta Chi as the big whoop-de-do at Deloitte: “[The] Firm has invested $300 million in Deloitte University, a 107-acre campus in Texas that opens in 2011 and will be the ‘symbolic heart’ of their organization.”


Other interesting stats per the snapshot:
New Jobs (1 year): 296
% Job Growth (1 year): 1%
% Voluntary Turnover: 10%
No. of Job Openings at 1/13/2010: 11,000 (?)
Most common salaried job: Senior/Senior Consultant with average salary of $84,658

11,000 job openings? Thoughts on that?

The snapshot also states that 32% of its workforce is minorities and 44% of the workforce is women. What do you think new Chief Diversity Dude John Zamora is shooting for? 50/50? People are kvetching about a few H-1Bs, can’t imagine what that will sound like if Barry Salzberg finally is satisfied.

Plus — not to disappoint some of you looking forward to doing keg stands — if Deloitte scrapped the whole “symbolic heart”, project JARED (can anyone come up with something better than “Jointly Address Reducing Expenses at Deloitte” for the love of God?) wouldn’t even be necessary.

Earlier:
Ernst & Young #44
Plante & Moran #66

The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Ernst & Young #44

The always über-hyped Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For is out and a handful of accounting firms make an appearance, thus, extending the number of years that firms will continue to boast about their inclusion. We’ll present each in the order they are ranked for your enjoyment/debate/debunking, starting with E&Y.

Ernst & Young #44 – Previously ranked #51. According to Fortune E&Y is great because, “E&Y is the only one of the Big Four to offer a traditional pension in addition to a 401(k). The firm is courting alumni via a new magazine, Connect.”


Other interesting stats per the snapshot:

New Jobs (1 year): -1,111;

% Job Growth (1 year): -4%;

% Voluntary Turnover: 10%

No. of Job Openings at 1/13/2010: 622

Most common salaried job: Manager with average salary of $105,544

This is the first we’ve heard of Connect but we’re guessing Zitor makes a regular appearance. If no Zitor, we wouldn’t bother.

On a more biological note, it’s not clear is where E&Y would rank if Fortune had gotten word of someone hoarding the keys to the mens john in Jericho. We figure if they knew a sicko like that worked at E&Y it would knock them out of the top 50 at least.

Deloitte Gets More Serious About Diversity, Names Chief Diversity Officer

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for small salzberg.jpgBarry Salzberg didn’t waste any time addressing all the belly aching over the H-1B controversy. Yesterday, Deloitte announced the appointment of John Zamora as Chief Diversity Officer and we expect all the complaining to subside by the end of the week.
We like this move. Dr. Phil simply cannot be expected to be out there 24/7 developing training sessions that nobody attends, doing interviews, and keeping up the general free-wheeling on his own. And if someone isn’t out there doing all those things, no one — we mean NO ONE — is going to think that Deloitte is diverse. Constant bombardment of diversity initiatives and efforts is the only way. Solution? Chief Diveristy Officer John Zamora.
Full press release after the jump.

NEW YORK, Jan. 19 /PRNewswire/ — Deloitte today announced the appointment of John Zamora to the position of chief diversity officer. Zamora will be responsible for Deloitte’s diversity strategy and will lead its continuing efforts to attract, retain and develop the best talent in the marketplace.
“John brings 20 years of professional services experience to this position along with the passion, energy and commitment to lead our organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and inspire others in the industry,” said Barry Salzberg, chief executive officer, Deloitte LLP. “I am confident in John’s ability to sustain and advance Deloitte’s inclusive environment, where the brightest are valued for their ideas and contributions to each other, our clients and our culture.”
Zamora currently works with clients in the Real Estate and Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure industries and is the operations leader for the Southeast region. He will continue in this role in addition to serving as chief diversity officer.
“Diversity is the foundation of Deloitte’s competitive business advantage,” said Zamora. “In the global marketplace today, diversity of thought, backgrounds and experiences are at the core of an organization’s ability to build high performing teams that deliver outstanding results to our clients and our people. As chief diversity officer, I plan to further Deloitte’s longstanding commitment to diversity and fostering an environment where the industry’s highest caliber of diverse talent can achieve their personal and professional goals.”

Deloitte, All Out of Cost-Saving Ideas, Launches Project JARED

Thumbnail image for salzberg-barry.jpgWhen we first received the tip about Project JARED we thought that Big D had struck a deal with Subway in order to help you lose those extra pounds you’ve been carrying around.
Unfortunately, “Project: Jointly Address Reducing Expenses at Deloitte” won’t be getting you sandies on the cheap; rather it’s a solicitiation of your ideas for saving the Firm money. Apparently Deloitte is plumb out and needs some help

This is your chance to help make Deloitte fitter and stronger — by contributing your ideas to Project JARED.
Project JARED was launched in the U.S. earlier this year to enable our organization to ‘shape up’ by building organizational muscle ― devoting maximum resources to our people and market opportunities. Hence, Project JARED: Jointly Address Reducing Expenses at Deloitte.
“Jointly is a key word here,” said Tony Forcum, Deloitte Consulting LLP, who leads Project JARED.
“More than 600 partners, principals and directors have already been involved in detailed discussions and input sessions, generating over 1600 cost-reduction ideas. We are certain that opening up the dialogue to all of our people will generate additional insights. We need transformational ideas if we are to reach our goal of permanently eliminating $750 million of costs by FY12. We have made a good start toward our goal. The team has validated more than $120 million in sustainable cost savings from the changes made in FY09,” he said.


Changes have produced savings and improvements in all kinds of ways ― for example, by using our telesuite facilities to reduce business travel, thus not only saving money but also reducing the time everyone spends away from home: a win-win for all.
The Project JARED team is looking for suggestions from those who know the organization best — its people. If you have often thought: “We could save a lot if only we…” now is the time to share your idea. It could be a day-to-day activity, a fresh approach to leveraging technology, an enhancement to a process, a way to change behavior that saves money―all cost-saving suggestions are welcomed.
Visit the Project JARED site to submit your ideas, learn more about the project and ask questions.

This latest plan struck at least one person as dubious and they asked the question on probably everyone’s mind:

Q: Is this just a fancy way of saying we’re going to be losing more jobs?
A: It is impossible to predict the future, but that is not the focus of the project. The organization is casting a wide net for cost savings, looking at tactical savings (printing on both sides of the paper), operational savings (streamlining the process by which work gets done from inception to completion) and transformational savings (transforming some of the ways we do business). All of the decisions we make about Project JARED will be consistent with our core values, brand and strategy.

So “not the focus of the project” should put your concerns to rest, no? And it looks like your bright idea of printing on both sides of the paper is already taken, so don’t bother submitting that one.
Let’s put our heads together gang and figure out how we can save Deloitte money. Should Barry Salzberg stop getting haircuts? Pull the plug on Deloitte University? Give up on training male employees to better understand their female colleagues?
Nothing is too crazy people. Get on this.

KPMG Advisory Has Another Potentially Awkward Meeting, Sans Dog

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PomeranianSP1324.jpgIf you’ve been hanging around these parts long, you’ll remember back in the fall when Klynveldians were sitting down for their compensation discussions which gave birth to one of our favorite mascots. All professionals in the Southeast region of the advisory practice witnessed an awkward moment when the then partner-in-charge of advisory phoned in, along with his dog, to break the news to the troops that they weren’t getting squat for raises.
Well today, there’s another call down in the Southeast — the “SE Advisory Market Development Staff Update Call” to be precise — and apparently there’s more bad news. It seems that the SE advisory practice (the largest in the firm, according to one source) is a bit behind on its revenue targets for the first three months of the new fiscal year and January isn’t shaping up so well either. The actual revenues are trailing the planned targets by approximately 15%, according to slides from the presentation obtained by GC.


Sources have indicated that while there is significant pipeline revenues, as of January 11th, only ten percent have either verbally committed to an engagement or are currently being negotiated. More than one-third of the pipeline is classified as being in the “identification” stage which is largest group. Now perhaps that is a normal ratio but another slide indicated that the number of client wins are on pace to be down considerably (~50%) for the month of January as compared to the prior three months.
One of our sources indicated to us that a major problem is that “identification” of a potential client was enough to have it included in the pipeline. In other words, if your Pomeranian sniffs a Boston Terrier’s ass at the dog run and you talk shop with the owner of said Boston T, that person is more or less in the pipeline. The conversion of the BT apparently is not crucial and even if the Boston Terrier is converted to realized revenue, it was a far smaller percentage than initially estimated.
The problem, as it appears to us, is that business in the advisory practice in the Southeast could be drying up (or maybe just getting more competitive) and that conversion of potential business is slipping. It’s far too early in the fiscal year to speculate — but by all means go right ahead — about what this all will mean and if business picks up, then it will be moot. But after the shake-ups that went down in that part of the country, the pressure is most certainly on.
If you were on the call today or have more insight, discuss and get in touch.

Layoff Watch ’10: More Details on Ernst & Young

Thumbnail image for ey8ball.jpgWe have some additional details to share with you to supplement last Friday’s post on E&Y’s New Year layoffs.
While we were surprised at the timing, a source has indicated to us that IT Risk and Assurance layoffs have occurred at the firm each January since 2008. This is due to a serious drop off in utilization in the new year after high utilization in the fall months with the exception of especially in the audit heavy ITRA practices.
In regards to the audit practice, we spoke to another source over the weekend that told us that layoffs would not occur until after busy season but assured us that they are being planned.
Finally, in response to one comment asking about severance details, we were informed that the severance for those let go is a week’s pay for each year of service with a minimum of 4 weeks pay. This seems to be fairly standard (with a few variations) amongst the Big 4.
We’ve received word on some positions cut but we’re still awaiting further details so if you have any information or can provide more insight discuss below or get in touch and we’ll update them here.
UPDATE: A source has indicated that three IT Advisory managers in FSO in New York were included in the cuts.

Which One of You Was Sending Out Bogus PwC Checks?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgRight before the holidays even! The worst part of the scam is that they forged the timeless P. Dubs logo. As in the KPMG Letterheadgate case, this calls for a complete rehaul of the firm’s image. Your suggestions are encouraged. Our preference would obviously involve something around this.
Sounds like the entire firm is at DEFCON 1 so if you happen upon one of these checks, we suggest you notify someone in your office that handles these things after you take a picture of it and send it to us of course.
The firm issued a press release today giving us details about the scam, you can read it after the jump.

The checks began arriving in people’s mail boxes just before the Christmas holidays. They looked so good, they could have been real. But they weren’t.
In a new twist on an old crime, scam artists created bogus checks bearing the logo of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Accompanying the checks was a letter advising the recipients that they had been selected to be “secret shoppers.” The letters guided the potential scam victims to cash the checks at specific banks, then wire the funds to another address for use by a second “secret shopper.”
As soon as the first report about the checks surfaced, PwC’s US Security team began working with the banking community and law enforcement agencies to shut down the scam. “Besides working with law enforcement, we put all of our local offices on alert. We prepared our telephone operators and receptionists to provide guidance for anyone who might call,” said Rose Littlejohn, head of US Security. “We put all of our people on notice, in case they saw or heard anything.”
The checks were dated December 21, 2009. Because the scam took advantage of the US Postal Service, a Postal Inspector has been assigned to the investigation. Anyone who has received one of the solicitations should contact Doug Smith, Postal Inspector at (813) 281-5228. If they have the capability to fax information, they should fax a copy of the bogus check and any instructions they received with it to 813-375-8047. They should then keep the originals as law enforcement will have separate instructions for what to do with them.
“Since the first batch of checks went out in December, we suspect those recipients have either reported the issue or thrown out the materials,” said Littlejohn. “But right now there is nothing to prevent the scammers from making another attempt. We hope people will be skeptical about any kind of offer like this they receive in the mail. Meanwhile, we’ll keep trying to track down and bring to justice the perpetrators of this scam.”

Layoff Watch ’10: Ernst & Young January Edition

Confused doesn’t even begin to describe what were feeling. We are hearing tons of rumors about layoffs in the Ernstiverse this week.

We’ve heard rumors from Denver to the East-Central (fka North-Central) and New York FSO. This includes both client serving professionals and support staff. We have already confirmed that two admins were let go earlier this week in New York.

The timing is especially strange since, you know, it’s January and in some offices the mandatory hours have already rolled out. Even if it were only support staff being let go, the timing is still unheard of. Why wait until January to let people go when having cuts in November? Maybe it’s just us but if we had survived that November cut, we would have thought that our job would be safe until at least the spring.
And since the roundtables seem to be SOP you wouldn’t think they would be anything to worry about but they definitely have people talking and wondering what will go down.

So far, Ernst & Young has not responded to our request for comment.
If you hear anything about your office get in touch in with us and discuss in the comments.

What Happens When the “Numbers” People Can’t Count?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for accountant.jpgThere was some quiet chatter here at GC about Ernst & Young’s closure of its Greensboro, NC office this past December, right around the Merry Happy holidays. Thanks Ernie.
This is nothing new. Smaller offices have been getting shut down for years. Years. Years.
You’ll probably find this to be a shocker but your feelings are not the main problem facing the firms due to the combination of recent closings and endless rounds of cuts. The problem is – it’s the theme of any busy season – firms finding themselves short staffed.
Many readers have commented that engagements are understaffed heading into the cold winter months. Albeit this is typically the unofficial “norm,” but slashed fees are only compounding the problem this year. The troubles of ’09 will be used as firm scapegoats for 2010. Move along, kids. Nothing more to see here.
Serious trouble is brewing for at least one Big 4 firm, however. A source confirmed that their Big 4 Beast is outsourcing work in the Carolinas to smaller regional firms because they are so understaffed:

The combination of layoffs a year ago and people leaving now that the market is turning around is causing the firm to hire outside help just to get through busy season.


Ummm. How did this happen? Is this firm (or any other firm for that matter) initiating rotations from staff “heavy” areas like Chicago and New York to cover the lapses in smaller areas like Buffalo or Greensboro? If so spread the winter cheer, because that sounds downright awful.
The public accountant’s mind is a simple one with regards to job searching:
Picture 1.png

The middle area is commonly referred to as “run through a venti latte on the client and debate.”

The market is moving ever so steadily from red to green. This time is now, and no one, not even leadership, is denying that. Firm leaders have been talking, talking and talking some more about the upswing of 2010. If they are handing out the Kool-aid, doesn’t SOMEONE take a moment to think, “Hey guys, should we really have cut so much staff six months ago?”
Someone, somewhere underestimated staff needs or overestimated staff loyalty. Or both. So now, cutting into the already razor thin fees will be the misguided expense of hiring outside help just to get by. The situation is only going to get worse in the coming months; money is starting to move, financial firms are beginning to reinvest, and jobs are going to be created and filled by your colleagues.
How can a firm’s leadership whose fundamental – and societal stereotyped – sole function is numbers be so off the mark? This is elementary, is it not?

Is the Fury at Deloitte Consulting Over H-1B Workers Overblown?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DTa.jpgBack in November, we introduced you to Punit Renjen, the new Chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting. Based on his statements at the time, PR sounded pretty stoked about leading D Con and making sure the firm remains on any “Best Places to Work” list .
But since P. Ren took the helm, there has b speculation on the Deloitte forum Greendotlife about laid off Americans in favor of Indians on H-1B visas.
As you might expect, it’s a pretty ugly conversation:

Deloitte Consulting under the leadership of Punit Renjen has completely lost its moral compass. This man has put profits ahead of the American workers. He has shown his deliberate willingness to sabotage the dreams of many American young men and women who are able and hard working. Sacking highly qualified Americans and then replacing them with cheap less qualified foreigners is morally wrong and Un-American. That is the Punit paradigm.


And:

Let’s be serious here- do we really want to outsource the strategy ops/ human capital work to a bunch of foreigners? It makes sense to give them the behind the scenes job such as programming, testing, payroll, etc.

And a response:

WHAT? “Lost his moral compass”?? Firstly, his job is to maximize partner profits. He is legally allowed to fire Americans, in America, and bring in foreigners to replace them. If he didn’t do it, someone else would. Competitors such as IBM, Accenture etc. cartainly do this all the time.

And this is the tame stuff. It would be easy for us to say that this is typical American xenophobia but if enough people are complaining about it, does that make it a problem for Deloitte leadership? As another comment attests:

It seems there is much concern amongst posters on this thread that Indians are replacing American workers in an American firm in the USA because they are cheaper and because the senior leadership wants to “celebrate diversity”.
Looking at the number of posts and the level of passion exhibited, this is a real issue for many people, so stop trying to shut down the conversation. People are concerned about this. And don’t start bleating “racist” like a sheep.

Deloitte certainly likes making their diversity efforts known but it would difficult (if not impossible) for anyone to prove that this is the firm’s approach at promoting diversity.
Further — as much as Lou Dobbs hates it — if Deloitte is replacing Americans with Indians, it’s perfectly legal and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The whole thing is moot anyway, as a lawyer friend told us that the H-1B quota has already been met for 2010.
We reached out to a Deloitte spokesperson who said that the firm would not comment on individual opinions from the forum.
Wanting some additional perspective, we asked some of our sources at Deloitte for their opinions on the discussion:

[F]rom looking at what’s going on in my group and region, I would tend to conclude the opposite. The vast majority of people who got got axed were on H1B and Senior Managers were often heard talking about how it’s hard to justify (to who I’m not sure) hiring non-American when there’s such a glut of American capacity; and I doubt that the hiring/firing strategies would differ so drastically.

Another source was not only skeptical but told us that maybe people should be more concerned about their clients:

[Many] seemed to be paranoid about losing their jobs to someone in Hyderabad. I think that their fears are overblown. I was always more concerned about my client going bankrupt or us being replaced…than I was some guy on the other side of the world taking my job.

So what exactly is going on here? You’ve got a forum full of angry Deloitte employees claiming that jobs are disappearing for the sake of diversity and cutting costs but is there anything to it? Aren’t we witnessing an international company making business decisions? If you’ve got additional thoughts and insights, get in touch with us and discuss below.

Rumor Mill: New Ernst & Young Office Requires Sterile Cubes, Secure Lavatories

As you’re all aware, your working environment is crucial to your productivity (or lack thereof). The slightest change can throw off your mojo for days or weeks at time. Maybe indefinitely.

So when we heard that the E&Y Long Island office had moved from Melville to Jericho we were concerned for the professionals in that office.

Brand new office in EY spirit, bright white, yellow partner and senior manager offices, orange walls in the enormous staff through manager room. We have super tiny cubes with really short walls where you just sit up an inch and you can see the person across from you. No space heaters or mini fridges allowed and you aren’t allowed to put up anything on you [sic] “cube” / “workstation” walls. They have to remain white. Oh and the bathroom requires a key in which you must walk from the far back of the office (where are seats are) to the front desk to get the key. There are 5 keys for men and 5 for women but the mens keys have dwindled down to 2 so you have to wait for someone to come back from the bathroom to go.

The team colors are a nice touch but the cube dwellers aren’t allowed to decorate? No pictures of spouses, kids, friends, dogs, cats, co-worker crush, favorite metal band allowed? What about the certificate you got from the latest in-house CPE? Can that go up? It sounds as though TPTB are insisting on the most sterile environment possible. No distractions. What about looking that person across from you dead in the eye while they’re eating with their mouth open? How’s that for a distraction?

Speaking of sterile environments, what’s with the bathroom keys? Are homeless people sneaking in and stanking up the joint? And they’re down to two keys for the men? Where did the other three keys go? What sadist is hoarding keys at the expense of other people’s excretory and digestive systems? Any ideas people? Maybe the keys just got flushed. Let’s get to the bottom of this mystery. Discuss.

Ernst & Young Extends Busy Season Two Weeks

While Deloitte rings in the new year with generosity, E&Y has apparently taken a different approach.
One of our sources in the Ernstiverse has told us that busy season is being extended by two weeks this year. The first “official” week is this week (moved up one week from its usual spot) and there will be an additional week on the back end (first week in April as we understand it). This means mandatory 55 hours weeks are in full effect, so find some work people.
Oh! And it’s also our understanding that this week, “roundtables” are going on in the audit practice. We don’t know what those are exactly but it sounds sorta serious and it’s definitely not billable, so enjoy making up the time. If you’ve had the pleasure of attending one of these sit-downs, let us know how it went and keep us updated with other details.

Deloitte Starts Off the New Year with Some Generosity

Good news Green Dotters with iPhones. After having to shell out $13 a month, we’re now happy to report that because so many of you were coveting them Deloitte will now offer the iPhone under at the standard rate under its mobile device program.

Our records indicate that you have an Apple iPhone connected to the Deloitte network–and we have good news for you!
We have continued our negotiations with AT&T and Apple. Based on Deloitte’s volume of iPhone orders, we are now able to offer the iPhone at the standard rate covered by the Deloitte mobile device program.
The good news–you will no longer be charged the monthly $13.00 surcharge for the iPhone.
Sincerely,
The PDA Team

So now everyone at Deloitte will have an iPhone? That should help with AT&T’s service issues. If you’re less enthused about this development, or you’re just hella-jealous because your firm doesn’t offer cool gadgets, discuss.

Rumor Mill: More Ernst & Young Offices to Become “Virtual”?

Thumbnail image for EY Ball of Useless.jpgLast month we told you about the E&Y Greensboro office shutting its doors to become a “virtual office”. All the client-serving professionals (around 60) are now reporting and being serviced out of the Raleigh office.
This followed the closure of the Manchester office that we reported on in October and that became official in November. In this particular case, there was no merging of sites and client service professionals (non-partners) were let go.
The latest speculation is that there are several small offices that are at risk of going virtual as opposed to out-right closing post busy season, using the Greensboro office as the model. Offices that are being serviced by nearby larger offices are of greatest risk as well as small offices that have a dwindling client base.
Although the virtual office seems to be the most warm and fuzzy of the two options, there would certainly be layoffs of support staff and service professionals that weren’t interested in working from an office that was a considerable distance from where they lived.
Whether or not this strategy will be utilized by other Big 4 firms is not clear but this story will continue to develop as busy season progresses. If you hear rumors about your office get in touch with us. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

Signed, Your Friendly Human Resources Professional

HR.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to the debut post from Daniel Braddock, your friendly Human Resources Professional. He could very well be considered a hypothetical love child of Suze Orman and Toby Flenderson. Following his varsity jacket wearing college days, he entered the consumer markets as an auditor for a Big 4 firm in New York City. He spent three brisk years as an auditor before taking the reins of stirring the HR kool-aid. He currently resides in Manhattan. Daily routines include coffee breakfasts and scotch dinners. You can follow him on Twitter @DWBraddock.
Greetings,
Please let me take a moment to introduce myself.
My name is Daniel W. Braddock, and I was a resourceful human. I was not chargeable. I was not overworked. I stroll in at 9:00am, take a long lunch, and skip out before 6:00pm. You consider me a waste; overhead expense; non-vital to the process. You have me to thank for Summer Friday’s, the crackdown on mentor-ship lunches, and for that blasted Bear Hunt. My degree can be in liberal arts, accounting, or psychology. I was from the world of H.R., or Human Resources Rubbish, as you refer to me.
You generally loathe my kind.


My name is Daniel W. Braddock, and I was on your side once. Stressed, over-utilized and under-charged. I know work/life balance initiatives are as good as the fluffy magazine rankings they earn. I saw first-hand how leadership continously drops the ball on estimates, budgets, and correspondences. I was invited to lush recruiting events, asked to slap on the charm and pretend the ship wasn’t sinking. I’ve been in the trenches, didn’t like what I saw, and left.
My name is Daniel W. Braddock, and I am adaptive. I spent years in the audit practice of a Big Four firm before transitioning my career to the the H.R. side of the house. I have traveled through the looking glass and back. Contributing to GC will shed new light on many topics, including:
Outsourcing, both foreign and domestic
• Hiring forecasts
• The world of recruiting
• Hiring cycles and leadership’s faults
• Work/life balance initiatives and the real “initiative” behind them
• Firm rankings in the media
• The next step – life after the Big 4
I’m looking forward to our future discussions, beginning with a new topic on Thursday. As always, please send suggestions and ideas for topics to tips@goingconcern.com.
Regards,
Daniel W. Braddock
H.R.

Tim Flynn Speaking at the KPMG Town Hall Meeting Circa Now

Thumbnail image for TimMFFlynn.jpgOur understanding is that T Fly is rallying the New York troops this morning so if he says anything worth noting (e.g. “I’m leaving the firm to become the next Treasury Secretary“), be sure to get in touch with us or discuss below.
We’re not sure if he’ll be giving pep talks to other offices so if you’re in not in New York and you’ve got TF on the docket, keep us updated.

The GC Metaphor Challenge

Yesterday we shared with you at least one person’s opinion about how quitting the Big 4 is a little like leaving Ike Turner. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, insert Jon Gosselin. Get it now?
As accurate as that may be (and certainly not a laughing matter), we can’t help but think there are other metaphors that you’ve heard that you might want to share here.
Of course there’s the proverbial pimp/whore relationship but that’s played. Get the team together and come up with something good. We’ve got E&Y tchotchkes to give away as prizes (don’t let that dissuade you E&Y peeps, we’ll come up with something).
We’ll give you a couple of options to work with:
1. Working in the Big 4 is like…
2. Leaving the Big 4 is like…
Annnd go.

Quote of the Day

From a soon to be ex-Ernst & Young SA:

Being employed by a big 4 is like being in an abusive relationship. You know its bad for you but its still kind of addictive.

Right on the money? Dead wrong? Addictive like salt & vinegar potato chips or addictive like the stuff that’s in Rush Limbaugh’s medicine cabinet? Discuss.

Big 4 Performance Analysis Will Probably Come as a Huge Shock to CNN

You may remember a little rant we (and others) went on not so long ago about CNN buying what the Big 4 were selling re: growing business in shrinking economy.
Well! The gang over The Big Four Blog have put out a performance analysis (PDF can for download: big4_media_kit.pdf) for the firms’ 2009 revenue and their conclusions tell a different story.
From the Execkquote>2009 was a difficult year overall for the Big Four accounting firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young (E&Y), KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as their financial performance was affected by tough external conditions, slow global economic growth, cost-conscious clients and sluggish merger and acquisition activity.


After an extraordinary period of continuous revenue growth from the early 2000s to 2008, combined revenue for the four firms in fiscal 2009 did fall by 7% from fiscal 2008 in US dollar terms. Revenue decreases in US dollar percentage terms ranged from negative 5% for Deloitte to negative 7% each for Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers to negative 11% for KPMG.

One of the more interesting tidbits was presented in the chart below:
Picture 1.png
After a growth in employment of over 10% in 2008, the rate dropped to 2% for 2009 and judging by the firms’ expectation to offer less internships this year we’d expect that trend to continue.
It’s worth noting that even in the rebuilding year, the firms’ combined revenue was $94 billion so no one is starving but, as BFB pointed out, the firms near decade long run of growth has now come to a screeching halt.
With all the new information, CNN might consider a follow-up story. We’d be happy to take a look at it. Or they may just leave it there:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
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How Does Seeing 5 Times Square on New Year’s Eve Make You Feel?

EYa.jpgWe’ve noticed a lot of chatter in the Twitterverse from soldiers in Uncle Ernie’s army regarding the E&Y sign in Times Square. As you might imagine, the reaction is mixed.
Wanting some reader input we asked around to some of our E&Y sources for their thoughts on seeing the sign on the tube while ringing in the New Year or their reaction if they saw it. So far, we’ve only heard back from one source (are people working too hard already?):

Hmmmm EY on a TV…..I’d flip the eff out!!!!!! No raises this year. I’d probably drag the TV out by its power cord. Then I would taunt it, kick it, give it cigarette burn marks and finally bury the tv alive by strapping it to a gas generator and dumping it in to a smelly landfill. I would then go home, feel bad for the tv for about 5 seconds and eat some apple pie.

For the non-E&Yers the sign may not provoke such shockingly violent images. However, if you did have any thoughts, any thoughts at all, when you saw the sign on NYE, feel free to share them here. We don’t want you to scare your therapist.

Let’s Go Over this Independence Thing One More Time

To be fair, Thomas Flanagan — having been a partner at Deloitte for 30 years — probably didn’t remember the day that his auditing professor covered independence. If you figure that Tom was in college in the late 1960s, it’s surprising that he remembers anything.

Also, as the vice chairman of the firm, his job was to remind people of their duty to remain independent of the firm’s audit clients. He didn’t actually have to be independent himself. What good is insider information if you’re not going to use it, amiright?

Deloitte had sued Flanagan in Delaware Chancery Court in October 2008 for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and breach of contract, saying the 30-year partner who had risen to vice chairman of the firm had secretly hidden trades in shares of Deloitte’s audit clients and lied about it to the firm.

“Because an auditor sells, at base, its independence and integrity, the firm relies heavily on the purported honesty and independence of its professionals,” Vice Chancellor John Noble, of the Delaware Court of Chancery, wrote in his opinion.
Deloitte said in its complaint that starting as early as 2005, Flanagan had made more than 300 trades in shares of Deloitte’s audit clients, including several clients for which he was Deloitte’s advisory partner.

Meanwhile, Flanagan specifically told the firm he was not trading in client stocks, which are restricted under the firm’s independence policies, according to the complaint.

Tom must have been a choir boy prior to getting the Vice Chair gig. How else could he have gotten to be such a bigwig if he wasn’t a poster child for integrity? Was he that good of a liar?

Never mind that for a sec. What’s really curious is why the hell a Vice Chairman needed the extra scratch. A comic book collection that would rival Nic Cage’s? Financing a business opportunity? A spendy wife/mistress/pool boy? If you’ve got any thoughts, discuss below and if this story doesn’t clear things up on independence, start crack the auditing textbooks.

Deloitte wins insider trading suit vs. ex-executive [Reuters]

Is Tim Flynn Being Vetted as the Next Secretary of the Treasury?

Welcome back, servants of the capital markets. We’ll dispense with anything substantive this morning in order to help you combat the depression. We’ll start off by presenting you with the following:
obama-kpmg.jpg
As you can see, this is the POTUS on vacation working in Hawaii with the entourage in tow. One member of said entourage just happens to be donning a KPMG cap and since not just anyone can get their hands on these coveted lids — and since the gentleman’s face is mostly obscured — we’re curious about a few things: 1) Is Tim Flynn leaving the Radio Station for a cabinet position and if so, which one? 2) Was Phil Mickelson joining the Prez for some time on the links and had a overwhelming urge to represent? 3) If this is just some Obama yes-man, did he receive the cap from a Klynveldian representative and is this a bold move to get KPMG representation in the President’s inner circle?
If you’ve got thoughts, theories, or wild-ass guesses, dispense them in the comments and again, welcome back.

KPMG Rolls the Dice, Will be the Next Auditor of Overstock.com

Thumbnail image for 200px-KPMG.svg.pngBut you already knew that was going to be the case. Back when we asked you to vote on which firm would be the next firm fired engaged by Overstock, over 42% of you said it would be KPMG.

This news comes despite reservations expressed by at least one reader who, at the time, had this commenlockquote>I for one think it is sad that such a high percentage of survey responders think KPMG will pick up OSTK. I hope from a public opinion and liability standpoint that KPMG will resist the urge to add yet another high risk client to its listing and cause further damage its reputation.

Sorry, dear reader but apparently the high profile cat fight between the company and Grant Thornton wasn’t enough to scare KPMG off. Not even the very public revelation of Patsy’s creepy-ass stalking of Overstock critics in the financial media and blogosphere caused the KPMG partners in SLC to turn this client down.

Oh, and not to mention a management team who thought that filing unreviewed 10-Q was the best course of action. But as white-collar crime expert (and self-proclaimed crook) Sam Antar told us:

KPMG is taking a client with no management integrity and is well advised to study SAS No. 99 about “Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit” regarding the unethical “tone at the top” set by Overstock.com’s unprincipled management team. Every single initial financial report for every reporting period issued by Overstock.com has failed to comply with GAAP and other SEC disclosure rules since the company’s inception. Overstock.com has restated its financial reports two times in the last three years and now is trying to avoid a third restatement of financial reports resulting from its improper use of “cookie jar” reserves to inflate its financial performance from Q4 2008 to Q3 2009.

In case you’re not convinced of management’s shadiness, Sam also pointed out that they intended to wait for the current SEC inquiry to be resolved prior to choosing a new auditor:

Patrick Byrne and Jonathan Johnson went back on their promise that they would not shop for an audit opinion. Both Byrne and Johnson previously told investors that Overstock.com would wait until after the SEC Division of Corporation Finance completed its review of the company’s financial disclosures.

We looked at the transcript of the conference call and here’s what we found (a link to the entire transcript is below):

Willis TaylorGagnon Securities – Analyst

Since you’ve dismissed your auditor for a very specific accounting choice, when you go to select a new auditor, how do you prevent yourself from being accused of opinion shopping?

Jonathan JohnsonOverstock.com – President
That’s a great question, Louis, and that’s part of the reason that we’ve decided not to select a new auditor until this — until we resolve this issue with the SEC. We do not want to be accused of opinion shopping. We’d like the SEC to help us figure out — we’d like them to say we’ve done it the right way or we’ve done it the wrong way. Once they say one of those two, we don’t need to opinion shop.

Patrick ByrneOverstock.com – Chairman and CEO
But, so, I would even say to the point that when people have contacted us, we have discouraged any communication on the grounds that we got — for just that reason — well, I have the — no matter who we talk to now, then whoever we ultimately pick, people are going to say, well, you did this because you opinion shop.
So we’re really not having discussions with anybody. It’s nice to get phone calls, but we’re not talking to anybody until we get through this just to prevent — just as a prophylactic measure.

From the sounds of it, Overstock was beating off firms with a stick, so the pressure must have gotten to company’s audit committee to pick a new firm prior to the SEC wrapping up its little inquiry. So can we assume that since the SEC hasn’t told them yay or nay on their accounting, they ARE opinion shopping?

And so the winner (read: next to be dismissed) is KPMG, who not only has to throw together an audit for 2009, they have to re-issue 10-Qs for the last three quarters. Who in SLC is giving up sleep for the next four months?

Here is the Overstock press release (we emphasized some good parts) which is not shy about slamming Grant Thornton or that the SEC isn’t finished with its inquiry:

Overstock.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: OSTK) today announced that its Audit Committee engaged KPMG as the company’s independent registered public accounting firm of record for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2009. KPMG will conduct an integrated audit of the company’s 2009 financial statements, including review of the company’s quarterly information for the periods ending March 31, 2009, June 30, 2009 and September 30, 2009.

It is nice to be back with a Big Four accounting firm,” said Jonathan Johnson, President of Overstock.com. “We are pleased to have the resources and professionalism that KPMG brings as our auditors. We will work closely with them to timely file our 2009 Form 10-K. In the meantime, we remain in discussions with the SEC to answer the staff’s questions on the accounting matters that lead to our filing an unreviewed Form 10-Q for Q3.”

Overstock.com’s Audit Committee dismissed Grant Thornton, its previous auditors, in November when Grant Thornton advised the company that they had revised their position on how the company should have recorded a $785,000 asset in 2008, and, that as a result of this revised accounting position, Grant Thornton would be unable to complete their review of the company’s Q3 2009 financial statements unless the company amended its previous 2009 quarterly filings and restated our 2008 financial results.

We wanted to get KPMG’s thoughts on this but our emails have gone unreturned at this time. If you’re in the know, definitely get in touch with us about anything related to the latest twist to this story.

OSTK_Transcript.pdf

Barry Salzberg Is Proud of All of You

salzberg-barry.jpgSomehow we missed Barry Salzberg’s latest masterpiece on leadership from last week and since you’ve all checked out, we’re sure you won’t mind.
When asked “Who was the best business leader of 2009?”, Dr. Phil — using every fiber of his being not to nominate himself — chose “Do-right employees”. It’s not about the BSDs of the world. It’s those of you that manage to not sit bare-assed on the copy machine and resist the urge to watch porn on your work computer. You’re the leaders setting the example:

Rather than single out a best business leader, I’d recognize the many unsung ethical heroes in our organizations. I’m talking about people who, even when no one is watching, consistently do the right thing. And they’ve been doing it at a time when confidence in business urgently needs to be restored.

Not only are you restoring confidence (?) in business, you’re going to lead us the charge into this recovery:

As we prepare our organizations for the upturn, we also need to prepare our people for the uptick in wrong-doing that can accompany better times.

First of all, what is this “upturn” you speak of? Also, Costanza-stache: “uptick in wrong-doing accompany better times”? Just what the hell is all this accounting fraud talk? Or how about executives’ bad attitudes about its employees? Or everything else?
Apparently you need to get even more vigilant people! This ship is turning around and wrong-doing is really going to take off. We need you more than ever.
Do-right employees [Washington Post]

Rumor Mill: More Ernst & Young Restructuring Details

Thumbnail image for ey8ball.jpgWe’ve got a follow up to our post yesterday about E&Y’s restructuring plans for the North Central and Pacific regions.
A source has informed us that the Financial Services Office (“FSO”) began nationalizing non-audit banking and asset management clients earlier this year. Insurance clients are also going to be under FSO, which will centralize all non-audit financial services clients. Our source has further indicated that the next step is to nationalize the audit clients. The ulitmate goal is to slim the firm down to five total regions (West, Central, Southeast, Northeast, and FSO).
We asked a couple of sources about this particular rumor to get some opinions:

I do hope this is not true, as [FSO] can’t audit their way out of a paper bag. I’m not sure why they would make an interim step as they’re making now if there’s an ultimate goal of five sub-areas

Another view:

Running FSO out of NYC seems like a good call from an overhead…cost standpoint but that’s about it. I have heard horror stories about the kind of hours FSO staff typically pull year round. I don’t see this making the “people in the trenches” any happier. Having all the work routed to one place makes it easier…to make sure that work is getting done…Of course I think this is just going to turn FSO into more of a meat grinder than it already is since they are going to do everything they can to get as much work in the pipeline as possible to keep that group busy.

As we mentioned yesterday, E&Y would not comment on internal firm matters.
If you’re in the FSO practice and can attest or refute any of the above details (horror stories, meat grinders, auditing out of paper bags) or even if you’re not and have an opinion share your thoughts below.

In Better Late Than Never News…

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for two thumbs up.jpegHey gang, we’ll just take a moment of your time to point out the bang-up job that’s being done at the The Business Journal of the greater Triad Area. They’re not in the class of the CNNs of the world but we figure some recognition is appropriate.
They ran a story dated Friday the 18th entitled, “Ernst & Young merging sites, making Triad virtual office” which is kinda, sorta similar to a post we did on December 10th.
Maybe we’re hung up on little stuff like choice of words and timing but we’ll be damned if we see “first reported by Going Concern” anywhere.

…roughly 60 client-serving professionals based in the Greensboro office at 202 Centreport Drive will remain with the firm, with most staying in the Triad to work remotely. They will report to and receive support services from the Raleigh office…
The statement did not specify the impact of the move on Triad support and administrative staff, including whether there are any transfers or layoffs occurring.

If the TBJ is curious, we know the impact on the support staff. You can email us here if you’re still wondering.
We also don’t see any mention of the Manchester closing either but that’s in a whole other state, so it’s probably not relevant.

Ernst & Young Restructuring Plans Affect North Central, Pacific Regions

Thumbnail image for ey8ball.jpgWe received several reports over the weekend and today about regional restructuring at Ernst & Young that will go into effect on January 1.
The majority of the North Central region will combine with the Mid-Atlantic region to form the new “East-Central” region, while the Toledo and Detroit offices will join the Midwest region. One source has told GC that this move is “an effort to reduce infrastructure and we should not be distracted from our client serving duties.”
We have also confirmed that the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest regions will combine into a single “West” region. Again, sources indicating this move is an attempt to reduce overhead costs, saying “Lots a current senior leadership will be moved around,” as a result of this consolidation.
Both regions have seen significant layoffs just in the past month, and reports as recently as December 9th for the North Central. Some may go so far to say that the layoffs were a precursor to these plans but that’s speculative sport on our part.
We reached out to an E&Y Spokesperson who said that the firm prefers not to comment on internal matters.
E&Y’s restructuring follows a major restructuring at KPMG that we reported on earlier this year which saw several leadership changes and rumors of the firm consolidating down to two regions in the U.S.
One of our sources indicated that more news is expected this week so if you have any further details on these changes, get in touch with us, and discuss your thoughts in the comments.

The Day After: KPMG and E&Y Holiday Party Report

Thumbnail image for HolidayParty.jpgWe were reminded that not only was E&Y FSO raging at a tourist trap last night, KPMG’s Financial Services practice was also tying one on at Jim Brady’s in the FiDi. This particular fiesta is the first major get-down we’ve heard of KPMG hosting so it’s good to know that there’s a little bit holiday cheer at every firm.
The Jim Brady’s party has been a popular event in the past and it’s a partner-free party so it’s a perfect opportunity for Klynveldians to blow off some steam, pants optional.
One source told us that it was well attended again this year despite being beer and wine only. We’re confident that was supplemented by flasks and other treats as another told us that the party was a “blast”. Safe to say that there was plenty of ass-grabbing as well as being an all-around bitch-about-KPMG fest.
Considering we haven’t heard a peep about E&Y’s get-down at TOTG, we can only assume that it was also epic.
Hopefully your cocktail flues have subsided to the point that you can tell us about the great night. If you remember anything, share the highlights or get in touch.

An Opportunity Lost

Thumbnail image for Holly.jpgGang, we’re a little upset about something today. Last week we told you about something that had the potential to turn awards for accountants on its green eyeshade wearing head.
Yes, we’re talking about the doomed Deloitte ballot sent out by Holly Leam-Taylor. Today would have been the day that she had sent out the results of her sluttiest future partner, hottest old man, et al. awards, if it had not been for her inexperience with sending out superficial emails about her colleagues.
If Holly had only consulted with someone, anyone with experience on such matters, they could have explained that Deloitte is not a place for such “fun” things and that using her work email was not the best way to solicit nominations.
Alas, our request for someone to pick up where Holly left off has been roundly ignored and here we are on a Friday with nothing to share about Deloitte’s hottest men in London.
So far we’ve been unable to track down Holly since her Deloitte email has been obliterated. Holly, if you’re out there, get in touch. We’ll get your side of the story out there. We know you’re fed up but this will be fun. We promise. Anyone else that can put us in touch with Holly, please help. We’re still getting over our disappointment.

KPMG Global Revenue Drops 11.4%

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PomeranianSP1324.jpgThe wait is over Klynveldians. Your firm’s revenue results are out and — not to put fine a point on it — they’re disappointing.

The press release has the typical spin that we’ve come to expect from the Big 4 bigiwigs as Tim Flynn focuses on the, ‘high growth markets’ and the opportunities that arise out of ‘a markedly changed regulatory environment’ (code for: “Democrats are in power”).

These “opportunities” are noted but the numbers speak for themselves. As Big Four Blog notes, “A drop in revenue was expected, the surprise was the magnitude of the drop, which was higher than other Big4 firms.”


From the press release:

KPMG, the global network of professional service firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services, today announced member firm combined revenues totaling US$20.11 billion for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, versus US$22.69 billion for the prior fiscal year, representing an 11.4 percent decline in U.S. dollars.

“While overall revenue results for the 2009 fiscal year reflected the global economic downturn, we were pleased that our continued investments in high growth markets resulted in continued growth in those country member firms,” said Timothy P. Flynn, Chairman of KPMG International.

The drop in revenues breaks down like this:

Audit – $9.95 billion in FY09 versus $10.69 billion in FY08, a 6.9% decline in U.S. dollars.

Advisory – Revenues of $6.07 billion in FY09, versus $7.27 billion in FY08, a 16.6% decline in U.S. dollars.

Tax – $4.09 billion in FY09 compared with $4.73 billion in FY08, a 13.4% decline in U.S. dollars.

The numbers certainly speak to the tough year that KPMG professionals have witnessed through many rounds of layoffs and several shake-ups that appear to be part of major restructuring in the U.S.
So now that the 2009 earnings season has come to a close, all the firms can focus on making 2010 less crappy. That should be breeze. We shall see. If you’ve got thoughts on the Radio Station’s year, or want to talk about how psyched you are for 2010, discuss in the comments.

KPMG reports 2009 revenues of US$20.1 billion [Press Release]

See also: KPMG 2009 Revenues of $20 B Drop 11%, Most Among Big Four Firms [The Big Four Blog]

Ernst & Young Pays $8.5 Million to Settle Charges with SEC Over Bally Fraud

Thumbnail image for ey8ball.jpgSix current and former partners at Ernst & Young were charged, along with the firm, by the SEC late yesterday in relation to the audits the firm performed of Bally Total Fitness’ financial statements from 2001 to 2003.
Bally settled accounting fraud charges with the SEC in 2008 that were related to its financial statements from 1997 to 2003.
Because everyone and their dog was freaking out over Enron in screws to their clients to follow GAAP, E&Y had identified Bally as “one of E&Y’s riskiest 18 accounts and as the riskiest account in the Lake Michigan Area.”


Floyd Norris:

The firm forced Bally to stop recording revenue in an improper manner that allowed it to claim earnings earlier than was allowed by accounting rules.
But in doing that, the firm allowed Bally to not admit to having violated the rules in the past, an action that would have forced it to restate its accounts and admit that losses in previous years had been much larger.

Mr. Norris also reported that a source of his at the SEC has stated that “he knew of no previous enforcement cases in which a partner of a major firm was cited for his actions as head of a national office.”
The partner in this case is Randy G. Fletchall, the partner in charge of E&Y’s National Office. He along with Mark V. Sever, E&Y’s National Director of Area Professional Practice, and Kenneth W. Peterson, the Professional Practice Director for the Lake Michigan Area office are the current E&Y partners who settled the charges with the SEC.
The former partners include: Thomas D. Vogelsinger, the Area Managing Partner for E&Y’s Lake Michigan Area through October 2003, William J. Carpenter, the E&Y engagement partner for the 2003 audit, and John M. Kiss, the E&Y engagement partner for the 2001 and 2002 audits.
While the news of a current partner of such lofty heights is notable, an extra twist that isn’t being reported in the MSM comes from GC contributor, Francine McKenna, who tells us that Mr. Fletchall served as the former AICPA Chairman from 2007-2008 and Mr. Sever, a former chairman of the Accounting Standards Executive Committee:

What none of the stories that just hit tell you, though, is that at least two of the EY partners charged, Fletchall and Sever, held leadership positions with the AICPA in the past.

Did Mr. Fletchall get off with a slap on the wrist given his AICPA leadership position, AICPA PAC contributions and significant campaign contributions to Senator Christopher Dodd? Mr. Fletchall is used to telling the SEC what it should do. Quite used to it.

These are interesting questions that the SEC probably doesn’t want to address. The connection, in appearance, is shady and we can only speculate as to what happened during the negotiations of the settlement.
The Commission, remaining stoic, gave a standard issue boilerplate statement, saying:

“It is deeply disconcerting that partners, even at the highest levels of E&Y, failed to fulfill their basic obligations to the investing public by not conducting proper audits. This case is a sharp reminder to outside auditors that they must carry out their duties with due diligence. The $8.5 million settlement, one of the highest ever paid by an accounting firm, reflects the seriousness of their misconduct,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

So it appears E&Y is getting sent to their room here, despite the $8.5 million fine being “one of the highest ever paid by an accounting firm.”
The firm also agreed “to undertake measures to correct policies and practices relating to its violations, and agreed to cease and desist from violations of the securities laws.”
Were the AICPA connections enough to keep them out of really hot water? At the very least, it didn’t hurt anything. If you have any information regarding this story, get in touch with us, and we will update you with any developments.
SEC Charges Ernst & Young and Six Partners for Roles in Accounting Violations at Bally Total Fitness [SEC Press Release]
EY Settles SEC Charges Re: Bally’s Fraud-Lives To Audit Another Day [Re: The Auditors]
Ernst to Pay the S.E.C. $8.5 Million [Floyd Norris/NYT]

Deloitte Survey: The Next Generation of Employees Will Not Stand for the Inability to Update Their Status

Thumbnail image for cry baby.jpgIn Deloitte’s Survey Du Jour we learn that your future underlings are going to want — nay — DEMAND the ability to move up in Farmville while they’re at work (at least one person understands your obsession).
Okay, demand is a stretch but dammit the kids these days are an ethically conscious bunch so you can trust them to get their work done while checking all their hot friend of friends.

Nearly nine-in-10 (88 percent) teens surveyed use social networks every day, with 70 percent saying they participate in social networking an hour or more daily. More than half (58 percent) said they would consider their ability to access social networks at work when considering a job offer from a potential employer. This comes as many organizations have begun implementing policies that limit access to social networks during the workday due to concerns about unethical usages, such as time theft, spreading rumors about co-workers or managers and leaking proprietary information, among other reasons.
Most of the teens surveyed feel prepared to make ethical decisions at work (82 percent) and a significant majority of teens say they do not behave unethically while using social networks (83 percent).

There’s really no cause for concern when you’ve got newbies out there asking their friends to vote for their sluttiest co-worker using a work email address. We do realize that some people make better decisions than others.
Overall, we don’t see what the BFD is. Commercials on the tube portray “responsible” adults on Facebook so to allude that the next wave of corporate soldiers would be the only ones that wouldn’t take a job with limited access to social networks seems weak. There’s plenty of people working already that have that point of view. Plus, pretty soon everyone on FB, Twitter, et al. will have phones that can run those apps. Just let people do what they want and they’ll be much happier.
Now excuse us, we’ve got strawberries to harvest.
No Facebook at Work? No Thank You! Teens Expect Access to Social Networks On-The-Job [Junior Achievement/Deloitte Poll]

Rumor Mill: Tim Flynn Paying a Visit to Montvale Today?

TimMFFlynn.jpgThat’s what we’re hearing! A source has informed us that TF is in the Garden State today “announcing a significant amount of outsourcing within the IT practice of the firm.”
Our source also indicated that TF — currently running second in the Accountant of the Decade vote — is:

…making general statements about the firm as a whole in regards to outsourcing. We were told that if we were getting outsourced there would be “advanced warning” or that they would try to move people around without letting them go, etc.

“Advanced warning” like a flare gun? Church bells? A lighthouse? The people need something more specific, TF.
It sounds both internal IT and advisory IT professionals are getting the pleasure of the pep talk so if you were there (or going this afternoon, rumor is there’s two meetings), send us your thoughts and discuss.

Don’t Forget about the Ernst & Young Holiday Rager Tonight!

In case you’ve been so distracted by the Tiger Woods story that everything else has been pushed to the back corners of your mind, we’ll remind you that New York FSO Holiday Party is tonight from 6 to 10 pm over at Tavern on the Green.

For the less fortunate of you, this may be your last chance to get some shameless ass-grabbing done. So if you’ve got nothing better to do, we suggest you check it out.

On the booze front, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that you’ll have open bar, but judging by the actions of other E&Y offices, you might want to stop by the ATM just in case.

Our invite appears to have gotten lost so if someone wouldn’t mind sending ours over that would be great. We’ll accept especially festive pics in lieu of an invite (read: JIM. TURLEY. DANCING.) Have a great time, and don’t forget who you’re representing (?).

Deloitte Changes Its Mind on Kohlberg Capital’s Ability to Value Its Investments

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DTa.jpgA friend of GC pointed us to this 8-K filed by Kohlberg Capital Corporation yesterday. Unless we’re misinterpreting this, there are some seriously awkward conversations going on between Deloitte and Kohlberg right now (our empahsis):

Deloitte issued an unqualified opinion on the Company’s December 31, 2008 financial statements, which was included in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 16, 2009. The Company is not aware of any allegation or belief by Deloitte that the information provided by the Company to Deloitte at the time of the preparation of the Financial Statements regarding the Company’s valuation methodology and procedures was incomplete or inaccurate or omitted any information requested by Deloitte at such time. On December 10, 2009, the Company and its management were advised by Deloitte that (i) the audit report issued by Deloitte accompanying the Company’s financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2008 in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for such fiscal year and (ii) Deloitte’s completed interim reviews of the Company’s financial statements for the interim periods ended March 31, 2009 and June 30, 2009 in the Company’s Quarterly Reports on Form 10−Q for those respective periods should no longer be relied upon because Deloitte had changed its position with respect to the appropriateness of the methodology and procedures used by the Company under SFAS 157 to value the Company’s investments as of the end of each of those periods and, as a result, the Company has been informed that Deloitte now believes, based upon such changed position and the additional information provided to Deloitte by the Company following Deloitte’s internal inspection process, that such Financial Statements contain material misstatements with respect to the value of the Company’s investments included therein. Accordingly, the Financial Statements should not be relied upon until the foregoing matters are resolved.

This filing followed up Kohlberg’s filing of an 8-K and form 12b-25 on November 9th to let everyone know, um, yeah, that Q is going to be late because Team D wants to take a look at this 157 stuff again. That was probably annoying enough.
But nowwwww it looks like the audit team spent the last month realizing that the pooch had been screwed on the last two 10-Qs annnnd last year’s 10-K. So yeah, don’t pay attention to the those filings. The one bright side to this is that Kohlberg had the sense to not file an unreviewed Q.
If you’ve got details on this, definitely get in touch with us, we’d love to know how the partner broke the news and how Kohlberg took it. The 8-K certainly doesn’t do that conversation justice.

Deloitte’s Latest Survey Reminds Everyone That Americans Like Vedging Out

couch.jpgDeloitte threw their “State of The Media Democracy” survey together for the fourth year in a row, and man are we glad they did. This latest opus informs us that TV is 34% of Americans’ favorite form of media and that it ranks in the top three for 70% of Americans. Viewing hours increased to almost 18 hours a week, up two hours from the same study last year.
The same survey also states that 60% of the U.S. Households have a gaming console including 70% of GenX households. So for many of you, after a long day of opining and complying, you like to go home and pwn some noobs.
Forget — for a minute — about what this reveals about Americans in general. What’s really important is that Deloitte is going out of their way to perform a survey annually that will remind all of us how lazy we are.
This is almost as helpful as as the reports based on World of Warcraft analysis. Keep up the good work, D.
Deloitte “State of The Media Democracy” Survey: Recession Intensifies America’s Love for TV [Deloitte.com]
Study: Interest in TV viewing on the rise [The Hollywood Reporter]

KPMG Prolongs the Agony by Releasing Just UK Revenue Results

Thumbnail image for 200px-KPMG.svg.pngThose of you that are dancing on one leg for KPMG’s global revenue results are going to have suffer with the anxiety for awhile longer. We know, we know. We’d love for the whole reporting season to limp into history but we have yet to hear Tim Flynn put his positive spin on this year’s revenue results.
Oh sure, we’re getting teased today by the UK firm and its European parent but this just prolongs the agony:

The UK firm saw revenues fall by 1.6%, to £1.63bn for the 30 September year end.
Profits fell 1.3% to £382m from £387m.
KPMG Europe’s revenues were €3.5bn, a 0.4% decrease on the previous year.
Its joint chairmen said the results were a “creditable performance”.
“We might have hoped for better economic conditions in our second year as a merged firm but rather than put our expansion plans on hold we have continued to pursue a whole range of strategic initiatives that will shape our performance over future years,” said John Griffith-Jones and Rolf Nonnenmacher.

Despite the disappointment Even with this creditable performance, Europe wasn’t without its problems, seeing the tax revenues drop 12%. No worries though, they promise to pull their weight 2010:

After suffering a 12% fall in tax revenues, Griffith-Jones said the service line was set to hold firm with the rest of the business next year.
“We resized the practice, and are fine where we are, [it’s performance] should be much more in line with the rest of the firm – it’s taken the pain.”

That’s the spirit! Lemons into lemonade. Now make with the band-aid ripoff method on these global results. Nobody’s expecting the world. Dump the press release, get a pep talk from TF and get back out there Kylnveldians. Here’s to 2010!
KPMG UK chief lines up modest 2010 growth [Accountancy Age]

KPMG Has to Be Pretty Happy with the Golfer They Chose to Sponsor

Phil-Mickelson_Tim Flynn.jpgAs we mentioned yesterday, Accenture is on the hunt for a new poster boy. While we speculated that poaching Phil from the House of Klynveld as a possibility for Accenture it’s more likely that the spotlight will be falling on Mickelson and his KPMG cap (black or white, depending on the mood).
Although Phil won’t be dancing on Tiger’s grave, Tim Flynn may have been quietly making the rounds at 345 Park high fiving anyone and everyone at work on the Monday after Tiger’s crash.
If you’ve got any thoughts on how TF celebrated (sweater vests for everyone!) discuss in the comments.

An Open Thread on Accountants’ Salaries at the Big 4: What Do You Make?

money.jpgWe received a request over the weekend to discuss everyone’s favorite topic: money.

This is a great idea on many levels since A) it’s been quite some time since we’ve dedicated a post to the subject B) there are plenty of newbies that have started since then but mostly C) knowing what everyone else is making is your God-given right.

Hopefully, this new thread will get everyone up to speed (or just completely pissed off on a Monday) and ready to run through brick walls in 2010.
In the comments, provide the following:
• Salary without bonus, bonus amount
• Level
• Practice (audit/tax/advisory), practice subgroup
• Firm, city/region
• Other notes/complaints
The reader requesting the thread, was kind enough to provide their details:
• $52k, $3k (in start year, bonus was a whopping $0 this year)
• Associate 2
• Audit
• PwC, Northern California

This is an equal opportunity post so regardless of your firm, get your numbers out there (this means you: GT, BDO, RSM/M&P, Crowe, Moss Adams, anyone else).

UPDATE, Tuesday: Thanks for all the input so far. Feel free to email us if you want to give us more details on your salary or ideas or other related thread discussions.

Other money related discussions:
Problem of the Day: Do You Quit Your High-Paying Job with the Idiot Boss?
Satisfied with Your Salary?
Problem of the Day: Your Staff Makes the Same Money As You (Maybe More)

Layoff Watch ’09: Deloitte

We received word late yesterday about two audit senior mangers in the Tampa office being shown the door yesterday. This makes us wonder if more professionals in the senior manager “parking lot” will take this is as a sign to either move on or will hold out hoping to eventually get a seat at the big table.
There doesn’t seem to be any kind of uniform method to the Deloitte’s cuts so if they’ve recently gone down at your office, let us know.

Does This Mean We Aren’t Going to Find Out Who’s Sleeping Their Way to Partner?

Dammit people, what’s with the amateurs? If you’re going to superficially judge your co-workers, wouldn’t common sense tell you to not to use a work email address?

Holly Leam-Taylor became the latest victim of a viral email craze when her light hearted message to colleagues spread like wildfire across the internet.

In the email, entitled Deloitte First year analysts Christmas Awards, sent on December 8, Ms Leam-Taylor asked her female colleagues to vote on which men in the office they considered most attractive.


A terribly disappointing turn of events, since it was all in good fun:

Miss Leam-Taylor, who studied at Warwick University before landing a place on the prestigious Deloitte graduate trainee scheme, said: “Obviously I never imagined the email would reach this level of awareness. Most people have recognised that what I wrote was in good spirit, but in retrospect I realise it probably wasn’t the best idea.
“It was my choice to resign and I will not be providing any further comment.”
Speaking at the family home in Staines, Middlesex, her father Andrew said: “She is very fed up about the whole thing.”

She’s fed up? What about the rest of us? We were expecting RESULTS.

Pictures, STD reports, the works. Now what the hell are we supposed to do? Is anyone willing to pick this up where poor Holly left off? If you do pick up the torch for crissakes, use a personal email address.

We cannot express our devastation further.

Analyst quits over embarrassing email [Telegraph]

Ernst & Young Updates

We’ve updated the E&Y Greensboro post to include the approximate number of professionals affected plus we’ve added an additional ball of useless to the tchotchke collection. Continue to keep us updated on both.

Deloitte Tops BusinessWeek’s ‘Best Places to Intern’ List, KPMG Gets the Silver

Thumbnail image for confidence.jpgAll right Deloitte. What are you paying BusinessWeek? Seriously, you take the “Start Your Career” crown and now you’re just getting greedy with the arbitrary magazine list championships. You’re risking backlash if you continue to dominate:

Our ranking of the best U.S.companies for undergraduate internships highlights employers who have put together an outstanding experience for students. Accounting firm Deloitte tops our list, followed by rivals KPMG (No.2) and Ernst & Young (No.3).The last of the Big Four accounting companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers, comes in at No.5, right behind consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble.


This is getting ridiculous BW. Four out of the top five spots go to Big 4? Do they really have an unbreakable stranglehold on your list methodology?

To compile our list, we judged employers based on survey data from 60 career services directors around the country and a separate survey completed by each employer. We also consider how each employer fared in the annual Best Places to Launch a Career, our ranking of top U.S. entry-level employers released in September of each year.

So, the employer’s own surveys are judged and you consider a list previously issued by you? Unless we’ve been misled, those employer might not have gone so well. As for considering your own list to make a new list, does that mean that this is basically the same list but with a different name?
Putting the methodology hocus-pocus aside, we notice that while Deloitte took home the gold medal, KPMG got the big talk up for their global rotations:

Two years ago KPMG realized it had to make a substantial investment in its internship program if it hoped to woo top students from larger consulting and accounting firms. So the company decided to offer interns an opportunity to gain valuable overseas experience. KPMG lets student interns spend four weeks in the U.S. and four weeks abroad. “It’s extremely competitive [to recruit top students], and this is a differentiator,” says Blane Ruschak, executive director of campus recruiting at KPMG.
A chance to work overseas is precisely what appealed to Andrew Fedele, 21, an accounting and economics double major at Pennsylvania State University. “I was sold pretty much when I first read about [KPMG’s] global internship program.” He spent four weeks in Chicago and four weeks in Johannesburg, South Africa. “South Africa has just such an interesting history. To go there and live with the locals and work with them was really exciting.”
What did KPMG get in return? Exactly what it hoped: Fedele accepted a full-time job almost immediately after KPMG made its offer at the end of the summer.

The article does manage to point out that “KPMG…hired nearly 900 fewer entry-level employees this year. But 91% of those full-time hires were former interns, whereas only 71% of new hires in 2008 were interns.”
The trend of fewer non-interns getting hired on at Big 4 (in this case KPMG) firms was something that we touched on in August, although BW doesn’t bother mentioning that it’s most likely due to the slashing of the firm’s hiring budgets.
We can’t give this latest meaningless index any more thought. If you’ve got an opinion on the latest jumble of the Big 4 in a BW list, leave them in the comments.
Best Places to Intern [BBW]

At One Point, Ernst & Young Was Handing This Stuff Out

Today in money well spent news, we bring you items from a care package that was sent to GC from a friend:
E&Y_DonKing.jpgEY_DK.jpg
Can anyone explain the purpose of this particular item? More pics after the jump.


SUN.jpgEY_Sun.jpg
This item also has no discernible use.
pen_hair.jpg
Um.
Anyone want to venture a guess on how much money is spent on this stuff? It’s got to be enough to foot an open bar. If you have more useless stuff that makes you question your firm’s spending habits, kindly pass them along and we’ll throw up the most useful items.
UPDATE: The most recently submitted ball of useless:
EY Ball of Useless.jpg

Is Low Bidding by Your Firm Going to Bite You in the A$$?

Sale.jpgBy now it’s no secret that accounting firms are getting all Wal-Mart with their bids/fees in order to drum up desperately needed new business and keeping current clients happy.
Offering or renegotiating lower fees, while an excellent “client service” tool, can cause all kinds of problems with staffing and the feasibility of engagements.


If you’re working on a small engagement with a tight budget, things could tricky (read: impossible) to reconcile mandatory hour work weeks to the budgeted time on your engagements.
One reader is curious as to the repercussions of all this:

[They are] low bidding jobs, taking audit clients at rates < $100/hour when average rates used to be $150 - $250/hour. Tell me they won't dump those clients when the economy turns around. Or have people eat hours on the jobs. They are desperate for work right now.

Those numbers are relative of course but it does make one wonder how this will all pan out long term. As we’ve noted, if it gets to the point to where there’s simply not enough money coming in the door, closing up shop isn’t out of the question. If you’ve got concerns, thoughts, complaints, etc. on how this latest trend will affect you and your office, discuss them in the comments.

Rumor Mill: Ernst & Young Closing Greensboro, NC Office

From a source:

Greensboro, NC office is being shut down. Admin staff are being let go. Most client serving have been given the option to transfer to Raleigh or work remotely.

We tried calling the Greensboro office but couldn’t get through to anyone and E&Y’s national PR team hasn’t returned our emails yet. This closing would follow the Manchester office closure that we initially reported on in October. We’re trying to get more details on the closure date, numbers, etc.
In the meantime, if you have more information on this rumored office closing or others get in touch with us and discuss in the comments.
UPDATE, 12/11: Another source has confirmed the closure. We’ve also learned that the Greensboro has in the nabe of 70 – 80 client service professionals. E&Y is still mum. Keep us updated.
Earlier:
Are Other Small Big 4 Offices at Risk of Closure?

More Deloitte Holiday Cheer This Week (Unofficially)

Big day everyone. Oh, sure there’s that but there are far more important things on the agenda. Namely, Christmaskuh festivities/cafeteria chats at the Stamford, Long Island and two NYC offices. Perfect opportunity to discuss the nominees for most likely to catch an STD on the path to partner.
Elsewhere in the Deloitte stable, the Chicago office is amping up for its rager that is going on this Saturday in Wrigleyville:
Picture 6.png
So by “unofficial” and “informal” we’re sure that’s the “All Clear” for someone to lose their pants and/or shirt by the end of the evening. Plus, we interpret the last line as an open invitation to P. Dubs and KPMG professionals for temporary adoption into the Deloitte family.
That might be the best chance they’ll have at taking in a butchering of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and shameless ass grabbing under the mistletoe, so we suggest they consider it.

And the Award for Deloitte Analyst Most Likely to Sleep His Way to the Top Goes To…

Gents, are you sick of being treated like eye candy? Are you tired of getting attention for your looks when all you want to do his serve your capital markets? Being judged for alleged promiscuity with superiors?

No? Cool with it? Good, because there are awards being handed out across the pond primarily based on your superficial qualities and your willingness to whore yourself out for personal success (click to enlarge).

Picture 2_jpeg.jpg

We’re filling out our ballot now but as the message says, you’ve got until the 18th, so ponder these carefully. Barry Salzberg is a lock at #6, especially if he’s wearing a hard hat.

Btw, who is going to tabulate the votes? We sure as hell can’t trust anyone from Deloitte to do it. Consider this the official RFP.
Also discuss your thoughts on the categories included, what categories are omitted, nominate yourself by sending us photos (we’ll pass them along). Anything on your mind, really.

Rumor Mill: Ernst & Young Layoffs Move on to the Advisory Practice

We’re hearing more about layoffs in E&Y’s North Central offices today. The chatter is that cuts are now hitting advisory professionals in Detroit, Toledo, and Cincinnati. Our source indicated that it was 2 – 3 professionals in each office which puts the total number of layoffs in the region over 30 since this latest round started last month.
Rumor also has it that the Columbus office — home of dollar beer night — could also get into the axe swinging but we’re scant on details at this point.
These cuts in the advisory practice would be the first we have heard of since the dozen layoffs (that we confirmed) in the Pacific-Northwest.
Continue to keep us updated with the specifics.
Earlier: (UPDATE) Layoff Watch ’09: Update on Ernst & Young

Just When You Thought All Hope Was Lost

A Festivus miracle! After we raised concerns last month that the likelihood of any PwC office having a Christmaskuh bash was nil, we’re now aware of at least one jamma-lamma-ding-dong:
Picture 5.png
Okay, it’s just the tax practice and it’s only two hours but hey, it beats the hell out of an ordinary Tuesday. Those in the audit practice will just have to crash the thing.
A word of caution however: with everything that’s gone on up in Stamford don’t knock back the Glens or white wine with anyone you don’t trust. Who knows what somebody is dropping in your cocktail.

Chairman of PwC India Steps Down, Wants Time to ‘Look at Other Things’

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgThis is the latest development in the Satyscam that P. Dubs hasn’t been able to wish away.
Ramesh Rajan still had a ways to go in his current four year term as the India Chair which might suggest that someone told Ram that his services were no longer needed:

Rajan, who was at the helm of affairs when the Satyam scam broke early this year, had about one-and-a-half years remaining of his four-year tenure as the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers India network of entities (PwC India). When contacted, he refused to divulge exact reasons behind his sudden exit, and said he wanted time to “look at other things” within the firm and “allow someone else to take charge of the operations.”

Gosh, that’s a little mysterio. Apparently he was having such a good time that he wanted someone else to experience the fun? Okay then. The new lucky duck is Gautam Banerjee, and he is coming over from Singapore pronto to take the wheel.
We’re confident he’ll do a bang-up job but we’ll take this opportunity to remind him that he’s still got some auditors in jail and a lot of pissed investors that want PwC to pony up. Probably should get crackin’.
Satyam effect? Chairman of PwC India steps down [Times of India]

Operation Bear Hugs Debrief

Thumbnail image for Tim_Bear_King_jpeg.jpgSeriously Kylnveldians, we were hoping for a stellar report on last Friday’s nationwide Bear Hugs but so far we’ve heard nothing (other than some people were bolting early to get their drink on).
We’ll take your radio silence as admission that you had an awesome time and that not having an open bar rager wasn’t so bad after all. Besides, it’s for the kids.
There’s video of the New York Office’s get-together over CBS2 where we learn that there was actual sewing involved and a dancing bear to keep everyone entertained.
Share your thoughts on the experience including if your bear’s head ended up on its ass, if you couldn’t resist spiking the punch, or if you were MIA and what your punishment is.

Jim Quigley, Still ‘a Proud Aggie,’ Fails to Go Out on a High Note

Jim_quigley.jpgThat’s right, he’s proud. Never mind that the football team just finished their season 4 – 8. Sports aren’t everything.
The Big Q, swindler of unsuspecting journalists, took time away from calling CEOs on private jets to give a speech at Utah State (his alma mater) to faculty and students on ethics.
We won’t give you all the gory details since CNN probably is working on that piece right now. We’d hate to steal their thunder.


We will mention that Quigs is swelling with pride that USU’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business Scholars agree to “principles” which he quoted in the speech:

“I agree to conduct myself according to the highest ethical standards. I will accept personal responsibility for my conduct and any consequences for mistakes, accidental or intentional. I will be honest, truthful and fair in alof my actions and interactions with others. I will also demonstrate civil, respectful and courteous concern for and behavior toward others at all times both in and outside of the classroom.”

It seems like a fine group of sentences but I implore you: is it an oath/promise laminated on tiny cards? Hardly, dude.
Ethics and integrity aside, Quigs’ remarks seem like the standard boilerplate metaphors and clichés. Hell, he even quotes the Oracle in his conclusion, “Warren Buffett said: ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’ And, once lost, it can take years to rebuild.”
It works well enough but we would have rather heard Quigs wrap it up with “I’ve never gone to bed with an ugly woman but I’ve sure woke up with a few.” It would’ve brought the house down. High note, Quigs. Always look to go out on that high note.
Jim_Quigley_Utah_State_remarks.pdf

Deloitte’s Commitment to Client Service Will be Tested by Dubai World

Thumbnail image for dubai-the-world.jpgLast week we touched on Deloitte and KPMG facing off in the whole Dubai World fiasco. Today we get the lowdown on the possible difficulties that Aidan Birkett — Deloitte’s MD of corporate finance and the Chief Restructuring Offficer of DW — could run into serving his finicky client.
Hard to believe that a group of über-wealthy sheiks (responsible for re-creating the Earth out of tiny man-made islands, no less) would resist outside advice but it sounds like Birkett will have his hands full.


Zawya Dow Jones:

Bankers say his biggest challenge will be getting Dubai’s government to listen. It’s unclear whether he’ll be given a free hand to remodel Dubai World without the interference of the emirate’s political elite.
“When a foreigner comes into the country, ultimately what happens is that the door closes, people speak Arabic, they come out and they say that’s the deal,” said a Dubai-based investment banker, who asked not to be named.

That doesn’t sound complicated. Go to meeting. Listen to your interpreter struggle to keep up. The sheiks nod in agreement at each other. Meeting adjourned.
Naturally, Deloitte is confident that their man will get what he wants:

People who have worked with Birkett in the past say he is a tough operator and will demand that his advice is heeded by Dubai’s powerful sheiks.
“He is robust and he’s absolutely straight, no nonsense,” said Deloitte’s Ward in Dubai. “He doesn’t have to upset everybody along the way but he gets his own way.”

Sounds like a perfect recipe for a boardroom blowup/storm out session to us. DW doesn’t sound like it has a lot of options since all their assets were purchased with debt, so it’ll be interesting to see how they rationalize their “we’ll do whatever the hell we want” attitude. Best of luck, Deloitte.
FOCUS: Deloitte’s Birkett Faces Struggle With Dubai Sheiks [Zawya Dow Jones via WSJ]

Rumor Mill: The Latest E&Y Columbus Details Include $1 Beers

We continue to receive details about the layoffs at E&Y’s Columbus office. The first bit of information is that one of the unlucky few — a recently promoted SA — was given one day to consider taking a transfer to another office. According to our source, the client the SA was serving caught wind of the dismissal and the client’s reaction convinced TPTB to let the SA stay on an additional week to finish his/her work.
Our source also indicated that new manager training was going on at the time and “those [managers] with potentially the best chance to speak on the behalf of those to be axed were all in sunny Florida oblivious to the proceedings.”
Oh and the dollar beers thing. As you may remember, the layoffs occurred the day before the office’s holiday get-down. The rumor is that the festivities had a tab in the nabe of $1,200, which included $1 beers.
This causes us to wonder a few things: A) No open bar? B) Beast or Natty Light? and C) we realize Columbus is a college town but $1 beers? Were there penny pitchers and $3 Jager shots too?
For reasons that escape us, we’re completely enamored with details that continue to emerge from this. Continue to keep us updated.
Earlier:
E&Y Columbus Layoffs Update
Layoff Watch ’09: Update on Ernst & Young’s November Round

PwC’s Moritz: ‘We Will Have Base Increases Next Year’

Thumbnail image for moritz_becks.jpgNow we’re talking! Nothing like calling your shot.

Moritz did his best Joe Namath today on PwC’s firm wide webcast today (is it over?) so all that speculation of P. Dubs phoning in 2010 can be put to rest. WRITE. IT. DOWN.

If you’ve got other thoughts or details on the web cast, get in touch and discuss in the comments.

E&Y Columbus Layoffs Update

Just a little more context on the latest E&Y layoffs that we reported on this morning.
A new source has indicated to us the cuts were absolutely based on utilization:

The staff confirmed that no counselor was addressed.
The staff confirmed that no personnel with whom the individual worked within the past 6-8 months was consulted, including manager and above.
The staff confirmed that no performance reviews since April 2009 were referenced.
You better have a strong anchor client that keeps you going year round, and good luck if you lose them. So much for people.

We don’t feel further comment is necessary but if you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments.

Layoff Watch ’09: Update on Ernst & Young’s November Round

It’s been a couple of weeks since we last heard any details from last month’s layoffs at E&Y, so we just assumed this particular story had run its course.
Well now, we have received word of (and confirmed) layoffs in the Columbus, Ohio office. One source indicates it was 2 – 3 staff and possibly one manager in the assurance practice. This would put the number of layoffs in the North Central region in the nabe of 25. Our source indicated that it seemed that Columbus had been spared for the round last month, so this may be their attempt to catch up.
Annnnnnd it’s our understanding that the cuts happened the day before the holiday party in Columbus. So there’s that.
If you have additional details, continue to pass them along and continue to keep us updated on any layoffs you hear for your office.

Rumor Mill: KPMG Debunking ‘Six Year Manager’ Rumors?

corp_ladder.jpgWhile many Klynveldians are getting amped to cobble together some bears for the kids this morning we’ll pass along a little rumor about a rumor.

The rumor that the KPMG bigwigs have been considering a six year timeline to make manager in the audit practice has been kicked around for at least a couple years. Naturally, there were two schools of thought:

• Managers thought it was good idea

• SAs thought it was a terrible idea

According to a tip we received, apparently there is an email floating around that says the rumors about a “six year program are not true and that the firm will continue with existing promotion timing.”

A friend of GC told us that while it’s entirely possible that such an email exists, it’s definitely not coming down from 345 Park and could be some local office trying to calm down those SAs that are considered flight risks.

Regardless of the rumored debunking, the path to partner is certainly becoming longer as we reported earlier this week, and early promotions will still happen based on need or political maneuvering.

If you’ve been notified that your promotion timing is still on track, by email or otherwise, pass the info along or discuss in the comments.

Deloitte Gets into the Ribbon-Cutting

Thumbnail image for grand opening.jpgMore giant scissor danger today as Deloitte had its own ribbon-cutting in Arlington, VA to open their new Federal headquarters. According to the firm’s press release will serve as the “hub for Deloitte’s Federal Government Services.”
The firm’s press release explains how this year’s BearingPoint acquisition provided Big D with many plunders:

“The opening of our new Federal headquarters today is the final milestone in the integration of Deloitte and BearingPoint,” said Robin Lineberger, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and leader of Deloitte Federal Government Services. “Deloitte was already a leader in the Federal marketplace, and the acquisition marked an aggressive expansion into the U.S. federal space, gave us increased market share, strengthened our global position and altered the entire competitive landscape. With the integration of the teams now complete, we’re thrilled to continue serving our clients in the important work they do.”

Still feels like Deloitte might be dancing on the BP grave a little bit but maybe that’s just us.
Anyhoo, now that Deloitte is well positioned to get some lobbying done better serve its Fed clients, all the blue collar efforts can focus on The U.
Deloitte Opens New Federal Headquarters In Arlington [Press Release]

Are You Ready to Build Some Bears KPMG?

Tim_Bear_King_jpeg.jpg“Tim, you really shouldn’t have. Seriously. I’m a King, for crying out loud.”

In case you’ve forgotten, KPMG’s bear-building extravaganza is tomorrow and word around the campfire is that everyone is psyched.

At least one office is dedicating the better part of the morning to the “Town Hall” portion of festivities which sounds like it could be a real hoot. We’re guessing there might be a little session regarding stationery controls, given the whole Canopy sitch.

Since all the offices are having their get-downs tomorrow keep us updated throughout the day on anything interesting that comes up.

(UPDATE) KPMG’s Letterheadgate May Require the Firm to Revisit Stationery Controls or Get Rid of the Blue Squares

kpmg_pink.gifAll right Klynveldians, we don’t know which one of you was a little generous with the letterhead but you’ve really done it.
Jeremy Blackburn, COO and President of Canopy Financial was able to raise $75 million for Canopy Financial based on bogus audit reports he provided to investors and pocketed more than $2 million for himself, according to the SEC’s complaint against Blackburn and the Company.


We’ll give the man credew the script:

Blackburn sent [Canopy CEO, Vikram] Kashyap an email dated June 30, 2009, attaching the KPMG Audit Report and the audited Canopy financial statements, with an email subject heading of “Audit Finally Complete,” and email text stating “I never wanna [sic] go through this again!!”

Kashyap apparently wasn’t in on the little secret that KPMG was not engaged to audit squat for Canopy. Nice work staying on top of everything, Vik. Meanwhile, Canopy’s investment bank, Financial Technology Partners, didn’t need an email telling them the audit was hell. They just ran to VCs with the notion that everything was on the up and up.
The bank is all bent out of shape because they’re taking heat and claim ‘We clearly had no clue about any such wrongdoing.’ Who wants to bother with the auditors? As Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch notes, “A 10 second phone call could have cleared this up before investors plowed $85 million into the company.”
The whole thing finally went south when Canopy’s new general counsel contacted an acquaintance at KPMG to help him find a new CFO. Canopy’s general counsel then sent over the “audit report.”

KPMG quickly responded to Canopy and advised Canopy in a “Cease-and-Desist Demand” letter dated November 3, 2009, that Canopy used KPMG’s name without KPMG’s authorization and consent. Further, KPMG told Canopy that it: (1) had never been retained nor agreed to audit any of Canopy’s financial statements; and (2) did not issue the audit opinion dated June 29, 2009. KPMG demanded, among other things, that Canopy “immediately CEASE AND DESIST from using the subject report and/or the unauthorized use of the KPMG name….”

It’s seems obvious that KPMG did nothing wrong here but this is still a big bowl of awkward. The firm’s name is all over the complaint and who knows how many other companies are running around with the firm’s letterhead throwing their “audited” financials around.
As we’ve indicated, this may call for a completely new look for KPMG. That means no more blue squares. We realize that’s a horrifying thought but the whole firm may be compromised. If you’ve got suggestions for the look (other than pink) or any thoughts on this snafu, discuss in the comments.
UPDATE: A tiny clarification/correction here: The original post over at Tech Crunch states, “Multiple sources have told us that Canopy was absolutely making up their financial statements, even forging audited statements with fake KMPG [sic] letterhead.” One could get the impression from our post here that genuine KPMG letterhead was used. That does not seem to be the case. The SEC’s complaint states that the audit report was “falsified” or “forged” without mentioning the authenticity of letterhead.
Nevertheless, we still stand by our conclusion that the Firm has no choice to either revisit stationery controls (since it’s obvious you can’t just get the shit anywhere) or change the entire logo as a precautionary measure. Similarly, we will continue to address this particular scandal as “Letterheadgate” to best follow the tradition of any scandal happening in the post-Nixon era to be suffixed with “gate”. We’re done here.
Canopy Complaint.pdf
Canopy Financial Turns Into Sad, Comical Game Of Hot Potato [Tech Crunch]
Earlier: KPMG Will be Stingy with the Letterhead From Now On

Apparently Some Men at Deloitte Have Trouble Understanding Their Female Colleagues

salzberg-barry.jpg

If any Deloittians were even remotely concerned that Bloomberg would squash the BusinessWeek list franchise — and thus stealing Deloitte’s crown — as part of yesterday’s completed ause for concern because the big D is now extra super special.

Deloitte has been named the “model employer” in conjunction with “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” according to a press release.


The release is not yet available on the Deloitte website so we’ve presented it here:

SHRIVER REPORT NAMES DELOITTE MODEL EMPLOYER


Deloitte Recognized for its Strategies to Adapt to the Evolving Workforce


NEW YORK, December 2, 2009 — Deloitte LLP has been named the “model employer” in conjunction with “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” a study released last month by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress. The Shriver Report is an in-depth study and analysis of what has happened, and what still needs to happen, now that women comprise half of the United States workforce and contribute significantly to household income. The study explores how business, government, the media and other institutions can work together to adapt and benefit from the trend.

The report has been delivered to President Obama, each of the Fortune 500 CEOs and all 535 members of Congress. Shriver has presented its findings to the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The Shriver Report refers to Deloitte as “an excellent example of an employer that has taken an aggressive leadership position in protean career approaches,” providing career-life integration programs that allow both the organization and its workforce — women and men — to reach their goals.

Barry Salzberg, chief executive officer of Deloitte LLP, said, “Deloitte applauds The Shriver Report’s efforts to raise awareness of a trend that is not only transforming our institutions, but providing them with opportunities to grow, innovate and enhance their performance. Through our own substantial efforts to retain and advance women, we’re realizing the benefits and value to our organization, to the clients we serve, and to the cities and communities in which we do business.”

In 1993, Deloitte established the first major corporate initiative for the retention and advancement of women to harness opportunities presented by the growing representation of women in the workforce. Today, Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative focuses on building a strong pipeline of women professionals that strengthens leadership, drives marketplace growth and creates a culture where the best people — women and men — choose to be. Through a variety of ongoing professional development, mentoring and career-life programs, Deloitte has increased the number of women partners, principals and directors to more than 1,000 today from 97 in 1993.

Most recently, recognizing that one-size-fits-all workplace practices suit fewer and fewer professionals, Deloitte has moved from a corporate ladder to a corporate lattice model of career development. No longer is moving up the ultimate goal — there are now many ways to have a successful career. Since adopting this model, Deloitte’s has enjoyed a 25 percent increase in overall employee satisfaction with career-life fit and earned the No.1 ranking on BusinessWeek’s list of “Best Places to Launch a Career” in 2009.

“Deloitte’s experience since the inception of our Women’s Initiative parallels the journey described in The Shriver Report — the transition from a fixed idea of what professionals must to do develop their careers to the idea that career development can be more fluid. We have steered our organization toward a new paradigm of work, one that allows both men and women the flexibility to grow their careers and live their lives, without having to sacrifice one for the other,” said Barbara Adachi, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and leader of Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative.

Deloitte’s leading talent initiatives and benefits include:

• Mass Career Customization ™ — a model that enables all Deloitte professionals to dial up and dial down their careers to fit their needs at various life stages

• Women as Buyers, a program to help men at Deloitte build stronger relationships with women clients and colleagues by better understanding their work styles

• A voluntary sabbatical program that allows Deloitte employees to take up to six months off to engage in volunteering and other personal pursuits

• Deloitte University, a state-of-the-art learning and leadership development facility currently under construction to foster personal and professional growth at Deloitte

• Paid parental leave with no minimum eligibility requirements, emergency back-up dependent day care, adoption assistance, and a Personal Pursuits program to support those who take career breaks for up to five years

About Deloitte
As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and Deloitte Services LP, separate subsidiaries of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.

Dr. Phil is obviously ecstatic since he’s been out there working the diversity angle. And we have to admit that it’s nice recognition for the firm. A couple of more notable things fell under “Deloitte’s leading talent initiatives and benefits.”
We’re all familiar with Deloitte’s version of Delta Chi. The destruction will be centralized and will not doubt save the firm millions in the long run. Brilliant.

We’re even more interested in the “Women as Buyers” program. Unless we misunderstand, there must be a hell of a lot of men at Deloitte that need help understanding that their female colleagues aren’t interested in spending 2 – 3 hours a day strategizing for this week’s matchup in fantasy football. Or that shirts come in colors other than blue. Couldn’t they have passed out copies of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus instead?

Gents, if you’ve participated in the Women as Buyers program we’d love to hear about it, since our speculation about the content is suspect at best. Also, feel free to discuss Deloitte’s latest triumph (not to mention promotion opportunity) in the realm of ubiquitous employer lists.

Here’s a Good Example of How Not to Sue a Big 4 Firm

Thumbnail image for morans.jpgWere you at all concerned that you would never hear another story about a lawsuit related to the AOL/Time Warner merger from 2001? A merger described by BusinessWeek as possibly being the “worst of the worst.”
AOL’s revenue recognition practices for booking online ad revenue led to restatements of their financial results from 2000 to 2002. This led to hundreds of shareholder lawsuits, most of which were consolidated into a class action suit. All of the suits have been settled or dismissed.
E&Y, who audited the AOL portion of this little gem, has now had the final lawsuit against the them dismissed. Back in 2003, AOL shareholder Dominic Amarosa decided that he was going to file suit on his own rather join the class action. Problem was, he didn’t file suit on time and failed to connect his losses to statements that were made by E&Y. Those both sound kind of important.
On top of that, Judge Colleen McMahon didn’t really care for the plaintiff or his attorney Christopher Gray, calling Amarosa a ‘vexatious litigant pursuing clearly frivolous claims’ and Gray’s tactics, ‘shenanigans.’ Judge McMahon also indicated that she was considering sanctions against Gray for said shenanigans.
So if you’re looking for a blueprint on how to completely screw the pooch on a lawsuit against a Big 4 firm, this is probably a good place to start.
Lawsuit over Time Warner-AOL merger dismissed [Reuters]

Are Other Small Big 4 Offices at Risk of Closure?

closed.jpgEditor’s Note: Francine McKenna is a regular contributor to Going Concern
We came across a report in the Birmingham Business Journal (subscription required for full article) describing the reduction in professionals of the KPMG office there from 63 to 39 after two rounds of layoffs.
While there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the office will be closing, the reduction is significant enough to get us wondering if there hadn’t been talk about pulling the plug altogether.


On that note, we recalled the Manchester, NH closure we reported on last month and we called up the folks in Live Free or Die country to get the latest. While the receptionist was very helpful, the person we were eventually connected to decided that hanging up on us was the best course of action.
Undeterred, we reached out to E&Y’s national PR team and they provided us with the following statement:

After careful consideration and based on our analysis of the market, we have decided to close our Manchester office by the end of November. As part of that process, a number of our people will transfer to the Boston office, and our clients will be served from the Boston office.

Unfortunately, since “a number of our people will transfer to the Boston office” we can only assume that there will be a number of people that will not transfer to Boston.
We reached out to all the Big 4 firms regarding this issue, with E&Y being the only one to respond and they only addressed the Manchester office specifically. Wanting more perspective, we asked our contributor, Francine McKenna, for her thoughts:

Small office closures mirror the fortunes of local economies they operate in, including the limited number of clients some offices have been built on. Often just one/two parters wanting to be closer to home, have Managing Partner title.

There has been a considerable amount of chatter regarding office closures so we decided a thread on the issue was due. Discuss your thoughts/speculation on office closures (including any more details on E&Y Manchester) for your firm in the comments and keep us updated with your tips.

Deloitte, KPMG Will Make Out Okay on This Whole Dubai Thing

dubai-the-world.jpgIf you spent the last four days in a tryptophan-induced coma, you may have missed the news that there’s a bit of a problem in Dubai. A $59 billion problem.

Long/short: Dubai World, the state sponsored investment company, asked for a six month extension on repaying principal and interest maturities to its lenders.

While this spooked a lot of people, the latest reports indicate that Dubai is of the opinion that it’s NBD.


Despite the claims by DW that nothing is fucked, it’s being reported that at least two Big 4 firms will get to bill the hell out of the parties privy to this latest debt-related SNAFU.
Dubai World has hired Deloitte to help them restructure their house of cards debt while KPMG is representing banks that hold $30 billion of the Dubai World debt in the negotiations. Now while we’d like to imagine tense, smoked-filled rooms with fists being slammed on conferences tables and screaming into speaker phones, it’s likely that it will be a much more cordial affair but we remain hopeful.

As for the other two usual suspects, why E&Y has been left out of the proceedings altogether is a mystery but the PwC/Becks/Dubai World connection seems like a good enough reason to us to keep P. Dubs on the sidelines. Call it a hunch.

We’ll keep you updated on the Big 4 angle of this story as it continues long into 2010.

KPMG lined up in $30bn Dubai rescue mission [The Independent]
Also see: Duh, Dubai! [JDA]
Deloitte Versus KPMG in Dubai World Saga [The Big Four Blog]

Ernst & Young Is Thankful for Lawyers, Possibly Toblerones

Thumbnail image for madoff-sentenced.jpgJust when we think the Madoff beat has quieted down, we’re reminded that the tentacles of the Ponzi scheme of our lifetime reach far and wide and for that we are thankful.


Not because we enjoy the carnage that has come about from this particular scheme. No, that would be in bad taste. We’re mostly thankful because we’re certain that today, 90% of you will spend the entire day gabbing about turkey-lurkey-do instead of sending us details on your firm’s cost saving initiative du jour, thus making it a slow news day.
So, thank you Berns, for providing us a story on this most non-productive day of the year:

Private and institutional investors who lost money through Access International Advisors LLC’s LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection are suing UBS and Ernst & Young for “seriously neglecting” their supervisory duties of the fund. A Luxembourg court will decide in hearings that started today whether investors have the right to bring direct claims against the fund’s custodian and auditor.
“These cases are very important,” Pierre Reuter, who represents clients in six of the lawsuits being reviewed over four days of hearings, said by telephone before the hearing. “They could set the course for some 100 pending cases and many more to come.”

Since these are simply “test cases” the plaintiffs will be anxious to see the results, especially since the Swiss are involved. A pallet of Toblerones will certainly find their way to the offering table at some point. Whether UBS allows E&Y to squeeze in on this valuable bargaining chip remains to be seen.
UBS, Ernst & Young Face Test Cases Over Madoff Funds [Bloomberg]