It’s the middle of February and many of you are somewhere between completely exhausted and death warmed up. This is not lost on blogger extraordinaire Steve Chipman. SC’s weekly info session has been crucial to your survival (even though it’s not meant for all of you). Knowing that his soothing words will only get you so far, he’s taken a different approach this week.
Since it was St. Val’s on Sunday, Chip figured he would mark the day for lovers by boosting your spirits by using the words of GTers less CEO-y than himself.
Today I’d like to offer some inspiration to help us push through busy season. The last year and a half have required so much more from everyone that it’s hard to imagine we can work even harder, but it’s evident that we are everywhere I look.
So what keeps us going? That’s what I was looking for when I reviewed the “I am Grant Thornton” interviews we conducted last fall. We asked a variety of people in different roles, in different offices and at different levels if they felt they made a difference, and, if so, how.
It is hard to imagine that you can work harder, isn’t it? Your spreadsheets are bleeding through your monitors, you’ve ingested far more MSG than is recommended, and your cube farm neighbor (who ordinarily smells funny) is looking hot .
And we weren’t aware of this “I am G to the T” exercise but it sounds stupendous. Who knew your personal experiences would be used at this most crucial time of year? Bet you would have really put some thought into if if you had known your words could possibly have been immortalized on Steve-o’s blog.
Here are some carefully selected examples from SC’s list and our thoughts on each:
“When a client calls me and says, “Can I pick your brain?” it’s so great because (1) they recognize I have a brain” – We agree that it’s nice when your client recognizes that you are of the same species.
“I had a client tell me recently, and I’m quoting, ‘We hire Grant Thornton because you get [stuff] done.’” – That’s Stephen’s edit. This is a family blog, people.
“I make a difference every day because I work here.” – And because my mother said so.
“Every day is a great achievement.” – We agree. Crawling out of bed is tough.
“How do I make a difference? . . . You know, I’m happy.” – God, you’re one of those happy people.
“I’ve worked at the big firms. We are not bigger by any means, but it’s a question of caliber. I knew it from my first day on the job here. We’re just a different caliber of firm.” – We’re not size queens at GT.
Steve-o’s send-off has us begging for more and also causes us to wonder A) who is this homecoming queen? and B) is Chip a Bass or a Tenor?
I’m also proud to say that among our great people are a former homecoming queen and a professional make-up artist. Of equal wonder, one of you found the most surprising thing about coming to Grant Thornton was “that all the partners have great singing voices.”
There’s more where that came from, but this is the firm’s Valentine to you.
Thanks for you!
You could do back-to-back busy season now, couldn’t you?
Our favorite TaxProf that we never had was quoted in a Wall St. Journal explaining how not only the winnings of Olympic athletes are taxable but also how the fair value of their medals could theoretically be taxable.
Someone read this and took immediate action:
Whether or not TaxProf Caron has a picture of V.I. Lenin in his office is not known but based on where he stands in comparison to our contributor Joe Kristan, we’d say the writer of the letter is misguided. Or Glenn Beck.
Investors in Koss Corporation are lining up in the pending litigation against the company and a press release from law firm Carney Williams, announced this morning that those interested in as lead plaintiff have until March 12th to make their desires known.
Form the press release, “The Company and certain key executives are alleged to have violated federal securities laws by issuing false financial statements and failing to maintain adequate internal and financial controls.”
Many, like Tracy Coenen, have argued that the internal controls are management’s responsibility and Grant Thornton was not engaged to audit these controls but does that mean that GT will dodge these investor lawsuits?
We spoke with Randy Pulliam, a partner at Carney Williams on the case if he expected Grant Thornton to be named in the litigation, “the lead plaintff will ultimately decide as to who will be named in the litigation, including the accountants.”
There’s nearly a month until the deadline so it’s far too early to tell who will decide whether Grant Thornton needs to be included but we’ll go on record saying that we’d be shocked(!) if GT manages to get forgotten in this whole matter. Regardless of your feelings on the firm’s responsibility (i.e. GT should have discovered the fraud or not) the fact that Sue Sachdeva is accused of embezzling $31 million over a period of five years while Grant Thornton was auditing Koss will not be lost on the investors or their attorneys.
“This is a five year class period so many investors are eligible to participate,” Mr. Pulliam told us. Plenty of investors out there would like to see someone make things right. Grant Thornton seems like a decent candidate especially since their pockets are far deeper than Koss’. So if you asked us to put a wild-ass guess on the odds of Grant Thornton being named in the lawsuit, we’d put it somewhere in the nabe of 10-1. Not Mine that Bird territory but not Secretariat either.
We left a message at Koss and dropped an email to Grant Thornton seeking comment and neither have gotten back to us at this time. We’ll continue to update you on the developments, shopping addictions and otherwise.
• IASB softens stance on convergence [FT]
We’re not jumping to any conclusions but yesterday the IASB made the statement that it “would no longer pursue convergence with its US peer as ‘an objective in itself'”. Now we’re not entirely sure what “an objective in itself” means but it kinda, sorta sounds like “to hell with you FASB, we’ve got our own plans.”
This revelation was part of “constitution review” in order for the IASB “to justify its public accountability” to its critics. In this review the IASB seemed to be changing its tone on just what convergence is:
In a review of its constitution published on Monday the IASB’s oversight board addressed this concern over the convergence project and said it would “emphasise that convergence is a strategy aimed at promoting and facilitating the adoption of IFRS, but it is not an objective by itself”.
So just spreading the good word about IFRS without any stated objective? Does that sound about right? It sounds a little like financial reporting evangelism.
• Wake graduates get highest passing rates on CPA exam [Winston Salem-Journal]
This is in no way presented to make you feel bad about yourself. Here are the 2008 (the most recent data available) passing rates at WF: 93% on FAR; 87.5% on Audit; 83.22% on regulation; 93.7% on BEC. The overall passing rate was 89.7%. The University has had the highest scores five years running.
If you need to go cry in the bathroom, you may do so now.
• Rams buyer’s $85 million battle with IRS [Chicago Tribune]
Shahid Khan announced last week that he was buying 60% of the St. Louis Rams. Great news right? Ordinarily, yes but now the NFL is looking into his association with a BDO tax partner that was convicted of helping clients avoid taxes through shelters.
The IRS said in court papers that the Khans hired the Chicago-based BDO Seidman accounting firm and met with tax partner Robert Greisman. The Khans engaged in at least five questionable tax shelters, with names like Son-of-Boss and Dad, and paid BDO $8.5 million in fees, about 10 percent of the alleged tax savings, according to court documents.
Yet when the revenue agency questioned Khan about his returns, he was unable to identify what services BDO provided, an IRS agent said in court documents. In April 2007, the IRS made formal requests for information to Greisman and one of his partners in Michigan in connection with its investigation of the Khans.
Greisman pleaded guilty last July to conspiracy charges related to the creation of the shelters and BDO is currently being sued by Khan for negligence and malpractice. The NFL may have saved them themselves the trouble by letting Rush Limbaugh own part of the team…
We didn’t get the third installment of Stephen Chipman’s blog until late last week and apparently while the Grant Thornton CEO seems to be keeping up his promise to come at you once a week, he’s going to be a bit more reserved going forward.
Last week SC shared a few insights from his readers, however we warned that he wouldn’t be sharing the most intimate details (e.g. ragers in Atlanta):
“Because large portions of my blog are finding their way to external Web sites, I will answer some sensitive or strategic questions via internal e-mail and send my responses directly to the person who posed them.”
Well, shucks. We’re not sure what “external websites” SC is referring to but as far as our humble posts are concerned, we merely provide snapshots that certainly don’t qualify as “large portions”. If you guys are aware of someone reposting the posts in full, get in touch with us and we’ll let them know at GTHQ.
We’re also curious as to what will qualify as “sensitive or strategic questions”. Is SC getting prodded with nosy questions about Sue Sachdeva? If so, he could at least give us a diagnosis on her supposed shopaholic tendencies. That doesn’t seem too sensitive. It’s most certainly not strategic.
We’d also like to hear his thoughts on Grant Thornton being vindicated in the Overstock.com circus. Patrick Bryne said some pretty nasty things about Steve’s beloved firm. This is the perfect opportunity for Steve-o to throw it in Patsy’s face via an all-out blog-off. Does he take it? So far, no. Sensitive? Absolutely not. This is justice. Strategic? Not really. Chip must get enough satisfaction knowing that the firm clear of the whole thing and doesn’t see the need for gloating. We’ve got two words for that: MISSED. OPPORTUNITY.
Because of this new cautious approach, we don’t have any parties or white whales to share this week but SC did mention that he got a little face time with SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker. And don’t think that just anyone was invited to this little sit-down, “I was honored to be included in this very small group, which also included the CEOs of two large competitors.”
Well! We’re assuming Chip is referring to two B-I-G-F-O-U-R competitors and only since only two of them were there, this is pretty H-U-G-E opportunity for Steve. SC won’t turn down a little glad-handing with the Chief Accountant, no sir. Unfortch, he didn’t really get into what was said at the meeting but we’re sure it was a stimulating convo: Olympic fever. St. Val’s gifts for the wives. Maybe some talk about the nonexistent SEC roadmap on IFRS? Here’s to hoping that he’ll open up more this week.
We’ll dispense with quote of the day today in favor of the words from awwyea.
This is type of comment you should be striving for my friends.
We’ll be on a light posting schedule for the holiday on Monday. Have a great weekend and try to see your sweetheart on Sunday rather than sexting them (especially the PwC peeps).
If you’re a resident of the Lone Star State and you happen to frequent the peelers, you’re probably familiar with the $5 charge that you pay to enjoy a little bit of entertainment.
Well good news! The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and determine if that $5 violates the First Amendment right to free expression and maybe this travesty can be put to bed once and for all.
The Texas Court of Appeals ruled the law was discriminatory against establishments that served alcohol since as Kay Bell explained then, “a play involving nudity did not trigger the tax…that meant that, had the law stood, the touring company of…Hair could have come to Texas.”
If you simply wanted to go to Treasures in Houston and have a beer and appreciate some artistic impression to Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Def Leppard, etc. then the tax applied. The $12 million that the state collected while the law was in effect is still being held in an account while they sort this out. What’s not clear is if that money will be returned to the patrons or simply given to employees of the clubs where the money was going to end up anyway.
Texas stripper ‘pole tax’ to get review [Don’t Mess With Taxes]
We’re going to be frank; Jim Peterson is a cerebral guy. When you read his posts over at Re:Balance you never get the impression that he just rolls out of bed after a night in Wrigleyville and pounds out a post. His blogging can turn your head in knots and we think that’s a good thing.
Jim is an attorney that has spent “thirty-five years on complex multi-national matters involving corporate financial information.” He spent 19 years as in-house counsel and partner at a national accounting firm working on policy and risk management strategies.
He also spent five-plus years penning “Balance Sheet” a column for the International Herald Tribune. He now spends his time teaching risk management to MBA candidates at DePaul University in Chicago and ISEG in Paris.
Are you a CPA – Y/N?:
I am not a CPA – frequently mistaken for one, but only by those who miss the evidence that a “words guy” is on the loose in a numbers business.
If someone had to read just one post of yours which one would it be?
From May 17, 2009: “Which Accounting Firm Will Be ‘Next to Fail?’ It’s the Wrong Question” – an attempt to capture in a single post my central theme, which is the threatened survivability of the large-firm assurance franchise, the perilous condition of the Big Four business model, and the absence of real dialog on achievable solutions short of their catastrophic disintegration.
Bloggers on accounting are…
By and large driven by an instinct for the capillary. I happily give respect to those focused on the technical and operational minutia – although they are mainly keeping the deck chairs neatly arrayed on the deck of a sinking ship.
Favorite non-accounting blog…
The Soay Sheep Chronicles – by a retired couple, a big-city lawyer and an academic, who rescued and now operate a sheep farm in Oregon. Writes rings around Verlyn Klinkenborg’s pastorals in the NY Times, and teaches those of us ignorant of the subject about the opportunities for personal life-change and renewal. Full disclosure: the author is my sister.
Best accounting firm we’ve never heard of…
Financial Reporting Advisors, LLC – A Chicago boutique — alumni of the Arthur Andersen professional standards group – with a business model beautifully adapted to the hazards of today’s practice. They do no audit work, and issue no opinions. They advise global-scale companies on the intricacies of accounting standards, literature and requirements – while leaving ultimate decision-making to reside with their clients.
So they deliver wisdom and value, with virtually no litigation exposure. Their practice is one example of the available ways the profession might re-engineer its way out of the presently untenable survivability tensions in which it is entangled.
Seriously people. For most of you, this isn’t a problem. You gird up your loins, duck your head and bulldoze your way through this time of year just like you’ve done in years past. Busy season sucks. We all know that.
Who in their right mind interviews with the Big 4 et al. and is thinking, “The hours won’t be that bad,” or “I probably won’t have to travel” OR “Big 4 salaries are good enough for me”?
The Big 4 Exodus is something that has been discussed at length here but until we’ve yet to discuss this particular topic.
Yes, the trend of accounting firm layoffs is demoralizing and yes, merit increases were mostly frozen, and there were virtually no bonuses> Hell, you may working your ass off knowing that your staff makes more than you but if you’re working in mid-February, what ton of bricks hits you that causes you to conclude that bailing out on your team is the best option?
All the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, despite all of them having multiple “F— THIS!” moments, pull it together because they have a job to do. Why the hell didn’t you quit prior to busy season? You really felt like sticking it to everyone?
Fine. Perhaps your desire for sweet, sweet revenge against your senior/manager/partner/firm is more powerful than any shred of integrity you may have but for crissakes, that makes you a very bitter person. More so than the average accountant.
Seriously? It couldn’t wait? There isn’t that much time left in busy season. And besides, if you’re patient, they may pay you to leave.
So waaaay back in the early to mid Aughts when Ayal Rosenthal was slumming over at 300 Madison, he got a little entrepreneurial (P. Dubs auditors don’t make shit, you know) with his Dad, two brothers and a host of others. They made a little bit of extra dough ($3.7 million) by running an insider trading scheme based on various tips, some of which were related to clients that Ayal worked on at PwC.
By the grace of God, the SEC caught on to the shenanigans and busted the gang in early 2007 (was this the reason they missed Madoff, Stanford?).
For this little stunt, NYU revoked AR’s MBA after the SEC brought the charges against him. He’s now suing the University because, “the university was ‘excessive and unfair,’ and that the proceedings violated his right to a ‘fair and timely hearing’ because NYU took nearly seven months before considering his case in September 2007.”
First of all, if an academic institution gets back to you in seven months, we’d say that’s a pretty decent response time. Second, “unfair” doesn’t work on anyone.
Having said that, we know full well how hard the young lad must have worked to get that MBA, so we’re not surprised that he wants the prestigious degree back.
If NYU really wanted an airtight reason for taking his degree they should have cited his inability to dupe the SEC for less than five years. Open and shut.
Do you have a client thinking of starting a subversive organization in South Carolina? Are they looking to expand their network of businesses to include one with the expressed mission of overthrowing the U.S. government? Thought so!
Just so you know, they are required by law to register with Secretary of State and declare their intentions or they will be subject to a $25,000 fine and 10 years in prison. Let’s keep the ship tight people.
The Subversive Activities Registration Act was passed last year by the Palmetto State legislature and is now officially on the books. Oh! And there is a $5 filing fee (we attached for the form below for your convenience).
If you’re not sure if the new entity will qualify, the law defines subversive organization:
(1) “Subversive organization” means every corporation, society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly, body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means
South Carolina, clearly not satisfied with the job being done at DHS, obviously enacted this little gem of legislation to exploit these organizations’ propensity for full disclosure. What’s the point of organizing a business with such an important purpose if everything isn’t going to be on the up and up?
The Raw Story reports that enacting redundant legislation is the norm for the Palmetto State as “[it] is among those states which require drug dealers to declare their illegal income, or face additional criminal penalties on top of the already established penalties for buying, possessing and selling drugs.”
We can only assume that the SC pols will now get to work on a new “Terrorist Tax” that will be known as the Super-Anti-American Business Sucks Act. It seems like a natural progression of the legislation there.
No joke: South Carolina now requires ’subversives’ to register [The Raw Story]
Terrorists Must Register With SC Secretary Of State [Fits News]
[h/t Joe Kristan and Russ Fox of Taxable Talk]
We meant to get to this on Friday but as you recall, our plans we’re slightly derailed by forces beyond our control. We’re sharing it now because there are lessons here for all the newbies out there. Pay attention, this could one of you.
During busy season the temptation to get a little aggressive with the expense reimbursement comes naturally to just about everyone. If you deny this particular bit of weakness then you are either A) lying through your coffee-stained teeth or B) in the wrong profession; join the clergy.
It should be noted that the abuse of reimbursement policy has relative levels of ridiculousness. Partners can rationalize and get away with more extravagant abuse than a mere associate so keep that in mind here.
So maybe every once in awhile you and some team members slip out for a three martini lunch that falls on the expensive side and you ram it through on your expense report because you figure you deserve it. Totally natch.
It gets overboard when you have the tendency to place some wagers and because you’re a degenerate loser, you start submitting expenses to fund this little gambling hobby.
Vikas Gupta was employed by KPMG until he couldn’t pass his “accountancy exams” aaaaannnnddd it was discovered that he claimed expenses of £25,000 to fund his gambling and to pay off debt. Gupta claims that he hit “various internal charge codes” to charge the expenses; which, we hear, is a typical methodology.
Gupta also claims that he suffered from depression (losing streaks will do that), is now in Gamblers Anonymous and is employed by a new firm, so he’s back on the straight and narrow.
This didn’t impress a tribunal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (the AICPA of E&W), who has recommended that Gupta be banned from having provisional membership for 12 months and to be “severely reprimanded.” Since he has no means to pay fines (he entered an individual voluntary agreement), one can assume that the reprimand will consist of 30 lashes, a marathon of technical accounting trainings, or both.
Ex-KPMG trainee admits £25,000 expenses fraud [Accountancy Age]