July 19, 2018

CNN

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:

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CNN Says that Big 4 Business Is Blowing Up

That’s not necessarily verbatim but they’re definitely buying what the Big 4 bigwigs are selling.

If you saw the asinine CNN piece that came out on Thursday entitled “Accounting grows in shrinking economy“, you know what we mean.

The title itself should cause you to throw up in your mouth. Certainly the author of this gem, Kevin Voigt, isn’t talking about growth in revenues but he still manages to make a case for accounting industry stretrong>just that:

[T]he firms have emerged from the worst with balance sheets that would be enviable to most companies: Ernst & Young and Deloitte finished the 2009 fiscal year with flat growth, while PWC revenues were down 7 percent.

Getting nauseous yet?


Then there’s this:

[T]he Big Four firms continued to add to headcount through the recession. For example, PWC will end the year with 163,000 employees worldwide, an increase of “3 or 4 percent” from last year, Nally said. “There is a core element of what we do that continues regardless of the economy — public companies need audits, tax services need to be provided,” he said.

First, we notice that Dennis Nally conveniently left out that the ‘core element’ of services being provided is being done so with far fewer people. He makes it sound like that if you’re working in the audit or tax practices, your job is safe. We all know that’s not true.

Further, we’ll point out that E&Y did not add to their global headcount. That’s according to E&Y’s own press release for their revenue results.

It’s also interesting to note that the words “layoff” or “reduction in force” are nowhere to be found in the article. Voight manages to sneak it in with some subtlety:

Ernst & Young has kept hiring young college graduates, in part, because it wants to ensure an unbroken pipeline of talent after the crisis, Turley said.

“In a typical year, you would see 15 to 20 percent of our workforce hired away, not by our competitors, but by companies that need financial or tax or other financial talent … that process was curtailed this year because most in the marketplace weren’t hiring,” Turley said.

As a result, Ernst & Young and other Big Four firms have had selective culling of staff in some markets for performance-related issues. “We work in a high performance environment, and for those whom that environment doesn’t fit we’ve encouraged them to leave,” said Quigley of Deloitte.

“Culling of staff”? Interesting choice of words. Then Jim Quigley lies says that Deloittians were “encouraged” to leave the firm. That’s rich. Any former Deloitte people out there that would describe their experience differently?

The article also hints that — because Jim Turley said that typically, ’15 to 20 percent of our workforce hired away’ — the Big 4 had no choice to but to engage in the “selective culling of staff…for performance-related issues.”

To top it all off, Tim Flynn wasn’t even interviewed for this piece. In fact, KPMG is only mentioned ONCE in the whole article but Voight refers to the “Big 4” throughout. From the sounds of it, TF wasn’t in Singapore for the APEC and thus, probably not available (probably caddying). Just as well, if we were T. Flynn, we wouldn’t want our name included in this travesty anyway.

So gives us your thoughts on the latest Big 4 campaigning in the MSM. They make everything sound like it’s business as usual but as the discussion in our Exodus post indicates, the people on the front lines probably have a different opinion.

Accounting grows in shrinking economy [CNN]
Also see: CNN Lies: Accounting Industry Stronger Than Ever, Explosive Even [JDA]