July 19, 2018

de minimis

PwC’s Dennis Nally Reminds Everyone That Audits Aren’t Designed to Detect Fraud, Wants to Meet the Pope, Isn’t Interested in Joining You for Hot Yoga

The Financial Times published an interview with PwC International Chairman Dennis Nally over the weekend and we learn a few interesting things about DN that you probably didn’t know. For starters, he’s very aware that his firm is in a tussle for title of the largest professional services firm ON EARTH, “We’re in a real dog race to continue to sustain our leadership position as the largest professional services network in the world,” he told the FT. Of course this gives us the impression that Denny doesn’t believe that P. Dubs has relinquished the Biggest of the Big 4 title, as some other CEOs have claimed.

And as you might expect, there are various softening questions thrown around, including:

1) Leaders he admires – he wants to meet The Pope because “[Nally] seems impressed by the feat of co-ordination.”

2) Feats of strength – He practiced hot yoga to “strengthen his golf swing” but gave it up because “I found that you had a tendency to over-workout your muscles.”

Despite those little tidbits, Helen Thomas manages to get under Nally’s skin a little when she asks if “auditors should rightly find themselves in the line of fire” when fraud or “disingenuous” accounting occurs:

Mr Nally crosses his arms across his monogrammed shirt, for the first time looking a touch defensive. “There are professional standards out there [and] an audit is not designed under those standards to detect fraud,” he says, pointing out that detecting fraudulent behaviour rests on other indications including a company’s governance, management tone and control systems. “The reasons it has been done that way is because, while we always hear and read about the high-profile fraud, the number of those situations that you actually encounter in practice is very de minimis.

Notice that he doesn’t directly address the “disingenuous” accounting. Examples which might include, say, AIG and Freddie Mac, but rather addressed fraud which is easy to fall back on, since the expectations gap is so blatant (something he has mentioned before).

His statement also appears to indicate that he feels situations like Satyam are immaterial, unless by “de minimis” he intended to mean “rare in occurrence.” But, then again, I suppose semantics are also de minimis.

The man who would be biggest [FT]