September 15, 2019

AIG

PwC Is Having a Really Rough November Already

Yeah so first this happened: On Wednesday the FDIC, as receiver for the Colonial Bank of Montgomery, Alabama, sued PricewaterhouseCoopers and Crowe Horwath in federal court in Montgomery, claiming that they committed professional malpractice and breach of contract by failing to detect that two Colonial employees helped the notorious (and defunct) mortgage lender Taylor Bean […]

Here Are a Couple of Corporations Whose Taxes (or Lack Thereof) Are Actually Worth Bitching About

Over the weekend, I aired some grievances that I've had with The New York Times and its tax shaming. One commenter on the thread mentioned a Times article on AIG from a few months back that exposed that companies tax dodgy ways. I had a chance to dig it up today, but it's worth noting that article was […]

Former Deloitte Partner Jeff Farber Lands Deputy CFO Gig at AIG

Not only is Mr Farber a Deloitte audit alum, he also had stints as the controller at Bear Stearns and CFO at Gamco Investors. Today came the announcement that he is still winning, now as the new sidekick to David Herzog.

In this new position, Mr. Farber will provide global leadership and coordination for AIG’s Controllership and Accounting Policy functions, as well as the AIG Global Tax Department. He reports to David L. Herzog, AIG Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

It’s worth noting that as the a leader and coordinator for global tax department, Farber alone will encompass more oversight than all of Weatherford International.

ANYWAY, back to the boilerplate:

“Jeff Farber is well prepared to help take these key AIG finance functions to an even higher level,” said Mr. Herzog. “Over the past several years the finance team has worked diligently through an extraordinarily complex restructuring, and this new role provides Jeff with an opportunity to lead a great team and work closely with the finance transformation team as we roll out our new financial platform.”

Sounds like a hoot. Best of luck to Mr Farber.

Accounting News Roundup: Debunking the Audit Industry Green Paper; Theories Behind the Tax Cut That Nobody Noticed; AIG Is Doing a Happy Dance | 10.22.10

The EC’s Green Paper, “Audit Policy: Lessons from the Crisis”: The Bureaucrats Blow Another Chance [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson dissects the European Commission’s Green Paper on the audit industry and isn’t impressed with what is inside.

Interesting Issues in Timing of Green Mountain Insider Stock Sales and Disclosure of SEC Inquiry [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is curious about GMCR executive Michelle Stacy’s sudden exercising of stock options. You see, GMCR was notified of the SEC investigation into their revenue recognition on September 20th. Ms. Stacy exercised and sold her options on the 21st. The company announced the SEC investigation on the 28th.

Regardless of what analysts think about Vermont hippies and their knowledge of revenue recognition, the timing will certainly get the attention of someone (who finds porn disgusting) at the SEC.

Why Nobody Noticed Obama’s Tax Cuts [TaxVox]
According to Tax Policy Center estimates, 96.9 percent of households enjoyed a tax cut that averaged almost $1,200. Just one measure—Obama’s Making Work Pay tax credit—put more than $116 billion into people’s pockets in 2009 and 2010.

Yet, a Times poll found that fewer than 10 percent of those surveyed had any clue. Remarkably, fully one-third thought their taxes went up—even though the actual number was about zero.

Poll: Financial crisis will force states to raise taxes [On the Money]
78% say it’s gonna happen.

Office Depot, execs settle SEC disclosure charges [Reuters]
The SEC had accused the company, its CEO Stephen Odland and former chief financial officer Patricia McKay of conveying to analysts and big investors that the company would not meet analysts’ earning estimates for the second quarter of 2007.

New Faces Enter Fray in Accounting [NYT]
Floyd Norris remembers the old cast at the FASB, IASB and introduces the new ones.


AIG Raises $17.8 Billion in Record AIA Hong Kong IPO [Bloomberg]
American International Group Inc. raised a record HK$138.3 billion ($17.8 billion) from the Hong Kong initial public offering of its main Asian unit, putting what was once the world’s largest insurer on course to repay its 2008 bailout.

AIG sold 7.03 billion shares, or a 58 percent stake, at HK$19.68 each, the top end of a marketing range, Hong Kong-based AIA said an e-mailed statement. It used an option to expand the sale offered from 5.86 billion, or a 49 percent stake.

Comment: EU audit proposals full of contradictions [Accountancy Age]
More debunking of the EC Green Paper.

Aetna CFO duties to expand under new CEO [Reuters]
Aetna Inc [AET.N] will expand the responsibilities of Chief Financial Officer Joseph Zubretsky to include leadership of the health insurer’s strategic diversification plans under the incoming chief executive officer.

Accounting News Roundup: Congress Delay on Taxes Could Hit January Paychecks; KPMG Settles with Hollinger; PwC Asking Clients to Share Internal Info | 10.07.10

Republicans See a Political Motive in I.R.S. Audits [NYT]
“Leading Republicans are suggesting that a senior official in the Obama administration may have improperly accessed the tax records of Koch Industries, an oil company whose owners are major conservative donors.

And the Republicans are also upset about an I.R.S. review requested by Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the Finance Committee, into the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Such a review threatens to “chill the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” wrote two Republican senators, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona, in a letter sent to the I.R.S. on Wednesday.
ick to point out that the I.R.S. was put under tight restrictions about access to Americans’ tax returns as a result of political shenanigans by the Nixon administration involving tax audits.”

AIG’s Real Numbers Still Shrouded in Secrecy [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
“Two years ago when the government seized control of AIG, the Treasury in effect took a 79.9 percent ownership stake in the company, through preferred shares and warrants it received as part of AIG’s $182 billion bailout package. By keeping its stake below 80 percent, the government ensured that a financial-reporting method known as push-down accounting wouldn’t be permitted under U.S. accounting rules.

The reason that was so important? Had AIG chosen to implement push-down accounting, it would have had to undergo a complete re-assessment of all its assets and liabilities. And, with a few possible exceptions, the company would have been required to begin showing them on its balance sheet at their fair market values, which may have left AIG’s books looking a lot worse.”

Delays to Tax Tables May Dent Paychecks [WSJ]
“Lack of congressional action on 2011 income taxes may force the Treasury Department to make unprecedented moves to prevent U.S. workers from seeing large tax increases in their January paychecks.

The issue: 2011 tax-withholding tables. Treasury officials usually release the tables, which determine the take-home pay of millions of wage-earners, by mid-November because it takes payroll processors weeks to adjust their systems before Jan. 1.”

Steven Bandolik Joins Deloitte’s Distressed Debt & Asset Practice [PR Newswire]
“Deloitte announced today that Steven Bandolik has joined its distressed debt and asset practice. Bandolik’s hire marks the latest in a series of strategic growth initiatives executed over the last 18 months to expand Deloitte’s distressed debt and asset practice.

‘Challenges need to become opportunities in order for borrowers, lenders and investors to move forward, and get back to their core business of making positive returns on investments. Despite lower interest rates, obtaining new financing regardless of loan performance continues to be an issue unless properties and financial positions are extremely strong,’ said Bandolik. ‘In this environment, clients require intellectual capital to re-structure transactions, and design sensible underwriting, due diligence and risk management procedures. Their debt may need to be structured more conservatively, requiring higher equity levels that could withstand future stress, with a focus on deleveraging over the holding period.’ ”

Hollinger Inc.: Settlement of Claims Against KPMG LLP [Marketwire]
“The Litigation Trustee of Hollinger Inc. (“Hollinger”) announced today that he has entered into a settlement agreement with KPMG LLP to resolve all claims against Hollinger’s former advisor advanced by the Litigation Trustee on behalf of Hollinger. The settlement entails no admission of liability on the part of KPMG LLP. The terms of the settlement include releases in favour of KPMG LLP from Hollinger and its subsidiaries, as well as from third parties involved in related Hollinger litigation. The settlement and the releases are subject to court approval, which will be sought on notice to other affected parties. The rest of the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.”


CAQ Reports on Fraud Best Practices, Launches New Effort [Compliance Week]
“The CAQ conducted five roundtables and 20 in-depth interviews to develop consensus on how companies can best create a financial reporting environment where fraud has little potential to seed or take root. The CAQ published the findings as a cornerstone to further collaborative efforts with other professional groups to share ideas and best practices on how to derail fraudulent financial reporting.”

PwC audit clients asked to give up internal information [Accountancy Age]
“Ian Powell, chairman of PwC told an audience of 300 business professionals, the audit model needed reform, and believed some internal discussions, now privately held between an auditor and company, needed to be made public.

‘It may well be that by making more of those discussions public, the value of an audit can be collectively improved,’ he said.

‘I have asked our lead audit partners to discuss this idea with audit committee chairs of PwC clients to see if we can work together on a voluntary basis to improve the disclosure of such matters over the next reporting cycle.’

The comments come as the European Commission prepares to release a green paper on audit competition, due later this month, and the House of Lords prepares to hear evidence on the issue, next week.”

Greenspan: Financial overhaul to have ‘significant impact’ on economic growth [On the Money/The Hill]
Some people are still listening to this man.

Madoff clan denies fraud role, seek suit dismissal [Reuters]
A consistent message may actually convince someone, some day.

Accounting News Roundup: AIG Rolls Out Repayment Plan; Wal-Mart Names New CFO; IRS Files Lien Against Sharpton | 09.30.10

AIG to Convert Preferred Shares Into Common to Repay U.S. [Bloomberg]
“American International Group Inc. agreed with U.S. regulators to repay its bailout by converting the government’s holdings into common shares for sale, a step toward independence for the insurer whose near collapse two years ago threatened the global economy.

The U.S. Treasury Department will convert its preferred stake of about $49.1 billion for 1.66 billion shares of common stock and then sell the holdings in the open market, AIG said today in a statement. Common shareholders, who hold about 20 percent of the company, will have their stake dilutent, the insurer said. Those investors will receive as many as 75 million warrants with a strike price of $45.”

Spain loses AAA status, stands firm on austerity [Reuters]
“Spain lost its final top-line debt rating on Thursday as the government sought backing from lawmakers for a budget it hopes will be austere enough to convince markets it can slash the deficit at a time of economic weakness.

Moody’s become the third and last rating agency to cut Spain out of the highest AAA category which has helped it finance its debt relatively cheaply. The one-notch cut had been expected and the agency said it hoped not to have to cut again soon, bolstering Spanish debt markets.

But the agency also said a poor growth outlook meant Madrid would have to take further steps to meet its deficit targets in years to come. The Bank of Spain said a sluggish recovery would slow further in the third quarter.”

IASB head knows all about cross-channel frictions [FT]
“In a decade spent overseeing international accounting standards, Sir David Tweedie has become an amateur student of French psychology.

The Scot has locked horns with France several times as head of the International Accounting Standards Board, the body that sets the International Financial Reporting Standards rules followed in the European Union and other countries.

His fascination for his adversary is such that he recently thrust into my hands an academic paper entitled “France and the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Model: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives”. The article explores the hostility often felt in France towards the British and American way of doing business.”

McDonald’s May Drop Health Plan [WSJ]
“While many restaurants don’t offer health coverage, McDonald’s provides mini-med plans for workers at 10,500 U.S. locations, most of them franchised. A single worker can pay $14 a week for a plan that caps annual benefits at $2,000, or about $32 a week to get coverage up to $10,000 a year.

Last week, a senior McDonald’s official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain’s insurer won’t meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.”


Wal-Mart picks successor to longtime CFO [Reuters]
“Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) named Charles Holley to succeed Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe, who will retire on November 30.

The world’s biggest retailer said on Wednesday that Schoewe, 57, will stay at Wal-Mart until January 31 to help with the transition.

Holley, 54, joined Wal-Mart in 1994 and is treasurer and executive vice president of finance.

Those credentials should make him a capable CFO, said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi, though Wall Street could view the transition negatively since it adds uncertainty.”

All We Are Saying Is Give Dick Fuld a Chance [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
Names being floated to replace Larry Summers as the National Economic Council include Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons and Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy. Jonathan Weil sees where Obama is going with this:

“There’s much we can learn about the kind of person the president is looking for by studying these two contenders’ credentials. In addition to CEO chops, it seems Obama is seeking someone who also has served on the board of directors of at least one company that either had a massive accounting scandal, blew up so spectacularly that it threatened to take down the global financial system, or both.”

…and doesn’t think he’s aiming high enough. He has some of his own suggestions.

Memo to Media Departments: Here Are Three Ways to Make My Job Easier – rebuttal [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett’s rebuttal to Adrienne’s plea to PR types.

Sharpton faced with fresh tax woe [Tax Watchdog]
The Rev. owes around $538k to the IRS for 2009. His lawyer is a tad confused by the whole thing and says everything will paid up by Oct. 15th.

Accounting News Roundup: Southwest Loves AirTran; PCAOB Starts Negotiations with European Counterparts; Debunking the ObamaCare Tax on Home Sales | 09.27.10

Southwest Airlines to Buy AirTran [WSJ]
“Southwest Airlines agreed to acquire AirTran Holdings Inc. for $1.4 billion in cash and stock, the first major merger among healthy U.S. discount carriers.

The proposed deal follows Southwest’s failed effort to acquire Denver-based Frontier Airlines earlier this year and would revive its stalled efforts to launch international services by accessing AirTran’s network to the Caribbean.”

Troubling Trades Found Ahead of Flash Crash [DealBook]
“The Chicago data firmed strange patterns — dubbed “crop circles” — in stock market data around the flash crash on May 6 has put together a new analysis that it says backs the theory that one or more trading firms was intentionally trying to flood exchanges with orders.

The firm, Nanex, hopes the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be able to address its analysis in their long-awaited report on the flash crash due to be published before the end of this month.”

Treasury Said to Prepare AIG Exit, Repayment Plan [Bloomberg]
“The U.S. Treasury Department may announce plans as early as this week to return American International Group Inc. to independence and recoup taxpayer money from the insurer’s bailout, according to three people with knowledge of the talks.

The biggest part of that strategy is for Treasury to begin converting its $49 billion preferred stake into common stock for sales by the first half of next year, said the people, who declined to be identified because the negotiations are private. The timing of an announcement depends on the pace of talks between regulators and the New York-based insurer, and discussions may extend beyond this week, the people said.”

PCAOB Begins Negotiations With European Regulators [Compliance Week]
“Now that Congress and the European Union have removed a big obstacle to international audit inspections, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is trying to forge some new relationships with its counterparts overseas to get back on track.

PCAOB spokesman Colleen Brennan said the board is beginning to negotiate with various audit regulators in Europe to see how it can proceed in each country inspecting audit firms that audit financial statements in U.S. capital markets. The board is hopeful it can reach bilateral agreements with individual regulators to perhaps gain access to work papers that will enable the board to fulfill its inspection mandate under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.”

IRS Offers Olive Branch to Business [CFO]
“The Internal Revenue Service has taken taxpayers’ comments to heart and revised its proposal on uncertain tax positions, in a way that is much more favorable to corporations. The final Form 1120, called Schedule UTP, and its instructions eliminate two draft requirements that companies argued were particularly onerous: the calculation and inclusion of a maximum tax adjustment for each position, and disclosures around positions that are not subject to an accounting reserve.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced the release of Schedule UTP on Friday, in a speech delivered to the American Bar Association in Toronto. The agency has instituted a five-year phase-in period for filing the schedule, said Shulman.”


Job Interview Is Where Most Mistakes Are Made, According to Survey [FINS]
If you make a faux pas during an interview, rather than faint consider five suggestions that FINS has to keep your hopes alive.

PwC names industry leaders and academics as non-execs [Accountancy Age]
“Dame Karen Dunnell; Sir Ian Gibson; Professor Andrew Hamilton; Sir Richard Lapthorne; and Paul Skinner and come from the fields of business, academia and the public and professional services sectors.

They will sit on a newly-formed public interest body where they will be joined by partners fo [sic] the firm but have a majority.”

Cloud Computing: What Accountants Need to Know [JofA]
A crash course.

Finding Surprises in the Small-Business Jobs Bill [You’re The Boss/NYT]
“Most of the controversy surrounding the small-business jobs bill that cleared the House of Representatives on Thursday — after nearly a year of discussion — concerned a $30 billion small-business lending fund to be established by the Treasury Department.

But like most of the legislation, the lending fund is a temporary fix. It will make investments in banks for just one year. The tax breaks in the bill, worth about $12 billion, are mostly good for a year or two.”

Dodd-Frank Lets Small-Company Auditors Off the Internal Controls Hook: Putting a Partial Lid on the Sarbox [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson reflects on Dodd-Frank’s ‘get out of jail free’ for small company filers.

Would “ObamaCare” (Health Care Reform) Tax the Sale of Your Home? Probably Not. [Tax Foundation]
“There has been a story and an e-mail floating around for some time claiming that the recent health care reform bill (PPACA) would impose a 3.8 percent “sales” tax on the sale of every home. The e-mail has been rightfully debunked by the usuals (Factcheck.org and Snopes), but here is what the bill would actually do regarding taxation of the sales of homes.”

Pastors Defy IRS On ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’ [ABC News]
“The pastors, along with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, planned today’s event as a reaction to a law stating that churches are not allowed to support politicians from the pulpit, according to the ADF.

The growing trend is a challenge to the IRS from the churches, and may jeopardize their all-important tax-exempt status. But some pastors and church leaders said they are willing to defy the law to defend their right to freedom of speech.”

Accounting News Roundup: GOP Senators Not Caving on Tax Cuts; NY Court of Appeals Hears In Pari Delicto Cases; Convicted Ex-PwC Employee Loses Case to Get MBA Back | 09.14.10

~ Good morning capital market servants. It’s Dan Braddock’s favorite day of the week. Just another reminder that we’ll be on a lighter posting schedule today as TPTB continue to interrogate us about our lack of influence. We’ll pop in from time to time today to make sure everyone is playing nice and be back to a full schedule tomorrow.

A Career in Accounting [WSJ]
“[W]hile jobs dried up during the economic crisis, hiring in accounting wasn’t hit as hard, and cutbacks have created a need for more hiring as the econmy Thompson, the U.S. campus recruiting leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’ll be hiring 3,000 people this year, up from 2,600 last year.”

Does Anyone Really Want to Be an Accountant? A Tailgate Survey [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson articulates two time-honored traditions: college football and accounting. The former’s popularity is never in question but Jim talked to some young tailgaters that might make you doubt the substantive popularity of the latter.

Senate Republicans firm on tax cuts for rich [Reuters]
“Republicans in the U.S. Senate poured cold water on Monday on hopes for a compromise with President Barack Obama that would have allowed Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire.

Taxes have become a flashpoint going into a November 2 election in which Republicans are seeking to wrest control of Congress from the president’s fellow Democrats. Obama says the cost of keeping the tax cuts for the rich is too high as the United States emerges from recession with a massive budget deficit.”

AIG Plots End to U.S. Aid [WSJ]
“American International Group Inc. and its government overseers are in talks to speed up an exit plan designed to repay U.S. taxpayers in full while enabling the giant insurer to regain independence, according to people familiar with the matter.

Under the plan, which could commence as early as the first half of 2011, the Treasury Department is likely to convert $49 billion in AIG preferred shares it holds into common shares, a move that could bring the government’s ownership stake in AIG to above 90%, from 79.8% currently, the people familiar said. The common shares would then be gradually sold off to private investors, a move that would reduce U.S. ownership and potentially earn the government a profit if the shares rise in value.”

Auditors Anticipate NY Ruling on Malpractice Exposure [Compliance Week]
“A group of investors in the reinsurance firm American International Group are suing the company’s audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, for failing to detect a long-running bid-rigging and accounting fraud scheme at AIG. PwC won a dismissal of the suit contending AIG shared blame because it was AIG employees who carried out the fraud that PwC failed to identify, a common defense for audit firms against shareholder claims.

The investor group, led by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System, appealed the dismissal and will have their day in the New York Court of Appeals this week. A Delaware appeals court handed the case over to the New York Appeals court, saying ‘a resolution of this appeal depends on significant and unsettled questions of New York law.’ ”


Seeking An Equitable Outcome: NY State Court of Appeals Hears In Pari Delicto Cases [RTA]
Francine McKenna’s take on the case above.

Verizon Finance Chief Joh Killian Announces Plan to Retire After 31 Years [Bloomberg]
Get your résumé in now.

So Then I Guess Accounting Is Mostly Influenced By Middle-Aged White Dudes? [JDA]
“I’m on a roll with offending people lately so let’s just take this all the way and pull the diversity card, specifically when it comes to Accounting Today’s recent list of 100 Most Influential in accounting.

OK so some faces were predictable and totally warranted; soon-to-be-former FASB Chairman Bob Herz (we’re talking about influence in the profession, not sexiest), GASB Chairman Robert Attmore, PwC Chairman Dennis Nally, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman… you get the idea. No, I mean you really get the idea, as the rest of the list is comprised of middle-aged white guys too except for 13 women and 3 1/2 black men (Barack Obama counts as .5 if we’re looking at this in a strictly statistical way). Yeah, we noticed.”

Convicted Accountant Loses Legal Bid for MBA Degree [BusinessWeek]
“A certified public accountant who hid his conviction for insider trading from his teachers at New York University’s graduate business school wasn’t entitled to the MBA degree that he thought he earned, a judge ruled.

In February 2007, three months after completing his course work at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Ayal Rosenthal pleaded guilty to charges that he leaked to his brother secret tips that he learned at his job at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Rosenthal never told the school about the investigation of him or his guilty plea, even while serving as a teaching assistant in a professional responsibility course, according to a court ruling.”

A PwC Partner’s Scribbled Notes Helped Save Joe Cassano’s Hide

Back in April, the DOJ and SEC passed on filing criminal charges against the man everyone perceived to be the cause of the financial apocalypse, Joe Cassano.

The Journal digs into a few of the details behind the failed pursuit of criminal charges against JC and we first learn that PwC’s audit team wasn’t rve when they were poking around AIGFP:

Auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers, AIG’s accounting firm, felt Mr. Cassano was evasive when they asked questions as the housing market weakened that year, according to people familiar with the matter. Tim Ryan, a PwC auditor, was concerned about requests for collateral from Goldman Sachs, which had purchased AIG’s derivatives contracts. He believed the requests were an indication the value of the swaps needed to be lowered and that further collateral calls were likely, people familiar with the matter said.

In interviews in 2008, Mr. Ryan told prosecutors he sometimes couldn’t get straight answers from Mr. Cassano when he asked him to justify how AIG accounted for the swaps, these people said. Through a PwC spokeswoman, Mr. Ryan declined to comment.

Okay, so Cassano was a prickly guy. That’s no surprise, especially since the lion’s share of people that have to deal with auditors, dislike them based purely on spite. Regardless of that factoid, it irks auditors to no end when they have to deal with an uncooperative client.

Cassano’s attitude was noted by prosecutors and this led them to believe that maybe he was withholding information from PwC and the AIG brass about the shitstorm that was growing at AIGFP:

“Why would he do that?” said Jim Walden, one of Mr. Cassano’s attorneys. Mr. Cassano had no reason to hide key facts because he knew the year-end audit was approaching and the unit’s books would be examined.

“He was smart enough many times before” in surviving prior problems, Mr. Pelletier retorted. “He thought he could pull a rabbit out of the hat” and turn things around.

In meetings spanning several weeks in Washington, the defense team rebutted the prosecution’s allegations, presenting a version of events that portrayed Mr. Cassano as repeatedly disclosing bad news to his bosses, investors and PwC.

The defense team didn’t know it at the time, but its efforts helped focus prosecutors’ attention on an obscure set of handwritten notes in their files, found scrawled on the bottom of a printed spreadsheet.

Prosecutors had seen the annotations, which were made by a PwC partner at a meeting with Mr. Cassano and AIG management a week before the key December 2007 investor conference. But the strange hieroglyphs from the world of financial derivatives were hard to decipher and ambiguous enough to support several readings.

Some of the broken phrases that could be made out: “Cash/CDS spread differential,” “need to quantify” and “could be 10 points on $75 billion.”

At this point, prosecutors knew that the jig was up, regardless if started out as a good jig or not. As much as they wanted to pin the near death experience of the financial world on this one shifty (and easily unlikable) guy, they couldn’t. The fact that no one that was at the meeting in Dec. ’07 could remember anything, “According to people familiar with the matter, no one at the meeting—including the author of the handwritten notes—recalled Mr. Cassano disclosing the magnitude of the accounting adjustments he was preparing to make,” certainly didn’t help matters. Especially since, for all we know, the partners’s chicken scratch could have been a recipe for pineapple upside down cake.

And after failing to nail Matthew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi back in November of ’09, the feds could hardly go to trial on such shaky ground. Sigh. OH well! Can’t always catch the (perceived) bad guys!

A Set of Scribbled Notes Helped Scuttle AIG Probe [WSJ]

Accounting News Roundup: Sue Sachdeva to Plead Guilty for Koss Embezzlement; AIG Settles Accounting Fraud with Ohio for $725 Mil; Some PwCers Are Hanging Out the Shingle | 07.19.10

Sachdeva to plead guilty to six felonies in Koss case [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Late on Friday, it was reported that Sue Sachdeva will plead guilty to six felon embezzlement case that was discovered at the end of last year.

The agreement with prosecutors brought some new things to light including that the scam began in 1997 and she issue over 500 cashiers cheques, including $10 million to American Express but also to charitable groups.

Also: “From February 2008 to December 2009, she authorized 206 wire transfers totaling $16 million from Koss accounts to American Express to cover items she bought with the credit card.

From February 2008 to December 2009, she authorized 206 wire transfers totaling $16 million from Koss accounts to American Express to cover items she bought with the credit card.

•?Koss employees worked “in concert with Sachdeva or at her direction” to make fraudulent entries to the company’s books to conceal the embezzlement. “These entries would falsely overstate assets, understate liabilities, understate sales, overstate cost of sales, and overstate expenses,” the agreement said. The agreement notes that the false entries “concealed the actual receipts and profitability of Koss,” allowing the scheme to continue.

•?To keep auditors off her track, Sachdeva did not fraudulently take money from Koss accounts at Park Bank during the month of June, because transactions during that month were reviewed by outside accountants.”

A.I.G. to Pay $725 Million in Ohio Case [NYT]
“The American International Group, once the nation’s largest insurance group before it nearly collapsed in 2008, has agreed to pay $725 million to three Ohio pension funds to settle six-year-old claims of accounting fraud, stock manipulation and bid-rigging.

Taken together with earlier settlements, A.I.G. will ladle out more than $1 billion to Ohio investors, money that will go to firefighters, teachers, librarians and other pensioners. The state’s attorney general, Richard Cordray, said Friday, that it was the 10th largest securities class-action settlement in United States history.”


Goldman’s Grand Delusions Finally Hit Reality [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
“Here’s the real beauty of the SEC’s settlement agreement [last week] with Goldman Sachs. The next time Goldman Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein goes on television and is asked by some reporter if Goldman committed securities fraud, as the SEC alleged, he won’t be allowed to say no.

He won’t be able to repeat any of the factually improbable denials Goldman issued just three months ago after the SEC sued it for ripping off a hapless German bank named IKB as part of a bond deal called Abacus 2007-AC1. He’ll just have to suck it up and take the hit. It’s “the right outcome for our firm, our shareholders and our clients,” as Goldman said in a press release after the settlement was disclosed.

More incredibly, the SEC even got Goldman to admit it made “a mistake,” which might be the strangest thing ever to happen on Wall Street. Next thing you know, Blankfein will grow wings for his trip to the heavens, and Goldman will surrender its charter as a bank-holding company to become a nonprofit center for religious studies.”

IMF Pulls Out of Hungary Loan Talks [WSJ]
“Negotiators for the International Monetary Fund and European Union walked away from talks with Hungary over the weekend, saying Budapest needs to do more to shrink its budget deficit before it can get any more bailout money.

The move is likely to alarm markets already suspicious of the new populist government’s pledges to cut spending.

After nearly two weeks of meetings with senior Hungarian officials, the IMF and EU teams on Saturday called an abrupt halt to the discussions. They said Hungary couldn’t have access—for now, at least—to the remaining funds in a 20 billion euro ($25.9 billion) loan package secured in late 2008 to rescue the country from a financial meltdown.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants split to form new firm [Salt Lake City Tribune]
Three PwC “accountants” (presumably partners/directors), Gil Miller, David Bateman and John Curtis have left the Salt Lake City office to form their own firm, Rock Mountain Advisory, LLC. The newly formed company will specialize in ” bankruptcy/restructuring, dispute analysis/receiverships, forensic accounting/due diligence, turnaround and business valuation.”

According to the Mr Miller, the trio formed their own business primarily because so many clients were being turned away from PwC due to “conflicts of interest.”

Accounting News Roundup: FinReg Brings Plenty of Change; Some Number Crunching of Goldman’s Fine; ATF: Sin Taxes Rose 41% | 07.16.10

Law Remakes U.S. Financial Landscape [WSJ]
The Journal asked twelves experts about the bill, many of whom are not nearly as impressed as the Deal Professor. “Congress approved a rewrite of rules touching every corner of finance, from ATM cards to Wall Street traders, in the biggest expansion of government power over banking and markets since the Depression.

The bill, to be signed into law soon by President Barack Obama, marks a potential sea change for the financial-services industry. Financial titans such as J.P. Morgan Chase &Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. may be forced to make changes in most parts of their business, from debit cards to the ability to invest in hedge funds.”

Apple May Offer IPhone Cases, Rebates to Address Flaw [Bloomberg]
Start forming the lines again, “Apple Inc., looking to avoid a recall of the iPhone 4, may give away rubber cases or offer an in-store fix to address a design flaw in the newest version of its top-selling product, according to analysts.

The company, which is holding a news conference at 1 p.m. New York time today, doesn’t plan to announce a recall, a person familiar with the matter said yesterday. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs may instead offer the giveaways or refunds to dissatisfied customers, some analysts said.”

Google CFO: Old Spice Is The Future [Tech Crunch]
Written on a horse: “You know you’ve got a viral marketing hit on your hands when the CFO of Google mentions it in an earnings call. Yes, I am talking about the Old Spice YouTube Tweetathon where the bare-chested Old Spice Man addresses people on Twitter via personalized commercials on YouTube.”

Goldman’s SEC Settlement by the Numbers: We Do the Math [ProPublica]
Effectively, it will be paid for by August 1.


AIG Says It Counted as Much as $2.3 Billion of Repos as Sales [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Somewhere a former Lehman CFO is screaming, “See, I told you everyone was doing it!”

“American International Group Inc., the bailed-out insurer, said it classified as much as $2.3 billion of repurchase agreements and $3.8 billion of securities- lending transactions as sales in calculating quarterly results.

In late 2008, ‘certain of AIG’s counterparties demanded significantly higher levels of collateral to enter into repurchase agreements, which resulted in sales rather than collateralized-financing’ treatment under accounting guidelines, the New York-based insurer said in an April 13 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission released today. The accounting didn’t materially affect any ratios or metrics the company publicly disclosed, AIG said in the letter.”

‘Sin Tax’ Revenue Surges [TaxProf Blog]
“The Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau has released its Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report, detailing a 41% increase (to $20.6 billion) in the amount of “sin taxes” on alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition collected by the federal government. Most of the $6 billion revenue increase resulted from the higher tobacco taxes included in the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009. Firearms and ammunition excise tax collection rose 45%, the largest annual increase in the agency’s history.”

Accounting News Roundup: Congress Still Stalling on Tax Bill; ‘Most Americans Have Not Planned Well for Their Futures’; Deloitte’s Schroeder Joining FASB | 07.15.10

As Tax Cuts’ Expiration Date Nears, Little Consensus [WSJ]
“Lawmakers are negotiating a tax bill, but appear increasingly likely to wait until after the November election to take any final action that could anger voters—either by raising taxes, or by cutting them and thereby deepening deficits. Congress ultimately could decide to extend current tax levels for just a few months, leaving the issue for the next Congress to settle. Another option is a short-term extension of a year or two, avoiding for now the huge cost to the Treasury of a permanent extension. It’s even possible Congress might fail to take any action this year.”

From Jail, Conrad Black Fights $71 Million Tax Bill [Forbes]
“Imprisoned former media baron Conrad M. Black is fighting a $71 million bill from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which says from 1998 to 2003 he filed no tax returns and paid absolutely nothing on $120 million in taxable income.

In a previously unreported lawsuit in U.S. Tax Court, Black, now serving a six-and-a-half-year-sentence in a Florida federal prison, is challenging the IRS’ demands and asserting the income in question wasn’t taxable in the U.S.”

Americans More Optimistic on Economy Than Their Own Finances, Survey Says [Bloomberg]
Who said Americans only think about themselves? “Americans are generally hopeful, and much of the economic news leads us to conclude that we are out of the recession and a double dip is unlikely,” said Robert Glovsky, chair of the CFP Board and director of Boston University’s program for financial planners. “With that said, most Americans have not planned well for their futures.”

Harvey Golub Resigns as AIG Chairman [WSJ]
“A weeks-long standoff between the chairman and chief executive of government-controlled American International Group Inc. ended Wednesday, when Chairman Harvey Golub resigned, saying, ‘I believe it is easier to replace a chairman than a CEO.’

Mr. Golub’s decision marks a victory for Robert Benmosche, the company’s hard-charging chief, who chafed under Mr. Golub’s oversight. Mr. Benmosche had told the board their working relationship was ‘ineffective and unsustainable,’ Mr. Golub said in his resignation letter.”

FASB hires expert to review how new rules perform [Reuters]
“Mark Schroeder, a recently retired senior partner at Deloitte & Touche [DLTE.UL], will serve as the board’s first “post-implementation review leader” and also serve a similar role for the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, FASB said.

The hiring of Schroeder is one of the big steps that FASB has taken to formalize its process for review of how new standards are performing. Banks and investors had complained during the financial crisis that FASB’s new rules on mark-to-market accounting had contributed to freezing the credit markets, but there was no formal process for reviewing the rules.”

In Other Words, Determining AIG’s CDS Losses Was a Big Game of Darts

“I did not expect actual, economic losses on the portfolio. That said, I was truthful at all times about the unrealized accounting losses and did my very best to estimate them accurately, in consultation with others at AIG-FP, as well as with my supervisors, AIG’s senior accounting staff, and its internal and external auditors.”

~ Joe Cassano, in his prepared testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

Accounting News Roundup: Bank Tax Scrapped; Deloitte Cleveland Names New Managing Partner; What’s the Future of Internal Audit? | 06.30.10

Financial-Rules Redo Passes Major Hurdle [WSJ]
Who knew that lobbyists could be so effective? “Democrats initially proposed the $18 billion tax on the nation’s largest banks and hedge funds to cover the cost of expanding gof financial services, among other things. But the small number of Republicans crucial to the bill’s passage balked at the fee, which was added at the last minute to the legislation.

With more than a year’s worth of work in the balance, Democrats ditched the levy on Tuesday. Instead, they agreed to offset the bill’s costs by winding down early the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and assessing a more modest fee on banks through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.”

Volcker Said to Be Disappointed With Final Version of His Rule [Bloomberg]
If you go to the trouble of getting your name on the rule, with specific ideas in mind about what said rule entails, you’d be pretty upset if lobbyists hacked up to the point that it’s hardly recognizable. Plus octogenarians are probably used to getting their way.

“Volcker, the 82-year-old former Federal Reserve chairman, didn’t expect the proposal to be diluted so much, said a person with knowledge of his views. He’s content with language that bans banks from trading with their own capital, the person said.

‘The Volcker rule started out as a hard-and-fast rule on risky trades and investments,’ said Anthony Sanders, a finance professor at George Mason University School of Management in Fairfax, Virginia. ‘But through negotiations, it was weakened and ended up with many loopholes.’ ”


How Not To Look Desperate When Looking for Your Next Finance Job [FINS]
Because we know there are plenty of you out there.

Deloitte names Craig Donnan managing partner in Cleveland [Crain’s Cleveland]
Cake party? Mr Donnan takes over for Pat Mullin who has been the managing partner of the office since 1999.

The future of the internal audit profession [Marks on Governance]
“If we are to be relevant, chief audit executives (CAEs) have to refocus on providing assurance regarding how well management identifies, evaluates, responds, and manages risks – including the controls that keep risk levels within organizational tolerances.”

The Problem With Unreported Income [You’re the Boss/NYT]
The problem being that if you’re going to have one helluva time selling your business if a decent portion of its revenues are unreported.

“Legal and moral issues aside, there is only one way to view unreported income when it comes time to sell the business: forget that money ever existed. If you can only manage what you can measure in business, then the same holds true for what you can sell.”

AIG hires ex-Lehman lawyer as compliance head [Reuters]
As long as AIG doesn’t ask about arcane accounting disclosures, this should work out fine.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Set to Release More Names as Standoff Ends; SEC Drops Cassano Inquiry; Levin, McCain Want Stock Option Gap Closed | 06.17.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After a short standoff in Swiss parliament, Swiss lawmakers approved the agreement with the U.S. to turn over the remaining names of UBS clients, per the agreement between the two countries. The lower house dropped the referendum proposal that would have delayed the release of the names and likely caused UBS to miss the August deadline which would have resulted in new charges against the Swiss behemoth.

The Journal reports that a Swiss government is prepared to release an additional 1,200 names following the initial 500 released last year.

Lawmakers Weigh Changes tostor Protections [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Congress is kicking around the possibility of an office within the SEC to respond to whistleblower complaints. Brilliant!


McGladrey Mourns the Loss of Former Partner Ray Krause
Mr Krause passed away on Monday after 40 years of service to both McGladrey and the accounting profession. He served on many professional standard setting groups including AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council. H was memorialized by his friend and colleague Jay Hanson, McGladrey’s National Director of Accounting:

Ray died unexpectedly yesterday. He was on vacation in Orlando with his nine-year-old grandson doing what he loved—visiting Disney World.

Before his retirement six years ago, Ray spent more than 40 years with McGladrey. He practiced in a number of locations, including a long stop in the national office as national director of accounting. He retired as partner in 2004 but continued to work for the national office part-time in Rockford, Ill.

During his long career, he served in a number of professional standard setting groups, including the AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

Ray is best remembered for being the consummate professional and his easy-going style. He was very well respected in the accounting profession. Comments coming in from those that knew him include: “Ray was one of the true gentlemen of the accounting profession,” and “Ray was about as fine a human being as there is.”

He was a great mentor to many colleagues in the national office. His style of giving his complete attention to whomever he was talking to, providing understandable explanations for complex topics, probing deeply for all the facts, and his uncanny ability to help draw a conclusion with full understanding will be greatly missed. Ray could convey the message to someone that they were getting to the wrong conclusion with such delicacy that you didn’t even feel it, and felt good about the answer. He knew many of the “back stories” about how and why some of the most complex accounting standards came about, which is often important to understand what they mean.

Ray will be greatly missed by his daughter, son, four grandchildren and other family and friends. McGladrey and the accounting profession have also suffered a great loss.

Inquiry Ends on Cassano, Once of AIG [WSJ]
The SEC has dropped its investigation of Joseph Cassano, the former head of AIG’s Financial Products Unit, which means he won’t face civil charges in the unit’s role in financial crisis. The SEC is also declining to pursue charges against another AIGFP executive, Andrew Forster, who was also under scrutiny.

Senator sees big reporting gap in stock options [AP]
Senator Carl “Shitty Deal” Levin and new Snooki BFF John McCain “have proposed legislation that would require that the tax deduction for stock options not exceed the expense for options reported in financial statements.”

The two are a little rankled about the $52 billion gap between the amount of stock option expenses recognized for financial reporting purposes and the expense reported for tax purposes. Guess who’s getting the short end on that one?

Bank auditors were fully involved in developing report [FT]
John Hitchens, head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and a PwC Partner would like to dispel any notion that auditors will resist reform after taking it on the chin for the financial crisis:

As chairman of the ICAEW working group that produced the proposals, I would like to correct this impression.

Bank auditors from the six largest audit firms were fully involved in developing the report and supportive of all its recommendations, including the proposal that banks develop summary risk statements which auditors would then give comfort over.

Feel better?

U.K. Scraps FSA in Biggest Bank Overhaul Since 1997 [Bloomberg]
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will do away with the Financial Services Authority, replacing it with three new regulatory bodies and giving most of its oversight powers to the Bank of England.

Intuit Works to Restore Online Access [WSJ]
Any individuals or small businesses that use TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks have been in a world of hurt as online access has been down, down, down. “Some Intuit websites were beginning to come back online late Wednesday afternoon,” according to an Intuit spokesperson. The situation is fluid.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist from NYSE [CNN]
Meant to mention this yesterday since it was the DoD but you know how it goes. Anyway, see you another life FNM and FRE.

Accounting News Roundup: Volcker Says Convergence Is Looking Like a ‘Collision’; Internal Audit Battles Relevancy Question; AIG to Remain Ward of the State | 06.10.10

Volcker upbeat on “reasonable” reform bill [Reuters]
Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker took note of the FASB and IASB’s divergence on fair value and he’s not too thrilled about it, “[Volcker]…said that U.S. and international accounting standard setters must reach an agreement on how banks value the loans on their books.”

So from Big Paul’s POV, there is no option other than to get your shit together on this even though the two boards seem to be moving in the exact opposite direction. Oh, and could you do that ASAP? Reuters quoted him “What appeared to be two organizations converging … now looks like a collision. I hope they can come together by the end of the year.”


Is Internal Audit Irrelevant? [Norman Marks on Governance, Risk Management and Internal Audit]
The question about the relevancy of the Big 4’s audit business (at least for public companies) has been questioned but now the role of internal auditors is in question. Norman Marks cites a recent presentation at the IIA’s International Conference in Atlanta:

One of his points was that internal auditors have been humiliated – because nobody has held them to blame to any degree for the collapse of the banking sector, the failures in corporate governance and risk management, and the tremendous loss in value of investors’ shareholdings all over the world.

Richard pointed out that the Walker report (in the UK) on the causes of the banking crisis didn’t even mention internal audit. We are irrelevant.

Mr Marks takes exception with this, saying that internal auditors do deserve some blame and that if the NYSE and others get around to issuing some requirements around the function of internal audit, the recognition will come with it.

U.S. Faces ‘Severe’ AIG Losses, Says Panel [WSJ]
Even though the bailout of AIG probably prevented us from bartering over food in a barren wasteland with cars on fire everywhere, taxpayers ‘remain at risk for severe losses.’ A Congressional Oversight Panel also stated that the U.S. Government will continue to be a “significant shareholder through 2012.” The Beard is more optimistic however, saying “AIG, I believe, will repay.”

Accounting News Roundup: Cassano Dodges Criminal Charges; Mary Schapiro Acknowledges Some ‘Convergence Gaps’; IRS Audits of Colleges May Look at Coaches Salaries | 05.24.10

Crisis Probes Fail to Meet High Bar [WSJ]
Late on Friday, former AIG executive Joseph Cassano learned that he wouldn’t face criminal charges for his actions as the head of the company’s Financial Products division. According to the Journal, prosecutors did come close to filing criminal charges against Cassano and others but it was felt that the high burden of proof that “there was criminal intent behind executives’ decisions and that they intentionally misled investors” could not be met.

The government isn’t quite finished with Cassano, as he still may face civil charges from the SEC, which has a lower standard of proof.


The SEC’s Mary Schapiro on the Myths of GAAP/IFRS Convergence: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson took a closer look at Mary Schaprio’s speech at the annual conference of Chartered Financial Analysts where she mentioned IFRS but also convergence efforts between the IASB and the FASB. The SEC has maintained that convergence should be the initial goal for reporting standards.

Jim is concerned that the gap between the ultimate goal of convergence and the reality of some of the key issues at stake are no small feat:

There is, indeed, no more eloquent concession of the “convergence gap” than Schapiro’s own admission that “US GAAP and IFRS are currently not converged in a number of key areas,” including “the accounting for financial assets (the very types of securities at the center of the financial crisis), revenue recognition, consolidation principles, and leases.”

Any other problems, Madame Chairman? These on her list are so comprehensively grave that they will keep the international standards standoff alive until the end of time.

Which would put IFRS on a even longer track to adoption.

IRS audits of schools might delve into salaries of coaches [USAToday]
The IRS’ interest in the determination of the highest paid employees for colleges and universities has a few people worried. Not necessarily because anything is wrong but because the IRS is just a scary beast, “John D. Colombo, a University of Illinois law professor who has written about tax exemption and college athletics, says he doesn’t think the IRS action will fundamentally alter college athletics business. But he adds, ‘Audits are never comfortable. Just the IRS being there asking questions makes people nervous.'”

Primarily, the IRS is concerned over the business activities that higher education institutions engage in that aren’t “related to the schools’ primary purpose.” The interest in athletic coaches’ salaries is such that these individuals are often some of the highest paid employees of the school. The IRS is interested in how colleges and universities justify these salaries and to ensure that corporate sponsorships (not considered to be a business activity) are complying with certain rules so they are not considered advertising revenue.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prudential Plc’s CFO Turned CEO Makes the Big Deal

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

CFOs around the world are looking on in a mixture of admiration and jealousy at the success of a former member of the ranks. Tidjane Thiam, CEO of the U.K.’s Prudential PLC is in the process of trying to pull together what must be the biggest deal of his life. The potential $35 billion takeover of AIA will, at a stroke, convert the company from a rather staid UK life insurer into a fast growing Asian financial services behemoth.


This is not the way that text books say it should happen. Generally when a CFO is elevated to the CEO position – as happened to Thiam in the middle of last year – it is usually because there is some dreadful financial crisis looming that only an experienced CFO can really manage. Indeed the promotion of the CFO to the CEO position is likely an admission that there will not be any major strategic moves, rather a relentless of pursuit of cash, debt repayments and risk hedging.

What makes Thiam’s move even more remarkable is that it was reported that he tried to scupper the plans of his predecessor Mark Tucker when he was thinking of making a bid for AIA a year ago. Cynics might say that he wanted to do the deal himself.

Other ex-CFOs of banks, who now find themselves in the top seat, could be forgiven for feeling pangs of jealousy at what Thiam is trying to do. For instance, Stephen Hester, the CEO of RBS is the ex-CFO of Credit Suisse. His job is now all about finding ways to offload toxic assets, keep bankers from leaving and trying to explain to a furious public why bankers need to be paid even if the bank suffers a loss. How much more fun to throw the whole institution at a deal that will not only define a decade but transform the geographic and growth profile of the business.

The trend of promoting CFOs to CEOs is only around 15 years old and can be partly attributed to the private equity business. Once companies are bought out by PE firms, the first priority is to manage the financials as tightly as possible, paying down the acquisition debt and serving interest before arranging an exit. This placed great emphasis on financial skills as opposed to strategic vision. Just such a situation happened last week when Carlyle led a group of investors in a $550 million deal buying into Bank of Butterfield in Bermuda. In the process, the existing CEO Alan Thompson left the bank. His successor? Bradford Kopp, the CFO.

The promotion of the CFO to the top spot can be seen as an admission that all the focus will be on the balance sheet and not the income statement. That could explain why CFOs at Goldman Sachs and HSBC – David Viniar and Douglas Flint respectively – tend not to be mentioned as the next CEOs of the banks; these institutions have very strong internal strategic cultures matched by fortress balance sheets. An admission that either is needed in the top spot would be a sign both of a weak culture and balance sheet. But with Thiam now pioneering the way, it can be shown that CFO’s can make great strategic CEOs. Who will be next?

AIG Keeps the Populist Wrath at Bay with Latest Deal

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

I’ve previously railed against American International Group for dragging its feet in repaying the $180 billion it owes to the U.S. government, so I need to tip my cap to it for the $35.5 billion deal it struck with Prudential for its Asian insurance division.

And unlike some previous deals, AIG will use a major chunk of cash from the sale of the unit — $25 billion — to pay down a credit line it has with the Federal Reserve. (The insurer will take the remaining $10.5 billion in Prudential securities.)


It’s a move the company had to make, really, especially as it continues to lobby against the pay caps the government has imposed.

“This diminishes the wrath directed at AIG from Americans angry at the bailout,” Clark Troy, a senior analyst with research firm Aite Group, told Bloomberg.

The anger directed at financial institutions is a big deal. Just ask Goldman Sachs, which listed “negative publicity” in the risk section of its recently filed 10-K.

So while AIG had previously done a number of relatively minor deals — at least minor compared to its indebtedness to the U.S. taxpayer — the insurer finally made a major act of good faith. Indeed, the unit was considered its crown jewel and Thomson Reuters data showed it was the largest insurance M&A deal ever.

But here’s hoping the company doesn’t take what little good will it will gain from the deal for granted. There’s still the matter of more than $100 billion left.

New Hartford CFO Is Latest to Flee from AIG

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Perhaps he wasn’t crazy about the new forced ranking method on pay?

The Hartford Financial Services Group announced late on Tuesday that Christopher Swift will join the insurer as chief financial officer effective March 1.

Swift, 49, is jumping ship from American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) where he was CFO. ALICO is a subsidiary of American International Group, which the bailed-out insurer is trying to sell to MetLife for $15 billion. The deal is currently hung up on a tax issue.

Hartford, which received $3.4 billion in government aid, has been undergoing a major executive shakeup.


Liam McGee, a former head of consumer banking at Bank of America, took over as chief executive in October from Ramani Ayer, who had led Hartford’s aggressive push into variable annuities and retired at the end of 2009.

Shortly after taking over, McGee tapped Hartford’s current CFO, Lizabeth Zlatkus, for its chief risk officer position. She’ll move into that role when Swift officially joins the company.

AIG, for its part, has been bleeding talent. More than 60 managers have left the company since it was bailed out in September 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Pay practices at AIG have been under intense scrutiny by the public, as well as the government.

Swift began his career as an auditor in the Chicago office of KPMG where he focused on financial services. He was made partner at 32. He then became executive vice president of Conning Asset Management, a subsidiary of General American, where he was responsible for finance, sales/marketing and information technology. After MetLife acquired Conning in 1999, Swift returned to KPMG and was eventually appointed head of the firm’s Global Insurance Industry Practice. As leader of this segment, he worked with clients in both the life and P&C segments, globally and domestically. He was responsible for matters ranging from strategic and regulatory to audit, risk, advisory and tax services.

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]

Quote of the Day | 01.27.10

“You give lame excuses then, and you’re giving lame excuses now.”

~ Representative John L. Mica, Republican of Florida to Tim Geithner on his role in the bailout of AIG.

Ernst & Young Is Here to Help (For a Small Fee)!

ernst_young.jpgWe thought that Ernst & Young was advising the New York Fed on the winding down of AIG out of the goodness of their hearts but it turns out it’s actually about the money.
E&Y could make as much as $60 million advising the New York Fed, which is 50% more than the initial agreement, according to Bloomberg. The NYF is also reimbursing E&Y for expenses, up to 10% of the professional fees. This occurs after the parties had initially said $40 million would be the cap but $60 mil is it, we swear, no more.
And because E&Y is solid like that, the firm is billing out partners and directors at discounted rates ($775/hour). I mean, ’cause, let’s face it, this thing’s a mess and E&Y is going to be working hard, working late, working weekends.
Ernst & Young’s Maximum Pay for AIG Advice Swells [Bloomberg]