If you followed last week’s “Role of the Accounting Profession in Preventing Another Financial Crisis” hearing before the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment, you may have noticed that “Ernst & Young” was never uttered by anyone on the panel, although Lehman Brothers was mentioned a number of times throughout the hearing. Anton Valukas, the bankruptcy examiner for the Lehman, was there after all and “Ernst & Young” appears in his report probably thousands of times. So why wouldn’t Ernst & Young be mentioned? This is a hearing about the accounting profession preventing, after all and Mr Valukas has stated in his report and elsewhere that “colorable claims” could be filed against E&Y. Stands to reason that perhaps the firm would come up at some point.
Also, if you followed the hearing with us on our live-blog, you definitely heard Francine McKenna and I complaining about the sorry turnout by the members of the subcommittee. The majority of questions coming from the subcommittee chairman, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), with a few from Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The eight GOP members were nowhere to be found. Now maybe accounting isn’t the sexiest of topics but it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t an important hearing where many questions could have been asked of an industry that witnessed excrement coming into contact with an old Century. However, after a tip from a person familiar with situation, we may have an idea why there was such a pathetic turnout:
[T]he auditing firms did not like it they were holding the hearing and E&Y really was complaining to Reed that Valukas had been invited. As a result, the Republicans agreed that none of them would attend the hearing which in fact, none did.
Gotta love spiteful absence! Obviously we had to call around on this one and Ernst & Young spokesman Charlie Perkins declined to comment. As for the Republican members of the subcommittee, we have…well, nothing else to share at this point. But we’re hopeful! It’s entirely possible that all eight GOP members had something better to do than ask questions of industry experts that had a front row seat to the financial crisis, but then again the hearing was pretty early in the morning.
UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Senator Mike Crapo, the ranking member on the subcommittee, informed us that Mr Crapo was sick last Wednesday and canceled all his appointments for that day.
“The public has every right to conclude that auditors who hold themselves out as independent will stand up to management and notsuccumb to pressure to avoid rocking the boat.”