Auditors

The PCAOB Is Pleased with How the Whistleblowing Has Gone

“We thought auditors and investors would like to have an avenue to report violations of accounting and auditing standards and financial fraud.”

~ Claudius Modesti, PCAOB Enforcement and Investigations Division director. Last year, the Board fielded 179 tips – a record – that alleged wrongdoing by audit firms and their employees.

While They Were at It, The PCAOB Thought They Might Chime in on Auditors’ Babysitting Skills

As we mentioned late yesterday, the PCAOB has been working hard these days. Late nights, weekends, ordering in and whathaveyou. Adrienne told you about the new eight auditing standards that you’re all expected to have memorized by Labor Day, and we wrapped up with Dan Goelzer snagging QOTD for the Board’s move towards open enforcement proceedings. This move will, presumably, be used in order to shame the pants off of those of you that dare to break the rules.

But the Board had one more thing to serve up yesterday and that was to put it out there that they don’t think too highly of the job auditors are doing supervising the worker bees:

“Through its inspections and investigations, the PCAOB has observed that supervision processes within firms are frequently not as robust as they should be, and that supervisory responsibilities are often not as clearly assigned as they should be,” said PCAOB Acting Chairman Daniel L. Goelzer. “Today’s Release seeks to highlight the Board’s views on the scope for using the authority provided in the Act to address those problems.”

For an industry that depends so heavily on a hierarchal structure, this does not bode well. There are several possible scenarios that led the PCAOB to jump in with their thoughts, including but not limited to:

1. Dozens of audit engagements of publicly traded companies have aloof partners that pop in once or twice a week, observe a handful of staff people feverishly ticking and tying, only to assume everything appears a-okay.

2. The PCAOB has incredible “luck” picking the biggest shitshow engagements.

3. The PCAOB is just blowing the shortage of experienced SAs out of the water.

4. Inspectors don’t buy the “we got this” story from the A1 and A2 running an accelerated filer engagement.

If you’re on one of these free-for-all audits, for crying out loud, get in touch. We want details.

PCAOB Issues Release on Failure to Supervise [PCAOB]

Somebody Has Been Busy: PCAOB Issues Eight New Audit Standards

Since the PCAOB was only up to Audit Standard 7 last time we checked and seems to take the conservative approach when it comes to issuing new ones, we have to say we were more than shocked to see them almost double their audit standards overnight. Gee, must be serious.


Via the PCAOB:

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board today adopted a suite of eight auditing standards related to the auditor’s assessment of, and response to, risk in an audit.

The suite of risk assessment standards, Auditing Standards No. 8 through No. 15, sets forth requirements that enhance the effectiveness of the auditor’s assessment of, and response toial misstatement in the financial statements.

The risk assessment standards address audit procedures performed throughout the audit, from the initial planning stages through the evaluation of the audit results.

“These new standards are a significant step in promoting sophisticated risk assessment in audits and minimizing the risk that the auditor will fail to detect material misstatements,” said PCAOB Acting Chairman Daniel L. Goelzer. “Identifying risks, and properly planning and performing the audit to address those risks, is essential to promoting investor confidence in audited financial statements.”

What does this mean for auditors? Let’s check them out.

AS No. 8 – Audit Risk. This standard discusses the auditor’s consideration of audit risk in an audit of financial statements as part of an integrated audit or an audit of financial statements only. It describes the components of audit risk and the auditor’s responsibilities for reducing audit risk to an appropriately low level in order to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatement.

AS No. 9 – Audit Planning. This standard establishes requirements regarding planning an audit, including assessing matters that are important to the audit, and establishing an appropriate audit strategy and audit plan.

AS No. 10 – Supervision of the Audit Engagement. This standard sets forth requirements for supervision of the audit engagement, including, in particular, supervising the work of engagement team members. It applies to the engagement partner and to other engagement team members who assist the engagement partner with supervision.

AS No. 11 – Consideration of Materiality in Planning and Performing an Audit. This standard describes the auditor’s responsibilities for consideration of materiality in planning and performing an audit.

AS No. 12 – Identifying and Assessing Risks of Material Misstatement. This standard establishes requirements regarding the process of identifying and assessing risks of material misstatement of the financial statements. The risk assessment process discussed in the standard includes information-gathering procedures to identify risks and an analysis of the identified risks.

AS No. 13 – The Auditor’s Responses to the Risks of Material Misstatement. This standard establishes requirements for responding to the risks of material misstatement in financial statements through the general conduct of the audit and performing audit procedures regarding significant accounts and disclosures.

AS No. 14 – Evaluating Audit Results. This standard establishes requirements regarding the auditor’s evaluation of audit results and determination of whether the auditor has obtained sufficient appropriate audit evidence. The evaluation process set forth in this standard includes, among other things, evaluation of misstatements identified during the audit; the overall presentation of the financial statements, including disclosures; and the potential for management bias in the financial statements.

AS No. 15 – Audit Evidence. This standard explains what constitutes audit evidence and establishes requirements for designing and performing audit procedures to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support the opinion expressed in the auditor’s report.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love rules and regs as much as the next girl – if not more – but I am of the thought that users of financial statements would be better served not by more rules and regs but by a more comprehensive auditor training program that starts in college. Am I asking too much?

Did we really need clarity on audit evidence? The PCAOB seems to think so and that’s fine, they are well-intentioned in their motive and you can’t fault them for that.

Accounting News Roundup: Tax Cuts Debate Rages On; Tax Issues for A-Rod’s 600th; Wyclef’s Campaign Stumbles Out of the Blocks | 08.05.10

Geithner Pushes Tax Boost for Wealthy [WSJ]
“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the Obama administration’s economic case for letting tax cuts for high earners expire at the end of this year, saying that failure to do so would harm rather than help economic growth.

In a speech Wednesday in Washington, part of the administration’s broader strategy to overcome Republican opposition on the issue, Mr. Geithner said that keeping current tax levels even on a short-term basis “would hurt economic recovery by undermining confidence that we are prepared to make a commitment today to bring down our future deficits.” The government needs the revenue it would get from allowing tax rates for the wealthy to rise, he said.”

PCAOB Logs No Progress on International Inspections [Compliance Week]
“The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board isn’t yet making much headway in catching up on overdue international inspections, but the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill at least clears an obstacle the board has repeatedly blamed for its inability to meet its inspection mandate.”

Regulator fears auditors may abandon scepticism to meet deadlines [Accountancy Age]
“The Auditing Practices Board (APB), which sets standards for the industry, is concerned auditors might be abandoning their professional scepticism to meet contractual audit deadlines, and wants to coach them in how to be sceptical.

Audit contracts are often negotiated on the assumption few problems will be revealed, according to the APB. When a potential issue does arise timetables often have to be extended.”

A-Rod’s Home Run Ball: a Tax Headache for the Record Books? [WSJ]
The ball is reportedly worth around $100k and if the ball is technically Yankees’ property and the team were to give it to A-Rod, then he may owe tax and the Yanks would get a corresponding deduction. The team could also argue that the ball is technically A-Rod’s property and then neither would owe tax.

Of course then the question remains, what if A-Rod sells or donates the ball to a nonprofit? If he sold it, then it would depend on how long he keeps it (less than a year would be at ordinary rates, greater than a year would be at capital gain rates). While donating the ball after one year could net him a near full deduction.

TheStreet.com names Thomas Etergino finance chief [AP]
Tom starts his new gig on September 7th.


IRS Hits Wyclef With $2.1 Million In Tax Liens [The Smoking Gun]
Whether it’s the U.S. or Haiti, this is not how you want to start a Presidential campaign.

Delta Said to Plan New York JFK Hub Renovation for $1.2 Billion [Bloomberg]
Anyone that has been to Terminal 3 at JFK is aware of the problem.

KV Pharmaceutical Will Get to Know BDO

As we’ve mentioned, it’s been a rough summer – hell a rough year – for KV Pharmaceutical. The company paid nearly $26 million to the Justice Department back in February, had massive layoffs in March and their Chairman and CFO back in June.

Last month, KPMG decided it had had all the drama it could handle and resigned as the auditor of the company.

But as the second half of 2010 gets into full swing, KV managed to find a new CFO and now they’ve managed to land a new auditor – BDO.


BPR:

K-V Pharmaceutical Company (NYSE: KVa/KVb) announced today that the Audit Committee of its Board of Directors has engaged BDO USA, LLP (“BDO”) as the Company’s independent registered accounting firm.

The Company and BDO will commence work immediately on the planning, audit and filing of the fiscal year 2010 Form 10-K and will then follow with the review of its quarterly filings for fiscal year 2011. K-V’s fiscal year end is March 31.

Mr. Mark Dow, Chair of the Board’s Audit Committee, stated, “The Audit Committee and the entire Board is pleased to be able to announce the selection of BDO as the Company’s new accounting firm. BDO has extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry and also a previous relationship with K-V, and the Company believes BDO will be able to assess and complete its audit of the Company’s Fiscal Year 2010 financial statements expeditiously. We look forward to working closely with BDO to bring the Company back into compliance with all of its Securities and Exchange Commission filings as quickly as possible.”

Right! Staying compliant! That sounds a bit maj. Not only that but the New York Stock Exchange (sort of of a big deal in their own right) is sick of KV stinking up their big board with their 30-day average stock price hovering under $1.

The company has assured the NYSE that they’re on this stock price problem, “The Company will furnish to the NYSE on or prior to August 10, 2010 a response affirming its intent to cure this deficiency and outlining the steps it is currently taking and plans to undertake in the near term to restore compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards.”

Let’s just say BDO has their work cut out. KV has no internal controls to speak of, is having trouble convincing the FDA their products are safe and the SEC and NYSE breathing down their necks. Now maybe this won’t all translate into the auditors’ magic wand but there’s got to other potential clients in the St. Louis area with far less drama.

K-V Pharmaceutical Company Engages BDO USA, LLP as Independent Registered Accountants [PR Newswire]
Notice of Delisting or Failure to Satisfy a Continued Listing Rule or Standard; Transfer of Listing [SEC]

The Restatement That Never Ends: KPMG Hasn’t Received Necessary Docs for Satyam

Back in June we told you about Satyam requesting just a wee bit more time to nail down their restatement of their financial statements. It wasn’t because KPMG and Deloitte weren’t working their asses off, it was more of commitment to get things right. Putting good numbers out there, repairing broken trust, so on and so forth.

Well! The three month extension ends next month but as you might expect, there’s a bit of a problem. More specifically, KPMG is now saying that they haven’t received the documentation necessary to finish the job. Unless everyone is okay with some wild-ass guesses, in which case they can proceed.

[F]or all its documents, KPMG had to depend on the [Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”), which is investigating the scam.

NDTV has learnt that KPMG’s analysis of the documents don’t match with the CBI’s. There is a discrepancy between the two which amounts to over [$200 million].

CBI has based its calculations on estimates of Satyam’s assets and liabilities while KPMG says they need documentation to base their estimates.

KPMG says that they didn’t get all the documents needed to make a clear assessment which is why the accounts are likely to be re-stated full of riders.

But again, if you’re cool with some double-entry hocus-pocus, that can be arranged. There’s a merger at stake after all, “This confusion in the numbers could hold up Satyam’s merger with Tech Mahindra, which needs the go ahead from market regulators in India and the US, since Satyam is also listed in the US.”

Good luck getting that U.S. approval.

Satyam accounts restatement: KPMG’s analysis differs with CBI’s [NDTV]

Accounting News Roundup: Mazars Would Like to See More Competition in the Audit Market; Citi CFO Settles with SEC; Colbert on Tax Cuts | 07.30.10

Auditors don’t know the meaning of ‘competition’ [FT]
In a letter to the Financial Times, David Herbinet, the UK Head of Public Interest Markets for Mazars, takes issue with the notion (he says ‘puzzled’) that there is robust competition in the audit market, “Figures calculated from the most authoritative research available – the Oxera report that first spurred examination of the issue – show that a FTSE 100 auditor can on average expect to remain in place for an eye-watering 48 years and their FTSE 250 counterpart for 36 years. When the research was conducted more than 70 per cent of the FTSE 100 audits had not been subject to tender for at over, 97 per cent of current FTSE 350 audits are held by just four firms. If this represents fierce competition I would not like to see a stagnant market.”

Facebook Said to Put Off IPO Until 2012 to Buy Time for Growth [Bloomberg]
“Facebook Inc. will probably put off its initial public offering until 2012, giving Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg more time to gain users and boost sales, three people familiar with the matter said.

Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing, instead of holding an IPO in 2011 as investors speculated, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Facebook doesn’t discuss share-sale plans. Still, Zuckerberg, who holds board control, could push for a stock sale at any time, they said.”

U.S. Financial System Still at Risk, Says IMF [WSJ]
Get RIGHT out of town. “The International Monetary Fund says the U.S. financial system is “slowly recovering,” but remains vulnerable to crisis, in part because Congress and the administration have failed to streamline a regulatory system marked by turf battles and overlapping responsibilities.

‘We asked many times why bolder action could not be undertaken,’ said the IMF’s Christopher Towe, who oversaw the agency’s first broad review of the U.S. financial sector.”

SEC Charges Citigroup and Two Executives for Misleading Investors About Exposure to Subprime Mortgage Assets [SEC]
That includes former CFO Gary Crittenden who agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.


Colbert on the Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts [TaxProf]

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Ownership Society
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Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Despite What the IRS Says, This Guy Needs Your Help Raising $2 Million

Hinn says he accumulated the deficit in the past few months because offerings at some international appearances did not cover expenses.

Hinn’s reputation as an advocate of prosperity gospel has attracted millions of followers but has also drawn criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups.

He is one of six televangelists who have been targeted by federal lawmakers investigating compliance with IRS rules for nonprofits.

Hinn has said on his website that external auditors ensure his compliance with IRS regulations and that in 2008, 88 percent of the money he collected was spent on ministry.

For starters, can someone tell the Hinnmeister that external auditors’ word doesn’t mean shit? Second, try shopping for your clothes somewhere other than the David Copperfield consignment store and maybe you won’t have trouble covering your expenses.

Televangelist Benny Hinn asks for $2M in donations [AP]

Accounting News Roundup: BP’s Ugly 2nd Quarter; Bernanke Backs Extending Some Tax Cuts; Back-to-school Sales Tax Holidays | 07.27.10

BP replaces CEO and posts $17 billion quarterly loss [Reuters]
“Oil giant BP Plc launched a plan to repair its battered image in the United States on Tuesday, ditching itsxecutive and promising to slim down by trebling an asset sale target to $30 billion.

However, the company, the target of public anger over its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, tempted further ire by denying it needed cultural change and offsetting the costs of the spill, including expected fines, against its taxes.

The tax move will cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $10 billion.”

Northern Rock CFO Banned And Fined GBP320,000 Over Bad Loans [Dow Jones]
“David Jones, the former chief financial officer of Northern Rock PLC, was Tuesday fined GBP320,000 and barred from working in finance after the Financial Services Authority found he misled investors about the bank’s bad loans in the lead-up to the bank’s eventual collapse.

Jones most recently was CFO at Northern Rock Asset Management PLC, the “bad bank” of the nationalized lender after a restructuring of its operations. He left the company in April because of the FSA investigation, a week after two former colleagues were fined and banned for their roles in making the bank’s 2006 bad-loan figures appear better than they were.”

Where will those next gen clients come from? [AccMan]
And what will ask of their professional service providers? Right now, Gen X and Millenials don’t compromise much of the client base but that will change quickly when Baby Boomers start retiring en masse. What these new business owners will ask of their service providers is not quite clear. Similar to the demands currently placed on employers, service providers will have to be flexible and innovative.

Bernanke Says Tax-Cut Extension Maintains Stimulus [Bloomberg]
“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said extending at least some of the tax cuts set to expire this year would help strengthen a U.S. economy still in need of stimulus and urged offsetting the move with increased revenue or lower spending.

‘In the short term I would believe that we ought to maintain a reasonable degree of fiscal support, stimulus for the economy,’ Bernanke said yesterday under questioning from the House Financial Services Committee’s senior Republican. ‘There are many ways to do that. This is one way.’ ”


Accounting firm Kaufman Rossin & Co. settles case for $9.6M [Miami Herald]
Kaufman Rossin was the auditor of the two Palm Beach funds that invested over a billion dollars with convicted Ponzi Schemer Tom Petters.

And in case you forgot, convicted forensic accountant and suit lover Lew Freeman was the Chief Restructuring Officer for the Palm Beach funds. Quite the cesspool.

How Low Self-Esteem Can Cost You The Job [Forbes]
Are you a low talker? No one is suggesting that you don’t know what you’re talking about but the perception could be that you don’t and in turn, It could be affecting your career.

Lords to probe audit market [Accountancy Age]
“A recent report from the FRC and FSA criticised the role of auditors during the crisis saying they had failed to tackle management bias.

The Lords investigation will look at basic questions such as wether Big Four dominance increases the price of audit and whether the market needs to be opened up.”

Oracle’s Ellison: Pay King [WSJ]
$1.84 billion over the last ten years is not too shabby.

Sales tax holidays 2010 [Don’t Mess with Taxes]
Kay Bell has a rundown of the sixteen states that are having sales tax holidays right before the kids go back to school.

Will a Fear of Flying Be a Problem for a Future Big 4 Auditor?

Happy MOANday, people. I received the following email last week and wanted to share my response with all of you. Please comment below if you are or have ever been in a similar situation, and detail how your respective firm responded.

I have a question that I can’t seem to have answered anywhere. I just finished my sophomore year a prestigious university in the northeast and am considered working at Big 4 for a few years for the resume stamp so I could transfer for better pay/work-life balance. One thing that interests me is how much traveling is required in the audit department if you work in a big city like NYC…are most of the client sites local or will a lot of flying be involved. The reason I ask is because I have an intense fear of flying and I am wondering if this will be a deal breaker. I would be more than happy to DRIVE anywhere or take Amtrak but I seriously do not want to fly. Would working for Big 4 in NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc give me the flexibility that I seek in terms of flying, or should I be considering another career? Thanks for your time!


The easy answer: Talk to the recruiters that visit campus. I don’t know how hard you’ve looked for an answer but the recruiters are campus know (or should know) their firm’s HR policies well enough to answer the question.

The must-give-Caleb-400-words-of-content answer: Generally speaking, intensive travel is generally affiliated with large corporations with resources in several states or countries; more times than not these businesses are headquartered in the larger cities you mentioned. For example: it is entirely possible to work on a large multinational corporation based in New York City that has factories in several states. Depending on the scope of the audit and the resources of firm, staff auditors occasionally have to travel to the remote sites and perform fieldwork. Most auditors welcome the travel as “part of the job” and enjoy a change in working environment (even if the environment is a chemical plant in Arizona). But because of your legitimate fear, this is obviously not something you’re interested in. I wouldn’t worry, and here’s why:

The advantage to working in a larger office is that the Scheduling team can better accommodate your request not to be assigned to engagements where air travel would be required. However, that’s not to say that should your office location be a smaller office (say, Pittsburgh), your request would be met with a “too bad for you” response. It is in the best interest of the firm to handle needs like yours in a professional manner.

My advice to you is to be discreet but upfront and honest with the firm you choose to worth with. Discuss the need to be on local clients, and remember – the vast majority clients in larger cities are accessible by mass transit or car. I have no doubt that you will have a successful career in public, even if you are there for the “résumé stamp.”

Accounting News Roundup: Rangel Found to Have Violated Ethics Rules; Friends of “Miami’s Go-to Forensic Accountant” Ask for Leniency; A “Refreshing” Settlement | 07.23.10

Rep. Charles Rangel broke ethics rules, House panel finds [WaPo]
“A House ethics subcommittee announced Thursday that it found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel violated congressional ethics rules and that it will prrobably beginning in September. The panel is expected to make the details of his alleged violations public next Thursday.

Rangel (D-N.Y.) has been under the House ethics committee’s microscope since early 2008 after it was reported that he may have used his House position to benefit his financial interests. Two of the most serious inquiries have focused on Rangel’s failure to declare $239,000 to $831,000 in assets on his disclosure forms, and on his effort to raise money for a private center named after him at City College of New York using his congressional letterhead.”

Geithner: Taxes on Wealthiest to Rise [WSJ]
“The Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday, setting up a clash with Republicans and a small but vocal group of Democrats who want to delay the looming tax increases.

Mr. Geithner said the White House would allow taxes on top earners to increase in 2011 as part of an effort to bring down the U.S. budget deficit. He said the White House plans to extend expiring tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans, and expects to undertake a broader revision of the tax code next year.

‘We believe it is appropriate to let those tax cuts that go to the most fortunate expire,’ Mr. Geithner said at a breakfast with reporters.”

FASB Requires More Disclosures Around Credit Risk [Compliance Week]
Accounting Standards Update No. 2010-20, Receivables (Topic 310) calls for more credit risk disclosures to give investors a better view of the credit risk in a company’s portfolio of receivables as well as the adequacy of its allowance for credit losses. Under the update, companies will be required to say more about aging receivables and credit quality indicators in particular.

The new disclosure requirements affect financing receivables and trade accounts receivable, including loans, trade accounts receivable that are greater than a year old, notes receivable, credit cards and receivables for certain leases. The new disclosure requirement does not affect short-term trade accounts receivable, receivables that are measured at fair value or the lower of cost or fair value, and debt securities.”


Convicted accountant Lewis Freeman’s friends urge leniency [Miami Herald]
“Miami’s go-to forensic accountant” Lewis Freeman is to be sentenced today for stealing nearly $3 million from victims of fraud who he was appointed to protect. He faces a dozen to fifteen years in prison but his friends and supporters have turned on the pity party, sending nearly 300 letters to Judge Paul Huck, asking for leniency.

“[E]very one of those letter writers also asks the judge to show mercy, emphasizing that the affable New York native should not have to languish in prison because he has done so much for institutions like his alma mater, the University of Miami, Miami Children’s Hospital and the Miami Children’s Museum, among others.”

No need for non-audit ban, regulator claims [Accountancy Age]
“Accountants will not have to give up their non-audit work for audit clients, under proposed guidelines released today, which have not recommended an outright ban, suggested by politicians in the wake of the financial crisis.

The Auditing Practices Board, of the Financial Reporting Council, which publishes guidance for auditors, does not believe an outright ban on non-audit services should be enacted and has instead proposed to tinker with present disclosure requirements.”

Could This Be a Real Deterrent? [Floyd Norris/NYT]
Despite the usual fare in the SEC’s settlement yesterday, Floyd Norris writes that the $4 million fine for Michael Dell and other executives is “refreshing.”

Accounting News Roundup: Bankruptcy Examiner to Investigate WaMu Failure; Ex-KPMG Tax Principal Pleads Guilty; UK Inspector Says Audits Need ‘Significant Improvement’ | 07.21.10

WaMu Shareholders Win Court Investigation of Biggest U.S. Bank Failure [Bloomberg]
WaMu gets their very own Anton Valukas! Colorful claims to come? “Shareholders of Washington Mutual Inc. won court approval of a new investigation of the biggest U.S. bank failure, further delaying the company’s effort to reorganize in bankruptcy.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath in Wilmington, Delaware, agreed that an examiner should be appointed to review WaMu’s assets, including the value of a potential lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for their role in the 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual Bank.”

Ex-IRS agent pleads guilty [WaPo]
John Venuti was also with KPMG from 2002 to until this past January. WaPo reports that he was a “tax consultant and principal.”

“According to the plea agreement, Venuti did not file federal tax returns from 2001 to 2006. Each year, though, he requested and was granted a six-month extension, and made a total of $97,060 in payments along with the extension requests. Authorities said he owes more than $789,000 in back taxes.”

Reckitt to Buy Durex Maker SSL [WSJ]
“Pushing further into the lucrative over-the-counter medical market, U.K. consumer-goods firm Reckitt Benckiser PLC agreed on Wednesday to acquire health-care-product company SSL International PLC, in a deal that values the world’s biggest condom maker at £2.54 billion ($3.88 billion).”

FASB Reveals Second Attempt at Standard on Contingencies [Compliance Week]
“The standard differs from one the FASB published in June 2008, which called on companies to use some conjecture and provide estimates of possible outcomes. Corporate counsel in particular buried FASB with objections that the proposed approach would force disclosure of privileged information, especially by giving legal adversaries access to information that would compromise the outcome of disputes. The current proposal steers clear of any requirement for companies to make any predictions or estimates about possible outcomes.”


FTSE 100 audits require “significant improvement”, inspectors find [Accountancy Age]
“Auditors have also been accused of altering documents before handing them to regulators and putting cost savings ahead of quality, in the review by the Audit Inspection Unit (AIU).

The report raised a number of concerns following its inspection of 109 audits from AIM and the FTSE 350.

The report also found some cases where partners signed audit reports before the audit was complete and one instance when an auditor tried to alter an internal file after the AIU requested it. Auditors had also changed internal materiality thresholds, which effectively reduced their workload, and had also not applied enough scepticism to internal asset valuations.”

Is Mary Schapiro Talking About a Certain Lehman Brothers Auditor?

Maybe! After last week’s settlement with Team Jehovah and the financial reform bill allowing for a few more hands on deck, the SEC chair says there are some other smackdowns in the works.

Unfortunately she doesn’t name names but use your imagination:

“We have investigations in the pipeline, across products, across institutions, coming out of the financial crisis,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said after testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing.

Asked if the bulk of the cases have already been brought to light, she said: “Not necessarily, not necessarily.”

So it’s a grab bag really. Although, as you may recall, Dick Fuld is on the record that E&Y was on board with whatever the dorks in accounting were doing. Or maybe MS is just messing with Congress. The situation remains fluid.

SEC chairman says more post-crisis cases in pipeline [Reuters]

Jeremy Newman and BDO Will Not Be Taking Part in Your Lowballed, Low Quality Audits

BDO International CEO Jeremy Newman is a little concerned about the trend of lowball audit fees out there. Now, those aren’t his exact words, in fact he calls it ‘‘extreme downward pressure on fees’ which still seems far more than honest than “my US colleagues call ‘fee compression.’”

He’s worried because he thinks that all this slumming around for any little opining job will lead to shoddy audits:

There is increasing evidence that fees are being forced down to such an extent that one worries this will encourage audit firms to ‘cut corners’ to reduce their own costs and thereby reduce audit quality – particularly given that the buyers of audit services (ie clients) do not monitor or determine audit quality which is a role taken on by regulators who are not involved in the pricing discussion between the client and the audit firm.

Yes, the man has evidence, courtesy of:

Canadian Public Accountability Board – “CPAB has learned that certain audit committees are pressuring firms to significantly reduce audit fees. This stance may be incompatible with the audit committees’ important role … in helping to ensure the integrity of financial reporting.”

Australian Securities and Investments Commission – “We will also focus on audit quality for new or existing audits where audit fees appear low or appear to have been reduced for reasons other than changes in the underlying business of the entity being audited.”

And he rounds it out with a quote from a speech given by Stephen Hadrill, the Chief Executive of the UK’s Financial Reporting Council, “There is a role for the market in setting higher expectations of auditors. So far the market has not played that role. Quite the opposite. It is more likely to applaud lower audit fees than higher quality.”

So if you’re desperate to retain some business or provide “client service” through the Wal Mart method, you’ll be on your own. As long as Newman is running the ship at BDO, they will be choosing quality over quantity, “despite the pressure on us to reduce costs,” no matter what other firms (read: Igbay Ourfay) are doing.

A Bizarre Market [CEO Insights]

The Latest Proposed Standard from the PCAOB Will Hopefully Keep Future Interns Busy

Yesterday, the PCAOB released a 90 page proposal on confirmations because, presumably, auditors collectively suck at using them.

If you take exception with that notion, so be it, but the Board thought that rolling out a standard was necessary to give the opiners out there some guidance so they can get a little more bang for the buck (and give interns and A1s something to do when there is absolutely nothing going on) from confirmations.


Tammy Whitehouse over at Compliance Week fills us in on some of the details:

PCAOB member Steven Harris said the proposed standard expands the use of the confirmation process by requiring auditors to confirm receivables that arise from credit sales, loans, or other transactions; cash and other relationships with financial institutions; and other accounts or balances that pose a significant risk to the financial statements. Currently, auditors are required only to verify receivables if they arise from the sale of goods or services in the normal course of business.

The standard also would relax the requirements for confirmations written on paper, reflecting advances in electronic communication. The proposal would allow auditors to use electronic media to send confirmation requests and receive confirmation responses, and it would make provisions under certain circumstances for auditors to use direct access to a third party’s records to obtain the audit evidence they need.

Throw in your 2¢ by September 13th and gird your loins for audits after Dec. 15, 2011.

PCAOB Proposes New Auditing Standard on Confirmation [PCAOB]
PCAOB Plans New Requirements for Audit Confirmations [Compliance Week]

KPMG Partner Thinks It’s Really Unfair That Audit Firms Keep Getting Sued

You know what sucks? Getting sued. Ask Bill Michael, KPMG’s UK head of FS. He’s pretty sick and tired of all the sue-happiness going on in the world today. Sure, the financial crisis nearly destroyed the world as we know it but dammit, blaming auditors is downright ludicrous. Why? Because it’s unfair.

Bill Michael, UK head of financial services at KPMG, attacked what he described as “unfair”, “deep pocket” lawsuits which pay “little or no attention to the balance of responsibility between auditor and management”.

“We operate in a highly litigious environment where the balance of risk and reward has driven us to a world of caveats,” said Mr Michael. “Any corporate failure or financial loss invariably carries with it the risk of suing the auditor.”

Right. Because in law school they teach future litigators to “pay attention to the balance of responsibility between auditor and management.” Supposedly Bill Mike would like everyone to start respecting the Big 4 business model and leave them alone to do their work. Because in case you hadn’t heard, this is a life and death matter for accounting firms, you know:

“I can tell you, we are acutely aware of risk management and its consequences from both an individual and a firm perspective.

“You only have to look at what happened to a great firm like Arthur Anderson after its audit of Enron,” said Mr Michael. Arthur Anderson was eventually cleared after its audit of the collapsed energy trader, but the accountancy has already folded as a result.

He also criticised the “enormous rewards for failure” in the banking industry, drawing attention to the way some of those responsible for the collapse of major firms were able to move to other banks or hedge funds.

“The risk-reward relationship is not only lop-sided; it impairs our ability to provide broader observations,” said Mr Michael.

Describing the sometimes tense relationship between accountants and the firms they are auditing, he said that each review often started with the premise of “we don’t trust you”.

So in other words, get your witch hunt on with the banks and hedgies but leave us the hell alone. Nobody likes us the way it is.

Litigation culture is ‘unfair’ warns KPMG accounting head [Telegraph]

Accounting News Roundup: Quasi-Exodus at H&R Block?; National Taxpayer Advocate Issues Report That Congress Won’t Read; SEC Might Want to Take a Closer Look at Amedisys | 07.08.10

H&R Block names Alan Bennett as CEO [AP]
This all came about since Russ Smyth resigned, made official by a two sentence 8-K filing, “On June 30, 2010, Russell P. Smyth provided H&R Block, Inc. (the “Company”) with notice of his resignation as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, and as a director of the Company. The effective date of Mr. Smyth’s resignation from these positions is August 29, 2010, unless the Board of Directors selects an earlier date.”

It seems like there’s a quasi-exodus in the C-Suite at HRB as General Counsned on Friday and the company is still on the hunt for a CFO after Becky Shulman left in April.

Yahoo CFO Aims to End Buy-High, Sell-Low Record on Deals [Bloomberg]
Tim Morse told Bloomberg that the company has been doing things completely bassackwards, “You’ve seen our track record on M&A with buying really high and selling pretty low,” Morse said in an interview. “We’ve got to be careful.”

Some examples of doing things exactly wrong include, “Yahoo, the second-biggest U.S. search engine, agreed to sell its HotJobs website for $225 million in February after paying about $436 million for it in 2002. In January, Yahoo sold Zimbra, an e-mail and collaboration unit, netting $100 million. Yahoo bought it in 2007 for $350 million.”

Auditors could face grillings from analysts [Accountancy Age]
“Steve Maslin, chair of the partnership oversight board at Grant Thornton, envisages an expanded audit role which may involve greater face-to-face time with stakeholders, including question and answer sessions at annual general meetings.

‘Many investors believe there is valuable information that gets discussed by the auditors with management and audit committees to which investors do not have access – and I think they are right,’ he said.”


Legg Mason CFO resigns [Baltimore Sun]
Get your resumé in now.

FEI Announces 2010 Hall of Fame Inductees [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Come on down! “FEI’s 2010 Hall of Fame inductees: Karl M. von der Heyden, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Financial Officer of PepsiCo, Inc., and Ulyesse J. LeGrange, retired Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of ExxonMobil Corporation’s U.S. Oil and Gas Operations.”

National Taxpayer Advocate Submits Mid-Year Report to Congress [IRS]
Nina Olson’s mid-year report to Congress has plenty to wade through so that means none of the members will likely read it. Fortunately the IRS narrowed the three biggies (Taxpayer Services, New Business and Tax-Exempt Organization Reporting Requirements, IRS Collection Practices) into a much more consumable version.

Open Letter to the [SEC]: Investigate Troubling Issues at Amedisys Missed by Wall Street Journal [White Collar Fraud]
In Sam Antar’s latest WTFU letter to the SEC, he details some issues at Amedisys which weren’t covered in the Journal‘s report from back in April. Since we are into the whole brevity thing, we won’t get into the number crunching here but things look fishy. Plus there’s this:

On September 3, 2009, Amedisys President and COO Larry Graham and Alice Ann Schwartz, its chief information officer, suddenly resigned from the company. Amedisys provided no reason for their resignations and simply said that the two execs “are leaving the company to pursue other interests.”

In my experience, sudden, unexpected executive departures are often a sign of problems beneath the surface. And while it could be entirely coincidental, the trends at Amedisys appear to be consistent with my experience.

But Sam doesn’t believe in coincidences.

KPMG Has Gotten Tired of KV Pharmaceutical’s Financial Reporting Side Effects

Last week we ran a post courtesy of Sheryl Nash at CFOZone that discussed the tough 2010 that KV Pharmaceutical was having. Well, it’s getting worse. KPMG, not completely adverse to risk,ps and has dropped KVP like a sack of spuds.

In an 8-K rammed through just before quitting time yesterday, “On June 25, 2010, KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) notified K-V Pharmaceutical Company (the “Registrant” or the “Company”) that it had resigned from its engagement as the Registrant’s principal accountant. KPMG’s resignation was not recommended or approved by the Audit Committee of the Registrant’s Board of Directors.”

What was the problem, you ask? Where do we start? There’s a lot in this 8-K so we’ve bolded the good parts for you:

KPMG’s report on the consolidated financial statements of the Registrant and subsidiaries as of and for the year ended March 31, 2009 contained a separate paragraph stating that “As discussed in Note 3 to the consolidated financial statements, the Company has suspended the shipment of all products manufactured by the Company and must comply with a consent decree with the FDA before approved products can be reintroduced to the market. Significant negative impacts on operating results and cash flows from these actions including the potential inability of the Company to raise capital; suspension of manufacturing; significant uncertainties related to litigation and governmental inquiries; and debt covenant violations raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

The audit report of KPMG on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2009 did not contain any adverse opinion or disclaimer of opinion, nor was it qualified or modified as to uncertainty, audit scope, or accounting principles, except that KPMG’s report indicates that the Registrant did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2009 because of the effect of material weaknesses on the achievement of the objectives of the control criteria and contains an explanatory paragraph that states “Material weaknesses have been identified and included in management’s assessment in the areas of entity-level controls (control awareness, personnel, identification and addressing risks, monitoring of controls, remediation of deficiencies and communication of information), financial statement preparation and review procedures (manual journal entries, account reconciliations, spreadsheets, customer and supplier agreements, stock-based compensation, Medicaid rebates and income taxes) and the application of accounting principles (inventories, property and equipment, employee compensation, reserves for sales allowances and financing transactions).

We’ll interject here with…why didn’t they just admit, “We have internal controls in place but they suck. Every last one of the controls is ineffective and we’re really not sure they’re being performed anyway. In fact, we don’t even employee people with accounting degrees. We have a weekend COSO crash course to get temps up to speed.” ?

Back to the filing:

As of the date of their resignation, KPMG had not completed the audit of the consolidated financial statements and the effectiveness of the internal controls over financial reporting of the Registrant as of and for the year ended March 31, 2010. KPMG had informed the Audit Committee prior to the date of their resignation that upon completion of their audit of the consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended March 31, 2010 they expected their audit report would contain a separate paragraph expressing substantial doubt about the Registrant’s ability to continue as a going concern and their report on internal controls over financial reporting would indicate that the Registrant did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2010 because of the effect of material weaknesses reported as of March 31, 2009 that had not been remediated.

We’d continue but it’s probably not necessary.

What’s the Next Move in This PCAOB Situation?

Jonathan Weil over at Bloomberg has a new column up today and he is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court decision in FEF v. PCAOB than say, everyone else.

JW is mostly wondering why we should keep having an “independent” PCAOB inside the SEC since the board members will now be at the mercy of the towing the political line inside the Commission, “While the court

Today in Auditor Musical Chairs: KPMG and Deloitte Both Get the Boot

Evergreen Energy of Denver dismissed Deloitte effective June 23rd according to the company’s 8-K filing. Hein & Associates, a local Denver firm, will take it from here.

It stands to reason that Evergreen didn’t appreciate the going concern opinions that Deloitte gave the company for its December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2008 financial statements but in cordial SEC filing fashion, there are no parting shots from the company.


Evergreen’s press release indicates that this was simply an opportunity to throw some action to another firm (most likely with lower fees), “With the sale of certain Buckeye assets and our exit from the coal mining industry, Evergreen Energy has transitioned into a green technology company. This is an ideal time to switch to a Denver-based regional accounting firm with substantial public company expertise in the clean technology and software industries that can more cost effectively meet our needs.”

Deloitte’s letter to the SEC is abruptly admits that everything is cool rather than flat out saying, “you’ll be sorry you ever ditched us, you losers.”

Similarly, Measurement Specialties, Inc. showed KPMG the door for Ernst & Young. The company says everything was hunky-dory between the two although there was a small matter of the internal controls around a significant joint venture of which the company had no control. Oh, and the effectiveness of internal controls of some recent acquisitions also couldn’t be determined. But it was cool and the company said, “it was in the best interests of the Company to change its independent registered public accounting firm.”

KPMG has NFI what that means saying in their letter, “we are not in a position to agree or disagree with Measurement Specialties, Inc.’s statements relating to the reason for changing principal accountants.”

We wish everyone nothing but happiness.

Accounting News Roundup: Auditors ‘Portray Worrying Lack of Skepticism’; Are Tax Strategies Patentable?; Method Man Pleads Guilty, Cuts Check for NYC Tax Evasion | 06.29.10

FSA accuse auditors of failing to question management bias [Accountancy Age]
The Financial Services Authority has decided that it was about time it called out a few people, “Auditors have become yes men who don’t adequately question management bias according to concerns raised by the UK’s chief financial regulators. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Financial Reporting Council today released a scathing discussion paper into the profession following concerns raised in the wake of the financial crisis. Among its concerns is that auditors ‘portrays a worrying lack of skepticism’ when scrutinising potential management bias.”

Not onlef=”http://www.accountancyage.com/accountancyage/news/2265630/fsa-audit-report-regulator”>FSA wants new enforcement powers including the ability to ” fine, censure or disqualify audit firms.” The FSA also wants to meet with auditors several times a year, rather than just once, as well as direct access to audit committees.

Alex to Become Hurricane as Swells Reach Gulf Spill [Bloomberg]
“Tropical Storm Alex, the first named system of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened today, forcing the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and pushing swells toward the worst U.S. oil spill.

The storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, was 460 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, before dawn today, moving north-northwest at 8 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The circulating winds were near reaching hurricane status of 74 mph.”

New York state may tax out-of-state hedge fund execs [Reuters]
Desperate idea of the day from the brain trust in Albany, “Recession-hit New York could raise an extra $50 million a year by collecting income taxes from people who work for hedge funds in the state but live elsewhere, according to a legislative plan to raise revenue…A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said by telephone on Monday that it means hedge fund managers would be treated the same way as other commuters.”


Aprill: The Impact of Bilski on Tax Strategy Patents [TaxProf Blog]
In non-PCAOB SCOTUS news, the decision in Bilski v. Kappos addressing “Whether a ‘process’ must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (‘machine-or-transformation’ test), to be eligible for patenting….” was examined by Ellen P. Aprill of Loyola-L.A. regarding the impact on tax strategy patents:

“Bilski is at best a mixed bag for those who think tax strategies should be patentable. It gives little help and does allow business method patents, albeit somewhat begrudgingly. It demonstrates that for those who believe that tax strategies should not be patented, legislation is needed.”

Method Man pleads guilty to NYC tax-evasion charge [AP]
“Hip-hop star Method Man pleaded guilty to a tax-evasion charge Monday, writing a check on the spot for the final $40,000 restitution payment after owing about $106,000.” What, no cash?

U.S. Court to Hear Janus Appeal In Securities Case [Reuters]
“The lawsuit, brought on behalf of those who bought Janus stock from mid-2000 through early September 2003, alleged that the prospectuses of several of Janus funds created the misleading impression that the company would adopt measures to curb market timing, when in fact secret arrangements with several hedge funds permitted such transactions, to the detriment of long-term investors.”

Accounting News Roundup: G-20 to ‘Stabilize’ Debt by 2016; Auditors May Be Forced into Whistleblower Role on Banks; Yes, Taxes Are Historically Low | 06.28.10

G-20 Agrees to Cut Debt [WSJ]
“The wealthiest of the Group of 20 countries said they would halve their government deficits by the year 2013 and ‘stabilize’ their debt loads by 2016, a signal to international markets and domestic political audiences they are taking seriously the need to wean themselves from stimulus spending.”

Once you catch your breath from laughing, the President also cited the tax code specifically and his threatening to put some (i.e. Congress) in a tight spot:

“They might have to make deeper cuts in deficits to comply with its pledge. A White House statement said that government debt in the fiscal year15, would be at an “acceptable level.” President Obama said that next year he would present “very difficult choices” to the country in an effort to meet deficit goals.

The president cited his disappointment with the U.S. tax code. ‘Next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up, ’cause I’m calling their bluff,’ Mr. Obama said.”

Bank auditors eyed for whistleblower role [FT]
A paper from the UK’s Financial Services Authority puts forth the discussion of requiring auditors to work more closely with regulators on irregularities found during the bank’s audit engagement.

“Experts say bank executives are nervous about the prospect of increased bilateral discussions between regulators and auditors. Auditors have been fearful the paper could thrust the profession into a regulatory spotlight it has so far avoided.”

Koss Fraud: We didn’t bother to look at the endorsements on our own checks, but Grant Thornton should have! [Fraud Files Blog]
Fraud sage Tracy Coenen presents her latest view on the Koss fraud mish-mash and how Koss management has managed to make themselves “look like absolute morons.”


BP Loses $22 Billion in Legacy of Share Buybacks [Bloomberg]
“The sum represents the hole after the 52 percent plunge in BP shares since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, resulting in the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP bought back more than $37 billion of its stock in a bid to return money to investors between 2005 and 2008. Those shares are now worth $15 billion, excluding dividends.”

Martin Ginsburg, Noted Tax Lawyer and Husband of Justice Ginsburg, R.I.P. [ATL]
Mr Ginsburg was a tax law professor at Georgetown for many years and was known for his great sense of humor, as evidenced by his faculty bio, noted by our sister site, Above the Law:

Professor Ginsburg is co-author, with Jack S. Levin of Chicago, of Mergers, Acquisitions, and Buyouts, a semi-annually updated treatise which addresses tax and other aspects of this exciting subject. The portions of the treatise written by Professor Ginsburg are, he is certain, easily identified and quite superb.

Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission Part 9: Overstock.com’s Excuses Simply Don’t Add Up [White Collar Fraud]
It appears Sam Antar has caught Overstock.com in another disclosure snafu but this time it isn’t really clear whether the company gave the wrong excuse, lied to the SEC or simply doesn’t know what they’re doing, “Overstock.com’s 2008 10-K report claimed that a reportable “gain contingency” existed as of November 7, 2008. However, the company contradicted itself and claimed to the SEC reviewers that reportable reportable ‘gain contingency’ did not exist on November 7, 2008.

If Overstock.com’s 10-K disclosure is true, the company’s explanation to the SEC Division of Corporation Finance can’t be true. Likewise, if Overstock.com’s explanation to the SEC Division of Corporation Finance is true, the company’s 2008 10-K disclosure can’t be true.”

Accounts bodies revise workplan [FT]
Convergence 2.0.

Today’s taxes aren’t too bad [Don’t Mess with Taxes/Kay Bell]
Kay Bell provides some perspective on tax rates over the last century. The following graphic should help clear up any confusion.


Koss Sues Grant Thornton, Blames Firm’s Assignment of Newbie Auditors

Well! You might have thought that Koss would just handle this Sue Sachdeva situation like gentlemen headphonesmiths but you would have thought wrong!

Koss is suing S-squared and Grant Thornton for their respective roles in the alleged embezzlement of $31 million from the Brew Town company.

While it sounds like , that won’t protect her or Chipman & Co. from the wrath of Koss. But one thing is for sure, despite the lawsuits and whatnot, this is not the company’s fault. Just ask Koss’ attorney Michael Avenatti, “I’m confident the company will be exonerated.”


Why? Because
Grant Thornton threw a few young associates on the engagement, that’s why!

Koss hired one of the best accounting firms in the world, Grant Thornton, and should have been able to rely on Thornton’s audits to uncover wrongdoing, Avenatti said. The suit against the auditing firm says auditors assigned to Koss were not properly trained.

The lawsuit lists hundreds of checks that Sachdeva ordered drawn on company accounts to pay for her personal expenses. She disguised the recipients — upscale retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Marshall Fields — by using just the initials. But the suit says Grant Thornton could have ascertained the true identity of the recipients by inspecting the reverse side of the checks, which showed the full name.

Forget the fact that the CEO was also vice chairman, chief operating officer, president and chief financial officer. Oh, and he sat on the audit committee at another company. Apparently Koss wanted GT partners auditing those cash accounts rather than implement anything that even closely resembles an internal control system.

Grant Thornton, meanwhile, is still sticking to the boilerplate statement as reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “We remain confident that we have met all of our professional obligations and that our work complied with professional standards.”

Sigh. Of course no one wants to be responsible, so let’s decide for them. Let’s get a show of hands:

It’s worth mentioning that the lawsuit comes just a few short days before Koss’ tardy restated financials are due. If the company doesn’t cough them up, the Nasdaq will banish them like they’ve got lice.

Koss sues former executive, auditor over alleged embezzlement [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

FERF Survey: Audit Fees Down, Big 4 Still Dominate Public Company Filers

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

It looks like audit fees are stabilizing.

The 150 publicly-held companies responding to a recent survey paid an average of $4.8 million in audit fees in 2009, down 2.4 percent from the total shelled out by these respondents the prior fiscal year.

The 197 privately-held companies responding to the survey paid an average of $291,200, roughly even with the prior year.

Drilling further down, the survey found that total audit fees for 83 large accelerated filers-those with market capitalizations over $700 million–averaged $7.8 million, 3.6 percent less than what they paid the prior year. What’s more, this average of $7.8 million was possibly skewed to the high side this year due to the total audit fees reported by the 19 respondents from companies with more than $25 billion in annual revenues.


On the other hand, the average audit fees paid by the 22 non-accelerated filers were $579,900, 3.3 percent more than what they paid in the prior year.

These are some of the highlights of a newly-released annual report from Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), the research affiliate of Financial Executives International. It stresses that the averages reported in this year’s Audit Fee Survey are not comparable to those reported in the 2009 survey because this year’s respondents are not necessarily the same as last year’s respondents. In fact, FEI stresses that this year’s average was skewed slightly higher due to representation from more companies with revenues of $25 billion or more.

The survey also found that the total number of audit hours averaged 21,458 for all public companies, and-not surprisingly–was directly proportional to both the size of the company and to the number of legal entities comprising the company. Of the 19 respondents from companies with more than $25 billion in annual revenues, the total hours averaged 108,571.

The average hourly audit rate was $218 for all public companies–$186 for nonaccelerated filers and $220 for the large accelerated filers. Surprisingly, the survey found that the lowest hourly rate ($110) and the highest hourly rate ($400) were both reported by large accelerated filers. It said the $110 rate was reported by a large multi-national consumer goods distributor and the $400 rate was reported by a large multi-national financial services firm.

Other interesting findings:

• 88 percent of public company respondents used Big 4 audit firms compared to 36 percent of private companies.

• After the Big 4, Grant Thornton was mentioned by four respondents and BDO and McGladrey were both mentioned once.

• 21 of the 197 private companies plan to switch auditors, compared to only 7 of the 150 public company respondents. Service issues and fees were key reasons for both groups.

• Just 16 of the 150 public companies indicated that their auditors broke out the cost of the Section 404 attestation.

Crowe Horwath Audit Partner Uses “The Tax Department Is on Another Floor” Defense

Auditors and audit firms have few options when it comes to defense strategy when they are sued for missing a fraud. If fraud occurs and an auditor partner claims to know everything that one should about his/her client, then the partner was probably in on it. That’s a little tricky.

However, if fraud occurs and the partner claims that he/she had no knowledge of any unscrupulous activity, then that means the audit sage is really just a two-bit glad-hander that couldn’t tell a debit from a credit.


And that appears to be the case of William Brizendine, a Crowe Horwath partner, who is claiming that he didn’t know about the relationship between executives of Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky and Bill Erpenbeck who were engaged in scheme that artificially inflated the purchase price of model homes. Brizendine claims that he couldn’t possibly known that his client was involved with such a shifty character A) the bank’s execs didn’t tell him until after the shit hit the fan and B) this Erpenbeck character’s name only came up on the tax returns and why on Earth as an audit partner, would he look at those?

The bank’s lead attorney, Ron Parry, tried to establish that Brizendine was in a unique position to expose the fraud before it became large enough to take down the bank. Parry said auditors had to be aware of the business relationship because they also did the taxes of the company Finnan and Menne created with Erpenbeck.

[…]

Brizendine claimed he didn’t know of the relationship because he was just involved in the auditing of the bank and that JAMS tax returns were done by the tax department on another floor of the company’s offices.

Parry was able to show, however, that JAMS tax documents were sometimes sent directly to Brizendine. Brizendine claimed he never looked at those documents since his department didn’t prepare taxes.

Brizendine also admitted on the stand that he was the person who brought in the contract to do JAMS taxes.

Accounting News Roundup: BP Weighing Options on Dividend; Will the “New Wealth Taxes” Affect You?; Medifast Keeps Things Vague | 06.14.10

BP unlikely to cancel dividend, but mulls several ideas: source [Reuters]
They may defer it, pay it in shares or “pay into a ring-fenced account until the oil spill liabilities become clearer.” All of which will please absolutely no one.

Auditors to reveal bank talks under new plans [FT]
Proposals by the ICAEW would require auditors to disclose their private discussions with bank audit committees afteshowed that “the value of bank audits had shown investors especially were dissatisfied by the audit report. The internal process involved was perceived as helping to keep bank executives in check, but investors felt the report was only a box-ticking exercise.”

The Big 4 have historically resisted these types of proposals, arguing that it will expose them to additional legal liability.

Suggestions cited include assurance on the “front half of annual reports,” as well as an audit of the banks’ summaries of risks. The ICAEW said it was aware that this would add to the auditors’ workload.


Vantis trading suspension follows difficult financial period [Accountancy Age]
The court-appointed liquidator for Allen Stanford’s bank, Vantis, has had trading of its shares suspended by the AIM after the company was unable to obtain any funds for their services related to the Stanford case, among other financial difficulties.

Ernst & Young had issued a going concern opinion for the company back in February, warning that continued lack of cash flow would have to be remediated quickly for any possibility for the continuation of the business.

How the New Wealth Taxes Will Hit You [WSJ]
Are you one of those “rich” people? That is, do you have an adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more ($250,000 for joint filers)? If so, you’ll probably want to know that two new tax levies will come your way in 2013 as a result of the new healthcare legislation – a 0.9% levy on wages and a new 3.8% tax on investment income.

The 0.9% tax is on any wages over $200k/$250k. For example, if you are single and made $300,000, your additional tax would be $900.

Similarly, the investment income tax would tax any investment income in excess of the $200k/$250k threshold and the 3.8% tax would be applied. What’s investment income you ask?

Interest, except municipal-bond interest; dividends; rents; royalties; and capital gains on the sales of financial instruments like stocks and bonds. The taxable portion of insurance annuity payouts also counts, unless it is from a company pension. So do gains from financial trading, as well as passive income from rents and businesses you don’t participate in. All are subject to the 3.8% tax on amounts above the $250,000 or $200,000 threshold, as described above.

Income that is not considered investment income include: distributions from IRAs, pensions and Social Security, annuities that are part of a retirement plan, life-insurance proceeds, muni-bond interest, veterans’ benefits, and income from a business you participate in, such as a S Corporation or partnership.

KPMG considering move to 1801 K [Washington Businsess Journal (subscription required)]
KPMG might move their Washington, DC office location to 1801 K St. NW from 2001 M St. NW according to “real estate sources.” KPMG’s spokesman said that the firm is continuing to “examine all of our options.” The situation is fluid.

Open Letter to the [SEC]: Why You Must Review Medifast’s Revenue Accounting Disclosures [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar would like to put the SEC on notice that Medifast seems to be less than transparent when it comes to its disclosures, “it seems that Medifast is recognizing revenue upon shipment and not delivery. As a minimum, Medifast, like Overstock.com, should be required to expand and clarify its disclosures to avoid confusing investors.”

PFF Bancorp Creditors Want to Probe KPMG So They Can Determine if They Can Sue KPMG

In anything is better than the shit BP has on its hands news, Reuters reports that creditors of PFF Bancorp Inc are requesting permission from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to snoop around “information in KPMG’s possession” to find out what the firm knew about PFF’s over-leveraged, under-capitalized, risk-loving ways.


The company’s committee of unsecured creditors wrote in their request that “Information in KPMG’s possession may support potential claims against third parties and against KPMG itself, if, for example, it becomes apparent that KPMG knew or should have known at an early date of any overly-aggressive or inadequately-controlled loan practices of the (company).”

So in other words, PFF would like to – pretty please – sue someone’s ass and they’d like to confirm whether or not KPMG will be a good candidate for said ass suing. So assuming the bankruptcy court gives them the thumbs-up, PFF will send in the hounds to find out what’s what. And they’ve covered themselves nicely by using the wonderfully subjective “knew or should have known” so KPMG’s only option will be to invoke the “we were duped” excuse, which isn’t such a flattering option.

KPMG didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment or our email but we’re guessing they’re less than enthused about sharing what is in their audit workpapers. Not necessarily because the documentation will have a smoking gun but more so because they might discover that the partner on the engagement has a bad habit of doodling and that’s just embarrassing.

PFF Bancorp creditors seek probe of auditor KPMG [Reuters]

It’s Ridiculous to Think That Enterprise Financial Dismissed KPMG Because of the Restatements

KPMG has been kicked to the curb by Enterprise Financial according to an 8-K that was filed on Friday by the company. The ubiquitous claim of “no disagreements with [insert firm]” was there along with a mention of a material weakness that was related to the restatements issued for both 2008 and 2007 but that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the dismissal of the auditors:

In connection with the identification of the loan participation accounting error described in Item 7, Management Discussion & Analysis and in Item 8, Note 2 of the consolidated financial statements and elsewhere in the Form 10K dated March 16, 2010, the Company also determined that a material weakness in its internal controls over financial reporting existed during the periods affected by the error, including as of December 31, 2008. The Company’s management concluded that the material weakness was the Company’s lack of a formal process to periodically review existing contracts and agreements with continuing accounting significance. To remediate this material weakness, during the fourth quarter of 2009 the Company implemented a formal process to review all contracts and agreements with continuing accounting significance on an annual basis. As a result of the review conducted in the fourth quarter, management did not identify any other errors in its previous accounting for such contracts or agreements. Management believes that this new process has remediated the material weakness in the Company’s internal control over financial reporting.

So in other words, “Yeah, maybe we should have been looking at these contracts but we weren’t and so some material misstatements slid through. We’ve slapped some duct tape on it and it’ll be fine from here on it. End of story.”

The esteemed pleasure of auditing Enterprise now belongs to Deloitte who has now snagged three clients from KPMG this year (by our count) – picking up Jefferies and Select Comfort back in March.

Enterprise Bank parent dismisses KPMG [St. Louis Business Journal]

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Internal Auditor

This is the fourth in our series on certifications for accountants. Previously, we’ve covered the CFP, CMA, and CFE so if you’re not sure what you want to be when you grow up, be sure to check those out.

So, what’s the CIA all about?


Education Requirement
CIA candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree. Unlike the CPA exam, which often requires certain coursework or a minimum master’s level education in accounting, the CIA certification has no such requirements. The CIA exam is administered year-round by the Institute of Internal Auditors.

Professional Requirements
Those interested in pursuing a CIA designation must have at least 24 months (2 years) professional experience in internal auditing or its equivalent. Equivalent experience would be in the areas audit/assessment disciplines, including external auditing, quality assurance, compliance, and internal control. Candidates with a master’s degree can substitute their degree for one year of experience. Candidates may sit for the CIA exam before satisfying the experience requirement but will not be certified until meeting this requirement.

Career Options
Certified Internal Auditors can be in public or private industry and experience a diverse workload checking controls, planning the audit process for their company, testing, and compiling reports. Internal auditors may also give feedback on management policies and procedures based on their findings.

Compensation and Other Benefits
CIAs can expect to make a median yearly salary of $55k freshly certified and around $100k with 20 years of experience, making it a cozy career choice for auditors (Payscale). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, growth in auditing and accounting positions is expected to rise 18% between 2006 and 2016, which gives CIAs a certain level of job security not seen in other industries. Equally important, executive responsibility attached to Sarbanes-Oxley means CIAs are that much more critical to an organization by isolating incidents of fraud or waste.

Obviously, CIAs are not in it for the money but for fraud-fighters who love information systems, technology and auditing, the CIA is a safe, always-in-need designation worth looking into!

(UPDATE) Accounting News Roundup: Europe’s $1 Trillion Deal; PwC Gets Some Action in Dubai; The Longest Auditor-Client Relationships | 05.10.10

EU Crafts $962 Billion Show of Force to Halt Euro Crisis [Bloomberg]
With the Euro under pressure, the European Central Bank has hatched a plan to “offer financial assistance worth as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion) to countries under attack from speculators.” EU countries are chipping in 440 billion in loans, the EU’s budget throws in 60 billion, and 250 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

The funds will be available to those countries that experience a financial crisis similar to Greece. Portugal and Spain have debt to GDP ratios of 8.5% and 9.8% respectively, exceeding the EU’s mandated limit of 3%. package approved last week, receiving 110 billion euros “after agreeing to unprecedented austerity measures,” triggering riots in the country.


Dubai Holding Hires Debt Advisers [WSJ]
Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, a part of Dubai Holding (not to be confused with fellow Dubai conglomerate Dubai World) has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to help them with a teenie debt restructuring project. DH’s debt issues come about after Dubai World is still working to restructure the $14 billion in outstanding debt that it has with its creditors after a slight panic late last year.

UPDATE: KPMG and Deloitte are getting in on the fun as well, as the Financial Times reports that they have been engaged to advise Dubai Group and Dubai International Capital, respectively.

You Complete My Audit [CFO]
Had your auditor for awhile? If you want to crack the top 100 of longest auditor-client relationship, you’d have to be putting up with the same firm for over 50 years. According to the CFO’s analysis of Audit Analytics data, the longest auditor-client relationship belongs to Deloitte and Proctor & Gamble who have been together since 1890. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ longest relationship is with Goodyear Tire & Rubber, starting in 1898; Ernst & Young with Manulife Financial, 1905; KPMG and General Electric go back to 1909.

Of the 100 companies that have stuck with their auditors the longest, 97 of those companies were with Big 4 firms:
• PricewaterhouseCoopers – 34
• E&Y – 25
• Deloitte – 24
• KPMG – 14

Straight Talk about Brutality of White Collar Crime from a Convicted Felon [White Collar Fraud]
GC friend and forensic sleuth Sam Antar recently had some a two part interview produced that from his recent speaking presentations at Stanford Law and Business Schools. Part one is below and you can see part two over at WCF.

Accounting News Roundup: Will an International Audit Regulator Become a Reality?; GMAC Shopping for a CFO Candidate; FASB Sued for Antitrust Violations | 05.06.10

Audit chief welcomes debate on international regulator [Accountancy Age]
The idea of an international audit regulator is being kicked around in the EU with about as much seriousness as returning to the moon. That is, it’s absolutely something to be discussed but at this point nobody’s firing up the boosters just yet. IFRS has been proved to be, putting it lightly, a challenge but ever since the Lehman Brothers/E&Y fiasco, reform of the auditing business doesn’t seem far behind.

And while the idea is being entertained, the hurdles to an international regulator sound a little familiar:

Ian Powell, senior partner at PwC UK, said the establishment of an international regulator is “worthy of debate” but believes global consensus among nations may prove difficult.

“Most countries think their regulation is good and it is their system which should be applied – that is going to make it difficult to convince them to give up their system,” he said.

“If you talk to virtually any regulator in any country they do want to see more globalisation of regulation, but the big problem is there are certain political issues that are different in different countries.”

GMAC Said to Consider Ex-Citigroup Banker Yastine as Next CFO [Bloomberg Businessweek]
GMAC is hot on the trail for a new CFO after their last one bolted in March shortly after his TARP testimony. The ward of the state is said to be considering Barbara Yastine, who formerly was the CFO at both Credit Suisse’s and Citigroup’s investment banking groups.

FASB Defendant in Suit Alleging Antitrust Violations and Patent Misappropriation [Silicon Economics, Inc. Press Release]
Silicon Economics, Inc. is suing the FASB, alleging “antitrust violations and with willfully attempting to misappropriate patented technology,” according to the San Jose-based company’s press release.

The lawsuit concerns Silicon Economics’ EarningsPower Accounting™ (EPA™) – a patented method developed by the company to improve the accuracy, validity, and usefulness of financial statements. Silicon Economics recommended the merits of EPA to FASB in response to FASB’s request for public comment on the objectives of financial accounting (No. 1260-001, July 6, 2006). FASB claims that its website terms and conditions gave it ownership of Silicon Economics’ technology, even though such terms were not part of FASB’s invitation for public comment or otherwise disclosed to Silicon Economics.

Accounting News Roundup: Improving the External Audit; Another Accounting Firm Bolts Greensboro, NC; AICPA Opposes Nonsigning Tax Preparer Rule | 04.27.10

Weighing the Worth of an External Audit [Compliance Week]
Does the external audit still have value? Some people have questioned that notion. Despite that grave assessment, there are still many that believe that the external audit has value. However, most have no illusions about the challenges before the profession.

Colleen Cunningham has a post up at Compliance Week with her thoughts:

[W]e need a fundamental shift away from the rules and complex accounting standards we currently use in the United States. The move to International Financial Reporting Standards would certainly help. IFRS is based more on principles and concepts, and while some people worry that these are “lesser” standards than U.S. GAAP, I believe that we will see more transparency about choices, options, and assumptions through enhanced disclosure under IFRS…

Perhaps the audit opinion should be less boilerplate to allow the auditors to provide more information and commentary. This could add needed transparency. Unfortunately, the litigious environment in which we operate would make this a risky proposition.

We like these ideas but more information and commentary would mean…more professional judgment! Hopefully the PCAOB would be okay with that idea because the trend seems to be that auditors can’t be trusted to do their jobs.

Dixon Hughes will close GSO site, shift staff to H.P. [Triad Business Journal]
Dixon Hughes is the latest firm to pull up the stakes in Greensboro, North Carolina. What is going on down there?

Jones Soda Announces Change of External Audit Firm [Market Wire]
Organic soda company drops Deloitte. Peterson Sullivan will take it from here.

AICPA Submits Comment Letter on IRS PTIN Proposal [Journal of Accountancy]
The AICAP submitted a letter to the IRS re: the proposed reg that would, among other things, require Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN) for tax professionals that don’t sign the returns. T

he AICPA isn’t so thrilled with this idea, and the JofA reports some of their thoughts, “(1) a successful implementation of registration and use of PTINs, along with the imposition of Circular 230 on all preparers should be sufficient to address unethical and/or incompetent tax return preparation and provide tremendous gains to tax administration in general; (2) it may cause confusion among taxpayers about the relative qualifications of tax return preparers; and (3) the additional burdens to the tax preparers and pass through of these costs to the taxpaying public should be considered.”

Here’s What Happens When You Lie to Your Auditors

There’s been a fair amount kvetching, Monday-morning QBing, and just plain hating on auditors lately. Most of it deserved. That said, there are still laws on the books that say you can’t dismiss them entirely and tell them bald-faced lies whenever you want.

Bruce Karatz was the CEO of KB Homes and he was convicted for, among other things, lying to Ernst & Young:

Karatz was involved in a backdating scheme in which he awarded himself and other execs millions of dollars in stock-based compensation, a jury found. Background on Karatz is here and here.

The 64-year-old faces 80 years in prison after being convicted of four felony counts including wire fraud and lying to his company’s auditor, Ernst & Young, about the matter, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. He was acquitted on 16 other counts.

Jesus, 80 years? We’re no expert on sentencing guidelines but using simple arithmetic, that’s 20 years per count. We’re all for justice but that’s some serious FPMITA prison time. And the way judges have been handing out sentences lately, we wouldn’t expect leniency.

After Backdating Setbacks, Feds Chop Former KB CEO Karatz [Law Blog]

Are Accounting Firms Getting Cheated by the PCAOB?

You may have forgotten, but last year the PCAOB established some new rules that require its members to file annual reports on Forms 2, 3, and 4 with the Board. These annual reports aren’t the glossy paged marketing tools filled with smiling faces that you may be thinking of, nor do they contain an financial information. They mostly consist of information that the PCAOB wants to know in case a firm changes its address, whether your firm hires shady characters, or finds itself in some serious legal trouble (take note Big 4).


Because all this reporting is a pain in the ass for the Board, a modest charge has been established to “recover the costs of processing and reviewing applications and annual reports,” according to a statement released by the PCAOB.

Now before you get all huffy about it, this is allowed by Michael Oxley’s favorite piece of legislation and now that the Board is getting around to requiring firms to submit the annual reports (inaugurals are due June 30), a fee only seemed appropriate and necessary.

Starting this year, registered firms will be charged the following:

Firms with more than 500 issuer audit clients and more than 10,000 personnel – $100,000

Other firms with more than 200 issuer audit clients and more than 1,000 personnel – $25,000

All other firms – $500

PLUS! The minimum registration fee is being increased to $500 because “The Board believes it is appropriate at this time to raise that fee to $500 to align it more closely with the minimum annual fee.”

In the grand scheme of things, the new annual fee and the increased registration fee aren’t really worth getting too worked up over but does make you wonder if accounting firms are getting the most bang for their buck vis-à-vis the PCAOB.

Oh sure, the annual inspections are a hoot and they’ll nail a shiesty accountant here and there but what about the guidance the Board has been issuing lately?

If the best the Board can do is churn out a reminders about bizarro transactions that belittles auditors (but don’t bother giving any examples) and proposals on how auditors should carry on a conversation, some people might start demanding a little more substance out of their watchdog.

PCAOB Release No. 2010-002 [PCAOB]

Three Examples of “Significant Unusual Transactions” that Should Get Auditors’ Attention

The PCAOB issued a friendly reminder yesterday to auditors that sometimes unusual transactions can be cause for alarm and should send the risk red flags flying. Unfortunately, the friendly reminder did not actually mention anything about what “unusual transactions” are but regardless, you better be on the lookout for them.

“The PCAOB’s message to auditors, in this challenging economic environment, has consistently emphasized attention to audit risk and adherence to existing audit requirements,” said Martin F. Baumann, Chief Auditor and Director of Professional Standards.

Since Practice Alert No. 5 (makes it sound kind of hot, don’t it?) warns of the risk of material misstatement inherent to unusual transactions without mentioning what those transactions could be, we came up with three unusual transactions to which the PCAOB could possibly be referring. It isn’t called guidance for nothing, you’re on your own when it comes to determining what qualifies as unusual, little auditors. Hopefully this helps.

• Large and frequent A/P entries to an entity known only as “Candy” (substitute “Bubbles”, “Kitty”, or “Roxy” as appropriate) This is why you have professional judgment so use it, we’re pretty sure even if you haven’t been to a strip club you know what strippers look like on the books and records.

• If you find yourself in a warehouse on December 31st counting an inventory full of dirty bombs, AK-47s, plutonium rods, chances are your entity is engaged in “unusual transactions.” Bonus points for extra unusual if you’re counting that crap and your entity is a church. Red flag, dear auditor, red flag!

• Recurring transactions for “crack” are definitely unusual. You don’t need us to tell you that’s a giant red flag, unless you are auditing under the influence yourself and concerned mostly with where the entity’s CFO hides his stash. Remember also that crack is pretty cheap on the street so repeated transactions will likely fall outside the scope of materiality though a raging crack habit will be material in the aggregate. Adjust scope accordingly.

PCAOB Issues Staff Audit Practice Alert on Auditor Considerations of Significant Unusual Transactions [PCAOB]

Accounting News Roundup: Charlie Rangel Has a Primary Challenger; Does Your Salary Define You?; PCAOB Wants Auditors to Consider Big Weird Transactions | 04.08.10

Rangel Challenged by a Historic Foe [WSJ]
Someone finally realized that Charlie Rangel’s constituents in New York’s 15th District have maybe had enough of Chuck and his “pay taxes as I wrote them, not as I pay them” ways. Rangs will be challenged in the primary by New York State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, according to the Journal. Not only does Mr Powell have an upper hand in the ad campaign department but there’s a bit of history here.


Powell Number III, sire of IV, was defeated by ChaRang back in 1970 amid his own ethical trubs. ACP 4th Edition insisted to that this had nothing to do with sweet, sweet revenge, “It has nothing to do with revenge or anything like that. Anyone with that record in public service would be interested in higher office.”

It won’t be easy for ACP4 however. He was flicked away by Rangs in a primary challenge back in 1994 and was recently convicted of “driving while impaired,” which actually seems worse than hogging rent-controlled apartments, since that could result in, you know, someone getting killed.

My Paycheck, My Self? [FINS]
Does your salary define you as a human being? Or, at the very least, does it feel that way? Master pay czar Ken Feinberg had to snoop around some people that pull down some hefty scratch and he found out that the human psyche can easily be affected by their pay stub.

PCAOB Issues Staff Audit Practice Alert on Auditor Considerations of Significant Unusual Transactions [PCAOB]
Don’t worry about the plain old vanilla transactions auditors, the PCAOB needs you to be on the lookout for significant unusual transactions. What that entails, we don’t really know but we’ll assume that means any transaction, and the PCAOB means any transaction, that looks remotely out of the ordinary, has a funny name (that may or may not include a “105”), requires smokey-filled room approval etc., definitely give it a second look. Or a third.

Will CFO’s Audit Fee Benchmark Tool Help Keep the Big 4 Honest on Fees?

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

There’s a bit of a tiff going on over at my former place of employment as a result of the cover story in the latest issue of CFO Magazine on the recent fall in auditor’s fees.

Some critics seem to fear that the phenomenon will be encouraged by a new benchmarking tool the website unveiled on April 1.

For a fee of $1,200, the tool allows companies to compare the fees that their peers pay for auditors. The process should be both quicker and more comprehensive than the requests for proposals now put out by many companies trying to figure out what they should be paying.


Accounting mavens David Albrecht and Lynn Turner, however, seem to worry that such an exercise will lead to the further commoditization of audits, and so to lower quality financial reporting, even though there’s no evidence the increased fees we saw in the wake of the Sarbanes Oxley Act did anything to improve its quality. Lehman Brothers, anyone?

Yet after the article appeared, Turner sent around comments on his list serve saying it contained several “factual inaccuracies” and that “a firm cannot do the same amount of work with these lower fees without seeing a huge reduction in profits.”

One problem here, it seems to me, is that we’re talking about an oligopoly, which invariably skews the normal effects of supply and demand. Albrecht concedes that the industry is an oligopoly but doesn’t make a cogent point about the significance of that. And he misses the other complication, which is that SarBox not only required auditors to review a company’s internal financial controls as well as its financial results, but also prevented auditors from offering audits as loss leaders for their more profitable consulting services. Now auditors can’t offer both services to the same clients. So audits have to stand on their own two feet.

Turner gets this point, though he confuses the chronology of the regulatory events involved. And he seems to suggest the article is flawed in the conclusion it draws about it, without saying how.

Here’s the point. If, in fact, the extra work SarBox required inflated auditors’ profits, why shouldn’t CFOs be able to make sure they’re getting what they pay for?

And the apparent assumption that benchmarking will inevitably lead companies to push for lower fees seems a bit shaky to me. As CFO.com’s editorial director Tim Reason points out, the process may instead merely keep auditors on their toes. Are Albrecht and Turner arguing that opacity is necessary for the public good, so auditors can pad their fees with impunity? Sorry, but that just doesn’t compute.

In an email to me this morning, Tim wrote: “We think finance executives and audit committees will benefit from having an independent, trusted editorial source provide them with a quick way to benchmark their fees-and make sure they are neither too high nor too low.”

Too low? Sure. You get what you pay for.

Tim also points out that there are no advertisers or sponsors for the tool. “It is a pure editorial offering being made directly to our readers, giving them information they’ve been asking us for years.”

Now there’s a radical idea.

SEC Deadline Watch: Try Not to Make a Scene

So today marks the last major deadline for those working on SEC filers and that could mean that your life belongs to you once again. We should also mention that March 31st is a major deadline for many non-SEC clients so there are a lot auditors rejoicing today (or completely losing their shit).


Whether you plan on celebrating the end of your busy season by drinking yourself blind or sleeping at home rather than the office, is matter of personal choice. There will be no shortage of celebrations anyway – clients, team members and if you’re lucky, a firm-wide celebration after the tax trolls cross their finish line.

This also means that the talk of merit increases, promotions and layoffs will start swirling. PwC and E&Y have already re-reassured their troops that raises are coming this year. Some offices have seen the exodus begin so things will remain interesting and we definitely want to know about it.

Not everyone will be raging however. The aforementioned tax return jockeys still have two weeks of listening to ball-baby clients. For those that are still chasing their CPA, maybe you take a breather or maybe you just keep killing yourself and granted, some audit teams (e.g. Overstock.com) are still working but if you passed the finish line today, congrats, well done, yada yada yada.

The PCAOB Proposes Ideas on How Auditors Can Better Communicate with Other Human Beings

Last week the PCAOB announced that it was getting serious about audit committee communication after it was revealed that Ernst & Young kinda sorta didn’t think the Repo 105 sitch was worth brining up to the Lehman Brothers audit committee. Granted, Dick Fuld is pretty scary dude and has probably eaten plenty of Big 4 partners for breakfast in his day but avoiding the awkward convo this time around almost resulted in everyone fighting over stale hot dog buns in the street.


Oh sure, the PCAOB has been kicking this around for awhile but something needed to happen to get their motors going and it appears that the LEH/E&Y fallout has done the trick. We might be completely wrong on this but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the PCAOB has lost faith in auditors to do their jobs and will continue to inundate them with rules until they get an “Uncle.”

How about that statement? It’s the typical press release whathaveyou including quotes from the bigshots:

“The proposed standard on audit committee communications is intended to enhance the relevance and effectiveness of the communications between an auditor and audit committee throughout the course of an engagement,” said PCAOB Acting Chairman Daniel L. Goelzer.

“The proposed standard contains appropriate requirements to achieve effective, two-way communication between the auditor and the audit committee, which we believe would improve audit quality,” said Chief Auditor, Martin F. Baumann.

So if we take Goelzer and Baumann at their word, audit committee communication has been pretty ineffective up to this point? That’s good to know.

And here’s the gist of the required communication:

• Communication of an overview of the audit strategy, including a discussion of significant risks, the use of the internal audit function; and the roles, responsibilities, and location of firms participating in the audit;

• Communication regarding critical accounting polices, practices, and estimates;

• Communication regarding the auditor’s evaluation of a company’s ability to continue as a going concern; and,

• Evaluation by the auditor of the adequacy of the two-way communications.

So there’s your checklist people. Sorry to ask but were these items not being discussed previously? One could assume that since these items are on the list, they weren’t always being discussed in practice. Does standard audit committee communication revolve around Gossip Girl? Tiger Woods’ mistresses?

This really appears to be an example of the PCAOB taking away auditors’ “professional judgment” and making them “professional inquisitors.” Further, as Jim Peterson has pointed out, checking off required communication will do nothing to protect auditors from liability in the future, “there is no legal defense or ‘safe harbor’ in American law based on proof of compliance with professional standards – box ticked or otherwise.”

In other words, make all the professional requirements you want, auditors are still going to get sued and claiming “But we checked the box!” will not work as a defense. So the rationale must have been checklists are fun and easy to follow? Sigh. You’ve got until May 27th to get your thoughts in on this thing before it gets rubber stamped. Get on it.

Press Release [PCAOB]

PwC Had Enough with Old Republic’s Sketchy Accounting

Accounting firms take a lot of grief for bending over backwards for their clients. They’re in the client service business after all and keeping them as happy as possible is priority numero uno (despite what you might hear). Considering this factoid, when an accounting firm decides to cut a client loose for a “disagreement” over an accounting practice, we feel that’s a pretty good reason for any future accounting firm to think long and hard before taking on said client (case in point: KPMG taking the Overstock.com audit).


PricewaterhouseCoopers notified Old Republic International Corp. on March 19th that they would be “declining to stand for re-election as Old Republic’s independent registered public accounting firm for 2010.” That’s nice SEC filing language for “We’re so grossed out by you that we refuse to audit you any more.”

The two firms disagreed about the accounting treatment of “certain mortgage guaranty reinsurance commutation transactions with captive reinsurers owned by lending institutions.” That description alone makes us nauseous. The gist from Old Republic’s 8-K filing:

Old Republic had concluded that, in accordance with traditional reinsurance accounting practices, funds received ($82.5 million) in excess of amounts owed to it by the captive reinsurers should be deferred and recognized in the income statements of the future periods during which the related claim costs were expected to occur. PwC believed that generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) required that the $82.5 million be recognized immediately as income from a contract termination.

So you have “traditional accounting practices” versus almighty GAAP. The tradish accounting wasn’t good enough for PwC, so they brought the probelme to the attention of the audit committee. The AC ultimately decided…wait…that management was correct. Shocked? Us too. The disagreement was brought to light back in November and in a press release when the company said that the transactions in question “which resulted in little consequential effect on the pretax loss.”

Apparently PwC wouldn’t let it go and the Company called in the SEC to get their $0.02 on the matter. Lo and behold, the Commission sided with PwC. After a lot profanity-laced belly aching (that’s what we imagine, anyway) and sleepless nights for both OR’s accounting department and the PwC audit team (that’s not debatable), Old Republic filed the delayed 10-Q last month with restated financial statements.

After what was surely 5 or so months of pure hell, PwC figured that this was an awkward enough situation that a break up was warranted. This was probably the perfect opportunity for PwC to get out of this engagement. They figured Old Republic wasn’t going to change their less-than GAAP-y ways, the audit committee is obviously no help, and God knows you don’t want to get the SEC involved every single time there’s a disagreement. If you were to ask us, its seems like a pretty logical reaction.

Now the only question is, which audit firm picks up Old Republic? PwC will certainly have some interesting things to share with the firm that decides they’re up for this particular headache.

PricewaterhouseCoopers drops Old Republic [Chicago Breaking News/CT]
8-K [SEC.gov]

Dennis Nally: PwC’s Credibility with Our Clients Is Doing Just Fine, Thankyouverymuch

Awhile back we told you about PricewaterhouseCoopers Global CEO Dennis Nally admitting that the PwC brand had been damaged because of the whole Satyam fraud.

DN has done another interview with the Indian press and he says despite this litng is on the up and up in India for PwC. The long/short of it is that Dennis & Co. are going to keep giving their clients the P. Dubs experience now and forever.

Pretty wide range of questions but we’ve presented the highlights for you.


Was the PwC Magic 8ball broken?

Q: When you look back at it do you think you could have avoided all that happened?

A: I don’t know if we could have avoided it. As we all know this was probably one of the most significant frauds that suddenly has taken place here in India but even in the global market place. So I do not know how you avoid that type of situation.

Where was the P. Dubs swagger when the shit hit the fan? Did you realize that everything was f’d and didn’t know what to do?

Q: [T]he firm didn’t seem to respond in a confident manner. The impression was that it didn’t know what it had been hit by. Do you think it could have been handled better?

A: I think with hindsight you can always do things better and that is part of learning and trying to deal with issues. But quite frankly this was a major event and of course it took us time to understand the pattern and what transpired.

In fact we are still learning and everybody is still learning. Now all the facts aren’t quite out yet but I think we are in the business of being out in the public and when something like this happens and it happens in a negative way, we are part of that. That is just a reality of being in a profession that we are involved with.

Why is this PwC’s fault?

Q: What role did the auditors have to play?

A: You are into an interesting debate and discussion because what is the role on a professional standards for the detection of a fraud. That is one of the areas that has been the focus not only on Satyam but a broader profession wide issue and we certainly welcome that debate.

I think there is an expectation out there in the public that auditors uncover every single fraud that they are involved with and that is not what professional standards call for but there is the public perception that that is what we are there to do. I define that as the expectation gap. If that is the expectation then we need to make sure that we are focused on the right kind of procedures, the right kind of standards, the right kind of reporting which is quite frankly really different than what we do today.

Will you stop all future frauds in India forever and ever and ever?

Q: Can you tell us if India will never see a Satyam again?

A: I wish I had a crystal ball but I don’t. As I said when you have a situation like Satyam or a major fraud I suspect somewhere in the world of corporate reporting, you are going to see another situation like that. Our job is to make sure we are doing everything we can possibly do consistent with the standards that are out there to ensure that we play our role in that process to avoid them.

The new India managing partner came from Singapore? You got something against Indians?

Q:But he has not come from India, you didn’t appoint him from the India firm – he was brought in from Singapore?

A: Gautam is originally from India which is great so it’s little bit of coming home programme.

Q: But it’s not a vote of confidence on the India management?

A: It is not. This is all about ensuring that we get the very best talent to focus on an important market like India and that’s exactly what we have done.

You let everyone down. Speak to them!

Q: A word to all those investors who felt disappointed with PriceWaterhouseCoopers for not alerting them to what was going on in Satyam. What is your message to them today?

A: Whenever we have situation like this, right or wrong, whatever standards are we are part of that and for that we regret what has happened. But this firm is about quality. It’s about doing the right things, it’s about being here for the investor community and we are very much focused on that.

Satyam fiasco has not dented credibility with clients: PwC [Money Control]

CPAs Spanked by SEC for Porn Site Audit

Let it be known that if you are peddling porn and engaged in online pimping, you do not want the SEC on your back.

WebCPA reports that Stephen Corso of Las Vegas and Brian Rabinovitz of Oak Park, CA got the SEC smack down in a Nevada federal court for filing materially false and misleading financial statements from 1999 – 2002 (that’s quite a backlog) and that audit staff – under the boys’ supervision – omitted important info and violated the sanctity of auditor independence during audits of Exotics.com


While the enforcement doesn’t go into specifics, we’re happy to. Exotics.com bills itself as the world’s premiere source for – wait for it – beautiful female adult entertainers. Not to be outdone, Exotics also boasts a veritable cornucopia of escort options including “BDSM & fetish providers, exotic dancers, strippers, sensual and erotic massage specialists, TSTV and other adult entertainment.” It’s that “other that really scares me. Self-billed as the Quicker Pecker Upper (kid you not), the site headline right around the time the SEC brought the heat was “Better than Wives, Girlfriends, and Porn” – and apparently above performing audits according to GAAS?

So, who wants to wildly speculate as to how audit staff violated auditor independence?

Here’s the 2005 release from our friends at the SEC:

[T]he accountants fraudulently participated in audits of Exotics-Nevada’s year-end financial statements and in a review of its quarterly financial statements and failed to conduct those engagements in accordance with GAAS, as required. The Commission also alleges in its complaint that, among other things, the accountants prepared or created many of Exotics-Nevada’s books and records and then audited the financial statements they created. According to the complaint, they also caused their firms to issue false audit reports which, together with the underlying financial statements, were incorporated in Exotics-Nevada’s public filings with the Commission.

Now listen, little auditors, you don’t shit where you live and you don’t audit your own statements. Audit sampling? I could see how it would be hard to resist in this particular instance.

CPAs Disciplined for Porn Site Accounting Fraud [Web CPA]
SEC Complaint

KPMG’s Layoffs in Advisory May Have Made Room for Some Auditors

Happy Hangover Thursday, folks. Hopefully the green food coloring washed off easily this morning.

I was out networking with my Irish brothers last night in midtown New York, quite a few blocks north of my normal after-work locale. Second Avenue bars full of cold beer and burned out white collars, St. Patty’s Day was a welcomed Wednesday relief for those in busy season. The day was over, the night was turning late and, for once, shop talk was put on the back burner. That is, until I heard the phrase “Uncle Peat” used as the object of affection bitterness for a toast.

Obviously, I couldn’t resist.


DWB: “Are you guys auditors?”

Auditor 1: “Yeah, over at KPMG. Hopefully not for long, though.”

DWB: “Nice, nice. Moving on to better things?”

Auditor 2: “Hopefully.”

Auditor 1: “Not soon enough.”

A round of drinks later (toast to Uncle Peat not included) and these Irish-for-the-day gentlemen filled me in about an email circulating around KPMG’s NYC audit practice regarding a temporary rotation into the Transaction Services (TS) practice. TS specializes in mergers & acquisitions work and was — most likely — hit steeply by the rounds of the falling guillotine back in 2008 and 2009.

How does a practice that was hemorrhaging money and resources a year ago now have business blowing through the door at such a fierce rate? If you read anything beyond the usual busy season distractions, it’d come as no surprise to you that the markets are slowly picking up. But service firms typically lag in response, both on the positive (Woo-hoo, new business!) and negative (Sorry, this isn’t about you – this is about the numbers) sides of the equation. Nonetheless, Uncle Peat’s auditors should be leaping at this opportunity. A rotation out of audit can be refreshing, even in the quieter months of summer.

Did KPMG’s advisory shake up and realignment pay off? Is the firm’s leadership blowing smoke to perk up the down-trodden auditors currently drowning in busy season? Was a picture of a giant carrot on a string used in the email? If you received this email, I’d love to read the text. Last night’s informants promised to send it over, but they probably called in with emergency doctor “appointments” this morning.

Auditor

Are Big 4 Auditors Irrelevant?

Okay people, the calls for the complete obliteration of the accounting world have begun. Check that. It’s more or less the accounting world as it relates to auditors of public companies (i.e. Big 4 auditors).

Steve Goldstein at MarketWatch, for one, is NOT A FAN, “What precise purpose does it serve to have a supposedly independent auditor (paid for by the company) sign off on accounts? From Enron to Lehman to Satyam to Parmalat, it’s clear that the major accountants lack either the skill or the determination (or both) to ferret out fraud.”


So in case you didn’t catch it, he’s calling into question the Big 4’s (our assumption) integrity, competence and fortitude. Oh and before you start huffing about “it’s not the job of the auditor to detect fraud,” we’d argue that’s not even the point any more. Lehman was engaging in what a former CFO calls “shenanigans” that E&Y knew about for years and went along with it. Why? Because Lehman said everything was kosh.

Goldstein goes on:

Company executives already are forced to sign off on their accounts. When they are caught lying, companies face liability over disclosure.

So the threats that keep (some) companies honest are there regardless of whether the reports are audited. The outside auditors themselves are assigned a negligible value by the market.

A solution? Here’s two admittedly out-there solutions that the Securities and Exchange Commission probably won’t adopt.

One is quite simple: get rid of accountants. Who cares? They add no value, and their expenses weigh on the bottom line.

The other would be for someone else to hire the accountant. How about the company’s top five shareholders? While the likes of Fidelity would grumble about the added costs and the free-rider benefit for smaller shareholders, they would certainly have an interest in securing a far tougher audit.

Okay, Big 4 auditors, here’s your homework: explain why auditing for public companies isn’t irrelevant. We’ll listen, we swear. Or just start shooting off at the mouth if you feel it necessary. Goldstein isn’t the first to make this determination. Francine McKenna and Jim Peterson have argued that the value of an auditor’s opinion has been nil for quite some time and they’re both Big 876454 alums. It’s okay if you admit it. Acceptance is the first step.

What exactly is the point of having accountants? [MarketWatch]

Lehman Brothers sign removal

Ernst & Young Was ‘Comfortable’ with Lehman’s Shady Accounting

Late yesterday, U.S. Bankruptcy Examiner Anton Valukus released a 2,200 page report that details the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It points the finger at Lehman execs for engaging in shady accounting that Ernst & Young knew about and was comfortable with. Lehman’s Board of Directors were not informed of the questionable accounting treatment.

To put it in more technical terms: Ernst & Young is in deep shit. The lead partner on the Lehman audwed more times than Dick Fuld for crissakes.

The accounting in question was known inside Lehman as “Repo 105.” These transactions moved billions of dollars off of Lehman’s balance sheet that were described by emails in the report as “basically window dressing” and their global financial describing them as having “no substance.” The Times reports that the treatment was so crucial to LEH that one executive, Herbert McCade, was known internally as the “balance sheet czar” and that he described in an email that the treatment was “another drug we r on.”


The really bad part for Ernst & Young is that they were okay with the “drug.” From the report, the lead partner stated that E&Y “had been aware of Lehman’s Repo 105 policy and transactions for many years.” For you wonky types, Lehman was accounting for these “Repo 105” transactions based on guidance from Statement on Financial Reporting Standard 140, Accounting for Transfers of Financial Assets and Repurchase Financing Transactions.

E&Y’s “team had a number of additional conversations with Lehman about Repo 105 over the years,” although they were not involved with drafting the policy nor did the firm provide any advisory services related to the transactions. According to the lead partner on the engagement, the firm simply “bec[a]me comfortable with the Policy for purposes of auditing financial statements.”

The problem, according to the Examiner’s report is that E&Y was okay with the treatment based on the theory:

Ernst & Young’s view, however, was not based upon an analysis of whether actual Repo 105 transactions complied with SFAS 140. Rather, Ernst & Young’s review of Lehman’s Repo 105 Accounting Policy was purely “theoretical.” In other words, Ernst & Young solely assessed Lehman’s understanding of the requirements of SFAS 140 in the abstract and as reflected in its Accounting Policy; Ernst & Young did not opine on the propriety of the transactions as a balance sheet management tool.

According to Lehman’s Global Financial Controller Martin Kelly, “Ernst & Young ‘was comfortable with the treatment under GAAP for the same reasons that Lehman was comfortable.'” Don’t you love it when things work out like that?

Ernst & Young has issued a statement that simply addresses the final audit that the firm performed: “Our last audit of the company was for the fiscal year ending Nov. 30, 2007. Our opinion indicated that Lehman’s financial statements for that year were fairly presented in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and we remain of that view.”

SO! E&Y is in a bit of a pickle. Civil suits have already been filed against both firms and more investigations will certainly be coming. If you’ve got some time over the weekend, take a flip through this beauty. We know there is accounting porn in there for some of you.

Report Details How Lehman Hid Its Woes as It Collapsed [NYT]
Examiner: Lehman Torpedoed Lehman [WSJ]
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Chapter 11 Proceedings Examiner’s Report [Jenner & Block]

Accounting News Roundup: CFOs, Staff Are Getting Worn Down by Guidance; Miami Forensic Accountant to Plead Guilty; Big 4 In Pari Delicto Defense Strategy | 03.10.10

A Growing Contagion: Accounting Fatigue Syndrome [CFO Blog]
Anyone getting worn out from all the guidance that is coming from the alphabet soup of regulators? You’re not alone and there appears to be an epidemic, something that CFO Blog has deemed “Accounting Fatigue Syndrome.” The long/short of it is that things are only going to get more complex as FASB and IASB continue to converge their rules and guidance continues to come out of both rule making bodies.

“Like many finance executives, Terry Lillis, CFO of Principal Financial Group, is tired. The constant stream of guidance from regulators and accounting standard-setters — plus the expected inflow of more to come over the next few years — has created “huge accounting fatigue” among his finance staff”


What’s the solution to AFS? How about just getting out of the biz altogether? “While the panelists gave no hope to CFOs who wish the standard-setters would either slow down or cut back on their agenda, they did offer one tip for ending accounting fatigue. ‘If I were a CFO, the first thing I would do is look at my early-retirement provisions,’ quipped J. Edward Grossman, a Crowe Horwath partner.”

High-profile Miami accountant Lew Freeman to plead guilty to fraud [Miami Herald]
A couple of weeks ago we told you about “go-to” forensic accountant turned swindler Lewis Freeman and his legal trouble.

Today he is expected to plead guilty in Miami to embezzling $2.6 million from his clients. Prosecutors have alleged that Freeman, “wrote 162 unauthorized checks to himself totaling about $6 million from the accounts of five failed businesses once under his company’s control, but put back about half of the money.” Freeman has been cooperating with investigators since his arrest but still may face 10 – 20 years in prison.

In Pari Delicto: Are Auditors Equally At Fault In The Big Fraud Cases? [Re: the Auditors]
Francine tackles PwC and KPMG’s defense strategy involving in pari delicto to avoid their roles in fraud cases.

The way I see it, the in pari delicto doctrine is being used like a pair of needle nosed pliers by audit firm defense lawyers to diffuse a bomb – huge liability for some of the biggest frauds in history. The in pari delicto doctrine attempts to pull the auditors’ tails from the fire by excusing any of their guilty acts due to the approval of those acts by potentially equally guilty executives.

Sam Antar at Stanford: Jr. Deputy Accountant Gets a Live Dose of the Criminal Mind

Last week, I took the day off from work and headed down the 101 to sit in on former Crazy Eddie CFO and self-proclaimed criminal Sam E. Antar speaking to Stanford MBA students on, what else, fraud and the criminal mind. Sam is a friend of both JDA and Going Concern and it was excellent to see him recount the Crazy Eddie story to an auditorium of future MBAs.

Ironically, he showed up wearing an SEC baseball cap, which is akin to JDA owning a Federal Reserve hoodie (I do) and didn’t waste a second getting to the point of his visit.

“I’m gonna be the guy that fucks you guys up,” he told the room before beginning the presentation, “I’m a racist and a scum bag but I hate everyone equally.”


I could literally see the audience squirm in response. I already knew Sam was a tad offensive and was counting on getting an extra dose of it; there was no squirming in the media corner.

“Political correctness helps the criminal, not you,” he explained, “It limits your behavior, not the criminal’s.”

Right.

Sam went into auditor standards like the fraud triangle though insisted there is no such thing as rationalization. “Criminals know right from wrong. We don’t plan on failure.”

We even got to see a vintage Crazy Eddie ad spot as Sam’s presentation was spliced with images from the 2006 Court TV episode of Masterminds detailing the Crazy Eddie fraud. That’s for the sections that Sam doesn’t tell you; the details are plentiful in his spiel though don’t let that catch you off guard, he insists he is still just as dangerous as he was before he was caught.

You can get the Crazy Eddie backstory from Sam’s Web site (if you aren’t fortunate enough to be able to play hooky and see him spook Stanford MBA students in person) here, here, and here. If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking him out live (leave your valuables in the car).

And then there’s the video of Sam and Eddie meeting up decades after their fraud was discovered — and Sam gave up his family (and, consequently, himself) — that I recommend you not miss.

So long as there are unqualified auditors being piled into audits they aren’t trained to perform, there will be guys like Sam E. Antar figuring out a way to distract, deter, and delude them, no matter what it takes. For Crazy Eddie, it didn’t take much. What’s to say things have changed?

Sam Antar Photograph by Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York Business and Investment News.

SEC Deadline Watch: Filing Late? Your Life Isn’t Over

Hey CIT team, sorry to hear about the tardy filing. But you know what? Considering all that’s happened in the past year, filing a couple weeks late isn’t that bad. And besides, now that John Thain is running the show, all signs are pointing to a turnaround of epic proportions.

For the rest of you engagements teams that have a late filing, you might have been feeling like LOSERS last night and maybe you spent last night sobbing over it and now it’s carrying over to today. We’re here to give you permission to blow it off.


We realize that doesn’t help the attitude of your [insert pissed off team member] right now but you know what? Shit happens. They’ll get over it too. Will this affect your performance rating? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is for sure though, there’s plenty of blame to go around so if you’re feeling guilty, knock it off. Will you get shipped off to an engagement where auditors go to die? It’s possible but you’ll probably be better off.

So maybe it feels like the end of the world right now but whatever your sitch is, we assure you, it’s not. This isn’t life or death. You’ve got to work at the IRS to make that claim.

CIT Unable To File Annual Report On Time Monday [Dow Jones via WSJ]
CIT Form 12b-25 [SEC]

SEC Deadline Watch: A Teaching Moment for Young Auditors

With the big SEC deadline on Monday there’s a good chance that some of you might be pulling some weekend hours. These are crucial moments where mistakes are not optional (especially food orders). Your attention to detail is paramount.

Being so close to a deadline can tempt some to cut corners, especially newbies. Things like ghost-ticking (btw, have we mentioned that everyone does this at some point?), plugging numbers and maybe not reading that draft of the 10-K as closely as you should are common shortcuts.


A reader passed along a link to an 8-K (no, not same form but the point is same you dolts) from 2005 for City National Bancshares Corporation of Newark, NJ and despite its age, it serves as an important teaching opportunity (emphasis unnecessary):

RESOLVED, a description of such 6% Non-cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series E, including the preferences and other rights, voting powers, restrictions, limitations as to dividends, qualifications, and terms and conditions for redemption, all as set by the Board of Direc you fucking new when i asked you liartors of the Corporation, is set forth in the attached Certificate of Designation Establishing the 6% Non-cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series E and Fixing the Powers, Designations, Preferences and Relative, Participating, Optional and Other Special Rights, and the Qualifications, Limitations and Restrictions, of the 6% Non-cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series E.

Do you see what happens? Intentional? Accidental? Doesn’t matter now, but somehow this awesome embedded message slipped by someone and now it lives for all eternity at the SEC. The point is, you should probably read every word of the filing to find obvious mistakes like these. Whether you choose to suggest a correction to your client is another matter entirely. Personally, we could handle seeing more of this.

(UPDATE) Was Deloitte’s Warning to Merrill Lynch Lacking Urgency?

Updated to included statement from Deloitte

By now you’ve heard that Ken Lewis and former BofA CFO Joe Price are in a bit of pickle, thanks to NYAG Andy Cuomo.

Long/short is that Drew has filed civil charges claiming that these two ignored advice to disclose information about the losses at Merrill Lynch and went ahead with their plans that ended up screwing just about everyone in the entire world.


According to the complaint, Deloitte was right in the middle of the action back in December of ’08 as the auditor of ML and from the sounds of it, they kinda-sorta encouraged ML’s counsel to disclose the losses saying:

given the losses through what it looks like will be November when it closes, given the fact that you have another couple of billion of dollars coming down the road in goodwill impairment, we believe it’s prudent that you might want to consider filing an 8K to let the shareholders, who are voting on this transaction, know about the size of the losses to date

Okay, so “prudent that you might want to consider” sounds like a “you can disclose the losses if you want to but we’re not making a BFD out of this” but Andy’s complaint sure presents it as a legit warning. We’re not saying that Thomas Graham, the Deloitte partner on Merrill, needed to be hyperventilating while telling ML’s Chief Accounting Officer David Moser that they “might want to consider” the disclosure but Moser was worried enough to tell in-house counsel about it.

Maybe Moser didn’t bring it up because he knew that lawyers don’t take anything auditors say too seriously. If everyone who claims to be worried, was legitimately concerned, perhaps they should’ve considered some double exclamation point usage. Oh well; next time!

We haven’t seen a statement from Deloitte anywhere and they haven’t gotten back to us at this time. Deloitte provided us with the following statement:

Deloitte personnel have testified as part of the New York attorney general’s investigation. Some of that testimony is cited publicly in the attorney general’s complaint. Deloitte is not a party to this proceeding, and due to professional standards, we cannot comment further on confidential client matters.

At the end of the day, BofA’s own general counsel tried to tell KL what’s what and he ultimately got fired so Deloitte ends up being a small fish in this whole situation (i.e. “not a party to proceeding”). Cuomo wants to be governor for crying out loud. Voters don’t give a shit if you file civil complaints against auditors.

NYAG_Complaint

Preliminary Analytics | 12.14.09

Thumbnail image for name-change.jpgH.R. 4173, Summary of Accounting and Audit Related Provisions – Lots to digest here but it’s all important, including a possible GASP name change for the PCAOB. [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Invitation to a Conversation: If the Auditors Were Missing from the Financial Crisis — Let’s Ask Why – Jim Peterson doesn’t mince words: “The simple if depressing reason is that their core product has long since been judged irrelevant. The standard auditor’s report is an anachronism — having lost any value it may once have had, except for legally-required compliance.” [Re: Balance/Jim Peterson]
Accenture Makes Right Decision, Drops Tiger Sponsorship – The awkward inappropriateness of the whole situation is now hitting T. Dubs in the wallet, as Accenture jumps into the “your services are no longer needed” camp. He won’t starve. [The Big Four Blog]
Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 5): Issuer Retaliation Complaint Against Overstock.com – Patrick Byrne’s attempt to develop his own Richard Nixon-esque enemies list has been met with fierce resistance. [Sam Antar/White Collar Fraud]
CPA firms face pricing pinch – “After years of gains since the government started keeping track in December 2003, overall prices for CPA firm services plummeted with the onset of recession in December 2007.” [CPA Trendlines]
Citigroup to Repay $20 Billion of Government Bailout – $25 bil to go. Get on it. [Bloomberg]

Preliminary Analytics | 12.10.09

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngSEC’s Khuzami ‘Skeptical’ of Auditors’ Claims on Privilege – Privlege shmivlege. [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Obama Proposes $12,000 “Cash for Caulkers” Program – Including the most immature montage ever. [TaxProf Blog]
Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne Have an Enemies List That Includes Friends and Family Members of Critics – Using Facebook no less. Anyone surprised? [Sam Antar/White Collar Fraud]
Madoff Auditor Plea May Signal Other Probe – Tax charges thrown in with David Friehling’s guilty plea may indicate that prosecutors may be building a case against other Friehling clients including the Madoff sons. [WSJ]
Broadcom Co-Founder Cleared in Backdating Probe – “U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney made the announcement after Samueli, owner of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, spent two days testifying for the defense in the fraud trial of a former executive for the telecommunications chip maker. ”You have restored my faith in the criminal justice system,” an exhilarated Samueli told the judge in federal court in Santa Ana.” Avoiding prison will do that. [AP via NYT]

Should Auditors be Able to Take Credit for Selling Non-audit Services?

Thumbnail image for integrity.jpgThe partner track is a challenge, as we’ve discussed. The competition in the UK is fierce enough that some directors and manager in the UK have taken it upon themselves to ignore their firm’s policies regarding cross-selling:

Authorities frown upon cross-selling, which involves an auditor selling non-audit services to their audit client. The practice is a potential threat to auditor independence and the Big Four explicitly prohibit the practice from being considered in staff appraisals.
But that didn’t stop Big Four firm Deloitte’s audit directors and managers referring to cross selling when trying to secure a promotion, according to the [Audit Inspection Unit].
“A number of audit directors and managers referred in their performance evaluations to cross selling non audit services to their audit clients,” the report stated.

Maybe this isn’t as much of a problem Stateside, since the SEC has addressed services that are definitely off-limits, and a company’s audit committee has to approve all non-audit work performed by the auditors. If there was a perceived independence issue, one would hope the committee would say no dice and that would be the end of it.
However, if a potential service doesn’t fall into the SEC banned list and the audit committee gives the non-audit service the thumbs up, should a manager be allowed to point to the business that he/she introduced to the firm?
After all that hoop jumping, it would be hard for any manager to resist pointing to business that the firm eventually won. Since the Big 4 have policies against cross-selling coming up in appraisals, it might all be moot but any potential partner still wants to be able to show that they can drum up the business.
If you’ve got feelings or experiences on the matter, discuss in the comments.
Big Four partners seek promotions for cross selling [Accountancy Age]

Because There is No Shortage of Criminals

fraud.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam Antar of White Collar Fraud. I won’t give him too many props (lest he think his wily criminal charms got to me) but our conversation was both relevant and disconcerting.
In case you aren’t acquainted with Sam, he’s the ex Crazy Eddie CFO who ripped them off and now does speaking tours talking about, well, crime. But there’s a lot more than that at work here, that’s just his schtick.


So what did I learn?
I believe my editor thinks I’m a doom and gloomer so here’s some good news: besides suggesting we start training more qualified forensic auditors fresh out of school, Sam insists there is a chance for real financial reform.
Do you take your reform advice from an ex-criminal? I remind you here that a tax cheat is in charge of the IRS, do with that information what you will.
Anyway, the point here is that financial statements lack integrity. Without integrity, investors are groping in the dark and criminals are able to execute their schemes. Foreign investors are scrambling to leave US capital markets, could that be because our statements are – generally speaking – unreliable?
So. Sam’s 3 step plan to restoring sanity to financial statements. Take it for what it is.
1. Redefine audit committees as truly independent. No member of the audit committee should derive a salary or other compensation from stock options or stock holdings. Period.
2. Committee members should be qualified. CPAs and securities lawyers are qualified to sit on an audit committee, not marketing managers and other “average” sections of the corporate population.
3. Forensic accounting should be standard curriculum in university accounting programs. Don’t eliminate 404(b), if a corporation can’t afford the audits required to be a public company, then don’t become one.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on that final point, I don’t think tedious audits are the solution. However, perhaps if we had more qualified auditors out in the trenches, I might be inclined to be slightly less skeptical about the effectiveness of more softcore audits.
Stay tuned as we’ll be picking Sam’s brain again soon.
GC Posts Referencing Sam Antar:
Grant Thornton: Patrick Byrne’s Pants Are on Fire
Obvious Sign of Fraud: You’re Having Sex with the Client

The PCAOB Chairman Is in It for the Money

Thumbnail image for pcaob.jpgHow’s this for awkward: Mary Schapiro makes $162,000 as the big chief at the SEC. The Chairman of the PCAOB makes $672,676 a year and board members get $546,891. And just so you know, B to the H to the O makes $400k.
The Berg says that, “Salaries for PCAOB members exceed the pay for most public officials to make the jobs competitive with the private sector,” which probably explains it but cripes. That’s good scratch for sitting in meetings all day and continually telling auditors how much they suck at their jobs.


The whole subject came up in the article because Schape and Co. are trying to find a permanent chairman to replace interim chair Dan Goelzer and two retiring board members.
The lead horse is Kurt Schact, the managing director of the CFA Institute’s Centre for Financial Market Integrity. Mr. Schact has a JD and BS in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. Candidates for the two soon-to-be vacated board seats include one CPA, Helen Munter (Deloitte) and two former SEC attorneys, Linda Griggs and John Sturc.
Does anyone see a problem here? Does anyone think for one minute, that the PCAOB will be better off with fewer auditors guiding the ship? There must not be a single qualified auditor in the entire universe that could possibly want to chair the PCAOB. Thankless job to be sure but at least the money is decent.
Anyway, the good news is that arguments for Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB will be heard at the SCOTUS next week. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and this appointment crap will become meaningless.
SEC Said to Consider CFA’s Schacht to Lead U.S. Auditor Board [Bloomberg]
See also: CFA Institute’s Schacht May Chair PCAOB [Web CPA]

Overstock.com Receives Delisting Notice, Really, Really, Really Needs an Auditor

patrick_byrne.jpgJust a brief follow-up on the three ring circus known as Overstock.com. After Wednesday’s bizarro conference call, Ringmaster Patrick Byrne and his company filed an 8-K on Friday letting the SEC know that the NASDAQ wasn’t impressed with the unreviewed 10-Q that the company filed last week.
The NASDAQ notice informed OSTK that since the company thought it would be cute to file an unreviewed 10-Q, they will delist the OSTK from the exchange if they are not back in compliance with listing rules by January 18th.
It was an especially nice touch that OSTK filed the 8-K “two minutes after market close today, a day after the letter was received.”
Getting back into compliance will involve finding an auditing firm stupid enough desperate enough willing to be the next humble servant to sign off on the 10-Q.
The issue at hand is worth putting to a vote. For whatever reason you like, choose the firm that should be the next auditor of OSTK. We’re not privy to all the possible independence issues that may exist, so anyone that brings them up to point how one firm would be disqualified can piss off.

Craptacular Caption Poll Reminder

We’ve got a close race in the craptacular caption contest. Polls close tomorrow night at midnight, so you’ve still got plenty of time to vote if you haven’t already.
Thumbnail image for crapper.jpg
And if you truly think you’ve got worse digs than this, send us your photos, we’re curious as how sadistic clients can be when it comes to accommodating their auditors.

Caption Contest Finalists: Auditing Is Craptacular

Who knew servants of the capital markets could be so creative? Since democracy is alive and well here at GC, it’s about time to get the vote on this one going.
Thumbnail image for crapper.jpg
Here are the finalists:

A. If you think that’s bad, you should see where the prior year work papers are kept.
B. You think this is bad, the intern’s desk is inside the bathroom.
C. The audit staff showed the client who is boss by blocking entry to the restroom until the accountants provided the requested PBC’s.
D. Don’t think the .05% raise was the only benefit to becoming a senior manager.
E. In retrospect, the auditors realized that they shouldn’t have expressed so much concern over where the client was going.
F. Upon their arrival to their workstation, the audit team quickly understood the reasoning behind the under-accrual for utilities expense for the months of January through March.

Are Your Holidays Going to be Ruined Because of Inventory Counts?

inventory.jpgPersonally, it would make for a better yarn if we were hearing about Jameson-fueled discussions about healthcare reform that eventually lead to grabbing all the gifts (and the remaining Jameson) and storming out of in-law’s house. Sadly, we’ll have to wait until after the holidays for those.
What we have heard is that PTO still isn’t being granted in the name of inventory counts. One reader notified us that her office still hasn’t released the inventory schedule so A1s and A2s are still going to have to wait to see how much PTO they’ll be able to take for the holidays:

[I] emailed you about a month ago that we (first and second year associates) couldn’t schedule any PTO for Christmas yet- and STILL we can’t schedule PTO. I think it’s ridiculous that it’s almost a month away and we can’t get any time. I talked to a partner…and he said that we’ll get the inventory schedule the first week of December, and then we’ll know when we can schedule vacation. [He said] ‘well you’ll have two days to spend w/ your family, right’

For some people two days with your family is about all you can handle but we understand that may just be people we know.
And regardless of whether you celebrate the birth of JC, lots of people travel in the twelfth month and it’s definitely frustrating if you’re still getting stonewalled on the PTO. We’re not sure if this is an isolated incident so discuss your office’s ability work with you on the inventory schedule or if they’re putting coal in your stocking.
Earlier: Are Inventory Counts the Bane of Your Existence?

Caption Contest Friday: Is Your Career in the Crapper?

A reader working at a client site showed us where she and the rest of her audit team will be sitting for the next three weeks:
crapper.jpg
A little background/TMI: Naturally our first question was, “Is anything audible?” to which she replied, “We definitely know who has a weak stream around here.”
Same rules – Submit possible captions for all the photos in the comments. We’ll choose our favorites — with preference given to those with an accounting/auditing bent — and then let you vote for the best one. Impress us.

Deadline Watch: Porsche Suing Crocs For ‘Cayman’ Use

crocs533.jpgAs we warned last week, today is the filing deadline of 3rd Quarter 10-Qs for accelerated filers. While many of you may be coming down to the 5:30 deadline, just as many have probably hit the button long ago and the filings are now getting scoped.
Michelle Leder over at Footnoted.org has one interesting Q that tells us about the fashion eyesore company Crocs, who is being sued by Porsche in Germany over the use of the name “Cayman”:

Now few people would probably confuse Crocs’ Cayman sandal for the Porsche Cayman. After all, one sells for $29.99 and the other starts at $51,000. And if this had been filed in the United States, instead of in Germany, we’d be even quicker to dismiss it. But at the very least, it’s got to be an expensive distraction for Crocs, which had to find a law firm in Germany to represent its interests. In the filing, Crocs says it plans to “vigorously defend” itself against the claims. But vigorous defenses rarely come cheaply. It’s not clear from the filing whether Crocs has already stopped selling the Caymans in Germany or not.

Crocs has survived plenty of near-death experiences already so we’re not getting our hopes up. Besides, if the First Lady wears them, is there really any hope for rubber shoe extinction?
Porsche vs. Crocs… [Footnoted.org]

PwC Gets a Small Win in the Satyam Case

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgHey, any win is a good win, right?
A has judge ruled that there was no evidence that the Delhi office had anything to do with the actions of the Bangalore office, the statutory auditors of Satyam.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) — the AICPA of India — had brought actions against PwC offices in Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangalore but the judge isn’t buying that they are related:

“They are separate partnership firms with separate balancesheets. There is no inter-connection (between PW Delhi, PW Bangalore and PW Kolkata [ Images ]) and profit and loss of one cannot be shared by others. You cannot say that the Banglore firm which was statutory auditor of Satyam has anything to do with Delhi firm,” said Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

The court did indicate that if the ICAI wanted to take another shot at Delhi — you know, with some evidence — if it so chose.
P. Dubs has to be happy with the small victory but would probably prefer if their previous suggestion to just forget this whole thing would start getting some traction.

The PCAOB Might be Caving on Auditor Signatures

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for lawn chair.jpgLet’s not jump to the conclusion that the PCAOB will scrap the whole auditor sign-off proposal just yet. They’ve been doing a hell of a job making auditors’ lives difficult lately ly wants to feel like it’s an important part of the bureaucracy. Especially since their lives are potentially at stake.
But the belly-aching on this one by the usual suspects is reaching fever pitch. They are saying enough is enough and that their partners’ names should not be written in blood for all to see.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the firms hate this idea since the owners of the firms are being given explicit instructions to put their names — and asses — on the line.


The PCAOB received a grant total of 23 comments on the concept release and all but two were negative. Not surprisingly, the two that weren’t negative came from “investor representatives”.
Francine McKenna gave you the lowdown on the firms responses in her GC post from September 30 and it sounds like it’s working.
Here’s a quote from PCAOB Deputy Chief Auditor Greg Scates:

“The board is going to discuss this and make some decisions in this fourth quarter on what to do and whether to move forward in this area. This is not uncommon in Europe. Partners do sign the report in other countries. In our country, of course, this is not the way we’ve been doing business, so it is a new concept. We’ll see what the board wants to do as they look through the comment letters and make a decision on what to do.”

A whopping 21 negative comments and the PCAOB is getting cold feet? Get better at spreading the word to people that will take your side, PCAOB. Were you just testing the waters with this or did you really want to make auditors accountable?
But maybe the firms got the Board members’ personal side:

Even more disturbing than the potential liability exposure is the specter of individual auditors coming under public attack by disgruntled investors and a “lynch mob” media mentality. “Engagement partners and their families could be subject to unwarranted and unwelcome communications from shareholders who are unhappy with a particular company’s performance in matters that are wholly unrelated to the completeness and accuracy of the financial statements,” Grant Thornton warned.

There are a lot of irrational people out there we’ll give you that, but a media circus outside an auditor’s house? Sort of like a bean counter paparazzi? That could be kind of fun, couldn’t it?
Oh, but what about the websites that would get put up?:

Groveland, Mass.-based CPA Frank Gorrell, for one, warned that identifying engagement partners by name could prompt irate investors to set up Internet sites to “vent their frustrations” by criticizing individual accountants and even publishing their home addresses online.

Sweet Jesus. Apparently accountants want to be invisible. No criticism for me, thankyouvermuch. And venting frustrations? On a website? Who ever heard of such a thing?
AUDIT FIRM REGULATION: No Autographs [Web CPA]
PCAOB May Scrap Auditor Sign-off Proposal [Web CPA]

Madoff Auditor Pleads Guilty, Solidifies ‘Worst Auditor Ever’ Status

That’s not an official title but if you’ve got suggestions for someone else, please, enlighten us.


Reuters:

He told the court that he did not conduct any independent auditing or verification of financial statements or tax returns provided by Madoff and “others” at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in New York.

Friehling did not state who the ‘others’ were but the U.S. Attorney hinted that we’ll get to know sometime. For now, Friehling is a free man, out on $2.5 million bond until his sentencing which is tentatively set for February.

He faces up to 114 years in prison but similar to Madoff’s chief bald-faced liar, Frank DiPascali, his cooperation should result in a lighter sentence. And by lighter we’re guessing that means he’ll still leave prison horizontally.

Madoff Accountant Pleads Guilty [WSJ]

Madoff Auditor to Plead Guilty Next Week

Reuters:

“The government anticipates that, at the pretrial conference scheduled for Nov. 3, 2009 … David G. Friehling, the defendant, will plead guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement with the Government,” prosecutors said in a letter to the judge handling the case in Manhattan federal court.

According to the WSJ, “Mr. Friehling is expected to plead guilty to are securities fraud, investment advisor fraud, obstructing or impeding the administration of Internal Revenue laws, and four counts of making false filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.” Since he’s flipping, Friehling will likely not face the maximum sentence of 108 years but he still probably shouldn’t make any long term plans.
Friehling will be third person related to the Madoff scheme to plead guilty and this will no doubt be the last time that we hear about an auditor admitting guilt.
Earlier: Judge, Possibly Fearing a TP’d House, Denies Bail for Madoff CFO

Do Recessions Cause Accounting Irregularities?

Thumbnail image for Cooking the Books.jpgSome people think so. Emily Chasan at Reuters discusses the perceived rise of accounting irregularities today:

“Corporate balance sheets may be showing signs of the wear and tear from the prolonged U.S. recession as accounting irregularities are starting to surface at growing numbers at U.S. companies.”
Okay but don’t accounting regularities happen all the time? If the economy is humming along nicely does that mean that less companies are engaging in accounting hocus-pocus? Hmmmmm.


But there’s more argument for “it’s the economy stupid”:

“Statistically you can show any time you have a recession or some type of tremendous decline in an economy you’re going to see financial pressures on companies,” said Bruce Dorris, program director at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, noting that corporate employees can sometimes be motivated to be overly aggressive with accounting or commit outright fraud to meet targets, particularly in difficult economic times.

The article cites Apollo Group’s stock dropping 18% yesterday after announcing that the SEC was starting an “informal inquiry” into its revenue recognition policies. It also lists Overstock.com, Town Sport International Holdings (owns NYSC), Zale Corp and also Huron Consulting whose stock price is still down 40% since the announcement of the SEC investigation. All these companies have delayed earnings reports or had investigations into their accounting practices.

So feel free to discuss your clients and their creative nature in this economy. Are their hard-nosed GAAP puritan ways caving to earnings pressure or are your partners the ones caving in the name of client service? Nobody wants a to be working on a client that’s going through a restatement. Nobody.

Accounting irregularities may be on the rise in U.S. [Reuters]

(UPDATE) Is the PCAOB Going the Way of the Dodo?

Dodo_bird.jpgWho knows? Our separation-of-powers principles knowledge is pretty much zilch. However, the PCAOB is currently “doubly insulated from both political pressure and presidential oversight” which some – including the Plaintiff in the case, First Free Enterprise Fund – think is unconstitutional.
The case, First Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, will be argued during the new session of the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7th. Here’s the take of our sister site, ATL, last year when the possibility of the SCOTUS hearing the case first came up.
More, after the jump


We won’t rehash the whole immaculate conception of the PCAOB, as you’re all familiar with that story. First Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, however, could make things interesting: “This case has the potential to undo the SOX accounting and auditing reforms. As such, the result may impact not just the auditing profession, but also every public company as well as the users of financial statements of those companies.”
‘Undo SOX accounting and auditing reforms’? That sounds kinda serious. We won’t go so far as to suggest that you start forgetting everything that you’ve been trying to get your heads around for the past seven years, but there’s at least a possibility that the PCAOB could become extinct. That could be exciting, or it could make you completely f*cking miserable again.
New Court Term May Give Hints to Views on Regulating Business [NYT]
The Supreme Court Term – Significant Cases for Business [SEC Actions via JDA]
Supreme Court Obsessed With Business This Session [Law Review]

SHOCKER: Audit of the Defense Department Had Serious Problems

Thumbnail image for DoD.pngWe’re pretty surprised that the Defense Department has an audit of its contracts at all but since they do, we’ll give them credit for at least setting up some faux-oversight. That’s where the credit stops however, since the auditors work for “The Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency” (“DCAA”) which just reeks of independence.
As we mentioned, the fact that anyone would attempt to audit the Defense Department is laughable at best. Some problems that the General Accounting Office found, according to Web CPA:

The problems uncovered by the investigation included waste of time and resources by the audit agency. As an example, the GAO noted that DCAA auditors spent 530 hours to support an audit of the cash management system at a research and development grantee, only to discover that the billing system was non-existent.

Awesome. Three months of work to discover a phantom billing system. Oh, but there’s more:

During a separate billing system audit of a supplier of combat systems, “Auditors deleted key audit steps related to the contractor policies and internal controls over progress payments without explanation.” One DCAA auditor told the GAO he did not perform detailed tests because, “The contractor would not appreciate it.”

Testing is rather inconvenient when accountability is involved. Especially in the name of national security.
For one of the 69 reviews the GAO performed, the audit report cited eight significant deficiencies in the contractor’s accounting system but since the contractor wasn’t really cool with that, the auditors dropped five of the SD’s and recommended that the other three be “improved without additional work”.
Buckling to clients isn’t as unusual so we’ll let this one slide and considering the DoD’s track record, they’ll continue doing whatever they hell they want. We just thought we’d bring it up here for the record.
GAO: DOD Audit Oversight Has “Widespread Problems” [Web CPA]

If Failure = ‘Chaos’, What Does Chaos Look Like?

Riots.jpgThe British government has denied a change in the law there that would limit audit firms’ liability. The Big 4, who seem to enjoy a far more prestigious and influential existence in Britain than in the U.S., lobbied for a change to the law but it was ultimately dismissed by the British Business Secretary.
The British government cites existing law that would allow companies to reach agreements with their auditors to limit their liability.
Continued, after the jump

Under present company law, directors can agree to restrict their auditors’ liability if shareholders approve; however, to date, no blue-chip company has done so. Directors have seen little advantage in limiting their auditors’ liability, and objections by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have also been a significant obstacle.

Ahh, the SEC, exerting its far-reaching influence another over sovereign government, not to mention their stellar track record . This does not amuse in the UK:

Peter Wyman, a senior PwC partner, who was involved in the discussions, said that the Government’s lack of action was disappointing. He said: “The Government, having legislated to allow proportionate liability for auditors, is apparently content to have its policy frustrated by a foreign regulator.”

The firms are lobbying, not solely for their own survival, dammit, but the sake of everyone, “They warned that British business could be plunged into chaos if one of them were bankrupted by a blockbuster lawsuit.”
We’re not really sure what ‘choas’ would entail. Hank Paulson had his own version of financial Armageddon but we hardly think that’s a plausible scenario if a Big 4 firm were to fail.
Perhaps there would be an army of accountants roaming the streets in zombie-like states offering their excel expertise to anyone that would accept it. While this is a completely horrifying scene, we’re skeptical of true ‘chaos’.
If you’ve got your own visions of chaos in the event of a large firm failure, describe it in the comments.
Audit firms left unprotected against claims of negligence [Times Online]
Also see: No legislated cap on audit liability [AccMan]

The Accountants Plug at the Emmys Is Made Watchable By an E&Y Hottie and Dr. Horrible

When we heard that the accountants at E&Y with elephant-like memories were the butt of a joke on last night’s Emmys we weren’t really surprised. That being said, we weren’t really expecting a joke that would be that entertaining.
So, we were pleasantly surprised when 1) one of the E&Y reps, Mika Velga (sorry if we butchered the spelling), turns out to be a hottie and B) the sketch featured Dr. Horrible, courtesy of the comedic genius of NPH.
Video, after the jump



If you’re not familiar with Dr. Horrible, feel free to waste a few minutes of your morning getting caught up. Oh, and if you know Ms. Velga, tell her she has fans.

In a Pinch, Deloitte Lets Anyone Sign Off on Audit Reports

DTa.jpgAudit partners are busy people. Regrettably, things get overlooked from time to time. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Pants. There’s just too much to think about sometimes.
One thing that you wouldn’t expect an audit partner to forget is to sign an audit report. Sadly, it appears that this crucial piece of the engagement sneaks by too:
More, after the jump

Deloitte has agreed to pay a £10,000 fine after allowing three members of staff to sign audit reports who were not designated as “responsible individuals”, contrary to audit regulations. Between March 2003 and November 2007 the three employees signed 95 audit reports.

Personally, we’re hoping that interns signed off on these because that would amount to a level of irresponsibility of the utmost hilarity. Speculation aside, Deloitte took this matter very seriously:

“Deloitte prides itself on its rigorous quality procedures and is disappointed that the individuals concerned failed to comply with the explicit policy that only those authorised to sign audit opinions may do so. None of the individuals concerned now work for Deloitte and the firm has implemented further improvements to its processes and controls.”

Rigorous quality procedures that let 95 audit reports sneak by? Short of the partner being on their deathbed, what could have come up that would make it a good idea to have someone else sign the reports? As for “rigorous quality procedures”, these must be on a sliding scale dependent on the number of pints that everyone has at lunch.
Deloitte fined £10,000 over mis-signed audits [Accountancy Age]

PwC Better Bring Their ‘A’ Game to This Year’s Oscars

OSCAR_INSIDER_hmed.hmedium.jpgWe’re not sure how long PwC has been counting the votes for the Oscars but we read some news this morning that made us pause with concern.
Apparently the Academy of Arts & Motion Pictures Sciences thought it was a good idea to change the voting rules for the Best Picture category back to the “preferential system” which was last used in 1945.
Our concern lies with the fact that this change in voting method might not mix well with the desire for routine that is forever embedded in the double helix of accountants, specifically auditors.
More, after the jump


The most common set of instructions that an auditor receives, as some of you well know, is “Do what they did last year”. This mantra, if not cast aside for the 2009 Oscars, could quite possibly be responsible for a material misstatement of epic proportions.
It’s far too early to speculate what films could be affected (maybe not) but we are concerned that since the awards are only six months away, the auditors don’t have much time to have at least a half a dozen meetings to discuss the ramifications of this decisions, let alone start planning, GASP, new procedures.
Best Picture voting gets a makeover [Variety]
Academy Makes Big Changes in Best Picture Voting [The Wrap]

Chrysler Auditor Switcheroo Follow-up (UPDATE)

We’ve confirmed with a Chrysler Spokesperson that the new entity emerging from bankruptcy has appointed Deloitte as the external auditors, a role that KPMG held for the entity that remains in bankruptcy:
More, after the jump

[We] can confirm that, as a new company, Chrysler Group LLC has appointed Deloitte as its external auditors. KPMG had previously served this role for the old Chrysler, which remains in bankruptcy. The new company, Chrysler Group LLC became operational on June 10, 2009.

Basically, as some have speculated, this may be a chance for Deloitte to poach the entire KPMG team, which, we have to admit, might not be a bad idea.
KPMG did not immediately respond to our requests for comment. Deloitte got back to us with no comment.
UPDATE: Chrysler got back to us with some additional information including
Why the change in auditors – “Chrysler Group LLC is a new company and, as such, the company has decided to appoint Deloitte as its new external auditors.”
If Deloitte was in the field – “Deloitte has begun initial planning work for the 2009 audit.”
KPMG’s remaining responsibilities – “We cannot address any services KPMG may be performing for OldCarco (the official name of the company that remains in bankruptcy).”
Nothing too surprising here except for the hilarious awesomeness of “OldCarco”.

Gold Star of the Day: Deloitte

DTa.jpgBrace yourselves, we’ve got a positive story about accountants, specifically auditors. Taylor, Bean, & Whitaker, filed bankruptcy on Monday after some strange goings on in the past month between the lender and the purchaser of its loans, Colonial Bank.
More, after the jump


The collapse came, at least partially, due to some very pesky Deloitte auditors who were calling TBW on their shenanigans. Per the WSJ:

Edward Corristan, the Deloitte & Touche LLP partner who headed the audit, was uncomfortable with the way Taylor Bean was accounting for foreclosed properties, according to a court filing and people familiar with the matter…Deloitte believed that employees of Taylor Bean and Colonial “had engaged in potentially inappropriate communications” about accounting for the foreclosed homes, according to a filing by Taylor Bean in connection with its bankruptcy case. With Ginnie Mae’s deadline for filing an audited financial statement approaching, Taylor Bean agreed to hire the law firm Troutman Sanders LLP to investigate Deloitte’s concerns. Meanwhile, Deloitte suspended its audit.

When TBW missed their deadline for filing with Ginnie, they had some explaining to do:

That task fell to Paul R. Allen, a former Fannie Mae executive who had served as chief executive of Taylor Bean since 2003…On July 6, Mr. Allen wrote a letter to Ginnie stating that there were no unresolved issues between Taylor Bean and Deloitte, according to the court filing. The letter hadn’t been reviewed by Mr. Farkas, Deloitte or Taylor Bean’s legal counsel, the filing said…Ginnie then met with Deloitte, learned of its concerns and decided that Mr. Allen’s letter was misleading. On Aug. 4, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees Ginnie and the FHA, suspended Taylor Bean’s authority to make or service FHA-insured loans. HUD said Deloitte had found “certain irregular transactions that raised concerns of fraud.”

Deloitte declined to comment, as it is their policy not to, on client matters. Okay but we’ll say, pret-tay, pret-tay, prety-tay good job Deloitte. Our faith has been restored. For now.
For Lender, a Fast Fall From Audit to Collapse [WSJ]

Do You See What Happens?

accountant.jpgThe PCAOB was kind enough to issue a couple of examples this week of what happens when you don’t take your role as auditor seriously.
We wouldn’t dream of putting them both in one post so we’ll give you one in the morning to ponder and save the second for later right about the time you’re ready to flip out, so hang in there.
We’ve also done you the courtesy of reading (sort of) both of the orders so that you can remain fully chargeable (not counting the time you take to read this post of course):
Thomas Linden was a partner in the Chicago office of Deloitte and lead engagement partner on Navistar Financial Corporation (NFC). At the 11th hour, prior to filing the fiscal year 2003 10-K, the engagement team realized that assets, revenues, and net profits were overstated by $19.7 million.
Check out the rest, after the jump


Having a typical over-confident management team, NFC had already taken the liberty of announcing the fourth quarter earnings prior to filing the 10-K.
Because Tom Linden was a Big 4 Partner and thus impervious to any challenge he encounterd, he took the following action (all our emphasis):

• Initiated an increase of approximately 50 percent in Deloitte’s planned tolerance for misstatements in NFC’s reported financial results
• Authored, with the assistance of a member of the NFC engagement team, an NFC auditwork paper that inaccurately characterized the reasons for and circumstances surrounding the increase
• Failed to evaluate adequately the risk that NIC’s financial statements were materially misstated due to error or fraud
• Otherwise failed to act with the requisite due professional care and professional skepticism

Okay, so the last two are boring but the first two kinda, sorta give us this impression of what happened:
Dude finds out the numbers are bunk, client isn’t cool with telling their analysts (who NFC told that they had a kick ass quarter) that said numbers are bunk, so Dude up and decides to ABBACADABRA make the tolerance for misstatement 50% higher than it was for the entire audit (read: that’s a lot).
Then, after probably putting the proverbial (or possibly literal) gun to head of the “member of the NFC engagement team”, they wrote a workpaper that supposedly explained why the tolerance was all of sudden 50% higher but the rationale was something to the effect of “because we said so”.
So for all that tomfoolery (snap!), Linden gets fined $75,000 and can’t be associated with a registered accounting firm for two years and which point he can petition to be to be reinstated. Yow-za. To better times, Tom.
ORDER MAKING FINDINGS AND IMPOSING SANCTIONS In the Matter of Thomas J. Linden, CPA, Respondent. [PCAOB]

Your Jailed Accountants Update

iStock_000001511480XSmall.jpgThe two P. Dubs-India partners rotting in a prison because, according to them, we’re duped by the geniuses at Satyam, got their vacation extended to August 19, according to The Business Standard. We have no idea if India’s prisons are the PMITA variety but at the very least, it’s crazy-ass hot.
Hyd court extends Raju’s remand till August 19 [The Business Standard]

KPMG Thinks the Appearance of Independence is Overrated

200px-KPMG.svg.pngThe Radio Station is throwing caution to the wind in the UK, accepting a new arrangement with Rentokil Initial, that brings out the ghosts of accounting scandals past. Under the new agreement, the firm will serve as both the external auditors and take on internal audit work, working alongside the client’s internal audit staff.
Prior to the new agreement with KPMG, Rentokil’s external auditor was PwC and internal audit services were provided by Deloitte.
Last we checked, audit textbooks still state that external auditors are to be independent in fact and appearance but KPMG UK must have got their hands on an edition that was printed in auditor bizarro world.
Rentokil’s KPMG deal raises eyebrows [FT.com]

PCAOB Names Acting Mustache Chair

goelzer.jpgThe PCAOB has announced Daniel Goelzer will be acting Chairman of the Board effective August 1. Goelzer brings an impressive resume with him, not to mention a sheriff-like mustache that will undoubtedly let the accounting firms know that he is not to be trifled with.

PwC’s New Investigation Will Invite Terrible Bovine Jokes

cattle.jpgPwC has investigators all up in their grills again as another audit is going to be subject to an investigation. This time a sub-prime lender in the UK, Cattles.
Cattles is blaming the whole shitshow on a “breakdown in internal controls”, which has been the standard PR sound bite since before Enron.

The Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB), which regulates the profession, announced the inquiry on Thursday.The board, part of the Financial Reporting Council, said it would examine the conduct of PwC and its individual auditors concerning the preparation of financial statements of Cattles and Welcome Financial Services, its subsidiary, for the year ended December 31 2007 and for the six months ended June 30 2008.

According to one analyst referenced in FT Alphaville, Cattles was letting loans go 240 days delinquent before taking any impairment charges. Apparently PwC was okay with that practice.
And since the AADB is going to be looking at “individual auditor conduct”, what are they going to discover? Besides the partner and manager’s daily fat-cat lunches, obv. We invite your thoughts.
We’ve also got the feeling that this might be the type of engagement where you could include a high-def photo of the manager dry-humping the partner’s leg (wearing a leash and spiked collar, natch) as part of the audit workpapers and it would get signed off on anyway. But, like we said, it’s just a feeling.
UK watchdog opens probe into PwC audit of Cattles [Reuters]
Regulator probes PwC over Cattles audit [FT.com]

Center for Audit Quality Continues to Be Made Up of Firms Doing Bad Audits

Per Web CPA, the Center of Audit Quality has re-elected the four members of its governing board:

Ernst & Young chairman and CEO James Turley has been unanimously re-elected to serve a second term as chair of the governing board. Michele Hooper, co-founder of The Directors’ Council, and AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon will extend their service as co-vice chairs. Harvard business administration professor Lynn Paine has been re-elected as a public board member.

BFD, right? Perhaps but it’s worth noting that the rest of the board is also primarily made up of representatives from large firms:

Crowe Horwath CEO Charles M. Allen, former SEC Commissioner Harvey J. Goldschmid, PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Robert E. Moritz (who replaced Dennis M. Nally on the CAQ board), Grant Thornton CEO Edward E. Nusbaum, Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg, McGladrey & Pullen managing partner David R. Scudder, KPMG CEO John B. Veihmeyer (who replaced Timothy P. Flynn on the CAQ board) and BDO Seidman CEO Jack Weisbaum

In case you’re not counting, all Big 4 firms are represented along with BDO and Grant Thornton. That’s all well and dandy and I’m sure these guys could at least audit their way out of a paper bag but has it occurred to anyone that all these “representatives of the industry” work for firms that continue to have problems with AUDIT FAILURE?
The list is long of pending litigation but the firms don’t really seem to mind because they’ll claim TBTF. They have the AICPA set out this nice little group, focused on “audit quality” in order to put out press releases about the “work” they’re doing, meanwhile, audits still keep blowing up. Yeah, I guess re-electing the same people will be fine.
CAQ Governing Board Re-elected [Web CPA]

Partners at Grant Thornton are Just Getting Lazy

Grant-thornton-logo.JPGGrant Thornton is really making our lives easy today: “Grant Thornton has agreed to pay nearly £6,000 in fines and costs after it failed to correctly sign off 43 audit reports.”
Measly fine, obv but 43 audit reports? And a incorrectly signed off report is one that, “had not been signed off by a responsible individual of the firm”.
So apparently the Brits have got their interns signing off on the audits. Gold star for you today, GT.
ICAEW fines Grant Thornton over audit sign-offs [Accountancy Age]

Deloitte Throws Up its Hands Regarding Missing Gold

deloitte.jpgThe Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) had a discrepancy between their book inventory of precious metals and the actual count, so natch, they called in a Big 4 accounting firm to do an audit and get to the bottom of this.
Deloitte got the honor of investigating and…wait for it…determined that there is gold missing. 17,500 ounces to be precise, worth about 15.3 million Canadian Dollars (approximately $13.2 USD). Oh, and there’s probably some silver missing too.
In classic auditor fashion, Big D issued a recommendation to the RCM to review its security.

Audit fails to find missing gold
[BBC]

SHOCKER: Doesn’t Appear that Stanford Auditors were Doing Any Auditing

allen-stanford_1018295c.jpgLast week’s indictment of Allen Stanford has brought up the always popular question when fraud, occurs: “Who are the auditors that were asleep at the wheel of this disaster?”
Well, in this case, the auditors were a local UK two-person shop, CAS Hewlett, which must be Queen’s English for Friehling & Horowitz.
It doesn’t appear that CAS Hewlett has a website, but they’ve been doing the Stanford “audits” for at least 10 years, so obv they’re legit. PwC and KPMG both have offices on Antigua but Stanford preferred to stay with its “trusted firm”. Totally understandable.
And the best part? The founder of the firm, Charlesworth “Shelly” Hewlett died in January, approximately a month before the story broke on the Ponz de Stanford.
This all adds up to who-the-fuck-knows if audits were even occurring and for us to speculate if Shelly needed to get got because Stan knew that the poo and fan were coming together. Just sayin’.