September 22, 2018

Awkward Conversations

What’s Worse: Getting Your Ass Kicked in the Super Bowl or Shooting the Breeze with McGladrey?

So we're trying to figure out which Manning had it worse — the one who got embarrassed in the Super Bowl or the one who had a long chat with McGladrey and special guests in front of a sponsored backdrop?   @EliManningHub shared his #SuperBowl experiences and discussed leadership on and off the field with […]

Accounting Student Whose Awkward Email Made the Rounds at Big 4 Firms Makes Fitting Retaliatory Video

Though it is never our intention, there have been a few times when news published on Going Concern has a life-shattering effect for some people. You know, like that weirdo who was filming coworkers in the bathroom stall next to him and young people stressing about retirement. Heck, even I suffer consequences from being associated […]

Charlie Rangel Told Sean Hannity He Needs a Good Accountant

Last night, New York Rep Charlie Rangel made his way to Colin's favorite fair and balanced news channel to sit down with Sean Hannity and Hannity's hair to talk taxes. Newsbusters has the transcript: SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Out of every dollar one of those rich people in New York make, how much should they be […]

What Do You Really Want From Your Leaders?

As much as no one wants to admit it, being in a working relationship is much like being in a romantic one. Sometimes one side sits there waiting for the other to read his or her mind (OK, it's mostly her), someone is always pissed off about dirty dishes piled up in the sink and […]

This Unassuming Accountant Likes Nylons and Smoking After Doing It [NSFW]

Happy Saturday, people! If you're working, I'm sorry. If you're not, congratulations. Very rarely, we post something truly not safe for work. Berating your employer is probably not appreciated by said employer but I wouldn't call it entirely not safe for work since so many of you obviously DO manage to get here at work […]

Are Ernst & Young Employees Looking Forward to Their Performance Discussions?

Since this feels like one of those days where everyone is at a ball game or is so hung over that they can’t operate their email, I’ll share the latest news from the mail-cum-money bag:

@EY – Just got an email saying we need to meet with our counselors before 7/31 to discuss annual review. I doubt any comp info though.

Even if these chats don’t involve any numbers, they may be useful in one of two ways: 1) It gives cranky employees the opportunity to fly off the handle because this last busy season was a special kind of personal hell and that no amount of money can possibly make up for that. or 2) It may be the perfect time to inform counselors about what kind of numbers are being thrown around at another firm who the Black Yellow had no problem keeping pace with last year.

Smiling and nodding works too, if that’s more your speed.

Ernst & Young Auditor Wants to Give a Partner an Earful About Comp Even If He Receives a ‘Very Generous’ Raise

Last week, we tried to get the ball rolling on Ernst & Young compensation rumors and while some may chalk up the lack of chatter to “PwC sticker shock,” others claim this is simply standard operating procedure. If you remember last year, eventually Ernst & Young reported some impressive raises that kept pace with P. Dubs but one of Turley’s troops is expecting the worst this year and would like to give a partner a piece of his mind. Unfortunately, he isn’t sure how to do it:

Hello,

By way of introduction, I am a loyal reader of going concern as well as a big four slave in the audit practice. Slavery had begun four years ago at EY and with all the compensation talk going on at other big four firms, I can’t help but to think –

What is a tactful way of telling a partner during the comp talk, “well thank you for that oh so very generous double digit percentage raise (assuming if it’s even double digit), but I am still unhappy because even after this supposed raise, you are still not paying me jack for the amount of contribution and commitment that you demand from me.”

As noted above, I’m a second year senior from an east coast office and my base is still not breaking mid-60s. Seriously, what the f___?

I will be forever grateful if you post my question up for discussion. Thanks so much!!!

Yours,

Angry EY audit senior

There are various directions we can take here so I’ll try to cover a few options before turning it over to you all.

A. Start off with a variation of, “Look, I’m an ungrateful, bitchy auditor. I also have unrealistic expectations and an inflated notion of my self-worth. I’d really appreciate an explanation as to how you can reconcile these traits to this paltry 10-15% raise.”

B. Continue with the slavery narrative.

C. Start questioning leadership at every turn, from challenging Andrew Cuomo to rumored twisting of Senators’ arms. “If this is the type of firm your running, yada yada yada.”

D. Simply ask if E&Y’s raises will beat PwC’s.

Now you may not think these are “tactful” ways to have this conversation but he did sign, “Angry EY Audit Senior.” If I tried to reason with this person, I’d be doing him a disservice. And when is honesty ever not tactful? If you sugarcoat your frustration, the partner will assume you’re a pushover like everyone else. My guess is most partners want you to give it to them straight. If you’re a performer (and something tells me you think you are) than this partner doesn’t want to lose your talent.

Having said all that, not everyone can muster up the courage to ditch the filter in these meetings. If you’ve got better more practical ideas than what I’ve listed, feel free to bestow your sage advice below.

Deloitte Partners Get Some Pointers on What to Say Re: Bonuses, Compensation

As was mentioned on Tuesday, rumors around Deloitte’s compensation are starting to surface. This likely means partners are fielding questions from anxious employees about raise, bonuses and if they’re considering any part PwC’s new compensation structure. Of course, not everyone is comfortable discussing personal financial matters with Gen Y types, so TPTB have floated some talking points to the partners so they might reduce the number of awkward moments.

Question: What can we say to our people about this year’s compensation?

As we are in the process of closing our books for FY11 and completing our financial plan for FY12 over the next several weeks, we have not finalized the overall Deloitte or AERS compensation – both for [bonuses] and FY12 base compensation. Deloitte and all of the major audit, advisory, and consulting firms participate in Mercer and similar compensation surveys and use this information as a key benchmark for determining competitive compensation. We also continue to differentiate performance (and move AERS Advisory to a more incentive based pay mix). We do our best to be above the survey midpoint of the aggregate of our competitors’ with regard to compensation and make adjustments as necessary (as evidenced last year).

We will continue to implement our Rewards and Recognition program which is significant. We are confident that we will be rewarding our professionals in a way that recognizes their contribution and efforts over the past challenging year and the increasing performance expectations we all face looking forward. We also stay very abreast of what our competitors’ actions and claims are and, if appropriate, make adjustments based on factual information.

When speaking with your teams, please consider the following key points:

• We continue to monitor the marketplace and pay at or above market. The compensation scenarios we’re modeling will ensure that we maintain, and likely improve, our position relative to our competitors on a total cash basis this year.

• We are confident our [bonuses] will be at or above last year’s levels, which were the highest in the history of our organization.

• Our merit pool will provide for market based compensation for all of our professionals and appropriate pay differentiation on the basis of individual performance. Our people continue to tell us this is important to them, we owe it to them, and we will deliver on this commitment this year.

• We know that our people have worked extremely hard this year and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that they are rewarded accordingly. We have a number of options on the table but frankly we don’t have the year-end numbers in yet so it’s still too early to make those decisions.

PwC Is Giving $5,000 to a College Student Who Makes the Best ‘Elevator Pitch’ Video That Won’t Closely Resemble Any Conversation They’ll Ever Have in an Elevator

For any current PwC employees if you, in the off-chance, happen to run into Bob Moritz in the elevator at 300 Madison, you might say, “Hey, thanks for the iPad,” or “I don’t care what anyone says, I love the colors of the new logo,” or “You look great with your shirt off.”


On the other hand, if you’re a college student and you need a little extra cash, you might be willing to script together a few awkward sentences that you would say to BoMo or Dennis Nally if, in fact they were interested in being accosted by a wide-eyed eager beaver that is rambling on about their leadership roles in Beta Alpha Psi only to be cut off with, “Sounds great but I really got hit the john.”

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, you’ve got until March 25th to get your entry submitted.

Making an Impression [PwC Careers/Facebook]

The PCAOB Wants to Talk More About Talking

Why? Apparently because they just considered the needs of auditors. Audit committee members were feeling left out (and are, presumably, just as uncomfortable conversing with humans as auditors) so it’s back to the drawing board:

At a July 15 meeting of the PCAOB’s Standing Advisory Group, Goelzer said comments reflected a wide range of views. “A number of comments suggested that we needed to do more homework, more outreach on this subject,” he said. “Some thought we approached the subject too much from the perspective of the auditor and without a full appreciation of what audit committee members wanted or needed.”

A briefing paper to set the stage for the Sept. 21 roundtable says the board is holding the roundtable to get more insight from investors, audit committee members, auditors, and management on the proposed standard. The briefing paper outlines a number of questions the board wants to explore focused primary on what information is most relevant to audit committees, and how auditors and audit committees should communicate on those issues.

PCAOB Reopens Comment on Communications Standard [Compliance Week]

Apparently, Sport Coats Can Go a Long Way for Big 4 Auditors

And finger quotes are obviously an effective way of communicating.


Someone is wasting some billable hours in a very fine manner this August.

Earlier:
A Brief Moment in the Life of a Big 4 Auditor

A Brief Moment in the Life of a Big 4 Auditor

Well. Any auditor for that matter.

Based on personal experience it’s plausible that the script came from actual conversations.

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]

RSM McGladrey Does the PGA a Solid, Sponsors Golf Tournament

RSM McGladrey’s C.E. Andrews was on CNBC today to plug the The McGladrey Classic, the new PGA Tour event that has NOTHING TO DO WITH TIGER WOODS.
C to the E to the A also isn’t too worried whether or not his firm got a deal sponsoring the tournament at the rumored $3 – $3.5 million since the wheels were already in motion before the “Tiger event” (read: everyone on Earth knows that he’ll screw anything). He’s just stoked that the firm has their name on a tournament (although it’s not so obv from his demeanor).
As for PGA commish Tim Finchem, he hasn’t talked to him and he says he won’t until T Dubs is ready. According to the commish, they’ll prepare appropriately at that time which will probably involve having local hookers on site at the events.
Basically the unspoken element here is how grateful the PGA is to have RSM do them a favor in their time of need.

Deloitte Changes Its Mind on Kohlberg Capital’s Ability to Value Its Investments

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DTa.jpgA friend of GC pointed us to this 8-K filed by Kohlberg Capital Corporation yesterday. Unless we’re misinterpreting this, there are some seriously awkward conversations going on between Deloitte and Kohlberg right now (our empahsis):

Deloitte issued an unqualified opinion on the Company’s December 31, 2008 financial statements, which was included in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 16, 2009. The Company is not aware of any allegation or belief by Deloitte that the information provided by the Company to Deloitte at the time of the preparation of the Financial Statements regarding the Company’s valuation methodology and procedures was incomplete or inaccurate or omitted any information requested by Deloitte at such time. On December 10, 2009, the Company and its management were advised by Deloitte that (i) the audit report issued by Deloitte accompanying the Company’s financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2008 in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for such fiscal year and (ii) Deloitte’s completed interim reviews of the Company’s financial statements for the interim periods ended March 31, 2009 and June 30, 2009 in the Company’s Quarterly Reports on Form 10−Q for those respective periods should no longer be relied upon because Deloitte had changed its position with respect to the appropriateness of the methodology and procedures used by the Company under SFAS 157 to value the Company’s investments as of the end of each of those periods and, as a result, the Company has been informed that Deloitte now believes, based upon such changed position and the additional information provided to Deloitte by the Company following Deloitte’s internal inspection process, that such Financial Statements contain material misstatements with respect to the value of the Company’s investments included therein. Accordingly, the Financial Statements should not be relied upon until the foregoing matters are resolved.

This filing followed up Kohlberg’s filing of an 8-K and form 12b-25 on November 9th to let everyone know, um, yeah, that Q is going to be late because Team D wants to take a look at this 157 stuff again. That was probably annoying enough.
But nowwwww it looks like the audit team spent the last month realizing that the pooch had been screwed on the last two 10-Qs annnnd last year’s 10-K. So yeah, don’t pay attention to the those filings. The one bright side to this is that Kohlberg had the sense to not file an unreviewed Q.
If you’ve got details on this, definitely get in touch with us, we’d love to know how the partner broke the news and how Kohlberg took it. The 8-K certainly doesn’t do that conversation justice.

Your Words Say, ‘I want this job’ but Your Body Language Says, ‘I’m really interested in my shoes’

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for BelushiCollege.jpgIt’s our understanding that there are still interviews to go before offers are made so we thought we’d discuss some not so good things to do while you’re sitting across from your interrogator.
U.S. News & World Report lists 15 ways to annoy your interviewer and we’ll expand on a few to get the ball rolling:
Knee jiggling or finger drumming – Performing the Wipe Out drum solo is typically frowned upon in any social setting. Double thumbs down during an interview.
Playing with your pen – No one is impressed by your David Letterman-esque flipping technique.
Checking your cellphone – Um, yeah.
Nail biting; Sniffling; Picking at, rubbing, or scratching any part of your body – Bodily functions, while a fact of life, should be controlled as much as possible. If you think you’re going to explode, just internalize and try to keep your eyes from watering.
Smiling too much (or not smiling at all) – On the one hand, permagrin is totally acceptable if you’re planning to engage in a Seth Rogen marathon. Not so if you’re trying to get a job. If you’re totally incapable of smiling, this is also not good. Your mortician face will not go well around the office.
This is just a starting point. Since your life experiences are far more interesting, kindly discuss your strangest encounters as an interviewer or an interviewee. Since we’ve already discussed the words that are actually coming out of your mouth, we’ll ask that you stick with non-verbal faux-pas.

Jim Turley Traded F-Bombs with Rahm Emanuel Over Chicken Last Night

jim turley2.jpgWe’d like to think so anyway. Maybe JT isn’t a potty-mouth but Rahmbo has been known to drop a curse here and there.
JT was in DC last night with several other big wigs, at the Williard Intercontinental solving all our problems: “The participants provided updates on their businesses, discussed when the economy may rebound and offered advice on how to spur job growth.”
Right, because, in case some of you haven’t heard, we’re on a collision course with double-dig unemployment. Thank the Maker they’ve been thinking about hiring people again, “Over salad, chicken and a fruit desert, some of the business leaders said they would start hiring immediately once the economy began rebounding while others said they would wait for revenue growth in their own companies, according to one of the participants.”
This was a two hour date so it couldn’t have been all business. We’re guessing Jimbo tried to loosen everyone up with some inappropriate jokes (feel free to guess what kind) while gnawing on a drumstick like Fred Flintstone but that’s just our vision.
Give us your best ideas on what JT and Rahm talked about privately, just between buds, in the comments.
Emanuel, Jarrett Meet With CEOs From Intel, Time Warner, Dow [Bloomberg]

Bean Counter Art: The Staff Inquiry

Editor’s Note: The following cartoon was drawn by Jack Britton, a former Big 4 auditor. You can visit his blog, colorcartoon.blogspot.com for more of his work. You can also follow him on Twitter @rumblebozzle.
CFO is Bored.jpg
Occasionally, being a staff auditor involves having awkward conversations with controller/CFO types. You have to ask them about fraud, legal matters, SEC inquiries, etc. etc. Regardless of the tomfoolery going on at the client, these people will not be telling you about it.
If this empty interrogation goes on long enough, the interviewee’s boredom (and possible physical reaction from lying so much) may cause uncontrollable fidgeting, as illustrated above. Discuss your awkward inquiry experiences with your clients in the comments. Especially the ones where you jumped on the conference room table and screamed ‘LIAR!’