November 18, 2018

Awkward Situations

NJ Committeewoman Accused Of Lying About Her “Inactive” CPA License

I have seen many, many CPA exam candidates add "CPA"  to their email signatures and social media profiles immediately after passing their 4th part over the years, and most of us know why this is not a smart idea. Sure, you're really excited to have passed and figure you're just a few years' of experience […]

Just How Difficult Is It To Be a Recovering Alcoholic in Public Accounting Anyway?

Hi my name is Adrienne and I'm a snarkaholic. If you are just dying to tell someone your life story, let's meet in the church basement and talk it out. We're here for you, buddy. It works if you work it! Wonderfully Sarcastic GC team,I have a serious question, even if it brings down the […]

Late 1099s Lead To Awkward Confrontations at the Gym

According to Reuters, brokerage houses have upset some clients by needing more time to provide 1099s based on a new IRS rule that requires brokerages to report how much their clients spent on equities. Though some houses have informed clients of the delay and recommended extensions, some folks aren't too happy about that, including random […]

German Government Was Under the Impression That a ‘Certified Audit’ Would Find a 55 Billion Euro Accounting Error

Most people are of the opinion that government can’t do anything right. Education? Bah. Economies? Duh. Wars? YEESH. Oddly, politicians are quite fond of mocking the inefficiencies and mistakes of government to better relate to the common folk who don’t put much stock in the government’s operations. This means that politicians must find other people to hold responsible for the mistakes that are happening all around them. This also means that the art of blamestorming is the most coveted skill in all of politics (well, maybe after being able to lie through your teeth). Do things right and you live to fight another day. Do things wrong and you just look like an ass and then have to weather repeated calls for your resignation.

The German government is taking a fair amount of shit for missing a 55 billion euro accounting mistake. This size of a boo-boo can’t really be swept under the rug so, right on cue, the finance minister has turned on the blamethrower full blast:

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has summoned executives from the nationalized mortgage bank Hypo Real Estate (HRE) to explain how they made a simple accounting error that ended up raising Germany’s total debt load by 55 billion euros.Schaeuble, in the awkward situation of being humiliated by the windfall that will cut Germany’s debt levels, will also demand answers at a Wednesday meeting from the PwC accountancy firm that signed off on the report.

Schaeuble’s spokesman Martin Kotthaus tried to deflect any blame, saying the ministry received a certified statement from auditors that the balance sheets had been checked and approved. He said it was too early to tell exactly who messed up.

“It’s annoying, to put it diplomatically, when corrections of this dimension are necessary,” said Kotthaus, who was grilled at a news conference. “We had a certified audit of the annual accounts for 2010 and it said everything was in order.”

Right! A certified audit! If there’s anything we’ve all learned, it’s that audits are the one infallible stamp of approval that we can always turn to for confidence. Just ask Lehman Brothers. Or Satyam. Or Li & Fung. Or MF Global. Or Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. Or Koss. Or Countrywide. [breathe, breathe] Or World Capital Group. Or Sino-Forest. Or Colonial Bank. But aside from those, yeah, audits. Those things are solid.

Germany mocked for 55-billion euro bank accounts error [Reuters]

Big 4 Senior Associate with ‘Offers in Hand’ Wants to Ask for a Raise Without Sounding Like a Greedy Bastard

Ed. Note: Give DWB a warm welcome back to regular posting. If you’ve got a question for the advice column, email us at [email protected].

Good afternoon, everyone. Caleb must have tripped and knocked his sombrero-wearing-head last night, because he has invited me back for a weekly post. Regardless, I’m excited to be back. Let’s knock the rust off, shall we?

I am a 2nd year senior associate at a Big 4 firm. I like doing public accounting but am thinking that at my level and performance I am underpaid. I’ve several offers in hand but I do like what I am doing.

Now this does seem like a silly question – how do I go about asking for a raise without making it sound like that all I care about is money? In this economy…what are the chances that I am gonna get what I ask for?

Thanks a bunch!

You don’t specify whether your “several offers in hand” are for positions in the private sector or with other public accounting firms, so I’m going to address both.

Private sector – why are you interviewing with companies if you “like doing public accounting?” Turn these down.

Public accounting – you should be considering these offers if they are with another Big 4 firm. Do not go from Big 4 to mid-tier. Don’t have any offers with the other Big 4? See your own comments above and interview with the other firms. All four have problematic staffing issues this spring as the young guns continue to burn out. Sure, you’ll receive a nice little bump in pay when you transfer from one firm to another, but remember you’ll be down at the bottom of the networking food-chain.

Considering both the fact that you work at a Big 4 and it’s only a few months away from mid-summer raises and/or compensation restructuring, asking for a raise now will probably not lead to much. You work for an international firm responsible for more than 100,000 employees…you are one person. Granted, you are a second year Senior, which is one of the areas that all firms have a shortage at.

It also depends on your what practice line, your performance rankings and industry, as all of these factors play into how much leverage you will have. If you’re a top-ranked staff member with your CPA and on track to be a lead senior in the fall, your firm may toss you a $1,500 bone to keep you salivating for summer raises. If you’re more of the middle-of-the-road-and-I’m-studying-for-BEC type it would not totally surprise me if you were not given a raise or even shown the door. It would take the length of an episode of “30 Rock” for the word to spread through your office that all it took to get a bump in pay was to claim you had an offer from another firm. Leadership isn’t stupid.

Regardless of where you stand when compared to your peers, be absolutely certain you’re comfortable taking one of the offers you have should the latter situation happen. Your best bet is to wait until summer raises come through. The other firms will still be hiring experience staff in September.

More Bell Effect: Santee, California Dropping Mayer Hoffman McCann

After learning last week that the City of Riverside was kicking Mayer Hoffman McCann to the curb, another small town in SoCal is dropping MHM after that little mishap up the road in Bell.


From the Santee Patch:

Santee Mayor Randy Voepel has confirmed that the city will soon be searching for a new auditor.

The city’s current firm, Mayer Hoffman McCann (MHM), found itself amid scandal and controversy in July 2010 when the Los Angeles Times reported the firm “rubber stamped” a 2008-09 audit for the city of Bell.

Despite the announcement, MHM gets the pleasure of finishing Santee’s ’09-’10 audit (partner has to be LOVING it) but Mayor Voepel, not being the type to give second chances to two-bit accounting firms, is cutting them loose:

Although Voepel said that none of the people who worked on Bell’s audit have worked with Santee, he’s not interested in continuing a relationship with MHM at this time.

“We’re going out to bid for a new auditor,” he said. “Anyone that does bad deserves to be punished, and I would like to not have that particular firm perform our audits in the near future. Down the road, sure, they can quote in our bids again. But right now I’d like to get new bids.”

Possible translation: “We don’t want anything to do with these clowns. Mayer Hoffman McCann will only audit Santee, California over my dead body or impeachment after I am caught on camera at a donkey show in Tijuana.”

Earlier:
Apparently, Mayer Hoffman McCann Passes on GAAS All the Time

How Do You Handle Workplace Confrontations?

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

As professionals, we face this more often than we like. It makes us uncomfortable. It stirs up lots of emotions and feelings. It distracts us and can make us significantly less productive. What is this thing? It is workplace confrontation. As much as we may try to avoid it, or pretend it does not exist, workplace confrontation is real and as professionals, we need to know how to deal with it effectively.

In our digital and global world, workplace confrontation increasingly takes place through e-mail. I suspect this is occurring for two reasons:


1) It is easier to hide behind a digital cloak and say things you would not otherwise say to someone’s face in an e-mail, and

2) In a global world, people may not have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with many of their co-workers.

Even though confrontation has gone digital, it does not mean dealing with it becomes less important or easier. If anything, dealing with it becomes more important and difficult.


To shed some light on how to deal with this issue, I will give you an example of a conflict I faced recently via e-mail with a coworker who worked in a different state and who I had never met. My coworker was upset that I had sent him an incomplete reconciliation and felt I was trying to hand work off to him. He was not subtle in his feelings. In my initial e-mail, I had been kind in explaining that I was only trying to meet a deadline and the reconciliation was incomplete due to information lacking on his end. I asked if there was a justifiable reason for the information to be lacking. Because I knew my coworker was extremely organized, I had no reason to believe that he had overtly not done his job. What I did next is what I think will help you the next time you face workplace confrontation.

Upon receiving his angry e-mail, I stepped back from the situation so that I would not respond rashly. I then took the e-mail to my supervisor for guidance on how he thought I should respond. I incorporated his advice and wrote an e-mail that spoke to the facts and ignored all emotion from my coworker’s e-mail. By doing this, we exchanged a few more e-mails that ultimately allowed us both to learn about some weak links in our process that we were able to shore up.

I do not claim to be an expert on workplace confrontation, but I do believe the above tactics work in diffusing confrontation, whether face-to-face, on the phone, or through e-mail. The most important thing to keep in mind when responding to your coworkers is to try to understand where they are coming from and then shape your response in a way that either makes them see you are on the same team and/or how they stand to benefit if they step back and work through the problem in a constructive manner.

In my situation, I met my coworker face-to-face for the first time a few weeks after our confrontation, and we had an extremely productive week of work together. Our relationship has strengthened through this confrontation and we can now move forward working productively with each other. I welcome your comments on what you have done to diffuse workplace confrontation. What tactics have worked well for you? Not so well?

Three Ways That Patrick Byrne Can Apologize to Sam Antar

As you’re probably aware (if not, check the links below), it hasn’t been the friendliest of exchanges between criminal CFO/forensic accounting sleuth Sam Antar and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Sam being Sam, he recently reached out to Patrick Byrne to see if he would be interested in a mea culpa:

From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Patrick M. Byrne
Subject: Overstock.com Restatement
Importance: High

Hi Patrick:

Will you finally admit that I was correct when I reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement?

You owe me a public apology.

Regards,

Sam


Our understanding is that Pat hasn’t responded to Sam’s request for an apology yet (we’re hopeful!) so Team GC thought we’d offer some suggestions to Dr Byrne should he decide to take the high road and apologize to Sam. Having been in this situation more than once myself, I can honestly say sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up, buy some flowers, and admit that you’re an ass but totally repentant.

Overstock.com gift cards – Nothing says I’m sorry like free stuff that the aggrieved party can pick themselves. Bonus, the overhead on Byrne’s own inventory must be low. You know, because it’s his, not because there is any monkey business going down on OSTK’s financials.

An SEC Gift Shop Goodie BasketI busted Sam in an SEC baseball hat at Stanford last week so wouldn’t it be cute if Byrne got him a whole basket full of fun regulatory shwag? Awww, what a precious moment it would be watching Sam pull out DoJ beer cozies and a color-changing SIGTARP coffee mug. Who doesn’t love tchotchkes? PB can’t go wrong! I’d even throw in a pair of NY Fed Pistol Team patches for that added touch of flair.

Cupcakes – Come on, no one can resist cupcakes, not even Sam E. Antar’s hardened criminal ass. You know, might as well send some to the GCHQ while he’s at it, we’ve been putting up with this Overstock shit for months too. Hopefully even Patrick Byrne knows when it comes to cupcakes, it’s best to invest in high quality, over-priced boutique cupcakes. Even my cheap ass knows that.

Earlier:
Winners and Losers in the Overstock Restatement
Even Earlier:
Is Patrick Byrne’s Facebook Friends List Motivated by a Farmville Obsession?

Hit the Books Before Interviewing at Marcum

If you ever get an interview at Marcum, we suggest you break out whatever textbooks you have left, find some stimulants and cram the night before:

[My friend] had some crazy ancient partner interview her and he was talking to her and asked what her favorite grad class was and she told him one…so he wrote down 3 problems gave her code sections etc. and said i’ll be back in an hour and walked out and she was left there alone to solve them. He came back in and said i give this a B+ and then they offered her a position.

Or you could just ask the Accountant of the Decade to develop a new review course.

Accenture Is Giving Tiger the Arthur Andersen Treatment

shredder_tiger2.jpgYou’ve got to hand it to Accenture, if you’re not the ‘metaphor of high performance’ any more (i.e. a married man with two kids screwing everything that moves), they will make Enron audit workpapers out of you.
After the hammer came down on Sunday, the marketing crew — who spent the last six years making T. Dubs’ mug the mug of Accenture — has some work to do:

By Monday afternoon, Accenture staffers had swept through the company’s New York office and removed any visible Tiger posters. The next day, marketing and communications employees around the world were asked to turn in any remaining Tiger-emblazoned posters and other materials.

Considering the fact that Accenture is one of the remaining derivatives of Arthur Andersen, destroying all this stuff should be a piece of cake (shredder sure but we’re guessing they’ve got an incinerator chute). The best part for them is, they aren’t obstructing justice, they’re maintaining their sterling (?) reputation.
Maybe easier said than done since they spent “$50 million on advertising in the United States last year, and Mr. Woods appeared in 83 percent of the company’s ads.”
They really just need to get someone (anyone!) else in there ASAP to make us sorta forget (but not really) that T Dubs was shilling for them for six years.
Accenture, as if Tiger Woods Were Never There [NYT]

Don’t Forget about the Ernst & Young Holiday Rager Tonight!

In case you’ve been so distracted by the Tiger Woods story that everything else has been pushed to the back corners of your mind, we’ll remind you that New York FSO Holiday Party is tonight from 6 to 10 pm over at Tavern on the Green.

For the less fortunate of you, this may be your last chance to get some shameless ass-grabbing done. So if you’ve got nothing better to do, we suggest you check it out.

On the booze front, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that you’ll have open bar, but judging by the actions of other E&Y offices, you might want to stop by the ATM just in case.

Our invite appears to have gotten lost so if someone wouldn’t mind sending ours over that would be great. We’ll accept especially festive pics in lieu of an invite (read: JIM. TURLEY. DANCING.) Have a great time, and don’t forget who you’re representing (?).

And the Award for Deloitte Analyst Most Likely to Sleep His Way to the Top Goes To…

Gents, are you sick of being treated like eye candy? Are you tired of getting attention for your looks when all you want to do his serve your capital markets? Being judged for alleged promiscuity with superiors?

No? Cool with it? Good, because there are awards being handed out across the pond primarily based on your superficial qualities and your willingness to whore yourself out for personal success (click to enlarge).

Picture 2_jpeg.jpg

We’re filling out our ballot now but as the message says, you’ve got until the 18th, so ponder these carefully. Barry Salzberg is a lock at #6, especially if he’s wearing a hard hat.

Btw, who is going to tabulate the votes? We sure as hell can’t trust anyone from Deloitte to do it. Consider this the official RFP.
Also discuss your thoughts on the categories included, what categories are omitted, nominate yourself by sending us photos (we’ll pass them along). Anything on your mind, really.

(UPDATE) KPMG’s Letterheadgate May Require the Firm to Revisit Stationery Controls or Get Rid of the Blue Squares

kpmg_pink.gifAll right Klynveldians, we don’t know which one of you was a little generous with the letterhead but you’ve really done it.
Jeremy Blackburn, COO and President of Canopy Financial was able to raise $75 million for Canopy Financial based on bogus audit reports he provided to investors and pocketed more than $2 million for himself, according to the SEC’s complaint against Blackburn and the Company.


We’ll give the man credew the script:

Blackburn sent [Canopy CEO, Vikram] Kashyap an email dated June 30, 2009, attaching the KPMG Audit Report and the audited Canopy financial statements, with an email subject heading of “Audit Finally Complete,” and email text stating “I never wanna [sic] go through this again!!”

Kashyap apparently wasn’t in on the little secret that KPMG was not engaged to audit squat for Canopy. Nice work staying on top of everything, Vik. Meanwhile, Canopy’s investment bank, Financial Technology Partners, didn’t need an email telling them the audit was hell. They just ran to VCs with the notion that everything was on the up and up.
The bank is all bent out of shape because they’re taking heat and claim ‘We clearly had no clue about any such wrongdoing.’ Who wants to bother with the auditors? As Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch notes, “A 10 second phone call could have cleared this up before investors plowed $85 million into the company.”
The whole thing finally went south when Canopy’s new general counsel contacted an acquaintance at KPMG to help him find a new CFO. Canopy’s general counsel then sent over the “audit report.”

KPMG quickly responded to Canopy and advised Canopy in a “Cease-and-Desist Demand” letter dated November 3, 2009, that Canopy used KPMG’s name without KPMG’s authorization and consent. Further, KPMG told Canopy that it: (1) had never been retained nor agreed to audit any of Canopy’s financial statements; and (2) did not issue the audit opinion dated June 29, 2009. KPMG demanded, among other things, that Canopy “immediately CEASE AND DESIST from using the subject report and/or the unauthorized use of the KPMG name….”

It’s seems obvious that KPMG did nothing wrong here but this is still a big bowl of awkward. The firm’s name is all over the complaint and who knows how many other companies are running around with the firm’s letterhead throwing their “audited” financials around.
As we’ve indicated, this may call for a completely new look for KPMG. That means no more blue squares. We realize that’s a horrifying thought but the whole firm may be compromised. If you’ve got suggestions for the look (other than pink) or any thoughts on this snafu, discuss in the comments.
UPDATE: A tiny clarification/correction here: The original post over at Tech Crunch states, “Multiple sources have told us that Canopy was absolutely making up their financial statements, even forging audited statements with fake KMPG [sic] letterhead.” One could get the impression from our post here that genuine KPMG letterhead was used. That does not seem to be the case. The SEC’s complaint states that the audit report was “falsified” or “forged” without mentioning the authenticity of letterhead.
Nevertheless, we still stand by our conclusion that the Firm has no choice to either revisit stationery controls (since it’s obvious you can’t just get the shit anywhere) or change the entire logo as a precautionary measure. Similarly, we will continue to address this particular scandal as “Letterheadgate” to best follow the tradition of any scandal happening in the post-Nixon era to be suffixed with “gate”. We’re done here.
Canopy Complaint.pdf
Canopy Financial Turns Into Sad, Comical Game Of Hot Potato [Tech Crunch]
Earlier: KPMG Will be Stingy with the Letterhead From Now On

At the Deloitte Holiday Party You’ll Have to Mill Around While Trying to Avoid the Guy Mopping the Floor

We have confirmed the comment that mentions the Deloitte Holiday parties going down in the lunchroom. According to our source, this makes two years running that D has thrown it down in the caf which was a step down from the epic ’07 rager at the Waldorf. It’s not that nice of a hotel anyway.
Personally, we were hoping that Barry Salzberg was going to encourage everyone chip in and build the location of this year’s festivities with their bare hands but it might be too late to get that project started. Maybe next year.
Picture 3.png
Obviously this is less than ideal because 1) it’s definitely not a full bar and 2) instead of catering you’ll have to choose between what you think is salisbury steak and chicken a la king.
As far as atmosphere, we will admit that this is less touristy than TOTG but still. And what about the poor saps in Parsippany? Training rooms A – C? Jesus. Nothing better than crushing beers in the room where you were introduced to the FASB Codification.

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.

Rumor Mill: More E&Y Partner Slip-Ups

Does anyone want a job helping socially awkward partners at E&Y? After last week’s inappropriate ice-breaker rumor, we received another tip about a partner leaving a sensitive voicemail with all employees in the region:

The voice mail says this is for partners only and then discusses the new model EY will be using to determine the # of admin staff in an office and gives the date when admin cuts will happen. Also talks about how all partners will be required to do a mid year review in Jan 2009 (by the way, we all heard the partners saying later how this had never been done in the past so clearly it was papering the files for upcoming partner cuts).

According to the tip we received, the partner decided that leaving another voicemail, asking all non-partners to delete the first message, was the next logical course of action. On the one hand, assuming that all E&Y employees would abide by the honor system and delete the first message represents the strong faith this partner had in their employees.
On the other, it may have been just as effective to say “Don’t worry about that last message, I was just fucking with you.”