September 22, 2018

Bitterness

CPA Exam Quitter Sends Epic Hate Mail to AICPA, NASBA

Note: I am choosing not to spell or grammar check this letter A) because last time Braddock dared to do the same, you guys slaughtered him for being a dick and B) as much as I hate truly awful grammar (a few steps below the typo-filled crap Caleb we writes here), I think the point is sufficiently expressed if you can simply ignore some of the obvious errors. In fewer words: we get it.

The following rant is presented without comment. Please note that its publication here does not constitute an endorsement ssed therein. Caleb took the exam back in the day with stone tablet and cave drawings of journal entries and I, as we all know, have not and will not sit for the CPA exam so neither of us have the experience to draw from here to form an opinion. Over the years, I have heard of issues at Prometric but usually along the lines of minor software failures that did not really impact the candidates’ experiences. I would be curious to get feedback from you all, the dedicated capital market servants, who have had examination snafus seriously impact your momentum.

For this guy, it was enough to get him to quit.

I remind you all here that a lot has changed since 2007. The AICPA and NASBA are getting better at communicating and always looking for ways to improve that process.

May 19, 2011

Subject: Uniform CPA Exam (glitches & bugs in exam software)

To Whom This May Concern,

My name is Matthew Grosso, former C.P.A. exam candidate back in 2007 who had experienced tremendous difficulties with the software that powers the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam (or “C.P.A. exam”) as well as various communications with NASBA (National State Board of Accountancy). My hardship has been well documented in a section below, titled “Timeline”….however, first, I would like to explain the nature and intent of this letter. In short, this letter is a call to action — a voice if you will — of many frustrated C.P.A candidates who have studied long and hard to attain the prestigious C.P.A designation, but have tragically fallen short because of undocumented barriers to entry into the profession; specifically, “software glitches and bugs” in the C.P.A. testing software package as well communication hurdles with NASBA.

Although I withdrew my candidacy a couple years ago, I continue to read and hear about candidates’ exam hardships (and, I’m not referring to passing difficulties). The fact is, candidates adversely affected by C.P.A. software issues are focused more on passing the exam rather that drafting grievance letters. Moreover, many distressed candidates are uncertain to who exactly they should contact regarding the nature of a testing issue…..is it NASBA, the State Board, the AICPA, Becker Convisor, or the Prometric Testing Center? The C.P.A. is daunting enough on a stand-alone basis, but for a candidate to experience a computer failure and have to blindly navigate a maze of reporting lines, in hope of finding answers to complex questions, is something entirely different. Because candidates are more concerned with “candidacy” and long busy season hours (as they should) and less so with detective work and grievance letters, is in my opinion, the reason difficulties with the software powering the Uniform C.P.A. exam has been grossly understated. Still, even if a handful of grievance letters had indeed made its way upstream to NASBA, The State Board Committee (SBC), The AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE), I’m curious why the C.P.A exam governors failed to address the software glitch/communication issues in an expeditious manner……or have decided to pull the plug on computerized testing altogether? Even if these issues were still in the discovery phase, I would have expected NASBA/AICPA to have contacted current and former candidates regarding the pervasiveness of the issue; the quality control time needed to correct the issue; and more importantly — a remedy.

Given consideration of the facts mentioned above – as a former (unlicensed) candidate, I’m left wondering whether the BOE has specific controls in place to detect issues with the software powering the C.P.A?, If so, whether the controls are working as designed with issues being sufficiently and timely communicated up the reporting hierarchy? I’m certainly aware of the pervasiveness of the exam software issue (and have facts to support it!), but perhaps the BOE isn’t! Perhaps the BOE is aware of the software issue, and has considered the issue to be statistically, De minimus. Even if the later was true, why weren’t candidates (like myself) notified of the shortcomings of the computerized testing approach and the potential for its effect on licensure?

Given my understanding of the imperfections of the Uniform C.P.A. exam and the organizational structure of The AICPA, NASBA and its affiliates, I’m under the impression the COE and its working cabinet has grossly underestimated the frequency of the glitches and bugs in the C.P.A. software – specifically the essay portion. Having made a significant time and financial investment in the program, I firmly believe my experience would have been different had the operational deficiencies in exam software been attended to, and NASBA – Candidate communications (via “NASBA Candidate Care”) fostered stronger ties.

In closing, as a friendly recommendation I would appoint a “Director of Customer Support” to research candidate concerns and help implement corrective action. This appointment would certainly enhance communications inside and outside the organization, thereby protecting the interests of candidates and prevent undue hardships in the C.P.A. community.

Regards,

Matthew M. Grosso

So? Would anyone else care to share their “undue hardship” with the class?

Bonus Watch ’10: Some McGladrey Employees Are Getting Impatient

Last month, we shared some bonus news with you courtesy of McGladrey that included a couple of extra days off (including tomorrow), access to baby/pet/parent sitters and yes, there is money involved.

Maybe because there are only less than two shopping days, some people are getting impatient:

Well, it’s the morning of our last day of work before the holiday break and employees still don’t know if they are getting a holiday bonus. It was stated to us bonuses are back but no communication has been sent out. What are they waiting for? Many people are on vacation already since we are off Thursday and Friday. Is Santa going to deliver it to each of us individually?

You think they could communicate that. Or maybe you have to be a hot shot partner to get a bonus. I for one know I will be pretty pissed off if there is no bonus, especially after the company wasted all that money on a 144-foot cake that went to waste earlier this year.

They can talk about how great we all are and what we have to do in the coming years but it’s all hogwash if they don’t give us a bonus. I know one thing, Steve Tait [former President of RSM McGladrey] would have made sure we got bonuses…will C.E.?

– Disgruntled in McGladrey Land

We have three main points here:

• Ranting about “no bonus” after a lengthy email from C.E. Andrews and Dave Scudder explaining that there would be bonuses could easily misconstrued as “psychotically cynical” but perhaps there have been broken promises in the past. If so, we haven’t been made aware of this.

• The email C.E. and Scuds stated “the pool will grow based on our year-end performance,” and “In January, we will be introducing a new program to provide real-time recognition and monetary rewards,” so maybe “nice” is virtue in Minnesota but “patience” obviously isn’t.

• We hate to break this to you but Santa Claus will not be delivering your bonus. Santa Claus is not real.

Former Big 4 Employee Has Some Thoughts on the Motivation Behind Becoming a Partner

For many of you in public accounting, the idea of becoming a partner in your firm is either a career aspiration or a thought that borders on lunacy. A few might fall in between those two spectrums but if you ask most people, they’ve got a pretty definitive answer on the “do you want to be a partner?” question.

Awhile back we received a message from a former Big 4 rank and file who had some thoughts on the matter:

When you enter Big 4 as an associate, the assumed goal is to make Partner. This seemed like a great goal at first, kind of like making it to the 12th grade in high school, or getting a degree (or two) from a good college. Or maybe even being voted in as the President of your sorority or fraternity. Take your pick. It’s the culminatied work, dedication, a little luck and a dash of favoritism from the Powers on High. However, the more I worked in B4, and the more I saw the “pyramid” continue to rear its ugly shape, I became appalled that anyone could WANT to be Partner.


We’ll just briefly chime in here to say that equating high school graduation to making partner is a bit of stretch (and we let a lot of things go). We know lots of people that graduated high school that could barely operate velcro sneakers.

Back to the rant:

The obvious reasons why someone would want to make Partner? Money, fame, money, power, money. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty much just for the money. But at the cost of what? More often than not: a tough family life (perhaps divorced, an affair or five, missed family dinners), working on the weekends, hardly seeing your kids due to work (e.g. weekend working, wining and dining clients, etc), and – the part that disturbed me the most – the fact that you are making your money from the “blood, sweat, and tears” of the miserable little minions working til all hours of the day and night for YOUR profit. I honestly don’t think that I could ever, in good conscious, become a partner, knowing the levels of stress I (directly or indirectly) put on my little “worker bees.”

Okay, time to jump in – to insinuate that partners (and aspiring partners) are simply motivated by money is silly. For starters, most partners will never pull down the salaries that the Jim Turleys and T Fly of the world are pulling down. Secondly, there are plenty of people working in public accounting – believe it or not – that really enjoy the auditing/tax/advisory work they do. If this is something an individual is aspiring to do long-term, having some skin in the game (“your profit”) is a worthwhile goal.

As for as personal lives go – more than 50% of human beings that get married end up getting divorced, so that’s weak and most partners (at least in our experience ) are not the lady-killer/man-eaters that you describe.

Continuing on:

Perhaps it is this mentality alone that makes me wholly unfit to ever be a partner or even a C-suite bigwig. Perhaps being a female I see the dog-eat-dog corporate world at a level that is far too emotional and compassionate.

But then again, who knows? Perhaps, hypothetically, by the time I finished the long uphill journey to Partner, clawing my way to the top, I would be so engrossed by the money and power that I wouldn’t have the time or space in my thoughts to think of the “little people” that were making my money-making factory churn. I would be immune to their complaints, responding with, “Stop your whining. We’ve ALL been there before. Just keep putting in your time, and everything will turn out okay.”

“Engrossed by money and power”? Now we’re getting ridiculous. This is public accounting, not an über-competitive hedge fund or the hallowed walls of the U.S. Capitol.

Once you make partner, the struggle is just beginning. Being at the top of the totem pole for an individual team might seem like a powerful spot but it’s anything but. The politics reach a whole new level when you make partner that most of us can’t even imagine. So, while you may think that partners consider staff and managers “little people” many of them probably feel like little people as well. Plus, they have significant (and sometimes grossly unrealistic) expectations placed on them, so any pressure you’re feeling, they’re likely feeling it as well.

Partners are still human and they have to make hard decisions that affect people directly and most of them are consciously aware of this. How each of them handles that responsibility is obviously different but you make them sound like soulless robots and that’s simply not the case.

So what’s the motivation, partners? If our reader is right, then proceed to tell us your stories of fame and fortune (yachts, trips to Monaco, et al.). But if you want to set the record straight then we invite you to level with the haters out there.

Earlier:
The Partner Track: Open Thread

Does Your Work Attitude Need an Adjustment?

For the majority of the time you’re at work, what’s your attitude? Gung-ho and get-it-done? Excitement? Just happy to have a job? Get through the day so you can go home?

I started thinking about this after reading self-described Chief Happiness Officer Alexander Kjuerulf’s examination of “What the heck is work anyway?

• If work is simply what you do because you have to, then happiness at work is almost impossible by definition.

• If work is only what you do for money, it eliminates all volunteer work.

• If work is only what you do for a purpose, then all aspects of your job that are not productive are no longer work.

I’m not claiming to have the answer yet, but as I see it, here are some elements of a definition of work that is conducive to happiness:

• Work is something you choose to do. You may not have a choice of whether or not to work, but you have choice in what work you do.

• Work is something you’re valued for. Either someone pays you for your work or someone takes the time and resources to organize your work.

• Work is an activity where you make a positive difference for someone else.

Whether or not you agree with where Kjuerulf is going with this, he is absolutely correct that work is a choice. You can choose not to work (and face the consequences on your lifestyle), and you can choose the work you do.

But there is a critical element that Kjuerulf leaves out – you also can choose your attitude. If the work you do every day is not something you love, you can choose to do it with an attitude that expresses your desire to do a good job, deliver an excellent end product, and respect those around you.

Even if you tend to love the work you do, but occasionally get an assignment you don’t enjoy or teammates who rub you the wrong way, you can still choose your attitude.

It’s that ability to choose that sets us apart. Those around us (bosses and colleagues, alike) make it easier to choose a positive attitude by appreciating our efforts and the attitude we demonstrate in accomplishing our goals.

What attitude will you choose today?

About the author:
Derek Irvine is a seasoned, internationally-minded management professional with more than 20 years of experience working across a diverse range of industries. An authority on the topics of employee engagement and recognition, he is a regular speaker at indus try and professional group conferences worldwide and is frequently published in leading media. He is coauthor of Winning with a Culture of Recognition.

Reprinted with permission from HR.com.

Citigroup Blackballs Analyst Claiming the Bank’s DTAs Should Be Written Down

Fox Business Network’s ace news-breaker Charlie Gasparino reports that Citigroup’s management team, including CEO Vikram Pandit and CFO John Gerspach will not meet with CLSA banking analyst Mike Mayo since he’s been telling investors that the big C should be writing down their $50 billion in deferred tax assets.

Carlito reports that Mayo states that this refusal to write down the DTAs amounts to “cooking the books by inflating its earnings through an accounting gimmick.”

Simple question from Mayo via CG, “I’d like to know why all my competitors get meetings with Pandit and the key people there and I don’t.” It’s not like the guy is one of the top banking analysts in the entire world. It’s not like Citigroup has a solid track record of transparent financial reporting. Or did everyone forget that C has the U.S. Treasury as its backstop?

The KPMG audit team can weigh in on this at any time. Or just email us the details.

Analyst: Citigroup is Cooking the Books [FBN]

KPMG Decides That Travel Time Is No Longer On the Clock

A member of the Phil Mickelson fan club is a little peeved with a recent decision (or not so much, you’ll have to tell us) regarding travel time:

I am in an office that covers a significant region that includes TN, KY, GA, MS and AL. Previously, it was office policy (and in most cases area policy) that at a minimum half of the travel time to and from client was considered chargeable. Well, management in its infinite wisdom has decided that will no longer be the case. Therefore, those 40, 50 or 60 hour weeks are now 50, 60, or 70 hour weeks when the travel time is excluded for management’s purposes but included in the “real world” (which management has clearly lost touch with).


Why the change? Our source has a theory:

In this year of increased emphasis on internal profitability (which is a joke for a fixed fee revenue generating business), management needed some mechanism to make up for all the hours that are going to be wasted messing around with this “awesome” tool (which malfunctions daily) [Ed. note: he/she is referring to the new paperless audit tool]. This is also in response to the area management’s inability to win clients. So, instead of [leadership] making the tough decisions and forcing those responsible for the poor results, loss of clients, and improper planning to bear the weight of the lack of profitability (and reduce their income), it totally makes sense to squeeze the staff even further. I guess the philosophy may go something like this: “well, they are already pissed because we don’t pay them properly, we are forcing them to use this eAudit tool that doesn’t work and isn’t ready for deployment, and we are making them work ridiculous hours because we fired too many people (keep in mind the exodus is just beginning so this is just going to get worse), so we might as well just making even madder by telling them that those hours they used to spend in the air or car in the service of KPMG don’t really matter for crap either”.

Sound about right, Klynveldians? Discuss, debunk and whathaveyou.

Infuriating Problem of the Day: Accountants Quitting During Busy Season

Seriously people. For most of you, this isn’t a problem. You gird up your loins, duck your head and bulldoze your way through this time of year just like you’ve done in years past. Busy season sucks. We all know that.

Who in their right mind interviews with the Big 4 et al. and is thinking, “The hours won’t be that bad,” or “I probably won’t have to travel” OR “Big 4 salaries are good enough for me”?


The Big 4 Exodus is something that has been discussed at length here but until we’ve yet to discuss this particular topic.

Yes, the trend of accounting firm layoffs is demoralizing and yes, merit increases were mostly frozen, and there were virtually no bonuses> Hell, you may working your ass off knowing that your staff makes more than you but if you’re working in mid-February, what ton of bricks hits you that causes you to conclude that bailing out on your team is the best option?

All the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, despite all of them having multiple “F— THIS!” moments, pull it together because they have a job to do. Why the hell didn’t you quit prior to busy season? You really felt like sticking it to everyone?

Fine. Perhaps your desire for sweet, sweet revenge against your senior/manager/partner/firm is more powerful than any shred of integrity you may have but for crissakes, that makes you a very bitter person. More so than the average accountant.

Seriously? It couldn’t wait? There isn’t that much time left in busy season. And besides, if you’re patient, they may pay you to leave.

In Better Late Than Never News…

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for two thumbs up.jpegHey gang, we’ll just take a moment of your time to point out the bang-up job that’s being done at the The Business Journal of the greater Triad Area. They’re not in the class of the CNNs of the world but we figure some recognition is appropriate.
They ran a story dated Friday the 18th entitled, “Ernst & Young merging sites, making Triad virtual office” which is kinda, sorta similar to a post we did on December 10th.
Maybe we’re hung up on little stuff like choice of words and timing but we’ll be damned if we see “first reported by Going Concern” anywhere.

…roughly 60 client-serving professionals based in the Greensboro office at 202 Centreport Drive will remain with the firm, with most staying in the Triad to work remotely. They will report to and receive support services from the Raleigh office…
The statement did not specify the impact of the move on Triad support and administrative staff, including whether there are any transfers or layoffs occurring.

If the TBJ is curious, we know the impact on the support staff. You can email us here if you’re still wondering.
We also don’t see any mention of the Manchester closing either but that’s in a whole other state, so it’s probably not relevant.