Earlier this month, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a report titled “How Tax Pros Make the Code Less Fair and Efficient.” Prior to publication, the report’s working title was “I Think Accountants Will Still Vote for Me Even if I Tell Them to Go Fuck Themselves.” What’s really weird is that, apart from the title, […]
Officials in cash-strapped Los Angeles have uncovered almost $43 million that was just sitting in a Department of Transportation account unbeknownst to the city, prompting them to wonder if there's more magic money stashed away: The discovery of $42.6 million will be a welcome one-time infusion into next year's budget, officials said, but has left […]
Remember earlier this year when an audit of the New Mexico Finance Authority turned out to be 100% bogus and the controller in charge, a fella by the name of Greg Campbell, said he was "probably negligent" to "assemble the [it] in that manner"? Sure you do. Well it turns out that, despite all the fun […]
If you've been following the Centro shareholder lawsuit against PwC, you know that the partner in charge of the engagement, Stephen Cougle, wasn't exactly jumping at the chance to take responsibility for any of the audit team's shortcomings. If you were to ask Mr. Coulge – and Centro lawyers did – he'd say the person responsible […]
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.
As you may have heard, 150 years ago today Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter which began the Civil War. This war turned out to be a pretty big deal as the Union victory effectively ended slavery. But what you may not be aware of is that it also led to the first income tax in our fair land.
From our friend and tax maven-cum-historian Joe Kristan (who somehow has time to post with less than a week to go in tax season):
The consequences of the war, surely unintended by the operators of this gun, included the end of slavery, a horrific death toll, and the first Federal income tax. While the tax was repealed after the war, the idea stayed alive; the federal income tax came back in 1913, and is still with us. So while you struggle with your 1040, save a word of “thanks” for General P.G.T. Beauregard and the rest of the Confederates who attacked Ft. Sumter.
Funny thing – lots of people in the South manage to have no tax liability so aside from LOSING THE WAR the whole thing is probably NBD.
Noted john and co-star of Parker & Spitzer, Eliot Spitzer, has a few choice words for everyone out there that helped facilitate all the corporate malfeasance from the last few years. Specifically, when your clients want to do something that you know is sketch and you gave them a pass before? That shit has to stop. And not with the attitude of “pretty please with sugar on top – no – Sugar, the brunette from last time.” For real, this shit has to stop.
“Facilitators — and we’re all part of it — lawyers, investment bankers and accountants. Our purpose is to be hired to justify the actions that are being taken by CEOs and others to run their businesses, and over time what has happened is that we have lost our backbone. We have lost our willingness to stand up and say, ‘Stop.’ There are a bunch of reasons for this. I’ve been in private practice and I know how those pressures are. We don’t like to look at our clients and say, ‘No, you can’t do that. I’m not writing an opinion letter that justifies that valuation.’ We don’t like to write a letter to the CEO saying, ‘No, you don’t deserve a 50 percent bonus.’ Those things don’t happen very often because we succumb to the pressures of our clients.”
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.
A.O. Scott, currently movie critic for The New York Times, wrote a column in the Times‘ Week in Review (May 9. 2010) titled. “Gen X Has a Midlife Crisis.” He used film references such as “The Big Chill” for Ba recent “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Greenberg” for Gen X (his generation). He also references “The Ask,” a novel relating to Gen Xers as fodder for his view.
Scott characterizes Gen X as over-educated, insecure, coming of age in the late 80s and early 90s. He also ascribes to Gen Xers the phrases: “consumerist banality,” “the attempt to camouflage sincere confusion with winking insouciance,” “the obsession with generalizing a personal experience,” “we did what we could: the slogan of the underachiever, the excuse maker, the loser.” (Is his language off-putting to you too?)
I think it is unfair to characterize a whole generation this way, Further, there are big differences between the older and younger halves of the Gen X cohort (1962-1978) as there are with the Boomer generation, and my guess is that Scott is referring mostly to the Xers on the older end.
Yet the arts reflect the culture the artists are observing, so what do the patterns and kernels of truth in the films, books, etc, tell us? What will engage members of that generation to be the leaders and achievers they need to be?
* More than other generations, Gen X may blame Boomers for blocking their opportunity and their underachieving. Unlike Gen Y/Millennials, they are not typically optimistic about their future at times of economic setbacks, and they don’t expect help.
* Gen Xers don’t look to others (older or younger) to explain their confusion or uncertainty.
* Gen Xers have a harder time trusting than other generations, having seen how the workplace social contract broke down for their parents and has never been particularly welcoming to them. In the workplace, they typically do not and will not place a premium on helping others and “making your fellow players look great” (as stated in the most important rule of improv performance).
* Materialism is evident. They outdo the Boomers in pursuit of luxury brands and symbols.
* Gen Xers (and Gen Y too) want freedom as represented by time, rewards in money and time, and to decide how to spend their time. The aspiration is “The Four-Hour Work-Week.” They were the first generation to see technology enable that. They work hard to create flexibility at an early age rather than waiting to achieve seniority and retirement. Gen Y is even more adamant about flexibility.
* Xers are resourceful personally (though not necessarily in groups), yet often feel like losers.
* Gen Y trusts group consensus or group determined “truth.” They expect help and resent Gen Xers who don’t specify expectations and don’t give them guidance, and call them spoiled, entitled, and over-protected. If not addressed in an enlightened way, this tension doesn’t portend well for long-tern engagement and productivity in the workplace as we know it.
Since Gen Xers, for a short time at least, are the next generation of leaders we all must look to, how can they capitalize on the strengths of their generation – which are often overlooked? And how can all the generations support them in using those strengths such as: self-sufficiency, desire for flexibility, results-orientation, entrepreneurial attitude, getting the job done wherever and however they choose, and belief in merit-based rewards to change deficient and debilitating business models for the better in a global context?
This is an important topic for future discussion and needs to start with a sincere expression of respect and candid dialogue in a non-threatening environment.
© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2010. All rights reserved.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over 20 years, with a special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners (www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com). Phyllis is the author of The Rainmaking Machine and The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both West 2010). firstname.lastname@example.org. URL: www.pdcounsel.com.
Plus, one of the (alleged!) tax fraudsters is facing seven counts of manslaughter. Impressive.
James Pflueger, a landowner facing seven counts of manslaughter on Kauai for the deaths of seven people killed when the Kaloko dam broke in 2006, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury for tax fraud.
Altogether, five defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for the purpose of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service in its collection of taxes.
They include Pflueger’s son, Charles Alan Pflueger, who owns car dealership Pflueger Inc.; company chief financial officer Randall Ken Kurata; Charles Alan Pflueger’s executive assistant, Julie Ann Kam; and certified public accountant Dennis Lawrence Duban.
James Pflueger, 83, is the former owner of the company.
The Plfuegers are proven business people but they simply can’t be expected to have the first damn clue about these tax matters:
Dave Scheper, an attorney representing Charles Alan Pflueger, issued a statement denying any wrongdoing by his client and also vowed a vigorous defense.
“He is a proven businessperson who always acts in good faith, but he is not and has never pretended to be a tax accountant,” Scheper said.
So naturally, the blame is going straight to the CPA in this case, Dennis Duban, but not because he screwed over Pflueger & son and their sterling reputations but because he just plain sucks at preparing tax returns.
An attorney for Duban said he looks forward to arguing the case in court. “We are confident that after a jury hears all of the evidence, Dennis will be completely exonerated,” said attorney Michael Purpura.
This is one of those cases where it will take about five minutes of poking the accountant with a stick and he’ll flip.
Just a hunch.
A federal jury on Thursday convicted the co-founder of an Islamic charity chapter who was accused of helping smuggle $150,000 to Muslim fighters in Chechnya.
Pete Seda was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and one count of filing a false tax return. His lawyers said they would appeal.
But forget religion for a minute. What burns us up is that this guy Seda is blaming his accountant for the whole mess:
Seda claimed the money was intended as a tithe that his accountant failed to disclose on a tax return for the U.S. chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland, Ore. The foundation has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
On the other hand, isn’t throwing an accountant under the bus something all religions can embrace? We’re searching for the common ground here, people.
GM filing warns on reporting [Detroit Free Press]
This may come as a shock but General Motors, despite filing paperwork for its IPO, admits that they still don’t have effective internal controls.
“[I]n regulatory filings about its upcoming initial public offering, GM warned potential investors that ‘our internal controls of financial reporting are currently not effective.’
Experts are divided on whether the warning — one of about 30 risk factors identified by GM in a document describing a planned sale of shares — is just an obscure accounting matter or a red flag that taints GM’s financial reporting
The 10 Highest State Income Tax Rates For 2010 [Forbes]
If you’re single and make $200k or $400k and married in Hawaii, you get dinged for 11%, the highest ranking state on the list. Dark horse Iowa comes in at #5 gets 8.98% of taxable income over $64,261. That’s above New Jersey and New York tied at #6.
Transocean accuses BP of withholding data on Deepwater Horizon and oil spill [WaPo]
Just when you thought the ugliness was slowing down (at least in the media coverage), ” Even as they work together to kill the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant BP and the deep-water drilling rig company Transocean are in an increasingly bitter battle over what went wrong on April 20 to trigger America’s worst oil spill.
The conflict flared Thursday when Transocean fired off a scathing letter accusing BP of hoarding information and test results related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 people, including nine Transocean employees. Signed by Transocean’s acting co-general counsel, Steven L. Roberts, the letter says that Transocean’s internal investigation of what went wrong has been hampered by BP’s refusal to deliver ‘even the most basic information’ about the event.
‘[I]t appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any entity other than BP from investigating the cause of the April 20th incident and the resulting spill,’ the letter states, and it demands a long list of technical documents and lab tests.”
How to tell when your boss is lying [The Economist]
Apparently cursing is a good sign.
Koss reports smaller quarterly loss on 14% sales decline [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
The company lost $423,450 for the six months ended June 30th. They spent $1.12 million on legal fees related to Suzy Sachdeva.
As the State Controller of California, John Chiang arguably has one of the worst jobs on Earth. Public service is a fine calling and working for the Terminator probably has its moments of awesomeness but he still presides over one of largest fiscal nightmares you could possibly imagine.
For starters, it doesn’t help when you overshoot tax revenues for the month of April by $3 billion. Plus, you’re dealing with a state legislature that is probably incapable of agreeing on what ocean serves as the border of their state.
So take that and a bunch of other stuff that’s not really worth rehashing, you get this, “[W]ithout a new spending plan that closes a $19 billion shortfall, the state would run out of money by late October. ‘We will run out of money if everything remains the same,’ [Chiang] said in an interview.”
Of course the state Assembly’s Republican leader, Martin Garrick, finds this to be a load of crap since what it comes down really is your political party “[He] didn’t represent the fact that it is his party’s own lack of leadership that have led to these delays.”
Look, we’ve all accepted the fact that California is the brokest-ass state of the union and is completely inept when it comes to doing anything about it. Sure New York is a pathetic loser that manages to embarrass itself on a regular basis and most of the rest of the states out there leave a helluva a lot to be desired but Cali really outdoes everyone on a regular basis. This will make two years straight of issuing IOUs at the expense of citizens and yet the diaper-wearing California reps do nothing.
If Whitman gets in there, her first act as Guv could be to auction them off one by one (or just list them all as “Buy It Now” for $1). Of course the take wouldn’t be nearly enough to fix the budget but at this point a symbolic gesture will do.
Because there doesn’t appear to be anything else going on today, we’ll be forced to tell you that Khloe Kardashian should now be at the top of your shit list for reasons none other than she is blaming her accountant for not paying her taxes.
TMZ reported yesterday that K-squared III owed California around $18.5k for ’07. Now the word is that she did pay but the accountant failed to remit the amount owed. Everything is cool though because, by the grace of God, Khloe has found a new accountant and everything should be cleared up shortly.
The only question that remains is, if she paid this twice, what the hell happened to the original $18k? Did the accountant just blow out of town with some Kardash cash? Did it somehow wind up in Reggie Bush’s pockets? Is there a spectacular Ponzi Scheme behind the whole thing that will result in the Kardashians being wiped out of popular culture altogether? God, we can only hope.
If you could sum up the years of 1998 to 2007, how would you do it? Promising career crushed in a millisecond? A seemingly endless loop of awkward moments? Various forms of experimentation?
If you’re the Committee of Sponsoring Organization of the Treadway Commission (“COSO”) you’re more or less way: Financial reporting fraud is getting bigger. Financial reporting fraud causes businesses to fail. CEOs and CFOs are usually the ones blamed.
If you’ve been paying attention at all, this probably doesn’t surprise you one iota but it is nice that COSO took it upon themselves to wrap it up in a nice little package entitled, Fraudulent Financial Reporting 1998-2007, An Analysis of U.S. Public Companies.
The report examined cases of alleged accounting fraud that were investigated by the SEC for the period. Some of the more interesting findings:
• Financial fraud affects companies of all sizes, with the median company having assets and revenues just under $100 million.
• The median fraud was $12.1 million. More than 30 of the fraud cases each involved misstatements/misappropriations of $500 million or more.
• The SEC named the CEO and/or CFO for involvement in 89 percent of the fraud cases. Within two years of the completion of the SEC investigation, about 20 percent of CEOs/CFOs had been indicted. Over 60 percent of those indicted were convicted.
• Revenue frauds accounted for over 60 percent of the cases.
• Twenty-six percent of the firms engaged in fraud changed auditors during the period examined compared to a 12 percent rate for no-fraud firms.
• Initial news in the press of an alleged fraud resulted in an average 16.7 percent abnormal stock price decline for the fraud company in the two days surrounding the announcement.
• Companies engaged in fraud often experienced bankruptcy, delisting from a stock exchange, or material asset sales at rates much higher than those experienced by no-fraud firms.
Lot of takeaways: bogus revenue is still popular, switching auditors is usually not a good sign (*ahem* Overstock.com), oh and if you cook the books, investors run away from you like a band of lepers.
Further, Compliance Week reports that the 347 cases reported is an increase from the 294 reported for the 1987-1997 period as well as tripling the average size of the fraud from $4.1 million to $12.05 million. The median assets and revenues of $100 million jumped from $16 million in the ’87/’97 range.
While this suggests that frauds are getting bigger, occurring at larger companies and as a result, destroying more wealth, the successful criminal prosecution of the people in charge of the companies doesn’t appear to be keeping up.
COSO Chair David Landsittel said, “All parties involved in the financial reporting process need to continue to focus on ways to prevent, deter, and detect fraudulent financial reporting,” although if the CEO or CFO (who certify the financial statements) are involved in the fraud, this statement doesn’t mean much. Sam Antar doesn’t think so either, telling us,
[W]e needed a study to find out that financial fraud leads to bankruptcy? Where have these guys been?Until we move away from the process oriented “check the box and fill in the blanks” routine in audits and start understanding criminal behavior, there isn’t much any auditor can do to deter fraud. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” Similarly, we need to learn that “All fraud is personal.”
And since the SEC names a CEO or CFO in 90% of these cases, yet only 20% of those cases actually result in indictment within two years, does this indicate that the naming of said CEO/CFO is largely a photo op for the SEC/DOJ et al? Even if 60% of those executives are convicted it appears that finding fraud is (relatively) easy part; successfully blaming someone in the court of law is something else entirely.
One of the authors of the study, Mark S. Beasley of North Carolina State University noted that there is work still be done, “We need to determine if there are certain board-related processes that strengthen the board’s oversight of risks affecting financial reporting.” This seems to indicate that there is some significant high-level processes that are still not in place that could keep tabs on the Andy Fastows of the world but for now, we still seem to be going with the honor system.
Yes, the brain trust known as the U.S. Senate has managed to prolong the agony on the estate tax. There was a deal on the table as of yesterday but you can forget it! Hard to believe this could happen. Was it a fundamental disagreement on the proposal? Was it because everyone was broken up that Arlen Specter?
No, it’s mostly because some people (the R’s) don’t like that other people (the D’s) are being fraidy cats about not having enough votes:
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the accord, which was all but forged a week ago, began to dissolve Monday night and broke down Tuesday after talks between leaders in both parties.
After talks with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), they scrapped a plan to move forward with the tax that expired at the end of 2009.
The reasoning, Kyl said, is that Senate Democrats aren’t allowing any legislation to reach the floor that doesn’t have support from the majority of its members.
“We no longer have an agreement because the Democratic side has decided that unless a matter has a guaranteed majority of Democratic votes going in, they’re not going to allow it on the floor, at least not voluntarily,” he said. “So we have to find a way to get a reasonable permanent estate tax reform to the floor where members can vote on it.”
For crissakes. This is this biggest case of “I’m taking my ball and GOING HOME” we’ve seen this week.
Joe Kristan does put the whole thing in perspective however, “Congress has been botching the estate tax for almost ten years now; why should they start getting anything right now?”
We stumbled upon this letter recently that appears to indicate that there was some confusion between the Grant Thornton Atlanta office and a Judge in Florida about what kind of services GT provides.
So it appears Mr Bowles has a little bit of responsibility here since he admits, “I did not submit a written request to appear as an other qualified representative in the form specified in [rule] which would have triggered a specific determination by you about my qualifications to go forward.” The lengthy explanation that follows kinda sorta indicates that maybe, he feels like this was his bad that the mistake got made. If you disagree and would like to blame the judge, fire away.
That being said, we figured that GT had enough of a reputation as an accounting firm to be recognized as such with little or no investigation. Apparently that is not the case. We left messages with both Judge Holified and Mr Bowles to get an explanation but so far neither of them have returned our calls.
Last week the financial three-ring circus Overstock.com officially put an end to its 2009 by filing its 10-K with the SEC (after a two week extension). Ring managed to keep his promise about turning a profit and managed to keep his head about it in his letter to shareholders only mustering, “It’s nice to be profitable.”
As you might expect, Sam Antar was not impressed and since the Company’s filing he and others (including Gary Weiss) have pointed out major internal control problems, mistakes in the footnotes, false disclosures related to an alleged “tax dodge” and now, NOW the most unforgivable thing yet.
We lacked a sufficient number of accounting professionals with the necessary knowledge, experience and training to adequately account for and perform adequate supervisory reviews of significant transactions that resulted in misapplications of GAAP.
Information technology program change and program development controls were inadequately designed to prevent changes in our accounting systems which led to the failure to appropriately capture and accurately process data.
These are the only two “control failures” identified by the Company in its filing that constitute material weaknesses. Naturally, the management team and the audit committee agreed with this assessment, “Our management concluded, and the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors agreed with management’s conclusions,” that former CFO David Chidester and former Treasurer Rich Paongo are the ones at fault here.
Is that class or what? So did Patrick Byrne finally realize that David Chidester and Rich Paongo, after several years at Overstock, lacked the “necessary knowledge, experience and training” so they and the Company “parted ways” (aka fired their sorry asses) for the latest restatement? What about the previous umpteen restatements? Why wasn’t didn’t the parting of ways occur after those?
Regardless of the answers to these questions, Sam has appealed to none other than Mary Schapiro to make sure the shenanigans don’t continue:
From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, April 05, 2010 3:56 AM
To: ‘Mary Schapiro’; ‘email@example.com’;
Cc: ‘Patrick Byrne’; ‘Joseph Tabacco’; ‘Board – Jonathan Johnson’
Subject: Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures
To Chairperson Mary Schapiro:
Enclosed is a link to my blog post entitled, “Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures.”
The blog post referred to in the link above, is to be considered a formal complaint to the SEC for continued false and misleading disclosures by Overstock.com and its officers. Please note that as a courtesy, I have cc’d Overstock.com on this email.
Sam E. Antar
Is the SEC not interested in a slam dunk case? We’ll see.