September 19, 2018

California

(UPDATE) There’s a Settlement in the Works for the Big Overtime Suit Against PwC in California

The last update on Campbell v PricewaterhouseCoopers we had for you was back in May of last year, when the trial date was predictably changed (again), pushing the festivities off until March of this year. Well, we're happy to tell you we have a little news. It seems both sides were able to "work things […]

The “Youngest CPA Ever” Will Make You Feel Like a Lazy, Unmotivated Turd

So you did well in high school, went off to a good college, managed to get through Intermediate, graduated with a 3.8 GPA, got an offer at a Big 4 firm, and passed the CPA exam on the first try in just 8 months. BIG DEAL, you aren't this young lady. As 17-year-old Belicia Cespedes […]

It Will Soon Be a Little Cheaper to Take the CPA Exam in California

Good news, California CPA exam candidates! Even though taxes are up, gas is up, food prices are up and you'll soon have to start importing your water in from Minnesota, you're going to get a break on CPA exam fees: The CBA announced a temporary reduction in CPA Exam application fees for a two-year period […]

California CPAs, Here’s an Opportunity to Serve Your Profession

Allow us a moment of seriousness here with a special request from the California Board of Accountancy: The CBA has established a new advisory committee, known as the Mobility Stakeholder Group (MSG), and is seeking CPAs who may be willing to serve on the MSG.  The MSG will advise the CBA on whether provisions of […]

According to the Internet, the California Ethics Exam Is Harder Than the Actual CPA Exam

You'd think an ethics exam wouldn't even be required for the future CPAs of America, who are surely totally and completely ethical at all times. But if that were the case, the Prometric Gestapo wouldn't be so eager to stop and frisk CPA exam candidates before they sit down at their antiquated machine to take […]

California Board of Accountancy Would Like to Debunk a Big Rumor

California CPA exam candidates, have you see a link floating around about Senate Bill 823 which will give California CPA exam candidates additional time to meet the 150 hour requirement for licensure? We know you have because a few of you have sent it to us. Of course, I didn't cover it because when I […]

Failing the CPA Exam Without Even Taking It

I recently received the following email from a professional who not only passed the exam but helps others to pass as well. This person has some concerns about the "10-minute time out" at the beginning of the testing process at Prometric: I am sure you have heard about candidates being locked out of the CPA […]

Good News For Future California CPAs Who Were Totally Going To Get Around to That 150 Hour Thing… Eventually

It looks like future CPAs of California don't have to hustle to get their licenses by December 31, 2013 after all! This was mentioned in the latest CBA UPDATE: The new 150-hour educational requirements are fast approaching, and there is new legislation pending that could prove a help to many CPA license applicants. The CBA […]

Is the Big 5 Returning to California?

Hahahahaha. No, of course not. HOWEVER, Moss Adams is getting close to usurping one of the Big 4 in number of CalCPA members and that may give some people the impression that a regional firm is making waves in California.  A reader sent us the following: According to CalCPA and some number crunching, as of […]

New York, California in a Horse Race for Sending Most People to States with God-Awful Heat, No Income Tax

Hot off the Twitter, New York Times' Catherine Rampell shares some interesting data about movers in 2012: nation’s overall mover rate increased from a record low of 11.6 percent in 2011 to 12.0 percent in 2012, per US Census — Catherine Rampell (@crampell) December 10, 2012 Okay maybe that's not so interesting, but this helps:  most common […]

California Jumps on CPA Mobility Bandwagon

Last Friday, amid all the Mitt Romney is a rich unemployed guy news, California Governor Jerry Brown signed that state's "CPA mobility law" which will allow CPAs from other states to "represent clients in the state without being subject to additional license requirements." California became the 49th state to pass a mobility law, with Hawaii the remaining […]

Here’s How California Schools Did on the CPA Exam in 2011

Sorry for the delay in getting this data out to you guys (I know I know, you were sooooo excited by the 2010 data last time), but we had to jump through a few flaming hoops to get permission from NASBA to give it to you. Just a reminder, if you would like to flip […]

California Board of Accountancy Wants to Throw the Book at Mayer Hoffman McCann for City of Bell Audit

Remember the fiasco in Bell, California? Mayer Hoffman McCann performed an audit of the city except it turned out that they didn't really perform an audit and it was later discovered that some of the city's leaders were making off with some money. The California State Board of Accountancy called MHM's audits "little more than a […]

How Does NASBA Count Bizarro College Situations In Its Candidate Performance Book?

Three weeks ago, an "old guy who wants to keep busy" commented on a post I'd done about California CPA exam stats asking how his very particular case might be classified for purposes of inclusion in the NASBA Candidate Performance book: Graduated from State U in midwest in mid 1970s in Econ. Took lots of […]

Let’s Look at Some Random CPA Exam Statistics From California Colleges

This post comes courtesy of a reader request. If you would like specific CPA exam statistics, shoot me an email and I'll dig through the candidate performance book for you so you don't have to waste $90 on it yourself. You're welcome. What are the top California schools for CPA exam performance (based on 2010 […]

Congresswoman Maxine Waters Has a Message for Banks Who Don’t Want to Shape Up

“If they don’t come up with loan modifications and keep people in their homes that they’ve worked so hard for, we’re going to tax them out of business,” Waters said. [ABC via TaxProf]

Smart Guy With Useless Masters Wants to Know How to Break Into Public

This is a good one. A really good one. If you have a good question for us (none of this crap we’ve answered before nonsense), please get in touch.

The lesson we learn here is that: A) not all Masters degrees are created equal and B) appreciate those networking and recruiting events you get at school because not everyone is so fortunate.

Hi GC,

Just need some advice and suggestions on how I should approach my accounting future. I finished my MBA – Accounting from Keller (Graduate division of Devry) about 2 years ago. I have a really good GPA (3.72), and I have some years of experience of accounting in private industries under my belt (3 years of being staff act a job recently as an Senior Accountant in a non profit organization. However, my true goal has been to get into public accounting, and I have tried and tried to breakthrough with no avail. Even before my recent job, I have applied to many entry level positions at any and every accounting firms (small, big 4, and in between) and no response. NONE… Networking and job assistance at Keller/DeVry is a joke… I sometimes regret going there…

As for the CPA exam, I am working on them right now. None passed so far, but I am really aiming for finishing it by the end of this year.

Something that piqued my interest recently is that CSUN is offering a Master’s in Accounting program this fall. I have already applied, and I have a good chance of getting in. However, I don’t know if its a worthwhile endeavor.

My question is, should I go back and get another master’s for the whole chance of getting networking and interning opportunities? It feels like it might be a waste of $20000 just for that… but then again, I spent about $50000 at Keller/DeVry for hopes of getting into public accounting with no result… and just because I’ll be attending an MSA program doesn’t mean that it’s a lock in getting into public accounting either…

Another thing that interested me is a MST program, possibly from Cal State Fullerton, or again, CSUN. However, time is an issue for me. I’m in my early 30’s already, and waiting another year seems like a death knell to my already slim window of opportunity in getting into public accounting.
Does anyone have advice on how I can get my foot in the door into public accounting?

Any feedback will be appreciated!

Thanks!

Sincerely,

Hopelessly Frustrated

Dear Hopelessly Frustrated,

If I spent $50,000 on a degree that won’t help me get a job, I’d be Incredibly Pissed Off so congrats on taking this so well. Your frustration is warranted, however, I have seen that Keller complaint before – did you do your due diligence before you forked over that kind of cash or was this a case of you getting suckered into their Masters/CPA review package without reading the fine print? Either way, I am really not going to tell you to go get another Masters just to bump into a few recruiters on campus, that’s a dumb idea and you don’t seem like a dumb guy. I mean if you’d do that just to get a Big 4 job, why not just bring a suitcase stuffed with $100 bills to your nearest Big 4 office and tell them you’ll work for free in exchange for work experience?

You’re right that at 30-something your chances of breaking into public are slipping by the day, old man. My thought on this is that at 30, you have pretty much formulated your opinions on the world, lost the idealism of your youth and settled into who you are pretty comfortably. Of course, the Big 4 don’t like hiring people with solid opinions about how the world works, it’s much easier to take on an army of starry-eyed 22-year-olds eager to be told how they feel and what they think.

That being said, sounds like you have a lot to offer, especially if you knock out the CPA exam. I have difficulty believing you cannot get in with any firm; when you say you’ve been trying, what exactly have you been trying? Lingering outside of recruiting events pretending that you attend that school? Waiting outside in the parking lot to pounce on HR people?

If you haven’t already, I would get your ass on the good old Internets and start networking like a motherfucker. There are tons of recruiters lurking on Twitter and LinkedIn, and the better your professional presence on these sites, the higher your chances of bumping into one. It can’t hurt.

Firms do troll the schools you mentioned (both CSUN and Cal State Fullerton have – believe it or not – decent accounting programs, at least by California standards) but do you really want to be elbowing 25-year-olds out of the way at awkward recruiting events? Instead, I would advise getting active with CalCPA and hitting any other professional networking events (like AICPA conferences) you can afford. It’s all about who you know, and if you know enough people, eventually one of them is going to know where you can get in and be so impressed with your decent GPA, previous experience and communication skills that they will put in a good word for you. It can’t hurt. Another $20,000 on a second degree, however, sounds pretty painful.

Good luck!

Would-Be Audit Noob Struggles With Picking a City (After Already Picking a City)

I’m pretty sure this isn’t a troll and this guy actually wants to know if this is OK. I have some location-based advice having lived in that area for over a decade, hoping you guys can fill in the rest. What would be the etiquette on this?

I am starting with a Big 4 firm in a little over a month in their San Jose office. However the more that I think about where I want to be and the housing options available I am more interested in San Francisco. Would I be risking my offer by asking to transfer so late in the game?

If it matters at all, I have heard from a friend in the SF office they are still looking to fill a few entry level audit positions.


Are you kidding me? You’re trying to kick off your career as “that guy” (don’t think recruiters aren’t tweeting amongst themselves all the time; you will get talked about) over the difference of a 45 minute drive. I could understand if you were struggling between New York and Los Angeles (with tail and good salary potential in both relative to cost of living and actually being able to enjoy the apartment you pay too much for) but you’re within the same metro area. San Jose isn’t that bad and you have the advantage of being able to “escape” city life to some extent when you are not actually at work.

Would you be risking your offer? Did you sign it? Did you feel like it was right at the time but now think a handful of miles will be worth considering that bridge burned?

But living in San Jose means you don’t live in the thick of it. San Francisco is fun to visit and great on paper but after a few years, it gets really old. You’re already putting yourself through life in the Big 4, why make that worse by also subjecting yourself to guys peeing on the Muni and those damn grey speckled recycled blankets everywhere? What makes you more interested in San Francisco?

In your copious amounts of free time, you can drive near San Francisco, BART in, enjoy yourself a paper-bagged PBR and BART your ass back to the San Bruno parking lot and retreat back to your San Jose lair. It’s practically like being in San Francisco.

If you haven’t actually signed the offer, you could try to get a lead on “your friend’s” firm; tell them unsubstantiated rumors are one thing but calls from HR are another. I’d advise against rejecting the San Jose firm’s offer without having some sort of reasonable assurance (bleh) that the San Francisco office actually wants you but with less than a month to go, you better have started pursuing that yesterday. I assume you don’t have the luxury of doing this in person; if you were local, you would know San Jose and San Francisco are pretty much the same thing if you are talking about money but there’s also a quality of life issue here that you need to look long and hard at.

If you still like this idea, please go read So You’re Moving to San Francisco by Twitter API lead Alex Payne. I’m not trying to talk you out of it, I’m just asking you to really think this through before you screw yourself in San Jose. If you signed the offer, you should do the grownup thing and suffer through it for two years like everyone else. Then once you are sufficiently jaded, have passed the CPA and have the work experience to get the actual license, you are more than welcome to bail on the firm after the competition in San Francisco poaches you.

The market is not that good to allow you the opportunity to get this picky unless you are an Elijah Watt-Sells winner, 4.0 MAcc superstar or putting out. A lot.

Any Californians with Bright Ideas on Tax Policy Are Invited to Speak Up

God knows it can’t get any worse.

These hearings give you the opportunity to present your ideas, concerns, and recommendations regarding legislation, the quality of agency services, and other issues related to the Board’s administration of its tax programs. At the business taxes hearings you can comment on the administration of sales and use taxes, environmental fees, fuel taxes, and excise taxes. At the property tax hearings you can comment on the property tax programs and laws administered by the Board, and identify ways to resolve any problems identified in the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocates’ 2009-10 Annual Report.

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights Hearings [BOE via Tax Foundation]

Ninth Circuit Rules for PwC in California Overtime Lawsuit

Reuters reports:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed [a lower court decision] on Wednesday, ruling that PwC is entitled to litigate whether the unlicensed accountants can be exempted from overtime laws. The 9th Circuit remanded the case back to a district court in Sacramento, Calif. for more proceedings.

So, no this isn’t over. The actual trial still hasn’t gone down but this is definitely a big win for PwC.

A firm spokesperson provided us with the following statement: “PwC is pleased that the Ninth Circuit supported its arguments in this important case. The firm greatly values these employees and considers their work an integral part of PwC’s success.” An attempt to reach counsel for the plaintiffs was not immediately returned. Will keep you updated with any new details as we learn them.

Previous Coverage:
Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers

Tax Lady Roni Deutch Says She Had to Be ‘Dead or in a Mental Hospital’ for the California Bar to Help Her Clients

Now that Tax Lady Roni Deutch has been forced to abdicate her royal tax credentials due to pressure from the State Bar of California and the fact that she’s completely broke, one has to wonder, “what will happen to all those people that watched late-night TV and called TLRD for help?” That’s a good question! Roni would sure like to know, since the California Bar said she had to lose her marbles or be six feet under for them to help out. Based on the press conference from last week, she doesn’t seem to be dead (far from it, in fact) but committable? You be the judge:

[via DMWT]

Lindsay Lohan Probably Costing California Taxpayers Millions Albeit Less Than Real Fiscal Problems

You may have heard that California is having some budget issues. Sure there’s this Wisconsin business and all that but seriously folks, Californ-I-A is really in the fiscal shithouse. There are a number of reasons for this, most of which we won’t get into here but it should be noted that ill-behaved celebrities haven’t been receiving their fair share of blame in the press.

Luckily we have the real America’s news network going to great lengths to inform us about Lindsay Lohan’s role in fiscal catastrophe:

Factoring in all the court dates, court postponements (like when she was partying in Cannes and couldn’t get back to the U.S for a hearing), arraignments, judge and prosecutor fees, jail visits (she has had three stints in the slammer – 84 minutes, two weeks and one evening before posting bail, mug shots (four and counting), probation officers, random drug testing resources, SCRAM bracelets (these generally cost over $100 to install and have a daily fee of about $18) and LAPD security to and from court, how much is Lohan costing the taxpayer?

“It has been four years, and we’re talking about quite a few county law enforcement professionals, so it is probably safe to say several million dollars,” California-based civil law trial attorney David Wohl told FOX411’s Pop Tarts.

And given that Lohan has thus far refused to enter into a plea deal regarding the theft incident, her current theft case could potentially go to trial, costing Californians much more.

MILLIONS! It’s been a while since your humble editor had to make any materiality calculations but taking a quick look around, California’s budget deficit is currently in the nabe of $25 billion. So apparently if LiLo was shipped off to the Dakotas, Wyoming, or some other state that was in a less dire financial situation, things in Cali would be plumb-dandy? Strange thing however, there doesn’t appear to be an “elimination of celebrities that are a burden on society” on the L.A. Times’s budget balancer.

Perhaps Fox is onto something here? Jerry Brown would probably appreciate the other help. Pro bono of course.

Experts: Court-Prone Lindsay Lohan Costing Taxpayers Millions [Fox News via Jezebel]

Oral Arguments Heard in Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers

~ Update below with link to audio of the proceedings

Last month we caught you up on Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the wage and hour lawsuit filed by employees of the firm, claiming to be non-exempt and thus available for overtime. Oral arguments were heard today at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and it marks the most recent step in a case that could have wide repercussions in California. Francine McKenna has a good rundown over at Forbes, including sta��������������������rshaw, the plaintiffs’ attorney. PwC and their lead counsel, Dan Thomasch of Orrick, have declined to comment at this time.

In today’s proceedings, both sides were allowed to make their arguments and answered questions from a three-judge panel. We’ve obtained the briefs for both sides and we’ll give you a taste of each. First, from the plaintiffs:

PwC argues that Attest Associates satisfy the Professional Exemption because—notwithstanding the routine and nondiscretionary nature of their work—PwC claims that they are functionally indistinguishable from fully licensed accountants, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. As a matter of law, however, the text, structure, and drafting history of the Professional Exemption limit its application to licensed accountants, and Associates are not licensed. Second, PwC argues that Attest Associates satisfy the Wage Order’s Administrative Exemption because they work “under only general supervision” despite up to six layers of managers who are responsible for Associates’ work. That argument fails, however, because PwC has not pointed to sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact that Associates “work along specialized or technical lines”—much less that they do so “under only general supervision”—as required by the Administrative Exemption.

The argument goes into detail from there addressing three key arguments: 1) The Professional Exemption Does Not Apply to Attest Associates; 2) The Administrative Exemption Does Not Apply to Attest Associates; 3) The Rules Governing Professions Other Than Accounting Do Not Help PwC. You can see the brief in its entirety on the next pages.

PwC addresses all three arguments in their brief; this is a portion from the brief’s introduction:

Put simply, nothing in the Wage Order precludes unlicensed accountants from being shown to be exempt under subsection (b) of the Professional Exemption. Plaintiffs’ argument that the “drafting history” of the wage order at issue shows an intention on the part of the [Industrial Welfare Commission] to prohibit unlicensed accountants from being professionally exempt should be rejected, because the language and structure of the Professional Exemption are not ambiguous, and contain no such prohibition. Even the District Court did not accept Plaintiffs’ tortured reading of the text of the Professional Exemption, or claim to find unambiguous intent on the part of the [Industrial Welfare Commission] to exclude from eligibility for the Professional Exemption all unlicensed members of the accounting profession — and inevitably by extension, all unlicensed lawyers, doctors, dentists, optometrists, architects, engineers, and teachers. Doing so is flatly contrary to the overriding principle governing application of exemptions from overtime provisions, which is to consider individual employees’ work duties.

And their brief outlines a direct counter to the plaintiffs’ brief: 1) Plaintiffs’ Argument That Accountants Can Only Qualify for a Professional Exemption Under Subsection (a) Is Unsupportable 2) PwC Is Entitled to Show That Its Attest Associates Satisfy the “General Supervision” Requirement of the Administrative Exemption; 3) The Impact of the District Court’s Order Is Not Limited to the Profession of Accounting.

So what we’ve got here is…failure to agree on how the ambiguous (or not) California law is and how it applies specifically to unlicensed audit associates. Are they really just cogs in the wheel, bowing to their superiors as the plaintiffs argue? Or are they responsible professionals who are engaged in a challenging occupation that warrants exemption? The 9th Circuit will have transcripts and audio from the proceedings available on its website at some point tomorrow and we’ll update this post with them when they’re available. As for a resolution, it will be several months before we find out what the 9th Circuit rules and then, there’s still a trial to be had. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Audio is now available for those interested. You can listen to the proceedings here.

2010 01 29 Br of Appellees

Efiled Reply Brief

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

The Bell Effect: City of Riverside Won’t Renew With Mayer Hoffman McCann

If you’re a small city in California, you probably won’t be looking to Mayer Hoffman McCann to do your audits. If you’re already with them, it’s time to go auditor shopping.


Following the debacle that was Mayer Hoffman McCann’s completely blown city of Bell audits, the city of Riverside has joined the angry mob and will not be looking to renew with MHM any time soon. Riverside’s CFO Paul Sundeen said “given that the firm’s five year contract with the city is at its end and the controversy at the city of Bell, we will not include them [when seeking proposals for an auditor]”. Sorry, MHM, don’t wait by the mailbox for that invitation because you aren’t invited to the party.

Now that’s not nearly as harsh as getting fired by the client but sends a clear message to MHM (and any other questionably-equipped-to-do-their-job auditors out there) that ineptitude will not fly with the client. Unless, of course, there’s a conspiracy at work to defraud TPTB, in which case ineptitude is totally welcome if not encouraged.

Once again, it comes down to scope. No audit firm should be expected to look at every receipt and every statement but in the case of the Bell audit, auditors obviously missed some very large accounts either on purpose or because the firm sent a bunch of fresh-faced neophytes down there (this rarely happens) to actually perform the audit (Note to MHM: $8.89 million is significant unless you’re auditing the King of Saudi or the Federal Reserve). What happened to the accountability SOX promised us?

Said Riverside city controller Jason Al-Imam, “They want to do the right amount of work because they don’t want to lose their license, but they can’t audit everything. Sometimes something might go wrong and that just might be an area that they didn’t look at.”

Scraping by isn’t doing it anymore for the profession, so Riverside is more than welcome to go track down some new auditors but who wants to bet the kids doing their next audit will be just as fresh-faced and clueless as the last bunch MHM sent to fetch the client’s bank recs and invoices?

City of Riverside to drop Bell’s financial auditor [The Riverside Press-Enterprise]

Apparently, Mayer Hoffman McCann Passes on GAAS All the Time

Editor’s note: This post was republished, in part, with permission from Jr. Deputy Accountant.

I’m no auditor so perhaps it’s out of line for me to say as much but since when is $8.89 million considered not significant? MHM blew it when it comes to the California city of Bell and the office of the state controller doesn’t like the “rubber-stamp” approach – maybe the state controller needs a lesson in “same as last year” and a quick and dirty primer on how audits really work. As in, they are a total farce and rubber stamps are the best we can do when we’re not checking boxes and counting chairs in warehouses on New Year’s Eve.


LA Times:

A prominent accounting firm’s audits of Bell’s city finances amounted to a “rubber-stamp,” according to a state controller’s study concluding that much of the alleged wrongdoing would have been detected earlier had the firm done its job.

The long-awaited report is being closely watched because Mayer Hoffman McCann audits the books of dozens of government agencies in California and has 30 offices nationwide. Officials at several agencies, including California’s public employee retirement board, have said they were awaiting the controller’s study to help determine whether they would consider changes in their auditing contracts.

The controller’s office found that MHM failed to comply with 13 of 17 “fieldwork auditing standards” when reviewing Bell’s books in the 2008-09 fiscal year. The firm focused mostly on comparing financial numbers year to year rather than looking at potential for inappropriate or illegal activities, the controller’s report said.

Don’t trip, the California Board of Accountancy is on it. Surely.

Chiang said his office is forwarding the report to the state Board of Accountancy, which regulates accounting firms in California. A board official has said it would open an investigation. If significant problems are found, penalties could range from fines to the loss of licenses. The controller also sent copies of the study to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and state attorney general, which have been investigating the city.

MHM strongly disputed the controller’s findings, suggesting that Bell officials deceived the firm. “Recent evidence disclosed by the controller’s office shows that Mayer Hoffman was subjected to a massive scheme of collusion that reached through every layer of city government, to undermine the audit process and deceive the auditors,” the firm said in its response.

Bill Hancock, president of the firm, said in a statement that his firm “adheres to the highest standards…. But in those 50 years we have never seen anything like the pervasive collusion of so many individuals acting in concert to deceive auditors, as happened at Bell.”

Jump over to JDA for the rest.

A Walmart Sticker Leads to California Lawsuit Against Overstock.com

~ UPDATE includes link and quote from Overstock.com’s press release responding to the suit.

Gary Weiss is all over the $15 million lawsuit brought by seven California counties against Overstock.com today, noting that this could be a helluva problem for our fave SLC problem-child:

The counties had offered to settle with Overstock for as little as $7.5 million, but Overstock refused. No wonder: if the company had coughed up such a substantial amount of cash, it probably would have been driven into bankruptcy.

The suit came out of some alleged false comparative advertising claims (e.g. think Crazy Eddie commercials) including this one that got investigators on the case:

It was a Cottonwood man’s complaints about the firm that persuaded prosecutors to investigate the matter, said Erin Dervin, a Shasta County deputy district attorney.

In 2007, Mark Ecenbarger bought a patio set for $449 on Overstock. The website claimed the list price other companies were charging for the set was $999.99.

But when the furniture was delivered, there was a Walmart sticker on the side of the box showing the set was really worth $247.

Naturally, Overstock is saying that this one big misunderstanding and that isn’t how they do business. The prosecutors aren’t convinced:

The suit claims Overstock often outright makes up its list prices and compare-at prices based on arbitrary markups over the firm’s cost for the product. In many cases, Overstock entirely fabricated a fictitious comparison price and then claimed it was discounting that price, even when it was the only seller of the product, prosecutors allege.

You would think that such a troublesome lawsuit would cause havoc on the company’s stock price, wouldn’t you? Nope. Gary explains:

The reason for that is simple: fraud is already incorporated into the share price. This company is under SEC investigation for systematically cooking its books. Why should consumers be treated any differently than shareholders?

UPDATE: Full statement from Overstock is available although Patrick Byrne is MIA:

“Overstock.com stands by all our advertising practices, including providing comparison values which we thoroughly explain on our site. We have been singled out for standard industry practices, which we look forward to demonstrating in court,” said Jonathan Johnson, President of Overstock.com.

Prop 19 May Not Be Such a Great Way To Bring In California Tax Revenues After All

While California legislators may be licking their lips at the thought of taxing marijuana – should California voters go all in on Prop 19 next month – a new RAND Corporation paper points out that the revenue impact on Mexican gangs could make much less of a bang than assumed by Prop 19 proponents.

The reasoning behind 19 is simple: California prisons are already packed with all sorts of shady individuals and locking up small-time pot dealers with murderers, gang-bangers and child molesters really only creates a criminal factory that costs our already broke state way too much money. Eliminating a large chunk of the criminality surrounding pot frees up correctional resources to put rverts and killers. So far that makes sense.

Legalizing marijuana also gives our sneaky little legislators the chance to tax the shit out of a multi-billion dollar business; they have already done this in cities like Oakland where pot dispensaries are limited and closely watched by TPTB to assure they get their cut. Implement this state-wide and maybe we won’t be so desperate to get into selling our stuff off and mailing out IOUs instead of actual money.

Or were we totally high when we came up with revenue estimates that promise $1 billion in extra cash for the state?


The RAND paper argues that California accounts for 1/7th of marijuana consumption in the U.S., much of which is grown, cultivated and sold here in the state. That isn’t money that will be taken out of Mexican drug traffickers’ pockets if Prop 19 passes as we Californians are already weed snobs and don’t smoke the Mexican garbage. What we have is a large black market subsidized by semi-legal pot funneled through dispensaries. Some locales tax it while others don’t under current rules and it appears as though Prop 19 leaves the same door flapping wide open in the breeze. Not exactly the big tax boom we’d hoped for.

Opponents argue that legalization of marijuana will actually backfire as the free market price of an ounce could drop to $38; great if you’re the one buying but not so great if you’re the one trying to make money off of your crop and now forking over taxes to the state.

Is there anything in Prop 19 that would actually require growers and buyers to bypass the underground market they have known for so long and give their share of taxes to the state? Not as far as I can tell.

Think of it this way: if the state suddenly started taxing soda at 10 cents a can and you knew a guy in your neighborhood who happened to be sitting on a stockpile of Pepsi, why on Earth would you go to the store and pay the additional 10 cents a can when you could simply unload a case or two from your neighbor at a lower price? The difference being there’s already a black market for pot and introducing consistent tax issues into the matter is certainly not the way to legitimize said black market.

Governor Schwarzenegger has already signed a bill into law that makes possession of less than an ounce an infraction ($100 fine) while SFPD cops are already taught to ignore casual pot smoking on San Francisco streets (just like everything else they ignore including defecation and rampant dysfunctional drug use) so why 19?

I don’t have an answer for that. On the surface Prop 19 seems to be a no-brainer but like any other piece of California legislation, it’s all in the implementation and I don’t believe our state can pull off the tax revenue payday they are banking on should California voters vote yes on November 2nd.

Or maybe all the stoners will stay home and get high on Election Day instead, having already decided this is a bad idea and not at all what it seems to be at first glance.

BREAKING: California Manages to Approve a Budget Before Electing a New Governor

Which is significant because A) neither of the current candidates has cyborg abilities that would allow them to go back in time to fix anything and B) some people were getting antsy:

“You’ve got to get things moving. You’ve got to patch something together to keep operations going,” said John Moorlach, an Orange County supervisor.

Having a state budget in law is “extraordinarily important,” added Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose, California’s third-largest city.

Yeah, after 100 days, you figure you should slap something together. A sorry-ass $87.5 billion budget for one of the largest economies on EARTH is better than no budget at all, amiright?

California budget approved 100 days late [Reuters]

California Controller All But Guarantees That the State Will Issue IOUs Again

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.

California Faces Prospect of Issuing IOUs Again [WSJ]

Rather Than Admit that She Was Getting Tax Advice from Reggie Bush, Khloe Kardashian Blames Her Accountant

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.

Khloe Kardashian — My Accountant Ate My Tax Lien [TMZ]

California’s Budget Crisis Streak Continues

“Without a budget in place that addresses our $19 billion budget deficit, every day of delay brings California closer to a fiscal meltdown,”

~ California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger probably wouldn’t mind having the ability to go back in time and try to do something. Anything.

Accounting News Roundup: New Rule from FASB, IASB Will Bring Leases on Balance Sheet; California’s Latest Revenue Idea; Madoff CFO Released to House Arrest | 06.23.10

New Accounting Rules Ruffle the Leasing Market [NYT]
The convergence efforts by the FASB and the IASB have managed to produce a consensus on lease accounting and it has repercussions on both sides of the balance sheet.

“The two boards have come up with a new standard, which will be completed next year and enacted in 2013, that will require companies to book leases as assets and liabilities on their balance sheets. Currently, American and foreign companies list many leases as footnotes in their financial statements. As a result of the change, public companies will have to put some $1.3 trillion in leases on their balance sheets, according to estimates by the See Commission. Because many private companies also follow GAAP accounting, the number could be closer to $2 trillion, experts said.”

Middle-Class Tax Boost Is Broached [WSJ]
Reaction to Steny Hoyer’s call in a speech for Congress to quit lying to themselves was not met with enthusiasm.

The Journal reports that the GOP has different ideas, including House Orange leader John Boehner is quoted in the Journal, “Mr. Hoyer’s speech brought a round of criticism from Republicans, who emphasize spending cuts instead, and oppose allowing any Bush tax cuts to expire. House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Mr. Hoyer was admitting ‘that he supports raising taxes on the middle class to pay for more government spending.’ ”

Rep. Oompa Loompa obviously didn’t hear the part of the speech where Hoyer addressed the “cut spending” broken record, “The eagerness of so many to blast spending in the abstract without offering solutions that come close to measuring up to the size of the problem.”


California could turn license plates into ad revenue space [Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal]
The latest out of the brain trust in Sacramento, “As California faces a $19 billion deficit, the Legislature is considering whether to allow license plates to become traveling ad spaces.

When the vehicle is moving the license plate would look like the ones we’re used to now, but when the vehicle stops for more than four seconds a digital ad or other message would flash. The license plate number would always be visible.”

Madoff crony sprung [NYP]
“Earlier yesterday, former Madoff CFO Frank DiPascali Jr. was released to house arrest.

A grizzled-looking DiPascali refused to answer questions about the report in Monday’s Post that Madoff told fellow jailbirds that DiPascali knows the identity of three people the Ponzi king gave money to shortly before his arrest.

A judge initially refused prosecutors’ requests that DiPascali be released so he could assist in their ongoing probe, but in February he won a $10 million bail package based on his extensive cooperation.”

BP confirms Bob Dudley in key Gulf clean-up role [AP]
Knock ’em dead!

Business Leader Slams ‘Hostile’ Policies on Jobs [WSJ]
“In comments marking one of the sharpest breaks between top executives and the Obama White House, [Verizon Communications CEO Ivan] Seidenberg used a speech at Washington’s Economic Club to unleash a list of policy grievances over taxes, trade and financial regulation.

Mr. Seidenberg’s comments are particularly notable because he heads the Business Roundtable, a group encompassing the chief executives of the nation’s largest listed companies whose members have enjoyed frequent access to the president and his top aides. Its leaders have advised the White House on topics from economic recovery to health care to clean energy.”

SEC Self-Funding Is A Mistake! [The Summa]
“In support of SEC self-funding, SEC chairs always argue in public that they lack sufficient and consistent funding to enforce securities laws and regulations. As proof, they point out that Congress occasionally cuts back on SEC funding.

What they don’t mention is that the budgetary review process provides an opportunity for Congressional oversight of the SEC. When the SEC is performing poorly, say due to the atrocious leadership of the Chairs (i.e., Cox and Schapiro), a Congressional budget cut is a natural and effective response. Of course SEC chairs want self-funding, it gives them a pass from oversight. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Accounting News Roundup: Senate Proposal Would Double Tax on Carried Interest; Take Client Compliments with Skepticism; Agents Honored for Busting Petters | 06.09.10

Showdown on Fund Taxes [WSJ]
The U.S. Senate plan to tax private equity and hedge fund managers who earn carried interest has been rolled out and it would double the rate on this income from 15% to 30% in 2011 and 33% in 2013. Supporters of the bill argue that carried interest is “basically wages” and that the 15% is a “fundamental unfairness in the tax code.”

The industry is not amused by the Senate’s latest rich hating measures. The Journal quotes Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Private Equity Council, “[E]arning carried interest involves taking risks, making long-term investments and exposing yourself tot you’ll have to return your earnings if things don’t work out. No one who gets a paycheck has to face those consequences.”

But that’s not all! Also in the proposal is a “enterprise-value tax” provision that would tax the sale of any private equity fund, hedge fund, or real estate partnership at higher rates than of other businesses including publicly traded oil and gas partnerships.


Ex-CEO and CFO of Duane Reade Convicted in NY [AP]
No matter what Anthony Cuti and William Tennant did (“scheming to falsely inflate the income and reduce the expenses that Duane Reade reported to investors.”), if you bank with Jamie Dimon, you’re grateful for every DR.

How White-Collar Criminals Exploit Your Vanity – Beware of Compliments [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar has all but eliminated any possibility of ever getting a date ever again by admitting that any compliment that he gives is may have an ulterior motive, “The more likable and charming that I was as a criminal, the easier it was for me to successfully lie to my victims and deceive them. People are far less skeptical of people who they like and the white-collar criminals know it and exploit it.”

Most of you have never been paid a compliment by Sam but maybe some of you can think of a client that seems to go out of their way to stroke your ego. Or maybe it’s a combination of a compliment here or there (e.g. “you’re looking buff” or “nice ass”) from the controller and the hot junior accountant that keeps inviting you out to lunch for no discernible reason.

The lesson here is be skeptical of things being a little too good to be true for an audit. If your client doesn’t particularly like you and they look like they came from deep inside the ugly forest you might be able to rest easy. Otherwise, stay on your toes.

EBay’s Whitman Faces Brown for California Governor [Bloomberg]
A former auctioneer will face off against a failed Presidential candidate for the arguably the worst job in the country.

Four who took down Petters honored [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Swashbuckling industrialist-cum-Ponzi Scheme architect Tom Petters is doing 50 years for his crimes but the four investigators – FBI special agents Brian Kinney and Eileen Rice, FBI forensic accountant Josiah Lamb and Kathy Klug of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division – were honored yesterday for their efforts with a 2009 Law Enforcement Recognition Award by the Minnesota U.S. Attorney.

Of course, they couldn’t have done it alone (plus it’s honor just to be nominated), as they were assisted by more than 100 other agents who brought down Petters. Then someone made a Bernie Madoff joke and the fun ended right there.

Legal Pot in California Won’t Change Much, Other Than the Taxes Of Course

Legalization of gay marriage didn’t go over very well in the Golden State but come November, my fellow Californians and I will be deciding whether or not we’re up for taxing the hell out of the chronic to save our state’s sad fiscal sitch with an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue a year by making marijuana possession legal. According to the bill, an ounce would bring in $50 in revenue .

Now, we’re not promoting huge grow rooms in grandma’s Pomona basement but the law would allow an ounce for personal use (some of you might question that amount as a tad large) and for anyone over the age of 21 to have 25 square feet of plants growing in their residence.


As is, California is pretty loose with the definition of “medical use” and if you’ve ever been to Venice Beach, you already know that pot has been a big business round these parts since Proposition 215 made medicinal use legal. Everyone from depressed shlubs to Mr Magoo-sighted grandmas can head to the cannabis club for their medicine and some smart cities like Oakland already tax these sales.

Some of you may not realize this but pot is essentially legal in San Francisco anyway. I’ve never heard of cops asking for a prescription if you get busted toking on a blunt in the FiDi (hey, work is stressful) and the rumor is that the SFPD has actually made it an unofficial policy not to hassle pot smokers as long as that’s all they’re doing.

So if you’re smoking a joint on the street, you’re fine. If you’re smoking a joint AND killing someone or smoking a joint AND not wearing pants, you might have some trouble but for the most part, you can trot around town puffing away without having to worry about getting hassled. Of course, driving under the influence is still illegal so I would not recommend puffing away from behind the wheel, no matter how lax the locals are towards the green stuff.

The state seems divided equally on the issue, with the LA Times reporting that a recent poll left the state split 49/41, with 49% in favor of the legislation. Listen, if it’s between legal weed and paying $989 to register my car, I’ll take the weed tyvm.

So? Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and if you don’t got ‘em, feel free to tax ‘em. Get used to the sin taxes, it might be the only way to bring my fine state (and others in equally dismal fiscal situations) back from the brink of financial Armageddon. And if that doesn’t work, at least we’ll be too high to notice.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts for GC here.

IRS Ruling Gives Same-sex Couples Equal Tax Treatment

Specifically, under a feature of California law that recognizes domestic partnerships gay couples must now combine their income and report half of it on each of their respective returns.


The ruling marks the first time that the IRS has recognized same-sex couples as equal to their heterosexual counterparts for tax purposes. Of the community-property states (i.e. all property and debt is owned equally by a couple) Nevada and Washington also recognize domestic partnerships, so couples there may also be affected.

Gay Couples Get Equal Tax Treatment [WSJ]

The Guy From Reading Rainbow Has a Small Tax Problem

A refresher:


If that doesn’t mean anything to you, he’s also the dude with the bizarro shades from Star Trek, The Next Generation.

But back to the RR for a sec – many of you would be an illiterate waste of space if it wasn’t for LeVar Burton, so the least you could do is pitch in so the man can pay the $34,000 he owes California. Or at least ask your parents to help out. It’s the least they can do since LB probably bought them some much-needed private time back in the day while you were zoning out on the shower in the toilet.

Tax resistance futile for Star Trek actor [Tax Watchdog]
See also (if you want the RR theme song stuck in your head):
LeVar Burton Owes $34,000 in State Taxes… “But Don’t Take My Word For It” [Tax Docket]

Nicolas Cage Must Not Have Heard About the Fiscal Crisis in California

We really thought we had heard the last of Nicolas Cage and his tax problems. The man has eight films at various points in production including the next editions of both the National Treasure and Ghost Rider franchises.

With that kind of cinematic lineup, you’d think the State of California would give him the thumbs up and say, “Oh, it’s cool Nic. Just cut us a check as soon as you have the cash. NO worries.”


Then we remembered that this is California, home to the budget projection experts that misfired on their tax revenues by $3 billion, so you bet your repossessed-mansion ass they’ll take that $3.8 mil.

National Treasure’ actor Nicolas Cage owes another $3.8 million [Tax Watchdog]

Who Is Doing the Tax Revenue Projections for the State of California?

Because they’re not doing such a bang up job:

State tax collections plummeted unexpectedly in April, wiping out months of steady gains that legislators hoped would ease their budget troubles and restore California’s economy faster than experts predicted.

Revenue for April, the biggest revenue month because it is when most Californians pay their taxes, lagged projections by nearly 30% — roughly $3 billion, according to state officials. The drop was steep enough to erase improvements recorded in each of the four previous months.


Just when you thought state fiscal crises couldn’t get more out of control. That’s way to big to be a fat finger error.

This makes the projected budget deficit approximately $18.6 billion, according to the L.A. Times. California’s lawmakers have to come up with a solution soon, as the state’s fiscal year ends next month. But hey, they pulled a rabbit out of their ass last year, why not try for a repeat?

With this new bar in state fiscal nightmare hilarity, the only question now is – how can New York top it?

Would Sarah Palin Consider Helping Pamela Anderson with Her Tax Problem?

When celebrities have tax trouble, the majority of reporting out there feels like schadenfreude. Being of the more helpful mindset (especially when it comes to America’s beloved rich [or not so much] and famous) we try to provide solutions for those celebs down on their luck.

In celeb-tax-trouble du jour, Pam Anderson has been named to the California’s Franchise Tax Board Top 250 Tax Delinquents. She owes the people of California nearly $500k.


Someone equally as famous but without the financial difficulties is former VP candidate Sarah Palin.

We’re not suggesting that SP spread the wealth around but just to help out a real American like herself. What’s $500k between two women that share the uncanny ability to seduce the American psyche? They’re a natural team – both have rabid fans; Pam is currently on a reality show, Sarah’s is in the works. Sarah Palin hates taxes; if Pam didn’t before, she certainly does now.

Sure, SP kills animals while Pam stumps for them but those a small issue like digesting animal flesh or wearing fur can surely be set aside for the good of the country. Plus, it would make for a great Sarah stump speech come 2012.

Pamela Anderson Owes $493,000 in Back Taxes [AP]
See also:
California’s Top 250 Tax Deadbeats [TaxProf]
What Do Pamela Anderson And Tim Geithner Have In Common? [DB]

Here’s Why Most Sin Taxes Aren’t Stupid (Hint: It Makes More Things Legal)

Elie Mystal, the Editor of our sister site Above the Law, did a fair amount of kvetching over the Texas “pole tax” on Friday. He focuses primarily on his distaste for sin taxes, “I can’t avoid sin taxes — and thus I can’t stand them. First of all, they are regressive. Secondly, they’re anti-business. So we literally have a tax regime that freedom-loving progressi conservatives should hate, and yet sin taxes continue to be an acceptable way for the government to shove its morality down our throats.”

We’ll address that statement in a minute but first, we’ll examine the pole tax which supporters have stated, “is an appropriate exercise in state power — promoting public safety by discouraging the ‘combustible combination’ of drinking and live nudity.”


Elie’s thoughts:

Nude women + alcohol = rape? What kind of sex crazed sociologist came up with that equation? Just because boobs and beer make your sick ass go out and terrorize females doesn’t mean that other males are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and cold, lonely reality.

And if this is a serious problem — what the f*** is $5 going to do about it? Texas legislators want us to believe that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults occurring because of the “combustible combination” of alcohol and live nude girls, but they also want us to believe that a $5 surcharge is going to make a difference.

We agree with Elie that Texas has come up with a bad — nay — horrendous idea. An extra $5 at the door isn’t going to accomplish a damn thing. Strip clubs are highly “combustible” environments regardless; taxing patrons to get them to think twice before entering doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Where Elie is dead wrong is his notion that “Either [the behavior subject to tax] is a serious societal problem that the government needs to step up and make [it] illegal — or it isn’t. If it’s not that big a deal, then what is a sin tax other than the government trying to get a taste of a lucrative American business?“

We have a problem with the “step up and make it illegal” part. The decriminalization and taxation of certain “sins” is a perfectly good way for states to raise money since taxes on income and property are far more political and thus, not effective.

Alcohol and tobacco both cause a myriad of health problems in humans that can result in high medical treatment costs. Taxes on these items are appropriate in order to supplement the burden that they place on society as a whole. Drugs and prostitution are, for the most part, criminalized. Thousands of people are arrested and jailed yearly for engaging in these behaviors, imposing millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers. Here’s a newsflash: human beings are not — ARE NOT — going to stop engaging in these behaviors. So why not take the “criminal” element out of the equation?

If they were to be made legal, highly regulated and taxed, states could enjoy new revenue streams and citizens can engage in behavior that they choose. That’s something many “freedom loving progressives” can certainly get behind. Plus, if drugs and prostitution are legal, won’t this encourage entrepreneurship and a more competitive marketplace? That sounds like something “money-loving conservatives” would approve of.

So while we’re with Elie railing against Texas’ impotent legislation, sin taxes are useful when implemented intelligently. California is putting legalized marijuana to a vote and DC may not be far behind so maybe we’re beginning to see some common sense for a change.

No Sin Taxes in the Champagne Room [ATL]
Earlier:
Texas Stripper Tax Will Survive One More Valentine’s Day

Plaintiffs File Brief in Big 4 Overtime Lawsuit

Last summer we initiated our coverage on the wage and hour lawsuits against the Big 4 and other firms that have been filed in California. As you may remember, the case that is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the key case as it may decide how the rest of the cases proceed.

Just a quick refresheramicus (i.e. friend of court) briefs following in early November.


The plaintiffs’ amicus briefs are scheduled to be filed tomorrow and while Mr. Kershaw would not share any names with us, he did inform us that there were some notable supporters that will be filing briefs. Parties claiming support via web (though it is not clear whether they are expected to file as amicus) include among others, labor union UNITE HERE.

The briefs are under seal at the request of the defendants who are claiming proprietary privilege.

In the past, the 9th Circuit has been accused of having a liberal bias which could be perceived as an advantage to the plaintiffs. While Mr. Kershaw agreed that the 9th Circuit was more “worker friendly” in the past, he told us, “After eight years under the Bush administration, the court has considerably more conservative justices.”

According to the 9th Circuit’s website, former President George W. Bush appointed seven justices while in office. Of the 47 justices currently serving, 21 were appointed by Republican Presidents and 26 by Democratic Presidents.

Despite the political makeup, Mr. Kershaw believes, as he did when we last spoke with him on the matter, that the evolution of the law of the exemptions (i.e. who, among other things, is and is not eligible for overtime) will demonstrate that the plaintiffs were not “learned professionals,” and will prevail in case.

Lead counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Norman Hile of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP did not respond to our request for an interview.

We reached out to all the firms; receiving responses from only BDO, who provide the following statement: “We believe that the employee in this case was properly classified as exempt. This case has been stayed pending resolution of the PwC appeal. As is our policy on matters of litigation, BDO does not intend to comment further until this case is resolved.” We were also informed that in the BDO case that the class certification was denied by the trial court and the appeal was also denied.

In the case of Hood & Strong, LLP, we were referred to their attorney, Jonathan R. Bass of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass, who we spoke with briefly about his case, Kathleen McFarland v. Hood & Strong LLP.

Mr. Bass indicated to us that the lawsuit against his client is only one of four that is being tried in state court and would not necessarily be affected by the ruling in Campbell. He further indicated that these lawsuits are something that his client, and most likely all the defendants, did not anticipate, “it is not likely that any of these firms considered the possibility of their employees being treated as anything other than exempt.”

No other firms listed as defendants responded to our request to comment.

Ultimately a decision in Campbell may not be known until 2011 at which point the litigation could actually proceed or be settled. We’ll continue to follow these cases as they progress.

California CPAs to be More Ethical Starting in 2010

Thumbnail image for ethics.jpgThe California Board of Accountancy is ringing in the New Year with some increased requirements for California CPAs including additional ethics training to maintain an active status.
With so much unethical behavior in the world today, the CBA figured a few more hours of CPE will straighten you all out:

CBA president Manuel Ramirez said the regulation changes are part of an increased focus by the CBA on ethics and education. “I believe the newly approved continuing education requirements are an important step to increasing the CBA’s consumer protection mandate, while also reestablishing CPAs’ reputations as one of the most ethical professions in the country,” he said in a statement.

Not only will California have the most ethical CPAs in all the land but the CBA is jumping on the transparency bandwagon by broadcasting its future meetings via webcast. This will “give both consumers and CBA licensees a ‘window’ into important issues and how decisions are made.” Prior to this ‘window’, anyone wanting to observe a meeting had to attend — GASP — in person. One can safely assume that the CBA’s decision was partly due to realizing that webcasts would save them the embarrassment of A) a near empty meeting and B) those in attendance snoozing through the whole thing.
California Toughens Requirements for Accountants [Web CPA]
Other California CPA News:
CalCPA Is Doing About Everything It Can to Motivate You to Reactivate Your CPA
Arnie Signs 150-Hour Rule for California

Arnold is Probably Thinking That This Is One of Those Situations Where a Cyborg from the Future Would Have Come in Handy

Thumbnail image for arnold.jpgIt just doesn’t seem possible that his Govinatorness would have a tax lien slapped on him because A) he’s married to a Kennedy and B) his annual Kindergarten Cop royalties alone should be enough to cover $79k.
Despite those two advantages, the IRS did file a lien in May for $79,064 that relates to 2004 and 2005, according to TMZ.


The claim by the Governor’s minions is about what you would expect them to come up with: a ‘paperwork snafu.’ In all fairness, the code section cited on the lien is 6721 which, as Tax Girl notes, is informational in nature:

Section 6721 deals with information returns, not taxes owed…Information returns would include such ordinary forms W-2, W-3, 1099, 1096, etc. If that’s the case, it could likely be related to household employee payroll taxes (household employees would include workers such as housekeepers and nannies). However, Schwarzenegger’s office is strongly hinting at the fact that it’s more removed than that – but then, they are politicians.

The other possibility that’s being floated around is that Ahnuld is “listed as a ‘responsible person’ by a business in which he is involved, possibly with a group of partners, and that the IRS might file liens against all of the business’s designated agents,” and thus, “might explain why Schwarzenegger may not have been aware a lien had been filed.”
So, as usual, no one really knows anything for sure and nobody is talking. The man has been a failed state to run people, he can’t be expected to be on top of everything.
Schwarzenegger’s Office Blames $79,000 Tax Lien on ‘Paperwork’ Snafu [Mercury News]
The Governator Blames Tax Lien On “Snafu” [Tax Girl]
See also: IRS Files $79k Tax Lien Against Gov. Schwarzenegger [TaxProf Blog]

L.A. Times: ‘Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan’

Starting Sunday, [November 1,] cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners — holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.
Technically, it’s not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers’ annual tax bills won’t change.
Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You’ll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less.

Californians, take it from here.
California to withhold a bigger chunk of paychecks [LAT]
See also: California Borrows from Peter to Pay Peter Then Robs Paul at Gunpoint [JDA]

CalCPA Is Doing About Everything It Can to Motivate You to Reactivate Your CPA

the-big-lebowski-bridges-dude.jpgThe California Society of CPAs understands that some of you are lazy. You don’t work for a company that provides enough CPE (and the cheapskates won’t send you to Vegas for a week) and self-study is out of the question, so your license becomes inactive.
So CalCPA is trying to get you back on the fast track to active status by offering the CPA Active Pass.
This will allow you to get the “inactive” from behind those precious letters and you can wear all of your CPA attire again without having to explain that you’re technically not an active CPA. Details-shmetails.
The CPA Active Pass allows you attend 80 hours of live CPE courses including webcasts, which is the real bonus so you won’t even have to leave your house.
No more excuses people.
CalCPA Helps Inactive California CPAs Reactivate [Web CPA]
Earlier: Arnie Signs 150-Hour Rule for California

Millionaires Are Getting Hated On in California

Thumbnail image for california.jpgThese days the rich get hated on pretty much everywhere but millionaires in California have extra room to bitch now. The California Court of Appeals has rejected a taxpayer’s challenge to Proposition 63, “which imposed a 1% tax on annual incomes in excess of $1 million to fund state mental health services”.
The plaintiffs were claiming that they (and their fellow millionaires) were singled out: “In [the plaintiff’s] view, wealthy individuals are singled out to bear the burden of a public expense, while others are excused from that burden.” Yeah, non-millionaires. You mind chipping in?
Plus, the plaintiffs don’t really see the how their money and helping non-millionaire crazy people are even connected. From Jensen v. California Franchise Tax Board:

In this instance, the Taxpayers object that individuals with high incomes do not have a particular need or use for the mental health services funded by Proposition 63, i.e., there is not connection ‘between the group being assessed and the use of the funds collected.’ The argument fails, because there is no need to contrive a link between the taxpayer and the services being funded.

So apparently just because you’re a lunatic millionaire and can afford private mental health services doesn’t mean you get out of funding state-run mental health services. According to the court, millionaires need to help out the crazies that can’t afford to go to fancy-schmancy hospitals regardless of the lack of relevance.
Oh, and btw, the Plaintiffs are the real victims here, “The Taxpayers perceive themselves as victims of a populist movement to ‘soak the rich.'” How would you feel if you were a victim of a populist movement? People with torches and pitchforks outside your house. Nightmare. Think about the what the millionaires are going through, people.
California Court Upholds 1% Tax on Millionaires [TaxProf Blog]

Arnie Signs 150-Hour Rule for California

arnold.jpgNo one panic, if you get licensed before 2014, you’re grandfathered in as substantially equivalent. So if you feel like procrastinating, don’t let us stop you but maybe keep the date in mind.
In addition to the new credit hour requirements, Ah-nuld also signed bills requiring mandatory peer review for CPA firms starting next year and requiring non-active CPAs to disclose their status. We thought those were both standard operating procedure but a couple more laws won’t hurt anything.
If you can’t bear the thought of 25-30 extra credit hours in college, move to Colorado, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands as they’re the holdouts on the 150 credit-hour requirement.
California Adopts 150-Hour Rule [Web CPA]