The CFTC’s action against PwC probably came as a result of a shocking CME Group announcement late Wednesday: “It now appears that the firm [MF Global] made … transfers of customer segregated funds in a manner that may have been designed to avoid detection.” These transfers, CME Group said, appeared to have taken place after its audit team showed up last week at MF Global to take a look and found everything to be in order. CME Group couldn’t have been hoodwinked like that if PwC had been doing its job all along. You can’t circumvent controls unless there are none or there are holes. It was PwC’s job to review controls and the adequacy of policies and procedures to support them. [Francine McKenna/AB, Earlier]
They were so unimpressed with it, in fact, that they are fining the firm $900,000 and partner David Shane $100,000 to settle up.
Mickey G’s issued an unqualified audit opinion for One World Capital Group’s 2006 financial statements and also stated that the company’s internal controls were just fine and dandy. Neither of these things turned out to be true. And when you read the CFTC’s press release, you really have to wonder if anyone was really auditing this company:
[T]he order finds that One World’s 2006 financial statements were materially misstated in various ways including: (1) the 2006 Statement of Financial Condition states that liabilities payable to all customers were over $6.9 million, when in fact information available in One World’s records showed that it may have owed at least $15 million just to forex customers alone, for whom One World served as the counterparty; and (2) the 2006 financial statements materially misstated the nature of One World’s business by failing to reflect that One World served as the counter party to its forex customers for over 90 percent of its business, according to the order.
In addition, McGladrey failed to report material inadequacies in One World’s accounting system and internal accounting controls, including the lack of a customer ledger, and an accounting system that did not properly identify the number of forex customers or the amount of customer liabilities, according to the order. These material inadequacies reasonably could, and did, lead to material misstatements in One World’s 2006 financial statements, the order finds.
SEC Shakes Down Banks on Repurchase Accounting [Compliance Week]
The SEC has received information from 19 “financial institutions” on their repurchase accounting that could help determine if the treatment at Lehman Brothers was ” an outlier in classifying asset repurchase agreements as sales even when those assets were destined to return to the balance sheet.”
Compliance Week reports that Steven Jacobs, associate chief accountant in the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC said that the Commission wants companies (i.e. banks) to be more forthcoming in their disclosures, “In a situation like this, s a snapshot in time.” Disclosures should more clearly describe the company’s economic situation and its liquidity apart from the moment-in-time snapshot, he said. “I would be willing to bet companies would be more willing to do that if that position on the balance sheet didn’t look as good.”
2010 Gerald Loeb Award Finalists Announced by UCLA Anderson School of Management [UCLA]
Congratulations are due to our own Francine McKenna (look for her column later today) who was named as a finalist for a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism in the “Online Commentary and Blogging Category” for her work at re:The Auditors.
Other nominees include Adrian Wooldridge, Steven N. Kaplan, Nell Minow, Patrick Lane, Brad DeLong, Luigi Zingales, Saugato Datta, Thomas Picketty and Chris Edwards for “Online Debates” for The Economist; David Pogue for “Pogue’s Posts” for The New York Times; Jim Prevor for “Business, Finances and Public Policy” for The Weekly Standard.
Rewarding Failure [Portfolio.com]
The old idea of combining the SEC and the CFTC came up again last week and Gary Weiss thinks that it’s a terrible idea. Be that as it may, he thinks that it may “have some mileage” since some big names have recently come out to support the idea, including Mary Schapiro who was posed the question “can you explain any rational reason that both the CFTC and the SEC exist?”:
Schapiro’s response was wordy, but it boiled down to a qualified “yes.” If it were up to her, she said, there would be just one agency. Headed by her, I presume.
Evidently this seems to be a trend. Only about a week ago, the idea was endorsed by Arthur Levitt, the former head of the SEC. He told Barron’s that merging the two agencies is “so basic to any kind of regulatory reform, that to neglect that is really outrageous.”
Gary argues that an independent CFTC could “light a fire under a somnolent SEC” with the right leadership, although the current team doesn’t seem to be up for the job. If that continues, he adds, we could end up with one large(r) ineffective bureaucracy protecting the markets.
Pabst’s New Owner Built Fortune on Old Brands [WSJ]
The Journal has learned that Pabst is being purchased by investor C. Dean Metropoulos who has made a fortune in food branding. His past investments include Chef Boyardee, Duncan Hines and several others.
Pabst was up for sale after the IRS forced the sale by California-based Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation. The Foundation had owned the company for a decade, after the Service allowed a five year extension for the nonprofit to own a for-profit business.