It seems to be a right of passage for former Big 4 chairmen and CEOs to eventually end up on a public company’s board of directors. We saw two such instances last year: After Mark Weinberger retired from EY, he joined the board of MetLife. And former Deloitte CEO and current WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert […]
In typical accounting firm fashion, PwC chairman Dennis Nally is finally getting around to doing the ice bucket challenge now that almost everyone has forgotten about the ice bucket challenge. He's a busy guy so it's understandable if he's had better things to do over the last several weeks. What's with the awkward hand-wringing? This […]
They say those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. For accounting firms, it's more like condemned only if the regulators catch on. As we all know, the trend toward combining audit, tax, and consulting services was totes kosher up until the E-word happened, when consultauditors went scattering like cockroaches in the […]
PwC International chairman Dennis Nally will remain in that position for another three years since he's done such a bang-up job for the past three. At least that's what the Oscar™ partner says: In announcing Mr Nally's reappointment, Brad Oltmanns, the Governance Board Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International, said: "Dennis Nally has done a tremendous job […]
Dennis Nally asks that you not get caught up in the numbers that politicians like to talk about: The American economy is doing better than most would say it is because typically what a lot of people try to focus on right now is some of the headline issues, the unemployment level, the deficit, the […]
Apparently, things like “mobility” and “skill development” are important too. If you can believe that.
Having a competitive compensation base is really important. It’s [also] about how to create an environment where people want to be. This millennial generation is not just looking for a job, they’re not just looking for salary and financial benefits, they’re looking for skill development, they’re looking for mobility, they’re looking for opportunities to acquire different skills and to move quickly from one part of an organization to another. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what’s been done in the past.
So I guess that means that none of the London recruits will be stuck at the Embankment Place dump. That doesn’t sound like an environment where anyone would want to be.
The Financial Times published an interview with PwC International Chairman Dennis Nally over the weekend and we learn a few interesting things about DN that you probably didn’t know. For starters, he’s very aware that his firm is in a tussle for title of the largest professional services firm ON EARTH, “We’re in a real dog race to continue to sustain our leadership position as the largest professional services network in the world,” he told the FT. Of course this gives us the impression that Denny doesn’t believe that P. Dubs has relinquished the Biggest of the Big 4 title, as some other CEOs have claimed.
And as you might expect, there are various softening questions thrown around, including:
1) Leaders he admires – he wants to meet The Pope because “[Nally] seems impressed by the feat of co-ordination.”
2) Feats of strength – He practiced hot yoga to “strengthen his golf swing” but gave it up because “I found that you had a tendency to over-workout your muscles.”
Despite those little tidbits, Helen Thomas manages to get under Nally’s skin a little when she asks if “auditors should rightly find themselves in the line of fire” when fraud or “disingenuous” accounting occurs:
Mr Nally crosses his arms across his monogrammed shirt, for the first time looking a touch defensive. “There are professional standards out there [and] an audit is not designed under those standards to detect fraud,” he says, pointing out that detecting fraudulent behaviour rests on other indications including a company’s governance, management tone and control systems. “The reasons it has been done that way is because, while we always hear and read about the high-profile fraud, the number of those situations that you actually encounter in practice is very de minimis.
Notice that he doesn’t directly address the “disingenuous” accounting. Examples which might include, say, AIG and Freddie Mac, but rather addressed fraud which is easy to fall back on, since the expectations gap is so blatant (something he has mentioned before).
His statement also appears to indicate that he feels situations like Satyam are immaterial, unless by “de minimis” he intended to mean “rare in occurrence.” But, then again, I suppose semantics are also de minimis.
Awhile back we told you about PricewaterhouseCoopers Global CEO Dennis Nally admitting that the PwC brand had been damaged because of the whole Satyam fraud.
DN has done another interview with the Indian press and he says despite this lit ng is on the up and up in India for PwC. The long/short of it is that Dennis & Co. are going to keep giving their clients the P. Dubs experience now and forever.
Pretty wide range of questions but we’ve presented the highlights for you.
Was the PwC Magic 8ball broken?
Q: When you look back at it do you think you could have avoided all that happened?
A: I don’t know if we could have avoided it. As we all know this was probably one of the most significant frauds that suddenly has taken place here in India but even in the global market place. So I do not know how you avoid that type of situation.
Where was the P. Dubs swagger when the shit hit the fan? Did you realize that everything was f’d and didn’t know what to do?
Q: [T]he firm didn’t seem to respond in a confident manner. The impression was that it didn’t know what it had been hit by. Do you think it could have been handled better?
A: I think with hindsight you can always do things better and that is part of learning and trying to deal with issues. But quite frankly this was a major event and of course it took us time to understand the pattern and what transpired.
In fact we are still learning and everybody is still learning. Now all the facts aren’t quite out yet but I think we are in the business of being out in the public and when something like this happens and it happens in a negative way, we are part of that. That is just a reality of being in a profession that we are involved with.
Why is this PwC’s fault?
Q: What role did the auditors have to play?
A: You are into an interesting debate and discussion because what is the role on a professional standards for the detection of a fraud. That is one of the areas that has been the focus not only on Satyam but a broader profession wide issue and we certainly welcome that debate.
I think there is an expectation out there in the public that auditors uncover every single fraud that they are involved with and that is not what professional standards call for but there is the public perception that that is what we are there to do. I define that as the expectation gap. If that is the expectation then we need to make sure that we are focused on the right kind of procedures, the right kind of standards, the right kind of reporting which is quite frankly really different than what we do today.
Will you stop all future frauds in India forever and ever and ever?
Q: Can you tell us if India will never see a Satyam again?
A: I wish I had a crystal ball but I don’t. As I said when you have a situation like Satyam or a major fraud I suspect somewhere in the world of corporate reporting, you are going to see another situation like that. Our job is to make sure we are doing everything we can possibly do consistent with the standards that are out there to ensure that we play our role in that process to avoid them.
The new India managing partner came from Singapore? You got something against Indians?
Q:But he has not come from India, you didn’t appoint him from the India firm – he was brought in from Singapore?
A: Gautam is originally from India which is great so it’s little bit of coming home programme.
Q: But it’s not a vote of confidence on the India management?
A: It is not. This is all about ensuring that we get the very best talent to focus on an important market like India and that’s exactly what we have done.
You let everyone down. Speak to them!
Q: A word to all those investors who felt disappointed with PriceWaterhouseCoopers for not alerting them to what was going on in Satyam. What is your message to them today?
A: Whenever we have situation like this, right or wrong, whatever standards are we are part of that and for that we regret what has happened. But this firm is about quality. It’s about doing the right things, it’s about being here for the investor community and we are very much focused on that.
Satyam fiasco has not dented credibility with clients: PwC [Money Control]
While kicking it in Davos, Dennis Nally had to have known that eventually he was going to have to answer questions about his mother of all nightmares, Satyam. Having just passed the one year anniversary of the cat being let out of the bag about, you know, totally bogus numbers, everyone is talking about it. In India.
CNBC India caught up with Nalls and considering everything that’s going down, DN doesn’t seem worried. He’s leading P. Dubs full steam ahead into India; there’s no crying over failed audits, “Without question the firm has had real challenges in India but that has not changed my outlook and view on the importance of India economy to global economic picture.”
Stoic; as he should be. Not that the firm hasn’t had to do a little damage control. But no worries; Dennis is a man with a plan, “We just need to continue to deliver, service our clients, respond to their needs, help them deal with their issues and challenges. If we do that and we do that consistently over a period of time the PwC brand in India will be as strong and as good as it has been in the past and where we want it to be into the future.”
Plus, this is a blip, an outlier, a rare occurrence, “Any one-off instance can do harm to your brand and that is the reality. Our job is to make sure we are doing everything and we have done a number of things in India to ensure that this would not happen again,” so there’s no cause for concern.
This isn’t Tiger Woods brand damage we’re talking about. It will all be a distant memory before you know it.
Satyam scam has hurt PwC brand: Global Chairman [Money Control]
The World Economic Forum kicks off tomorrow and as expected, the Big 4 bigwigs will be there in full force.
Having been through their share of busy seasons, the fearless four of Jim squared, Dennis, and Tim are no doubt glad to be on this getaway.
Their hearts and minds never stray too far from all of you serving the capital markets back at home but it is a great opportunity for them to explore the land of secretive banking, blondes and Toblerones. Plus, there are some meetings and whatnot where they spread their wisdom amongst the other grand poobahs of the world.
Despite the presence of the Fab Four, Big Four Blog points out that the firms’ websites don’t hardly make a mention of their participation at the rager in Davos:
[We] could find hardly a mention of this on the firm’s websites, contrary to prior years when a press release would proudly proclaim their participation. Are the Big Four firms keeping a low profile this year? We wonder why?
This is the latest development in the Satyscam that P. Dubs hasn’t been able to wish away.
Ramesh Rajan still had a ways to go in his current four year term as the India Chair which might suggest that someone told Ram that his services were no longer needed:
Rajan, who was at the helm of affairs when the Satyam scam broke early this year, had about one-and-a-half years remaining of his four-year tenure as the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers India network of entities (PwC India). When contacted, he refused to divulge exact reasons behind his sudden exit, and said he wanted time to “look at other things” within the firm and “allow someone else to take charge of the operations.”
Gosh, that’s a little mysterio. Apparently he was having such a good time that he wanted someone else to experience the fun? Okay then. The new lucky duck is Gautam Banerjee, and he is coming over from Singapore pronto to take the wheel.
We’re confident he’ll do a bang-up job but we’ll take this opportunity to remind him that he’s still got some auditors in jail and a lot of pissed investors that want PwC to pony up. Probably should get crackin’.
Satyam effect? Chairman of PwC India steps down [Times of India]
Denny keeps it pretty vague but we’re guessing he’s not talking about serving as captain of the Delta Chi beer pong team. If you’ve got other ideas on “special,” discuss in the comments.
[WSJ via FINS]
That’s not necessarily verbatim but they’re definitely buying what the Big 4 bigwigs are selling.
If you saw the asinine CNN piece that came out on Thursday entitled “Accounting grows in shrinking economy“, you know what we mean.
The title itself should cause you to throw up in your mouth. Certainly the author of this gem, Kevin Voigt, isn’t talking about growth in revenues but he still manages to make a case for accounting industry stre trong>just that:
[T]he firms have emerged from the worst with balance sheets that would be enviable to most companies: Ernst & Young and Deloitte finished the 2009 fiscal year with flat growth, while PWC revenues were down 7 percent.
Getting nauseous yet?
Then there’s this:
[T]he Big Four firms continued to add to headcount through the recession. For example, PWC will end the year with 163,000 employees worldwide, an increase of “3 or 4 percent” from last year, Nally said. “There is a core element of what we do that continues regardless of the economy — public companies need audits, tax services need to be provided,” he said.
First, we notice that Dennis Nally conveniently left out that the ‘core element’ of services being provided is being done so with far fewer people. He makes it sound like that if you’re working in the audit or tax practices, your job is safe. We all know that’s not true.
Further, we’ll point out that E&Y did not add to their global headcount. That’s according to E&Y’s own press release for their revenue results.
It’s also interesting to note that the words “layoff” or “reduction in force” are nowhere to be found in the article. Voight manages to sneak it in with some subtlety:
Ernst & Young has kept hiring young college graduates, in part, because it wants to ensure an unbroken pipeline of talent after the crisis, Turley said.
“In a typical year, you would see 15 to 20 percent of our workforce hired away, not by our competitors, but by companies that need financial or tax or other financial talent … that process was curtailed this year because most in the marketplace weren’t hiring,” Turley said.
As a result, Ernst & Young and other Big Four firms have had selective culling of staff in some markets for performance-related issues. “We work in a high performance environment, and for those whom that environment doesn’t fit we’ve encouraged them to leave,” said Quigley of Deloitte.
“Culling of staff”? Interesting choice of words. Then Jim Quigley lies says that Deloittians were “encouraged” to leave the firm. That’s rich. Any former Deloitte people out there that would describe their experience differently?
The article also hints that — because Jim Turley said that typically, ’15 to 20 percent of our workforce hired away’ — the Big 4 had no choice to but to engage in the “selective culling of staff…for performance-related issues.”
To top it all off, Tim Flynn wasn’t even interviewed for this piece. In fact, KPMG is only mentioned ONCE in the whole article but Voight refers to the “Big 4” throughout. From the sounds of it, TF wasn’t in Singapore for the APEC and thus, probably not available (probably caddying). Just as well, if we were T. Flynn, we wouldn’t want our name included in this travesty anyway.
So gives us your thoughts on the latest Big 4 campaigning in the MSM. They make everything sound like it’s business as usual but as the discussion in our Exodus post indicates, the people on the front lines probably have a different opinion.