October 18, 2018

Ethics

aicpa code of professional conduct cropped

Exposure Drafts: Don’t Let Your Professional Ethics Flounder

Exposure Drafts appears every other Wednesday. Send your accounting cartoon suggestions and accountant pejoratives to [email protected] and follow Greg Kyte on Twitter.

ima accountants ethics revised statement

The IMA Figured Some of You Could Use an Ethics Refresher

In Compliance Week, Tammy Whitehouse reports on a revised “Statement of Ethical Professional Practice” from the Institute of Management Accountants. Why was a revision necessary? To keep up with technology, maybe? Perhaps to establish some rules for all the robots? Nope! They had to revise it because a fair number of you are a bunch […]

New Ethics Rules for Accountants Not Impressing Everyone

Can you ever have too many ethics rules? I don't know if there's a good way to answer that question, but the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants has been working real hard on some new ones that will roll out this week: The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants plans to release new standards […]

Sex and Professional Ethics, Round 2

In case you need to be caught up, the controller at Ventas and the audit partner at EY were banging. So Ventas fired their controller, and Ventas fired EY, and EY fired the audit partner. EY also said that putting the sausage in the ham wallet was a flagrant violation of professional standards. Over the […]

Plan Your Day Around Your Internal Ethics Clock

I've been seeing these stories pop up about how night owls are more ethical at night, and knowing that most of us put in our time during the day despite the fact that we'd rather work third shift, thought this might be an item worth discussing. Fast Company explains the research: Whether you are a […]

Clarifying Sex and Auditor Independence After the EY and Ventas Affair

With all that went down with Ventas and EY1, I needed a little clarification on our independence rules, so I took the initiative to send the following email to the AICPA: Dear AICPA Ethics Hotline, I understand that earlier this month Ernst & Young was fired by Ventas, Inc. due to an inappropriate relationship between […]

Being an Ethical CPA Is Easier Than Ever Thanks to the AICPA’s Organizational Skills

The revised AICPA code of ethics may not help dissuade any future Scott Londons of the profession from trading on their audit clients but it should help you figure out if you can accept courtside seats from a client. From the Journal of Accountancy: Imagine you are the director of finance for a manufacturing company […]

Fraudsters Get High on Fraud, Auditors Get High on… Not Committing Fraud?

This groundbreaking idea brought to you by the AICPA Insights blog: According to a recent blog entry on the New York Times’ website, researchers have found that people who cheated, and got away with it, experienced a thrill, self-satisfaction and a sense of superiority. While that sensation was not as strong as the high that […]

Being an Independent Auditor Is So Much Easier (and Effective) If You Are a Total Prick

I love HGTV in fact but not in appearance. No one looks at me and thinks, "I bet that guy TiVos Yard Crashers, Curb Appeal, and House Hunters," but I do. And although I think Hilari was robbed in Design Star All Stars, I never really talk about it with anybody. Fortunately, there is no […]

Beware Fake or Unauthorized CPA Review Sellers

Back in the day, I used to get people who claimed to be former Becker students calling my CPA review company for the 35% discount we offered to past students of an equivalent CPA review program. Because we weren't interested in offering several hundred dollars in savings to just anyone, we needed to see a […]

And I’d Have Gotten Away with It if It Weren’t for Those Blasted Accountants!

If you can get away with tax cheating, is it malpractice for your CPA to make you stop?


A Massachusetts CPA firm found out a new client was using a lame old trick. The S corporation had paid out $1 million to its owner over the years without putting it on a W-2 or treating it as a distribution from the company. Instead, the company every year booked it as a “loan” to the owners – a loan with no note, no interest rate, no security, and no repayments.

This is a time-dishonored way for people who carelessly suck cash out of a corporation to try to avoid the tax consequences – though it is less common in S corporations. It normally fails if the IRS figures it out.

The CPAs told the client that the “loan” should be reclassed as “wages” on the 2002 return to clean it up. The client owner was not excited, and talked to a lawyer to see if there was another way. After the first lawyer failed to satisfy, she talked to a second lawyer, who agreed with the CPA. The client reluctantly filed an amended return, and the owner found herself with a $500,000 tax lien.

At a national firm where I once worked, an audit partner would go from one tax person to another until he found one who told him what he wanted to hear. The client here took that approach, eventually finding a practitioner willing to prepare the 2002 return the old way. That was enough to get the client to file another amended return claiming a refund and to sue the old CPA for malpractice. That might have been a bad decision, in light of this reaction from the astonished judge:

It is surprising that Plaintiffs had the temerity to bring this lawsuit. The complaint was clearly filed too late. The record, mainly as a result of Plaintiffs’ failure to file long-overdue tax returns, is utterly insufficient to demonstrate damages. Most importantly, it is clear that Plaintiffs for many years enjoyed over $1,000,000 in income without paying any taxes on it, and they accomplished this by filing a tax return that improperly characterized the monies they received as a loan. It is close to ludicrous to claim that, by advising Plaintiffs to amend the 2002 tax return to conform with what the law and good accounting practice required, Defendants were being negligent. On the contrary, they were serving their clients ethically and well.

The judge also implied that the client might have been unwise in calling attention to the matter by filing the suit:

As a result of behaving professionally, Defendants have found themselves slapped with this expensive lawsuit. That undeserved headache, at least, is now over. The court can only hope that the IRS and the state authorities will make sure that Plaintiffs now proceed to do what everyone who enjoys the privilege of living in our beloved country is required to do: pay their fair share of taxes.

In other words: come and get ‘em, IRS!

In a world full of charlatans, it can be tough out there for CPAs who try to do the right thing. When you do, it’s nice to know at least one judge has your back.

Cite: RTR Technologies, Inc., Rosalie Berger, and Craig Berger v. Carlton Helming and Helming & Co., PC., ED-Mass., No. 09-cv-30189-MAP.

Deloitte Bankrolls Center for Ethical Leadership at Notre Dame

John Veihmeyer can’t be pleased by this.

The Notre Dame/Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership will focus on advancing ethical leadership in business, including research, thought leadership and the dissemination of ethics-related content to the business community in the United State and around the world, the university announced Monday.

The center is being established with a major gift from Deloitte LLP, a private professional services company, according to the university. The amount of the gift was not disclosed.

Presumably portions of the curriculum will educate students on how to piece together your spouse’s new hobby with insider trading activity.

Notre Dame starts business ethics center [SBT]

Berkshire Hathaway Audit Committee Has Some Thoughts on This David Sokol Matter

Namely, he violated Berkshire’s code of business conduct and ethics and violated his duty of candor to the WB, Munger and the rest of the company.

BerkshireHathawayAuditCommitteeReportAPR2711

Someone in the Frazer Frost Marketing Department Didn’t Get the Memo RE: No Mas Frazer Frost

Last month we told you about the break up of Frazer Frost, a firm that was born out of the combination of Moore Stephens Wurth Frazer Torbet, LLP and Frost, PLLC. Turns out, the announcement made in November 2009 left out the part that it was just a ‘trial merger’ and after a year, they scrapped it for various reasons that included a) a ‘culture clash’ b) ‘issues in the Chinese reverse mortgage practice’ and c) well, those first two are pretty bad.

While it’s unfortunate when these things don’t work out, it would be assumed that everyone working at the firm would be acutely aware of the situation. A merger doesn’t exactly qualify as a “minor administrative issue” that gets overlooked. Nevertheless, a tipster sent us the following picture that appeared on page 48 of the December issue of Celebrate Arkansas.


Judging by this ad, you might get the impression that Frazer Frost was in fact still a firm and if one visits www.frazerfrost.com that’s when it gets hella-confusing:

Moore Stephens Wurth Frazer Torbet, LLP and Frost, PLLC are moving to resume operations as separate entities, as existed prior to their combination in January 2010. The combined firm, Frazer Frost, LLP, will continue to exist as a legal entity until the separation has been completed. It continues to be the policy of both firms not to comment publicly on client, personnel, or other internal matters.

Maybe we’re a little slow but if the two firms are “moving to resume operations as separate entities” but “The combined firm, Frazer Frost, LLP, will continue to exist as a legal entity until the separation has been completed,” we interpret that as “Frazer Frost is still technically a firm but in reality, it’s only a matter of time until we’re not.” It’s seems like a bad breakup where two people continue living together in a tense, awkward environment where way uglier shit gets said than during the actual break-up but they’re both stuck in this god-awful situation until somebody finds a new apartment.

Regardless, placing an ad in a periodical could be construed as misleading but that’s just us. If someone at the firm can explain it to us, we’ll be here. While we wait, if you’ve got thoughts on whether this ad is perfectly hunky dory or a little dubious, share below.

(UPDATE 2) SEC Charges Deloitte Tax Partner with Insider Trading

~ Update includes clarification of partner’s employment status and statements from accused’s attorneys via MarketWatch.

~ Update at circa 7:20 pm ET includes statement from Deloitte

If you thought all this insider trading fun was just for hedge funds you would be sorely mistaken. Deloitte seems to have another case of a partner who can’t seem to control himself when he gets some insider info. Earlier this year, former Deloitte Vice Chairman Tom Fla> shelled out $1.1 million to settle charges with the SEC.

This time around, it’s still a family affair – husband, wife, wife’s sister and brother-in-law job – and it went overseas:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former Deloitte Tax LLP partner and his wife with repeatedly leaking confidential merger and acquisition information to family members overseas in a multi-million dollar insider trading scheme.

The SEC alleges that Arnold McClellan and his wife Annabel, who live in San Francisco, provided advance notice of at least seven confidential acquisitions planned by Deloitte’s clients to Annabel’s sister and brother-in-law in London. After receiving the illegal tips, the brother-in-law took financial positions in U.S. companies that were targets of acquisitions by Arnold McClellan’s clients. His subsequent trades were closely timed with telephone calls between Annabel McClellan and her sister, and with in-person visits with the McClellans. Their insider trading reaped illegal profits of approximately $3 million in U.S. dollars, half of which was to be funneled back to Annabel McClellan.

The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced charges against the two relatives — James and Miranda Sanders of London. The FSA also charged colleagues of James Sanders whom he tipped with the nonpublic information in the course of his work at his London-based derivatives firm. Sanders’s tippees and clients made approximately $20 million in U.S. dollars by trading on the inside information.

So not a bad haul. The kicker is, Annabel was also employed at Deloitte, working in the London, San Jose and San Francisco offices. The McClellans provided information to the Sanders on several companies including Kronos, Inc., aQuantive, Inc. and Getty Images.

The SEC brass gave their standard scolding. First, Enforcement Chief, Robert Khuzami, “The McClellans might have thought that they could conceal their illegal scheme by having close relatives make illegal trades offshore. They were wrong.”

And San Fran Director Marc Fagel, “Deloitte and its clients entrusted Arnold McClellan with highly confidential information. Along with his wife, he abused that trust and used high-placed access to corporate secrets for the couple’s own benefit and their family’s enrichment.”

But the real story here is the second instance of insider trading charges against a Deloitte partner this year. The firm successfully sued Tom Flanagan back in January but you have to wonder if there isn’t some flaw with the firm’s internal oversight. Not long after the Flanagan suit, we reported on the 475 reprimands for internal noncompliance in 2009. Those reprimands did not mention insider trading specifically but over 200 of them were related to independence violations. Pattern? You can weigh in below.

Anyone with any knowledge on this story is invited to get in touch with us. as it is not clear if there has been any internal repercussions yet. Messages (including voicemail, carrier pigeon and morse code) left with Deloitte have not been returned (see statement below).

UPDATE: McClellan’s attorneys are not amused by the SEC’s little stunt:

Lawyers for Arnold McClellan denied charges Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission that the former Deloitte Tax LLP partner was involved in a big insider trading scheme. “Arnold McClellan denies the SEC’s claims and will vigorously contest them,” Elliot Peters and Christopher Kearney of Keker & Van Nest LLP said in a statement on behalf of McClellan. “He did not trade on insider information, and there will be no evidence that he passed along any confidential information to anyone.” McClellan “had no financial incentive to commit the actions alleged,” the lawyers added. “He is a conscientious, law-abiding professional with a 23-year unblemished track record of client service at Deloitte to prove it. We will see the SEC in court.”

And just to clarify, McClellan is no longer with Deloitte, leaving the firm in June of this year. Deloitte spokesman Jonathan Gandal emailed us the firm statement (see below) still hasn’t returned our call (busy day, right?) but managed to give a statement to and was quoted by Reuters, saying that he was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations and “If the allegations prove to be true, they would represent serious violations of our strict and regularly communicated confidentiality policies.”

UPDATE 2: Here is the full statement from Deloitte:

“We are shocked and saddened by these allegations against our former tax partner and members of his family. If the allegations prove to be true, they would represent serious violations of our strict and regularly communicated confidentiality policies. Deloitte is committed to safeguarding non-public client information and has cooperated with the SEC throughout its investigation. The SEC does not allege any wrongdoing by Deloitte in this unfortunate matter.”

Complaint_Deloitte

Here’s What Charlie Rangel Missed at His Ethics Trial

He really should have stuck around. He won on a couple of ’em, which is probably better than most people were expecting.

 


Of course Chuck isn’t going quietly:

How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the Ethics Subcommittee when I was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room? I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions.

[…]

The Committee’s findings are even more difficult to understand in view of yesterday’s declaration by the Committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, that there was no evidence of corruption or personal gain in his findings.

From here forward, it is my hope that the full Ethics Committee will take into consideration the opinion of its chief counsel as well as the statement by Rep. Bobby Scott, a member of its investigatory subcommittee who said that any failings in my conduct were the result of “good faith mistakes” and were caused by “sloppy and careless recordkeeping, but were not criminal or corrupt.”

Earlier:
Charlie Rangel Has Heard Enough

Accounting News Roundup: The End of Summers; KPMG Adds More Restructuring Talent; Back to Basics | 09.22.10

Summers exit lets Obama retool team and message [Reuters]
“The departure of economic adviser Larry Summers opens the way for President Barack Obama to shake up leadership of his economic team and show he is taking seriously growing public frustration over the sluggish economic recovery.

Whoever replaces Summers ions constrained by a record $1.47 trillion budget deficit and the possible Democratic loss of control of the House of Representatives in November 2 congressional elections.”

The Obama Tax Plan: Who’s in the Crosshairs? [TaxVox]
“President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the nation’s highest income households may not quite mean what you think. A closer look suggests that fewer people may get whacked than either Obama or his Republican critics suggest. And for many of the victims, the club won’t be the president’s plan to raise rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent. Those rate hikes may be getting most of the attention, but the real cudgel would be higher taxes on capital gains and dividends going to high-earners.”

H&R Block Announces New Chief Financial Officer [MarketWatch]
“H&R Block (HRB 12.82, -0.08, -0.62%) announced today the appointment of Jeff Brown as chief financial officer. Brown has been the company’s interim CFO for the past five months. As an eight-year veteran of H&R Block, Brown has played an important role in a variety of financial functions.

‘I am very pleased with the leadership Jeff has provided me and the organization in his interim role,; said Alan Bennett, H&R Block’s president and chief executive officer. ‘Jeff has all the talent and personal characteristics needed to be highly successful as the permanent CFO. He has earned my full confidence, as well as that of the board of directors.’

Most recently, Brown served as H&R Block’s corporate controller. Prior to that, he was the corporate controller and vice president of finance (Americas) at Bacou-Dalloz, now Sperian Protection, and served in key positions at KPMG. Brown has a business administration degree from the University of Nebraska and is a certified public accountant.”


Sentencing of Petters’ accountant is postponed [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
“Tuesday’s scheduled sentencing of James Wehmhoff, the accountant who helped Tom Petters file false tax returns, has been postponed until sometime in October. The postponement was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle at his own behest.

Wehmhoff faces a prison sentence of between 70 and 80 months on tax charges, but federal prosecutors have asked Kyle to consider Wehmhoff’s cooperation in the Petters investigation and his previously “unblemished” career before he hooked up with Petters Group Worldwide. The government also noted that Wehmhoff was not part of the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme that Petters and others orchestrated for more than 10 years.”

KPMG Continues to Add Restructuring Talent With Appointments of Tony Murphy, Tom Bibby [PR Newswire]
The House of Klynveld must be counting on more companies falling prey to their massive debt loads with the appointment of Tony and Tommy who both have “proven track records” as restructuring professionals.

Accounting Basics: A Guest Post From Robert B. Walker [Re:The Auditors]
“[New Zealand] follows an American model in which people who are to become accountants are ‘educated’ in Universities. There is minimal emphasis on double entry. Most of the courses are dedicated to theory, bullshit sociology, complex management accounting, auditing and so on. None of this makes any sense to a student if they first do not know the basics of accounting and that can only be gained by actually practicing the discipline.”

Comparing the Ethics Codes: AICPA and IFAC [JofA]
“Sharp increases in the number of multinational audits being performed by U.S. accounting firms means that more CPAs are performing services under the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) audit and attest standards. Although auditors must comply with the specific standards adopted in each jurisdiction, familiarity with IFAC’s International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (IESBA Code) in addition to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (AICPA Code) is a critical first step. When specifications differ, members should comply with the more restrictive of the applicable standards.”

Can My Firm Force Me to Change Brokers Even Though There Are No Independence Conflicts?

Today in accountant anxiety, a new Big 4 audit manager is perplexed as to why the firm is requiring the movement of their brokerage accounts, which on the surface, don’t result in any independence conflicts.

Have a question about your career? Is your favorite gridiron powerhouse affecting your work? Concerned that you may be allergic to your job? Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’ll help alleviate your problems.

Back to our muddled manager:

I’m a new audit manager at a Big 4 firm. As a new manager, my firm is requiring me to move all of my brokerage accounts (even those for which I’m the trustee but have no beneficial interest in) to a firm approved by the company and which participates in their daily transaction import program so they can keep daily track of all of my holdings. How is this legal? I’m not allowed to do business with a brokerage firm of my choice, even when there are no independence conflicts? Doesn’t this violate some law or something!?!?! Advice please!


Frankly, we’re a little surprised that you’re surprised about your firm’s requests in this matter. After all, you’re a manager. In the audit practice. We realize it’s been awhile since you’ve cracked an audit textbook but we’re curious if you’re delegating your annual independence refresher to a lowly staff because you can’t be bothered with it.

As you may recall, audit firms have to be independent in fact and appearance. Your brokerage accounts – both your personal and the accounts that you serve as a trustee – are a huge risk to your firm’s ability to maintain that independence. Your personal accounts are a no brainer – a firm simply cannot have anyone with assets with a broker that your firm has some sort of professional relationship with that could be perceived as conflict of interest.

As far as the accounts that you serve as the trustee for – Wiktionary defines trustee as follows:

A person to whom property is legally committed in trust, to be applied either for the benefit of specified individuals, or for public uses; one who is intrusted with property for the benefit of another; also, a person in whose hands the effects of another are attached in a trustee process.

So in other words, you are legally obligated to invest on behalf of the beneficiary in their best interest. This could possibly put you in direct conflict to act in a manner that would risk the independence of your firm.

And as everyone knows, an audit firm’s reputation as an independent third party that provides an objective opinion is paramount to the industry. Whether they are truly independent is a matter that Francine McKenna would be happy to take up with you on any day of the week but all the firms have a platoon of attorneys and other professionals that monitor the risk of independence violations for their respective firms constantly.

And as long as you’re an employee of the firm, the firm’s interests will trump yours. We suggest paying closer attention at your next ethics training.

I Don’t Want to Talk About the CPA Exam Anymore

It’s September, you guys are wearing my ass out with these 2011 questions and really I haven’t heard from very many of you lately so I guess that means you’ve got your heads buried in FAR. So I’m pretty much done for awhile unless you come up with some pressing issues that you need addressed. If you do, let me know. Otherwise let’s go back to one of my very favorite CPA exam items ever, the Ethical Craiglister.

Rest assured this person posted in 2002 so A) hopefully they’ve brushed up on their ethics, especially if they did end up scoring someone to help and B) the exam is now computerized, locked-down and way more monitored than it was back when this idiot posted on Craigslist for someone to take the ethics exam for him.

I think it’s the “serious replies only” that I really love about it. Like he expected to get flash and comment letters about what a disgrace to the profession he is.

I need someone to take CPA Ethics test for me
Date: 2002-01-03, 10:08PM PST

Local CPA candidate has no time to study; will PAY you to take the ethics exam for me! Serious replies, only. You must have passed test in California within last two years.

Hey, if you see this, please get in touch with me and let me know how that worked out. I’m really fucking curious to see how your life ended up after you were unleashed on public accounting.

Accounting News Roundup: Deloitte Names Van Arsdell as New Chair, CEO of AERS; Maryland Might Be Figuring Out This Fiscal Responsibility Thing; Frank Navigates the Waters | 08.12.10

Stephen C. Van Arsdell Named Chairman and CEO of Deloitte LLP’s Audit and Enterprise Risk Services Subsidiary [PRNewswire]
Thtte vet Steve Van Arsdell replaces Nick Tommasino as the head of Deloitte’s AERS.

As is the wont of these particular announcements, SVA seems pretty flippin’ stoked about the new gig, “I am excited to take the helm of Deloitte & Touche during such dynamic times. We know that to succeed we must always be a leader in quality. This is a shared commitment from all within our organization. The goals we set for ourselves will raise the bar for quality throughout the profession.”

Barry Salzberg got in a few words too, “I am fully confident in Steve’s ability to lead Deloitte & Touche through the myriad challenges and opportunities presented by the economic recovery and regulatory environment changes. His extraordinary talent, experience and leadership style will help further the practice’s primary mission to conduct the highest quality audits. As a continuing and integral member of our senior leadership team, I know his contributions will be considerable. Nick Tommasino has demonstrated a deep sense of partnership and commitment to our organization, and we thank him for his leadership. We’re delighted to bring his client service skills back to the marketplace.”

So, Stevey. Time to get down to brass tacks – everyone’s wondering about those raises.

Microloans Helps Some Small Businesses Survive [WSJ]
“When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in February 2009 to create jobs and promote spending, the law included $56.1 million for microloans for small businesses, to be doled out through the Small Business Administration through September.

While some critics complain about the government’s economic stimulus efforts, some lenders and borrowers say the stimulus spending that focused on helping small businesses is working.

Targeted toward start-up, newly-established, or growing small businesses, the microloans are short-term loans up to $35,000 each for working capital or inventory and equipment purchases. The intermediary lenders who distribute the loans can choose to lend more than that limit.”

China’s Rich Have $1.1 Trillion in Hidden Income, Study Finds [Bloomberg]
“China’s households hide as much as 9.3 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) of income that is not reported in official figures, with 80 percent accrued by the wealthiest people, a study showed.

The money, much of it likely “illegal or quasi-illegal,” equates to about 30 percent of China’s gross domestic product, the study, conducted for Credit Suisse AG and published last week by the China Reform Foundation, found. The average urban disposable household income in China is 32,154 yuan, or 90 percent more than official figures, according to the report.”

It’s Time to Give Up Spreadsheets for Tracking Carbon Emissions [Green Biz via AccMan]
Give up on spreadsheets? The horror. “CFOs, CIOs and sustainability teams at large companies have used spreadsheets for years to track corporate carbon emissions.

We are now, however, at a tipping point where the benefits of carbon management software, also known as enterprise carbon accounting (ECA) software, outweigh the benefits of spreadsheets.

With many large companies recently completing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) questionnaires, and entering budget planning in the fall, it is time to move away from spreadsheets to reduce risk, save money, increase productivity, and establish an enterprise-class source of record for carbon emission data.”


Budget surplus in Maryland? Believe it. [CPA Success]
California, New York – Pay attention.

Do I Owe My Employees a Career Path? [You’re the Boss/NYT]
“Being responsible for your workers’ jobs is hard. Being responsible for their careers is harder.”

TrueBlue Named to Top of Forbes’ “Most Trustworthy Companies” List [Business Wire]
“TrueBlue, Inc. ranked at the top of the list of companies with the ‘most transparent and conservative accounting practices and most prudent management,’ according to a new ‘Most Trustworthy Companies’ list compiled for Forbes by Audit Integrity, an independent financial analytics company.

Audit Integrity’s Accounting & Governance Risk rating, or AGR, rates companies’ accounting and management practices from 0 (very aggressive) to 100 (conservative); companies with a lower rating have been more likely to suffer equity loss, issue financial restatements and face class action suits, Forbes.com says.”

Maxine Waters Whacked, Barney Frank Untouched [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
JW on the Maxine Waters’ ethics violations and how Barney Frank managet to be smart enough (or just politically savvy enough) to keep himself clean-ish.

HP’s Actions in Hurd Case Do Not Impress

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

When HP announced the stunning resignation of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Hurd on Friday, it seemingly wanted the world to think it took the moral high road.

In its press release, the company said a probe into possible sexual harassment charges against Hurd and HP by a former contractor to HP found no violation of HP’s sexual harassment policy, “but did find violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.”

Ooh.


So, basically the company and Board were saying that ethics trumps performance, even when it comes to the guy widely credited for turning around the company.

The populists applauded, hoping that some companies have higher standards than, maybe, Wall Street, where the people who brought us the global financial crisis and caused millions of innocent people to lose their jobs also wound up being rewarded with huge bonuses.

However, these hopes were quickly dashed when we learned that poor Mark Hurd-who joins the growing ranks of the unemployed–will walk away with close to $30 million in severance.

So much for taking the high moral ground.

Now, defenders of Hurd’s package say his employment contract calls for this arrangement. It’s that simple. And a contract is a contract. Blah blah blah.

However, the reality is that if he were fired “with cause,” the company could have been off the hook from paying him anything. Hurd would have received zilch. Then their firing for breaching ethics would have had meat.

In most “with cause” cases, all the company needs to cite is an intentional breach of any of the company’s policies.

Of course, Hurd could have contested this decision and sued the company. But, that would have placed the onus on Hurd and enabled HP to take an even firmer ethical stand, which given its size and stature would have sent a loud and emphatic message to the business community.

But, alas, this was not the route HP’s Board wanted to go. In fact, the beginning of its press release announcing Hurd’s departure, says: “Hurd has decided with the Board of Directors to resign his positions effective immediately.”

On its subsequent conference call, the company reportedly said there was a legal settlement.

What does this mean? Either the company did not want Hurd to walk away with nothing. It could also mean it did not have a good case. It could also mean there were other undisclosed issues involved or Hurd might have some dirt on the company if there were a lawsuit and depositions were taken, even if it did not go to trial.

Of course, HP has its free market right to make a deal with Hurd.

However, don’t try to tell us you’re taking the high moral ground.

Maxine Waters Takes Exception with the Ethics Violations

“I have not violated any House rules. Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do.”

~ The California Congresswoman, in a statement, won’t be going quietly.

It’s Been Awhile Since Charlie Rangel Had a Bad Day

“Sixty years ago, I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and have said that I haven’t had a bad day since. But after today, I may have to revise that statement.”

~ Rangs had a helluva run. Not that it’s any consolation.

Deloitte Report: 475 Reprimands for Internal Noncompliance in 2009

How’s your Thursday morning going Sons and Daughters of Deloitte? Busy? Swamped, you say? Thought so. Well, whatever it is, it can wait.

YES. IT. CAN.

Barry Salzberg needs your full and undivided attention to an important matter today: compliance with internal policies, specifically independence and ethics. During the throes of busy season, you adherence to these important values must not waiver.

Are you trading in client stock in your Scottrade account? Ghost-ticking workpapers? Ramming meaningless numbers into that tax return? Stop it right now. Bar knows that sometimes you can’t just help yourselves, so he dropped a little reminder into your inbox this morning (we were told) with the subject “A must-read for everyone”.

Today, we have an important challenge that we simply cannot ignore. Our level of compliance with our internal policies – specifically our independence and time reporting policies – is not where we need it to be.

Please take a few minutes to read Beyond the Numbers: Our Independence, Ethics & Compliance Imperative from Mike Zychinski, our Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. The report, which I consider to be a must-read for everyone, addresses concerns from our regulators, what we are doing as an organization to address them, and what you can do to meet your individual compliance requirements.

When it comes to issues of compliance, we must meet the expectations of our clients and regulators. What’s more, we must fulfill our own high expectations of ourselves. Thank you for taking a few minutes to read the report and for your focus on meeting your individual compliance requirements.

Regards,

Barry Salzberg
CEO
Deloitte LLP

Bolding is ours. After this email, a 2,100 (give or take) word report follows from Chieftain of Ethics Mike Zychinski. Despite the high standard that Deloitte holds you to — higher than the SEC, PCAOB, and the AICPA, we might add — this happend, “Based on our own reviews and that of the PCAOB, we believe compliance with our independence policies is not what it should be, and the PCAOB has, in fact, questioned our commitment to adhere to our own policies. This is clearly not acceptable.”

Our contributor Francine McKenna reminded us that Deloitte didn’t think too much of the PCAOB’s report from last year, “They [are] the same firm that famously responded to the PCAOB’s latest inspection report, ‘How dare you second guess us?‘”

Based on the following list of reprimands, perhaps the PCAOB has a leg to stand on?

Four hundred seventy-five total reprimands were issued for noncompliance issues, including:

31 reprimands for independence-related violations of SEC or AICPA rules
174 reprimands for noncompliance with Deloitte independence policy
218 reprimands for failure to meet mandatory training requirements
45 reprimands for CPE noncompliance
7 reprimands for noncompliance with Deloitte CPA Licensing policy

Is 475 a lot or a little? An improvement from last year or is it worse? We’re not really sure. We haven’t received any comment from Deloitte and their Transparency Report doesn’t have more details. But since Barry Salzberg never seems to be satisified with anything, we’re guessing you can do better.

Job of the Day: Director, Ethical and Professional Standards Needed at CFA Institute

Thumbnail image for Need_a_job.jpgSince humans are such corruptable creatures it takes a person with near-divine qualities to teach people about ethics. Luckily, we know that we have some of the pious readers out there, thus we’re confident that one of you will snatch this gig with little difficulty.

Check out the details for the position in Charlottesville, VA after the jump.


Company: CFA Institute
Title: Director, Ethical and Professional Standards
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Description: The Director, Ethics and Professional Standards is responsible for creating, sourcing, and developing educational content for CFA Institute members and serious investment professionals in the area of ethics and professional standards.
Responsibilities: Develop ethics-related educational content (e.g., case studies, online learning courses) targeted toward members, employers, societies, and university partners working collaboratively with stakeholders within and outside CFA Institute; Support the Lifelong Learning Strategy in developing educational content in the area of ethics and professional standards; Interface with executive education clients seeking customized training material; Develop and train a network of investment professionals to provide on-site ethics training; Collaborate with colleagues and members in supporting public awareness initiatives to include increasing brand awareness and establishing CFA Institute as the “go to” resource in the area of ethics and professional standards.
Requirements: CFA charterholder strongly preferred; Master’s degree or comparable degree/designation in a related field; Proven investment industry experience; Demonstrated expertise in ethics and professional standards, such as service in a highly valued compliance role; Superior communication skills (written, verbal, and presentation); Team oriented with the ability to collaborate with others in a matrix organization; Ability to manage multiple projects successfully within various time frames; Sensitivity to and appreciation for cultural differences; Teaching or training experience strongly preferred; Up to 25% travel
See the entire description over at the GC Career Center and visit the main page for all your job search needs.

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

Barry Salzberg Is Proud of All of You

salzberg-barry.jpgSomehow we missed Barry Salzberg’s latest masterpiece on leadership from last week and since you’ve all checked out, we’re sure you won’t mind.
When asked “Who was the best business leader of 2009?”, Dr. Phil — using every fiber of his being not to nominate himself — chose “Do-right employees”. It’s not about the BSDs of the world. It’s those of you that manage to not sit bare-assed on the copy machine and resist the urge to watch porn on your work computer. You’re the leaders setting the example:

Rather than single out a best business leader, I’d recognize the many unsung ethical heroes in our organizations. I’m talking about people who, even when no one is watching, consistently do the right thing. And they’ve been doing it at a time when confidence in business urgently needs to be restored.

Not only are you restoring confidence (?) in business, you’re going to lead us the charge into this recovery:

As we prepare our organizations for the upturn, we also need to prepare our people for the uptick in wrong-doing that can accompany better times.

First of all, what is this “upturn” you speak of? Also, Costanza-stache: “uptick in wrong-doing accompany better times”? Just what the hell is all this accounting fraud talk? Or how about executives’ bad attitudes about its employees? Or everything else?
Apparently you need to get even more vigilant people! This ship is turning around and wrong-doing is really going to take off. We need you more than ever.
Do-right employees [Washington Post]

Jim Quigley, Still ‘a Proud Aggie,’ Fails to Go Out on a High Note

Jim_quigley.jpgThat’s right, he’s proud. Never mind that the football team just finished their season 4 – 8. Sports aren’t everything.
The Big Q, swindler of unsuspecting journalists, took time away from calling CEOs on private jets to give a speech at Utah State (his alma mater) to faculty and students on ethics.
We won’t give you all the gory details since CNN probably is working on that piece right now. We’d hate to steal their thunder.


We will mention that Quigs is swelling with pride that USU’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business Scholars agree to “principles” which he quoted in the speech:

“I agree to conduct myself according to the highest ethical standards. I will accept personal responsibility for my conduct and any consequences for mistakes, accidental or intentional. I will be honest, truthful and fair in alof my actions and interactions with others. I will also demonstrate civil, respectful and courteous concern for and behavior toward others at all times both in and outside of the classroom.”

It seems like a fine group of sentences but I implore you: is it an oath/promise laminated on tiny cards? Hardly, dude.
Ethics and integrity aside, Quigs’ remarks seem like the standard boilerplate metaphors and clichés. Hell, he even quotes the Oracle in his conclusion, “Warren Buffett said: ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’ And, once lost, it can take years to rebuild.”
It works well enough but we would have rather heard Quigs wrap it up with “I’ve never gone to bed with an ugly woman but I’ve sure woke up with a few.” It would’ve brought the house down. High note, Quigs. Always look to go out on that high note.
Jim_Quigley_Utah_State_remarks.pdf

>75: What am I Supposed to Do With This Ethics Exam?

Editor’s note: Welcome to latest edition of >75, our weekly post on a question related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.

If you are in an ethics exam state and trying to figure out how to pass it (first of all: fail), don’t worry, I’ve got some advice. An email from a reader who prefers not to expose his unethical-ness comes to JDA thusly:

I’m having trouble passing the ethics exam, I’ve failed twice. How can I pass it?


First of all, I’m going to ignore the fact that this question — by itself or to a casual observer not in public accounting — is pretty fucked up. You shouldn’t need help with this. I can understand needing an explanation on how to get your foreign degree evaluated (I still don’t quite get it) but this should be easy. However, for the purposes of this post, I’ll disregard that part.

For starters, the ethical thing to do would be a Google search on the ethics exam, not posting Craigslist ads offering to pay people to take it for you. But if you’re like most public accountants trying to get a license, you copy off of your coworkers. I shouldn’t have to tell you that. If I do, it probably means you’re not cut out for this line of work.

There are other things you can do. Some state societies of CPAs have resources like tips or even experts you can consult to help you. Again, this shouldn’t be hard, it’s supposedly your first mandate in public accounting.

It’s open book, there’s no timer and you can bring a weapon to wherever you’re taking the test (unlike the CPA exam itself). Why are you making such a huge deal out of this?
Abacus said the Wisconsin ethics exam, while being tough, just needed some diligence to get through. What’s scary about that?

If you absolutely run out of ideas, some ethics exams have a “Lifeline”. Here in California, if you bomb three times, you can call CalCPA’s Education Foundation and they might give you a hint or two along with three more chances to pass.

Give it enough time and understand the subtle nuances of the questions, don’t just try to barrel your way through it and you might pass this time. Good luck.