As you may have heard, there is a number of mighty upset people occupying various streets around the country. By reading some of the signs being held by these occupants, it’s obvious they’re peeved about a number of things. With such a wide range of gripes, the crowds have gotten quite large and since many people sympathize with the protestors, lots of donations are being made by those passing by, usually in the form of cash. This, as any accountant worth their salt knows, can be problematic, as evidenced by this video:
As the protests have grown, so have the donations. And since protests aren’t exactly bastions of internal controls, the problem of tracking the money coming in and being spent has become quite a chore. That chore has fallen on one person named Victoria Sobel who is functioning as Occupy Wall Street’s “chief treasurer.”
There’s no indication that Victoria is an accountant and, oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ready accountants amongst the occupiers, so the methods currently being used aren’t exactly robust. They started housing collections using “a large cooking pot covered in cardboard and duct tape” and gradually moved towards high-tech tools such as “donation buckets” and “a yellow messenger bag.” Despite these improvements, this system still needs some work Fortunately for Ms. Sobel, a person with some relevant experience recently turned up:
Then the first consultant, a certified public accountant sympathetic to the cause, came to help. Jo Ann Fleming […], who besides her accounting work has a radio show called Flash Talks Cash, sat down in a red tailgating chair next to three activists volunteering on the Occupy Wall Street finance committee.
Fleming heard a rundown of how the operation is working so far: Most of the money comes in through two donation buckets stationed at the ends of the park, where a steady throng of tourists and commuters is always passing by.
Teams of volunteers are split up into working groups for areas like food, sanitation and medical supplies, then spend the money on communal goods. Anyone who wants to be reimbursed for expenses has to get approval from a finance committee member before making a purchase. If it’s less than $100, they’ll sign out some cash, with orders to return with the goods and the receipt. If it’s more than $100, the purchase is supposed to be approved at a town meeting.
Once again, a CPA to the rescue! But since Ms. Fleming can’t quit her day job, she gave the best advice she could to the team on the ground:
After some probing, accountant Fleming determined the group needs to come up with a clear policy on how to get reimbursed for expenses. She suggested more frequent collection of the donation buckets, to avoid the temptation of dipping hands in—“cash is very troublesome.” And she urged them to create a spreadsheet tracking how much was received and paid.
More frequent collections. Clear, common sense policies. Spreadsheets. All excellent suggestions. But perhaps most importantly, Ms. Fleming recognizes when someone is doing the job of three people and is on the brink of cracking up (an important instinct in today’s accounting firms) so she gave Victoria some advice.
She turned to Sobel: “One woman can’t run the show. You’re exhausted; I can hear it in your voice. You need to delegate. You’re going to get burned out.”
Any double-entry experts that have some time on their hands and want to help the cause need to get downtown ASAP.
The Washington Post recounts Deloitte’s purchase of BearingPoint’s Federal Services business last year and as you might imagine it’s mostly a glowing piece about various aspects of the deal.
These include revenue growth “The company posted about $1.65 billion in federal revenue this year — up from combined revenue of about $1.43 billion before the acquisition,” the increase in headcount, “Deloitte hired close to 1,400 people, and the firm is now planning to add 160 to 170 more per month,” and expansion of services, “Deloitte had a more expansive set of services and products than BearingPoint — including tax, audit and consulting services — but BearingPoint, with more than 35 years in the federal business, had access to a larger set of clients.”
Sounds swell but there are some loose ends to tie up, most notably the trustee of BearingPoint’s liquidating trust is sending letters to former BearingPoint employees under the Deloitte roof to get some cash back for expenses that were deemed unnecessary for doing typical business in DC Metro:
John DeGroote, whose firm serves as trustee to BearingPoint’s liquidating trust, confirmed his company is now trying to reclaim BearingPoint expenses that were improperly reimbursed — either because the expense should not have been reimbursed or because the employee did not provide the right documentation.
The trust has sent out between 400 and 500 letters to former BearingPoint employees seeking $750,000 in expenses, $250,000 of which has already been returned, DeGroote said.
Since the “the expense should not have been reimbursed or because the employee did not provide the right documentation” you can safely assume that these were the standard three martini lunches at the District’s finer establishments, rub ‘n tugs and other expenses that would normally be a-okay but less-so when a rival buys you out.
A curious mind out of Casa de Turley:
EY just moved to a “new” (basically the same, but it does look more flashy) expense reimbursement system in the US. Along with that move though, my expense pay back times have increased from usually about a 2-3 day turn around for approval to a 5-7 day approval. While it’s not unheard of that it would take that long, I was wondering if other EY people were experiencing the same payment delays and what this could be signaling? Just slow/less staff processing expense reports or is this some sort of cash flow management? I’m not sure that that even makes sense since we bill the client for the expenses, so it puts off the billing process as well as the reimbursement process.
As to why and how this happening, we’re guessing that those of you that got into the habit of going to Bobby Vans twice a month, playing Omaha, Hold ‘Em et al. on the web and lap dances and somehow convinced yourself it was business related have finally broke the proverbial camelback. It’s either that or Jim Turley is pulling up his boot straps and checking every single expense report himself.
Other theories or wild-ass guesses? Fire away.
We meant to get to this on Friday but as you recall, our plans we’re slightly derailed by forces beyond our control. We’re sharing it now because there are lessons here for all the newbies out there. Pay attention, this could one of you.
During busy season the temptation to get a little aggressive with the expense reimbursement comes naturally to just about everyone. If you deny this particular bit of weakness then you are either A) lying through your coffee-stained teeth or B) in the wrong profession; join the clergy.
It should be noted that the abuse of reimbursement policy has relative levels of ridiculousness. Partners can rationalize and get away with more extravagant abuse than a mere associate so keep that in mind here.
So maybe every once in awhile you and some team members slip out for a three martini lunch that falls on the expensive side and you ram it through on your expense report because you figure you deserve it. Totally natch.
It gets overboard when you have the tendency to place some wagers and because you’re a degenerate loser, you start submitting expenses to fund this little gambling hobby.
Vikas Gupta was employed by KPMG until he couldn’t pass his “accountancy exams” aaaaannnnddd it was discovered that he claimed expenses of £25,000 to fund his gambling and to pay off debt. Gupta claims that he hit “various internal charge codes” to charge the expenses; which, we hear, is a typical methodology.
Gupta also claims that he suffered from depression (losing streaks will do that), is now in Gamblers Anonymous and is employed by a new firm, so he’s back on the straight and narrow.
This didn’t impress a tribunal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (the AICPA of E&W), who has recommended that Gupta be banned from having provisional membership for 12 months and to be “severely reprimanded.” Since he has no means to pay fines (he entered an individual voluntary agreement), one can assume that the reprimand will consist of 30 lashes, a marathon of technical accounting trainings, or both.
Ex-KPMG trainee admits £25,000 expenses fraud [Accountancy Age]
Editor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
NYT had a piece yesterday called “Paying With Plastic to Please the Accountants” and I have to admit at first glance, the title annoyed the shit out of me. The accountants don’t care what you use when expensing your stupid airport Starbucks and car rentals, all they want is to be left alone to decode your receipts in peace. At least mine does.
But it isn’t just the accountants. Apparently your expenses are of extra importance to the IRS – though we’ll save the wild speculation that might dictate Timmy the Tax Cheat is just really hard up for some revenues (especially after that $38 billion tax break he gave Citigroup without anyone’s permission).
The I.R.S. is engaged in an initiative to audit tax returns of about 6,000 companies, partly to look at executive fringe benefits, including travel-expense procedures. This takes place as companies are already struggling to get a better handle on overall travel and entertainment management, especially as business travel picks up in a still shaky economic environment.
The article goes on to talk about extra airline fees (I won’t bitch about the $40 I just had to pay to check a suitcase on a recent Chicago trip) and makes expense reports sound like financial statements. The IRS apparently doesn’t care about receipts for charges under $75 while most companies use $25 as their receipt required limit. Is a $4 airport latté material? Maybe not. Are 25 dinners between $20 and $24? You bet your sweet little bean-counting ass.
I will go ahead and state the obvious here because sometimes I feel like you rubes need a BIG SIGN: in this economy, companies can no longer afford the jetsetting of yore, and why the hell should they? With video conferencing, email, mobile productivity and social networking helping to bring an entirely new meaning to collaboration, all of that cross country crap is no longer as critical as it once was. And so go the $4 airport lattés and bad $15 dinner tabs with it.
So remember, kids, keep your receipts, Timmy might want to run some substantive tests on your company rental cars and client dinners on the road. God forbid he not get a piece.
Perhaps you stick to the honor system when it comes to plugging the mileage into your expense report but for those of you that like to turn that 14.4 miles on Google Maps to 15, may be tempted to fudge further 2010:
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
• 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
• 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.
As Joe Kristan notes, this is down from the 55 cents in 2009, so our prediction is that many will be stretching the mileage even further in the new decade. You know who you are.
IRS Announces 2010 Standard Mileage Rates [Press Release via Tax Update Blog]
The KPMG Director who rammed about £500,000 expenses back to the firm was sentenced to four years in jail in London today.
Andrew Wetherall, claimed that “when his wife’s previous partner tried to reduce maintenance payments, he was worried her lifestyle would suffer. Her spending sprees came to about £15,000 a month, the court was told. The court heard he was desperate to avoid marital tension or a divorce so made bogus expense claims.”
Four years in jail over marital tension or divorce? This was the dude’s second marriage. That’s about average these days so we’re not sure about his decision making ability.
Is this true love, stupidity, or enjoying a loose expense reimbursement policy at play here? Discuss.
Finance director jailed for fraud [BBC]
There’s a large misconception that partners and directors can run anything through on their expense reports. Lapdances, red meat at Bobby Van’s, shoes at Bergdorf’s, you know, the usual rumored fare.
Alleged abuse notwithstanding, one KPMG director in London has managed to live up to the reputation of flagrantly assaulting the expense reimbursement policy:
More, after the jump
Andrew Wetherall, a director at the firm, fraudulently claimed expenses to pay for holidays, cars, computers and even his divorce from his first wife. The 49-year-old also used them over five and a half years to keep his second wife happy by funding her £15,000-a-month lifestyle. Southwark crown court heard today how he falsely claimed £545,620.89, making several claims for flights abroad and expenses relating to business trips he never went on. After a boss raised the alarm, Wetherall initially claimed it was a mistake. But he owned up to the fraud after an internal probe.
We’re all for bending the rules for some bagels here and there but seriously. What did this guy spend his salary on? Did he have a Stevie Nicks-type coke habit? Whatever happened, all’s forgiven because according to the piece, Wetherall was “suspended by KPMG and has repaid more than £337,000.” It’s only money, right?
Accountant paid for divorce and holidays with £545,000 fraud [London Evening Standard]
With the firms cracking down on expenses of every sort, including canceling the Holidays prior to the autumnal equinox, hopefully the following story doesn’t occur to any of you. At the very least, it can show what can happen when you have blatant disrespect for your firm’s expense reimbursement policy:
More, after the jump
A former Deloitte Consulting manager who disappeared on the day of her sentencing for bilking her employer out of more than $500,000 was found dead in a Costa Mesa park Saturday morning, authorities said….[Jamie] Watkins, a former operations manager for the Santa Ana office of Deloitte Consulting LLP, faced up to 10 years in federal prison after abusing the company’s expense reimbursements to steal about $550,000 to pay for things including property taxes and furniture.
As tragic as this story is, it serves as example to those of you that find yourself regularly explaining to an HR rep the $500 lunches you had at Bobby Vans and the theatre tickets that ended up on your last expense report. This may be where you are headed if you don’t shape up.
Deloitte manager hangs self [Orange County Register]