December 12, 2018

Financial reform

Why Aren’t We Discussing Financial Reform’s GASB Effect?

If we still care about financial reform, we should especially care about proposed changes to the Government Accounting Standards Board because, let’s face it, government accounting could really use a helping hand. Were government pensions forced to use the same reporting rules as every other pension, a $3 trillion hole would open up and we would see immediately that rules in desperate need of repair have remained broken because the current system allows the truth to be buried in the footnotes.

As is, GASB is funded by voluntary contributions given by state and local governments out of the goodness of their hearts (yeah right) and through sales of its publications.

The concern is that should GASB be unable to pay the bills, the federal government may be forced to swoop in and babysit. The potential for conflicts of interest should not escape dear reader as this would be akin to investors owning the SEC or Fed-regulated banks owning the Federal Reserve (oh wait, they already do). Is that any worse than what we’ve got now?

How bad is their financial situation? GASB reported a $3.83 million budget shortfall in 2009 and projected a $4.46 million shortfall for 2010.

So why, if we’re still talking about financial reform, are we not talking about its potential impact on GASB?

Under new financial reform rules, the GAO would be forced to evaluate GASB’s role (read: usefulness) in standards setting within 180 days of the proposal’s passage. How likely would it be for the GAO to call an issuer-funded agency that’s allowed government pensions to conceal $3 trillion in liabilities a blaring and obvious failure? The SEC could then direct FINRA to collect assessments from dealers that would go towards funding GASB. Obviously this piece of legislation has been written by Congressmen who don’t know how to do anything without making it as complicated as possible.

Financial reform has already cleared the House while the Senate is expected to vote within the next two weeks after returning from recess.

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 here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Accounting News Roundup: Finance Bill Passes Senate, Reconciliation with House Next; Dubai World Reaches Deal with Majority of Creditors; ParenteBeard Announces Emerging Growth Business Practice | 05.21.10

Senate Passes Finance Bill [WSJ]
All this fun Wall St. has been having – drawing populist rage, testifying before Congress – will be ending soon, sayeth Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), “When this bill becomes law, the joyride on Wall Street will come to a screeching halt.” The Senate bill still has to be reconciled in with the House version before being sent to the President; the goal is to have the combined bill completed by the end of June.

Dubai creditors agree $14.4bn deal [Accountancy Age]
Deloitte’s restructuring magician, Aidan Burkett, has pulled a rabbit out of his hat for Dubai World. DW has come to an agreement with 60% of its creditors, that will see the conglomerate repay $14.4 billion, in two tranches, over thirteen years.


Opportunities Abound in Tax and Accounting [FINS]
As the economy recovers, the accounting firms have more opportunities in the tax and advisory areas while in the governmental world, the Federal Reserve, FBI and FDIC are looking for accounting professionals. Options are good.

John Burton, a Columbia Dean, Dies at 77 [NYT]
Mr Burton was the first chief accountant of the SEC where he “stiffened the requirements for financial reporting by companies and lobbied accounting firms to take greater responsibility for the accuracy and clarity of the financial records under their review.”

And regarding the accountant’s “undervalued” role in society (largely unchanged today), Mr Burton wrote that accountants had only themselves to blame:

Mr. Burton wrote an essay for The New York Times in which he argued that, yes, accountants were undervalued in society, but that in many ways they were themselves to blame for a lack of creativity and for not seizing opportunities to influence business trends and political decisions.

“Accountants are not primarily record keepers and checkers,” he wrote in the essay, titled “Where Are the Angry Young C.P.A.’s?,” “but measurers of economic and social phenomena whose measurements can significantly influence the allocation decisions of our society.”

ParenteBeard Launches Emerging Growth Business Services Practice [ParenteBeard PR]
Mid Atlantic firm ParenteBeard’s new Emerging Growth Business Services Practice will serve clients in various growth stages utilizing the firm’s resources in “audit and accounting, small business, tax, international tax, SEC and business advisory [services].”

Accounting News Roundup: Senate Starts Voting on Financial Reform; Risk Management Succumbs to Risk Intelligence; Six Flags Emerges from Bankruptcy | 05.04.10

Voting begins in Senate on Wall Street reform [Reuters]
The latest partisan bickering effort in Congress will get underway today, although the first votes are not likely to be controversial. The first amendment to Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) 1,600 page epic has been proposed by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and it state “that no taxpayer funds could be used again to bail out financial institutions,” something that anyone up for reelection will likely get behind.

PwC partner Colin Tenner sues over redundancy [Times Online]
Mr Tenner claims that he was let go because of his suffering from depression and anxiety. He claims “mismanagement at PwC and bullying by a client led to him to take sick leave in September 2007. He alleges that he approached PwC in spring 2008 to arrange a phased return to work but says that these discussions broke down, leading to his redundancy.”

Of interest is how the tribunal will decide, “what responsibilities partners at a professional services firm have when one of their number displays signs of stress or becomes mentally ill but wishes to remain in the partnership.” This seems odd primarily because most partners are constantly showing signs of stress and if they’re not, one just assumes they’re mentally ill.


Picower Estate to Pay Billions to Madoff Investors [WSJ]
The estate of Jeffery Picower, a Madoff investor who drowned in his pool last fall, will pay $2 billion to the Madoff trustee in charge of recovering money for investors. This will more than double the $1.5 billion recovered so far.

New Career Path: ‘Risk Intelligence Officer’ [FINS]
Much can be learned from the financial crisis; not least of which is that a lot of companies sucked at managing their risk. Case in point, “risk management” is a prehistoric idea now and one Deloitte principal argues that a “risk intelligence officer” is new sage in this area:

The job of a risk intelligence officer is to assess the organization’s risks and inform business line managers where they need to focus their risk-management efforts.

“They need somebody who can see the big picture and connect the dots,” said [Rick] Funston, who is a principal with Deloitte in Detroit. Deloitte has been encouraging its clients to develop the new role, he said…

Effective risk professionals find a way to discuss systemic failures and take steps to strengthen the organization’s resilience and agility. Part of the job is to understand a company’s vulnerabilities and make it OK to talk about them, institutionalizing the discussion.

Six Flags Emerges From Bankruptcy [Reuters]
Six Flags has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy just in time for summer and now “has more financial flexibility to pursue a shift in strategy toward attracting more families to its amusement parks.” Not sure who an amusement park company would target other than families but it’s nice to see you back in the game, 6F.

Harry Markopolos Knows What to Do About Off-Balance Sheet Accounting

“[E]liminate all use of off-balance sheet accounting–for any use whatsoever. Everything must be on balance sheet.”

~ Harry Markopolos, on one aspect of financial reform.