Ah, the timesheet. Not the CPAs worst enemy, but certainly in the top five. You already know why timesheets are such a pain, but just to torture you a bit, here are the reasons we don’t like them: They’re (ironically?) time-consuming to fill out They punish CPAs who work quickly, regardless of the value of […]
Starting Monday, PwC will go trial in Florida over a financial crisis-era case. The plaintiff is the bankruptcy trustee for Taylor Bean and Whitaker Mortgage Corp, who is seeking $5.5 billion in damages, claiming that "PwC was negligent in not detecting a massive fraud scheme that brought down Taylor Bean and helped trigger the 2009 […]
Maybe it's because I read a lot of "accountant embezzled funds" articles, but I'm increasingly disappointed in the spending habits of hapless accountants who help themselves to their employers money. The scheme hatched by your average embezzling accountant isn't often well thought out, so I'd expect them to make equally reckless purchases. Sadly, more often […]
If you or someone you know is thinking about concocting a haphazard tax fraud, it may be tempting to go with a tried and true method that goes something like this: Step 1: Reside in Florida Step 2: Steal a bunch of taxpayer information Step 3: eFile a bunch of tax returns with this stolen […]
Florida, the state long considered a mecca for Disney fetishists and retirees, is the actual worst. The peninsular Sunshine State, in addition to being our #1 exporter of citrus fruit (no idea if this is true), boasts spiders the size of Diet Coke cans that can only be smote with a flame thrower, wild sharks, […]
Come ON, man. This isn't even worth getting in trouble for. The Securities and Exchange Commission today sanctioned a Florida-based auditor for violating federal laws and regulations requiring lead audit partners to periodically rotate off their audit engagements with a publicly traded company in order to preserve the integrity of the financial reporting process. The […]
Some people might say that a Florida CPA imprisoned three prostitutes and used them as sex slaves, but others could say he increased his number of dependents using an innovative strategy that complies with both the U.S. Tax Code and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. I'm sticking with the former – false imprisonment and […]
Hot off the Twitter, New York Times' Catherine Rampell shares some interesting data about movers in 2012: nation’s overall mover rate increased from a record low of 11.6 percent in 2011 to 12.0 percent in 2012, per US Census — Catherine Rampell (@crampell) December 10, 2012 Okay maybe that's not so interesting, but this helps: most common […]
Anthony J. Marcinek jumped to his death from the eighth floor inside the PwC building earlier this afternoon in Tampa. I confirmed with a PwC spokesperson that he was not employed by the firm. The firm did send an email notifying everyone of the incident and is providing grief counselors for employees. Ugh. [TBT]
First, can I just say I am beyond thrilled that you guys even care about these CPA exam stats? I mean that. I half expected all of you to call me a boring loser for wasting precious Going Concern real estate going over these, so thanks for proving me wrong. I might still be a […]
A suspicious backpack was found at an IRS office Ocala, Florida yesterday that resulted in the 100 employees being evacuated from the building and also business in the surrounding area. In this day and age of misplaced IRS hating, authorities always approach these situations with caution and swiftly destroyed the pack after viewing the X-rays noting notebooks and “an electronic device with wires.” The contents turned out to be nothing more than someone’s psychology textbook, notebooks and a tape recorder, among other school-y items. This will be the best excuse that psych prof will ever hear. [Ocala]
Apparently a few IT support folks in the South were recently told their services were no longer needed:
I have a friend who works in their Tampa office. He said they’ve let go the few IT support people in his office as well as others in other offices in the region. [This occurred] 3 weeks – month ago.
Maybe PwC should consider pulling up the stakes in Tampa:
A Muslim who was a PricewaterhouseCoopers senior manager was interviewed for an article about diversity in a company newsletter and then fired when he criticized his employer, his federal lawsuit says.
Issam Azziz, 37, w pany’s Tampa office, filed suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, alleging the company, now called PwC, discriminated against him because of his faith and race.
“What happened to me should not happen to any other person,” Azziz said in a news conference outside federal court. “They’ve gone out of their way to destroy my life.”
PwC has responded that “this lawsuit is without merit” (which I think is taught on the first day of Corporate Communications 101) and wouldn’t tell me much else but you get the feeling that this whole story is a bit of a dog and pony show. First of all, the press conference held by Mr. Azziz included appearances from his lawyer, Peter Helwig, the Tampa Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations and Ahmed Bedier, “a civil rights activist” which seems to indicate that this was a well oiled PR offensive. Secondly, this press conference occurred less than a week after PwC told Tampa and the State of Florida to shove their subsidies. You don’t have to be too clever to put that one together.
Anyway, you can watch clips of the conference here and here (no embed code, sorry). If you watch the video, Mr. Azziz alleges (through the words of Mr. Bedier) that the company’s “fraternity mentality” that includes “overnight partying, binge drinking and gambling” feels a little hyperbolic but whatever. I spoke to Hassan Shibly, the CAIR representative that appeared with Mr. Azziz but he declined to go on the record. Peter Helwig has not yet returned my call.
The other little twist is that you get from the story is that Azziz claims that after he found another job, PwC got wind of it and were the ones behind his dismissal from that firm:
The lawsuit claims the company orchestrated his firing from a second firm that later hired him and has effectively blackballed him from getting any other job in his profession.
The company “retaliated against (Azziz) in reprisal for his opposition to (PwC’s) racial discrimination against persons who are Muslim or of Arab ethnicity,” the suit says.
Maybe I’m just not as paranoid as I used to be but a firm like PwC going out of its way to blackball one person seems like a stretch. I understand that this is Florida and I’m not a Muslim (i.e. they aren’t exactly popular with some people) but COME ON. PwC is far more interested in ruining the lives of its current employees – it’s called client service.
Suit accuses PricewaterhouseCoopers of discrimination against Arab-American [SPT]
PricewaterhouseCoopers discriminates, suit states [TBO]
PwC Decides It Doesn’t Want $1.1 Million in Free Money From Tampa After All
There Appears to Be Some Fuss About PwC Tapping $2 million in Subsidies Once They Spend $78 million and Hire 200 People
Remember when PwC laid off
500-ish 470 people in the Tampa area last year? The townies weren’t impressed and the local press, including the St. Petersburg Times, was all over the firm about it. At the time, PwC insisted that they would create more jobs in the area to make up for things. Frankly, no one took them seriously and probably chalked it up to “something PR has to say.” So it was a nice surprise to learn that the firm is not only hiring 200 new people but they’re spending $78 million on a “build-to-suit building.”
Typically when these kinds of things happen, the local and state governments like to subsidize a bit of the project and this situation is no different. The firm is reportedly receiving $2 million but a source at PwC, who wants to keep their identity secret because DUH, told me that it’s actually closer to $1.2 million. It consists of approximately $800k and some change from the state of Florida and $1.1 million (yes, I know the math doesn’t work you twerps, so save it, they didn’t have exact numbers) from the city and county, the latter being part of the Premier Business Bonus Program.
Rather than simply say “Thank you, PwC for bestowing your autumnal hues on our otherwise hot, sticky, green and tan town…oh, and the jobs are okay too,” the Tampa Bay Businees Journal is poking around the “$2 million” in subsidies. The focus of the story caused our source to be a little perplexed since, you know, the firm is spending nearly $80 million and hiring 200 people. Not to mention the people that will build the $78 million whathaveyou. Did they think the current PwC employees were going to bring their tool belts and slap together some framing and drywall? Plus, the firm doesn’t get the
$2 million $1.2 million unless they spend the $78 million and they hire the 200 people. 197 simply won’t do (I asked).
Does it make up for the 500 layoffs? Maybe not. But a story about subsidies that probably wouldn’t pay for Dennis Nally’s annual travel? There’s far more interesting things going on in Florida. I assure you.
As far as embezzlements go, Gary Williams did all right for himself. As the CFO of Marian Gardens Tree Farm, he allegedly walked away with $15 million or so before he was convicted of tax evasion and mail fraud related to said allegations. He was pretty good at disposing of the money, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, “[he] spent $1,800 at John Craig Clothiers in Winter Park, treated himself to nearly $9,000 in Prada luggage and leather goods, and indulged in $15,000 in services at an exclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.” Obviously this leaves $14 mil or so to throw around and it doesn’t appear that this was a problem:
[Prosecutor Mark] Simpson said Gary Williams, who had blamed cocaine addiction for influencing his behavior, drew a six-figure salary from his employers from 2002 through 2007 while he was embezzling millions, destroying business records and encumbering farm equipment for secret loans for personal use.
He made large withdrawals from company accounts, telling bank officials that it was for “employee bonuses.”
Simpson said Williams, who divorced his wife of 35 years and became estranged from his two children, lavished younger men with jewelry, luxury automobiles, Caribbean vacations and gifts that could not be recovered. “This was not just theft,” Simpson said. “This was financial rape.”
Drugs! Phony bonuses! Hot men in hot cars in hot locations probably having hot sex! This is the stuff that straight-to-DVD movies are made of! But unfortunately the victims in this case aren’t doing as well as they have seen a dime of the money that disappeared:
The Hillary family, which owns the farm and employed Williams for two decades, has yet to receive any restitution from its portly former chief financial officer. According to court documents and interviews with prosecutors, Williams blew hundreds of thousands of dollars at lavish resorts in San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the West Indies. He flew friends on chartered jets and helicopters; dined at five-star restaurants; hired a private chef; and partied at marquee nightclubs.
He explained frequent work absences by falsely claiming to have pancreatic cancer. His employers say they thought he was undergoing experimental treatments.
Williams did lose 100 pounds — but from gastric-bypass surgery, a farm executive said.
For whatever reason, the Sentinel felt it necessary to drag Williams’ big-bonededness into this story as it isn’t clear whether or not some of the loot was used to fund the surgery. At the very least, Williams, who is serving 12 years, can hopefully keep his figure in prison.
Jet-setting CFO gets dual terms for embezzling $15M at tree farm [Orlando Sentinel]
A true man of the people:
The Internal Revenue Service has filed a lien against Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia for nearly $200,000 in unpaid taxes. The lien, filed June 8, means the IRS would get paid before Garcia and his wife if they attempt to sell their home or other real estate. Garcia said the IRS issued the liens after his new accountant detected errors in previous years’ tax returns. Garcia said he voluntarily brought the errors to the agency’s attention, and plans to pay the money as soon as his finances permit.
Typically if you receive a $6,000 tax refund check in the mail, it’s something you’ve been expecting.
Such was not the case for James King who had a check cut to him back in February but unfortunately it’s due to case of identity theft. Right now the IRS can’t make heads or tails of the situation and despite the mix-up/criminal activity, Mr King’s wife figured that this was opportunity:
“She was ready to spend it,” King said of his wife with a laugh. “She was ready to go cash it and spend it. She had a to-do list right from the get-go.”
~ Update includes clarification of the number of layoffs.
Remember those 500 layoffs that PwC announced in July? Jeff Harrington of the St. Petersburg Times reports, “According to a state-required layoff notice filed Friday, 280 jobs will be phased out by Dec. 31.”
According to the report, many layoffs occurred immediately:
PwC said another 150 positions have already been cut since July, with half of those displaced workers finding other jobs through PwC or a third-party vendor it is using, India-based Tata Consulting Services. The other half left voluntarily after finding other jobs outside the company.
That leaves 70 unaccounted for at this time and we’re trying to determine when these are happening. It’s our understanding that the 150 is a bit of squishy number so that may make up part of the difference but it remains a mystery (as Big 4 layoffs tend to be). SEE UPDATE BELOW.
As for the 200 positions tax and accounting that the firm said it is adding, the Times reports that they’ve added 30 positions so far since “last summer.”
If you’re in the know about the layoffs in Florida (or anywhere else for that matter) get in touch with us at [email protected] and we’ll keep you updated as we hear more.
About 280 PricewaterhouseCoopers workers in Tampa get pink slips [St. Petersburg Times]
UPDATE – October 19, 2010: A source at PwC has informed GC that the number of layoffs is actually 470, a figure that was determined a few months subsequent to the July announcement of 500 cuts. Employees that comprise 280 cuts mentioned in the Times article were notified by letter that their last day would be December 31st. The source confirmed that half of the 150 employees cited in the article did obtain internal jobs with the firm or Tata Consulting Services while the other half resigned or found positions outside the firm.
Our source said that the remaining 40 IT cuts are being made in offices around the country and that the employees were notified in July. The exact timing of these cuts was not immediately known. We’ll keep you updated.
SEC Chairman: No Heads Up on Goldman Lawsuit [WSJ]
Mary Schapiro would like everyone to know that just because they laid the smackdown on Goldman Sachs last Friday instead of, say, last year is that A) she’s still new at this job and B) the SEC does (and most certainly does not) what it wants when it wants. Even if it is an election year, the POTUS and his agenda have nothing to do with it.
“I started this job 15 months ago, in the wake of a serious financial crisis and with the view that the SEC must regulate Wall Street and vigorously enforce the securities laws. We will neither bring cases, nor refrain from bringing them, because of the political consequences. We will be governed always and only by the facts and the law.”
Lipstick on the collar [NYP]
The Post is reporting that the Lipstick Building, where Bernie Madoff had his North Pole offices is sliding ever closer to foreclosure. The report states that the Royal Bank of Canada is looking to get rid of its $210 million mortgage on 885 Third Ave.
“[T]he Lipstick Building’s problems are the direct result of having been purchased at the height of the property boom. RBC’s $210 million loan was provided as part of a complex financing structure used by Israel’s Metropolitan Real Estate Investors — led by Haim Revah and Jacob Abikzer — to pay $648.5 million for the property in 2007.”
Feds launch inquiry into Florida GOP credit-card expenses [Miami Herald]
The IRS is poking around the credit card activity by some Florida Republicans including the leading contender for its U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio. The IRS has opened a “preliminary inquiry” to determine if there is enough evidence to launch a formal investigation.
The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times both obtained credit card statements of Mr Rubio that reportedly include, “repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife, and purchases from retailers ranging from a wine store near his home to Apple’s on-line store. Rubio also charged the party for dozens of meals during the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee, even though he received taxpayer subsidies for his meals.”
Mr Rubio insists that there “absolutely nothing to this,” and that “We don’t believe it’s income,” which sounds like some famous last words prior to a full blown IRS investigation.
It’s been a while since we shared some cost saving ingenuity from Florida’s CFO–cum-Gubernatorial candidate, Alex Sink. However, this time we learn how she managed to spend some of those savings.
According to the Politics blog of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services has “purchased 182 assault rifles – costing $255,000, according to Sink’s office – in the last two years.” When you Google “assault rifle” one of the first links takes you to this.
A spokesman for the wannabe Guv made it plain for those GOP haters (who are all of a sudden against guns?) trying to block Sink from purchasing more BFGs:
The rifles are necessary to protect fraud investigators who deal with “dangerous people,” said spokesman Kevin Cate – arsonists, sophisticated car insurance fraudsters, money launderers. If Republican legislators are taking a shot at Sink with the assault-weapon purchasing ban, “that’s a shot at officer security,” Cate said.
Sink said: “I rely on my law enforcement people to evaluate what the risks are and what they need. I’m going to do everything possible to protect them.”
Look. We’ve got no doubt that some white-collar criminals are dangerous but this seems a tad ridiculous.
On the other hand, since it is South Florida and basically anything can happen (including 10 – 26% returns on arbitraging groceries) perhaps this type of firepower is necessary.
Allegedly of course! Despite our best wishes for a forensic accountants to be fraud-busting crusaders that pursue truth, justice and all that crap, this corner of the profession is not immune from shiesty characters.
Lewis Freeman, “Miami’s go-to forensic accountant”, has been charged with embezzling $2.6 million from his clients. The Miami Herald is reporting that Lew has pleaded not guilty but is planning to change his plea to guilty “within a few weeks” while his attorneys try to negotiate a lighter sentence. The Herald also reports that two other employees of his firm, including the CFO, will be charged as co-conspirators in the case.
When you think about it, this really exposes Freeman as not being a very smart guy, just smarter than the people he was ripping off. As criminal mastermind Sam Antar told us in an email, “Lewis Freeman may have been considered ‘Miami’s go-to forensic accountant’ but he was not a very bright guy. He simply took old money from his client’s trust accounts and replenished it with new money. As a forensic accountant, he should have known that ultimately such Ponzi schemes end up collapsing over time.”
Despite this, Freeman was able to carry on the scheme for approximately a decade, swindling up to 250 victims.
Wondering what this latest development meant in terms of fraud involving forensic accountants, Sam told us, “Forensic accountants turned white collar criminals present a real challenge for law enforcement, since they (excluding Lewis Freeman) are far more sophisticated in their knowledge of anti-fraud measures and are more innovative in exploiting weaknesses in internal controls than the common white collar criminal.”
And don’t worry, they’re out there, “Freeman is probably not the only forensic accountant turned Ponzi schemer out there. The smarter and more sophisticated one’s have not been caught yet,” Sam said. Got it. Suspect everyone.
We first mentioned Lewis Freeman last fall when his firm was under investigation by the FBI and that his firm briefly served as the Chief Restructuring Officer for the Palm Beach Funds that were part of the Tom Petters orgy of fraud.
The bright side is we can’t foresee any scenario where the image of accountants gets worse.
Of course! It didn’t even occur to us that Florida CFO Alex Sink would be far too busy running for Governor to oversee the new CFO Depot. Accordingly, as is the rage in politics these days, there will be a Office Supply Czar to overlook this little treasure of savings.
Not only does the video below inform us of this new critical position in the Florida government, the exact number of paper clips that were counted is made known: 402,419.
When you think about it, the appointment of a czar is a natural progression in the bureaucracy. If there is a specific problem (e.g. an overabundance of paper clips) appointing one individua to get on the problem like stink on a monkey is the best way to address said problem. The creation of a committee, while tempting, has run its course. Why appoint a team of 10 – 12 individuals to talk about a problem when you can get one person (with the appropriate qualifications) to make the solving of the problem their sole purpose for being on Earth?
“High speed and commuter rail are a key part of growing our economy here in Florida, and today’s announcement couldn’t come at a more important time for our state”
CFOs have a tough job. Oh sure maybe a select few get to globe-trot with the Fab Four to the likes of Davos but the lion-share of them have to deal with less sexy tasks like, say, saving money.
Or solve a state fiscal crisis! Enter Florida’s CFO, Alex Sink. Ms. Sink is taking cost saving initiatives to levels that the Big 4 either considered and found ridiculous (even for them) or will be implementing them in the near future.
Last year Ms. Sink had her staff count paper clips in order to reduce costs. No, seriously. “Her staff spent untold hours determining the Department of Financial Services has 537 pounds of paper clips, 37,601 binder clips and 17,425 pens.”
The staff that were found to hogging more than a reasonable amount of suppliers were fired on the spot. Okay, not really but yeah, staff were counting counting paper clips. Makes you glad to be working at public accounting, no?
The latest idea from the CFO of the FLA that is the creation of the “CFO Depot”. This will allow employees to swap supplies as needed, as opposed to rummaging through every drawer at the their desk. Presumably this will cut down on violence in the workplace and will save the state money. Ms. Sink is encouraging other state agencies to set up similar systems, as this may save the state $14 million.
Here’s the pitch: