Newman!

Jeremy Newman’s Blogging Career Is Coming to End

Related: he’s also stepping down as BDO International’s CEO on September 30:

[After] 33 years in total with BDO UK and BDO International, I will be stepping down on 30 September 2011.

I have had a fantastic career and have been privileged to lead BDO UK for 7 years and BDO International for the last 3 years. I have had some great colleagues, worked with some brilliant people and, in my earlier career, been involved with some terrific clients.

Martin van Roekel, the firm’s Managing Partner in the Netherlands, will officially be the new International Chief on October 1.

Newman says “it is time for a change,” but he “[doesn’t] know what I will do but after 33 years in this business, I am looking forward to seeking new opportunities outside the accounting profession.” He is promising to keep blogging through September, so hopefully he’s still working on his delicate sensibilities.

Moving On [CEO Insights]

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Sensitive CEO

Usually Adrienne handles these things but I seem to have started a beef, so here goes. Last Friday, I poked fun at BDO Global CEO Jeremy Newman, after he admitted that regulatory intervention in the UK would b up the audit market,” even though that’s the last thing he wants. “It is a shame it has taken so long and that it will require regulatory intervention,” he writes but then immediately qualifies the statement, “though it is not too late for my colleagues in the Big Four, and others, to act on a voluntary basis to create the environment necessary to allow real competition.”

This overt doublespeak caused me to open my post with this:

Perpetual fusspot and BDO Global CEO Jeremy Newman has not been shy about how unfair he thinks the dominance of the Big 4 is. The majority of his blog posts are tagged “Global Accounting” and several consist of bellyaching about Big 4 this and the Big 4 that. Of course, since the mainstream media has finally picked up on the idea that the concentration of auditors could be a bit of a problem […]

Newman wrote another blog post today starting with “I have never understood Twitter” but then did a Twitter search on himself, “not expecting to find anything” but he eventually landed on my blog post. He blockquoted the excerpt above (and linked!) and then wrote this:

Now call me sensitive, but I do not see myself as a “perpetual fusspot” or “bellyaching”- just someone raising a valid concern and one that has now been recognised by others, including the OFT but also the European Commission, MEPs, the UK’s House of Lords and many others, as being a potential issue. I also don’t think the dominance of the Big 4 is “unfair” – I think it is a risk and not in the public interest. And again this view is shared by others – including those who represent the public interest.

Clearly, Mr Sensitive had never graced this fine publication before but I read most of his blog posts and as I pointed out, lots of posts are tagged “Global Accounting” with titles such as “Big 4 bias – can we ever overcome it?,” “Financial Reporting and Auditing: A time for change?,” “There is a Credible Alternative,” and “Restrictive bank covenants keep the Big Four on top….”

Now maybe I’m way off base here but having so many posts (there are more) attributed to this topic, strikes me as someone who is excessively worried about something (i.e. “fussing“). I’m not suggesting he should start doing Mad Men recaps but there is consistent narrative. Plus, the word “fusspot” is funny. Furthermore, evoking “bias,” “can we overcome” and “credible alternative[s]” inherently speak to an unlevel playing field (i.e. “unfair“). Perhaps I’m too wrapped up in semantics but I think my point has been made.

On the bright side, I’m flattered that Mr Newman was offended enough to write a response of sorts (without naming names, unfortunately) and hopefully he finds some things on GC that are to his liking. Unfortunately he still doesn’t appear to be on Twitter, the catalyst to this whole exchange. I encourage JN to join the fun. Then he’ll be able to keep up on himself.

Jeremy Newman Would Prefer if the Big 4 Would Just ‘Allow Real Competition’ But Regulatory Action Will Do Just Fine, Thank You

Perpetual fusspot and BDO Global CEO Jeremy Newman has not been shy about how unfair he thinks the dominance of the Big 4 is. The majority of his blog posts are tagged “Global Accounting” and several consist of bellyaching about Big 4 this and the Big 4 that. Of course, since the mainstream media has finally picked up on the idea that the concentration of auditors could be a bit of a problem, Newman has lots of articles to jump from and since the UK’s Office of Fair Trade has said something needs to be done about this, he had another opportunity this week:

Under the headline “Antitrust watchdog urges reform to break audit grip of Big Four” the FT states:

“Regulatory action may be required to break the dominant grip of the Big Four accounting firms on UK audits of leading companies…”

The only word I would challenge is “may” – it should say “will”.

Presumably this article was in the print edition because Newman doesn’t link to it but suffice to say he’s concluded that the government needs to either break up the Fab 4 like Yoko Ono or put some laws in place that mandates non-Big 4 firm inclusion. Either way, Newman laments to the Big 4 that it doesn’t have to be this way:

At long last it seems that something might now be done to open up the audit market. It is a shame it has taken so long and that it will require regulatory intervention – though it is not too late for my colleagues in the Big Four, and others, to act on a voluntary basis to create the environment necessary to allow real competition.

Judging by the statements from the firms, they seem more or less going along with it but these firms aren’t conscientious objectors. Don’t expect them to play nice.

I Hate it When People Say “I Told You So” But… [BDO]

Jeremy Newman and BDO Will Not Be Taking Part in Your Lowballed, Low Quality Audits

BDO International CEO Jeremy Newman is a little concerned about the trend of lowball audit fees out there. Now, those aren’t his exact words, in fact he calls it ‘‘extreme downward pressure on fees’ which still seems far more than honest than “my US colleagues call ‘fee compression.’”

He’s worried because he thinks that all this slumming around for any little opining job will lead to shoddy audits:

There is increasing evidence that fees are being forced down to such an extent that one worries this will encourage audit firms to ‘cut corners’ to reduce their own costs and thereby reduce audit quality – particularly given that the buyers of audit services (ie clients) do not monitor or determine audit quality which is a role taken on by regulators who are not involved in the pricing discussion between the client and the audit firm.

Yes, the man has evidence, courtesy of:

Canadian Public Accountability Board – “CPAB has learned that certain audit committees are pressuring firms to significantly reduce audit fees. This stance may be incompatible with the audit committees’ important role … in helping to ensure the integrity of financial reporting.”

Australian Securities and Investments Commission – “We will also focus on audit quality for new or existing audits where audit fees appear low or appear to have been reduced for reasons other than changes in the underlying business of the entity being audited.”

And he rounds it out with a quote from a speech given by Stephen Hadrill, the Chief Executive of the UK’s Financial Reporting Council, “There is a role for the market in setting higher expectations of auditors. So far the market has not played that role. Quite the opposite. It is more likely to applaud lower audit fees than higher quality.”

So if you’re desperate to retain some business or provide “client service” through the Wal Mart method, you’ll be on your own. As long as Newman is running the ship at BDO, they will be choosing quality over quantity, “despite the pressure on us to reduce costs,” no matter what other firms (read: Igbay Ourfay) are doing.

A Bizarre Market [CEO Insights]