Now what?

Now That The Cloud Is Mainstream, Where Do Hipster Accountants Go From Here?

Five years ago, hipster accountants were all over the cloud. We were working on clients’ books from coffee shops and Xero was this sketchy startup from New Zealand that no one had heard of. There were meetups and secret forums filled with the cloud elitists and, almost everyone in the scene had beards (except me, […]

Will the Foreclosure Settlement Result in Collateral Damage at the Big 4?

Earlier today, a settlement was reached between federal regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, and ten banks over foreclosure abuses. Over the past week or so, the New York Times has been reporting that a settlement was expected, imminent and today it was announced that the […]

SCOTUS Rules PCAOB Unconstitutional; Auditors’ Lives Will Continue to Suck

What does this mean (besides the fact that more than a few partners are eating their hats, shaving their heads, coming to work naked, etc.)?

The Board itself is not unconstitutional and thus will continue operating (sorry E&Y) so it’s not going anywhere. The problem is, Congress will have to get involved in order to and who knows what the brain trust will cook up.


Francine McKenna has some suggestions (including making the part 2 of the inspections public) and Matt Kelly at Compliance Week reported on May 31 that no one really knows what the hell is going to happen now:

I asked SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar how the SEC might want to resolve the issue. He said the commissioners know the problem is out there and they have “Plans A, B and C” to respond, but declined to say what any of those plans might be. I asked [Barney] Frank as well, and he essentially said his committee would work with the Senate Banking Committee to craft some legislative response, depending on exactly what the Supreme Court’s ruling says.

The Court ruled 5-4 (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito Dissent: Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg, Sotomayor)

From Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion:

The President cannot “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” if he cannot oversee the faithfulness of the officers who execute them. Here the President cannot remove an officer who enjoys more than one level of good-cause protection, even if the President determines that the officer is neglecting his duties or discharging them improperly. That judgment is instead committed to another officer, who may or may not agree with the President’s determination, and whom the President cannot remove simply because that officer disagrees with him.

And Justice Breyer’s dissent (citations omitted):

The Court holds unconstitutional a statute providing that the Securities and Exchange Commission can remove members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board from office only for cause. It argues that granting the “inferior officer[s]” on the Accounting Board “more than one level of good-cause protection . . . contravenes the President’s ‘constitutional obligation to ensure the faithful execution of the laws.’” I agree that the Accounting Board members are inferior officers. But in my view the statute does not significantly interfere with the President’s “executive Power.” It violates no separation-of-powers principle. And the Court’s contrary holding threatens to disrupt severely the fair and efficient administration of the laws.

So day-to-day auditors lives won’t change but some new wrinkles could be thrown in now that the law will have to be tweaked. So who knows what will happen! In the meantime, here’s your light reading for the day:

FreeEnterpriseFundvPCAOB

Big 4 Refugees: Where Are They Now? Are They Still Miserable?

Unless you’re completely illiterate, you’re aware that we cover lots of news on layoffs and exoduses here at GC. Layoffs seem to be more of ’08-’09 trend while this year the exodus seems to be en vogue.

That being the case, some of the people that you knew while they were in public accounting have completely disappeared never to heard from again. Those of you still at the mercy of the billable hour might assume that these refugees are loving life in their new jobs – working 40 hours a week, making far more money and seeing more than an hour or two of sunlight on a regular basis.

But do these ex-Big 4 and public accountants really have it better? One reader wonders aloud:

Something came to mind recently when talking to my ex-Big 4 friends, who were laid off in the mass curling about a year ago. Being someone who was laid off by a Big 4, I somewhat have to agree and feel the same way. That is, I have heard from so many of these friends who hate their current jobs, and considering quitting. Even more are thinking about going back to school. So I wasn’t sure if this only applied to my friends, or is a general trend among those laid-off from Big 4s.

So I thought it would be interesting in the thought of other people who were laid off by the Big 4s. Where are they now? Do they like their jobs? Or do they feel the same way? If they don’t like their current jobs, what are their intentions? And maybe even the question of whether they would consider going back to a Big 4?

Lots of questions in there, so it’s really a grab bag. Jump in on whatever applies to you – headed back a life or Ramen and frozen pizza to get at Masters or PhD? Still glad you escaped public accounting with your sanity intact? Thinking of – gasp – going back?

Firms are definitely looking for help as evidenced by the pleas by PwC and Ernst & Young to their current employees to refer everyone and their dog for possible employment, so hey, it’s an option for those that feel that the non-Big 4 grass is faux-green. Discuss.

Three Things You Need to Remember Now That You’re Promoted

Weekends worked: check. CPA passed: (hopefully) check. Blood, sweat, and tears: check, check, annnnd check.

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off – you’re a newly crowned senior associate or manager. The question is, though: are you ready?


Both promotions<into unpopular clubs. After all, it’s no secret that senior staff members are in a very difficult position. There are budgets to learn, manage, and finagle. Speaking of managing, there’s the staff below and the managers and partners above. Senior staff members may be at the crossroads of the team, but new managers are now forced to the bottom rung of the upper ladder. The track to partner is narrowing down to the final few years; if you thought things were political before being manager, you need to wake up and smell the shifty maneuvering. Here are some tips to help with your newly acquired responsibility: 1. Remember where you came from – This is very much one of those “easier said than done” situations:

Seniors: Chances are you were once a clueless intern, hungry to learn about the fascinating world of public accounting. Sure, interns are overpaid and carry a sense of entitlement – but do you remember what it was like to earn that first intern paycheck?! You bought drinks for all of your Marketing major friends the following semester. And come on – you were definitely a first year, balancing life in a new town, your first “real” job, and moody bosses as old as your parents.

Managers: Simply put, you worked for some awful managers in your day. Remember the nightmares and learn from them. Don’t. Be. One. Of. Those. Managers. Respect your staff; value your senior-in-charge. They keep the wheels turning, after all.

The point I’m trying to hit home is that it is important to remember what your subordinates are going through. This will help you better manage their expectations and mold them into a reliable and loyal workforce. Organize a happy hour or weekday evening event and learn about their interests outside of work. The more you know, the better you can manage expectations, the more your staff will respect you, and the easier your job of handholding will be.

2. Build off your mentor’s lessons – We all have mentors that we look up to. Make an effort to realize what it is about their mentorship that you admire. Embrace those traits, make them your own, and build off of them. Constant improvement should be a daily challenge; a challenge that you accept head on. Seek out feedback from your mentees and staff members. Constant improvement – make it your purpose.

3. This is what you signed up for – There’s not getting around the fact that you’re stepping into a more demanding role in the firm:

Seniors: Managers will expect you to stretch a dime of budget time into a twenty dollar bill. Clients will be up your back and first years will want to know where the bathroom is located. Fact of the matter is this role will really test your personal ambitions of a career in public accounting. But that’s the point, right?

Managers: You’ve reached a very critical plateau in the firm’s hierarchy. Question leadership and thought processes. Get involved with your firm’s committees and organizations. But above all else, set an example for your staff members to respect. People work harder for those that they respect. Earn your staff’s respect.

Daniel Braddock is a former Big 4 human resources professional and auditor. You can read more of his posts for Going Concern here.

Three Remedies for the Busy Season Hangover

Greetings, red-eyed accountants. I hope those of you who celebrated yesterday’s sign-off didn’t drink the local watering holes dry last night. The markets are closed tomorrow, so hit the town again tonight and find yourself a Wall-Streeter (or is it a midtowner now?) to shack up with!

Who am I kidding? You’re probably going to sleep like babies for the first time in months.

Regardless of how you spend your first few days of re-born freedom, you need to be sure not to get caught up in the whirlwind slow season.


These short drops in production need to be stretched to maximum gain. Here’s are few ways to make the most of your slow hours:

Cash in that vacation time – One of the (few) perks of a public accounting gig is the incredible amount of personal time. Five to six weeks of vacay is simply unheard of in the private sector (three weeks are standard issue). So why not do something with your time? Sign up for the mass emails from travel sites and pick a random location to cash in those hotel points that have accumulated over the last three busy seasons.

One GC reader told me, “I’m going to Bermuda in a few weeks. Why? Because JetBlue had a special, I’ve never been, and I’ll be damned if I lose out of my vacation time.” FWIW, many of the airlines are running specials now for flights in the next few months. Pick a random location and get the hell out.

Recharge your batteries and your resume – Pick a Friday or Monday in the coming weeks and call in sick. Book yourself a day of relaxation; hit the spa, the golf course, or work on that rusty ‘72 Chevy taking up room in the garage. Whatever you do, keep the Blackberry on your nightstand and spend your day away from the office. After a day of mental relaxation, pick up your resume and make your time in public start working for you.

Shop around for new work – So you want to work at a hedge fund but are currently auditing depositories – what the hell are you wasting your time for? Now is the time to talk to your mentors and work with staffing to really push your accounting career in the direction of an industry that interests you. Volunteer to do clean up work on a client that is decimated by team members taking vacation. Do what you need to do to begin getting the exposure to work that is relevant to your career aspirations.

For those of you done with busy season, have a drink and enjoy your weekend, but don’t forget about your comrades with 4/15 deadlines. The end – after all – is near.

The Big “Regulation” Joke

laughing.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
In an uncharacteristic move by one of our favorite accounting professors, Prof Albrecht went off on regulation over at The Summa yesterday and personally, JDA was stoked.
The Economic and Regulatory Shadow is recommended in its entirety but here’s a juicy tidbit for you to suck on:

It is frustrating to be an accounting professor and to live in the United States of America. A mind set that triumphs the interests of corporations and auditors over those of investors is entrenched in the regulatory shadow. Consequently, any policies that might favor populist policies have little chance of success.


The federal government’s financial and economic regulatory apparatus is comprised of the Treasury Department (Treasury), the Federal Reserve (Fed), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The top positions are political appointees, but the bulk of the work is performed by career and long-term personnel. It is a lot like the situation at the State Department (State), Department of Defense (DoD), and the National Security Agency (NSA).

Know what’s really funny about Professor Albrecht’s timing? The Fed is facing this same regulatory dilemma, even if major financial bloggers missed the point over the weekend. Sure, they care about the spectre of an audit but mostly right now they don’t want the President being the one who puts regional Fed presidents in their positions. I don’t blame them for tripping on that.
So? Our dear Professor has gone out on one hell of a limb here, nearly unheard of when it comes to accounting professionals. The glossy marketing materials CPAs outnumber those who keep it real like Francine, Dennis, Skeptical CPA, and now Professor Albrecht but we’re making progress (he did always get the IFRS thing so this isn’t really all that surprising of a position).
I’m constantly thrilled to see outrage. Maybe that’s because I’m a shit-disturber but I think it is about time the industry get worked into a lather over perceived imbalances in the very regulatory system that we have to tip-toe around. All that tedious stuff you little CPAs do each and every day? It means nothing without the backbone of a regulatory system and as Professor Albrecht so astutely points out, we are sort of lacking in that department these days.
And? WTF are we supposed to do about that? Heads down and keep ticking and tying, kids, there’s not much else to do at this point.

Are Three Letters Enough for You?

Thumbnail image for BelushiCollege_CPA.jpgBack when we did our initial survey of you — our brilliant readers — we asked you to share with us the certifications that you boast behind your name.
As you well know, the mother of all certifications for accountants is the CPA. You hear about it in your college courses until graduation and the accounting firms put you under the gun to knock it out so you can make manager witho��������������������this coveted status, Adrienne gives you the latest in CPA exam fodder every week in her >75 column.
After dominating the CPA, your careers mosey along and eventually you may consider obtaining another certification. The motivation for more of the alphabet are many but most likely you’ll want to hold yourself out compared to your slacker co-workers or maybe you’re just obsessed with the notion of having as many letter combinations behind your name as possible.
Some of the more common certifications include:
Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – Implemented by the Institute of Management Accountants, the IMA states “As many as 85% of accountants today work inside organizations, where expertise in decision support, planning, and control over value-adding operations are crucial elements of operational success.”
Certified Financial Manager (CFM) – A complement to the CMA, the CFM can be obtained by taking one additional exam in addition to the portions under CMA.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) – The sexiest certification going. As long as you can keep from soiling yourself.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Among other requirements, a three part, 10-hour exam is administered three times a year for this certification.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – The Institute of Internal Auditors issues this global certification that “demonstrate their comprehensive competence and professionalism in the internal auditing field.”
Certified Information Systems Auditors (CISA) – Sponsored by the ISACA, this is another global certification for information systems, audit, control, and security professionals.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Issued by the CFA Institute. Check out the requirements here.
Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) – Issued by the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts, this certification involves a five day training program and a 40–60 hour exam.
Although the thought of studying and testing for another certification may make you nauseous, it’s worth considering if you’re looking to make yourself a smidge more noticeable than your competition counterparts. Vote in our poll and discuss any thoughts or experiences in the comments.

UK Financial Reporting Watchdog: ‘We don’t need no Big 5’

Solutions.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
Once upon a time, there were 8. And then 7. And then 6. And then 5. And now 4. I’ve thrown out the idea of a large audit failure sending one of the Big 4 tumbling but the idea has been met with resistance; and naturally so, they’ve survived this long, right?


Accountancy Age:

Stephen Haddrill, the new Financial Reporting Council chief executive, in his first interview since taking the post, said there was little chance a global challenge to the Big Four – PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG – would emerge in the near future.
“I don’t think it is achievable in the near term and the priority for us has to be that we are prepared for the worst and that is where I will put my focus,” he said.

To read the rest of Haddrill’s interview with Accountacy Age, one might be inclined to point out that the guy is only a little bit pessimistic and for good reason. The Big 4 cannot exist indefinitely as they have, deflecting fines each time they bumble a big audit. It isn’t a problem exclusive to the UK and in fact, the Big 4 might not realize it but they are fighting the battle to save American capitalism. To that end, sacrifices may be required in the name of “competition”, whether or not the Big 4 are ready to embrace the idea.
They call them the Final Four because it is widely believed that the large accounting firms cannot lose another player but what’s to stop regulators — either Internationally or here at home — from busting down the joint and shutting one down? Anyone forgotten Satyam?
The firms — clever Trevors that they are — already know regulators are on their asses and behave accordingly. Crossing their Ts and dotting their Is, it was incredibly easy for PwC to say “Satyam wasn’t our problem” here in the states just as they’d have done if it had gone down in the UK, Dubai, China… it doesn’t matter, that’s what the lawyers get paid for.
Anyone get the feeling we’ve got a problem on our hands or is that just me? “Preparing for the worst” eh? Sounds like a plan.

>75: I’ve Passed, So What About CPE Requirements?

CPE.jpgEditor’s note: This is the latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com 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.
Reader Kyle (Louisiana CPA applicant) asks:

Passed the exam in October, start working part-time (finishing useless grad school till August) in January. Do I have to start doing CPE stuff even though I won’t be a “CPA” for at least a year? Can I start doing CPE stuff now and have it count? Does taking the CFA count as CPE stuff?


As a general rule (since each state/territory makes its own CPA exam rules), CFA, CA, MBA, STFU, whatever letters you have after your name before tackling the CPA mean shit to most state boards of accountancy. However, maybe your CFA required classes that will also meet your state’s CPA exam requirements, figure it out independently of whatever other certification you have and give up the idea that you get credit for any of that.
You can see more about the Louisiana requirements here (or find your state here). I hate the word “expert” and I don’t like having to claim that I am one just because I work with this every day in CPA Review. So when in doubt, check directly with your state board or NASBA. Be patient and make a list of questions you have for them – I don’t feel sorry for you if you go into this blind and then cry to me that you had no idea you shouldn’t pay for all four parts on your NTS. All you had to do was ask and someone who knows would have told you. /endrant, I’m just suggesting to also contact the Board or NASBA.
That being said, Louisiana doesn’t specifically define “CPE” but they don’t really have to. Generally you can speak with your state’s society of CPAs to get information on accepted CPE programs in your state. Again, there are resources available to you as a CPA candidate, it’s up to you to utilize them.
Our candidate also asked about experience requirements, which Louisiana defines as the following:

At least one year of experience must be confirmed that was within the four years preceding the date of this application; involved the use of accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills; and, was supervised and verified by a licensee.

It only takes 18 months (or less) to get through the exam, you can do the math, little future CPA.
Like I said, you are encouraged to send your CPA exam questions to us but do your own homework, I’m probably hungover while writing this.

Is Low Bidding by Your Firm Going to Bite You in the A$$?

Sale.jpgBy now it’s no secret that accounting firms are getting all Wal-Mart with their bids/fees in order to drum up desperately needed new business and keeping current clients happy.
Offering or renegotiating lower fees, while an excellent “client service” tool, can cause all kinds of problems with staffing and the feasibility of engagements.


If you’re working on a small engagement with a tight budget, things could tricky (read: impossible) to reconcile mandatory hour work weeks to the budgeted time on your engagements.
One reader is curious as to the repercussions of all this:

[They are] low bidding jobs, taking audit clients at rates < $100/hour when average rates used to be $150 - $250/hour. Tell me they won't dump those clients when the economy turns around. Or have people eat hours on the jobs. They are desperate for work right now.

Those numbers are relative of course but it does make one wonder how this will all pan out long term. As we’ve noted, if it gets to the point to where there’s simply not enough money coming in the door, closing up shop isn’t out of the question. If you’ve got concerns, thoughts, complaints, etc. on how this latest trend will affect you and your office, discuss them in the comments.

(UPDATE) KPMG’s Letterheadgate May Require the Firm to Revisit Stationery Controls or Get Rid of the Blue Squares

kpmg_pink.gifAll right Klynveldians, we don’t know which one of you was a little generous with the letterhead but you’ve really done it.
Jeremy Blackburn, COO and President of Canopy Financial was able to raise $75 million for Canopy Financial based on bogus audit reports he provided to investors and pocketed more than $2 million for himself, according to the SEC’s complaint against Blackburn and the Company.


We’ll give the man credew the script:

Blackburn sent [Canopy CEO, Vikram] Kashyap an email dated June 30, 2009, attaching the KPMG Audit Report and the audited Canopy financial statements, with an email subject heading of “Audit Finally Complete,” and email text stating “I never wanna [sic] go through this again!!”

Kashyap apparently wasn’t in on the little secret that KPMG was not engaged to audit squat for Canopy. Nice work staying on top of everything, Vik. Meanwhile, Canopy’s investment bank, Financial Technology Partners, didn’t need an email telling them the audit was hell. They just ran to VCs with the notion that everything was on the up and up.
The bank is all bent out of shape because they’re taking heat and claim ‘We clearly had no clue about any such wrongdoing.’ Who wants to bother with the auditors? As Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch notes, “A 10 second phone call could have cleared this up before investors plowed $85 million into the company.”
The whole thing finally went south when Canopy’s new general counsel contacted an acquaintance at KPMG to help him find a new CFO. Canopy’s general counsel then sent over the “audit report.”

KPMG quickly responded to Canopy and advised Canopy in a “Cease-and-Desist Demand” letter dated November 3, 2009, that Canopy used KPMG’s name without KPMG’s authorization and consent. Further, KPMG told Canopy that it: (1) had never been retained nor agreed to audit any of Canopy’s financial statements; and (2) did not issue the audit opinion dated June 29, 2009. KPMG demanded, among other things, that Canopy “immediately CEASE AND DESIST from using the subject report and/or the unauthorized use of the KPMG name….”

It’s seems obvious that KPMG did nothing wrong here but this is still a big bowl of awkward. The firm’s name is all over the complaint and who knows how many other companies are running around with the firm’s letterhead throwing their “audited” financials around.
As we’ve indicated, this may call for a completely new look for KPMG. That means no more blue squares. We realize that’s a horrifying thought but the whole firm may be compromised. If you’ve got suggestions for the look (other than pink) or any thoughts on this snafu, discuss in the comments.
UPDATE: A tiny clarification/correction here: The original post over at Tech Crunch states, “Multiple sources have told us that Canopy was absolutely making up their financial statements, even forging audited statements with fake KMPG [sic] letterhead.” One could get the impression from our post here that genuine KPMG letterhead was used. That does not seem to be the case. The SEC’s complaint states that the audit report was “falsified” or “forged” without mentioning the authenticity of letterhead.
Nevertheless, we still stand by our conclusion that the Firm has no choice to either revisit stationery controls (since it’s obvious you can’t just get the shit anywhere) or change the entire logo as a precautionary measure. Similarly, we will continue to address this particular scandal as “Letterheadgate” to best follow the tradition of any scandal happening in the post-Nixon era to be suffixed with “gate”. We’re done here.
Canopy Complaint.pdf
Canopy Financial Turns Into Sad, Comical Game Of Hot Potato [Tech Crunch]
Earlier: KPMG Will be Stingy with the Letterhead From Now On