The Supreme Court of the United States

Accounting News Roundup: Is the ‘Era of Sloppy Accounting’ Over?; Rangel Running for Reelection; Supreme Court to Hear Skilling Appeal | 03.01.10

Companies are making fewer accounting mistakes [USA Today]
“In another potential boost to investor confidence, the era of sloppy accounting appears to be ending,” declares USA Today. Okay but perfection is unattainable people, so until machines take over for you, keep at it. In the meantime, the results presented by Audit Analytics certainly indicate that things are going in the right direction.

We don’t want to be the party pooper here but if accounting is less sloppy, i.e. more sophisticated, doesn’t that mean that the methods for massaging the accounting are also more sophisticated? Just chew on that while you check the the findings.

The article lists three reasons for the improvement in reporting:

There is steady and ongoing improvement. The number of companies with restatements and the number of restatements have declined in each of the past three years.

Mistakes are getting caught sooner. Among the companies with restatements, errors covered a period of 476 days, or less than a year and a half. That’s down 7% from 2008 and well below the 716 days, or nearly two years, of problematic numbers restated in 2006.

Restatements are less serious. Restatements reduced companies’ reported earnings by $4.6 million on average last year, down dramatically from the $7.2 million and $23.5 million hits in 2008 and 2006.

Even though it’s virtually impossible to eliminate restatements, we must admit that these are encouraging trends. Another thing to keep in mind is that accounting rules are becoming increasingly complex so it’s not like things will be on cruise control from here on out.

Defiant Rep. Charles Rangel vows reelection bid despite uproar over alleged ethics violations [NYDN]
Ethics violations be damned! The 79-year-old announced over the weekend that he would be seeking reelection. It would be his 21st term in Congress, first winning election in 1970. Even if Rangs is able to do another victory dance, holding on to his Chairmanship of the Ways & Means will be a different matter entirely. PBO has already distanced himself from Chuck and some are saying that even Nancy Pelosi is getting creeped out a little too.

Skilling Asks High Court for New Trial Minus ‘Tar and Feathers’ [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The Supreme Court will consider Jeff Skilling’s appeal today in the Enron scandal that he was convicted of four years ago. Skilling’s attorneys will argue that the trial should not have been held in Houston where it would have been “impossible” to get a fair trial.

Skilling’s appeal says the atmosphere in Houston when the trial began in January 2006 was one of hostility toward him, fed by unrelenting and “searing” media coverage. The appeal points to a Houston Chronicle column titled “Your Tar and Feathers Ready? Mine Are” and a local rap song, “Drop the S Off Skilling.”

The 12 jurors reflected that antipathy, Skilling contends. During pretrial questioning, three said they were “angry,” three said they had negative feelings toward Skilling or doubted his impartiality and one said that all CEOs were “greedy,” according to his appeal.

Skilling is currently doing far worse than tar and feathers (probably NBD in this day and age), serving a 24 year sentence in a Colorado prison. If the SCOTUS rules in his favor on the “jury-bias” issue Skilling would get a new trial which open old wounds and could create a media circus (we hope).

Review Comments | 12.09.09

Tiger accenture ad.jpgTiger Woods Dilemma for Accenture – Cloud or Cancer? – There’s no dilemma from where we stand. [The Big Four Blog]
Year-end Planning: Make Sure You Have Enough Basis to Deduct Your S Corporation Losses – Despite the Biblical weather in Iowa, Joe Kristan continues with the year-end tax planning series. [Tax Update Blog]
Unleash the auditors? – We mentioned the Fed. How the hell has FASB managed to dodge the SCOTUS? [CFOZone]
Tighter controls on wireless data usage coming for iPhones and other devices, AT&T exec warns – Abuse the new toys while you can, Deloitte grasshoppers. [CT]

The PCAOB Setting a Precedent…for the Fed?

jump to conclusions.jpgFirst of all, before I go anywhere with this, I know GC already gave her a link but this recent Re: the Auditors post on, well, auditors — or rather the lack thereof — is a do-not-miss. It is especially relevant when we’re talking about the usefulness of audits, PCAOB or otherwise.
Anyway.
As many of you already know, the PCAOB is on the chopping block and bad. While we’ll have to let that one work itself out in court, the case against the PCAOB is actually an all-too-familiar argument.


The Federal Reserve System (much like the PCAOB) pulls its regional bank presidents not under direct Presidential directive but because that’s how it has always been. The President appoints a Fed Chairman of course but beyond that, Washington tries to stay as far away from the regional Fed bank structure as possible. Why? That question is a tad too complicated to answer here, so we’ll get into that another day.
The important part here is that the Fed should be closely watching the PCAOB case in the Supreme Court. If the PCAOB is brought before the people of the United States to answer for its alleged recklessness as an agency free from Presidential influence, the Fed may follow soon after.
WebCPA:

The plaintiffs argued that the PCAOB violates the separation of powers principles in the Constitution because the PCAOB’s members are appointed by the SEC and not directly by the president, and they cannot be fired except for cause. Several justices indicated some sympathy for that viewpoint in their questions.

Gee, that sounds just a little too familiar. Seeing as how two-thirds of regional Fed bank directors are chosen by the very banks those regional banks “supervise”, the Fed may have some ‘splaining to do.
So while Bernanke is out there running PR for the Fed System to keep nosy Congressmen out of their business, where is the PCAOB defensive play against SCOTUS? Don’t they have anything to say in their own defense? Apparently not if my experience is any indication.
While most of you know I am not exactly a cheerleader of the PCAOB nor the Fed, I can’t see how consolidating all of our power in Washington can be a benefit either. There is something to be said for the wacky structure of these agencies as it is a Frankenstein of influence instead of a concentrated wave of power emanating from DC.
So watch the PCAOB case closely, Ben Bernanke, it could be you next and you don’t want to have to explain why the banks you regulate pick the soldiers of your precious System.

(UPDATE) Is the PCAOB Going the Way of the Dodo?

Dodo_bird.jpgWho knows? Our separation-of-powers principles knowledge is pretty much zilch. However, the PCAOB is currently “doubly insulated from both political pressure and presidential oversight” which some – including the Plaintiff in the case, First Free Enterprise Fund – think is unconstitutional.
The case, First Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, will be argued during the new session of the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7th. Here’s the take of our sister site, ATL, last year when the possibility of the SCOTUS hearing the case first came up.
More, after the jump


We won’t rehash the whole immaculate conception of the PCAOB, as you’re all familiar with that story. First Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, however, could make things interesting: “This case has the potential to undo the SOX accounting and auditing reforms. As such, the result may impact not just the auditing profession, but also every public company as well as the users of financial statements of those companies.”
‘Undo SOX accounting and auditing reforms’? That sounds kinda serious. We won’t go so far as to suggest that you start forgetting everything that you’ve been trying to get your heads around for the past seven years, but there’s at least a possibility that the PCAOB could become extinct. That could be exciting, or it could make you completely f*cking miserable again.
New Court Term May Give Hints to Views on Regulating Business [NYT]
The Supreme Court Term – Significant Cases for Business [SEC Actions via JDA]
Supreme Court Obsessed With Business This Session [Law Review]