September 17, 2019

UBS

In Case You Missed It: IRS Whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld Is Fully Aware of His Awesomeness

If you've ever met a whistleblower, or heard one give a speech, you never get the sense that they're too caught up in their 15 minutes, marching around to the beat of their kick ass do-gooderness. Typically, it's more of a matter-of-fact story and less a reflection on the heroic moments that turned an ordinary […]

Bonus Watch ’12: IRS Whistleblowers

Don't expect this to be the standard result for any future snitches on corporate tax evaders, but the IRS did make good for at least one informant: The Internal Revenue Service awarded tax whistleblower and former UBS AG banker Bradley Birkenfeld $104 million for providing the agency with insider information in UBS's illegal encouragement of […]

DOJ Curious to Know if Credit Suisse Pulled a UBS

That is, helped American clients stash money offshore.

Credit Suisse said Friday it had been notified that it was the object of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice, citing “a broader industry inquiry.” The Swiss bank said that it had previously received subpoenas and other information requests from the Justice Department and other government agencies regarding cross-border services that its private banking arm provided to American clients.

As you may recall, the situation for UBS didn’t turn out so well and they sorta went back on that whole “secrecy” thing. Unfortch for Credit Suisse, they’ll probably have to snitch too:

On Friday, a court in Lausanne upheld the Swiss government decision to force UBS to hand over client data, citing “virtually uncontrollable economic repercussions for Switzerland” if it had not done so. That decision implies that Credit Suisse, too, may be ordered to surrender information about customers’ accounts to American authorities.

Credit Suisse Discloses U.S. Inquiry Into Private Banking [DealBook]
Earlier: DOJ: You Bet Your A$$ We’re Going After More Offshore Tax Evaders

IRS Commish: Gird Your Loins, Offshore Bank Havens

Yesterday we mentioned that the IRS’s new Global High Wealth Industry Group was putting the screws to the rich via “Audits from Hell.” Today, the Service announced that they were withdrawing the federal court summons against UBS since the Swiss Bank provide 4,000 more names of American clients who had parked funds offshore.

With the announcement, IRS Commish Doug Shulman put those 4k lucky ducks on notice that they should prepare for their personal audit inferno:

The IRS on Tuesday withdrew its Miami federal court summons seeking identities of suspected U.S. tax dodgers at UBS after receiving more than 4,000 names as required under an August 2009 agreement that also included the Swiss government. Each of those people expect what Shulman called a “full-blown audit” and many are likely to be charged criminally.

But that’s not all! Clearly, not satisfied with the example made of UBS, the Commish made a promise to everyone that the Service’s offshore bank raids were just getting started.

This is the close of what I call the first chapter,” IRS chief Doug Shulman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “We are actively pursuing a number of other banks and promoters and advisers.”

Shulman declined to get into specifics about ongoing offshore tax investigations, but said: “It’s not just about Switzerland, this is about multiple countries and multiple institutions.”

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Drops Civil Suit Against UBS; PwC’s Diamond Deal; Roni Deutch Is Disappointed in Jerry Brown | 08.27.10

I.R.S. to Drop Suit Against UBS Over Tax Havens [DealBook]
UBS is finally dropping those 4,450 names it owes the IRS and skates past the civil charges.

3PAR Accepts Revised Dell Takeover Bid [WSJ]
“3PAR Inc. on Friday accepted an increased, $1.8 billion takeover offer from Dell Inc., a day after Hewlett-Packard Co. raised its offer in a bidding war for the data-storage company.

Dell’s revised offer matches H-P’s Thursday bid of $27 a share for 3PAR, whose software helps companies manage and store data more efficiently.

The fight over 3PAR illustrates how important it has become for tech companies to dominate the emerging technology known as cloud computing, in which data are managed and accessed over the Internet. Dell and H-P both sell storage products and see 3PAR’s assets as important additions to their portfolios as large technology companies seek to serve all the needs of corporate-technology departments.”

When Litigation Kills the Accounting Profession-Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned! [FEI Blog]
Jim Peterson of Re:Balane guest posted over at FEI Blog where he discussed his speciality – risk surrounding the Big 4.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Trying To Buy Consulting Revenue Again With Diamond Deal [Re:The Auditors]
Francine McKenna discusses PwC’s recently announced purchase of Diamond Management & Technology including whether some of Diamond’s consultants bailed early to avoid becoming a cog in the another public accounting firm, “Did some of the employees bail out before they were signed on as sterile strategists for an ineffective firm struggling under the weight of consulting ‘leadership’ with audit-shaped heads? I know for sure that there were significant groups of BearingPoint consultants that would have rather masticated glass shards than work for a public accounting firm again.”


Official Statement [Roni Deutch: The Tax Lady Blog]
Roni Deutch says Jerry Brown, California’s Attorney General-cum-Democratic nominee for Governor, is playing election year politics. Seems plausible.

Finance Execs React to Herz’s Retirement [CFO]
No one is panicking.

SEC vows more actions over crisis [FT]
The FT is finally getting to the story about the SEC bringing more actions, changing the culture with new teams, yada, yada, yada. Except not everyone is buying it, “[S]everal judges have questioned the SEC’s deals with Citigroup and Bank of America, and some plaintiffs’ lawyers believe the regulator has been too soft.

‘There’s no real difference now to what it was like before Mary Schapiro became chairman,’ said Jacob Zamansky, a lawyer for investors and longtime SEC critic.”

Boeing Postpones Dreamliner Delivery Until 2011 [WSJ]
You’ll have to come up with a different Christmas gift for the boss this year.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Clients Have ‘Mere Hours’ to Come Clean; Dixon Hughes Sued for ‘Comfort Report’; “Big 4 Only” Bank Covenants – Revealed! | 06.18.10

UBS Customers May Have `Mere Hours’ to Report to IRS [Bloomberg]
Since the Swiss Parliament were finally able to give the OK on the agreement to disclose UBS client names to the U.S., it’s only a matter of time until the IRS starts kicking down doors in the middle of the night.

“For UBS account holders, they have mere hours to run to the IRS and hope they can disclose the account before the Swiss hand the data over,” said Asher Rubinstein, a partner at Rubinstein & Rubinstein LLP in New York who said he’s been “getting panicked calls all week.”

The lesson to be learned here, it appears, is that he IRS on a bluff, you are likely to be wrong, wrong, wrong. Doug Shulman doesn’t like to be take for a fool, “We will immediately follow up on the information we receive from the Swiss and we will vigorously enforce the laws against those who have attempted to evade their tax responsibilities by hiding their assets offshore.”


KPMG chief calls for audit reform [Accountancy Age]
John Griffith-Jones, who wishes everyone would get comfortable with the idea of the Big 4, does admit that the question about the purpose of audit is a legit one that should not be ignored, “What is the point, they and others ask, of doing extensive and increasingly elaborate audits of the financial accounts of our banks, when audits failed to identify the huge and systemic risks which led to the near collapse of the Global banking system in the Autumn of 2008?”

Campbell Recalls SpaghettiOs [WSJ]
UH OH…

600 Parish investors sue accounting firm [Charleston Post Courier]
Dixon Hughes is being sued by 600 investors of convicted mini-Madoff Al Parish for their “Comfort Report.” “The lawsuit alleges that the firm claimed to compile the report from brokerage statements, when it received statements generated only by Parish that ‘summarized imaginary account balances.’ ” Oops.

Oh, You Mean Like the Same Fed Audits We Already Have? Way to Go, Congress! [JDA]
“As any accountant will tell you, we perform audits each year to ensure the comparability of financial statements for the sake of investors. Since there is no comparing Fed statements and there are no investors (excluding the banks with mandated stock holdings in the Fed banks they are regulated by), basically all we’re doing is jerking off with our left hands pretending it is someone else doing the jerking.”

Firing squad execution sobering, but dramatic [AP]
And who doesn’t like drama?

Restrictive bank covenants keep the Big Four on top [Accountancy Age]
“Big 4 only covenants” in lending agreements are blackballing smaller firms according to BDO International CEO Jeremy Newman and others. Nonsense, you say? AA presented an example:

Buried in the 81-page credit agreement for US-based healthcare provider Amedisys is a 22-word stipulation that highlights a problem some fear is threatening the stability of the global economic system.

“Audited consolidated balance sheets of the group members… [must be] reported on by and accompanied by an unqualified report from a Big Four accounting firm,” the phrase reads.

There’s no telling how many loan agreements have this exact language but “Big Four” is often replaced by “reputable” so it’s not if the “Big 4 covenant” is cooked right into the template. That being said, AA reports that the Big 4 + GT and BDO admitted last month that the covenants do exist in the UK.

Strangely enough, Amedisys is currently in the cross-hairs of Crooked CFO-turned-Forensic sleuth Sam Antar.

CFOs on vacation: Fewer call office [San Francisco Business Times]
God forbid.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Set to Release More Names as Standoff Ends; SEC Drops Cassano Inquiry; Levin, McCain Want Stock Option Gap Closed | 06.17.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After a short standoff in Swiss parliament, Swiss lawmakers approved the agreement with the U.S. to turn over the remaining names of UBS clients, per the agreement between the two countries. The lower house dropped the referendum proposal that would have delayed the release of the names and likely caused UBS to miss the August deadline which would have resulted in new charges against the Swiss behemoth.

The Journal reports that a Swiss government is prepared to release an additional 1,200 names following the initial 500 released last year.

Lawmakers Weigh Changes tostor Protections [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Congress is kicking around the possibility of an office within the SEC to respond to whistleblower complaints. Brilliant!


McGladrey Mourns the Loss of Former Partner Ray Krause
Mr Krause passed away on Monday after 40 years of service to both McGladrey and the accounting profession. He served on many professional standard setting groups including AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council. H was memorialized by his friend and colleague Jay Hanson, McGladrey’s National Director of Accounting:

Ray died unexpectedly yesterday. He was on vacation in Orlando with his nine-year-old grandson doing what he loved—visiting Disney World.

Before his retirement six years ago, Ray spent more than 40 years with McGladrey. He practiced in a number of locations, including a long stop in the national office as national director of accounting. He retired as partner in 2004 but continued to work for the national office part-time in Rockford, Ill.

During his long career, he served in a number of professional standard setting groups, including the AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

Ray is best remembered for being the consummate professional and his easy-going style. He was very well respected in the accounting profession. Comments coming in from those that knew him include: “Ray was one of the true gentlemen of the accounting profession,” and “Ray was about as fine a human being as there is.”

He was a great mentor to many colleagues in the national office. His style of giving his complete attention to whomever he was talking to, providing understandable explanations for complex topics, probing deeply for all the facts, and his uncanny ability to help draw a conclusion with full understanding will be greatly missed. Ray could convey the message to someone that they were getting to the wrong conclusion with such delicacy that you didn’t even feel it, and felt good about the answer. He knew many of the “back stories” about how and why some of the most complex accounting standards came about, which is often important to understand what they mean.

Ray will be greatly missed by his daughter, son, four grandchildren and other family and friends. McGladrey and the accounting profession have also suffered a great loss.

Inquiry Ends on Cassano, Once of AIG [WSJ]
The SEC has dropped its investigation of Joseph Cassano, the former head of AIG’s Financial Products Unit, which means he won’t face civil charges in the unit’s role in financial crisis. The SEC is also declining to pursue charges against another AIGFP executive, Andrew Forster, who was also under scrutiny.

Senator sees big reporting gap in stock options [AP]
Senator Carl “Shitty Deal” Levin and new Snooki BFF John McCain “have proposed legislation that would require that the tax deduction for stock options not exceed the expense for options reported in financial statements.”

The two are a little rankled about the $52 billion gap between the amount of stock option expenses recognized for financial reporting purposes and the expense reported for tax purposes. Guess who’s getting the short end on that one?

Bank auditors were fully involved in developing report [FT]
John Hitchens, head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and a PwC Partner would like to dispel any notion that auditors will resist reform after taking it on the chin for the financial crisis:

As chairman of the ICAEW working group that produced the proposals, I would like to correct this impression.

Bank auditors from the six largest audit firms were fully involved in developing the report and supportive of all its recommendations, including the proposal that banks develop summary risk statements which auditors would then give comfort over.

Feel better?

U.K. Scraps FSA in Biggest Bank Overhaul Since 1997 [Bloomberg]
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will do away with the Financial Services Authority, replacing it with three new regulatory bodies and giving most of its oversight powers to the Bank of England.

Intuit Works to Restore Online Access [WSJ]
Any individuals or small businesses that use TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks have been in a world of hurt as online access has been down, down, down. “Some Intuit websites were beginning to come back online late Wednesday afternoon,” according to an Intuit spokesperson. The situation is fluid.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist from NYSE [CNN]
Meant to mention this yesterday since it was the DoD but you know how it goes. Anyway, see you another life FNM and FRE.

Accounting News Roundup: UK Launches Probe of E&Y’s Final Lehman Audit; Revolving Door at SEC Scrutinized; Swiss Upper House Rejects Referendum | 06.16.10

UK watchdog launches Lehman audit probe [Reuters]
The UK’s Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB), investigative and disciplinary body for accountants, has started an investigation into the Ernst & Young’s final audit of Lehman Brothers’ UK operations for the year ending November 30, 2007.

E&Y, completely familiar with this drill, is sticking to their guns, “Ernst & Young’s audit opinion stated that Lehman’s financial statements for that year were fairly presented in accordance with the relevant accounting standards, and we remain of that view.”


SEC ‘Revolving Door’ Under Review [WSJ]
Currently, the SEC does not have a cooling off period for former staffers that take a position with a private firm. Former staffers (i.e. lower-level employees) need only to provide a written letter disclosing the fact that they will be representing their new employer in an investigation.

The Journal reports that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) announced on Tuesday that an investigation into the practice had recently been launched by the Inspector General David Kotz, “[W]e are currently conducting an investigation of allegations very recently brought to our attention that a prominent law firm’s significant ties with the SEC, specifically, the prevalence of SEC attorneys leaving the agency to join this particular law firm, led to the SEC’s failure to take appropriate actions in a matter involving the law firm,” Mr Kotz said.

The Journal reports that law firm in question “could not be determined.”

There have been several instances of quick transitions of former Commission staffers to new representing their new firms, including the most recent example of an attorney leaving the Division of Trading and Markets for the Chicago-based high frequency trading firm Getco, LLC and an accountant from the enforcement division who represented his new employer in a nonpublic investigation.

IRS hatches new assault on ‘Survivor’ [Tax Watchdog]
Thanks reality TV gods, Richard Hatch is still in our lives. He still owes $1.7 million in taxes from 2000 and 2001.

The CAE’s real challenge – ethics, courage, and complacency [IIA/Marks on Governance]
Norman Marks responds to a commenter that believes that a Chief Audit Executive need not focus on auditing and communicating those results and risks but instead “be conscious of and responsive to management expectations,” and basically substantiate that internal audit isn’t a giant waste of money.

Mr Marks questions this notion in its entirety, “It’s fine to supplement essential assurance activities with the tangible value-adding programs…But, the assurance work has to be covered or (in my opinion) internal audit is failing to do its job. When that is a conscious decision, I have to question the ethics – and the courage – of the individuals involved.”

Swiss Upper House Rejects Call for Referendum on UBS Pact [WSJ]
The upper house in Swiss Parliament would like their counterparts in the lower house to leave their popular referendum idea wherever they found it. Presumably everyone understands that super secret Swiss banking as the world knows it is over and lower house is a little slow to catch on. They’re supposedly debating the referendum circa now.

Class Action Complaint against Amedisys uses Sarbanes-Oxley Act Corporate Governance Provisions to Battle Alleged Corporate Malfeasance [White Collar Fraud]
Amedisys got caught red-handed by the Wall St. Journal abusing the Medicare system and Sam Antar hopes that this is a sign of things to come:

The SEC rules under Sarbanes-Oxley for public company codes of ethics broadly define corporate malfeasance by senior financial officers, requires such companies to promptly report any misconduct, prohibits companies from ignoring any misconduct, and makes it relatively easy for investors to sue for misconduct.

Hopefully, more lawsuits will cite code of ethics violations by public company senior financial officers in the future.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Deal Back on Track; Allen Stanford’s Circus Causes Problems for Co-Defendants; Zynga Lands $147 Million | 06.15.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After telling U.S. and IRS to drop dead last week, the lower House of Swiss Parliament has approved the deal to turn over 4,450 names as part of UBS’ settlement involving their assistance to taxpayers in the U.S. evade their obligations through offshore accounts.

There’s one small problem remaining – the lower house wants to put the agreement to a popular referendum while the upper house in parliament is opposed to the idea. The two have until Friday to reconcile their differences, otherwise another vote will be necessary to settle the referendum issue.

The problem with the referendum is that it could take months for happen and it could cause the Swiss to miss the August deadline that it agreed to. This could lead to fresh charges against UBS and further extending a story that pretty much everyone has grown tired of.


Stanford’s Co-Defendants Try to Flee the ‘Circus’ [DealBook]
Stanford’s Chief Investment Officer, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller are all attempting to sever themselves from Al’s proceedings because he’s an absolute drama whore.

Former CIO Laura Pendergest-Holt’s motion to have her trial severed describes RAS’ conduct as ‘egregious and circus-like conduct,’ using the term “circus” at least eight times.

So while a circus is infinitely fun for the rest of us, it doesn’t really do co-conspirators any good when they are trying to get a fair trial.

Dealing With a Toxic Resumé [FINS]
How can you move past a job with a tax company like Stanford, Countrywide, Bear Stearns et al.? You might just want to GIVE UP (and that could be advisable if you were a perp) but there are some things you can do to wash away that taint on your resumé.

For starters don’t bad mouth the old company, even though they probably deserve it. Secondly, you might attach an addendum to your resumé in order to explain the whole sitch and you can always turn the situation into a positive by explaining how you’ve learned from working at such a lousy company.

Keep your chin up, you’ll be back to being a white collar working stiff in no time.

Duke boy dodges tax hazard [Tax Watchdog]
John Schneider, aka Bo Duke, and his wife owe California about $28,000 in back taxes. Turns out his old accountant left him ‘high and dry’ so he’s working it out with Arnie.

Zynga Receives $147 Million Investment From Japan’s Softbank [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Memo to Farmville Haters: it’s here to stay and there will be more to come.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Deal Hits a Snag; More Clifton Gunderson M&A Activity; Governance Prep Is Big Hurdle for Companies Going Public | 06.08.10

Primaries to Watch From Coast to Coast [WSJ]
There are eleven states that have primaries going on out there today so get out there and pull the lever for someone.

Swiss-US deal on UBS delayed by lower house snub [Reuters]
UBS still owes the IRS 4,450 names of clients as part of the deal that the U.S. reached with Switzerland re: tax evaders with UBS accounts. Small problem – the deal is hung up in Switzerland’s parliament, after the lower house of Switzerland’s parliament rejected it.

Why is this political jockeying even happening? Since the name naming is a big no-no in Swiss secrecy law, the parliamentary approval became necessary after a Swiss court blocked the transfer of the information in January. The names for retracted smackdown has an August deadline but if it is not met, the Swiss risk the the launch of a new tax case against UBS by the United States.


Clifton Gunderson Merges With St. Louis’ Humes & Barrington [Clifton Gunderson]
Clifton Gunderson has obtained St. Louis-based Humes & Barrington, in an deal effective June 1. The H&B staff of 53 will join the 7 partners in adding to the 1,900 professionals at CG. This acquisition was in addition to the purchase of Stockton Bates that we mentioned last week as well as the purchase of BKD’s Merrillville, IL location.

Corporate Governance is Top Challenge for Companies Considering an IPO, KPMG Survey Series Finds [KPMG PR]
Improving governance is biggest challenge as 64% of the companies surveyed looking to make a public offering listed it as a top challenge along with developing a robust business plan (40%) and preparation of financial track record (36%).

Jefferson Wells aligns with Baker Tilly Mexico [Milwaukee Business Journal]
Milwaukee-based Jefferson Wells has aligned with Baker Tilly Mexico to expand its operations in that country and the the Central America region. This marks the fifth expansion for JW in twelve months and is the first into Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Accounting News Roundup: KPMG Considering Credit Rating Business (Not Seriously Though); You Can Stop Worrying About SaaS Security; Brief Tax Stories Are Possible | 05.17.10

KPMG and PwC eye rating move [FT]
KPMG has casually kicked around the idea of getting into the rating agency business according to the FT who quotes John Griffith Jones, the firm’s UK Chair, as saying the firm was “‘passively considering it” and that “it is something that we talk about as a plausible thing to do. It is effectively something we would be proficient at doing.”

The FT also seems to think that the PwC is toying with the idea although it’s even more tepid than KPMG, “Richard Sexton, UK head of assurance at PwC, said it continually looked for areas to grow its business from its ‘core skills that include assurance, opinions and underpinning public trust.'”


And yes, the skeptics are duly noted, as Jones said, “We are aware that people think we have conflicts of interest already. It probably makes it impractical. But if the world wanted another strong ratings player, there you are. Maybe the debate could be started off.”

In other words, we’re just thinking out loud.

Can we please get over the security issue? [AccMan]
As we’ve been touching on SaaS recently, some of you may be wondering about the issue of security. This issue rightly irks Dennis Howlett, as he points out, “We’ve had online banking for years. We have numerous other online services such as GMail. Does anyone think twice about using those?”

Further, would a company that was providing SaaS – whether for accounting, CRM, or ERP, payroll whatevs – that was having security issues really have a business? “SaaS accounting HAS to be secure. Why? Almost all services currently on offer are on a pay as you go basis. If the provider screws up then they’re dead in the water. Why would a provider be stupid enough NOT to build enterprise grade (and better) security into their platform?”

Just make sure to do you due diligence before pulling the trigger on anything. And don’t just rely on a SAS 70.

Who Knew? There’s an IFRS News Widget for Mac Users [CPA Trendlines]
For anyone that needs up to the second IFRS news on their Mac. Download here.

Hemingway and Tax [TaxProf Blog]
If you can make a tax story out of six words then you’ve got other talents (besides taxes) that need to be explored. Tax Prof put out the call for some brief tax tales. A few submissions:

“Deduct it. Fight Later. Then Settle.”
“Let’s do a delayed three-way.”
“I work. I file. I pay.”

Swiss banker turned whistleblower ended up with a prison sentence [WaPo]
Whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld handed UBS to the DOJ and all he got was a nice 40 month prison sentence out of it.

Accounting News Roundup: Dissecting Overstock.com’s Q1 Earnings; The “Audit the Fed” Drum Still Has a Beat; AMT Patchwork Continues | 05.05.10

Can Investors Rely on Overstock.com’s Reported Q1 2010 Numbers? [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is skeptical (an understatement at best), that Overstock.com’s recently filed first quarter 10-Q is reliable and he starts off by citing their own words (his emphasis):

“As of March 31, 2010, we had not remediated the material weaknesses.”


Material weaknesses notwithstanding, Sam is a little conpany’s first quarter $3.72 million profit that, Sam writes, “was helped in large part by a $3.1 million reduction in its estimated allowance for returns or sales returns reserves when compared to Q1 2009.”

Furthermore, several one-time items helped the company swing from a net loss of nearly $4 million in Q1 of ’09, including nearly $2 million in extinguishment of debt and reduction in legal expenses due to a settlement. All this (and much more) gets Sam to conclude that OSTK’s Q1 earnings are “highly suspect.”

UBS Dividend in Next 2-3 Years ‘Symbolic’: CFO [CNBC]
UBS has fallen on hard times. The IRS, Bradley Birkenfeld, a Toblerone shortage and increased regulation and liquidity requirements have all made life for the Mother of Swiss Banks difficult and CFO John Ryan told CNBC that could hurt their ability to pay their usual robust dividend, “They (capital regulations) are essentially rigorous to the extent that it is unlikely we’ll be able to pay anything other than a very symbolic dividend over the next two or three years,” Cryan said.

While that is a bummer but a “symbolic” dividend is still an improvement over “we’ve recently been informed that the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department will be demanding that we turn over the names of our U.S. clients.”

Effort to expand audits of Fed picks up steam in Senate [WaPo]
Going after the Fed makes for good political theatre (*ahem* Ron Paul) and rhetoric to fire up the torches of the populist masses. The “Audit the Fed” drum continues to be beaten by the likes of Rep. Paul (R-TX) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to much success and Sanders is quoted in the Washington Post as saying “We’re going to get a vote.” Pols want to crack open the books at the Fed to find out what the ugliest of the ugly is inside our Central Bank.

Ben Bernanke isn’t hot on the idea because letting the GAO sniff around may expose the Fed to short-term political pressures. For once AG – not a fan of the Beard per se – sides with BSB. As she said last fall:

It’s right there in the footnotes – pulling out the closest Fed annual report I’ve got (Richmond Fed 2007), both Deloitte and PwC agree that the Fed is a special case in Note 3: Significant Accounting Policies:

“Accounting principles for entities with unique powers and responsibilities of the nation’s central bank have not been formulated by accounting standard-setting bodies.”

The note goes on to explain why government securities held by the Fed are presented at amortized cost instead of GAAP’s fair value presentation because “amortized cost more appropriately reflects the Bank’s securities holdings given the System’s unique responsibility to conduct monetary policy.” Right there, you can see why auditing this thing might be a problem.

This might be one of those “careful what you wish for” scenarios.

Why We’re Going to Keep Patching the AMT—And Why It Will Cost So Much [Tax Vox]
The Alternative Minimum Tax has been a unmitigated failure in the eyes of many tax wonks. Congress has been talking reform in this area for some time and yet, the AMT remains largely unchanged, relying on temporary fixes that could eventually turn into a disaster:

Last year, about 4 million households were hit by the tax, which requires unsuspecting taxpayers to redo their returns without the benefit of many common tax deductions and personal exemptions. That would jump to 28.5 million this year, except for what’s become an annual fix to the levy, which effectively holds the number of AMT victims steady.

Here’s what happens if Washington does not continue that “temporary” adjustment. If Obama gets his wish and extends nearly all of the Bush taxes, the number of households hit by the AMT would soar to more than 53 million by the end of the decade—nearly half of all taxpayers. AMT revenues—about $33 million last year—would triple this year and reach nearly $300 billion by 2020. That is a nearly 10-fold explosion in AMT revenues.

Howard Gleckman argues that the AMT is too big of a political threat to let members of Congress let this sneak by and that the patchwork will continue but that it probably shouldn’t, “The President can assume the AMT will be patched indefinitely, but assuming won’t pay the bills. Unless he is willing to raise other taxes or cut spending to pay for this AMT fix, he’ll have to borrow more than $1 trillion to kick the can down the road for the rest of this decade.”

Accounting News Roundup: Ernst & Young Settles with HealthSouth Bondholders; SEC Accountant Tried to Access Porn 16,000 Times in a Month; The Best Accounting Rules Won’t Fix Everything | 04.23.10

UBS to Pay $217 Million to Settle HealthSouth Case [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
After the better part of a decade, Ernst & Young has finally settled with the bondholders of inpatient service provider HealthSouth. Bloomberg is reporting that the firm agreed to pay the Company’s bondholders $33.5 million after settling with shareholders last year for $109 million. HealthSouths’ investment bank, UBS settled with shareholders and bondholders for $117 million and $100 million respectively.

The $2.7 billion fraud resulted in guilty pleas from 15 executives, including five former CFOs but an acquittal of CEO Richard Scrushy. Scrushy managed to wind up in prison on bribery charges instead and is currently serving 6 years and 10 months. As is typical in these matters, both UBS and E&Y ponied up yet denied any wrongdoing.


GOP ramps up attacks on SEC over porn surfing [AP]
The official SEC porn report has been leaked and some interesting things that are new include:

• One guy had so much porn on his computer that he had to bring in CDs and DVDs to help expand the collection. He thought it wise to keep these at the office.

• “An accountant” was blocked from accessing sites 16,000 times yet still amassed a “collection of ‘very graphic’ material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter.” He refused to ” testify in his defense” and was suspended for fourteen days.

• Seventeen employees were “at a senior level” with the highest salary reported over $222k.

Darrell Issa (R-CA) is not amused by this porn bonanza, saying, “[it is] disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse,” according to the AP. Based on this response, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Issa ensnarled in a porn scandal of his own before this year’s election.

Best accounting rules are not enough [FT]
A reader responded to the epic article published by the Financial Times, raising the notion that “one set of high quality accounting standards” will not solve the world’s problems.

Those who prepare and use accounts very often have a different perspective on accounting questions from accountants as such, whether or not they have had an accounting qualification in the past…

[T]he report on Lehman explicitly did not address the question of accounting arbitrage. This was because Lehman used an accounting rule to disguise from the markets the weaknesses in the balance sheet in a way which, as the examiner reported, was invalid even if the rule itself was completely valid in all jurisdictions.

This points to the fact that the best accounting rules possible are not enough – the financial reporting chain has other links: corporate governance, auditing and regulation.

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Criticized for Fewer Large Corporate Audits; PCAOB Has No Confidence in Auditors; New York State Looks Forward to UBS Windfall | 04.12.10

IRS audits fewer corporate taxpayers: critic [Reuters]
According to a Syracuse University research group, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (“TRAC”), the IRS is doing fewer audits of large corporations, using the Service’s own data to report its conclusions. TRAC looked at “number of hours spent on cases that had been closed in any given year,” saying the the IRS has cut the audit hours of companies with $250 million+ in assets by a third.

Can the Month of March Get Worse for Ernst & Young?

Today in non-Lehman Brothers Ernst & Young news, the firm has been sued by a liquidator in Luxembourg just a few weeks after a Lux court ruled that individual investors couldn’t bring suits against UBS and E&Y. The suit seeks over $400 million in damages against the two firms. The Iriving Picard de Lux is Alain Rukavina, who filed the suit today.

BBW reports that “Rukavina is one of two liquidators who in December sued UBS and Ernst & Young over Access International Advisors LLC’s LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection Fund, which once had $1.4 billion in net assets.”


A UBS spokesperson stated that this development was not unexpected and we’re sure that E&Y isn’t yawning at this news, chalking it up to fairly typical Monday.

So in case you’ve been in a coma for the last week or so, you’re probably aware that JT and Co. haven’t had such a great March. Anyone got ideas for how they turn all these frowns upside downs? Do Canadian Tuxedos become standard dress code M – F? Does Jimbo send everyone a complimentary pair of Timberlands? An E&Y Hitler video to lighten the mood? Suggestions are welcome.

UBS, Ernst & Young Sued by Madoff-Fund Liquidators [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Luxembourg Court Ruling Nullifies Madoff Investors’ Claims Against Ernst & Young, UBS

Of course the investors are appealing but one win at at time, amiright?

The suits were filed in the fall by investors who lost millions in the LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection fund which had 95% of its fund invested with Bernie Madoff. The fund claims that it had $1.4 billion in net assets a month prior to Madoff’s arrest.


UBS acted as the custodian while E&Y was the auditor and were sued for “seriously neglecting” their supervisory duties for the fund. Investors in the fund filed more than 100 lawsuits against the two companies.

Luxembourg’s commercial court said in a ruling today concerning 10 test cases that investors can’t bring individual lawsuits for damages. The court said it’s up to the liquidators of the funds that invested with Madoff to seek the “recovery of the capital assets.”

In other words, UBS and E&Y, you’re going to get sued by Irving Picard de Luxembourg rather than 100+ pissed off individuals whose life savings went *poof*. Setting legal precedent aside, taking emotion of the equation works wonders for making an argument.

UBS, Ernst & Young Win Bid to Block Madoff Lawsuits [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Earlier:
Ernst & Young Is Thankful for Lawyers, Possibly Toblerones

UBS is Naming Names (Finally)

300px-Toblerone-1.jpgIn what probably amounts to UBS caving out of pure exhaustion from the nagging of U.S. Tax authorities, the Swiss Bank reached an agreement in which it will turn over names of wealthy clients. The Wall St. Journal is reporting that it could be between 8,000 and 10,000 names which will likely get UBS on the list at Hop Sing’s with Ned Isakoff.
More, after the jump


The whole sitch has caused many to confess their offshore banking sins and may make for more begrudgingly honest reporting of offshore accounts in the future but we hope that in hindsight, future Swiss negotiators see the wisdom of considering the undying power of the cocoa bean.
UBS Tax Lawsuit Settled by U.S., Swiss Governments [Bloomberg]
UPDATE: Read more at our sister site, Dealbreaker.

UBS and IRS Probably Have a Deal, No Toblerones Involved

300px-Toblerone-1.jpgUBS is going to name names, albeit not all of them, bringing us to ever so close to the bitter end of the whole IRS/UBS standoff.
All the gory details are expected to be released on August 10th, when hopefully everyone will kiss and make up officially.
The focus of the settlement will be around 7,000 or so accounts that are associated with offshore companies and trusts that are possibly tied to some financial shenanigans. Under the potential settlement, UBS won’t turn over any names until after September 23rd, which is the last day for offshore account holders to confess their sinful ways.
Deal Reached in UBS Tax Battle [WSJ]

Clinton to Meet Swiss Minister, Discuss Friendship, Possibly Chocolate

300px-Toblerone-1.jpgThe whole UBS/IRS tug of war has achieved a whole new level of ridiculousness because now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the Swiss Foreign Minister on July 31, just prior to the deadline settlement date of August 3rd.
We’re expecting a lovely exchange of smiling, glad-handing, back-slapping, etc. but would implore with Secretary Clinton to do the right thing and get the Swiss Minister to pony up the Toblerones.
The Swiss deserve part of this blame for not seeing the genius in this offer but our American representatives in this case have not been pushing for it, deciding instead, that our need for a reformed healthcare system should motivate our Swiss friends to turn over the 52,000 American names.
The Swiss, who no doubt laugh at our bureaucratic nightmare of a healthcare system, are instead more concerned about their sovereignty and their long tradition of client confidentiality. They have vowed not to turn over any names and this doesn’t really fit in with the IRS’s plans to get billions in back taxes on the UBS accounts, hence the need to call in the big guns.
Swiss minister to meet Clinton ahead of UBS deadline [Reuters]

UBS Names Needed so We Can Pay for Healthcare Otherwise We’ll Have to Print More Money

obama_point.jpg“Rich people, I want your money.”
No, seriously. Hand it over.
We’ve covered the failure (so far) of the IRS to get UBS to name names on 52,000 Americans and we’ve heard some good suggestions but maybe chocolate isn’t what the Service is interested in.
The House passed a pricey healthcare proposal yesterday and B to the O wanted it to be “budget neutral” which means, “We’re in a deep hole you clowns. Don’t make it deeper.”
Charged with said task, they went to a cocktail party got to work and came up with a solution that they super-duper rich will foot the bill via taxes. That means, IRS, get your shit together, because Nancy Pelosi has had enough of rich people, that aren’t her, not paying their fair share of taxes. Swiss bank account holders beware, here are the gory details that you’ll be getting in on if your name gets dropped:

Under the $1.2 trillion plan passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, the wealthiest 1.2 percent of U.S. households would have to pay an additional $540 billion in taxes over the next 10 years via an income surtax of between 1 and 5.4 percent. For the super-elite, those in the top 10th of 1 percent (and presumably the type of taxpayers who have Swiss bank accounts), that works out to an additional $280,000 a year in taxes on an average annual income of $2.3 million a year, according to the Tax Policy Center.

So basically it looks as though the IRS needs to close the tax gap because…wait for it…there’s shit to pay for! We’re not slapping healthcare on the Federal Reserve credit card, no, no. Right here and now we start paying for stuff out of our own pockets. So get on these Swiss banks and get the names because they’re avoiding their patriotic duty.
Obama’s self-defeating war on the wealthy [James Pethokoukis/Reuters]

Swiss Gov’t: You Want the Names? You’ll Have to Waterboard Us.

ubs.jpgWith only days until a showdown between the IRS and UBS, the Swiss Government has announced that it will stop the release of the 52,000 client names even if the U.S. Court orders the names to be released.
Now before you say, “Oh, Swiss Government, you’re so cute with your braided blonde hair and neutrality,” they sound pretty serious:

“Switzerland makes it perfectly clear that Swiss law prohibits UBS from complying with a possible order by the court in Miami to hand over the client information,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said. “On the basis of the Federal Council’s landmark decision, UBS will by no means be in a position to comply with such an order.” The Finance Ministry added that “all the necessary measures should be taken to prevent UBS from handing over the information on the 52,000 account holders demanded in the U.S. civil proceeding.”

We really feel that a few Toblerones would really go a long way to convincing the IRS that the names aren’t really that important. Just say the word IRS and we’re sure that they can make it happen.
Switzerland: Will Block UBS From Giving U.S. Client Data [WSJ]

UBS Closer to Getting the McCarthy Treatment

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIf you’ve got a Swiss bank account, here’s hoping you opened it because it was convenient for your monthly skiing/Toblerone getaway.
The U.S. and Swiss governments have agreed to share more tax information in order to crack down on all the tax dodgers out there that send their money offshore. The timing of this agreement is is especially diabolical because the IRS is currently trying to get Swiss bank behemoth UBS to name names of over 50,000 American clients.
Hearings in Miami are scheduled for next month to see if the names can be released, however, the Swiss have stated that this may violate Swiss law of double-secret-no-tattling-on-clients.
Ultimately, the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament will decide if the new agreement is kosh but judging by the Obama Administration’s hard-on for closing tax loopholes, they’ll probably play ball.

U.S. and Switzerland to Share More Tax Data
[DealBook/NYT]