Financial Accounting Blog

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Where Have All the Chief Financial Officers Gone? The New York Times has this article about CFOs who changed jobs to get away from the pressure of being a CFO.
"Every C.F.O. has been pushed at times to take something that is clearly black and white and color it a shade of gray," Mr. Goldman, 46, said. "But when the chief executive is shot at, he uses the chief financial officer as a human shield. Being a C.F.O. has become one of the riskiest jobs in America."

The push for better ethics and transparent accounting in corporate America, including the drive to pass the Sarbanes-Oxley law in 2002, has had an unexpected side effect: more finance chiefs are calling it quits.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Due Diligence. The city of Cincinnati learned a painful lesson about the improtance of due diligence. City mishandled aspects of failed theater project.
City officials also apparently did not know that when Pettus-Brown provided financial statements showing assets of '1.6 million,' the assets were listed in yen - not dollars. The amount in dollars would have been about $14,000.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Embezzlement. The Philly paper reports the story of an accountant whose gambling addiction led him to embezzle $7 million from his employer.
Prosecutors said Szagola began stealing in 1996 by drafting company checks in pencil, then erasing the vendor names and substituting his own after the checks had already been reviewed and signed by company executives. Szagola cashed more than 200 fraudulent checks over five years, prosecutors charged.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sampling. Studies show that auditors often make inappropriate conclusions from sample evidence because they fail to take into consideration sampling risk in their measures. The Economist looks at the statistics behind a recently published study that attempted to measure Iraqi deaths from the war. One of the controversial points is the wide confidence interval that results from the researchers' methodology.
Statistically, 33 is a relatively small sample (though it is the best that could be obtained by a small number of investigators in a country at war). That is the reason for the large range around the central value of 98,000, and is one reason why that figure might be wrong. (Though if this is the case, the true value is as likely to be larger than 98,000 as it is to be smaller.) It does not, however, mean, as some commentators have argued in response to this study, that figures of 8,000 or 194,000 are as likely as one of 98,000. Quite the contrary. The farther one goes from 98,000, the less likely the figure is.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Internal Controls. The WSJ recently published an article about companies' frantic efforts to get their controls sufficiently in-line to prevent receiving a failing grade from their external auditors. Some initial evidence of stock market reaction to announcements of material weaknesses is provided.Click here and go to 2nd article to read the whole thing.
Drawing on a sample of 100 companies that have disclosed internal-control problems this year, a Wall Street Journal review found that most of them saw their stock prices fall around 5% to 10% immediately afterward. That's enough to cause some spilled coffee cups, but far from catastrophic. Most were small companies, and the stocks may have been reacting to other problems.