Who do the Big 4 want to win the US election?

It hardly seems like 4 years ago that President Barak Obama became America’s 44th president but here we are with just a few weeks to go before the next US election takes place.

Whilst there will be plenty of arguments for and against each candidate over the next couple of months I came across an interesting website which summarises the political donations made by companies in America.

The website opensecrets.org was created by the Center for Responsive Politics which tracks money in politics.

After quickly using the search function on the site it was straightforward to identify the amount of money that the Big 4 have donated to the election campaigns for President Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

The donations as at the time of writing are:

Donations made to Barack Obama / Mitt Romney by the Big 4:

Deloitte (Obama: $291,056; Romney: $286,110)

Ernst & Young (Obama: $38,350; Romney: $158,925)

KPMG (Obama: $24,498; Romney: $67,250)

PwC (Obama: $55,033; Romney: $266,650)

Total (Obama: $408,937; Romney: $778,935)

I’ll leave it up to you to perform your own analytical review on the above figures and to decide who the Big 4 appear to want to win the next US election and of course it’s probably got nothing to do with Barack Obama’s plan to increase the marginal rate of tax on high earners and Mitt Romney’s proposal to reduce taxes for high earners…

Surely all consultants can do this?

So what exactly does a consultant do? A lot of you may know somebody who is a consultant and the chances are that some of you are in fact a consultant yourself.

Now, I’m only guessing here but my feeling is that most of the consultants you know cannot do what Port of Antwerp consultant Gerrit Wellens from Belgium is capable of doing.

It just goes to show that looks can be deceiving as, without being too harsh on the consultancy profession, 48-year-old Mr Wellens has a classic look of a consultant about him. Surprisingly though he didn’t bring his briefcase with him when he appeared on the Belgian TV programme Belgium’s Got Talent.

Instead, as the video below shows he produced something which is probably not seen that often in a consultant’s office.

This stage is all yours Mr Wellens…

Should this former Deloitte accountant become a doctor?

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One of the key attributes of finance and business people should be ethical behaviour. Note that I say “should be” as not everyone seems to agree with this approach.

Former Deloitte UK employee Nahied Kabir seems to have a slightly different view of what is acceptable in terms of ethical behavior.

Here’s a quick multiple choice question for you to see how ethical you are compared to Mr. Kabir.

Question – You’re struggling a bit with your professional exams and your employer’s policy is that if you don’t pass your exam within 2 attempts you’ll lose your job. Do you:

a) Focus your efforts on passing your exams. Or,

b) Focus your efforts on forging two doctor’s certificate.

Now, in my opinion (and hopefully in your opinion as well!) the correct answer is (b) (a).

Alas for former Deloitte employee Mr. Kabir he chose option (b).

In summary, Mr. Kabir failed an exam twice and at a meeting to discuss terminating his employment contract with Deloitte he produced a forged doctor’s note.

Deloitte let him sit the exam again and he passed this time. He then had a further 3 exams to sit and you guessed it he failed all 3.

At the next meeting to discuss things with Deloitte he claimed that he failed due to the ill health of his mother. He then produced a second forged doctor’s note from another doctor claiming his mother was suffering from ill health.

Proving that as well as being a pretty rubbish accountant he was also pretty bad at forging letters, the forged letter from the second doctor was exactly the same as the forged letter from the first doctor with the exception of only 4 words!

It’s probably no surprise to you that Mr. Kabir is now no longer working with Deloitte and the accounting body he was sitting his exams with (ICAEW) have published their report on the disciplinary action they took against him.

Again, it’s probably no surprise that he was “declared unfit to become a member of ICAEW”.

There’s no news yet whether Mr. Kabir is planning a successful career as a bank note forger…

Would you prefer to read it or watch it?

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Marie Claire is one of the leading women’s magazines in the world. It was first published 75 years ago in France and now has various editions around the world.

Although I must admit that I haven’t read a copy in detail I’m told by some of the ladies in the office that it’s a good mix of fashion, beauty and health.

Next month’s issue though is going to have something which has never been seen before in a UK women’s magazine.

Now, I’m not talking about a woman’s magazine writing about the latest football results or the new Range Rover car that has just been released. No, instead I’m talking about a pretty innovative advert.

On pages 34 and 35 of next month’s magazine there will be a 45 second video advert. Yes, that’s right – a 45 second video will be embedded into the pages of the magazine so that when the relevant pages are opened the video will start to play.

Very impressive.

The video advert is produced using technology by US company Americhip and will be for a perfume by luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana and reportedly will feature two models posing near a coastal scene.

There’s a constant challenge for advertisers to identify eye catching adverts and this video advert embedded within the magazine will certainly be eye catching.

It will also no doubt be very expensive and the cost of including the video advert has not been disclosed. Interestingly the company that will be paying for the advert is Proctor & Gamble as they are the company that produces the perfume under license from Dolce & Gabbana.

Oh and before you all rush out to buy the magazine it’s worth checking that your copy includes the advert as due to cost reasons not all copies will have the advert in it. If you are lucky enough to get hold of a copy with the video in then it will no doubt be a good read or should I say a good watch.

Would you be happy if you won an Olympic medal and this happened?

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Did you know that if you win a medal at the Olympics then you will be taxed on it?

The above statement isn’t true for residents of every country but if you’re an American then unfortunately for you it’s true.

So you’ve spent years training to perfect your sport. The big Olympic day arrives and you are successful and win a medal. Surely, this is the pinnacle of any sportsman’s career?

If an American athlete is successful at the Olympics then it is also good news for the American tax authorities as under US tax laws anybody that wins an Olympic medal has to add the value of that medal to their taxable income.

This in itself raises an interesting question as to what is the “value” of an Olympic medal as I’m sure most successful Olympians consider their medal to be priceless.

According to information released by the organisation Americans for Tax Reform though “at today’s commodity prices, the value of a gold medal is about $675. A silver medal is worth about $385 while a bronze medal is worth under $5” (although personally I doubt Usain Bolt would sell his 100m gold medal for $675…).

The US Olympic committee also award cash prizes to successful medallists ($25,000 for gold, $15,000 silver and $10,000 for bronze).

Adding the value of the medal to the cash prize and then applying the 35% top rate of income tax in the US gives a tax bill per Olympic medal of:

Gold medal – $8,986
Silver medal – $5,385
Bronze medal – $3,502

As at the time of writing the US team had 34 gold, 22 silver and 25 bronze medals. This would give the US tax authorities over $500,000 of tax revenue.

So if you’re a successful American Olympic medallist then first of all many congratulations on your sporting success and secondly, don’t forget to settle your tax bill…

Is this the best advert at the Olympics?

So the Olympics are well and truly underway and whilst a lot of the athletes have been inspirational in terms of their performance there have also been some inspirational performances by businesses.

There are a number of official Olympic sponsors (for example, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, BMW and Visa). These companies have paid the Olympic authorities big amounts of money to be official sponsors.

LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) have been particularly vigilant in terms of monitoring for any unauthorised use of the Olympic name or Olympic logo by companies which are not official Olympic sponsors. For example, they have swiftly taken action against any company that has illegally used the Olympic name in advertising.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has got a reputation for, how can I put it but controversial or cheeky advertising.

A few days before the start of the Olympics, Paddy Power sponsored an egg and spoon race (a children’s race where children run whilst trying to balance an egg on a spoon).

This egg and spoon race took place in a small French town. The nice thing though was that this small French town was called London and as a result Paddy Power designed their latest poster advertising campaign with the following text:

“Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year! Ahem, London France that is).”

LOCOG instructed their lawyers to get the posters removed but Paddy Power’s lawyers successfully pointed out that they had not broken any law and the posters remained in place.

A great example of gorilla marketing and a gold medal performance by Paddy Power.

Will we ever see true global accounting rules?

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Anyone that works within the international arena of accounting will be aware of the discussions over the years about the convergence between IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and US GAAP (US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

Whilst there are similarities between the two sets of accounting rules, importantly there are also differences.

The majority of the G20 (in effect, the 20 largest economies in the world) already use IFRS but over in America they are pretty attached to the US GAAP rules.

The IASB (International Accounting Standards Board) has been working closely over the years with its US counterpart, the FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) to minimise the difference between the two sets of rules.

Following an announcement last week by the US Securities and Exchange Commission which failed to include a clear action plan about adopting international accounting rules, it looks like the IFRS supporters may be losing a bit of patience.

Michael Prada, the chairman of the trustees that oversee the IASB was critical of this lack of an action plan and was quoted as saying:

“While recognising the right of the SEC to determine the method and timing for incorporation of IFRSs in the United States, we regret that the staff report is not accompanied by a recommended action plan for the SEC. Given the achievements of the convergence programme inspired by repeated calls of the G20 for global accounting standards, a clear action plan would be welcome.

For the benefit of both US and international stakeholders, the Trustees look forward to the SEC resolving the continued uncertainty regarding the US’s commitment to global accounting standards.”

Or to put it in less diplomatic wording, “for goodness sake can you please get on with it”.

In summary it looks like there’s not going to be true global accounting standards in the immediate future.

One thing for sure though is that IFRSs seemed to be going from strength to strength. In the words of Hans Hoogervorst, the Chairman of the IASB:

“IFRSs have already achieved critical mass as international standards and with more than two thirds of the G20 now on board, the momentum behind them becoming global accounting standards is irreversible. We are confident in our mission to achieve a single set of high quality global accounting standards and we continue to work to serve investors and other users of IFRSs across the world.”

So all that hard work in learning the various IFRSs in your professional exams looks like it will be worth it.

ACCA or CIMA – who’s in the driving seat?

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ACCA and CIMA are both great professional qualifications which are respected and admired around the world. I came across a surprising fact recently though which I bet the majority of ACCA and CIMA members and students never knew.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd is one of the world’s leading car manufacturers and a couple of months ago over in Japan they launched a new car.

Quoting some of Nissan’s promotional material about the car, some of the key features include:

– Styling expressing a premium class image

– Hybrid system with optimally balanced driving and environmental performance

– Spacious and comfortable rear seats

As the picture shows it’s a handsome looking car and I’d personally be more than happy to drive it around.

What about Helen Brand (the Chief Executive of ACCA) or Charles Tilley (the Chief Executive of CIMA) though?

Do you think they would be happy to be seen driving the car?

Well, my guess is that one of them will be happier than the other as the name of the new Nissan car is none other than the Nissan Cima.

Yes, that’s right – one of the leading car manufacturers in the world has just launched the Cima car.

Nissan has not produced a car aimed at accountants in Japan but instead the Cima car name is derived from the Spanish for “summit”.

It raises an interesting question though – does this mean that there’s no need to study for your exams to become a CIMA member as all you’ll need to do is to buy a Cima car and then you can add Cima (driver) to your CV?

Oh, and one final thing but I don’t think there’s any truth to the rumours that ACCA are currently in discussions with Toyota to produce a new car called the Toyota Acca.

Tennis star’s balls fall out of his shorts…

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Adidas and Puma are two of the top sportswear brands in the world.

Interestingly though they were actually started by two brothers.

In the 1920s in Germany, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler set up a shoe making business but soon fell out with each other and went their separate ways.

Adolf (Adi) Dassler kept the original company but renamed it Adidas (named after his first name and part of his surname) whilst Rudolf left and set up Puma.

Since the split there has been intense rivalry between the two companies and over the years there have been some famous examples of both of them trying to outdo the other in terms of publicity.

For example, back in the 1970s at the start of the 1970 World Cup final, arguably the world’s best ever footballer famously stopped the referee with a last minute request to tie his shoelaces just before the kickoff. The result was that millions of TV viewers saw Pele tie up his Puma football boots.

An early example of “guerrilla marketing” and priceless publicity for Puma.

More recently there was some rather unusual publicity for Adidas.

At the recent Wimbledon tennis Championship in London, the unlucky losing finalist Andy Murray had a few problems with his shorts.

Adidas pay a significant sum to Murray to sponsor him and in return he wears Adidas tennis gear, including Adidas shorts.

In his Wimbledon match against fellow Adidas sponsored tennis player Marcos Baghdatis, he lost two points after a tennis ball fell out of his Adidas shorts mid-point (Murray puts one tennis ball in his pocket whilst taking his first serve in case he needs to take a second serve).

Luckily for Murray he went on to win his match against Baghdatis but for Adidas it could have been an embarrassing problem had he lost because of the design of their shorts.

Adidas reportedly said that the error in the depth of the pockets was due to the shorts being handmade.

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and to be honest this has probably turned out ok for Adidas.

More people are probably now aware that Adidas sponsor Murray and they will no doubt change the design of the pockets so there’s no danger of the public seeing one of Murray’s balls popping out of his shorts in the future.

Are you paid peanuts or do you get a fair salary?

How would you feel if you were doing exactly the same job as the person next to you but he or she was being paid more than you?

My guess is that you wouldn’t be feeling too happy as the principles of fairness and equality would clearly be broken.

It also raises the discussion of discrimination if one person doing the same job as another is paid less.

The video below however shows that it’s not just humans who get upset if someone else is paid more for doing the same job.

The video shows a researcher getting some Capuchin monkeys to each undertake the same job (handing the researcher a rock) but the rewards given are different. One of the monkeys gets a slice of cucumber whilst the other gets a tasty grape.

Now, how would you feel if your colleague was given a tasty grape whilst you were given the cucumber?

Well, the monkey wasn’t too happy…