Published on: 18 Apr 2017
Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.
You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.
(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or
(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?
Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).
The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.
A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.
The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.
We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.
Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.
The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.
The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.
In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.
38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.
Published on: 14 Feb 2017
Do you know anyone who works in tax?
If by any chance you are in Australia then if I ask you this question in 5 years’ time, as a result of Ailira the answer may well be “no, as no-one works in tax”.
“Who is Ailira?” I hear you say.
Ailira is the brainchild of Adelaide based tax lawyer Adrian Cartland and stands for “Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Resource Assistant”.
Mr Cartland created Ailira to help people with their tax affairs and believes that she could eventually replace human tax agents.
He told the Australian Business Review that “Your tax agents will probably be gone within five years”.
What was interesting was that although to a certain extent Ailira functions like a search engine, you can ask it tax questions in the same way that you would ask a person who works in tax.
Mr Cartland said that “The one thing we had difficulty with is that people are so used to doing keyword searches that they struggle to ask a question as you would to another human.
“So we did some upgrades of Ailira’s interface to encourage people to treat Ailira like a human, more in plain English.”
That’s an interesting phase “plain English” as anyone who has worked in tax or studied tax will appreciate that it’s not always possible to explain tax in plain English as the tax laws can be pretty complex.
Still, good luck to Mr Cartland and importantly, good luck to Ailira who by the sound of things may well be doing a lot of work in the future.
Published on: 03 Feb 2017
Does your weight affect the amount of money you earn?
That’s an interesting question and researchers from the universities of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Potsdam in Germany have come up with a potential answer.
They analysed data from nearly 15,000 working men and found that men within that the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) health range earnt more than those who were outside of the range.
Individuals who were underweight on the body mass index were found to earn 8% less than those who were in the top end of the healthy bracket. They found that the effect was more prominent in manual jobs where no doubt the extra strength of the guys in the healthy weight bracket helped increase their earnings.
What was perhaps surprising though was that there was also a difference in earnings in white-collar office jobs. They found that in the more middle-class occupations the rewards peaked at a BMI of around 21.
It wasn’t just men who were impacted though. The study also looked at the weight and earnings of 15,000 German women and found that the slimmest earnt the most and the obese the least.
Jonny Gifford, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was quoted in the press as saying “it is depressing that, in this day and age, looks are in any way a factor in how much people are paid”.
I have to agree with him as organisations should employ people on the basis of their abilities as opposed to how heavy they weigh.
Anyway, best dash as I’ve got a packet of biscuits to finish…
Published on: 01 Dec 2016
“Don’t worry, it’s secured with cheese” isn’t the most common phrase you hear when discussing the bond markets but a €6 million bond issue may well change that.
When a company issues a bond, the investor is lending money to that company in exchange for the bond. When the bond matures the company will repay the money that was lent (together with interest).
If you put yourself in the shoes of the investor, then what type of company would you invest in?
The chances are that you would be looking for large, well established and financially secure companies to invest in. That means that smaller companies generally find it challenging to raise funds via bonds.
An Italian cheese manufacturer has found a novel way around this problem.
4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia is a relatively small Modena based cooperative firm which produces 75,000 wheels of Parmigiano cheese annually (nearly 2% of the world production of the famous cheese). It has issued a €6 million bond offering an annual yield of 5% with the capital being repaid in 5 annual amounts starting in 2018 and ending in 2022. The funds raised will be used to support their commercial expansion plans.
The interesting thing about the bond issue though is that it is secured by Parmigiano cheese worth 120% of the bond value. This means that if the company fails to repay the money the investors can get Parmigiano cheese from the company.
€7.2 million worth of cheese – that’s a lot of cheese! Let’s hope the bond matures nicely without any problems.
Published on: 08 Nov 2016
Are you lazy? Do you know anyone who is lazy?
Whilst a lot of you won’t admit to being lazy (and I’m sure most of you aren’t in fact lazy!), some of you will know somebody who you feel is lazy.
Is it such a bad thing to be lazy though?
Perhaps not, as according to a study by scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University laziness could correlate with high intelligence.
The study found that people with a high IQ rarely got bored. As a result, they spent more time lost in thought. On the other hand, the study suggested that less intelligent people were more likely to be prone to boredom and consequently were more likely to do more physical activity.
The researchers worked with 2 types of students. The first group expressed a strong desire to think a lot whilst the second group were keen to avoid doing things which were mentally taxing.
The participants were then fitted with fitness trackers which monitored how much they exercised over a 7 day period. The study found that people who thought a lot were much less active than those individuals who avoided high-level thinking. Interestingly, this discrepancy in levels of activity only happened during the week and there was no difference during the weekend.
Before any of the lazy people out there start claiming that they are more intelligent, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the test was small and further tests will be needed to prove the correlation.
Published on: 08 Oct 2016
How much do the Louis Vuitton handbags cost?
A lot is the simple answer but some recent research by Deloitte’s has shown that the price of luxury items varies significantly around the world and foreign exchange movements play a big part in that valuation.
According to Deloitte, in US dollar terms London is now the “cheapest” city to buy designer and luxury goods.
Since the Brexit vote in June, at the time of writing the pound has fallen by more than 17% against the dollar (i.e. you need 17% more pounds now to buy the same amount of dollars you would have received back in June).
According to the research, on 7 October a Speedy 30 handbag from Louis Vuitton costs £645 ($802) in London, €760 ($850) in Paris and $970 in New York. China was the most expensive place to buy it with the handbag costing 7,450 Yuan ($1,115).
Nick Pope, fashion and luxury lead at Deloitte, told the BBC that “the trend in luxury pricing in the UK is being driven mainly by the depression on the sterling – thus making the same item more affordable in the UK than in any other luxury market”.
Of course, if your income is in British pounds then the cost to buy the handbag in London remains the same. If however your income is in another currency such as US dollars then it is $313 cheaper to buy in London than in China for example. If you are stocking up on your luxury handbags should you be planning a trip to the UK?
It’s not just the ladies from outside the UK who are buying luxury handbags who could be benefiting from the exchange rate movement.
Any male readers may be interested to know that a Brunello Cucinelli cashmere V-neck sweater now “only” costs £650 ($843) in the UK compared with $942 in France and $995 in the US.
$843 for a sweater?
Please form an orderly queue as you rush to the shops to buy one. Or maybe two…
Published on: 26 Aug 2016
Greece has had a bad time of it over the last couple of years in terms of their finances but a recent announcement by their Finance Ministry may result in animals coming to the rescue.
When I say animals, I should be more specific and say that dogs will be helping out and not just any dogs but dogs who can sniff out money.
Let me explain a bit.
It’s been well documented that Greece has had a few financial problems. There were fears that they would crash out of the euro. Capital controls followed and there was a new international bailout for the country.
As a result, a lot of the Greek population perhaps understandably didn’t feel that confident in trusting the banks to look after their cash and a significant amount of money is being held outside of banks.
From November 2014 to July 2015 over 50 billion euros was withdrawn from the banks and It’s been estimated that between 15 to 20 billion euros is still being held by Greeks outside of the banking system.
That’s a lot of mattresses to be storing cash under and people are looking at avoiding capital controls and instead take the money out of the country without the authorities knowing.
Taking a suitcase of cash out of the country is seen as a safe option for a lot of people.
So, where do the dogs come in?
Well, a recent posting on a government website said that a team would be put together to assess tenders for the provision of dogs whose job is to detect cash. The dogs would be in place to sniff out significant amounts of cash being taken out of the country at border points.
Given all the money problems in Greece, one big advantage of this plan is that the dogs won’t be paid in cash. Instead, they will be more than happy to be rewarded with a biscuit or two…
Published on: 05 Aug 2016
Picture the scene. You’ve got an important business lunch coming up. You want to make a good impression on the person you are meeting with. What should you eat for lunch?
A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology has some interesting findings which indicate that if you have an important business lunch, there are various benefits to ordering the same food as the person you are trying to impress.
Scientists from the University of Chicago studied nearly 500 people to identify whether eating the same food helped them agree in negotiations.
The researcher’s conclusion was that people who are served the same food are more likely to trust each other, smooth out problems and make deals.
As part of the study, participants in the research were told to imagine they were “investors” who had to decide whether to invest in funds operated by their “fund manager” eating partners. The researchers found that those people who were served similar food invested more money.
Another interesting finding in the study was the link between food consumption and the effectiveness of advertising. The authors said that “consumers are more trusting of information about non-food products – e.g. a software product – when the advertiser in the product testimonial eats similar food to them”.
Back to the business lunch though and although the research found that there are benefits to ordering the same food as the person you are trying to impress, I’m not sure that if you’re wearing a nice clean white shirt to the lunch meeting you should necessarily follow the other person in ordering that “tricky to eat tidily spaghetti with the sloppy tomato sauce”…
Published on: 01 Jun 2016
Everyone seems to be on their smartphone or tablet at the moment. After all, when was the last time you read a book? Or let me ask you a slightly different question, when was the last time you coloured in a colouring book?
“Coloured in a colouring book!? I’m not a child”, I hear you say but whilst most people will come to the conclusion that the last time they coloured in a colouring book was when they were a young child, things may be changing.
One of the latest crazes doing the rounds in the UK at the moment is adult colouring books where grown men and women are buying adult colouring books to colour in. A quick Google search of “adult colouring books” will reveal the vast variety of such type of books (as an aside make sure you include the word “colouring” when searching for adult colouring books otherwise you may get an unexpected search result).
It’s been reported that more than 3 million adult colouring books were sold in the UK last year which represented over £20 million worth of revenue for the publishing industry.
Now, whilst certain trendy people may well be rushing to buy colouring books, the tax authorities in the UK are also getting interested in the trend.
The reason behind the tax authorities interest is that colouring books are currently treated as children’s books and as such are zero rated for VAT purposes (in other words VAT is not charged on the books).
The tax authorities are currently in talks with publishers about plans to classify adult colouring books as uncompleted books which would then make them liable to VAT at 20% in the same way that diaries and notepads are.
The net result is that if the tax authorities do reclassify the adult colouring books then either the books will become 20% more expensive for the individual purchasers or if they remain at the same published price, the publishers will have to take the hit.
More expensive adult colouring books? It’s enough to make you throw your toys out of the cot.
Published on: 22 May 2016
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has just published its audit quality inspection reports for the 6 largest auditing companies in the UK. The job of the FRC’s Audit Quality Review (AQR) team is to monitor the quality of the audit work of those UK audit firms that audit public interest and large entities.
The AQR team have been busy over the last year and have now released lengthy reports for BDO, Deloitte, EY, Grant Thornton, KPMG and PwC.
Overall, the quality of the audits has improved during the last year with the number of audits that required “significant improvements” dropping from 10 to 2 for the Big 4. There were no audits that required significant improvements at BDO or Grant Thornton.
Unfortunately for KPMG though, they were the company that undertook the two audits that were highlighted by the FRC as needing significant improvements.
The FRC reviewed 22 KPMG audits and out of those there were 2 that required significant improvements.
The first one involved a change of systems and a 3rd party IT provider. The FRC identified that the KPMG audit team did not “design and perform procedures to obtain sufficient audit evidence in response to the migration risk”.
In the second audit where there were problems the FRC highlighted that insufficient audit work had been performed in relation to revenue and inventory.
Details of the scope of the reviews can be found here and are the full reports on the individual companies are on the following links: