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Comingling, Zoom Over F2F, Technical Analysis, Offshoring, and Cryptocurrency-The Next Audit Fiasco?

Bloomberg Businessweek December 6, 2021 pp14-15 |REMARKS|”The Next Accounting Fiasco” “Twenty years after Enron’s failure, investors are still vulnerable to corporate numbers games” by Greg Farrell

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Image from Cryptocurrency a new concern for auditors.

Our economy is strong now but some cautionary notes are worthy of review. According to this commentary accounting fiascos are often revealed at low tide-for example after “the bursting of the dot-com bubble that preceded the collapse of Enron and WorldCom.” After the Enron meltdown in 2001 the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed Congress and was signed into law in an effort to “strengthen auditors’ oversight” and it essentially, for a long while, stopped the Big Four accounting firms, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC, from acting as auditors and business consultants-A dangerous combination that leads to a conflict of interest-“Enron paid [Arthur Andersen] more than $1 million a week to serve as its auditor and internal business adviser.” In that “past decade, though, the [Big Four] firms reversed course, acquiring consulting firms to expand their revenue sources…”

Besides a returning to a dual agency, what other factors today might be reducing the effectiveness of accounting firms?

Technology is performing more of the accounting work-"raw data is ... [prearranged]...feeding it all into customized analytics programs."

To reduce costs, firms are offshoring accounting activities with the unintended consequence of reducing the interaction with the client.

Direct contact audits are not as frequent and COVID has accelerated that trend. According to “Debbie Cutler, who teaches courses on ethics for the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, ‘It’s one thing to have Zoom meetings, but there’s nothing like face-to-face.’” In person auditors rub-elbows “with managers and clerks on the frontline, people who might have rolled their eyes at some of the numbers claimed by management but are now cut out of the process altogether.”

Cryptocurrencies pose a new danger. ‘Blockchain is geared toward anonymity’” noted Brian Loughman (Floyd Advisory LLC), “Everything auditors do-from verifying assets, as well as reviewing rights and obligations, as well as valuation-involves traditional methods of third-party confirmation. Crypto doesn’t allow you to do that.”


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