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Thursday, February 23, 2012

CA-Chartered Accountants(CAs) or Creative Accountants?

As the lone CA fraternity member among a host of BEs, I often take some good natured ribbing about the ethics, flexibility, fraud detection ability etc of CAs. While no profession of significance is free from its issues(read my post on doctors here http://apoliticallyincorrect.blogspot.in/2012/01/hippocratic-oath-or-hypocratic-oath.html), the fact remains that events like Satyam in India, Lehmann in USA, Olympus in Japan etc have thrown the spotlight on both the corporate accounting staff as well as their auditors. In that light, I thought it apt to dissect the ways in which CAs are seen as creative accountants
  1. Hollywood accounting:-Earlier, Hollywood stars etc used to settle for a cut of the film profits. But after a host of creative accounting practices like cost allocation, gross vs net, excluding rights income etc, they gave up the effort of auditing it and instead settled for a share of the gross. Yet, this phrase is a club to beat accountants over whenever the topic of creative accounting comes up
  2. Financial projections/models for M&As/banks/IPOs:- Noone is perfect and forecasting is filled with its share of bloopers and inaccuracies. Yet, like fairness opinions on IPO M&As(have you ever seen one against the interests of the person who commissioned the opinion), these financial projections tend to be upward biased and often start with the end in mind, adjusting inputs to arrive at a definite NPV/IRR/value. When these projections are proved wildly unrealistic resulting in IPO prices tanking/bank NPAs racking up/M&As not realizing projections etc, then those behind those financial models take their share of the heat. 
  3. Transfer pricing:-As ICAI explains in its guidance note on transfer pricing audit(, there is a general belief that multi-national corporations, in an effort to manage and minimize their global tax outflows, have employed creative transfer pricing approaches in the context of flow of goods, services, funds, intangibles. But to the extent such transfer pricing impedes corporate governance(say 2 sets of books are maintained) and distorts performance measurement/resource allocation, it is self defeating.
  4. Innovative accounting driven transactions:-Be it financing via sale and buyback, merging subsidiary with self to write off impairment losses against reserves, using leases to take debt off the books, Lehmann's famous 105repo transaction etc, there is no dearth of examples of how creative accounting has played its bit. 
However, every profession has its share of err..practices not in public interest, as well as bad apples. That should not tarnish the vast majority of professionals who do their work honestly. 


TanMan said...

hi anandh

i being a CA concur with your views.
CAs are being treated the way policemen are- sab saale chor hain.

i find your level of knowledge to be amazing. what do you read?

Anandh Sundar said...

@Tanman-a lot-its accumulated over the years but mainly books, magazines, blogs, newspapers etc. Drop me a mail at andy161161 at gmail.com if you would like to know more