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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Antar’

On Thursday at lunch with fellow professors at Concordia (journalism and accounting), the topic turned to whether an aspiring business journalism should study journalism or business.  I asked if the journalism curriculum included a study of famous or popular journalists.

The journalism prof responded, “No, we just teach students to write.”

My first thought was to wonder if that is reasonable.  Shouldn’t a study of great journalists be an essential component of any aspiring journalist’s education? The benefit, I suppose, would be to provide examples of journalists for students to pattern themselves after.

My second though was to wonder if I am like this journalism prof.  Am I limited to teaching students how to account?  Or do I hold up great accountants for students to learn from?  Great accountants can serve as role models.

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Al Lewis, Dow Jones Newswire columnist (Al’s Emporium) and blogger (Tell It to Al), poses an interesting notion to the Sunday edition of the online Wall Street Journal.  He says that the easiest way to understand Wall Street scandals and implosions is to attribute them to the work of psychopaths, or psychos   He might have a good idea.

Psychos on Wall Street”  is a good read, in part because Lewis shines the light on one of my favorite people, Sam Antar.  Sam’s cousin, Eddie Antar, had a company called Crazy Eddie’s.  Crazy Eddie’s sold electronics in the Northeast.  Eddie starred in some over-the-top televised commercials. Together, Sam and Eddie orchestrated a series of frauds, victimizing insurance companies, suppliers and eventually stockholders.  Their securities fraud was the largest of the 1980s.

Back to Sam in a minute.  First, a discussion of psychopathy.  A diagnosis of psychopathy is, as I understand it, more of a judgment call than a scientific test.  If a person exhibits a sufficient number of symptoms, then he/she can be diagnosed as a psychopath.  These symptoms include:  disregard for the rights of others, a total lack of empathy and remorse, selfishness, insensitivity, dishonesty, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irresponsibility, and pleasure seeking.   A psychopath is not controlled by a sense of right or wrong, and frequently preys on fellow humans.

I’ve looked over several checklists used in psychopath identification, and I’m sure that I’ve worked with at least one psychopath in most places I’ve been employed as a professor.  In business, they frequently end up in charge.  This is not to say that every business boss is a psychopath, but probably a lot are.

Lewis cites Sherree DeCovny (a former investment broker) as saying that at least 10% of the professionals on Wall Street are psychopaths.  This is where my friend Sam Antar re-enters this story.

Lewis quotes Sam Antar as admitting he is a psychopath. And Sam Antar estimates that 80% of the professionals on Wall Street are psycho.  “It’s a bunch of crooks dealing with other crooks.”

I’ve had enough conversations with Sam to know that he probably was (and still is) a psychopath.  I’ll never forget his description of the mindset of someone committing fraud.  Other people are marks to be exploited.  Good people, he calls them, with a sense of right and wrong.  Having no such sense himself, when he was younger he had no qualms about stealing from them. Stealing from them was fun.  Sam viewed good people as deserving of being stolen from.

For some unknown reason, Sam says he respects me.  He thinks I have the visibility to warn other good people (and my students) to always remain vigilant of people like him. Being wary of others is the key to protecting yourself.  And once you spot a fraudster (aka psycho), do whatever is needed to eliminate the threat.

Yes, I think Wall Street is populated by psychopaths.  And like at the Bates hotel, there is always a vacancy for the next victim.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht


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Today is Accountant Day (aka Accounting Day).  In the hopes of coming up with something clever enough to get linked to from Going Concern and RTed on Twitter, I queried a few dozen accounting notables including professors, bloggers, journalists, regulators and Top 100 Most Influential People.

How do you intend to celebrate Accountant Day on November 10?

At least Paul Bahnson (professor at Boise State, Accounting Today columnist, and member of the 2011 Top 100 list) was honest, “I wasn’t even aware that there was any such thing as Accountant Day.”

Denny Beresford, former Chairman of the FASB, is going to work today.  Ugh.  “I’ll be attending the PCAOB Standing Advisory Group meeting in DC in the morning, flying and driving home to Athens, GA in the afternoon, and participating in a corporate board meeting in Seoul, South Korea by phone that evening.”  Denny is still working off the bills from his college toga parties.

Professors Bahnson and Ed Ketz (Penn State professor and Grumpy Old Accountants blogger), like most accountants, really know how to cut lose. Bahnson said, “I’m thinking I might put up an entry in class where the debits don’t equal the credits (on purpose!) just to celebrate.”  Ketz said, “I’m giving an exam on currency forwards, foreign translation, and options as fair value and cash flow hedges.  Should be fun.”

Ed Scribner (accounting department Head at New Mexico State University and  Funniest Accounting Professor in America), has a day long program planned:

  • Dr. John Loveland will be delivering his special address entitled, “Accountants – You Can’t Do Without Them, But I’d Certainly Like to Try.”
  • Dr. David Boje will be telling a story entitled, “Interesting Accountants I Have Known.”  (This session will be brief.)
  • Dr. Carl Enomoto will be explaining why accountants cannot have personality conflicts, by definition.
  • Dr. Janet Green will be presenting favorite bean recipes from the kitchens of HRTM.

Jim Peterson (blogger at re:Balance and audit theorist) will propose new wording for the auditor opinion:

“Having performed such calendar-reading tests as we deemed reasonable in the circumstances, it is our opinion that, in accordance with generally accepted calendar principles, Accountants’ Day is fairly likely to be observed on Thursday, October 10, 2011.

“Third parties are advised, however, that our opinion is intended for use only by those with whom we are in privity, and that they should perform such other or further due diligence as they may require or deem suitable.”

Hey Jim, very funny.

Sam Antar, the most creative accountant of his generation, (as well as convicted felon, former CFO at Crazy Eddie’s and now blogger at White Collar Fraud), says,

I will be giving thanks to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and its auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Their antics have provided me with fresh materialfor teaching how to find accounting irregularities in plain sight.

The most interesting party plans come from the regulators:  James Kroeker (SEC), Leslie Seidman (FASB), Hans Hoogervorst (IASB).  They chose not to respond to my invitation to comment, so I’m just going to make stuff up.

Hoogervorst suggests that on Accounting Day debits and credits should be optional and used only according to professional judgment.  Seidman exposed the idea of debits and credits switching sides.  Henceforth, credits are now to be located on the left side.  Kroeker is to issue a Convergence Roadmap to a party at his house.

How are you celebrating on this day?  Leave details in the comment section below.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Last year, the Accounting Today published its list of the Top 100 Most Influential People in [American] Accounting on September 9, 2010.  I don’t know that it ever causes a stir, but we talked about it on AECM.  AECM is the e-mail listserv for accounting professors (with a membership of 750).  We wondered why no one from the academic side of accounting made the list (or ever makes the list, for that matter).  Upon closer examination, it turned out that Frank Ross (Howard U) made the list.  Bob Jensen contacted the editor and suggested the names of 20 academics for the 2011 list.

It’s an interesting question, I think, as to who should qualify to be on the list.  The accounting industry in the U.S. is so large, certainly over 1,000,000.  There are auditors, accountants, thought leaders, professors and students who are all directly part of it.  Then there are those who are indirectly related, such as companies/investors that benefit from using accounting information, businesses that serve the accounting industry, journalists, bloggers, government regulators and even tax collectors.  And what about those Europeans who have their IFRS, FRC and the EC?  And should the person’s contribution be for only the most recent 12 months, recent years, or a lifetime of activity?  And what about fraudsters who influence the accounting industry?

For that matter, what does it mean to be to have been influenced?  I look at the list and I wonder how the honorees influenced me?  I have heard of almost none of them.  Does being influential mean having had an impact?

I’m sure the editorial staff at Accounting Today has grappled with these questions over the years, time and time again.

A short while ago, I was asked who I would say are the most influential.  Here are the people in the accounting world who have influenced me the most in the past year.

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Lost sight of in the SEC push to adopt IFRS is the primary reason for adopting it.  In “IFRS Is for Criminals,” Ed Ketz and Anthony Catanach of Grumpy Old Accountants remind us.

In their essay, the grumpies let it all hang out:

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This summer I am working in the area of fraud.  If all goes well, perhaps someday there will be three or four baby articles cooing to be picked up and read.  Why fraud?  It’s more recognizable as accounting than either learning effectiveness or social media.

So I set out to learn as much about fraud as I could.  There are dozens and dozens of articles, both practitioner and academic.  Finally, I came across Tracy Coenen’s most wonderful book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

Before settling on a researchable issue, I like to get a handle on the big picture.  So, I put together some ideas from Tracy’s book, my prior knowledge base, and some of the articles, and came up with “The Big Picture of Fraud.”

The big picture of fraud. Each arrow points from who is perpetrating the fraud to who is being defrauded. (c) Albrecht

Although some think insiders are able to wreak the most damage on a corporate business, I disagree.  In one of the largest frauds in history, Bernie Madoff stole $50 billion USD from investors in a classic ponzi scheme.  In the decade from 2001 to 2010, investors typically reacted by lopping an average of 25% from the capitalized value of companies announcing financial restatements.  Many organizations spend much more on IT security to protect the company from outsiders than they spend on fraud prevention activities.

You might ask, do companies intentionally steal from outsiders such as insurance companies, suppliers, customers, and investors?  The answer is that some do.  Jonathan Marks of Crowe Horwath writes,

Sam E. Antar was welcomed into a life of crime at age 14 when he became a stock boy in the family business, Crazy Eddie, Inc. From the beginning, he was involved in cash skimming and overstating insurance loss claims. Antar says he never questioned the business methods of the famous consumer electronics retailer. As the CFO and a crafty CPA, Antar cooked the books of Crazy Eddie for many years – skimming profits, evading taxes, laundering cash, and committing securities fraud – until the company collapsed in 1987.

Antar’s illicit activities were abetted by the Crazy Eddie culture, which promoted fraud from within and made clear that no money should go to the government. Cash sales were routinely skimmed, and frontline employees were paid in cash to avoid taxes.

I’ll write more later this week.

Debit and credit – – David Albercht

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[Ever get something wrong?  I made an error in the first version of this post (March 9, 2010).  I have fixed the error.  My apology to several fine people for implying they are accounting pornographers.  They aren’t.]

We get into some strange conversations over on AECM (Accounting Education Using Computers and Multimedia), the listserv for accounting professors.  One started out innocently enough, then took a exotic turn in the direction of wierd.

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Today I shine a bright light on some blog posts that are not only interesting, but also imaginative and compelling.   More than posts, they truly are articles in the fine tradition of business journalism.   They are examples of a powerful force in accounting news.

In a perfect world, everyone would have a focus on current events.   I recently wrote the following in “Questions From a Future Blogger” (Jan. 14, 2010).

Accounting and/or financial blogs are a big deal. As the world evolves and becomes faster paced, long-lived jobs will disappear. We accountants will adapt by piecing together a career from many project-length opportunities. I believe it will be a matter of professional life or death for accountants to get on top of evolving current events and stay there. For there to be life, we all need to make life-long learning a lifestyle …

How will we learn to think [new] ways and grow our thinking? Independent blogs commentaries like The Summa, and re: The Auditors, and TaxGirl. Blogs provide input to fuel critical thinking, seeds for creating thinking, and energy for practical thinking.

The purpose of today’s installment of The Summa is to bring a few of last week’s best and smartest to your attention.  By doing so, I hope to whet your appetite for the good stories to be written this coming week.  These are the must reads.

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