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Random Thoughts from the Secret Auditor

This article reflects the opinions of its author and not necessarily those of ShareSoc.


Investing nirvana is being as indifferent to losses as to winners. Having been investing for about 20 years I have yet to reach that nirvana, I am never indifferent if the portfolio has had a good day or a bad day, the angst of a bad day outweighs the pleasure of a good day. Which begs the question of whether I would be better off investing in a tracking fund. At best, like most investors I hope that 60% of my financial decisions turn out to be correct, so heartache is a feature of my share picking.


Why are trainspotters nearly always male? On my trips between Newcastle and London I have never seen a female trainspotter. On a similar theme, it seems to me that most people who spend an inordinate amount of time watching the stock market go up and down are male. I wonder why? It is not as if the activity can be easily linked to hunting & gathering, a theme of the paternalistic society of the last 2000 years. It’s a shame that Desmond Morris didn’t comment on investors in his bestselling book The Naked Ape. Incidentally, per Wikipedia, Desmond Morris is still alive, so there is still time for Morris to comment on this male activity.

Occupational hazard.

If you spend several hours each week looking through the financial statements of companies it’s not surprising that over time the obsession encompasses not only limited companies, but also private companies. If on a walk, I will often scribble down the names of limited companies if displayed on billboards marketing local businesses. When back home I will look them up at Companies House. Likewise, the ubiquitous plastic envelopes that come through the post, always red, on behalf of some obscure charity, are not tossed directly into the non-recyclable waste basket, instead the charity number on the envelope is used to determine, courtesy of the register of charities, how much of money given is absorbed by admin costs.


I have problems recalling what I had for lunch yesterday, but I have a good recall of the ticker of many companies on the stock market, even companies that are no longer trading. Some are easy to remember – LO-Q for instance, but Northbridge Industrial’s ticker was NBI, Hasting Insurance was HSTG. But my memory is not perfect, there are some companies whose ticker I have forgotten. I wonder if there is a database maintained somewhere that has all the ticker names issued by the London Stock Exchange? If so, I would welcome the opportunity to get in contact with them.

The Secret Auditor

  1. Martyn Thomas says:

    A question for the Secret Auditor.

    When I became a partner in Touche Ross (as Deloitte & Touche was then called in the UK) I was surprised to be told that the Big 6 audit firms jointly owned an insurance company that provided part of the insurance for professional liability. That seemed to me to possibly compromise independence if one of the Big 6 was instructed to investigate an audit carried out by one of the others.

    Do you know if any similar arrangement still exists?



    • Mark Bentley says:

      The Secret Auditor Replies:

      “I was too low down the auditing food chain to comment on whether the Big Six audit firms jointly owned an insurance company, but it wouldn’t surprise me. What I can say with confidence is that audit firms have no compunction about filing suit against other audit firms or anyone else when acting as receivers or liquidators. The most famous case is probably Deloitte Touche acting as liquidators of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the audit firm filed suit in 1992 against the Bank of England. The sums involved winding down the affairs of BCCI were substantial, £850m was the claim against the Bank of England. Per Wikipedia Deloitte Touche ended up paying the Bank of England £73m for its legal costs when the High Court ruled against the audit firm, so perhaps in hindsight not the most sensible of decisions, but it highlights when companies collapse the main beneficiaries are lawyers!”

      My footnote: in the above case Deloitte also sued PwC and E&Y successfully, for $175m

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