Accounting and Audit

AssetCo Case and Grant Thornton Defense

I mentioned in a previous blog post yesterday the judgement in the case of the alleged breach of duty by Grant Thornton (GT) when acting as auditors of AssetCo Plc (ASTO) in 2009/10. See https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Comm/2019/150.html for the full judgement. For those who have not had the opportunity to read all 300 pages of the judgement, here are some interesting points from it: It was conceded that the audit was negligent in a number of respects, but GT’s defense against the damages claim ...

Stephen Haddrill, CEO, FRC sees the light and gets tougher.

Stephen Haddrill, head of the Financial Reporting Council, appeared before MPs in one of a series of hearings held by the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee to examine the future of the auditing industry in the wake of a number of scandals involving overstatement of profit and insolvency. When asked whether the FRC and other regulators were “too passive and reactive”, Mr Haddrill acknowledged that he should have been less afraid to challenge companies in the courts and less accepting ...

AssetCo, Patisserie, Stockpiling, Warehouses, Sheds, Brexit and Venezuela

A week ago, an award of damages of £21 million plus interest and costs was made against Grant Thornton for their breach of duty when acting as auditors of AssetCo Plc (ASTO) in 2009/10. See https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Comm/2019/150.html for the full judgement. I understand Grant Thornton may appeal. These are the key sentences in the judgement: It is common ground that in those years the senior management team at AssetCo behaved in a way that was fundamentally dishonest. During the audit process management made ...

FRC Review of Auditing Standards – They’re Looking At The Wrong Things

The Financial Report Council (FRC) have recently published a “Post Implementation Review: 2016 Ethical and Auditing Standards”. It concentrates on the changes made in 2016 to improve the independence...

Staffline Issues, Audit Purpose and Patisserie

Yesterday Staffline Group (STAF) issued a statement first thing in the morning saying that the publication of results scheduled for that day would be delayed. The shares promptly dropped...

Bogle Death, Patisserie and Diploma AGM

The death of John Bogle has been announced at the age of 89. He wrote several very informative books on investment and was the founder of Vanguard which has grown into one of the largest mutual fund managers by promoting index fund management. He also promoted the idea that the investors should own the fund manager. He suffered from heart attacks from a young age, the first at age 31, and actually had a heart transplant in 1990. So in some ...

Improving Auditing – It’s Certainly Time

Readers don’t need to be reminded that many of the most damaging events for investors in public companies in recent years have arisen because of the failures of auditors to identify misleading accounts, if not downright fraud in some cases. The Kingman review of the FRC and the views of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) suggest that there is a widely recognised problem in the quality of work done by auditors and the regulation of the profession. I have mentioned previously ...

The Signs Were There – Corporate Disasters and How to Avoid Them

This is a review of the recently published book entitled “The Signs Were There” by Tim Steer. It’s worth reading by any investor who invests directly in stock market shares, but particularly by those new to the game. Experienced investors will know about many of the causes of companies collapsing, and how accounts can deceive, from their own past experiences. But it’s best to learn what to look for in other ways. The book covers many UK examples of corporate disasters - ...

The trouble with net debt…

Net debt is a vital metric for investors and lenders. What ultimately kills companies is when they are unable to pay their debts when due. Hence, measuring the ratio of net debt to profits (and cashflow) is crucial to judging a company's ability to pay and whether it is likely to find itself in trouble, potentially leading to a permanent loss of capital for investors. Therefore it is very troubling that there have been several instances in recent years where reported net ...

IC Share Tips, National Grid, Brexit and the Audit Market

This week’s Investors Chronicle edition (dated 28/12/2018) provides lots of food for thought. One of the most educational is their review of the share tips they published as “tips of the week” in 2018. Unlike some investment publications, who simply forget about their past tips that go nowhere, while lauding their hits, the IC is open about their performance. They issued 173 “BUY” tips and 24 “SELL” tips in the year. That is quite some achievement by itself as I rarely have ...