Well it is the end of September (my official sign-off date), an almost new board has been appointed and the Independent Review Panel have issued their preliminary report.
So it is time for me to sign-off.
A cricketing analogy perhaps
Not pulling up stumps mind you but more a retiring on 17 not out after bad light stopped play with the side in a commendable but not earth shattering position of 8 for 135 on a sticky wicket and the other side to bat tomorrow.
In other words we have done well considering the circumstances but victory is uncertain and much still to be done.
So let me finish with a few thoughts and comments
1. The new board
Well how to respond to the newly announced board of directors?
Let me do so in a number of ways, and you just see what fits best with your views.
I would summarise them all by saying the new board mainly fits the criteria set by the previous board which has also had it's finger on the appointment process to ensure an 'unlevel' playing field.
i. This was my initial my response to a media query the evening of the announcement.
After a few days reflection and having read the new Chairmans comments in the AFR, my response is still the same.
ii. Most of the new directors are very high on the eminence factor scale, on the silence is beautiful spectrum, and the roots into the CPA leadership period of the last decade."I think these appointments confirm just how well the gerrymandered governance system at CPA Australia has been able to excel at doing what it does best.
Most are very 'eminent', but eminence has not provided a good measuring stick for integrity and standing firm against some pretty woeful behaviour at CPA to date. Interestingly they all have been noticeably silent over the last decade, and especially the last 8 months, on the matters that have been exposed and which the Preliminary Independent Panel Report has confirmed. That says a lot to me.
Three have long roots at CPA back into the Malley decade (De Santi, Erskine, Wong) which says something in itself when you consider all that has been revealed over the last 8 months. Marry that with Dickson and Portelli remaining on the board until 31 Dec, and I would suggest ......(well I leave that to you to draw your own conclusions).
So my reaction is one of major disappointment but perhaps no surprise given the heavily gerrymandered system used to appoint them. I would think that with this new 'carefully selected' board, along with a pathetically weak Preliminary Independent Panel Report which is setting the agenda for the new board, we have a 90% chance that none of the people who were responsible for the wrongs that have occurred at CPA Australia will ever be held to account.
That says a lot to me of the future of CPA Australia.
Cheers, or perhaps not so cheers.
Not all, mind you, but most.
But that comes as no surprise as that is what the selection criteria had determined (Top Listed Company, Large Accounting Firm, International Business, Gov’t/Regulatory Body), and as we all know
a. with a still very dodgy Nominations and Remuneration Committee actively involved in the process (comprising two that I do not trust, Chairman Jim Dickson and self appointed 'listener' and silent ACT Divisional President until his meteoric rise Tim Youngberry),
b. an external consulting firm (Pacific Search Partners) with a close connection with the CPA leadership over the years doing the selecting, and
c. a Representative Council comprising the silent and 'unrepresentative' members who have also a long history with the CPA leadership and those wonderfully silent divisional presidents.
d. Marry that with an Independent Review Panel preliminary report which was almost a defacto 'love-in' with the Divisional Presidents Consultative Group (yes, thats right, the silent ones), and
e. which amazingly did not even recommend members directly vote for directors but rather elevate those wonderfully silent divisions to control that process,
then it does not bode well.
It is worth noting the complete silence of any of these 'new' directors over the last 8 months in publicly saying anything about these issues.
Am I being unfair?
Well, you ask yourself, if the 'rogue accountants' and the media had not come out and spoken publicly about these matters over the last year or so, do you think they would have?
I hardly think so.
You have a look at the attached schedule I prepared to show the roots many of the new board (effectively a majority) have into the past decade of CPA leadership, along with the Representative Council who appointed them.
Some Observations from the schedule
The irony that one of the new board members experience with one of the large accounting firms (see selection criteria) was with Anderson certainly adds a bit of ‘black humour' to this whole exercise.i. 4 of the 9 newly appointed directors (Erskine, Di Santi, Wong, Spencer) have roots (most very strong) back into the last decade of leadership at CPA.
ii. In political terms 6 out of 11 (add Dickson, Portelli to above 4) new board carry the majority. Likely to see firm action from them against the past leadership at CPA Australia? I would think not.
iii. Of the Representatiive Council who appointed these directors, at least 7 of the 12 voting ones have roots (most very strong) into the past leadership era of CPA. Infamous for their silence in my opinion.
iv. Of these 12 Rep Councillors 5 served as Divisional Presidents or Deputy Presidents (plus one on Executive Commiittee of CPA). For people who should have known better infamous for their silence I reckon.
v. 1 of the new directors (Di Santi) and 1 of the continuing directors (Portelli) were Representative Councillors from 2013 to 2014. They were big years in CPA's gerrymandered history.
vi. Lets see how much persuasive power and 'ticker' the other 5 newly appointed board members have. It does not bode well for any sort of action against the leaders who allowed CPA's decline.
vii. But then again perhaps all of ther above is no real surprise given the way Tim Youngberry managed to ease his way on to the board to enable these governance changes to occur with no real change.
viii. Members can have their own descriptions for this but for me the term the 'Realpolitik of Power' covers it well, and that in this case has nothning to do with right and wrong. It has everything to do with power.
Have a look at my observations regarding the new board with its roots and the gerrymandered appointment process through the divisions and the representative council allied with the past leadership of CPA Australia to get a feel for why I am a wee bit skeptical of the newly found ‘passionate embrace’ for CPA Australia.
A bit too much past silence for my liking.
iii. It has the look and feel of an old boys and girls network to me.
Let me refer you to the below comments on the website regarding our new Chairman (Peter Wilson) and Jon Scriven (new director)
I hope it is not the ‘Macquarie University connections mode of operation' coming through in another guise.
Quite an incredible coincidence eh?
Unbelievably so I reckon.
iv. Actions not words are what matters now.
It is very easy to talk abut these matters but the one thing that is mandatory is that firm action is taken.
And by firm action I don’t mean the obvious easy actions such as the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel- what a cop-out. See my more detailed response and comments below on that.
No, what is needed is actions where it really matters to show the new board is fair dinkum - actions that show you want to make sure those responsible for this appalling past (leadership and staff) are held to account in some way.
Too negative? I don't think so.
If the new board just PR and HR their way out of firm action like that then I suggest CPA Australia is doomed to a dismal future.
You can conduct your ‘listening' tour and 'meet the grass root’ members but if that is just a ploy (which it usually is) to say we have heard what the members have said and they say just do what the IRP recommends and that any more negative publicity is bad for CPA, so therefore no action against the past leadership.
I say cobblers to that, and that if you have not got a feel for what the membership feel already on these matters then you should not be in your current positions.
Don’t listen to the sales talk of Alex Malley on the radio saying this is all the work of a few (1,000) disgruntled members out of a membership of 155,000.
You just read the IRP Report and see if that holds up against the facts and evidence.
Don’t go listening to the past directors and leadership at CPA who really need to be brought to account for their failures.
And please don’t go listening to that rare breed of member who still thinks the period when Alex Malley was the CEO was a great success, and he did the CPA a great service.
The sort of ‘two sides to the story’ defence.
So, I suggest that by your actions will we know how you talk. All the fine sounding words go over my head.
I guess I’ve heard too much of the sales talk of the CPA leadership.
If anyone thinks I exaggerate just go and have a read of the email from Jeff Hughes (the board) from 2nd March (is attached) and my response (also attached).
This was written before all that has been exposed was exposed and since proven to be correct.
v. A simple test.
I have a very simple test to know whether this new board is fair dinkum or just a continuation of the same with a few new words thrown in, and a bit of a fiddle her and there with some obvious things requiring attention but avoiding the elephants in the room (that is my summary of the Independent Review Panels Preliminary Report by the way).
It is a very simple test that I have laid out below.
There are lots of others that could be added but this will give us all an idea of whether this is a real change or just a Claytons one.
I fear the latter is the reality but I am only too keen to be proven wrong in that assessment.
2. Actions from the first board meeting to see if they are fair dinkum
a. Reduce directors remuneration immediately by 50% - this is what I call a 'grass roots’ litmus test
We have decided to reduce all board remuneration by 50% from current level, effective immediately.
This is a decision which will tell us a lot of the motivation of the new board and whether they really have been listening to what has been happening at CPA Australia over the last decade.
This is the litmus test par excellence, the key performance indicator above all others.
All those fine sounding words from you recently Peter like
"there's nothing there that can't be rectified, improved or fixed and that's what we're going to do”
"We can make the changes necessary to restore confidence where it has lapsed”.
“..Peter Wilson...who describes himself as "passionate" about his status as a certified practising accountant.”
"I know membership organisations and you do need to understand the grass roots,”
will mean little unless you and the board do this.
Let’s see how well you know the grass roots. No, Peter, the views of the grass roots is not necessarily the views of Jim and Sharon. Just have a read of the IRP Report and you will see that clearly demonstrated.
b. Take action over the $4.9 million termination payout to Alex Malley.
This a double bunger action Peter. Of course you will need to be prepared to go against the no-action recommendation of the IRP, but hey are you fair dinkum or not.
This is the one issue upon which all the members agreed was scandalous.
Well, maybe not the board members, but for the rest of the members you will have their total support.
Of course you will need to see the actual contract, which the IRP were not able to see, nor it seems were that interested to see.
Have a read of what they said in their report - it seems the ‘contractual obligation’ was all verbal.
If you think that is a legitimate contractual obligation for a scandalous payment then I suggest you give the game away and go retreat into HR heaven and let some directors with a better handle on reality take over.
And then the action should follow
i. instruct your lawyers (external ones Peter not the in-house counsel, for obvious reasons) to prepare a case to recoup what you can of this money.
ii. then instruct them to see what action needs to be taken against the six directors (Dickson, Portelli, Wade, Petty, Dolin and Youngberry) in terms of their directors duties to have allowed this payment. You don't need to be very savvy to realise that you will get some opposition from two of your current directors on this one Peter (Dickson and Portelli) but they should not be part of the discussion or decision for obvious reasons. Nor, I suggest should you listen to the IRP who, in my opinion, failed badly in not recommending action on this matter.
The above two decisions from the new board will do more to restore the credibility and reputation of CPA Australia than anything else.
All the rest will flow automatically from this. It will give members cause for encouragement rather than it being a 'professional whitewash’ which the IRP Preliminary Report seems keen to do.
Just two quick tests Peter. After everything this is a very simple way to test if you are fair dinkum.
Fail this, and I suggest CPA Australia, will be just a shadow of what it was and what it should be no matter what high sounding words you use, and what actions you take.
If you think this is the ramblings of a rogue journeyman CPA accountant, I suggest you speak to members who have lawyer friends, barristers better still, and I would suggest a straw poll of them would be in favour of action by about 99:1, and that is just based on the law. If you and the other directors focus on to whom your fiduciary duty is owed (the members and the CPA company) it will be a very easy decision to make.
As a matter of fact it might even come back to bite you as directors should you not. But I leave that to you to work out with all the supposed corporate governance expertise being sprooked from your over the top eminent CV’s.
For me, it is pretty simple.
Have the directors of CPA Australia been overpaid?
Has the former CEO Alex Malley been overpaid with his $4.9 million termination payment?
Do the directors owe a fiduciary duty to the members and to CPA, or is it to the IRP and the past directors?
Do the directors (both past and present) have a fiduciary duty to take legal action to redress the CEO termination payment?
But then again, I do not have the ‘eminence’ rating of those making the decisions here.
So, for me, its a choice of do we go with eminence or do we do the right thing?
And yes Peter, CPA’s woeful history of late, would suggest they are mutually exclusive.
May need to pull in the chest a little and not preen the feathers too frequently, but nothing beats doing the right thing.
And the amazing thing about right and wrong (and in this case I would suggest about legal and illegal) is that it is usually pretty obvious to most even if no-one says anything.
CPA Australia needs someone to come out and say where we sit on these matters, and your actions will speak much louder than words ever will.
3. The Independent Review Panels Preliminary Report
Very disappointing is the best I can say of it.
Rather than repeat what I said before can I suggest for those interested to refer to my response a few weeks ago which is attached, as well as Joe Astons excellent Rear Window column which pretty much sums it up by saying the IRP Report has virtually granted the directors Wade, Petty, Dickson and CEO Malley an amnesty.
This is also attached.
For those who have read the whole 114 pages, well done.
The one positive that comes out of it is that it confirms all that we have been saying now for 8 months.
It then goes and takes the opposite tack and almost says let bygones be bygones, lets move on, and forget the persons who placed CPA Australia in such a mess.
For me, no action against them (see 2 above) means CPA Australia will just fade into an organisation trying to relive past glories with no substance for the future.
But everyone probably has their own views on that one.
4. Fly On The Wall Series Two
You guess the time, place and meeting.
Speaker One (S1): Well, let's get started, we have a lot to cover.
Speaker Two (S2): Do you think it might be good to clarify exactly what sort of outcome we want to achieve first before we put pen to paper as that will determine what we write about.
Speaker One (S1): Very good S1, great suggestion.
Speaker Four (S4): No matter what happens our first priority is the restoration of CPA Australia.
What has been uncovered and exposed really has been a disaster.
How this has gone on for so long is still surprising even after we have looked at all the submissions.
Somehow we need to make sure members who are in positions of influence in the organisation speak up about these things.
Speaker Three (S3): Hang on a sec, the divisional presidents on the consultative group we have spoken with have been really forthright and quite firm in their insights.
S4: Sure, but all a bit late eh.
Let's not kid ourselves, they really were almost absent from any of the work done by these rogue accountants to expose these matters, and only jumped on board near the end when it was obvious. Actually some of the them were quite defensive of the approach during this last 10 years..
S3: Come on S4, we can't say anything that could cast the Divisional Presidents in a bad light, after all they are the ones who generally have an FCPA designation, and carry weight within the divisions, so politically we need to careful..... I mean, you look at these rogue accountants, they are just CPA's, and I haven't seen their CV's but I would guess they would be classified as very ordinary and non-eminent.
It would be disastrous to give these rabble any credibility, and remember they have spoken almost with the same voice as the financial press who we know are near the bottom of the respectability tree.
Take that Joe Aston from Rear Window, and the lady reporter on the ABC Business program, surely we can't be seen to be allying with these people.
At this point Louie the fly was buzzing around and decided to have a pee in the coffee of S3.
He couldn't quite understand everything being said but being a fly he did have a gut feel about crap.
S4: But you are forgetting S3, that it was the media and these rogue accountants who exposed all this, not the FCPA's and eminent professionals.
S1: Okay I think this is not a helpful direction. I suggest that in principle we shall portray the Divisional Presidents Consultative Group in a positive light and maybe avoid elevating the rogue accountants.
I also think we need to take the long view here in relation to CPA Australia, and that we can deflect the obvious failings that we need to report on by not recommending any sort of actions which could keeps the focus on these failings.
S2: I'm not sure I understand what you are saying S1.
Are you suggesting that we not look to hold anyone responsible for these failings but rather just recommend positive changes?
S3: I think that is a very helpful approach. If we recommend any sort of legal action in terms of directors duties being breached, or to recover any of the monies such as the termination pay of the CEO, then it will possibly drag on through the courts and it will just be a negative....
S4: Hold on, surely we cannot just ignore these things since they have been clearly exposed. I mean we didn't even see the CEO's contract, and the termination pay was way way over the top.
We can't just say these directors aren't responsible for this payment.
You look at the remuneration paid to the CEO by the subsidiary of $250,000 when it was known to be making a large loss, and for the other directors and COO's to pick up nearly $1.5 million in remuneration from this subsidiary over 19 months really is stretching the limits of credible remuneration levels quite apart from their directors duties to exercise due care and diligence.
A very heated discussion followed and couldn't identify any one speaker.
S2: Well it seems we are all (most of us anyway) agreed that the way forward is to not recommend any form of legal or personal actions against the directors and other persons that may have been responsible for these wrongs because it will just prolong the negative reporting on CPA and rather let's focus on the positive.
S4: Seems like we will get a fair bit of opposition from the rogue accountants on his approach.
S3: Oh, forget them, they are only CPA's and they will not be able to retain the interest of the members.
After all would you listen to eminent persons such as us, and eminent FCPA's on the divisional councils, or would you listen to theses CPA journeymen?
Okay okay S4 we know your thoughts on this but really our report will set the agenda for the new board, so let's just press on with this forward looking approach.
S4: But is that the right approach. Some of these things that we have confirmed are true in the report really cannot just be ignored.
We just can't turn a blind eye.
S2: Well I think we express it in terms of focussing on the future.
Most members will just be happy to have the matter his report done.
I think if we start to focus on what is right then .....
S4: You surprise me S2.
Surely we have to ask the question what is right, after all the logo of CPA Australia uses the word integrity.
That's a meaningless term if you take away the question of what is right.
S1: Okay, I think we have covered off quite a deal today. Let's have a break and get back into this after lunch.
S2 & S3 in unison: Can we get some Mortein because a fly has just pee'd in my coffee.
Louie and Louise Fly: Can you believe these people.
I'm not too sure what all those initials mean after their names, or really what they are talking about, but it will be good to get outside and get some fresh air.
5. The Fighting Fund
Just to give you a quick update on the fund.
The total amount given by members to the fund from 22nd June to 9th August was $34,175 (with none thereafter)
To date $10,974 has been spent which leaves us with a balance of $23,201.
Of the money spent to date it has involved 8 trips (3 to sydney, 4 to Melbourne, 1 to Canberra). This has been to meet with members, CPA staff, the media (AFR, The Australian, ABC mainly), lawyers, do interviews, attend the Senate hearings, and generally promote the matters requiring exposure
The expenses have been for airfares ($2,411), accommodation ($975, I have stayed with family in Canberra and Sydney so that is just for Melbourne), parking, taxi’s, car hire, petrol ($1,097), legal fees ($5,793 to date), facebook ads ($698). I have receipts and invoices for them all in digital format (apart from one leg of the skybus from Melb airport to City $19). It will be all audited and a detailed summary provided once the final legal bill has been received and paid.
There have been no expenses for my time, or for food etc.
It’s all pretty clean and I’ve tried to keep a pretty tight rein on it given that it is really your money and you are trusting me to do the right thing. I anticipate a sizeable amount of the remainder will be going on legal fees to date. Depending upon what the some others have mooted, I shall leave the remaining (I’m guessing about $10,000) in the account for the present, and if there is no further use for it I shall disburse the balance to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and/or if any members wish to have a proportion of what they contributed refunded (I’m guessing between 25% to 30%) then I shall do that also. But best wait until the above actions are completed and the audit finalised before doing the above. I shall let everyone know well in advance.
Irrespective I’ve tried to be strategically smart in spending it and reasonably careful in the thrifty sense.
The one area where there have been some differing viewpoints expressed has been in relation to the legal fees, and my tendency has been to listen more favourably to those who have been prepared to speak out more publicly. What more can I say. Legal fees are expensive and in principle I am not so keen on expecting pro-bono legal advice. If we, as a group of accountants cannot pay our legal fees and expect pro-bono advice then it doesn’t say much for us compared to those in our community who really do need it. We have achieved a lot for what we paid, and the legal advice from Kathryn Howard at Holding Redlich on the below mentioned letter and the reality of what effective legal action involves has been first class. Some others had differing views on how the money was to be spent, and where we disagreed strongly I ultimately used the ‘willingness to speak publicly’ as a bit of a litmus test, and where the disagreements got to the ‘hang up the phone stage’ I resorted to the ‘you go and do your thing and I’ll do mine’. So, I would call that an olive branch, but one that is stil pretty firmly attached to the tree!!
6. Instructions to Lawyer
As you know, the Independent Review Panel has invited comment on its Preliminary Report. I have taken this opportunity to instruct Kathryn Howard at Holding Redlich (legal firm in Melbourne) to write a letter to the Independent Review Panel on a number of matters of concern to me flowing from the Independent Review Panel Preliminary Report.
I cannot make this available to the members and the media for various reasons, but I welcome the opportunity to consult with the Panel members about legal issues arising from their report prior to their finalisation of the report.
7. Length of my emails
I do offer a half-hearted apology for their length, and appreciate that for many you do not have the time to read them fully.
If I had not gone into detail on many matters a lot of you would have quickly dismissed me and the others, as being just a mischief maker.
Also in principle I am not too keen of bullet point explanations and powerpoint type summaries. I think as professionals we could all do with a little bit more considered attention to matters and time for reflection.
Surely this whole CPA fiasco would have to be an illustration of where we have not as members done that nearly often enough over the last decade.
So, its a half hearted apology with a bit of a sting in the tail eh.
8. The media
I’ve said it a few time before but its worth repeating that were it not for the media (AFR in particular with Joe Aston and Edmund Tadros leading the charge, but also the ABC - Liz Hobday, and The Australian - Ben Butler) with lots of other media reports (from as far afield as Canada and the UK) then much of this whole CPA matter would have blown over and we would be none the wiser with an organisation being used for all the wrong reasons (as the IRP report abundantly shows).
And to be honest I would suggest the media have a keener sense of right and wrong on these matters than we as professionals do and did.
I know there was much tut-tutting from some more ‘establishment’ CPA’s about the way this has been exposed, but really where were all the tut-tutters in exposing this prior to this. We can all have a nice warm inner glow by saying ‘I said this years go’, or 'I complained about this a few times before’ but really until we speak in a way that actually deals with the issue rather than giving us the warm inner glow then I just ignore all the tut-tutting as background noise.
I still find it alarming that many CPA’s still do not know anything about the issues that have been uncovered. Or worse still regard the CPA leadership over the past decade leadership as being good for CPA and the profession. Wow - I guess none so blind as those who will not open their eyes.
So I recommend all CPA’s take out a Subscription to the AFR, and The Australian.
No. its not a paid advertisement. Its a very crude blunt thankyou I reckon to those who have uncovered what we should have years ago.
9. Me personally
I have moved from Armidale in NSW to the Central Coast and now live at Avoca. 10 degrees warmer and much closer to Sydney for future work and family.
So, if anyone is in the area, you can usually catch me most weekday mornings around 6am having a nice coffee from the Avoca Beach Kiosk and contemplating the day ahead watching the waves roll in. I'm not a ‘shooting the breeze’ sort of person but personable enough to have a chat.
I look like an accountant (bespectacled, tallish and balding sans the cardigan), a bit too bookish and enjoy my own company so you’ll have no trouble identifying me.
Can now go and mind my own business
I have managed to pass off much of the administrative work of a family business we have in Ontario Canada to a firm of young switched-on CPA/CA accountants in Canada.
This frees me up a bit to focus on developing my own ‘held off doing for long enough’ business called Excellere which will be a cross between a very small private ASIC, a very small and focussed mini-Bloombergs, and financial management to SME’s (primarily in retail which is my expertise such as it is).
Officially my business card and soon to be made live website says Corporate Analysis, Corporate Governance and Financial Management but really it is my small business attempting to keep the marketplace honest.
The two big areas I shall be focussing on initially (and really much of it will be involved in exposing the weaknesses) is the Franchise and Private Equity business models.
The former because in far too many of them there is not enough profit margin for the franchisees (and way too much for the franchisors), and the latter because it is a business model that defies all common sense for good sustainable companies and communities yet somehow attracts the glamour, money and fancy pants financial dealmakers - think Dick Smith and Myer and you will get the picture.
Attached is the official business card but will be launching when I return on 12th.
Recognition of a low professional bar in accounting
Through all of this one thing that has constantly disappointed me as a professional is the low bar that has been set.
To think that the AFR has had to almost squeeze out of the professional membership organisations details of their organisation (remuneration for example) which they should quite openly disclose is not a sign of strong professions.
I've also been surprised at my own profession, how we are supposed to provide a ’true and fair’ view of a company or organisation in financial terms so that the marketplace (investors, shareholders, gov’t, community etc) has a clear view. Yet in reality most of our financial reporting is anything but. You need to dig deeper and oftentimes look for the ‘mischievous material’ meant to hide, disguise and avoid providing a really true and fair view. Just think of CPA Australia as one example, just think of an Investigating Accountants Report such as with the Dick Smith prospectus. You can think of examples everywhere.
This is where the profession needs to lift its game.
The approach of the CPA leadership over the last decade I believe just cheapened the accounting profession even more by broadening the appeal to reach anyone in business. Our profession really needs some solid grunt work to provide good reports to the marketplace. I think of academics like Ray Chambers, Frank Clarke and Graeme Deane from Sydney University in days gone by (recently too) have been touching on this. I’m sure others as well but I am just aware of these people.
I think it ironic (at best) and shameful (at the other end) that Sydney University and Macquarie University have been tainted with the CPA brush through some of their academics.
Let's hope Peter Wilsons' Monash University can look back with a bit more pride on his Chairmanship of CPA Australia.
Just think of the way the way the incredible loss at CPAA Advice and the $20 million overdraft etc., along with the directors fees were ‘consolidated out’ of the 2016 annual report which only came to light after the CPAAAdvice annual report was lodged late and after the AGM. How convenient. All, with the seeming imprimatur and approval of the auditor.
That is an accounting standard problem when a major ‘cover-up’ is legitimised and okayed by our own accounting standards.
I have had a decent number of supportive calls and emails from CEO’s, CFO’s and directors of some of Australia’s largest public companies saying to keep going and clean up this mess at CPA because of the damage it does in the shareholder and market confidence. I know it is hard for ‘those high on the eminence ladder’ to fully understand that a journeyman CPA like myself (or the other rogue accountants) can even communicate with such business leaders, but I suggest they are more aware of the issues at stake than we often are in our own profession.
In all honesty you ask yourself how in the blue blazes did we ever allow the CPA leadership get away with this for so long.
Forget the ‘your eminences’ I say and lets focus back on the profession and the issues.
I would not even apply for the FCPA on principle. You are either a CPA or you are not.
As for life membership I think it is just a ……. (best not say as will offend too many) - but to my way of thinking the little CPA journeyman accountant working away in his office servicing his clients or doing the right thing in his job is entitled just as much to life membership as the ‘your eminences’ who manage to grace the pages of our newspapers.
10. My kind of heroes
This whole CPA matter has been trying for most. I guess the most obvious question asked is why should I (or you, or the others that have been involved) get involved?
All I can do is speak for myself but I think my motives will ring a familiar bell with many of you.
There is no tangible reward or damages pending, and I have no great love for CPA Australia itself. It is just a professional membership organisation I belong to.
But nothing beats just doing the right thing when you are placed somewhere to do it.
You can express that however you wish but I always recall Alexander Solzhenitsyns response to his fellow Russians years ago (when to be sent to the Gulag was a living reality for those who just protested) that they don't necessarily have to stand on the podium and protest in public, but wherever they are placed they need to live out the truth and not participate in the lie. I’ll find the exact quote some time. And this was brilliantly exhibited in the foreign movie The Lives of Others in the context of the Stasi and East Germany.
Well I am not trying to paint this in a more glorious tone than it really is (after all it is just about an organisation of accountants) but I think we all can appreciate that doing the right thing in the face of wrongdoing is a very satisfying thing to do.
I think we all feel that in one way or another.
There have been lots of rogue accountants involved in exposing this matter so to them I say you all get the "Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man/Woman” award.
Put it on your desk and display it proudly I say.
I was going to call it the Esther Award (refer Esther 4:14 for those who don’t know of this beautiful story in the bible. Actually I think Malcolm Muggeridge regarded this as the most beautiful story he had ever read which is some commendation on any level I reckon) but best if I don’t ruffle too many feathers by quoting from the bible.
These are my sorts of heroes
The members who spoke up, especially in the early days when the going was tough and those who did the ‘hard yards’ of analysis and writing detailed articles, letters and responses to ASIC.
The members who contributed to the fighting fund and to get the Members Register. Money usually does not come easily so good on you.
The Naked Webmaster for setting up and maintaining the website (just loved the Iceland and Cayman Islands conspiracy theory from CPA Australia leadership)
The media reporters and journalists but especially Joe Aston who really opened the 'can of worms' with his cheeky but ethically strong Rear Window column.
The CPA staff (most of whom are probably not there now) who stood up in their own way, and were ‘punished’ for doing so.
The members who never purchased The Naked CEO, or watched In Conversations, on principle - you all shine like stars I reckon.
These are not my sorts of heroes
I don't think I need to list them, you probably know them anyway from my emails.
I must be frank and say that I was very disappointed in the Independent Review Panels Report.
That could have set CPA Australia up as a pre-eminent membership organisation of accountants, but I think it has done the opposite. Oh well, at least the Divisional Presidents (the silent ones) and past Key Management Personnel will be happy.
Well thanks to all the members who sent me emails and letters of support. Much appreciated and I wish I had the chance to respond individually but time really has gotten away on me.
For me I’m off to New York on Wednesday for a week for our daughters marriage.
Quite amazing really that of our four children, two now live in North America, and have married this year (one In Canada and one in the US).
You just can’t trump that.. Sorry, just couldn’t resist.
Brett Stevenson CPA BComm MDiv