Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No Accountants Were Harmed in the Making of this Blog

          While I was traveling last week to visit, and ultimately to bury, my 90 year old mother who had suffered a devastating stroke, I got an e-mail telling me that someone had posted a reply to a comment I made at Going Concern. Going Concern is a blog that deals primarily with accountants and accounting issues. I started reading it early this year when it was full of news of the alleged accounting irregularities and possible audit failures surrounding the bankruptcy and collapse of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008.
          I like to post comments at Going Concern because I get a lot of readers for my blog from there—not enough to get me recognized anywhere and certainly not enough to add any cash to my coffers, but still a significant addition to my total traffic.
          This particular reader, the one who replied to my comment giving rise to the e-mail, took exception to some of my confessions of regrettable fiscal decisions that led to my filing bankruptcy. Here is the text of the e-mail, which includes the whole of the reply:

Jigaboo (unregistered) wrote, in response to jonahgibson:

I read your little blog ... you sound like an idiot. 20 years of credit card date [sic] at 23% +. Why, for the love of God, why would you not refinance???? This is an accounting website. You are hurting us here with your nonsense.

Link to comment: http://disq.us/fjz8d

          Notwithstanding that he is of course correct—I do sound like an idiot—I find it ironic that Jigaboo, who, hopefully at least, does not realize that his screen name is a racial slur and who apparently does not bother to check his text before he posts, thinks that my paltry bankruptcy and my few foolish decisions, all of which I have documented here, are actually injurious to accountants. I wonder whom, exactly, he thinks has been injured, and how.
          I would have hoped that Jigaboo understood that the point of my little blog—at least in the entry about my bankruptcy, which is the one to which he alludes—was precisely that I had made bad choices, that where I had managed other people's money as if it were my own, I had managed my own as if I were the federal government. I don't think that Jigaboo has read much of my blog. Otherwise he might not have called it 'little' and he might have had a better grasp on the often self-deprecating timbre of my posts. In fact, according to my reader stats, Jigaboo, who logs in from Brooklyn, has only read two or three pages of my blog and only spent a few minutes doing that. This is perhaps long enough to form a New York opinion, but one should consider that it was largely New York opinions that held Repo 105 transactions to be appropriate accounting.
          I think Jigaboo is wrong in his assessment of any damage I might have done to the accounting profession. I may have made some bad choices, and I may have undertaken to get myself out of the mess I'd got into in a manner entirely too late and unsatisfactory to him, but I have not committed 'nonsense' enough to do any injury to accountants in general or even to the concentration of Big 4 denizens and alumni who frequent Going Concern. They may have been hurt, but not by me.
          Accountants have been hurt by the kind of people who would never make the mistakes I've made. They've been hurt by the same arrogant, self-righteous bastards I've been talking about for nearly 100 entries now. They've been hurt by guys who are the opposite of me, the kind of guys who get their own finances right but play fast and loose with the money that belongs to the rest of us, the kind of guys who believe that it's their right to be 'too-big-to-fail' and who are more than happy to take taxpayer money to bail them out of the mess they created but don't want to accord the same benefits to anyone else.
          The damning evidence that they must have known they were doing wrong is that they used accounting legerdemain to hide their actions. Yet now they are content to take fat bonuses and to congratulate one another for getting away with it. These are the folks, their collective sense of entitlement pumped up on steroids and their collective conscience atrophied by lack of use, who remain unapologetic as they lobby for a regulatory status quo. Meanwhile the world is still trying climb out of the smoking wreckage that their mostly unregulated excesses brought us.
          Accountants have been hurt by these guys in the same ways that the rest of us have. They've seen their investment portfolios shrink to a fraction of their former worth. They've watched the value of their homes decline. They've seen their credit sources dry up. They've seen their livelihood put at risk by business declines everywhere.
          Accountants, though, have also suffered a blow to their credibility. Not very many people seem to trust accountants anymore—at least not to the extent they once did. Accounting has slid down in the rankings on the list of honored professions—and not just because it's so hard for accountants to get girls. Their integrity and their acumen have been splintered by broadside after broadside. It's not the investment bankers they have to thank for this either. It is the partners and managers at the top of the accounting profession, in the largest firms, with ostensibly the most to lose, who are to blame. These are the auditors who saw firsthand the accounting sleights and subterfuge being used to cover up the cancer in our financial institutions, and elected—elected mind you—to call it Kosher. They passed on fraud. They aided and abetted the crime. They took their fees and helped to hide the truth and now they want a pass themselves.
          My friend, Jigaboo, doesn't have much to say about these guys. My guess is that one day he'd like to be counted among their number. I think he aspires to be one of them. Why else would he be so adamant about protecting their precious reputations from nonsense such as mine? Why else would he be so keen to banish us idiots from discussing our failures in the same place where we profess to be accountants? Jigaboo wants to maintain the veneer of intelligence and acumen that will allow the next generation of accountants and auditors to abet the next generation of scalawags, and none of them will ever be jobless like me.
          So thank you very much, Jig. I appreciate your concern. I feel good that you are out there making the world safe for defenseless accountants who might otherwise be caught unawares by idiots and nonsense. I just think that you have missed the forest for concentrating on trees like me who have already been felled by the truly dangerous idiots among us.

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