I attended a major midwest university, studying economics and accounting. I understood that bookkeepers, post numbers (made journal entries) while accountants, (CPA’s) keep all the books sorted out, in perfect accounting order. Bookkeepers worked for the benefit of the business, CPA’s/accounts, worked for the benefit of the investing public, a position of trust and integrity.
As my undergraduate study progressed, I noticed a disturbing trend. Maybe because I’m a very linear person, I know that there’s a straight line between point A and point B. I began seeing accounting courses teach students to “think outside the box”. Point B was NOT necessarily reached by a straight line. Course tests moved from the mechanics of accounting to verbal problem sets ( I hated verbal problems).
After graduation I noted that the larger CPA firms became more concerned with getting and keeping clients, rather than protecting the investing public. Company CPA’s/accountants were busily applying the “think outside the box concept” for the benefit of the employer. So, what did we, as a public, get for this type of education? An Enron company that bought and sold its California energy amongst itself so many times, that Californians almost went broke paying for electricity. Where did these “think outside the box ” people go after Enron collapsed, to the banks and investment firms where they buy the same barrel of oil 5 or 10 times, driving up my pump price. The public also got U.S. companies moving “off-shore” to hide money from taxation.
If these oil future things weren’t enough they “thought outside the box” and created derivatives. A derivative is like holding a piece of air, it represents nothing, and a good seller likes to make a “Rip His Face Off” sale..that’s where you sell a derivative to someone who knows nothing about derivatives–the seller wins big money, the buyers crash, burn and go bankrupt.
I believe that there is very little integrity in the financial industry today. Just watch the markets, the “game” is to manipulate the market. A significant number of the trades are now done by computer, on preset parameters, you can manipulated the transactions by rumors and fear mongering. It’s all Fishy Numbers!
We made a quick trip to northern Minnesota for the fishing opener. You southern people, probably don’t understand, but, up north, there are “closed” and “open” fishing seasons, on game fish. If your Northwoods fishing goal is walleye, then on midnight of the day that the walleye fishing season opens, you can begin fishing and 30 years ago we did, (wait, that is, until midnight). This year we arrived a couple of days early to the resort and saw that there were already people here. They were getting minnows and “testing” the walleye waters. They were catching walleye, just not keeping any. Wait, when did the rule/law about not fishing for walleyes before May 12th turn into not KEEPING any walleyes before May 12th? On this lake, there is a protection limit, that requires all walleyes between 18″ and 26″ to be immediately released. We stay at a resort that cleans (filets) and packages all of your fish. But there are some people, who, late at night clean their own fish..wonder why they clean late at night?
These new fishing practices, generated my reflection back to my initial story of my accounting education. The linchpin here is integrity, or lack of it. I’m beginning to think that all those Enron and Oil Futures Traders have become Minnesota fishermen. There is more than one way to get to Point B-is their battle cry.
To me, it’s all fishy numbers.