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The big four


Ex-KPMG staff charged with conspiracy

Six accountants were accused of arranging to obtain and misuse confidential information about the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s (PCAOB) plans to inspect audits, according to charges unveiled by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 22 January. Three are former employees of the PCAOB who went on to work for KPMG or were seeking employment there, and stole the information tied to future exams. “These accountants engaged in shocking misconduct – literally stealing the exam – in an effort to interfere with the PCAOB’s ability to detect audit deficiencies,” SEC Enforcement Co-chief Steven Peikin said. KPMG discovered the activity last year and alerted regulators. 

PwC adds new rules to avoid Oscars gaffe 

PwC have introduced new protocols and safeguards to prevent blunders similar to what happened at last year’s Oscars when PwC partners mixed up the best picture winner envelopes resulting in the wrong winner, La La Land, being announced on stage. United States Chairman and Senior Partner Tim Ryan said the new rules focus on envelope rituals. The changes include a new formal procedure for when envelopes are handed over; the addition of a third balloting partner; and the three partners attending show rehearsals and practising what to do if something goes wrong. Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced this month. Winners will be revealed at the ceremony on 4 March. 

Firm seeks out retirees 

New York-based accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies LLP is looking to hire accountants who have reached mandatory retirement age at other firms. Most top firms require partners to exit between the ages of 60 and 66, reported The Wall Street Journal. PKF has employed more than 24 senior accountants and advisors, with the majority working three or four days a week. The move has helped the firm expand into new practice areas and improve training and mentoring, said Christopher Petermann, Partner at PKF. The firm previously hired an accountant, now 77, with strong experience with international tax issues at a large firm. It was an underdeveloped practice for PKF, noted Petermann, but is now one of its most rapidly growing markets. 

Popular cloud-accounting solutions tested 

A technology intelligence company tested the automation capabilities of four popular artificial intelligence-powered cloud-accounting solutions – OneUp, QuickBooks Online, SageOne, and Xero. “[We] rank them against our Automation Index which evaluates how accurate is the AI in recognizing transactions coming in from the bank that didn’t require any user intervention in order to generate the correct accounting,” wrote Jean Baptiste Su, Vice President at Atherton Research, in a Forbes article this month. OneUp proved to be the most effective, with an Automation Index rate of 95 percent after five months of use, followed by QuickBooks (77 percent), Xero (38 percent) and SageOne (30 percent). While promising, the accuracy of machine learning algorithms needs to improve, Su wrote.