Tag Archives: PwC

The economic insanity

We all have our limits, we all have parts we look at it and it just does not make sense. I am no different in that regard. I cannot fathom how a business survives at times. We all get that. I grew up having to walk to the grocer, the butcher and the general goods store when I was young. I got beef from one, I got cabbage from the other, we even had a potato vendor on a street called Vierambachtstraat (Rotterdam); this potato man had half a dozen of different kind of potatoes, sweet, non-sweet, large and small. We would pick up a bag 3-4 KG and it would be more than enough for a week (household of 5). At some point he left us, he stopped, the grocer remained for a while, yet I was still around when he left and it was replaced for a record store. The general goods store had already left. You see, a Supermarket called Albert Heijn had taken over and the other stores could no longer remain there. The butcher remained, yet over time he too would fall away it is now a furniture store I believe. My house is still there, yet none of the shops remained, over time they were replaced by other shops, a mere sign of the times.

So when I was confronted with ‘Interserve shares fall as growing debt sparks fears over its finances‘, I initially merely glanced. An outsourcer called Interserve; it seems to be something trivial. That is, until you realise the part “The Company, which carries out building work and provides services such as cleaning, said debts would be between £625m and £650m by the end of the year, having earlier said debts would be £575m to £600m“. So even if we would trivialise all this, in which universe would a company have any chance to survive with an initial debts of ‘£575m to £600m‘? The fact that it will be fifty million pounds more should be the fuel to the fire. A company will be in debt for well over half a billion pounds and people are worried? Why on earth were the members of that board of directors and their children (and grandchildren) not sold into white slavery on a market in Marrakech? You see, I get it, any company will have downturns and we should allow for repairs on that, yet when a company is the pressure on the existence of small companies, whilst it act as a behemoth with a workforce of an estimated 75,000 people worldwide, we need to up the ante. These people are pushing the envelope hoping that they would be like any bank ‘too big to fail‘ leaving it up to politics and wheeling and dealing to get them out of the hot waters, to save and saviour their hot potatoes some might say.

Even as we see: “It comes a week after Interserve was forced to comment on the state of its finances, after shares tumbled to a 30-year low over fears it was heading the same way as Carillion, the rival outsourcing firm that collapsed in January“, was that not a wakeup call to set the stage to push for oversight much faster?

We are also introduced by Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell to: “Chief executive Debbie White and her team are clearly doing their best to steady the ship at Interserve but the admission that net debt will end the year higher than expected, not helped by how the cash inflow from the troubled energy-from-waste business will be lower than hoped, means the company has yet to reassure shareholders and potential investors about the key issues that face it.” I am not sure how we should see this, in view of: ‘how the cash inflow from the troubled energy-from-waste business will be lower than hoped‘. When should we accept ‘lower than hoped‘? That implies speculative investment with funds that they never had and playing the gamble card in corporate expectations. So when these debts hit full on, who gets to pay for that, the taxpayer? It is my personal believe that until the debt is gone, none of the board of directors should be allowed any income above £100,000 with in addition all bonuses scrapped until the company goes out of the red. In addition, there should be no weight to the claim: “Interserve, which provides a range of services for schools, hospitals and government departments across the UK, agreed a £300m rescue plan in March, at a time of heightened pressure on the outsourcing sector and in the wake of Carillion’s collapse under a mountain of debt.” From my personal point of view, they took jobs and under-priced them forcing the small fish out of the water of revenue, and then they use that shortfall to push taxation to zero whilst walking that path too often in too many divisions. That is how I personally see this and I might be wrong. Yet in all this, that is seemingly the path too many large players play it, undermining services for the longer time whilst the others have no option to get into the business. The government might like the short sold services as it looks good on their costing spreadsheet, yet when group of 75,000 people end up to the larger extent being unemployed, the damage will merely increase for all the parties involved. Russ Mould also gives us: “some investors would wonder why Interserve was waiting until 2019 to unveil a new plan designed to reduce debt, whilst the share price slide suggests the company’s situation remains acute“. In light of that we see the urgent need for players like that to suffer a lot more oversight, the withdrawal of all bonuses and capping of income. In a state where we see an escalating stage of danger to staff members on almost every level (I did say almost), we see (at https://www.interserve.com/docs/default-source/investors/financial-reports/integrated-reporting/2017/2017-full-year-pdf’s/governance-report.pdf) the mention of something I will address shortly, whilst we see (at https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/companies/contractors/interserve/interserve-ceo-set-for-125-bonus-for-2017/10030955.article). Can anyone explain to me how well over half a billion shortfall gives rise to: ‘Interserve CEO set for 125% bonus for 2017‘, you might think that this was merely last year, yet consider that one company has a shortfall of well over half a billion in one year. That does not happen, this has been going on for a much longer time and whilst we accept that any company gets to have a hard time, it seems utterly unacceptable that its board of failures in managing that get to go home with £525,897 (the bonus of Chief executive Debbie White) for 4 months of work and if things go really south, to sit at home on the sofa optionally watching Netflix and porn for 5 years whilst the market ‘restores’ itself. It gets to be even less tasteful when we also see: “This includes an annual variable pay (AVP) bonus of £270,089, which is 125 per cent of her pro-rata base salary of £216,667 since she joined in September 2017 – the maximum available under the AVP scheme” are you feeling betrayed yet? She should be regarded as HMRC positive and kept in isolation, removed from income until the company is again in the non-red numbers zone.

Was that over the top?

When we consider the first report which is 62 pages, we see that plenty of space was used to give rise to bonuses where three people get to go home (in a best case scenario) with £2.555, £1.593 and £1.168 million. In a setting where we see that a company minus zero setting, towards the one billion mark in the red, how is there even a case for a best case scenario? How is it that we see all kinds of share and cash deals whilst there is a real issue with this type of company? Should we not see a whole range of other questions holding the HMRC responsible for allowing this situation in the first place? Whilst the cheapest of the three (other executive director), optionally being a figure of speech for a lot more than one person the issue merely intensifies. Their minimum pay is £380K, which is close to 1,800% of the average annual UK income; giving rise that one year would enable a person to afford a person to go on a holiday for close to 10 years. I never had that option, not in two decades of loyal service, interesting how some people are just not held accountable for bad turns is it?

So whilst these high and mighty desk jockeys get to relax over Christmas, considering on how to tackle it all in 2019, as per ‘Interserve to roll-out £650m debt reduction plan‘, they will leave staff in pressure and under threat of being laid off. It gets to be even worse when they ‘hide’ behind “This deepened due to additional cash outflows on Energy from Waste as well slow payments in certain Middle Eastern markets“. If they have been there they know what the cycles of payments are. They know on what is to be expected. So if there is plenty coming in, there should not be an issue. When jobs fall through, it is known as well, so even as there is a slack from the energy from waste, it seems that merely lose statements are given and they might not hold water under accountancy scrutiny here.

As for the books

There we see that PwC are to be the financial advisors, some sources give rise to other parts. The independent report (at https://www.interserve.com/docs/default-source/investors/financial-reports/integrated-reporting/2017/2017-full-year-pdf’s/financial-reports.pdf) talks about ‘we’, but who is ‘we’? The report is 100 pages and it was set for the December 2017 point, yet there too we see a few things. If we are to accept certain previous statements, we see “We performed targeted procedures over component entities in Guernsey, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and the United States of America. We performed analytical procedures over component entities in all other geographical locations“, so when we see the larger picture, how does the ‘Middle East’ reference hold water? This would imply they’re UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia customers. There are still plenty of other locations, even if it is largely weighted to those 4, the mention “as well slow payments in certain Middle Eastern markets” seems less valid. The shortfall of well over half a billion does not hold up, because if it was all due to investment, there would not be a shortfall to report, those debts are different. That is where the report on page 114 seems to give a little light. We see: “A further update was given to the market on 21 March 2018, indicating that short-term facilities had been extended for a further month to 30 April 2018. The Group announced that it had concluded refinancing negotiations and had arranged access to committed borrowing facilities of £834 million on 27 April 2018.“, on the other side of that page, we see: “assessing the appropriateness of sensitivities applied to the Adjusted Cash Flow Forecast to evaluate whether liquidity headroom and covenant compliance had been subjected to appropriate stress tests;” when they come up short by another £50 million, one might argue that either the stress test was wrong, or elements were unknown or merely ignored. I cannot tell what, why, who or which, yet it does not seem to add up.

So as that page ends with: “As a result of our work, we concluded that there were no matters in relation to going concern to which the ISAs (UK) require us to report to you“, I will offer that the news is giving us a £50 million reason proving that statement to be wrong (or at least partially). There is also increasing consideration that the auditing firms needs additional scrutiny, as jobs are handed over from one firm to another, there is the option that it speculatively gives rise to nepotism, as well as the danger that they all play the same game in what should not be required to be reported. The last is also highly speculative, yet the shortfall over 50 million as well as the debt surpassing half a billion proves me at least partially correct.

The question is how to move forward. There is a point of view that gives rise to a lot more than merely changing the laws towards outsourcing. There should be a long term accountability system in place, as it might all seem to be nice and correct on the balance sheet, the mere worry is that there is a long term impact. Should we see additional pressures where Interserve goes the way of Carillion, there might be a pressing point to start considering making that change. In an age of global accountancy where the costs are stored local, whilst indirectly the booked profits are staged to go to the land of the shareholder (wherever that is) we see an imbalance of accountancy that is seemingly all fine, yet makes no logical sense altogether. That might be one of the biggest settings that governments are facing in Europe and on a global stage.

Perhaps I will take tomorrow to give you a clear picture on what I mentioned here in examples. At that point I will be bringing graphics to the table as well.

 

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In the back of my mind

Today is not the same as yesterday. Yes, the same issues are playing still. They will remain an issue for some time to come. Whether we look at Yemen, Iran, Grenfell or the Saudi Consulate at Istanbul, the media has decided to make this a long term event. Some events cannot be resolved easy or quickly, that is merely the stage we find ourselves in and as such I accept that. It was this mindset that was awakened rudely by a thought that I have had for the longest of times. Now, this is pure speculation and perhaps it is all utter BS. I accept that, yet it remains in the back of my mind, it will not delete itself from my thoughts and this morning it woke up again as I read the headline ‘Yes, I ‘cheat’ at video games – it’s half the fun‘.

I respectfully disagree, it just ain’t cricket!

Yet the thought has been there for a while. You see, the latest adult generation is different. It partially grew up with that thought. So as we read the article by Stephanie Munro (at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/19/cheat-video-games-gaming-performance), we get a little more than we bargained for.

The cornerstone here is: ‘some games are worth a bit of cheating‘, we can agree that this is a thought every gamer has had, but I believe it transcends gaming. I believe that game makers have created the shits that audited Tesco (and devaluated it by billions). The people willing to quickly skate around the edges of Market Research to create a story that fits the bill, yet when we dig into the data, when we consider the weighting used, we see another issue. Some of these stories are more often than not, not worth the paper they were printed on. More importantly, the people mentoring these ‘younglings’ making (as a mere example) are achieving linear correlation by plotting two points. Even as they know that straight-line relationships between two variables can be achieved, they sometimes forget to tell them (implying that the newbie should have known) that it takes more than two observations. Yet a mentoring position is not about assumption. Even as reality is not this far-fetched, we see that there is a stage that counts. TU in Norway is one source giving us the most common example of unethical behaviour. It is: ‘Taking shortcuts / shoddy work‘ and it scored 72%, which is huge! I believe that there is a growing group of people relying on making deadlines and the entire issue is found there. It will almost always be on the new kid, getting advice left right and centre and not getting proper mentoring. Even when we see some parts not being violated, in some cases we see extreme examples of weighing data where weight values of well over 25 are achieved, an issue to be sure (when the population was increasingly small and unbalanced).

And here is where the shoe becomes too tight for comfort. You see behind this is the ‘golden rule’: ‘It’s important to realize that what is unethical may not always be illegal‘, it is a dangerous truth as it can at times be both.

Now this reflects back to the gaming article.

The quote: “I wonder whether cheating at video games is really anything to feel bad about. While downloading unverified cheat programs and exposing yourself to malware is not something to encourage, there are wider and greyer areas of game manipulation that deserve consideration“. There it is! The intentional push to consider cheating! We have all taken shortcuts; some are glitches within the game. Some are merely flaws in game design, the other part is exploiting a gaming bug and then there is God mode. God mode goes back to the beginning of gaming. A code that will set damage received to zero, or perhaps usage is now staged to a decrease of nil and the final part where build time and cost are set to zero. These are all stages that give you an immediate upper hand in the game. The codes tend to be there for testing purposes and were in the older days never removed, in some cases they still are not. Yet when we see the application done in Business Intelligence it becomes a different issue altogether, it has impact and it is too dangerous at present.

When we go back to Tesco in 2014, the Guardian gave us two parts. The first was: “what has already come out raises profound questions about how one of Britain’s biggest companies allowed itself to be run questionably – and about the role of its auditor. The making up of the profits figures was not in a report signed off by PwC. That happened in August – three months after PwC had given the supermarket chain’s figures a clean bill of health. Even then, it noted that there was something potentially funny with the numbers, and expressly warned about “the risk of manipulation” – but allowed them to pass anyway“, and the second one was “The audit is a key part of the scaffolding of shareholder capitalism. It is one of the primary ways in which investors, business partners and regulators can tell the true state of the company they are dealing with. If you can’t trust the audited accounts, you can’t really trust anything. This is why the vast bulk of public limited companies – and hospitals and charities – are legally obliged to submit audited accounts. And the vast bulk of those are done by PwC or one of the other Big Four auditing firms“. Now we get back to the gamer side. The bulk of people now becoming CPA have a gaming life. Whether they stay in the console closet is up to them, yet in a healthy life gaming will be part of it. It is a social interaction or perhaps a challenge to be among peers and see if you can Fortnite the hell out of your buddy and Overwatch him/her to death at the same time, nothing wrong with that. Yet we see more and more that the stage of normal gaming no longer suffices and we start relying on glitches and weaknesses, which is not altogether wrong, but when we knowingly have codes that give us 10% more, what then?

Gamers are actually getting pushed into that frame of mind and the industry as a whole loves it as the person willing to take every legal shortcut is a revenue asset, yet is it a long term solution and what happens when the border of legality was a grey area altogether? Consider the impact of Tesco, the most visible case in the last decade. And that is when we get to the 2017 New York Times (3 years after the event). Here we see: “The regulator said that finding did not suggest that any of Tesco’s directors “knew, or could reasonably be expected to have known, that the information in the August trading statement was false or misleading.” It did note, however, that there was knowledge at a sufficiently high level below the board as to the false and misleading nature of the trading statement to constitute market abuse under British law.” That is now the ball game. The two points ‘could reasonably be expected to have known‘, in opposition of ‘there was knowledge at a sufficiently high level below the board as to the false and misleading nature‘. So someone got a massive raise, someone got an overwhelming promotion and no one went to prison. This is what I would call an orchestrated cheat. When we look at PwC and we see: Tyco, Tesco, Taylor Bean & Whitaker, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and MF Global. All stages that are massive and all stages where in the end it is merely about the fine, the pressure for using ‘cheats’ is increasing and it seems that the gaming industry is banking on this. What is more appealing when an almost impossible task is achieved by someone who should not have been able to make it to level 2?

This is where Stephanie gives us the gem: “In the world of competitive sport, the line between a so-called clean win and one in which the performance of an athlete has been chemically enhanced is blurred – but we leave it up to governing bodies to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not. This leads us into the moral quandary of whether something being legal makes it acceptable“.

It is the moral quandary that is the switch, which is no longer an on and off switch, but a level that goes from 100 to zero. A lever that is pushed again and again a staged setting with online and single player achievements where we learn to do what it takes to get all the achievements, yet to keep a much more high profile stage to make us seemingly clean players.

So when we see a Battlefield example: “John is on the extreme end of a spectrum, because his tactics are so lethal, so outside of what the game’s creators intended, so far beyond what rival players can defend against and, oh yeah, he paid some hackers to have them. John pays to be able to kill your character instantly in Battlefield. He’s surely crossed some line, though it’s anyone’s guess just where that line must be” (source: Kotaku), we see the issue that is the stage on all this. This now directly reflects Apple and their mobile battery game. a conviction with a 10 million euro fine, whilst the payout makes crime a joke. The article (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/10/25/crime-as-a-business-model/) where in ‘Crime as a business model‘ we see: “Apple required the sale of 16,000 phones just to break even on that fine“, against “the means to sell 123 million iPhones through what the court is seen as deceptive conduct gets a fine that amounts to 16,000 units. A fine received that represents a mere 0.013% of their cost of doing business” and we see not only the progression of what should be regarded as unethical conduct, governments are actually encouraging it by giving fines that were a joke on a scale that is a mere 1% of what was done here.

So whilst we see: “For some of us, the idea of using a walkthrough is anathema, to others it is a means of bringing us back to a point where we can have fun. I’ll admit that I never completed the Ocarina of Time. It was too hard and I got bored. I’m sorry, Princess Zelda, I abandoned you“, we ignore that Ocarina of time is one of the best designed and most overwhelming puzzle journeys ever seen (I never got to 100%), the exclusivity of getting there is merely brushed on and the cheaters are given a pass. That is actually beyond the point where those with a gaming guide are not really cheaters, they merely walk the journey to get to the 100%. Apart from Ocarina of Time, there is Metroid Prime. A game I worshipped almost forever, I ended up only getting 98%, which is an achievement I was proud of (I never found all the missiles). And I played it a few times, loving that journey again and again. Yet the BI industry is merely hiring those with a 100% score and they had no interest how the player got there and that is actually the sad and worrying part in all this. Wall Street does not care how the revenue was achieved as long as it is and that is a much more dangerous setting in the upcoming future. To get the required numbers some analyst proclaimed no matter what. And when it is revealed in some scandal and the media is all over it, it is the mere ‘could reasonably not have been expected to have known‘ is what keeps the board members out of their well-deserved Rikers Island excursion (3-5 years). This sad evolution is not merely the creation of another Star Chamber, an old reference to a tribunal abolished in 1641, where we saw the king in council exercising criminal jurisdiction. It was inquisitorial, and torture is believed to have been used, with no accountability in any way shape or form. It is an upgraded system, evolved from those settings that allows corporations to do whatever they need to appease Wall Street and other financial centers, to exceed analyst expectations, whilst we see that these findings are increasingly becoming more and more unrealistic because that is what the market needs.

In all this holding these analysts and their formula’s up to scrutiny and accountability in the long run will not happen, making the need for these players to find the people who are willing, not to bend the rules, but to cheat their way across, increasingly more and more important to corporations and as such, the danger is that we get into a world where cheating is not half the fun, it is merely the only way to keep ahead of the curve and avoid being classified as no longer relevant.

When did we sign up for those values in our lives?

 

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Sleeping with the enemy

We have heard the expression; most will remember the movie with Julia Roberts and Patrick Bergin. The expression is slightly harsh and a little over the top for the setting that I find myself presently in with PwC. You see, some people are playing a dangerous game. So when I see ‘UK firm PwC criticised over bid for major Saudi Arabia contract‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/31/uk-firm-pwc-criticised-over-bid-for-major-saudi-arabia-contract), I find myself on the side of PwC supporting them. The article is an issue on a few levels. I touched on a few two days ago with: ‘Oman’s neighbour‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/07/30/omans-neighbour/), so this setting is actually most informative when we consider the issues seen here. I objected to the setting that Amnesty International gave a consequence, yet the original setting that started it was missing, in all this, the fact that the Houthi forces are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, as is Hezbollah and Iran is the puppet master behind all this, so when I see “Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs programme director, urged PwC to explain what due diligence it had undertaken before pitching for the work“, I wonder if Peter Frankental has done its due diligence into the situation where a terrorist organisation (with evidence from several sources) is operation on Yemeni soil with full backing of Yemeni officials, who are also extremely aware that they are facilitating for Iran. That part is missing from the charade that Amnesty International states is ‘the humanitarian nightmare‘. We agree that too many Yemeni are in the middle of this, no one denies that, yet the actions by Iran via Hezbollah and the Houthi’s are an issue and in this they merely ignore the founding factors.

In addition, the UK, with a desperate need to improve the economy has options and opportunities in Saudi Arabia, creating a dialogue, helping Saudi Arabia move forward. We admit that it will not be fast, it might raise obstacles, which is a fact of life. So when Peter Frankental sets ‘due diligence‘, I am of the mind that he clearly did not proceed with that duly noted diligence to a rather large extent.

So when I see “The United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights make it clear that a company may be viewed as complicit if they are seen to benefit from abuses committed by another party“, in that view, Frank please explain to me how you will prosecute Northrop Grumman, Palantir, Blackberry, Dell, Pelican and Apple? I would really like to know that at present. I am going to grasp back at an expression that we get from Robocop, it was spoken by Kurtwood Smith: ‘Good business is where you find it!‘ and Saudi Arabia has business settings for up to £825 billion, so PwC is getting vetted for a chunk of business that could optionally keep thousands employed, grow optional new businesses and industries. In addition, when exactly did Peter Frankental set the stage for a similar attack on Virgin? Are they not setting up the first Hyperloop there? So where is Frankie boy in all that? Now, it is not my intent to slam out at Frank, he seems to have his heart in the right place. Especially when we look at a paper by the House of Lords called: ‘Any of our business? Human Rights and the UK private sector‘, it seems that he has forever focussed on this, the paper (Attached) is from 2009, where we see on page 15 “In particular, we contend that the UK state could and should play a greater role in the governance of corporations so as to contribute to the protection of human rights from corporate abuse, whether the abuse occurs in the UK or abroad“, that is fair enough, yet he is setting now the acts of an attacked government into a corporate right, in that same setting all exports to the US should in that light be equally questioned and regarded as illegal, you basically can’t have it both ways Frank!

So when we grasp at: “In particular, we do support the idea of some kind of international instrument for corporate accountability within the UN system, but we agree with Professor Ruggie that such an instrument would not exist to monitor the activities of tens of thousands of transnational corporations, that would be unfeasible, but it would exist to reinforce the will of states to hold companies to account within their jurisdiction” and set the dimensionality of a flaccid UN when it comes to the events in Syria, there is such overwhelming evidence of inaction (through Veto or not), which gives us that in the faced setting PwC should not even be a blip on his radar. Not when we compare it to “the US contractors are mostly focused on supporting the 2,000 US troops in Syria by delivering hot meals, gasoline and other supplies. More than 30% of them support logistics and maintenance, according to the quarterly Pentagon report, and another 27% help with support and construction of US military outposts in the region” (source: Al-Monitor, April 2018). So how much visibility did Frank give here? In all this, he does not get to hide behind the ‘It is not linked to the UK‘ you just cannot become a ‘local’ party towards a global event when you decide it is. It just does not work that way.

In this, we also see: “PwC already has a presence in Saudi Arabia, but it is the company’s UK operation that is behind the defence project“, which is true, because I applied and they were not taking any non-UK citizens. Darn!

In addition, with: “PwC has launched a “call for resources” – asking specialists and consultants in London whether they would be interested in moving to Riyadh to start the work – because, it has said, it is “currently finalising the deal”“, we see that PwC has the setting to move people to Saudi Arabia, more employment and in addition a sector growth that could lead to 10 figure long term deals, but fear not! Peter Frankental will be there to try and undo the economic boom that will benefit the UK (was that overly simplified?)

So with the upcoming opportunity and the subsequent quote “focus on how to reshape recruitment, resourcing, performance management and strategic workforce planning, and how to manage and communicate change“, it actually goes further than that, even as a lot more performance management is likely to be shown, it will also be about what is the hierarchy and what is not. In light of work safety and preparedness (yes, even in the military), the setting of ‘Own the challenge‘ is a lot harder to scribe into the soul of the person. To set ‘solving’ the issue as the forefront of ‘that what is my actual responsibility‘ tend to be a challenge even within the most flexible workers, so I predict that there is a shift that will soon be shown in places like Saudi Arabia as well. I will admit that having never worked there, that this setting is more speculative than anything else.

So when I see Frankie give us: “As any accountancy firm involved in work for the Saudi ministry of defence must know, the Royal Saudi air force has an appalling record in Yemen, with the Saudi-led military coalition having indiscriminately bombed Yemeni homes, hospitals, funeral halls, schools and factories. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed and injured“, the equal question on how many missiles that Iran enabled the Houthi and Hezbollah forces allowed to be shot into Saudi Arabia, and there is the drone strike issues in the UAE to consider as well. In addition, it is called ‘Saudi Ministry of defence‘, not the Hezbollah missile strike team. It might be nit-picking on my side, but then, I was always willing to go for broke.

Then there is the setting of “the UK “should be focusing on trying to stop this terrible conflict, not assisting the Saudi government.”“, yes it is an interesting setting by Anna Macdonald (younger sister of Ronald). When we go to the site (at https://controlarms.org/meet-the-team/), we see Anna Macdonald, Raluca Muresan, Zoya Craig and half a dozen volunteers. Yet, lets also congratulate on the bang up (or is that blow up) job they did in Syria, as well as a few other places. So when I see: “a global coalition working for international arms control“, which is a good goal to have, the flow of missiles and arms from Iran into a few places was not really stopped was it? Iran has exported small arms and ammunition to Sudan and Syria, anti-tank missiles to Syria, Sudan and Somalia; rocket exports to Syria, Sudan, Libya as well as shipments to Hezbollah and Iraqi insurgents. So in that list, and the goal Anna Macdonald envisions is a noble one, no one denies that, in all that, with at least two dozen of export mentions excluded, I think that PwC should not be on her list either. Especially, as the Saudi Arabian civil population is still under threat of missiles from a terrorist organisation. No one denies that the Yemeni people caught in the middle are in a really unbearable place, but all these actions means that no actual actions are taken against Iran. So as we were given ‘the European Commission has moved to add Iran to the investment mandate of the European Investment Bank (EIB)‘ a mere 18 hours ago, it seems to me that in all this Anna Macdonald and Peter Frankental should be setting their focus in a different direction, or perhaps that will merely not give them the limelight that they so desperately need (for all the right reasons mind you).

In all this, the defence from Saudi Arabia in the person of the foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir was reduced to a mere: “Judeir blamed the Houthi rebels for blocking aid and contributing to the humanitarian crisis“, is that not interesting too? The actual blockers of humanitarian aid was set into a mere footnote, a mere 14 words, so in all this, where is Peter Frankental at this point?

 

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Pinata whacking Couper

There is a little mean streak in me, you see, it started with Tesco, and it actually started a little earlier. But the gist is that when it concerns PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) I tend to take a swing at them whenever possible, I just roll that way. So there I was looking at ‘PwC charges more than £20m for first eight weeks of Carillion collapse‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/mar/21/pwc-charges-20m-eight-weeks-carillion-collapse-final-bill) when I realised that when I wack those boys I usually have good reason and supporting documentations to test my latest sledgehammer on a member of their board of Directors. In this article, when I saw “MPs have accused the accountancy firm tasked with salvaging money from Carillion on behalf of its creditors and pensioners of charging “superhuman” fees, after it racked up a bill for £20.4m in eight weeks” it took a mere 3.2 seconds from spitting in my hands and getting ready to swing that hammer at Kevin Ellis (yes all the way from Sydney, my arms are that long). I held off and went ‘wait a minute!

You see, I always had as I saw it good cause, but who are these MP’s thinking that they have good cause? The first is Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP in charge of the business select committee. So she mentioned that ‘superhuman’ part. What does she know? The Wiki claim states that she is an economist. So how much does one charge for 112 consultants? You see at £199 an hour we get £891K for these people working a mere 40 hours a week. As it is the UK, they are more likely to work 60 hours which gets us at flat rate £1.3 million a week which leaves PwC with an overhead of a mere £100K whilst I have not taking into account any additional expenses and they tend to get high. I reckon that these people are likely to make a lot more than 60 hours a week, that is the result of “£2bn to its 30,000 suppliers” and as the article states “a week to employ 112 staff to keep the company running and to honour government contracts” we do not see the inclusion of any additional staff that was not hired and that is still assigned via PwC. So that took a mere 6 seconds to realise that I was not getting to whack Kevin Ellis. Leave it to a Labour MP to spoil a perfectly lovely Friday morning feeling. Now, let’s also realise that my calculations could be way off, there are so little actual facts in the article (I am not blaming the article here) that there are hidden traps all over the place. I think that Rachel should have gotten up from the right side of the vibrator that morning, as we need to realise what an amazing mess Carillion is. The oversight had fallen short on so many sides, with the mention of pensions and a shortfall that is close to a £1,000,000,000 should be a much larger issue and the fact that this had fallen short implies a level of what I regard to be criminal negligence that is unheard of. We merely need to look at ‘Carillion’s pension crisis defies magic legal cure‘ (at https://www.ft.com/content/5041d10e-1a1c-11e8-aaca-4574d7dabfb6). So when we see “Yet in the seven years before its collapse, Carillion made contributions to the fund of just £280m while paying out dividends worth more than £500m“, my first idea is to look at the auditors and the accountancy firm. So how much overview did Rachel Reeves give regarding KPMG? We get part of this when we see ‘Why didn’t anyone working with Carillion say it was going to fail?‘ (at https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/carillion-kpmg-auditors-audit-hbos-financial-crisis-self-regulation-deloitte-a8185356.html). Here we see: “In March 2017, the giant audit firm KPMG signed off on the annual accounts of the construction giant-cum-outsourced services provider Carillion, saying they gave a “true and fair view” of the state of the company’s affairs. For this work, KPMG received a fee of £1.4m. This followed £1.4m of fees recouped the year before. In fact, KPMG had been Carillion’s auditor every year since it was founded in 1999. You don’t need to be an accountant to work out that that adds up to a very lucrative client relationship” that whilst we get the news that a mere four months later “its contracts to provide services were worth a remarkable £845m less than they had previously been valued on its books” that is an amount that exceeds whatever Richard Branson has in his wallet on his best days, so how was this overlooked? So as Rachel Reeves was kind enough that the value of KPMG is not good enough to audit the contents of her fridge, she should also be aware that this entire audit is not merely the outstanding invoices, there is a decent concern that the audit of KPMG has been unable to correctly assess issues for 17 years. So there is a real need to set up the correct framework to be able to take a long term look to the matters as well as the ability to set the right data dimensionality so that the data does not need to migrate over and over as more is found. I would think that an MP who part of the ‘the business select committee’, as well as a graduated economist would know that. You see as an experienced IT worker and a data analyst, I saw that coming a mile away.

So here I am partially standing up for PwC (so how fucked up will my day become?), news at 23:00. So when we get back to the Financial Times article and we see “As a House of Commons report has noted, Carillion’s growing borrowings were not used to invest in the company. In fact, while the group’s debt rose 297 per cent between 2009 and 2017, the value of its long-term assets grew just 14 per cent“, can we agree that there is a side that is terribly wrong here? These matters should have been clear in the KPMG reports, which now clearly overthrows the statement “they gave a “true and fair view” of the state of the company’s affairs“, I think that we can all agree that this part has been debunked in 30 seconds flat. In addition the Independent gives us “Moreover, KPMG was not the only auditor of Carillion’s numbers. Its 2016 report relates that it had a special “internal” auditor too, in Deloitte, with which it worked even more closely than with KPMG. So why didn’t Deloitte pick up on the dodgy contract numbers?” For me that is an interesting side as I have never seen anything dodgy in Deloitte. The fact that they might be part of the mess (unlikely though) is also cause for concern. More important, as I personally see it, it will be up to PwC to get that part out in the open. What was the exact assignment of the internal auditor, what data was presented, what data was accessed and used and who was part of the entire reporting stage of this internal audit? It would show more players in all this and could optionally give a better path in seeing the navigations that the decision makers in Carillion were involved in.

That is a part that we need to realise and consider.

There is another concern that the Independent brought to light. With: “Previous probes by the FRC have produced nothing but clean bills of health for auditors. “In nearly every major financial scandal we’ve had since the financial crisis, the FRC decides none of its charges have done anything wrong,” notes Jim Armitage, city editor of the Evening Standard. Worse, these rulings come with no reports or published evidence, making a mockery of the FRC’s claims to “promote transparency”” we might think that it is merely the FRC, yet what Wall Street taught us is that the entire 2008 joke gave rise to an 8 trillion write off, whilst no actual laws were broken, or at least none that could be proven, so in that regard, if that happens again now, we can clearly look at the House of Lords, point fingers and tell them to improve laws immediately and hold any MP and minister accountable for naming and public shaming. It might work, but I doubt it. You see, until there are large and unforgiving prison sentences, whilst also remove all the rights of ownership to those involved in Carillion, nothing will change. I have seen people setting the ownership of their large estates to their wives and then deny that they had any outstanding financial responsibilities in more than one country. Until these matters are settled this game will continue because greed will always win in the end.

So when we get back to the initial article we get “Kelly, who said his personal rate was £865 an hour, said PwC’s costs would gradually fall as more parts of Carillion were sold and staff from the accounting firm stopped working on the project. He said the firm initially had 257 people working on Carillion, with a bill for about £3m for their services in the first week after its collapse“, we see where part of the costs went to, so as my calculations was based on smaller settings we see how easily these costs were attained and the end of it is not in sight. Rachel Reeves should have seen this clearly as she had access to data I still have not seen. I think it is much more interesting to look at “Finance director Richard Adam, who retired in December 2016 after nine years at Carillion received almost £1.1m in salary and bonuses in 2016“, which we get from the BBC. So if we get to see the wrongdoings of Richard Adams, this is a reasonable speculation as the entire mess goes back a lot further than 2016, will we see these same MPs demand the auctioning of the goods of Richard Adams to make up for the losses of Carillion? You see the article stated MPs, not singular. Rachel Reeves might have been the visible one, but I want to see all those names, because when we consider the BBC news (at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42703549) as it gives us:

  • The £350m Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Sandwell: opening delayed to 2019 due to construction problems.
  • The £335m Royal Liverpool Hospital: completion date repeatedly pushed back amid reports of cracks in the building.
  • The £745m Aberdeen bypass: delayed because of slow progress in completing initial earthworks.

We need to ask questions on several MPs all over the field, all over the UK apparently. These three alone show a £1.3 billion issue are so out in the open that these three alone will constitute evidence of a much deeper required accountancy dig. Three issues shown last January and these three alone gives rise for me to think that PwC will be able to charge a lot more and in addition, the entire settling and selling could take a lot longer than some expect it to take. So these elements are the setting for additional costs, so those MPs might claim that there is a case of ‘milking the Carillion cow dry‘, but they better be ready for me to take a look at more than these three projects, because I will ask openly on their failings to get a handle on matters, because I am 99% certain that these three projects alone will lead to a dozen others all over the UK and if there are no clear memo’s from those MPs in regards to Carillion, they will be named openly to give rise to their shortcomings (perhaps also what was between their legs), because if you do not have the balls to go against the larger players, you should not be in office at all. Yet, that might be merely my warped expectation of elected officials.

Carillion is a clear mess that had been going on for a much longer time than some expect. You see, that part is seen in ‘cracks in the building‘, ‘construction problems‘ and ‘slow progress in completing initial earthworks‘ it implies optional failings going all the way back to the foundation of the works that were possibly never correctly done in the first place.

So I might still end up treating the bosses of PwC UK as piñatas, but at present there are plenty of other targets and so far (remember I say ‘so far’), in this particular case PwC seems to be in the clear (darn!).

 

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Apples, Pears or Fruit?

I got mesmerised not by the news, but by an article (at https://www.inc.com/heather-r-huhman/how-to-recruit-top-talent-3-trends-youll-need-to-know-for-2018.html) giving me ‘Big Changes Are Coming to Talent Acquisition in 2018. Here’s What You Need to Know‘, you see, there is nothing wrong with the article, it is sound and it makes a lot of sense. Two things jumped out. The first was actually the second issue “Know your ABCs: AI, blockchain, and chatbots“. It took me back to the 80’s where aspiring new IT Turks had their little vocabulary of things you need to know and mention. So that ABC would be a decent testing soon enough. It is a decent approach, yet soon after the thought was given we will be finding the highly desired ‘almanac of answers‘ soon enough and without technical representation at such an interview, the HR director could end up feeling slightly too lonely for that interview.

It was the first issue that was a larger concern. Perhaps concern is the wrong word. The need to contemplate the mention ‘Focus on adaptability‘, you see that train requires more thought and depending on your point of view, you feel right, wrong or decently confused. I always focussed on flexibility, they are NOT the same. Here the dictionary was of some assistance. As an example it gave me “rats are highly adaptable to change“, so do you want a firm full of rats? They tend to jump ship when things get dicey or too challenging. It was not the example I wanted to use, but I will happily adapt my flexibility accordingly. There is a second part; the option ‘capable of bending easily without breaking‘ is much better, but here I do not completely agree with the adaptation of ‘easily‘. I believe that a flexible workforce gives strength, at times adaptable applies in the same way, but there are differences. When you are flexible you can always resort to your earlier ‘shape’, and flexibility is presumed to be immediate. When you adapt to the new environment you change your shape, so we can argue that you become a new person, instead of merely a more versatile one. This is an equally wrong view as there is no given that an adaptable person cannot adapt back to his earlier self, in the application of flexible versus adaptable it is merely implied.

Another source gave me: “Adaptability and Flexibility, “Indecision is the key to flexibility!” The world of work is changing at an ever increasing pace so employers actively seek out graduates who can adapt to changing circumstances and environments, and embrace new ideas, who are enterprising, resourceful and adaptable“, here I disagree. You see, the flexible workforce has its own set of decisions to make, but they tend to have an everlasting changing atmosphere in where to score their Key Performance Indicators. This has been nearly forever the situation in customer service and customer care positions. That is from a software point of view. I will agree that such changes would be much less likely in the banking sector and that conservative placement is actually changing rapidly nowadays. From my point of view in these places would fare better with a flexible person than an adaptable one. If only from the presumption that adaption takes time and flexibility does not.

In all this there it is not same academic debate and in many cases it is basically the same from any point of view. Yet another voice gave the example that one person is talking about oranges, the other one about pears and they all agree that the fruit is peachy. It sounds nice but once we see that certain steps are linked to KPI values, the discussion could impact someone’s career to a larger degree and that is definitely a larger problem for all involved.

In another example we see: “that focuses on a child’s ability to adapt to new situations, improvise, and shift strategies to meet different types of challenges“, it is a view I very much agree with, yet here too there is caution, because flexibility is also set to parameters. It is more clearly shown when we add: “Video games can help improve Flexibility by allowing kids to practice their Flexibility skills while in the midst of a fun and immersive game“. Yes this is true, yet there is a hidden catch here. The hidden catch is that a game has software and hardware. In some cases a game could be played in more than one way, so set this child on a game like Minecraft on a console (PS4 or Xbox One), let the child play for two hours each day for let’s say 4 days, then on the fifth day give that child the same game on a PC or Tablet. Now you get to see the interaction of flexibility and adaptability, the flexibility to comprehend and adjust to another format seems easy enough, but the person adapting from a controller to a mouse/keyboard or a touch panel of a tablet is another matter. We need both and now the two parameters are shown more widely apart.

Yet this is not the only example and even as we can clearly see the interactions, the needs and the optional issues with flexibility and adaptability, the true test is not in a video game, it’s within ourselves, just like with any other new technology, the flexibility to allow adaptation and the adaptability we have to grow as we engage with new and evolved systems, as well as our environment as it changes as well. Blockchain technology is probably the best and clearest example for all involved parties. Parties on several levels are seeing its usefulness and as Mobile G5 is starting to arrive the list of benefits will increase, faster and larger. Moreover, as companies push in a more global way through clouds, Blockchain technology might be the only one that is least likely to hamper growth, even allow for Wild West growth. Yet this push has two opponents. The first is the marketing hype, as the ‘solution’ is oversold, more and more optional implementers will have ‘additional‘ questions and as no clear answers are given, opposition to the new technology will rise. In addition those evangelising ‘be first or become obsolete‘ players are not helping matters because this is a sales pitch that can never be proven, in fact we have seen how some who did not initially race towards the e-commerce side have not ended up dead (or last), in fact they benefitted from the mistakes and costs the early adopters had and avoided loads of hidden traps. In opposition there are those shunning Blockchain. Some seem valid (for now), much more of them are seemingly doing this in fear of loss of control. The latter is more likely to be seen in data and data management as the tools to manage, edit and audit these sources are vast and far away from today’s reality and today’s usage. Yet it does work (as far as it can be observed) and the part that stops some people is to view, depart and give the new format the go is the fear of being left behind with inconsistent data down the track (in case things fall over). Even as the sources can see how powerful this data could be, especially as data is collected for market Research, the fear shown so far seems to be overwhelming. Especially when we look at established brands and their lack of pace and space to upgrade what is into what could be. The people in Market Research merely need to look into the missed options by letting SurveyCraft be vultured, without clear evolution and system continuance, to see how a market was lost to a much larger degree than the players are willing to admit to.

And here we see part of the issue pointed out. We see this also (at https://globaljournals.org/GJMBR_Volume11/2-Impact-of-Employee-Adaptability-to-Change.pdf), in a paper called ‘Impact of Employee Adaptability to Change towards Organizational Competitive Advantage’.

On page 2 we see: “Organizations are now well equipped to switch according to the circumstances that will be sustained the operations in the long run”. When we see this in light of: “Studies by Bishop (1994) and Bartel and Lichtenburg (1987), proved that highly skilled workforce payback to organization in the shape of higher outputs and enhancing adaptability towards change”. Yet in this light ‘enhancing adaptability’ is not the same we see nowadays. Then it was in light of certain values and certain requirements that the masters of their workforce required. When the bottom line is set in light of a mere quarterly growth the short term requirements tend to have a very different impact. It was discussed in 2009 by Daniel A. Mazmanian and Michael E. Kraft in ‘Toward Sustainable Communities’. With: “Applying sustainability criteria to everyday matters of public policy, business management, and personal consumption is fraught with conceptual and moral hazards”. It requires a rare combination of long-range foresight and short- term adaptability, yet that proper usage is as I personally see it no longer ‘adaptability’ it is ‘flexibility’ through our contemplation of proper acts. Proper acts that tend to be absent of morality that the powers to be employ. Their limited care is towards their stake holders, their shareholders and their own bonus within the legal option available to them. The example of PwC in BT Italy and Tesco are merely two of several. The fact that we heard: “PwC has escaped official censure over the Tesco accounting scandal, after the UK’s accountancy watchdog closed its investigation into the auditor’s approval of the grocer’s flawed financial statements”. It is not because there is no evidence, but because it shows that under the most grey of versions of events that PwC cannot be pointed to as a culprit, the fact that no law can be proven to have been broken is central in this. We can argue whether their setting was ‘did we uphold the law’ or ‘will any of this stick to us’, are two very different statements. The flexible person will contemplate ‘did we uphold the law’ and do whatever he/she can without breaking it, which is a valid position to have. Yet the adaptable individual who will be set behind ‘will any of this stick to us’ is more questionable, yet is it wrong?

That is in my view the difference. I do admit that adaptable and flexible might be interchanged here, unless you accept that ‘Flexibility is the Thinking Skill’, when we do that the setting is no longer interchangeable. This is where I find myself now. Are we talking apples, pears or is it all fruit? I am no longer certain because the needs of Business Intelligence have changed. It is not about translating the results into ‘a story’ and presenting that. Not transferring the numbers and what they mean, but what it could be ‘seen as’, which is not the same thing. In this the bosses need adaptability.

Yet what are you adaptable or flexible?

And when you learn you were not one, you were the other, will you listen to your inner voice?

So what gives?

You see, I believe that our lives are in transit and to a larger extent our working lives are changing. There has been a push for a new kind of leadership in corporate circles. This has happened for a longer amount of time, but now we see more and more advertisements looking for people with an adaptable nature. The next example is not uncommon; it is appearing in more and more job offers. For example: “First and foremost, you will be a high calibre Business Systems Accountant with a positive, pro-active and adaptable demeanour”. What is central in all this is that the articles around us and there is an increasing focus on ‘adaptable’. This is not a fab or a hype. As I personally see it, it is the sign of the times. Every company is looking deeper and deeper into what is possible. As accountants, General management and members of boards are trying to hold onto their 20% growth they are more and more thrust into the world of Black Letter Law. UNSW had an interesting opinion piece (at https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/business-law/bias-and-%E2%80%98black-letter%E2%80%99-judge-who-dyson-heydon). You might stare at the fact that it is 2 years old, but the issue is that the change has taken 2 years for people to be more and more thrust into the reality of that cold light. With “The Howard government appointed Heydon to the High Court in 2003 following a speech that was billed as his “job application” for the upcoming vacancy. In it, he set out his vision for the ideal judge. The judge should interpret the law “according to the books” and do so “incorruptibly”.” In addition we see: “Heydon called out the antithesis of the black-letter judge: the “activist” judge. The activist judge decides cases not by reference to established legal principles, but to further “some political, moral or social programme”. The activist judge uses cases to right social wrongs in accordance with the individual judge’s worldview.

I believe it is not entirely so the case, even though the phrase is not incorrect. You see, some look at the letter of the low, some look at the spirit of the law. What was that law meant to achieve? As our vocabulary has changed certain standards, the standards have shifted on, but the law did not. An example could be seen in ‘decimate’, which now means “to destroy a large portion”, yet in the old days, when it was originally used (by them Romans), it literally meant “to kill one-in-ten”, which came from the Latin word decimates, we still use this in the form of decimal, and another example in this case is ‘divest’, which originally meant “undressing as well as depriving others of their rights or possessions”, yet not until quite recently when it became “selling off investments”. I see this as a dangerous change, you see when the laws were made there was a different meaning in some cases, and consider that Australia still has the Crimes Act 1900, such changes could be a little more perilous then others. The importance of the spirit of the law becomes more and more evident when we consider certain implications. Even as we cannot fault the direction of those who embrace the black letter law, the impact is slightly too large for comfort. Laird Kirkpatrick gave us more dangerous examples in his book ‘Black Letter Outline on Evidence’, here we see: “in 2003, the UK changed the statutory definition of hearsay, and in Regina v Chrysostomou (mark), 2010. L. 942 (Ct. App. Crim. Div. 2010), the court of appeal concluded that drug enquiries found on the defendant’s cell phone were not hearsay, apparently rejecting the earlier view.”, that is the application of black letter law. So how often will these changes benefit the proper setting of the spirit of that law as it was initially set into law? So now take this headline: ‘The UK accounting watchdog today dropped a misconduct probe into Tesco’s auditors PwC, saying there was “not a realistic prospect” wrongdoing could be proven’, why was the investigation halted? Why was proving certain matters not realistic?

I would love to speculate here. You see, I think that in the black letter of the law PwC did not break any laws and did nothing wrong. In this Tesco inflated itself for well over £250m, and got fined £129m because of it. Even as some PwC members are still looked at, I believe that to sizzle away. I believe that PwC decided to go Black Letter Law and did EXACTLY what the law told them to do, even as the spirit of the law is nowhere near those actions. This is the age of Adaptable management and the question is will this be a repeat at BT Italy? It is too early to tell, but if we believe the Financial Times, who gave us: “The fraud involved various methods of hiding and minimising operating costs at BT Italia. Some were complex, but others were as basic as moving expenses into the “capital expenditure” column normally reserved for building and acquiring assets. None of it was picked up by PwC, BT’s senior management or its audit committee, which has regularly reviewed the global services unit, which included Italy, since an earlier accounting debacle in 2008-09.” (at https://www.ft.com/content/c633d452-5c99-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220).  I reckon that there will be additional questions at some point. Yet the one thing that was never brought to light in case of Tesco was how matters were missed. If you pay £13M that year (including £3M for consultancy), how was there anything left that was not looked at?

If we know from TV that you never say something specific to your attorney, so you say ‘I bought a new carving knife as a present for my mother in law, is that OK?’, instead of ‘my mother in law is rather clumsy, so I got her a super sharp carving knife and I have been lacing her drinks with aspirin so she could potentially bleed to death next Sunday, am I liable if something happens?

I reckon that in the application of accountants similar issues apply. So you would say: ‘We made changes in division X to look better, can you focus there to make sure we are all up to scrap’ instead of ‘for the love of god, do not look at division Y where we inflated the whole bloody lot’. So as the accountant was not ‘aware’, they missed it. It is just a thought, but how far off am I? Consider that the meaning of Nice changed from ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’ to ‘pleasant‘, it does not matter which version I am, I feel perfectly safe with either.

Yet in the spirit of the views that I have, I am slightly damning to the black letter adaptable workload of management, they could undo a lot more than we saw and felt in 2008.

 

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Lawyers on a weakly basis

It is the Lawyers Weekly that gets the attention at present. The article (at https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/biglaw/22159-lawyers-don-t-need-to-become-accomplices-to-white-collar-crime) gives us the nice title with ‘Lawyers ‘don’t need to become accomplices’ to white-collar crime‘, yet is that statement anywhere near the truth or the applicable situation that many face in today’s industry? Monty Raphael QC talks the talk and does so very nicely as the experienced QC he is, yet there were a few points in all this that are an issue to me and it should be an issue to a much larger community. For me it starts with the quote ““Cyber space has not created any new crimes, as such, really, of any significance,” Mr Raphael said.” This is of course a correct statement, because until the laws are adjusted, plenty of issues are not covered as crimes. We merely need to look at the defence cloak that ‘facilitation’ gives to see that plenty is not covered. The case D Tamiz v Google Inc is merely one example and as technology renews and evolves, more and newer issues will rise, not merely in cases of defamation breaking on the defence of mere facilitation.

Yet for this matter, what is more a visible situation is the case of Tesco a how PwC seems to not be under the scrutiny it should be, it should have been so from day 1. So when we read: “Mr Raphael insisted that lawyers have an ethical obligation to ensure they do not support or enable white-collar crime” we are introduced to a statement that is for the most seemingly empty. I state it in this way, because the options of scaling the legal walls while not breaking any of the laws that were bended to the will of the needy is an increasingly more challenging task. If the legal walls were better than PwC would clearly be in the dock 2 years ago, or would they? In addition, they are not alone, merely slightly (read: loads) more visible as the profit before tax for Tesco ended up being minus 6.3 billion in 2015.

Monty makes a good case, yet the underlying issue is not the lawyer, it for the most never was. It is the law itself. This is why I object to the title, it is nice but is it true? PwC shows that even as we oppose their actions, the fact that they are not in the dock is because when we see Reuters (at https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-tesco-fraud/former-tesco-executives-pressured-staff-to-cook-books-court-told-idUKKCN1C41TK) we see “Tesco’s auditors PwC were “misled and lied to,” Wass added“. Is this true? Let’s consider the evidence, can it be shown and proven that they were lied to?

It might never be proven because the people in the dock have had years to get their story right (read: synchronised). What I stated at the very beginning of the events of Tesco remains true and it remains the issue. The fact is that PwC made that year £13 million from this one customer. Much of it in a project and auditors for the rest and they did not spot the fact that the books were ‘cooked’, will remain an issue with me for some time to come. It is the Tesco case that also underlies the issue here. It is about the weak lawyer, not because he is weak, but the lack of proper laws protecting all victims of white collar entrepreneurs is stopping them from aiding potential victims. In addition as the law is struggling to merely remain four passes behind it all, it becomes less and less useful, not to mention a lot less effective. As the next generation of economic tools are being rolled out (block chain being a first), we will see new iteration of issues for the law, for both the CPS and DPP as it cannot progress forward in light of the legal parties not comprehending the technology in front of them, so showing wrongdoing will become an increasingly hard task for lawyer to work with. The biggest issue is that as it is all virtual, the issue of non-repudiation goes out of the window. Not only will it become close to impossible to work with the premise of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt‘, there is the fact that ‘proof on a balance of probabilities‘ is becoming equally a stretch. The fact of non-repudiation is only one of several factors. So as we have seen that successful criminals tend to hide on the edge of technology, the chance to stop them is becoming increasingly less likely.

This now gets us to the statement “In the wake of the Panama Papers revelation from law firm Mossack Fonseca, Mr Raphael cautioned that clients’ criminal activities can come back to haunt their law firms“, the fact that both former prime ministers involved in the Panama paper scandals, Bjarni Benediktsson and Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, have been re-elected to the Icelandic parliament (Source: IceNews), so it seems that the Panama papers are a little less of a haunt. In addition there will be a long debate of what constitutes the difference between Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion, because only one of those two is illegal. In addition certain questions on how 2.6TB was leaked and no alarms went off is also an issue, because the time required to get a hold of such a large amount of documents would take a monumental amount of time and with every option to shorten the path, alarms should have been ringing. When we consider the basic IT issues, we get partial answers but not the answers that clearly address the issues, as they did not. The time it had required to do all this should have placed it on the IT radar and that never happened. So as we see on how patches and security risks are now being pushed for as a reason, we need to wonder if Mossack Fonseca could have been the wealthy party it claimed to have been. When we consider the expression ‘a fool and his money are soon parted‘ the lowest level of IT transgressions that have been seemingly overlooked gives rise to a total lack of Common Cyber Sense, staff that should have been regarded as incompetent and an infrastructure that was lacking to a much larger degree. You see, even before we get to the topic of  ‘illegally obtained data‘ which was used for investigations that have convicted people of crimes, the larger issue that could be in play  on the foundation of that data alone, a few prison sentences could be regarded as invalid, or might get overturned soon enough. There were cases where the story gives clear indications of what was done and here we see the consideration of what is admissible evidence. In this, the one step back is the IT part. The hardware would have regarded as little as $100K to upgrade to better security standards and hiring a better level of University Student in his or her final year might have given a much safer IT environment, perhaps even at half the current cost.

All issues worthy of debate, yet none of it hitting the lawyers; it more hits the infrastructure of it all. Yet these two issues that might now be seen as real hindrances for lawyers, in a place of laws that are now seemingly too weak, the law, not the lawyer. So as we recollect the Toronto Star in January 2017 where we see “Canada is a good place to create tax planning structures to minimize taxes like interest, dividends, capital gains, retirement income and rental income,” when we see the added “the Canadian government has made it easier than ever for criminals and tax cheats to move money in and out by signing tax agreements with 115 countries” we see growing evidence that the law is getting hindered by eager politicians making their mark for large corporations through the signing of tax agreements, and what they think would be long term benefits for their economy, whilst in actuality the opposite becomes the case. So every clever Tom, Dick and Mossack Fonseca can set up valid and legal shapes of international corporations all paying slightly less than a farthing for all their taxations. Legal paths, enabled by politicians and as the laws are not adjusted we can all idly stand by how nothing illegal is going on. So as we admire the weakly lawyers, we get to realise that the law and the politicians adjusting it weakened their impact.

In all this at no point would the Lawyer have been an accomplice. The data lies with IT, the setting of these off shore accounts were largely valid and legally sound and in that, there could always be a bad apple, yet that does not make the Lawyer an accomplice. That brings us to the final part which we see with “Money laundering has been in the spotlight recently, with the Commonwealth Bank facing punishment for failing to report suspicious deposits in its ATMs“. It needs to be seen against “Mr Raphael insisted that lawyers have an ethical obligation to ensure they do not support or enable white-collar crime” in this the banks are already faltering. We seek the dark light events of PwC and Mossack Fonseca, yet the basics are already getting ignored. I believe that the article is missing a part, I feel certain that it has at least been on the mind of my jurisprudential peer. You see, the legal councils will need to evolve. Not only will they need to do what they are already doing, the path where they (or more likely their interns) start to teach IT and other divisions a legal introduction on what is white collar crimes. The fact on how ‘suspicious deposits‘ could be a white collar crime is becoming more and more visible. I see that the education of IP legality in IT is now growing and growing. The intertwining can no longer be avoided. Now, we can agree that an IT person does not need a law degree, but the essential need to comprehend certain parts, in the growing mountains of data is more and more a given.

In all this there is one clear part that I oppose with Mr Raphael, it is the statement ‘There’s nothing cultural about greed‘, you see, as I personally see it that is no longer true, the corporate culture that is globally embraced made it so!

 

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Retaining stupidity

This is the very first thought I had when I saw “Artificial intelligence commission needed to predict impact says CBI“. Within half a second my mind went into time travel mode. Back to the late 70’s where all the unions were up in arms on computers. The computers would end labour, all those jobs lost. This is not a new subject as the magazine Elsevier showed un in 2015 with “Angst voor nieuwe technologie is zo oud als de industriële revolutie zelf. Diverse commentatoren refereerden de afgelopen tijd aan de luddieten, genoemd naar een Engelse wever die eind achttiende eeuw machines zou hebben gesaboteerd omdat die banen vernietigden“. “Fear for new technology is as old as the industrial revolution itself. Several commentaries referred to the luddites, named after an English weaver who allegedly sabotaged machines at the end of the 18th century because it destroyed jobs“. There is a partial truth here, you see, it is not about the loss of jobs. It is the mere fact that some of these Business group will soon truly show to be obsolete. In this they rely on a firm whose largest achievement is (as I personally see it) to remain silent on overstated profits whilst not having to go to court, or to jail for that matter (read: PriceWaterhouse Coopers). So by engaging this party they have already lost their case as I personally see it. So when we see “Accountancy firm PwC warned in March that more than 10 million workers may be at risk of being replaced by automation“, with the offset we needed in the past (read: Tesco) the damage might merely be a few hundred people. So I do not deny that some jobs will go, yet like the automation sequence that computers brought from the 80’s onwards. That same industry would give jobs and infrastructure to thousands, livening up an industry we could not consider at that time. The same happened in the 18th century when the looms and weavers grew, the blossoming of a textile industry on a global setting. So when you see “The business lobby group said almost half of firms were planning to devote resources to AI, while one in five had already invested in the technology in the past year“, you are looking at what I would call a flim flam statement. You see, perhaps the more accurate statements might be: “The business lobby group stated that 50% of the firms are moving away from the facilitation that the business groups provides for“, so these firms are pushing in another direction, why give credence to their flawed way of thinking? You see, this is the consequence of the greed driven executives who rely on status quo, they ran out of time and they need extra time to get their upgraded pensions in play. Why should we allow for them to continue at all?

I am willing to give the TUC a small consideration because of their heritage. Yet, when we see in the Financial Times (September 11th) “Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the government was hurtling towards a “kamikaze Brexit” and should keep open the option of remaining in the single market” (at https://www.ft.com/content/c5f7afb8-9641-11e7-b83c-9588e51488a0), yet there is overwhelming presented evidence from all sides both positive and negative mind you that the single market only benefits the large corporations, the small companies are merely disadvantaged by the single market as such we must wonder where the loyalty lies of the TUC, by that notion if the TUC is there for large corporations, or to serve them first, we see another piece of evidence that shows the TUC to be redundant, and as they merely vie for the large corporations as their main priority, the fear of those companies would become the fear of the TUC and as such, they are becoming equally obsolete. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a national trade union centre should show clear cause with all the data, not merely the aggregated data results of a data scientist at PwC. So when I see “the CBI is urging Theresa May to launch the commission from early 2018. It said companies and trade unions should be involved and the commission should help to set out ways to increase productivity and economic growth as well looking into the impact of AI.” Who is going to pay for all that? I submit that the Trade Unions pay their own way and ask their members for the needed funds. What are the chances of that? The poisoners part is seen in ‘set out ways to increase productivity and economic growth‘. You see, AI will do that to some extent on several paths, yet it is not up to the government to figure that out or to set debilitating fences there. It is up to the business sector to figure out where that profit is. That is why they are in business! You see, as I see it, the drive to remain in some level of Status Quo was nice until it ended, these companies have driven away the people who wanted to innovate and now they are in start-ups, or in companies that embraced innovation, the older larger players are now without skills to a larger extent, without drive through misdirected use of funds and lacking ambition, so they are going to get hit in all three ways when the driver comes. 5G will be a first and when it does happen AI (it is still years away from being anything truly practical), these two paths will drive new methods of automation and data gathering. But the larger players wanted to milk their 4G base as much as possible, setting up side channels with smaller players like Orange, DODO, TPG, Tesco and giffgaff. Now that they are learning that 5G will be a larger wave then some academics presented (likely at the expense of some placement), now we see the panic wave that follows. Now we see the need for commissions to slow things down so that the milkers can catch up. In my view there are clear reasons that such paths should be allowed to exist.

That is my supported view, it has been supported by other articles and I have written about these events for close to two years now. Now that the party is over, we see players trying to change the game so that they can continue just a little longer. We allowed for these matters in 2004 and 2008, it is time for the governments to give a clear signal that change will come and stopping it should not be allowed, not until they alter the tax laws, the laws on accountability and the powers of prosecution to have a better grasp at these players, a change that must happen before we allow any level of catering to their needs.

By the way, when we consider ‘PwC placed under investigation following BT accountancy scandal‘ (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/pwc-investigation-bt-accountancy-scandal-italian-operations-pricewaterhousecoopers-a7813726.html), as well as the Fortune.com issue (at http://fortune.com/2017/02/28/pricewaterhousecoopers-pwc-scandals-oscars/), where we see the five larger issues at PwC, which includes the previous mentioned Tesco, but now has an added Tyco, Taylor Bean & Whitaker, Bank of Tokyo – Mitsubishi and MF Global. So as I have been on the prosecuting tank, ready to roll it over the board of directors of PwC regarding Tesco, having any faith in whatever they want to report on now, unless it comes with all the data for the public at large to scrutinise, they should not get close to any commission and even less be part of the reporting. Now we can irresponsibly use 5 bad apples to identify someone who ships containers of fruit and that would be a valid response and defence. Yet overall the players asking for the commission seem to have their own needs first in all this. There would have been a consideration if there was any given that Google or the Alphabet group to be part in all this, yet that mention is missing and therefor the setting is void. Now, there are more players in the AI field, but it seems that the Google headway is the strongest, the largest and at present the fastest. And with a sense of humour I will add that you merely have to ‘Bing‘ the search ‘AI Commission‘ to see that Microsoft is in no danger of getting anywhere near an AI this upcoming decade. Perhaps the mention of ‘Australian Securities and Investments Commission – Official Site‘ on position 2 and ‘Fair Work Commission | Australia’s national workplace …‘ in position 5 to realise that their AI could be sunk in 13 keystrokes. The power of assumption will kill anything, including ones sense of humour and that same persons appetite.

Yet is there more?

Yes, there most certainly is. You see with “Investment in technology could help bolster Britain’s sputtering record on labour productivity, which is among the worst in the G7 and is failing to improve in line with expectations since the financial crisis” we see part of the fear being spread. The ‘milkers’ as I prefer to call some of them are realising that having space and capital for growth was essential to remain in the game. Some of the milkers are ending up being too visible and plenty of consumers are moving to a place where they can get a better deal. That was seen in Australia in June as ABC news gave the bad news that Telstra had to shed 1400 jobs. We see all kinds of excuses, yet the reality was that for well over 5 years they were too expensive, not by a margin, but by being up to 300% more expensive than a decent alternative. I have had personal experience whilst in a Telstra Shop because I was not an optional business account he had no time for me. Do you think that a company like that can remain in existence? Over the last 3 years, the shares dropped from $6.61 to $3.52, that is pain that a company feels and they remains ignorant and blind to the consequences. That view is enhanced even further by the statements given in the Sydney Morning Herald. With “Our approach [to 5G] is to get in earlier and try to have it modified so it’s more suitable to Australia when it arrives, rather than us have to try to modify it when it gets here,” Mr Wright told BusinessDay.“, so basically there is every chance that Australian 5G will be undercut by some level of standard that is not as given in the 5G handbook. As I personally see it is Telstra’s approach to setting a standard that is no standard at all. A ‘get in first so that we can tell others what the standard is‘, or better stated, what the standard is that you are not adhering to; 3.5G for your mobile anyone?

This Australian view translates to the UK as well. With “Despite the potential for technology to increase productivity, firms are cautious about investing owing to uncertainty over Brexit. Growth in business investment was flat in the three months to June, the latest official figures show“, so these business types are not willing to invest, they merely want the one market side to go on and in light of the delays needed, they want a commission, so that they can force government investment and delays. So they can get the best out of both worlds. The (as I personally see it) exploitative model is continued in every venue we see come and as I see it, it will be much better for us if those business models and business players go, they should go now before they become the detrimental force on UK industries. 5G will be a new beacon of industry and progress, it will open up additional venues for many telecom players and as such we are all better to get on board now and think of that one idea we had that could work for us all. It equally holds the solutions the NHS desperately needs and the fact that 3 larger players still haven’t seen that light is a larger worry than anything else. It merely shows them to be obsolete, dinosaurs in a modern age. As one person told me, the reason the T-Rex is such an angry creature is because its arms are too short to take a selfie. That does make sense, especially when you consider what some of these players think when they think 5G, they merely look at speed, whilst 5G opens up so much more than merely a quick download of a movie, in all this AI could be breaking the moulds and give us something that even I cannot envision, which is actually a really good thing. You see, the new waves will come from people that are different from me; they are the dreamers like the game designers in the early 80’s. They will show vision and give us something we never considered before. That is true progress and the people who bring us weighted predictions and tell us of fear of 20% of all jobs lost need to do what they were meant to do, die and become extinct just like the dinosaurs before them and soon thereafter I will become extinct too. That is the nature of future evolution. Just like my grandfather who could not comprehend the electronic calculator. I am clever enough to comprehend quantum computing, yet I hope I cannot comprehend what comes after, because if I can remain on board at that point we have all become technologically stagnant and we merely move backwards, that too is a personal view I have.

 

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