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SEC Manual Gets Attention from Lady Gaga Fans

May 11, 2011

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Financial Reporting Manual has been attracting Lady Gaga fans, thanks to a story we ran here.

Last year, I wrote an Inside View column reporting on a presentation that Wayne Carnall, the chief accountant in the SEC's Division of Corporate Finance, did in which he made a passing reference to Lady Gaga, and how much traffic the SEC’s Financial Reporting Manual had been receiving (see The SEC Goes Gaga). Turns out that lots of Lady Gaga fans decided to check out the SEC manual too.

At a Baruch College conference on financial reporting last week, Carnall talked about the impact of Gaga on Web traffic at the SEC.

“I was giving a speech last September in New York at the New York State Society of CPAs, and I discussed a number of very technical topics for over an hour, and a couple of members of the press were there,” he said. “When I got to the Financial Reporting Manual, I made a comment that this document received more hits on Corp Fin’s Web site than any other document that we had published. It was very popular. I made a comment that we’re almost up in terms of number of hits to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance.’ The next day, the article had nothing to do with the topics I covered, but the headline said, ‘The SEC Goes Gaga.’ As a result of that comment, it went viral all over the Web. Thousands and thousands of Web hits with my name and Lady Gaga’s. My teenage daughter thought that was fantastic. She could show all her friends that you could look up her dad and Lady Gaga, and you would get a number of hits. Not only was it dealing with accounting issues, but if you go to some of the Web sites on her tours and where she’s playing, it would mention the Financial Reporting Manual. People who would never have thought about looking at the Financial Reporting Manual wanted to see what the fuss was all about. So I would encourage you, if you have not already done so, to look up me and Lady Gaga. There are lots and lots of hits.”

Carnall also told several other amusing anecdotes at the conference, including one about a mob connection that the SEC found alluded to in one of the disclosures given by a company. “I should mention some of the interesting disclosures that we’ve seen recently,” he said. “Most of the disclosures are relatively boring, but we did have one that was fairly unusual this past year. They usually say, ‘We resigned,’ or ‘we were terminated,’ etc. But there was one that said, ‘We can’t find our auditor.’ There are two possibilities. Either he’s incarcerated, or he’s part of the witness protection program. I don’t know if you remember the story a couple of years ago, but there were two New York City policemen that allegedly had mob connections and were mob killers. Well, apparently this auditor was involved with them, so they weren’t sure where he was, whether he had been whacked or in the witness protection program, or not. So they basically just said, ‘We don’t know where he is.’ That’s a true story and clearly an interesting disclosure.”

Let’s just the hope the auditor is in that witness protection program, maybe listening somewhere to Lady Gaga's latest single.

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