With last week's passing of late-night legend Johnny Carson, I -- along with the rest of America -- reminisced about the volume of show business careers he launched, particularly those of a seemingly infinite number of stand-up comedians.
Joining the roster of such future headliners as Jay Leno, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, George Carlin, Phyllis Diller and Flip Wilson, was a struggling documentary filmmaker from Philadelphia named David Brenner. I vividly remember, in the infancy of the 1970s, Brenner performing a gut-splitting routine titled, "The worst doctor."
His rationale was that of all the people in the world who held a medical license, it stood to reason that someone in that demographic would hold the dubious title of "the worst doctor."
He subsequently went on to envision nervous patients awaiting an appointment with "the worst doctor," and the medical horrors that surely ensued.
Imagine how much fun Brenner would have had with recent headlines of accounting fraud at a Long Island school district and the CPA firm that, ahem, audited it.
Earlier this month, New York State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi released a searing report blasting the CPA firm of Miller, Lilly & Pearce, labeling its audit work on the Roslyn, N.Y. school district
"so flawed and so far below professional standards," and "appallingly inadequate," after the firm failed to identify millions that reportedly had been stolen by employees of the district. Hevesi's report also revealed that the auditor failed to meet nine mandatory professional standards for its Roslyn audit.
Does somebody sense a Brenner routine here?
According to the report,, when the fraud initially surfaced more than two years ago, Miller, Lilly & Pearce investigated and found only $223,136 in "inappropriate" payments. However, New York State auditors employing the same methodology found murky payments to the somewhat larger tune of, oh, $1.6 million.
The partners at the firm allegedly also sold financial and other software to the district, thereby sort of erasing any pretense of auditor independence.
The state auditors charged that the auditor failed to examine cancelled checks when testing district spending, and that workpapers -- supposedly created in 2002 and 2003 -- contained payment information that was inserted by officials just last year in an attempt to cover up the massive fraud.
In the aftermath, three former officials of the Roslyn Schools district have been charged with larceny for siphoning roughly $2.3 million from the district's coffers.
As a result, the Roslyn district has filed a $12 million lawsuit against Miller, Lilly & Pearce, which to no one's surprise revealed it was closing its doors.
In a period when the CPA profession is working to repair its image amidst the ruins of Enron and WorldCom, I doubt that the loss of this firm will mourned by too many.
No doubt Brenner could have had a field day, crafting a "worst accountant" routine as a result of this disgraceful example of audit implosion, but unfortunately, life imitating art dramatically loses its punchline outside the confines of The Tonight Show.
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