Early in my journalism career, I was at a press conference when I noticed one of the reporters for a major New York daily frantically scribbling notes in shorthand -- a skill I foolishly stereotyped as appropriate only for executive assistants and other administrative types.
After the conference, I casually strolled over to him and asked if he learned shorthand before he decided to embark on a newspaper career, or did he learn it on the fly?
He showed me his notepad, which had roughly twice the number of pages filled in as mine, and told me that by taking notes in shorthand, "You don't miss a whole lot."
Well, I never did make the commitment to study shorthand, but I'm positive it would have come in handy covering the events at Big Four firm KPMG over the past several weeks.
In a frenetic series of events, the firm has agreed to write a check in the amount of $456 million to put its tax shelter scandal behind it and avoid an indictment, named a pair of vice chairs to assume oversight of its remains-to-be-seen new and improved tax services operations, and sadly, lost its former chairman, Eugene D. O'Kelly, to cancer at the age of 53.
O'Kelly had been lauded for introducing reforms to help restore KPMG's professional credibility after its tax shelter activities came under the glare of regulators, such as separating risk management and quality oversight from the firm's business management activity. At the time, he spoke of leading KPMG in a "new direction."
Meanwhile, Shaun T. Kelly and Frederick S. "Rick" Smith, were named vice chairs for the firm's tax services and tax services operations, respectively, as recently installed KPMG chief Tim Flynn removed any and all of the remaining persons connected with KPMG's tax business, described in a company release as a "series of structural, organizational and leadership changes," but in reality, a corporate euphemism for your basic housecleaning.
It was the second such top-level sweep in just over 18 months.
O'Kelly initiated a top-level management shakeup in early 2004 that saw the departure of several executives -- several of whom have since been indicted -- amid ongoing investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department into the Big Four firm's past tax shelter activities.
The fact that KPMG avoided the fate that befell its former competitor, Arthur Andersen should have anyone even loosely connected with the profession breathing easier. No one, least of all more than 1,000 audit clients, wanted the global firms roster to shrink again by one.
And ditto for myself.
I don't think I could take fast enough notes to cover the collapse of another audit firm.
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