One of the great and novel Web sites currently in operation is something titled “Jump the Shark.”
Its unique title stems from an episode of the long-deceased sitcom “Happy Days,” where the series’ leather-jacketed and cool-as-dry-ice character Fonzie, is challenged to jump over a populated shark tank while water-skiing.
The premise of the portal is to determine the moment when once-popular television shows began their descent into the ridiculous, and, ultimately, off the air.
The creators of JTS obviously felt that Fonzie flying through the air was the moment when Happy Days began its free-fall into oblivion.
Personally, I feel the show’s spiral began several years prior to that, when Fonzie exchanged his trademark white T-shirt for one in black.
But I digress.
Unlike the debate over the precise moment when a TV show tanks, it’s relatively easy to discern when accounting firms have jumped the shark. You don’t have to be a wizened practitioner or even a follower of the profession to know that Arthur Andersen jumped, or more aptly, landed, in the shark tank labeled Enron.
And not long thereafter, the 90-year-old firm, inarguably one of the prime-time players in accounting history, went off the air permanently.
KPMG, fresh off a series of top-level management changes and looming litigation as a result of its tax products, is certainly headed to the marina and ski rental shop if things don’t begin to radically change there.
On a brighter note, if KPMG jumps, it most likely won’t end with quite the same finality as did their former Big Five competitor Andersen, but to my reckoning, the firm is definitely getting fitted with more than a few pair of waterskis.
Ernst & Young avoided the skis — at least temporarily — after coughing up $15 million to avoid an IRS probe into its tax shelters, while PricewaterhouseCoopers’ curious travel-billing arrangements put them on a watch list for a possible jump in the future.
National firms like Grant Thornton, which not only has tax shelter problems courtesy of the IRS, but troubles on the international front, with a mega-billion-dollar whirlpool at Parmalat, and domestically, with a fraudulent audit at MCA Financial Corp., is circling with the boat – figuratively if not literally.
And, while JTS was no doubt created as a light-hearted distraction, for those firms that are preparing to jump the shark, it would be wise to remember there will never be repeats in syndication.
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