Accounting issues stayed front and center all year, with several events and people making business headlines -- repeatedly -- during 2004.
As we head into 2005, here's a look at a few of the major people and players of the year who are sure to be back in the headlines -- over and over again -- in 2005. Let's just say that if you could earn a nickel for every time one of these names or phrases will appear in print in the coming year, you'd be on your way to a nice nest egg.
Stock option expensing. With the final rule from the Financial Accounting Standards Board due to take effect mid-year, there's still time for another showdown between accounting rule-makers and their supporters and the members of Congress and leaders from the high-tech and business communities hoping to win an 11th hour stay.
Tax services. In the late 1990s, it was consulting. In the 2000s, tax services are going to be the thorn in audit firms' sides. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has proposed new rules to curb the tax work that audit firms can provide to their public company audit clients, and at least some members of the accounting profession are sure to rail against the restrictions. But, post-Sarbanes-Oxley, it's a good bet that there will be a lot less bellyaching about the limits than there was about the proposed limits on consulting during the Arthur Levitt years.
Outsourcing. Whether you're for it or against it, outsourcing isn't going away. Expect to see more research on the costs/benefits, more studies on who's outsourcing and the type of work they're farming out, and likely, more rules related to disclosure.
Kenneth Lay. Nearly three years after the implosion of the firm he founded, Lay, the former chief executive and chairman of Enron Corp., was indicted and pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he was involved in a scheme to deceive the public, shareholders and government regulators about the infamous energy company's true financial performance. Lay stayed in the headlines for months with his public declarations of innocence and claims that his indictment is political. But a U.S. district judge disagreed, and instead of granting Kenny Boy's request for one speedy trial separate from two other former Enron execs, Judge Sim Lake decided that Lay will get two criminal trials, due to start some time next year.
Bernard Ebbers. Former WorldCom chief executive Ebbers, charged with committing fraud and making false statements in public filings in connection with the $11 billion accounting scandal that drove WorldCom, now known as MCI, into a spell of bankruptcy, is set to stand trial in January.
Fannie Mae. The clean-up of the mortgage giant's major accounting mess has barely begun. And they're going to need a mighty big shovel for this one.
Sarbanes-Oxley. Not a day goes by when the two-year old law that ended the self-regulation of the accounting profession doesn't make the news for some reason. Do we really need to say more?
What other accounting-related issues or people do you think will make headlines in 2005? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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