re: The Auditors is now at MarketWatch

May 18, 2015 was my first day on the job as a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington, DC, the sister online publication to the Wall Street Journal and Barrons that focuses on retail investors. Yes, I have taken a full-time journalism job and I have moved. I found out about the job via Twitter. (Twitter […]


The Big 4 And Globalization

More On My Reuters Breakingviews Column: The Andersen Tax Name Grab»

The news that a tax consulting firm made up of ex-Andersen partners would take the Andersen name garnered much media attention, as you might expect. It says something—but maybe not what the firm’s partners think— that so many years after the destruction of Arthur Andersen by criminal indictment—thirteen years—so many people care.


A China Fraud Dissected: Part 3 AgFeed’s Trusted Advisors Protiviti and Latham & Watkins»

Company executives and directors like to believe they can purchase a posse of “trusted advisors”. Instead, they’ve often only bought a gaggle of self-interested auditors, lawyers, and consultants. But to whom does each of those vendors owe loyalty?


A China Fraud Dissected: Part 2 AgFeed’s Auditors»

AgFeed had the benefit of two PCAOB registered and inspected audit firms. There is no indication on either the SEC or PCAOB website of an investigation of either for what happened at AgFeed. Is this one going to end badly, too, like the Gately case?


Where I’ve Been

Speaking Engagements/Conferences»

Next Up: July 15, 2015, Speaking with Broc Romanek, editor of the, to the Shareholder Services Association Annual Meeting. Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C..


Reminiscing About The First Too Big To Fail Bank – Continental Bank»

There’s a conference planned for next week, May 15, at Gleacher Center in Chicago, “30 Years After the Failure of Continental Illinois Bank: Have We Solved Too Big to Fail?” I wrote about my experience at CINB, my first job, for American Banker back in 2011.


Guest Lectures At Stanford Graduate School Business»

My notes for guest lectures (there were two sections, back-to-back) February 10, 2014 for Bus F332/Law 725, Finance and Society, at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, taught by Professor Anat Admati. Emphasis: The auditors’ role in corporate governance in financial institutions and specifically how auditors not inadvertently stifle the actual use of compensation clawbacks.


The Case Against The Auditors

PCAOB’s Franzel Speaks to AAA; Are Auditors’ ICFR Opinions Just “Busy-Work”?»

Auditor opinions on ICFR are not only not being done well, they are not producing warnings for investors and regulators that a material error and restatement is likely. Worse than that, when auditors get them wrong they whitewash their mistakes.


When Auditors Get Mixed Up In M&A, Smaller Clients Get Hurt»

A new study says smaller public companies are paying a premium for the prestige of a Big Four auditor but the auditors are dangling small clients as chum for their large acquisitive shark audit clients.


Piling Up For PwC»

Update: The PCAOB is investigating PwC for its tax avoidance advice to Caterpillar, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. One down, more than 100+ PwC audit clients advised via Luxembourg to go…


Your Career

PwC Settles Campbell Overtime Case; Impact To Profession Is Happening Now»

PwC recently agreed to settle the Campbell v. PwC overtime class action lawsuit pending in California. I first wrote about the case on October 25, 2007. Here’s an excerpt from my wrap-up at


The Saga Of Stephen Glass: A Guest Post Morality Tale From Eric Starkman»

Is it fair to “tar and feather” professionals when they are sued or only when they are convicted of crimes? How much time must pass before they can get on with their lives?


Madoff, MLK, Buddha And Elusive Nature of Self-Interest»

Your first obligation as a professional is to your client, not your firm, your partners, or even your family.


The Big 4 And Consulting

The NYDFS Case Against Promontory and the Bigger Problem of Big Four Bank Consulting»

Bank regulators should start hiring the consultants that are responding to bank regulatory sanctions, consent decrees and NPA/DPA legal orders directly, and also strictly monitor them. It’s time to change for regulators to change their approach before another waste of time, money and public trust occurs.


“Tax Avoidance On An Industrial Scale” Says British MP About PwC’s Luxembourg Work For AIG And Others»

British MP Margaret Hodge grilled Kevin Nicholson, of PwC’s UK tax practice, in a Parliament Public Accounts Committee hearing on Monday. You know you’re on your “back foot” when the first thing out of your mouth has to be a denial that you lied under oath. More details about PwC’s tax avoidance scheme for audit client and US government owned AIG.


Luxembourg Tax Leaks Put PwC On The Defensive»

My latest column at responds to PwC’s #LuxLeaks defenses: Illegal docs, legal advice. I also raise the obvious auditor independence issues which no one else is reporting.


Writing for Others

Duped By Fake Documents? All In A Day’s Work For Some Journalists»

I could not resist writing at about the teen trader who recently duped a journalist from New York magazine into believing he had made $72 million trading gold and other alternative assets. It’s not like auditors don’t get fooled every day by fake documents.


Update: The Shoemaker’s Children… The Big Four And Their Own Broker-Dealers»

Did you know that each of the Big Four audit firms and some of the next tier also run SEC-registered broker-dealers? You’ll never guess who audits them.


McKenna At Medium: Two New Columns For the Bull Market Collection»

I’m part of a group effort at called “Bull Market”. The first two columns are about taxes—the inversionist avoidance kind and one corporation’s horrible allergy to them.


You Can Quote Me On That

New At Forbes Online: The Precarious Financial Position Of The New York Times»

Update: This column was linked to by the NYT Public Editor! I published some New York Times numbers over at, “Time Is Running Short For The New York Times”, in anticipation of the company’s 3Q earnings announcement on October 30.


The Full Service Firm: McKenna Comments For Canada’s The Bottom Line On Legal Services»

I’m quoted extensively in an October 2014 The Bottom Line piece on the Big Four expansion into full-fledged legal services.


SEC’s Final Pay Rules Coming Any Day: Will They Be Enough To Level Playing Field?»

Senator Robert Menéndez [D-NJ], author of the Dodd-Frank pay ratio disclosure rule, didn’t take “not yet” for an answer when SEC Chair Mary Jo White testified before the Senate Banking Committee in late July a year ago. Menendez told White: “I’ve been waiting for several years now.” (Me, too!)


Food for Thought

New Orleans January 2008: "He leadeth me beside still waters…"»

I went to New Orleans in January 2008 for a few weeks to work with Habitat for Humanity building new houses. Here’s a slide show of what I saw three years after Katrina in the 9th Ward New Orleans LA.  Just went down on my own and joined a random group.  There was still a […]


SEC News at MarketWatch»

On July 21 Dodd-Frank will be five years old. If I hadn’t been through the same thing with Sarbanes-Oxley now twice, I’d be more excited. But the partisan rancor on this law, especially at the SEC, is even worse.


Looking Into SEC’s Equity Markets Structure Committee at MarketWatch»

My piece on the SEC’s new Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee, spanning several online pages, is now out at MarketWatch.