Author Archive | J. Michelle Garrison

WFE Duck Hunt

WFE Duck Hunt

Courtney Scheaffer of Stibbs & Co., Bethany Brothers of Amegy Bank, Laura Koch and Michelle Garrison of SCFO, Kim Culpepper of Marsh & McLennan Agency and Deborah Barron of Achilles Group

Recently, I attended the Women’s Finanance Exchange Duck Hunt at the Junior League of Houston.  The event benefits Dress for Success. Dress for Success is a wonderful organization whose mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

WFE Duck Hunt

More than just a fashion show, the 18th annual WFE Houston Duck Hunt drew a crowd of almost 90 members and guests who gathered at the Junior League for glimpse of fall clothing styles from Kelly Flores-New and to hear the latest trends.  After the style show, we spent time “hunting” for good deals among the clothes that were modeled.   Attendees contributed over $1600 in donations along with 25 suits and many handbags and pairs of shoes to Dress for Success!

Click here for a link to a slide show of the event featuring some fabulous photos taken by Roan Matthews with CrackedFox photography and design.

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WFE Duck Hunt

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WFE Duck Hunt

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Spotlight on a Houston Entrepreneur : Marcus Davis owner of “The Breakfast Klub”

The owner, Marcus Davis, and I

The Breakfast Klub owner, Marcus Davis, and me

I visited the world famous Breakfast Klub on June 30th for the first time. I had heard all about the famous restaurant but never made it to taste the food. Good Morning America, USA Today, Forbes, and Esquire Magazine agree that The Breakfast Klub is one of the top breakfast restaurants in the nation. This family owned establishment focuses on serving great food and building a relaxing atmosphere. The owner, Marcus Davis (pictured here), has stuck to his principle of ‘treating every customer like family.’

Spotlight on a Houston Entrepreneur : Marcus Davis owner of “The Breakfast Klub”

It amazed me when we pulled up and there were tents outside to shield the many customers waiting in line from the scorching sun. They take great care to make sure each customer’s experience is great. Despite being such a popular breakfast place, there was only about a half hour wait to get in. Once inside, however, it takes less than ten minutes to get your food. Their fast service and signature dishes make The Breakfast Klub such a desirable restaurant. They are primarily known for their “Katfish & Grits” and “Wings & Waffles.”

I wanted to write this post after visiting to highlight one of Houston’s well-known entrepreneurs. Marcus Davis has opened several restaurants and continues to give back by giving motivational speeches and hosting the radio show ‘Sunday Morning Live.’

 

Marcus Davis

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A Fun Place to Work

Can you have fun at work and be productive at the same time? Blinds.com sure does think so. Last week I visited the open house for their new location and I can truly say they have set up a workplace of fun. From the paint colors to the floor coverings, the idea of fun was very much considered. One might wonder with all this fun going on is any one getting any work done.

Blinds.com – A Fun Place to Work

Well, let’s just say they have experienced a 25% growth rate over the last three months and they have reached the $100M mark. I would say that’s quite an accomplishment for CEO Jay Steinfeld, who started the company from his garage with $3,000.00. Steinfeld and his team of over 130 employees have developed a culture of fun in the workplace.

Open House

On June 19th, I attended the open house for their new location. From good food to fun videos it was two hours well spent. From marveling at the lava lamps, playing with the huge Kinect board, playing along in the scavenger hunt (which I didn’t complete) to watching Steinfeld and his team perform on the “Move It” video I came away thinking, “I see why they are so successful”. The finale was hearing Jay Steinfeld thank his team and announce a toast to their success. The energy in the room was contagious. His final thought was that he’s always wanted to work in a magic shop and the new space fulfills that wish. Now the entire Blinds.com team can strive to create magic for their customers as they continue their work to be the world’s number one online window coverings store.

Here is a gallery of photos from their new space…

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blinds.com

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blinds.com

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Accounting Fraud Targeted

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the SEC plans to refocus its attention on targeting accounting fraud. They will also refocus on other financial reporting-related issues. While such cases used to be the primary focus for the SEC, the recent financial crisis forced the agency to take a closer look at Wall Street. In addition, they are looking at those seeking to take advantage of the crisis situation. With a decrease in the volume of crisis-related issues, the SEC is shifting its focus from Wall Street back to Main Street.

Accounting Fraud Targeted Article

Here’s the article:

U.S. securities regulators are turning back toward Main Street, renewing their focus on accounting fraud and other financial-disclosure failings.

Such cases were long a staple of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement efforts, leading to more than 25% of civil-enforcement actions filed by the agency in its 2003 to 2005 financial years. The financial crisis shifted attention and money elsewhere. In the year ended last September, accounting fraud and financial-disclosure problems made up just 11% of SEC enforcement actions.

[Increased Focus on Accounting Fraud]

But as the volume of crisis-related cases ebbs, top SEC officials are expected to announce soon a broad shuffling of resources in the agency’s enforcement division that will include an increased focus on accounting fraud, according to people close to the agency.

The decision to hunt for wrongdoing by Main Street, as well as Wall Street, puts America’s corporations in the SEC’s cross hairs.

The move is led by SEC Chairman Mary Jo White and co-enforcement chiefs George Canellos and Andrew Ceresney… It isn’t clear how much money or manpower will be devoted to the effort… The SEC already is developing a computer program to sift language in financial reports for clues that executives might be misstating results…

Mr. Ceresney, a former federal prosecutor who joined the SEC in April, and Mr. Canellos have told employees there are no plans to get rid of five specialized enforcement units started in 2009 that are devoted to market abuse, asset management, foreign corrupt practices, municipal securities and structured products. People close to the SEC expect changes to some of the units, though, which they say could give the agency more leeway to make accounting fraud a top priority.

“We have to be more proactive in looking for it,” [said] Scott Friestad, a senior SEC enforcement official… “There’s a feeling internally that the issue hasn’t gone away.”

During and after the financial crisis, SEC enforcement officials devoted much of their energy to reining in alleged crisis-related malfeasance, such as misleading investors about the risks of subprime loans or mortgage bonds. Few crisis-era enforcement cases remain.

The falloff in accountingfraud crackdowns by the SEC also may reflect improved financial reporting by companies because of Sarbanes-Oxley rules that took effect in 2002 after the Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. scandals.

[Word Shell Game]

An initial step in the SEC’s new effort is software that analyzes the “management’s discussion and analysis” section of annual reports where executives detail a company’s performance and prospects.

Officials say certain word choices appear to reveal warning signs of earnings manipulation, and tests to determine if the analysis would have detected previous accounting frauds “look very promising,” said Harvey Westbrook, head of the SEC’s office of quantitative research.

Companies that bend or break accounting rules tend to play a “word shell game,” said Craig Lewis, the SEC’s chief economist and head of the division developing the model. Such companies try to “deflect attention from a core problem by talking a lot more about a benign” issue than their competitors… [They do this all while] “underreporting important risks.”

If the word-analysis program works, officials say it will be added to a new “Accounting Quality Model” that SEC enforcement staff started using recently. The model trawls data from nearly 9,000 publicly traded companies. A similar computer-powered search for unusual performance patterns at hedge funds has led to seven enforcement actions in recent years.

Success won’t be easy, partly because suspicious language or numbers in securities filings aren’t necessarily illegal. [The SEC expects] some companies and their lawyers… to respond to the crackdown by trying to outsmart the agency’s computers.

“As soon as the SEC suggests it’s going to look at this in terms of the numbers of words, lawyers will be more loquacious,” said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University.

[Fraud Detection Software]

The fraud-detection software looks for big differences between net income and actual cash outflows available to investors, according to officials. It then looks for other warning signs, such as declining market share or weak profitability compared with rivals.

The system also looks for companies with an unusually high number of off-balance sheet transactions. Enron, Adelphia Communications Corp. and other large accounting frauds involved the use of such transactions to hide debt and inflate earnings.

[Auditor Changes]

Another sign of possible trouble: auditor changes. About 9% of companies that file financial reports with the SEC had their auditor leave last year, according to research firm Audit Analytics. Of the 866 companies that lost their auditor, 66 had two auditors depart, while two companies went through three auditors.

Sounding an alarm at the SEC “doesn’t necessarily mean the company’s done anything wrong,” Mr. Lewis said. But his aim is that something “kicked out of our model as being unusual” is “much more likely to be associated with a fraud” than having a benign explanation.

Jacob Frenkel, a former SEC enforcement lawyer now at law firm Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker PA, said computer power might help the agency refocus attention on financial-reporting issues that were “the bread and butter of the agency’s enforcement program” for decades.

Catherine Schrand, an accounting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said textual analysis is “fairly prevalent” in fraud detection. For example, insurers have concluded that people filing fraudulent claims tend to use “I” and “we” less often than honest policyholders

In annual reports, executives tend to refer to themselves more frequently when their companies are doing well… Companies with poorer earnings often “file annual reports that are more difficult to read.”

Conclusion

One of the most noteworthy “alarms” mentioned in the article is the number of times a company switches auditors.  While some firms are merely seeking lower fees or better service, many see changing auditors frequently as opinion shopping.  Small businesses often don’t consider this when deciding whether to engage a new audit firm. With the SEC taking a closer look at the practice, lenders will also be scrutinizing clients’ reasons for changing auditors.  It will also be interesting to see what impact this will have on new sales for CPA firms.

What are your thoughts on the topic?  Please leave a comment below.

The original article can be found here.

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Accounting Fraud Targeted
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Accounting Fraud Targeted

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Documents in a Loan Package

Requesting a loan to start a new business or expand an existing one requires the business owner to become familiar with the documents in a loan package. Once you have gathered the information and documents needed, knowing how to organize the loan package is the next step. Because presentation is key, this is actually one of the most important steps in the process.

Documents in a Loan Package

If you are trying to sell the idea that your company is worth investing in, then the loan package will be your first impression to the lender. They would be more apt to consider a loan package that is easy to read and follow, then one where information needed for consideration is hard to find and extremely difficult to decipher through. This means spending more time than they would normally spend when reviewing a loan package.

This brings us to our last point; only include information in the loan package that is relevant to the matter at hand. You do not want to include information that overwhelms the lender or wastes their time….get to the point. The goal is for your company to come across as a good investment for them and not an expense.

Click here for a link to an article that further discusses preparing a loan package.

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Documents in a Loan Package
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Documents in a Loan Package

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