Honesty & accountants – a good marriage

A few days ago I was interviewing a CFO for an extension to the book “What do Accounting Clients Really Want?” and he shared with me a most interesting (& disappointing) story about an recent experience he had with a top 10 accounting firm.

This CFO, lets call him “Jack”,  asked the accounting firm to provide with advice relating to a specific & complex tax issue. Given the importance of the task he was expecting a fairly sizable bill so he wanted to make sure that he got the scope for the work as well-defined as he could. So he did some basic research – read through some articles on the web and in journals and the like and presented the accounting firm with, Jack thought, a clear task and expected outcome.

A week or two passed and the accounting firm presented their advice and a bill for $30,000. As he was reading through the document, Jack noticed that a lot of the content look familiar. With a few clicks of his browser, he discovered that much of the advice in the document came straight from a government website. All the firm in question had done was to write the background & introduction and provide a summary at the end. In other words, they “top & tailed it”, put it on their letterhead and passed it off as tailored advice.

Understandably Jack was annoyed, disappointed and angry and for obvious reasons refused to pay the $30,000 bill. When “found out” by their client, the accounting firm had no decent response to make to Jack and were embarrassed by the situation. The real issue for Jack in this whole sorry affair was not that they did it in the first place, but thought they could get away with it.

Jack will never use this firm again. Not only were they unprofessional, but were dishonest in the claim that they were providing Jack the tailored advice his business needed. Clearly, they weren’t tailoring anything. As Jack told me he could have got one of his primary-school aged children to do what a top 10 accounting firm had done and pay them a whole lot less than $30,000!

See you next time,

James E