The auditing profession is dangerously concentrated 





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The auditing profession is dangerously concentrated



WHATEVER you might think if your accounts have ever been qualified, audi­tors are only human. And hu­mans tend to exploit their power. So it is understandable that Britain's accounting watch­dog revealed last week that in­vestors and the finance directors of the country's big compa­nies worry about the dominance of the big four auditing firms - Deloitte, Ernst & Young, kpmg and Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (pwc). This is not a uniquely British problem: ac­counting is a global profession - and it needs a global solution. Audits are vital to investors, who need trustworthy ac­counts if they are to allocate capital efficiently. It is everyone's business to have confidence in what they do. Past doubts have centred on the conflicts of interest when an auditor earns large fees for selling tax advice or consultancy. And there have been welcome moves to save auditors from such temptations.

The worries that emerged this week were about choice. If one of the big four international accounting firms collapsed, some large quoted companies might be stuck without an alter­native. Many companies even now have only three to choose from, because they buy non-audit services from one of the big four. Since audit firms tend to specialise by industry, some companies have no choice at all. The darker version of this theme is that the four will use their power to hold sway with litigators, regulators and standards setters. On the one hand, they dominate the profession's official bodies; on the other, they cannot be too severely sanctioned for fear that four might become an even more dominant three.

It is not an idle threat. The profession is in this pickle only because Andersen, the auditor of Enron and WorldCom, col­lapsed in 2002 after its conviction (later overturned) for ob­struction of justice. Since then Japan's financial regulator has suspended the audit licence of pwc's Japanese arm for two months and Ernst & Young's American arm was banned in 2004 for six months from taking on new public-company au­dit clients for reckless and negligent conduct. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that Ernst was allowed to keep its existing clients for fear of the consequences if they were taken away. One of the reasons American prosecutors did not indict kmpg last year for its part in a case of massive alleged tax fraud may have been to avoid the risk of another Andersen-like collapse.

Imbalance sheet

Everyone has his own fix for this mess. Least appealing is one of the auditors' own proposals, that the state protect them by capping their liabilities if they are sued for damages. Aca­demic research suggests that similar legislation in America has led auditors to cut corners and take risks. Others think the best solution is to help the second-tier accounting firms audit the big companies. The trouble is that smaller firms would invest in gaining expertise only if they had a good chance of being appointed. But, without a reputation, firms' appeal is limited. The best way to ensure independence (and weaken the stranglehold of the big auditors) is compulsory rotation: cli­ents should be required to appoint a new firm every seven years or so. Bring in that change and four big auditors would not seem too few. Meanwhile, regulators have no business giving big firms an easy ride just because they fear what will happen if they do what is right. If one of the big four collapses, so be it. Then the moment for drastic remedies will be at hand and the remaining big three should be split up.

VOCABULARY:

Britain's accounting watch­dog – орган, занимающийся регулированием деятельности профессиональных бухгалтеров и аудиторов Великобритании

hold sway - управлять, руководить

idle threat - пустая угроза

pickle - неприятное положение; плачевное состояние; сложная ситуация

Everyone has his own fix for this mess – Каждый предлагает свое решение данной проблемы.

cut corners – изворачиваться, идти в обход правил

second-tier accounting firms – аудиторские компании, не являющиеся лидерами

 

VOCABULARY CHECK

1) Бухгалтерский учет - система сбора и обработки финансовой информации об экономическом субъекте, дающая возможность делать выводы о финансовом положении организации и принимать экономические решения.

2) Cистема двойной записи - это система учета, в соответствии с которой каждая операция отражается одновременно по дебету одного и кредиту другого бухгалтерского счета.

3) Управленческий учет необходим для принятия управленческих решений.

4) Система учета по себестоимости, которая отражает активы по цене приобретения за вычетом накопленных амортизационных отчислений, является наиболее распространенной системой составления бухгалтерской отчетности.

5) Годовой отчет обычно включает в себя три финансовых отчета.

6) Со временем машины и оборудование теряют стоимость в результате изнашивания или устаревания. Этот процесс называется амортизацией.

7) Отчисления на амортизацию отражаются в финансовой отчетности. Стоимость оборудования списывается постепенно каждый год.

8) Остаточная балансовая стоимость представляет собой первоначальную стоимость актива за вычетом накопленной амортизации.

 

SECTION 2 THE BALANCE SHEET

LEAD-IN

In accordance with the principle of double-entry bookkeeping, the basic accounting equation is

Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders’ (or Owners’) Equity.

This means that assets, or the means used to operate the company, are balanced by a company's financial obligations along with the equity investment brought into the company and its retained earnings.

An asset is something that has value, or the power to earn money.

Current assets have a life span of one year or less, meaning they can be converted easily into cash. These include: money in the bank, investments that can easily be turned into money, money that customers owe (accounts receivable), stocks of goods that are going to be sold (inventory).
Fixed, or non-current assets, are those assets that are not turned into cash easily, expected to be turned into cash within a year and/or have a life-span of over a year. They can refer to tangible assets such as machinery, computers, buildings and land. Non-current assets also can be intangible assets, such as goodwill, which is a company’s good reputation with existing customers, patents or copyright. While these assets are not physical in nature, they are often the resources that can make or break a company - the value of a brand name, for instance, should not be underestimated.

On the other side of the balance sheet are the liabilities. These are the financial obligations a company owes to outside parties. Debts that have to be paid within a year are current (short-term) liabilities. They include accrued and accumulated expenses that have not yet been paid such as taxes and interest. Long-term liabilities, for example bank loans and bonds, are payable in more than a year.

Shareholders' equity comes from two main sources. The first and original source is the money that was originally invested in the company, along with any additional investments made thereafter. The second comes from retained earnings which the company is able to accumulate over time through its operations. In most cases, the retained earnings portion is the largest component.

Shareholders' equity represents a company's total net worth. In order for the balance sheet to balance, total assets on one side have to equal total liabilities plus shareholders' equity on the other.

The balance sheet, along with the profit and loss account and cash flow statement, is an important tool for investors to gain insight into a company and its operations. The balance sheet is a snapshot at a single point in time of the company’s accounts - covering its assets, liabilities and shareholders’ equity. The purpose of the balance sheet is to give users an idea of the company’s financial position along with displaying what the company owns and owes. It is important that all investors know how to use, analyze and read one.

Below is an example of a balance sheet:

Balance Sheet for Wal-Mart

As of Jan 31, 2006

Assets   Liabilities and Shareholders’ Equity  
Current assets:   Current Liabilities:  
Cash and Cash Equivalents 6,414 Commercial Paper 3,754
Receivables 2,662 Accounts Payable 25,373
Inventories 32,191 Accrued Liabilities 13,465
Prepaid Expenses and Other 2,557 Accrued Income Taxes 1,340
Total Current Assets 43,824 Long-term Debt, due within one year 4,595
    Obligations Under Capital Leases, due within one year
Property and Equipment, at cost:   Total Current Liabilities 48,826
Land 16,643    
Buildings and Improvements 56,163 Long-term Debt 26,429
Fixtures and Equipment 22,750 Long-term Obligations Under Capital Leases 3,742
Transportation Equipment 1,746 Deferred Income Taxes and Other 4,552
Total Property and Equipment, at cost 97,302 Minority Interest 1,467
       
Less Accumulated Depreciation 21,427 Shareholders’ Equity  
Property and Equipment, net 75,875 Preferred Stock
    Common Stock
Property Under Capital Lease 5,578 Capital in Excess of Par Value 2,596
Less Accumulated Amortization 2,163 Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income 1,053
    Retained Earnings 49,105
Property Under Capital Lease, net 3,415    
Goodwill 12,188 Total Shareholders’ Equity 53,171
Other Assets and Deferred Charges 2,885    
Total Assets 138,187 Total Liabilities and Shareholders’ Equity 138,187

The assets and liabilities sections of the balance sheet are organized by how current the account is. So for the asset side, the accounts are classified typically from most liquid to least liquid. For the liabilities side, the accounts are organized from short to long-term borrowings and other obligations.

Firms in a good situation are said to have a strong balance sheet and those that are not, a weak one. Things that are not shown in the balance sheet but in a footnote, for example, are off-balance sheet.

A company’s balance sheet may include provisions for potential losses, such as bad debts, debts that may never be paid. If it looks almost certain that a debt will not be paid, it is considered a write-off and written off.

Provisions are liabilities, the amount of which cannot be established precisely, or the occurrence of which is uncertain. Provisions should be distinguished from reserves, which are amounts set aside under equity for future use with respect to obligations which may arise from probable or possible events.

 

VOCABULARY

accounting equation - уравнение баланса, балансовое [бухгалтерское] уравнение (формула, лежащая в основе составления бухгалтерского баланса)
assets - активы
current assets -текущие оборотные активы; оборотный капитал: активы, которые являются частью капитала обращения предприятия и часто оборачиваются в ходе коммерческой деятельности; к наиболее распространённым видам текущих оборотных активов относятся товарная наличность, дебиторская задолженность и наличность
fixed assets - основные средства, материальные (долгосрочные) активы, основной капитал; активы, которые фирма приобретает для длительного использования в процессе экономической деятельности, а не для перепродажи: здания, сооружения, машины, оборудование, земля и т. п.
tangible assets - материальные (осязаемые) активы: оборудование, здания, ценные бумаги и т. п.
intangible assets - нематериальные (неосязаемые) активы; не имеют материального выражения, но способны приносить доход своему владельцу, напр., репутация фирмы, капитализированные права, привилегии, торговые марки, арендные контракты, франшизы, конкурентные преимущества и т. д.
goodwill - “гудвилл”; деловая репутация; условная стоимость репутации и деловых связей фирмы
liabilities. - обязательства; пассивы
current (short-term) liabilities - текущие (краткосрочные) обязательства; текущие пассивы: задолженность, подлежащая погашению в течение ближайшего года
long-term liabilities - долгосрочные обязательства
accrued expenses accumulated expenses   - начисленные (накопленные) обязательства (расходы): затраты, которые будут оплачены до конца отчетного периода, но еще не выплачены; в балансе относятся к краткосрочным обязательствам
shareholders'(or owners’) equity - акционерный (собственный) капитал, чистая стоимость компании, нетто-стоимость (активов) компании: все активы минус все обязательства компании
retained earnings retained profits undistributed profits accumulated earnings - нераспределенная прибыль: чистая прибыль компании, не распределенная среди акционеров, а направленная в резервы или на другие цели (реинвестированная в бизнес)
balance sheet - бухгалтерский баланс, балансовый отчет: финансовый отчет, в котором отражаются активы и пассивы компании по состоянию на определенную дату
annual balance sheet - годовой баланс
strong balance sheet - речь идет об устойчивом, стабильном финансовом положении организации
weak balance sheet - балансовый отчет, свидетельствующий о том, что финансовое положение компании нестабильно
off-balance sheet - внебалансовый отчет
bad debt - безнадежный долг, безнадежная задолженность: долг, взыскание которого не представляется возможным
provision - резерв на покрытие выплат по обязательствам; резерв предстоящих расходов и платежей
reserves - резервный фонд, резерв, резервы: средства, которые не используются, оставлены для будущих платежей (напр., резерв по безнадежным долгам, банковский резерв, золотовалютные резервы государства)

COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS:

1) What does the basic accounting equation state?

2) What do current assets include?

3) What is the life span of fixed assets?

4) What could fixed assets be divided into?

5) What are liabilities?

6) What is the difference between long-term and current liabilities?

7) What two main sources does shareholders’ equity come from?

8) What is a balance sheet? What is its purpose? How is it organized?

9) What do we say about firms in a good/bad situation?

VOCABULARY PRACTICE

Assets are anything that have value. Your house, car, checking account, and the antique china set your grandma gave you are all assets. Companies figure up the dollar value of everything they own and put it under the asset side of the balance sheet.

Liabilities are the opposite of assets. They are anything that costs a company money. Liabilities include monthly rent payments, utility bills, the mortgage on the building, corporate credit card debt, and any bonds the company has issued.

Retained earnings are what's left after dividends are paid. This money is either used for future business ventures or invested back into the company for growth purposes.

Companies have intangible assets, whose value is difficult to quantify or turn into cash, such as goodwill, patents, copyright and trade marks.

One of the most basic concepts of accounting involves determining if an item is an asset or a liability. Unpaid payroll expenses, unpaid interest on notes, and taxes incurred but not yet paid are liabilities. Although not yet paid, they must be accounted for within the company’s financial records. Thus, the entries of “accrued” expense were born. Accrued expense refers to an expense that has been incurred but not yet paid.

Bad debt is usually a product of the debtor going into bankruptcy or where the additional cost of pursuing the debt is more than the amount the creditor could collect. This debt, once considered to be bad, will be written off by the company as an expense.

 

 

TEXTS TO TRANSLATE:

61. Bank Reform in Japan

Seriously?

THIS might, just might, be a turning-point for the crisis at Japan's banks. Just as ev­eryone was beginning to think the banks would stagger along half-dead for ever, a trio of powers has emerged—and it seems to be bent on real reform. In a striking break with the past, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), the Bank of Japan (BOJ), and the Keidanren, the powerful group representing business interests, have all reached an understanding. As early as next month, a broad set of finan­cial and structural reforms to clean up the banks and their borrowers could be set out.

Hakuo Yanagisawa, the minister in charge of financial affairs, is leading the at­tack. This week he demanded that banks write off their bad loans rather than just set aside provisions to cover potential losses. That practice often understates bad loans, which have worsened at many banks, lead­ing to a second round of losses. Mr Yanagi­sawa has also urged banks to speed up their bad-loan disposals. Banks have ditched some ¥70 trillion ($620 billion) of non-per­forming loans over the past ten years; that much and more still sits on their books.

If banks get more serious about excising bad debts, many will end up in the red when they next close their books. Mr Yanagisawa has indicated that as long as they show they are serious about cleaning up, then the FSA will tolerate this. In turn, the central bank, a long-time advocate of wholesale bank re­form, is also ready to help, by setting up a mechanism to provide needed liquidity to cash-strapped banks.

Many weak, indebted borrowers would be driven out of business should the banks start writing off bad debts and cutting credit lines. That is why the Keidanren's support for painful reform is startling, if welcome. Its chairman, Takashi Imai, conceded this week for the first time that pain, at least in the short term, was necessary to revive corporate for­tunes. "Unless some of the players jostling around [in the corporate sector] leave the field," he said, "we won't be able to shake off this unhealthy deflation."

There is little doubt that the weakness of the stockmarkets, which are hovering close to a 15-year low, has prompted the latest flurry of reforming zeal. But whether banks can be cajoled into acting is still unclear. With luck, they will grab this opportunity to clean up their books. After all, most are al­ready being pushed to the brink by huge bankruptcies, actual or pending, such the collapse of Phoenix Resort, a resort operator, which failed on February 19th with ¥270 bil­lion of liabilities. If they fail to act, the FSA could use the threat of stricter inspections, for one, to prod them.

Mr Yanagisawa has already accom­plished a good deal since he was appointed minister (for the second time) last Decem­ber. He still has a long way to go. For starters, he must explain the nitty-gritty of his re­forms, and how they will be carried out. One issue is how the banks are to write off their bad loans. There are several ways this could be done. Simply to forgive debt would raise questions of moral hazard, inviting compa­nies to take wild risks on the assumption that they would be bailed out. Selling bad loans to third parties in the market for distressed debt would help banks, but would leave the problems of the corporate sector unresolved. One solution might be to split companies into good bits, which survive, and bad bits, which are got rid of.

Another matter which has not yet been addressed is the issue of management responsibility. The managers that got banks into this mess are still at their desks, and it is hard to see how revived banks can prosper in future under such a benighted lot. Fur­thermore, Mr Yanagisawa's assumption that banks will not need another injection of public funds in order to survive these mas­sive write-offs may also prove mistaken.

The biggest risk is that Mr Yanagisawa may not be around to push through his re­forms. Cutting off credit lines and forcing companies to go bust would meet with a deal of opposition, not least from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Yoshiro Mori, the prime minister, gets more unpopu­lar by the day. Mr Mori, a pork-barrel politi­cian, is unlikely to back full-scale bank re­form in his present, vulnerable state. Yet should he go, there are no guarantees that Mr Yanagisawa will be asked to stay on to com­plete the job.

VOCABULARY:

… has also urged banks to speed up their bad-loan disposals - … также настоятельно рекомендовал банкам поскорее списать сомнительные долги

nonperforming loans - реально не функционирующиe (займы, по которым не выплачиваются проценты)

excise bad debts списать сомнительные долги

close their books - подвести итог ( подвести итоги по данным в бухгалтерских книгах и вывести сальдо по балансу в конце отчетного периода )

cash-strapped banks – банки, нуждающиеся в денежных средствах

nitty-gritty of re­forms – суть реформ

moral hazard - моральный риск, угроза недобросовестности ( вероятность того, что само существование контракта приведет к изменению поведения одной или всех сторон контракта (например, вероятность того, что наличие страховки изменит поведение застрахованного лица в сторону увеличения риска)

bail out – оказывать помощь при выходе из сложной финансовой ситуации (часто со стороны государства)

address the matter - обращать внимание на; задумываться о; заняться решением проблемы

benighted – некомпетентный

 

62. Asset Finance





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