‘The Liars And Thieves Are Moving Ahead In This Country’

Michael Panzner
updated | Author's Website

I’ve lived though more than five decades thinking that people are basically decent but after all that has happened and the many facts that have come to light in recent years, I guess I’m pretty naive.

Indeed, a post by Charles Hugh Smith, author of Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation and publisher of the Of Two Minds blog, entitled “The Rot Within: Our Culture of Financial Fraud and the Anger of the Honest,” features commentary by an accountant with decades of experience in high-level global consulting firms and Fortune 50 U.S. corporations that suggests things have truly reached a low point.

I belong to a large number of finance organizations and sometimes I even assist clients with hiring a finance person. Since I have a lot of experience with finance and accounting, when I am interviewing these people I know when I am getting a BS answer and unlike most BS recruiters I do not steer away from controversy since I am truly looking for the most qualified for my clients and not who is just most marketable to them. After I start drilling down you would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many of these CFO’s and Controller types were basically dismissed because they would not cook the books in some manner.

Now maybe I have told you that I was asked to resign from one of the nations largest companies (a company that I worked hard for and saved from bankruptcy and due to my actions had created) in the US because I refused to book a revenue entry for over a million dollars which was unsupported and the CFO (I had been the CFO up until a merger) blew up with me when I asked him to send a memo telling me to record it. Funny, a few years and one acquisition later it melted down as one of the biggest accounting frauds in US history.

My next gig as the CFO for a NYSE company I basically walked in and found what I would consider a $60 million dollar accounting fraud in one day (once again a mark to market issue draining cash flow and sucking the company into a dark hole). Corrected that accounting problem and the company began to prosper but since I thought the board and upper management was so corrupt I left (Chairman of the Audit Committee was found guilty at another large company for back dating options).

The next public company where not only was I the CFO but prior to that a board member, I was basically asked to resign for BS reasons a couple of weeks later after I pointed out what the board was asking me to do was basically wire fraud and of course they backed off quickly and said they would get a legal opinion from our law firm (one of the top 10 in the US) to cover me. In the same meeting our outside legal counsel said he had a problem giving such an opinion and I pointed out that a legal opinion did not keep me from being both civil and criminally liable. It should be noted that this was another company that 2 years before I came in and took the reins as CFO/COO and pulled the company out of black hole of looming bankruptcy and made it profitable in the first time in its history since it went public and then refinanced the company. In summary a year after I left the company had burned through the money I raised and the Board sold the company for nothing.

There is lots of bitterness out there with the straight shooting finance people. Many of them find themselves unemployable. This stretches from banks, Private Equity, Investment Banking, through the large accounting firms (the average partner in the large accounting firms any more is a pathological liar) to senior finance people in organizations. Right before Enron and MCI blew-up, I actually had a BS HR person tell me I was not flexible enough. I wanted to tell this idiot that I knew where flexibility got me and it was an orange jumpsuit. Bankers and Companies only hire the weakest and most pliable senior finance executives they can find.

One other short story. A while back I was at a networking meeting with a large group of CFO and ex-CFO’s. I asked this group how many thought that most CEO’s wanted a weak CFO working for them. Approximately 70% of the attendees raised their hand! You have to remember that the only person who had steady access to the Board is the CFO.

The point, the middle class is becoming torn and frayed and there is real anger out there. The common belief is that only the liars and thieves are moving ahead in this country.

You may also like: