Northern Rock Archives - Emile Woolf writes

Never too big to jail!

The easy option is rarely the right one No one knows what would actually happen if any of the “too big to fail” banking and investment giants were actually allowed to do just that. The untested perception is that a destructive contagion would spread beyond the immediate circle of investors and depositors to engulf the […]

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PRUDENT ACCOUNTING – NEEDED MORE THAN EVER

Unaccountable accounting began three decades ago. I know, because I was there when it happened. As a member of the UK Auditing Practices Committee (APC), I acted as its observer on the Accounting Standards Committee (ASC). Professional life was simpler then: ASC set the accounting standards, effectively UK GAAP, and APC set the auditing standards. […]

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Audit quality: is lack of competition the problem?

Twelve years ago, when their audit of Enron’s last accounts heralded the demise of Arthur Andersen, the largest end of the audit market shrank to four firms. The Competition Commission (CC) has now provisionally concluded that the audit market is restricted: companies are inhibited from switching auditors and there is a tendency for auditors to […]

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Audit Scope: common sense beats rules, every time

The argument about auditors’ contribution to the 2008 debt crisis is still unresolved, and it will remain so until the central question of audit scope is addressed. The traditional perception that auditing has an historic focus merely entrenches its uselessness in the face of a radically altered commercial environment and risk levels that demand a […]

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Audit scope: we need a Court case to sound a wake-up call

The relevance of any set of accounts obviously wanes as time passes. Vast, complex multinational conglomerates, required by law and market expectations to present published financial statements within strict deadlines, can manage this process if well-governed, but auditing those statements within the same time frame can present even the largest audit firms with serious logistical […]

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Sovereign bailouts versus economic law: who will win?

The Queen’s question about the credit crisis was wonderfully simple: “If these things were so big, why did no one see them coming?” The answer given by Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, in his recent interview is that many people did see the crisis coming, but no one knew when. The same […]

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Tax and accounting are the drivers: but where are they taking us?

Purists maintain that accounting and taxation should be neutral in terms of economic impact. Decision-making should be based on what’s good for the business – for its customers, staff and shareholders – without distortion by complex tax and accounting rules. But we have strayed: there is scarcely a decision untainted by daunting tax or accounting […]

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Banks deserve our opprobrium: they have forgotten all basic principles

Banks deserve our opprobrium: they have forgotten all basic principles   The Chinese Sage Lao Tsu wrote, on the subject of government, that in the golden age people do not even know they are being governed; in the silver age they revere their leaders; in the iron age they respect them; and in the age […]

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Bank lending scandal: sorting fact from fiction

The lending spree is over.  It will be a while before credit and risk are re-acquainted.  It is symptomatic of the latest squeeze that virtually every rule of sound banking was ignored. If, in the 1990s, conventional risk assessment dictated that mortgages should not exceed either 90 per cent of the property’s value or a […]

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