Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

If you’re one of those people who finds themselves sniggering uncontrollably at the following joke: What do you call 10,000 (circle profession of choice a) lawyers b) accountants) at the bottom of the ocean? Answer: A start, then the Trial of the Millennial Epoch is probably your version of Just For Laughs. Where the lawyers were there for your amusement last month, this week it’s the accountants. But as the Star’s Jennifer Wells points out in her lead this morning, at least one accountant has reason to be proud:_ “When Marilyn Stitt gets back to Toronto, all you folks should greet her at the airport with buckets of flowers and boxes of chocolates. Unlike those wussy lawyers from Torys who preferred to testify via videocam from the comforts of their home office, Stitt, a career accountant at KPMG Canada, actually had the you-know-whats to fly here and take the stand at the Conrad Black trial yesterday in the hopes of answering that seminal and always energizing question: What is it that you auditors do, precisely?”_

Yesterday’s testimony suggests that the answer to that question is a three-parter. First, they argue. To wit: Paul Waldie reports in his patented Dragnet prose (always to be read in the voice of Jack Webb):_ “Ms. Stitt testified that she told Mr. Boultbee that she was surprised the payments had not been disclosed and that she wanted to make sure they were reported in the financial statements. She said Mr. Boultbee disagreed with her and said they did not have to be disclosed. Ms. Stitt said Mr. Boultbee was quite forceful and the two engaged in a debate about the issue.”

Consequently, they go to a meeting with higher ups on the audit committee, report their concerns, and then (writes Jennifer Wells): “Stitt recalled that Thompson was sitting at the head of the boardroom table. She recalled making eye contact with him. She remembers a pregnant pause. And then? ‘He was silent.’”

Finally, they take this silence to mean that matters have been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. In other words, in answer to the question, what is it that auditors do, the answer appears to be, in this case, not so much.

Auditor’s testimony raises question of independence [Toronto Star]Auditor pushed for non-compete disclosure, trial told [Globe and Mail]Independent auditors raised concerns about fees [National Post]