“Auditor independence is critical to the integrity of the financial reporting process,” but hoo boy is it boring. It’s the idea that, if an accounting firm signs off on a company’s financial statements, it must keep itself utterly pristine and uncontaminated by any other contact with that company. The specifics are tricky, and, accountants being accountants, they tend to break the rules in stunningly dull ways, such as ”providing prohibited non-audit services such as bookkeeping and expert services to affiliates of companies whose books they were auditing.” They love accounting so much that they do forbidden bookkeeping!
An SEC order finds that certified public accountant James T. Adams repeatedly accepted tens of thousands of dollars in casino markers while he was the advisory partner on subsidiary Deloitte & Touche’s audit of a casino gaming corporation. A marker is an instrument utilized by a casino customer to receive gaming chips drawn against the customer’s line of credit at the casino. Adams opened a line of credit with a casino run by the gaming corporation client and used the casino markers to draw on that line of credit. Adams concealed his casino markers from Deloitte & Touche and lied to another partner when asked if he had casino markers from audit clients of the firm.
That’s not even the best part; the best part is:1
On December 16, 2009, Adams drew markers, $110,000 of which remained outstanding. On January 13, 2010, D&T removed Adams from the Casino Gaming Issuer 2009 audit engagement, for reasons that were not based on his use of casino markers. Adams subsequently defaulted on the $110,000 of outstanding markers that he drew on December 16, 2009.
It’s an enumerated violation of auditor independence to have “Any loan (including any margin loan) to or from an audit client,” but never mind that! Adams took $110,000 from his client and never gave it back! (Allegedly! It’s a neither-admit-nor-deny sort of settlement.) That seems like some sort of … I don’t know, conflict of interest? Bad idea?