Dear Regal theaters: It’s the customers, stupid

Regal Entertainment Group — the corporation that runs the Regal theater chain — employs corporate accountants. It needs to hire some economists.

Company accountants can keep track of the company’s books. That’s useful and important, but if it becomes the only thing the company looks at, then it becomes profoundly misleading. Not only will the company fail to see the bigger picture and the bigger context, but they’ll have a distorted picture of even the company balance sheet over which they’re obsessing.

This is why Regal Entertainment Group is mistakenly freaking out about health care reform:

Several major companies in the fast food and service industries have dug in their heels against Obamacare, deciding that they would rather protect their bottom lines than provide their employees basic health benefits. On Monday, Regal Entertainment Group — which operates Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theaters, and United Artists screens in 38 states — joined the war on health reform, announcing it will cut back non-salaried workers’ shifts to 30 hours per week in order to avoid giving them basic coverage.

The theater chain claims that it is simply trying to “manage [its] budget … in accordance with business needs.”

That’s the kind of dumb move that comes, in part, from listening to accountants without also listening to economists. The myopic bean-counters in Regal’s corporate accounting department saw the basic health benefits in health care reform as a new expense for the company and only as a new expense for the company. Thus, for Regal, the Affordable Care Act came to be viewed as a law that has one and only one effect on Regal’s theater chains: A slightly higher cost per-employee for the thousands of non-management workers for whom the company had previously refused to provide those basic benefits.

The workers who made these Model T Fords were paid enough that they could afford to buy Model T Fords. The people who work for Regal Entertainment can’t afford to go out to the movies.

Yes, yes of course, there’s also an obvious moral element here that Regal Entertainment Group is refusing to acknowledge. Only a company run by odious jackwagons would think that denying employees basic health care is an acceptable way to keep down costs — particularly when that company’s executives are also paying themselves lavish salaries and bonuses. But there seems to be little point in trying to reach the executives who run Regal Entertainment — or Hobby Lobby, or Darden restaurants, or any of the other chains opposing the “cost” of Obamacare — with an argument based on morality. These are morally stunted people for whom such arguments are meaningless. They attend morally stunted churches where they listen to sermons preached by morally stunted pastors and sing morally stunted praise songs to a morally stunted god.

I suppose we could try to convince them that treating their employees fairly is also in those executives’ own best interest — to recast the moral argument as a complement to their selfish pursuit of self-interest. That’s a slightly more promising approach. If convincing these folks not to be odious jackwagons is a futile endeavor, perhaps we could at least convince them that it’s in their best interest not to appear to be odious jackwagons. This is the RDL Factor.* Karoli of Crooks & Liars highlights the disastrous backlash against the theater chain from potential and/or former patrons who would prefer not to spend their entertainment dollars at Regal so long as the chain thinks denying health benefits is an acceptable way of doing business.

The anti-Regal Facebook postings Karoli samples, as well as those in this Huffington Post piece, are an expression of solidarity. That’s a Christian virtue and a Christian duty, by the way. Solidarity is not optional. Anything less is an attempt to dodge the great commandment by pretending that our neighbor is not our neighbor and that we are not our brother’s keeper.

We’ve yet to see how formal this nascent Boycott Regal movement will become. It’s possible it will grow into something that might get the attention of the chain’s executives and maybe even force them to change course. It certainly should grow into that. We’ll see.

In this post, though, I’m not mainly concerned with the futile attempt at moral persuasion or with the obligation of moral coercion. Here I just want to suggest that Obamacare might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to the Regal Entertainment Group.

Right now, all that the Regal executives can see is what their accountants see: the slight additional cost per employee that Obamacare will mean for the company. Fine. Write that down in the company ledger. Health care reform will increase the company’s costs per employee.

But if Regal execs could look beyond what their accountants see, they might notice that this is not the only thing that health care reform will do. It will also result in tens of millions of otherwise uninsured Americans getting affordable health insurance. And tens of millions more will save lots of money every year in household health-care expenses.

That’s tens of millions of potentially movie-going Americans who will now be able to afford movie tickets they would not otherwise be able to afford.

It’s the customers, stupid. Obamacare is good for Regal’s customers. And therefore Obamacare is good for Regal.

Just consider one small piece of the health reform law that has already taken effect. Millions of young adults in America have taken advantage of the law’s provision that says they can keep their health coverage under their parents plans until the age of 26. That’s millions of 18-to-26-year-old Americans with more money in their pockets.

I’m not an expert on the movie business, but my impression is that young people aged 18-26 are kind of an important demographic when it comes to ticket sales.

How big a boost to Regal’s bottom line will health care reform provide? I’m guessing it will be large. Much larger, I think, than whatever new costs-per-employee the law entails for the company. That calculation is a job for the company’s economists.

Unfortunately, the company doesn’t have any economists, only accountants. That’s short-sighted, misleading and counter-productive. They need to hire some economists.

Regal Entertainment Group isn’t alone in this blindered approach of allowing accountants to pretend they provide the whole picture. Peter Bensen, the top accountant for McDonald’s, said that Obamacare will cost the company $120-$420 million a year to provide benefits previously denied to its workers. And since that is the only thing Bensen is looking at, that is the only thing Bensen sees. He hasn’t looked at — or even imagined the possibility of — the ways in which Obamacare will benefit McDonald’s customers. He is an accountant, not an economist, so he has forgotten that what’s good for McDonald’s customers is good for McDonald’s.

It’s the customers, stupid.

David Overton, the CEO of The Cheesecake Factory, is worried that health care reform will involve new costs for new benefits for his factory workers. But Overton — who is allegedly a business-man — hasn’t even glanced in the direction of considering what health reform will mean for the customers and potential customers of his business. Obamacare is good for the restaurant’s customers, and therefore it is good for the restaurant.

It’s the customers, stupid.

(My guess is that the hostile reaction of both McDonald’s and The Cheesecake Factory is also partly due to health reform’s provisions involving the disclosure of nutritional information. “Would you like me to Super-size that for you?” may be an exception to the principle that what’s good for the customers is good for the company.)

In 1914, Henry Ford made a bold move to reduce turnover and attrition in his workforce, announcing a new wage of $5 for an 8-hour day. This “more than doubled the average autoworker’s wage.”

Henry Ford had reasoned that since it was now possible to build inexpensive cars in volume, more of them could be sold if employees could afford to buy them.** The $5 day helped better the lot of all American workers and contributed to the emergence of the American middle class.

Regal theater workers should be able to afford to go out to the movies once in a while. People who work for The Cheesecake Factory should be able to afford to go out to dinner once in a while at places like The Cheesecake Factory. It might seem cheaper, from an accountants-only perspective, if every company kept its costs down by not providing workers middle-class wages and benefits. But the more companies take this accountants-only view, the fewer customers there will be for every company.

It’s the customers, stupid.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Earlier this year, the City of Seattle passed a law requiring paid sick leave. One local coffee chain proclaimed its opposition to the new law by putting signs on all its cash registers announcing a new “Sick Leave Surcharge of 1.5 percent on every order.”

The people of Seattle thus learned that this chain had not previously provided paid sick leave — meaning it was likely they were serving up steaming cups of contagion from sniffling workers who couldn’t otherwise afford to stay home for the sake of their own health and the health of their customers. Yuck.

That led to this memorable comment from one never-shopping-there-again former patron:

“There were many ways [Cherry Street Coffee owner Ali Ghambari] could have dealt with this. He could have upped prices slightly to compensate, for example.” But instead, says Whitney, “he chose to call himself out as a royal dickhead for life, because now we all know he wasn’t paying for sick leave before forced to by law.”

Companies should keep the RDL Factor in mind when they publicly try to keep their costs down by harming the well-being of their workers and customers. Rebranding your brand “as a royal dickhead for life” is a self-inflicted marketing wound that well-run companies avoid.

** Googling for that story, I came across this 2012 column by Tim Worstall of Forbes, which is so perniciously obtuse it requires a response. Worstall and the barons of Forbes are so eager to dismiss any argument for middle-class wages that they were willing to write the following nonsense, in public:

There’s an argument you see around sometimes about Henry Ford’s decision to pay his workers those famed $5 a day wages. It was that he realised that he should pay his workers sufficiently large sums to that they could afford the products they were making. In this manner he could expand the market for his products.

It should be obvious that this story doesn’t work: Boeing would most certainly be in trouble if they had to pay their workers sufficient to afford a new jetliner.

The Model T Ford was a mass-produced automobile intended to be sold to consumers. A Boeing jetliner is not. Boeing doesn’t need to pay its workers enough that they can all buy huge passenger airplanes. But Boeing does need to pay its workers enough that they can all afford to buy an airplane ticket once in a while. With no middle class, no one can afford plane tickets. If no one can afford plane tickets, no airline can afford to buy planes.

But Worstall, at least, acknowledges that Ford’s higher wages did in fact have the desired effect of reducing turnover in his Model T factory. That was a benefit for the company.

This is something that the accountants, as accountants, have failed to account for at Regal Entertainment, McDonald’s, et. al. Providing better health care benefits for their workers costs more, but it also saves money by reducing turnover. That’s something the accountants are supposed to be including in their accounting, but they’re not. So not only does Regal Entertainment need to hire some economists, they also need to fire their accountants and replace them with some competent ones.

""we had a BIGGER voice in the English court"? Could you clarify what you mean? ..."

‘This calls for wisdom: let anyone ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Is this an argument?

  • Carstonio

    “Deserving failure” shows that you’re missing my point. No institution deserves success or failure. Those aren’t indicators of merit or virtue. An unfettered market is not a deity that dispenses to institutions what they deserve. It’s more like natural selection.

  • Jurgan

    I’m not convinced McDonald’s would benefit from the improved financial status of its customers. Places like McDonald’s, Walmart, Dollar Tree, are discount stores. As such, their profits may be counter-cyclical. A worker who isn’t making much money can’t afford to go to Outback Steakhouse or even Applebee’s for dinner, so he settles for McDonald’s because it’s cheaper. Hence, it is in McDonald’s interest to see poor economic circumstances.
    *Note: I could be completely wrong about this. I’m going on intuition, and a vaguely remembered NPR report from a few years back. It could be there’s a mitigating fact I’m overlooking.

  • Elaborate, please. Profitability reflects the transformation of something less useful to consumers to something more useful to consumers (ignoring externalities and government interference).

  • AnonaMiss

    CN: hypothetical discussion of the market effects of just letting the unemployed die.

    The problem with citing competition between employers as a mechanism to drive wages up is that there is also competition between potential employees. The difference is that when an employer fails to turn a profit, the company dissolves/goes bankrupt/what have you. When a potential employee fails to turn a profit, ze dies.

    Theoretically, the swings in the employer/potential employee market could be equalized by letting employers fail whenever the number of employers became too much for the market to bear, and letting labor fail when the number of people became too much for the market to bear. The quantities would swing back and forth and eventually reach an equilibrium. The problem is that people would die.

    So because we aren’t willing to watch the unemployed die, equilibrium is labor’s best case scenario. There will only ever be small swings into “a bunch of employers competing for labor”, because when employers are unable to meet their labor needs, they die off – they stop being employers, reducing competition among employers. But because we aren’t monsters, the economy can take massive swings into unemployment and underemployment, and market forces can’t correct this in the same way – because the market mechanism that would correct this would be people dying off.

    Though those of us who grew up during the 90s did get to see one of the rare periods of employers competing for employees (though only in a few sectors), it should be clear that this is extremely uncommon in a not-monstrous pure free market society. Which means that competition between employers will never be a significant driving force on real wages except in a few sectors at a time – and never ever on the wages of unskilled labor.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Say what you want about the Reign of Terror, at least it made some omelettes.

  • Carstonio

    I mean that the number of consumers who choose to patronize the company is not an indicator of the company’s merit or virtue. A company can fail because of bad decisions or because of changing circumstances beyond its control.

  • DCFem

    Regal is owned by Phil Anschutz. He considers himself a christian but your assessment is more accurate.

  • Magic_Cracker

    This article describes the sort of excuse-making that happens in the C-Suite. I particularly like how one executive claims that inexperienced salespeople were simply unable to seal their deals by end-of-quarter, but then turns around and says that doesn’t mean they’ll see a comparable sales bump the following quarter, which is what one would expect if the issue were simply a quirk of paperwork. The solution to this, of course, is to reduce payroll (because fewer salespeople will somehow result in more sales or something).

    Of course, none of it makes sense, but then again, the point isn’t to make sense, but to keep the plates spinning long enough to finish dinner.

  • > I do not see, however, how free speech is silencing

    On your account, if there are five of us in a room, and every time you open your mouth the four of us start shouting “La La La La La!!!”:
    1) Does free speech ensure that we are free to do that without interference?
    2) Does our choice to do that silence you?

    If your answer “yes” to both, this is a case where free speech enables us to silence you without interference.

    If you answer “no” to either, it’s perhaps worth clarifying what we mean by “free speech” and/or “silencing”.

  • I think that most of those minimum-wage paying jobs are expected to be that in theory. Something a high school student does in their spare time, or a college student does on the side to get a little more cash flow without interrupting their schooling. However, in practice it has become far more common than that. Remember what I said about externalizing costs a few comments ago? Companies figure out that they could cut costs by going to that entry-level employee model. In turn, their operations become more formulaic and design-by-committee such that the competence of the low-level employees need only be nominal to provide a minimum acceptable level of service, “idiot-proofing” their business. But when so many companies start doing this, the overall level of pay and quality of service drops.

    It is like being rich. Everyone wants to be, but no matter how driven anyone is, only a few get to be. We are better off overall by making policies that account for that.

  • Dick’s Drive In is like that in Seattle. Lots of people in Seattle love that place, but it has less to do with their quality (which is not bad but not exactly gourmet either) and more to do with it being a place that pays above minimum, gives benefits, and mostly hires college students, as well as being a city landmark institution.

  • Gotchaye

    It’s pretty self-evident. If the raises Ford gave to his workers didn’t wind up generating a net boost to the economy that led to more auto sales, Ford would not have grown. If the raises given to workers did not have a net increase, then Ford’s bottom line would have shrunk following the raises, not grown.

    Well, no. Not only are you ignoring the possibility that Ford became more successful for reasons having nothing to do with the wage increase, you’re also ignoring the reason Ford’s own website gives for the wage increase, among other possible benefits of wage increases that have nothing to do with demand stimulation.

    The easy story to tell here is that Ford was seeing very high turnover among fairly skilled workers – he couldn’t just take someone off the street and put them on the line since new workers had to be trained first. Higher wages reduced turnover, since workers’ other options weren’t nearly as good. At least a substantial part of the increased cost of the higher wages was made up in savings on training costs (some links are giving a turnover rate of 370%, down to under 20% after the wage increase, so Ford went from training almost 4 workers per year for every worker it was employing at a time to only training 1 worker per year for every 5 workers it was employing at a time). Productivity also went up as the higher wage attracted better workers, better-motivated all workers, and reduced absenteeism (one shouldn’t ignore the symbolic value of the higher wage, although the money was doing a lot to cheer up workers by itself).

  • I left United Artists after a three-year stint about six months before they were acquired by REG. At the time I left, I was a full-time employee working 36 hours/week, and the company helped subsidize my healthcare.

    United Artists was also one of the few theater chains operating in Pennsylvania that paid its workers overtime, because in PA,*they are not required to*. I’m sad to see that the takeover by REG turned into such a bad deal for employees.

  • But somebody has to take the data that you assemble into reports and disseminate that data to the decision makers, no? I wonder how many of those executives take a “tobacco industry scientist” approach to reading accounting reports. Which is to say, “Keep firing the messenger until we get a messenger who only supports the decisions we have already reached.”

    A kind of closed-circle of yes-men, who keep the corporate leaders too mired in a flood of feedback saying that their every decision is great to actually make good decisions.

  • AnonaMiss

    I assume you’re intending to point out the difference between “valued” and “valuable”? (Your post was easy to misread – I was shocked for a moment!)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Exactly. And don’t forget who’s making the decision’s about who’s valued enough to be paid well: the management!

  • Places like McDonald’s have other things going for them, such as speed. More people go to McDonald’s because of the ration of cost/time than they do because they lack money. Someone with too little money would avoid going to McDonald’s because even their cheap stuff is still more expensive (in the long run) than getting raw food and preparing it themselves. However, people who are pressed for time and/or energy are more likely to go to McDonald’s just because they are too tired or have too little free time to prepare food on a regular basis.

    Plus if you are someone who travels a lot, McDonald’s (as well as other chains) have the advantage of consistency of menu. No matter which McDonald’s you go to, no matter where in the country, you can be expected the same food at the same quality (generally so-so quality but still edible.) Go to something more local and you cannot guarantee what you are getting.

  • Unfortunately, that does not apply to a lot of companies these days.

    Sure, there are companies out there where good talent translates into good products, for which a good paying rate is an investment a company can justify as bringing back a good return. But that is not the case in a lot of other companies. A lot of them try to make their production process as formulaic as possible to remove the component of human skill. Doing so means that they do not have to even care about getting good talent, since talent is a non-factor once the job has been sufficiently scripted. They just need butts in seats which can follow directions, and they can get that from anyone. I suppose that the analysts really like that because it is so much more predictable than a more flexible system would be.

  • Cathy W

    Ahh, yes, the same “valued people” who just managed the company into bankruptcy court…

  • I agree with every part but the last. First of all, as Mark says, it’s the worker who’d end up in trouble for “bad-mouthing the business”. And workers really can’t “mutiny”, because they need to put food on the table.

    The laws need to be changed so that companies have to treat their workers like human beings — it’s simply not going to happen otherwise.

  • If we were just debating a fully-covered population moving from one system to another, your rebuttal to might make sense. But we’re not. “Obamacare” means that a hell of a lot of people who previously could not afford any health care at all now can.

    Going from “no health care” to “some health care” is almost always an improvement.

    The other way your argument is wrong is, it’s phrased in the future tense. Kind of like people arguing that marriage equality will destroy the country, as though several U.S. states and several countries are not already testing that hypothesis out (and falsifying it). “We won’t get better healthcare” is as demonstrably wrong because some parts of the Affordable Health Care Act are already in effect, and its beneficiaries are already getting better healthcare.

  • SisterCoyote

    By intimidation, I suppose. I really, really want to go on about this in detail – how an overwhelming slew of “politically incorrect” rape jokes, for example, result in rape survivors being ignored, dismissed, or silenced in court, or how racist jokes result in minorities continuing to be seen as The Other, and thus their speech minimalized, effectively silenced in places – but I really really really have to finish this paper, so that will have to do.

    (I don’t care about the voting system! No worries there.)

  • Small problem here with positing “Political correctness” as the opposite of “Free speech.” No government is censoring the politically incorrect jackass; no police are jailing him. He may experience social disapprobation from some people*, but that’s just others in society exercising their free speech. Free speech does not guarantee the right to an appreciative audience.

    *though I rather doubt he experiences enough to silence him, given how
    many people seem to consider him a rallying hero for free speech

  • To whom did you intend to reply?

  • The_L1985

    I didn’t say “the jobs suck.” I said, “the employers suck.” Surely you understand the difference between your boss and the work that you do.

  • This is what I mean when I refer to the strange up-and-down-voting practices of this commentariat. A simple request for evidence is met with five dislikes while a baseless assertion is met with fourteen likes. Thus is the nature of the world: the reasonable man is punished while the unreasonable one is cheered.

  • The_L1985

    We’re not silencing him. We’re disagreeing with him. In order to silence him, we would have to, among other things, somehow enact a ban of his book. Frankly, I don’t think it’s worth our time to do so, and I’d be appalled if someone tried to ban it anyway, because banning books is a bad idea no matter how execrable they are.

  • The_L1985

    You. Stop pretending to be a bigger ignoramus than you are.

  • move to an area with decent jobs

    -So, yeah, you did imply “the jobs suck”.

  • If this was a reply to me, it makes no sense whatsoever. I never posited “political correctness” as the opposite of “free speech”.

  • The_L1985

    Forgive me for assuming you had better reading skills than a 3rd-grader.

  • Exactly my point. I said “I do not see, however, how free speech is silencing”. Learn to read, please (or explain how the quoted part of my comment can be misunderstood by you to such a great degree).

  • To you, hence the “in reply to Enopoletus Harding” arrow.

    SisterCoyote: You’re not COOL because you’re ‘politically incorrect.’ … You don’t GET to play the Independent Will Not Be Silenced card – you are the one silencing others.”

    You, in response: “I do not see, however, how free speech is silencing”

    You are treating the terms “political incorrectness” and “free speech” as synonyms. Stop it.

  • Both support for political correctness and support for political incorrectness typically belongs to the category “free speech”.

  • I answer “no” to both. There is no such thing as a right to an audience or a right to be heard; there is, however, a right to speech.

  • The_L1985

    Just re-read the comment again. OK, here’s what SisterCoyote means:

    You are being extremely rude to anyone who dares to disagree with you, in a way that implies that you want everyone else to either march lock-step with all of your opinions or STFU. When asked to clarify your statements, you either shift the goalposts halfway across the damn field, or you respond with vitriol (either your own, or that created by others, as in the case of the PIG series). Then, you act all innocent and defensive whenever people call you out on it.

    As for me, I believe in doing unto others as they do unto me. I can only handle that annoying smugness for so long before I start acting smug right back. See also: Threefold Return.

  • Yes, yes, this is the worst place EVAH. Do feel free to piss off somewhere else and take your pathetic attempts at martyrdom with you.

  • You are being extremely rude to anyone who dares to disagree with you, in a way that implies that you want everyone else to either march lock-step with all of your opinions or STFU.

    -Whining (of which I have been guilty) is not a wish to shut other people the fuck up. My disagreement with other people is not a wish to shut other people the fuck up. Also, define “rude”. Show me some of my “rude” statements (I do not think I have made any here, though I have made misguided ones a month or three ago). I also do not think I have made any smug comments (though I could be wrong). How is any part of the Murphy quote I gave (which is what I presume you’re referring to) vitriolic? It merely states facts. How do I respond when people are calling me out on statements I never made?

  • Very well, then. I apologize for my misguided comment.

  • Ignore Markuze.

  • No, this is not the worst place ever. I’ve seen worse (most notably, ).

  • OK. Thanks for answering. Given that, my answer to your question is as follows:
    a) many of us live in societies where there’s a social convention whereby the ability to be heard by a general audience is understood to be protected, and phrases like “free speech” and “censorship” get used in this context. For example, if you were banned from this forum because we don’t want to listen to you anymore, many people would feel your “free speech” rights had been violated. You would, naturally, disagree (as would I), but it sometimes helps to understand what other people mean by the words they use.

    b) many of us use the word “silencing” to encompass being systematically and differentially deprived of the ability to communicate effectively to a general audience.

    c) the thought “free speech is sometimes silencing” is meant to express is sometimes one characterized by (a) and (b). As above, I understand that you would say that phrase is _incorrectly_ used to refer to that thought, but again, it sometimes helps to understand what other people mean by the words they use.

  • Collective action is certainly a way of mitigating the burden placed upon workers. I also see the other points about this being dangerous. However, we do not necessarily need to put individual jobs on the line to see this happen.

    Remember what you said about the law, how it can compel employers to treat their employees better? We act through that. Elect politicians who would support such a law, and ignore the money being thrown at attempts to shoot such legislation down. Make sure those taking money to oppose it leave office.

    We have a weapon in the class war, and that weapon is the government. We just need to ensure that weapon stays out of the hands of the moneyed interests. After all, they have been working tirelessly to keep it out of the hands of our hands, we need to do the same.

    A motivated and informed electorate is their biggest danger.

  • Someone with too little money would avoid going to McDonald’s because
    even their cheap stuff is still more expensive (in the long run) than
    getting raw food and preparing it themselves.

    That’s a hard argument to make. There was a study just out recently (no cite since I heard about it on the radio) that determined that the price of food has gotten so out-of-whack that in much of the US it is currently cheaper to go to a restaurant than to buy the same ingredients and cook for yourself — without even considering the labor cost involved.

    If you want to argue that it’s still cheaper in the long run because of the health costs associated with the Super Size Me Diet, you can do that, but I’d like to see some actual numbers rather than just assuming that cutting your food cost to $5 per person per day doesn’t end up yielding enough savings over the course of, say, 20 years, to cover a 1-in-50 chance of angioplasty in 2033.

    ETA: That’s “$5 per person, and no extra traveling cost for going to a supermarket, nor any time cost for shopping and preparation,” just to clarify

  • banancat

    I don’t know what the situation is at your company, but it’s very different than where I am. My contracting agency cares nothing about me except that they are getting a cut from Big Company. My agency would never bother to find a position for me elsewhere, let alone actually bring up the subject. They wouldn’t even bother to find me another position within my current company if I were to lose this job. They would still expect me to sift through all job posting, including theirs, and then apply if I think I’m qualified. They do nothing for me, and only take the place of recruiters for Big Company.

  • alfgifu

    This certainly happens, and it’s one of the reasons that there are international accounting standards, requirements to disclose certain things, and a tradition of audit (which at its best is an independent scrutiny of the information already cleared by internal forces).

    These are not perfect by any means. One issue is that auditors are paid by the people they are auditing, which can seriously undermine their independence. Nobody has yet come up with a perfect solution to this – we tend to combine efforts to ensure that accountants are held to high ethical standards with efforts to break up the pattern (eg rotation of staff members dealing with the same client, or on rotation or tendering of firms on a regular basis).

    Another difficulty is that (partly because quite a lot of people dismiss accountants as bean counters) often the people who would benefit from accurate information don’t know what the potential problems might be, or what is being done to protect their interests. Accountancy is pretty dull in the details sometimes, but I’m convinced that it’s one of those little necessities that keeps a civil society civil. Also, if you don’t actually start picking through the details, the high level stuff usually is pretty interesting.
    If it wasn’t for the work of accountants at the UK’s National Audit Office, for example, the Guardian wouldn’t be able to produce its beautiful bubble charts of UK government expenditure.

  • John (not McCain)

    No – it’s an expression of what I hope happens to you. Preferably in a fire. Just think of it as me hoping the world becomes better than it is.

  • What have I done to deserve such a punishment?