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Readers write to say that we can reduce our carbon footprint, that accounting doesn't need to be as complicated as quantum mechanics, and that you can fight the SEC — if you're willing to take the risk.
CFO Staff, CFO Magazine
February 1, 2008
CFO welcomes your letters. Send them to: The Editor, CFO, 253 Summer St., Boston, MA 02210
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Please include your full name, title, company name, address, and telephone number. Letters are subject to editing for clarity and length.
Your article "Carbon Trading" (January) provides good information and examples. It references several of the companies involved in carbon-footprint reduction and how they are going about it. Together we can make a difference!
String Theory and VSOE
I am currently working my way through a book on string theory. I figure once I master this controversial theory I may be ready to tackle the equally controversial Revenue Recognition Guide 2008 ("Why VSOE Spells Trouble," January). When I switched from pure science to accounting several decades ago I never dreamt that accounting would end up with probabilistic models nearly as complex as quantum mechanics.
The Rewards of Risk
Carl Jasper is taking a huge risk by challenging the assertion that he backdated options ("Refusing to Roll Over," Grapevine, January). However, if he's innocent, why shouldn't he? Too many times organizations and individuals capitulate to strong-arm tactics in order to avoid extensive litigation and time commitments.
If Jasper is vindicated, the precedent may preclude further suits that have little merit. If convicted, he'll have to pay the money anyway.
Taking a risk is always, well, risky. But the reward may be tremendous.
Sparta, New Jersey
In March 2000, the Securities and Exchange Commission began its informal investigation of InaCom, a Fortune 500 company, and me as the CFO.
On January 7, 2002, the SEC filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Omaha against me for accounting fraud.
A bench trial in this action began on April 18, 2005, and concluded on April 21, 2005.
The judge's opinion was rendered on September 26, 2005. The opinion said, in part, that there had been a complete and utter failure on the part of the commission to prove any of its fraud allegations.
Five years of my life and $3 million in attorney and expert fees were expended defending a suit that had no merit. I would not settle, because I had done nothing wrong.
You can and will beat the SEC if you did nothing wrong, are willing to be patient, put your career on hold, and have the money or insurance to pay the fees.
Meetings in Person Still Necessary
Even in the age of videoconferences, the world isn't really flat ("Bring Your Own Pretzels," Topline, January). It is still necessary to meet people face-to-face to build trust and more-effective distant working relationships. Hopefully, the airlines will become more efficient and innovative in keeping air travel affordable.
More Tales of More Cities
Being a commercial-tenant representative based out of Chicago, I found "A Tale of Six Cities" (December 2007) very intriguing. Getting a side-by-side comparison of six major U.S. cities and their commercial real-estate outlooks provides some interesting statistics to share with colleagues and clients. It's especially nice that you provide them without a hidden agenda, unlike the major commercial leasing firms and their market-research reports.
The one thing that strikes me as curious and not well explained is, Why these six cities? I find some other major cities, like Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., surprisingly absent from this analysis. Did you perhaps choose those six because each pair represents one of three common situations seen in other cities across the United States? Are these the best cities to represent the spectrum of tenant power? If so, how did you determine this to be so?
Corporate Real Estate Advisor
THE AUTHOR RESPONDS: You raise an interesting question about the selection process for the six cities. In fact, the rationale was not quite as precise as you suggest. We were aiming to get geographical diversity, as well as a good mix of well-established and up-and-coming cities, and to keep the "portfolio" small enough so that we could add meaningful analysis to each one.
The six cities that rose to the top were ones that represented the significant volatility in ownership, rents, or building supply that many cities have seen over the past year. The others you suggest also would have been excellent candidates, if not for space constraints.
Hitting the Nail on the Head
Lori Calabro's succinct article "Look Who's Not Talking" (Topline, December 2007) hits a conspicuous nail on the head. The disconnect between boards and strategic planning is as ridiculous as the solution is easy.
Every substantial company has an annual strategic-planning ritual as a prelude to budgeting. As a board member of various companies, I simply ask to attend and have never been denied. Sometimes I have something to contribute, but mostly I just feed on the information flow.
Today, board members know that they can be liable for mistakes made by the companies they oversee. This may sometimes be grossly unfair, but when someone on a board is just filling a seat and not doing the job, frankly I have no truck.
Just ask to go to the offsite. It's ugly, of course, but do it.
Less Is More — and Better
Thank you for the article on 401(k) plans in your December issue ("The New Mix"). Since a high percentage of our employees are younger and not very interested in saving for the future, we are constantly trying to increase participation in our plan. One of our biggest challenges is trying to educate employees on the investment strategies of the various available funds. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are life-style funds as well as the lifecycle funds mentioned in your article. Combine that with the issue of style-specific drift within funds, and it is easy to see why reducing the number of options correlates highly with participation. Hopefully, 401(k) providers will offer additional resources to help plan administrators for smaller companies reduce the amount of time spent on educating employees about their options.
Robert D. Friedman
JK Group Inc.
Princeton, New Jersey