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Teri Bernstein, MBA, CPA has been teaching full time in the Business Department of Santa Monica College since 1985.  Prior to that, she worked in Internal Audit and Special Financial Projects for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, CBS, Inc., and Coopers & Lybrand (which is now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers).  She attended the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.


  • The Income Gap: How to fix it

    image from therealsingapore.com Robert Reich , U-C Berkeley professor and noted economist, is a huge fan of the middle class. Therefore, income equality is an issue that he has a lot to say about. And--unlike Thomas Piketty --Reich does not believe we are doomed. Some major factors which influence his position include the following actions which need to be taken to counteract the income gap: Make work pay. If a minimum wage of $15 per hour were attached to the fast-growing fields of hospitality, restauranteurism, and tourism, this would make a huge difference. According to Reich, " No American who works full time should be in poverty. " Unionize Low Wage Workers . Unions gave the middle class clout, and unions are now the only way that low-wage workers can face off against global competiion. Invest in eduation. This might seem like a no-brainer, but education costs money and the uneducated sometime do not have a voice in policy decisions. According to Reich, " Education should not be thought of as a privae investiment; it is a public good that helps both individuals and the economy. " Invest in infrastructure . This means road, public transportation, decent rents in places near to work, affordable utilities, education from age 3-23. Everything. America is behind on investing in these basic, business-supporting needs. Pay for these investments with higher taxes on the wealthy . According to Reich, " Between the end of World War II and 1981 (when the wealthiest were getting paid a far lower share of toalt nation income), the highest marginal federal income tax rate never fell below 70 percent, and the effective rate (including tax deductions and credits) hovered around 50%. But with Ronal Regan's tax cut of 1981, followed by George W. Bush's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, the taxes on top incomes wer slashed, and tax loopholes favoring the wealthy were widened ." M ake the payroll tax progressive . Since payroll taxes are 40% of government revenues, shouldn't they be progressive, if that is an American value? Government could exempt the first $15,000 of income from these taxes for a start. R aise the estate tax and eliminate the “stepped-up basis” for determining capital gains at death . OUCH. This one would personally hurt me, but I have to admit that inherited wealth is not really fair. Taxing wealth that has not been personally earned is actually a very good idea--especially as far as adjusting for income inequality is concerned. Fist step : reduce the taxable threshold on inherited wealth from $5.34 million down to $1 million. How many people is that going to hurt? And those that it does "hurt"--can they afford it? Stepped up basis inequality : Here is how the current rule works: If my parents sell their house before they die, they are subject to tax on the increase in its worth since they bought it. But...if it is in their estate, it passes to their heirs at the value it had the day they died. The increase in capital worth that occurred while they were alive is NEVER TAXED. Is that fair? Constrain Wall Street : Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act in full and restrict the size of banks--back to the 1975 level ideally. (Fat chance). Give all Americans a share in future economic gains. According to Reich, one thing that aggravates the inequality is that, " The richest 10 percent of Americans own roughly 80 percent of the value of the nation’s capital stock; the richest 1 percent own about 35 percent. " He advises that," As the returns to capital continue to outpace the returns to labor, this allocation of ownership further aggravates inequality. Ownership should be broadened through a plan that would give every newborn American an “opportunity share” worth, say, $5,000 in a diversified index of stocks and bonds—which, compounded over time, would be worth considerably more. The share could be cashed in gradually starting at the age of 18 ." RADICAL. Get big money out of politics. If corporations, with multi-thousand...and now multi-million dollar contributions to lawmakers allowed didn't control our political representatives, average Americans might have a voice. the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision made that impossilbe. But a Constitutional Amendment (according to Elizabeth Warren) or at least full disclosure (still possible under current Supreme Court direction, but not yet mandated by law) would be a step in the right direction. Is there a chance to reign in income equality? What are we willing to do to make that a reality? Source: " Robert Reich: 10 ways to close the inequality gap: The former secretary of labor on American society's single greatest obstacle -- and what we can do about it , " by Robert Reich, the Salon , May 13, 2014. F ollow up: What are some of the highlights of Robert Reich's resume? Are you inclined to listen to his ideas because of this resume, or reject...
  • "Jedi mind trick" for the economy

    cartoon from www.dailybail.com " Quantitative Easing " ["QE"] is a controversial practice that seems difficult to understand. Cartoonists have had a field day with it. Now, in celebration of the 30-year anniversary of " The Return of the Jedi , " there is a far-fetched analogy to " Star Wars " to help explain it. Here is how things are explained in the movie: "After Luke Skywalker found out that Darth Vader is his father, he accused Obi-Wan Kenobi of lying to him. Obi-Wan said it wasn't a lie from...a certain point of view. 'A certain point of view?' Luke asks. 'You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view,' Obi-Wan replies." In other words, a "Jedi mind trick." Fans of the movie franchise will remember other instances where Obi-Wan tells an outright lie that seems like the truth to the extraterrestrial being hearing it. Quantitative Easing can be looked at from more than one point of view. QE is the practice of the central bank (the Federal Reserve) buying assets from big commercial banks...for the purpose of "keeping money flowing." It is supposed to stimulate lending, which in turn is supposed to create jobs. Critics see QE another way. They say: "it's only a matter of time before QE causes inflation," "it's creating artificial price bubbles," "it hasn't had any noticeable impact on unemployment." Meanwhile, Ben Bernanke is spending $89 billion a month of the Fed's money on mortgage-backed securities and other bank assets. That's a lot more money than any of those "Star Wars " movies made. Source: " What ' Star Wars ' has to do with QE ," by David Weinberg, Marketplace, American Public Media, May 24 , 2013. Follow up: What is a good analogy for "quantitative easing" relating to people of college age? Who is Ben Bernanke and what is his monetary philosophy? To put this spending in perspective, how much money did "Return of the Jedi " make in its initial release? How about over time, including DVDs?
  • Productivity issues that hurt employers

    image from cbsnews.com According to the first quarter report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unit labor costs increased, as they have over the last four quarters. When unit labor costs increase, it means that productivity has fallen per dollar paid. This will come as no surprise to those of us who have found ourselves wasting time when we should be working. YouTube, anyone? Pinterest? Of course, workplace distractions have existed in other forms for as long as workers have sat at a desk. But social networking is not the only drain on productivity for businesses. Here are some of the other ways that employees "cost their companies billions": Turnover: it costs and average of $3,500 to hire and train an $8/hr worker. Workers under high stress can cost employers 40% more (lost productivity, worker's comp claims, health care costs, ramifications of "shortcuts"). Workplace bullying can result in turnover, litigation and related costs ( workdoctor.com ). Personal behaviors (substance abuse, including over-eating) can lead to lateness, absenteeism, and increased on-the-job accidents. Mental and physical health issues related to grief or domestic violence have huge productivity costs. Thievery and fraud--usually committed by those who have not committed other crimes--result in almost half of the inventory shrinkage experienced by employers. These problems could certainly explain why employers resist hiring! Sources: " 14 Surprising Ways Employees Cost Their Companies Billions in the Workplace ," by Eric Goldschein and Kim Bhasin, The Business Insider, November 29, 2011. " First Quarter 2013, Preliminary " Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2, 2013. Follow up: Has your employer absorbed any of the costs described for you? Or for your family or friends? How would you handle these issues if you were in charge? If you have had any job for several years--or you know someone else who has--how has productivity INCREASED over the last decade? Which of the "costs" delineated above arise from that increase in productivity?
  • Choosing NOW to avoid boredom as a working adult

    [View:http://community.cengage.com/GECResource/themes/gew/utility/ :550:0] this is an edited version of the commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005. Posted on YouTube May 6, 2013. It is graduation season, and many college students--if they are lucky--are about to start jobs that will keep them employed 40 or more hours per week, plus commuting time, 50 weeks per year. If they stay employed, they will work week after week after week and year after year after year after year. How does a person keep a working routine--with all of its hurdles, hassles, annoyances and dailiness--from becoming mind-numbing and boring? David Foster Wallace's commencement speech addresses this issue. He calls upon the graduate to use his or her education to exercise the ability to choose to think differently, and to avoid being lulled into the automatic thinking that leads to separation and frustration. Although David Foster Wallace does not use the term " zero based thinking " in his speech, the attitude-adjusting approach he describes is similar to the process popularized by Brian Tracy. Zero based thinking is derived from the accounting practice of " zero-based budgeting " and it epitomizes pure freedom. It is also the practice that is advocated by Elisha Goldstein in The Now Effect .The adjustment to focus on the realities of the present moment allows a person to let go of the burdens of the past, and let go of judgments about one's current predicaments. The changed perspective allows an individual to imagine his or her current circumstances with detachment and acceptance. It is a free platform for creativity and optimism, as it is unencumbered by preconceived ideas or thoughts of doom and failure. Great management problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking can come from this place. It can also lead to a happier experience of any life situation, thus making even difficult tasks more manageable, and one's work-life more sustainable. The technique is free and can produce instant results. If one remembers that one has the power to choose one's perspective, it can happen with one's next breath. Breathe in possibility...breathe out worries and burdens. Everything is OK. What is possible now? Sources: " Zero Based Thinking " by Dan Byrne, The Simplify Guy , May 10, 2012. " The Value of Zero Based Thinking ," by Kathi Laughman, The Mackenzie Circle , March 20, 2013. " The Now Effect ," by Elisha Goldstein, Simon & Schuster, reprinted February 12, 2012. Follow up: What is your reaction to the "This is Water" video at the beginning of this post? What are the pros and cons of worrying? What are the pros and cons of complaining?
  • April Fools' pranks that can get you in trouble...

    image from article linked below It is always a little risky in the workplace to use humor of any kind. But "pranks" can be particularly risky...even on a day devoted to pranks: April Fools' Day. Forbes published an article last year listing 8 rules for using humor in the workplace. One of them was using humor to make people feel more comfortable, rather than less comfortable. Pranks seem counterproductive to that aim. The local newspaper daily in my town, the Santa Monica Daily Press , runs an annual April Fools' Day issue. The lead article is always one that is surprising, but reasonably plausible. On each page the articles become more and more absurd--the Letters to the Editor and the Daily Horoscopes being the absolute "give-aways" that something is afoul. But being fooled at all means feeling "foolish"...and that might not be a great way to be seen at work. The Marketplace article mentions three pranks that definitely don't work in the workplace: Plastic on the toilet seat Pretending to cut off one's finger, leaving fake blood everywhere Pulling the fire alarm (this prank is also illegal) I'm not so sure how the fake crime scene pictured above would play out, either. The prank they "recommend" is linked below. Source: " 3 April Fools' Pranks You Shouldn't Pull At The Office (and 1 You Should), " by Adam Allington, Marketplace , American Public Media, April 1, 2013. Follow up: What April Fools' pranks were pulled in your workplace this year? What kind of humor is allowed in the corporate (or school) culture you work in? If you belong to a fraternity, how are things different there? Have you ever gotten into "hot water" by using humor inappropriately? List five rules that you would observe to maintain a good reputation--check out the Forbes article if you want some suggestions. Any comment about the stapler in jello prank from the TV show The Office , mentioned in the Marketplace article? I don't know if I would recommend that one either...what do you think?
  • Planet Money: get the app...and get the story behind business decisions

    image from National Public Radio Planet Money is a National Public Radio news-magazine about financial matters. The audio articles are short and interesting tidbits--often focusing on business decisions that don't make headlines, but are important to business practices in both large and entrepreneurial companies. They also do pieces that help the listener put financial headlines into an more understandable context. For example...The article I've linked to is about a business decision made by Sloan-Kettering Hospital, a top-rated cancer facility that values its cutting-edge reputation. When a new drug became available to treat colon cancer, they evaluated the efficacy of the new drug vis-a-vis an older drug that was available at half the cost ($11,000 per month vs. $5,500 per month). The clinical results of the drug were the same: a 1.4 month increase in lifespan. Sloan Kettering made the decision to NOT USE the newer drug, based on cost. Because a cost-based decision is very unusual in the arena of top-ranked cancer hospitals, two Sloan-Kettering colleagues teamed up to explain their decision in an New York Times op-ed piece, " In Cancer Care, Cost Matters ." If there had been a difference in outcomes that favored the more expensive drug, however, they would have opted to use it, or provide it as an option to patients. In this particular case, they made an unusual business decision, and protected their reputation by being transparent about it in a widely-read newspaper. At any rate, stories about Amish entrepreneurs, con men and the transportability of money have also run recently in the NPR series. For people interested in business, Planet Money is a great resource. Sources: Planet Money: the app from iTunes and National Public Radio . Follow up: Download the app and use it. Now access Planet Money via the URL on your laptop. Notice anything different? What effect does the difference have on your assessment of the app? Discuss some of the articles with your business school colleagues. What were the most interesting? What did you learn?
  • Girl Scout Cookies: $785 million in business lessons

    photo by Sean Patrick Farrell, New York Times : Mary Ruiz sells Girl Scout Cookies It's Girl Scout Cookie season again. In this video , Ron Lieber interviews Mary Ruiz the "Cookie Titan of Tuscon," and her mother, Pilar. Mary enjoys selling--and the rewards it brings--and her mother is impressed by the organizational, financial literacy, time-management, and business communication skills that Mary has developed through this activity. Experts such as Daniel Pink (author of To Sell is Human ) would agree that a successful sales program, with a product that the salesperson believes in, can produce positive and life-affirming outcomes. Others judge the sales activity of the top school-age salespersons as exploitative or unhealthy, according to Lieber's article. But for Mary, selling Girl Scout cookies allows her to set idealistic goals, and feel satisfaction and happiness in the process. Her mother is impressed by Mary's interest in other financial matters, such as the family's mortgage and insurance needs. Of course, those of us who eat cookies are also happy to have the product. My personal favorite are Samoas... Image from cocktailsandcookies.org Sources: " More Than Pushing Cookies ," by Ron Lieber, New York Times , February 8, 2013. Video Link: Ron Lieber and Mary Ruiz To Sell is Human: the Surprising Truth about Moving Others , by Daniel Pink, Penguin Group, 2012. Follow up: Selling Girl Scout Cookies has taught what business skills to Mary Ruiz, according to her mother? What personal problem has Mary overcome in the process? Do you have any reservations, such as the ones mentioned in the article, about direct sales done by children? What are the appropriate limits (if any), in your opinion? Have you ever participated in a direct sales campaign, or worked on commission? What was your experience?
  • Meditation: a tool for developing "soft skills"

    image from ashvogue.wordpress.com Meditation was a key element of the management strategy for the Los Angeles Lakers when they were coached by Phil Jackson. But Jackson is no longer the the Lakers' coach, and the Lakers...well, I am wondering if the correlation between Jackson's coaching style and the Lakers current performance may also be due to the cause and effect of eliminating this mental portion of a practice regimen. "Meditation" and "mindfulness" are currently popular strategies for employee development and consulting. In the modern world, with all of its stress and multitasking, many businesses are finding that it is difficult to get employees to focus. Meditation practices can lead to an increased capacity to adapt to change and be resilient. Companies such as Google , Target, and General Mills have incorporated meditation into employee training. Some might think that meditation is only for Buddhists, but there is no religious component to meditation itself. There is also no "downside risk." It can't hurt. As a break from the workday, it may do more good that playing Solitaire or checking Facebook. Besides, it can help build the soft skills of resilience and calmness-under-pressure. Source: " The Lakers Meditate? " interview by Soren Gordhamer, the MBA project, May 18, 2006. " 28 day Meditation Challenge ," by Sharon Salzberg, February 1, 2013. " Mindfulness in the Corporate World: How Businesses are Incorporating the Eastern Practice ," Huffington Post, August 30, 2012; updated January 7, 2013 . " OK, Google, take a deep breath ," by Caitlin Kelly, the New York Times , April 28, 2012. Follow up: Check out the Sharon Salzberg link above and consider giving it a try. What are the seven effects of meditation on the brain and body that are delineated in the Huffington Post slideshow? Which of these matter to you and why?
  • "Soft skills": the key to money, job success, and personal fulfillment

    image from mappio.com The advisory board to our college Business Department often requests that we pass this information on to our students: In hiring and promoting employees, they look for those individuals with well-developed " soft skills ." Several of these skills are delineated in the graphic above. The skills mentioned most frequently by our advisory board include: positive regard for others good attitude communication skills personal presentation respect for time requirements mindful responsiveness rather than reactivity in difficult situations Having well-developed soft skills often means having emotional maturity--or at least the tools to accept oneself and others even when things go wrong. People with soft skills are trustworthy and likable. They make others feel comfortable. They are so important to students considering a career in business, that I will devote several blogs over the next few weeks to soft skills. Source: " When Soft Skills Stop Being Soft ," by Sukhvinder Pabial, The Training Journal, January 23, 2013. "Minutes," Santa Monica College Business Advisory Committee meetings, 2010-2012. Follow up: Go through each of the case studies in the article by Sukhvinder Pabial and identify the "soft skills" that made the difference. Which "soft skills" come naturally to you at this point? Which skills do you need to work on? What steps are you taking to improve your soft skills?
  • Tax loophole closed for Corporations operating in CA

    image from theyodeler.com Think about this: if a corporation has gross revenues of $2,000,000, and has $1,500,000 of those revenues in California...should that corporation be taxed on 3/4 of its income in California? That seems fair...but the way the tax laws have been written in the past, there were ways to circumnavigate common sense. The proposition that just passed in California ensures that there will be a more equitable distribution of "income," and therefore a more equitable distribution of tax revenues. The fact that it will result in about $1 billion in tax revenues to the state of California, however, gives many observers a reason to pause and assess. Source: " For Prop 39, a quiet but decisive victory " by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2012. Follow up: Do you think that corporations doing business in California, and selling $500,000 of inventory, should pay tax on their net profits of $190,000 to the state of California? In an ideal situation, how would you propose that taxes be applied to multi-state or multi-national corporations?
  • My personal "Booklist" for Business Students

    image is the book cover, from the first link in the list below I'm going to start this list of books with one that I haven't read yet...because it was recently published, and it is good to keep current. I'm also including two books that appeared on the NYT list I talked about in a post last week, as well as one movie. The rest of the items on the list have either helped my business students in the past, or have helped me develop my own basic literacy regarding business and finance concepts. Bailout , by Neil Barofsky: This is a new book, by the Special Inspector General over the Troubled Asset Relief Program ( TARP ) that averted the "too big to fail" banking crisis in 2008. The link is to a NYT review by Jackie Calmes, July 24, 2012. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business , by Charles Duhigg: I've blogged about this book and this book is on the NYT list. Steve Jobs , by Walter Isaacson: another from the NYT list--an in-depth biography of both a person and the story of a business. Does Someone At Work Treat You Badly? , by Leonard Felder: In spite of its whiny title, this book gives practical hints on how to be successful at work by taking personal responsibility for your part in your business interactions. One of the reviews especially recommends the book to people seeking their first professional job. Sacred Commerce: Business as a Path of Awakening , by Matthew and Terces Engelhart: This book is written by the CEOs of Cafe Gratitude, an expanding chain of vegan restaurants. It delineates how business processes can be set up for profit--while maintaining and strengthening the personal values of sustainability and social justice. Please Understand Me II , by David Keirsey: This book gets my all-time award for the BEST book with the WORST TITLE. (Now that electronic books are popular--just buy it in electronic form.) In any event, my students tell me that it is the most useful book ever--in business and personal life. Over 20 copies of this book have been "permanently borrowed" by students or returned months later, well-worn. Keirsey has developed a shortened version of the Myers-Briggs temperment inventory that categorizes individuals into 16 types. The book's thesis is that a person cannot really change much about his or her basic approach to the world. The corollary: it is fruitless to try to change anyone else's basic set of strengths and weaknesses. The book describes how to skillfully understand and use people's differences to be most effective. There are sections about which professions are most suited to each type, why sibling might have very different views of family dynamics, and how different types interact. Most importantly for business students, there is a section about how to manage other people, based on their personality type . Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street , by Michael Lewis: This book, based on the author's experience as a broker, illuminates both the power politics within the firm, and the effect of the kinds of business transacted on the economy. It is funny, accessible, and informative. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable , by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: A "black swan" is a rarity. This book focuses on monumental but surprising events ( e.g ., Google's huge success, 9/11, stock market crashes). These "exceptions" are predictable based on statistics, but are hard to anticipate because of the human mind's tendency to look for a narrative arc--a story--that will explain things. It builds on Taleb's ideas from Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Markets and in Life . Thank God It's Monday! , by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith: This book is a graduate education in how to create work environments that inspire individuals by maximizing 14 core values. It is a manual about how to be a leader in today's rapidly changing work environments. Margin Call : this is not a book--it is a movie. It is 24 hours of crisis in a Wall Street investment banking firm, that illuminates personal decision-making, corporate finance, and business ethics. The link is to Netflix. image from netflix Follow up : Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, which one appeals to you the most? What was the last book you read that was not assigned for class? Did it relate to business? What business book recommendations do you have? What business movie recommendations do you have?
  • Book Club for Business Students

    image from Amazon.com Students spend a lot of time with textbooks, but lively and creative adults who are "lifelong learners" read currently published books. The New York Times publishes lists of both hardcover and softcover business-related bestsellers each week, in addition to its well known lists for fiction and general interest. Last week's Business bestseller list included the following books: Steve Jobs , by Walter Isaacson--a biography of Apple's deceased CEO. Imagine , by Jonah Lerner--a book about how to learn to be more creative. The Power of Habit , by Charles Duhigg--I wrote about this book in a series of posts about habits . Unintended Consequences , by Edward Conard--about America's growing income inequality. Thinking, Fast and Slow , by Daniel Kahneman--about when to trust intuition. The Charge , by Brendan Burchard--which delineates ten human drives that inspire us The Price of Inequality , by Joseph E. Stiglitz--a different take on America's income inequality Screwed! by D. Morris and Eileen McCann--a xenophobic perspective on foreign aid and commerce How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen et. al.--finding meaning in life and work End This Depression Now! by Paul Krugman--how government spending could jump-start the economy $100 Start-Up , by Chris Guillebeau--just what it says: how to start your own business with a small investment The Real Crash , by Peter D. Schiff--an argument for American declaring bankruptcy and starting over How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things , by Neil Smith with Patricia O'Connell --8 ways to avoid mistakes Strengths-based Leadership , by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie--how to be a more effective leader Winner Take All , by Dambisa Moyo--China's quest for natural resources I've only read two of these books-- Steve Jobs and The Power of Habit --but several books look good to me. My own personal "best business books" list has some other titles on it. I will share it next week. Follow up: Which of the books on this list appeal to you? What is interesting about them? How many books have you read, outside of schoolwork, in the last year? Have you ever listened to an audiobook? What medium do you prefer? What types of books do you prefer? If you were asked, "What was the last book you read?" or "What book has had an influence on your life?" in a job interview, what would you answer?
  • Five larger-than-life Silver-screen CEO types

    Inspiring (or polarizing) personalities often find their places at the heads of large corporations. Hollywood's fictionalized CEO portrayals can be even more compelling. Alexander Diedrick discussed his favorite silver-screen corporate chiefs (and the lessons we can learn from them) in a recent post on our MyFootpath.com . His top 5 are: The Duke & Duke brothers from Trading Places --these are the villains who place a bet on the Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy characters as though other peoples' lives are a game for their amusement. Lesson : Money does not free you from personal ethical responsibility. Ryan Bingham, the George Clooney character from Up in the Air --who starts the movie as a professional "downsizer" with a Teflon approach to interpersonal responsibility--and who ends up being forced to examine his life. Lesson : you can't pretend that your job is not who you are forever. Gordon Gekko, the Michael Douglas character from Wall Street --who will do anything to make more and more money, without ever questioning why. Lesson : "Greed is bad" according to Diedrick. Frank Cross, the Bill Murray character from Scrooged (or the Jacob Marley character from any version of A Christmas Carol )--a greedy, lonely man who is frightened by a multi-part dream of ghosts making him look at the consequences of his actions. Lesson : Honesty and fairness in business transactions can be more sustainable in terms of having a good life. Charles Foster Kane--the Orson Welles character in Citizen Kane , and loosely based on the real-life character of William Randolph Hearst--tells the tale of a man who builds a publishing empire by printing stories that are lurid and misleading. Lesson : living a life where one makes choices that hurt others can leave a person feeling lost and lonely...states of mind that cannot be salved by money. Follow up : Have you seen any of these films? What did you think of these characters? Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Diedrick? What other heads of business have been portrayed in films that you have seen? Consider the leads of: Margin Call Boiler Room Clerks Goodfellas Jerry Maguire Glengarry Glen Ross or...check out Bloomberg's list of Best Movies for Business Students for reminders
  • Private companies to get their own "GAAP"

    Not all corporations are alike. There are public corporations, whose stocks are traded on a stock exchange and who are regulated by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). There are also "private corporations," whose stock might be owned by only one person, or a group of investors who get in on the ground floor. These private corporations that choose to have their accounting records audited are currently subject to the same accounting rules as the huge multi-national companies. These rules are set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB--pronounced "fazz-bee"), and are called "Generally Accepted Accounting Principles," commonly abbreviated as "GAAP" and pronounced "gap." This week, the FASB announced that they are proposing to form a new entity, the Small Company Standards Improvement Council , to develop changes to GAAP that would help small businesses with their financial reporting. The changes this new group might propose would still have to be approved by the FASB. The proposed change had been initiated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a professional organization. If instituted, differences may arise in areas such as valuation of certain types of assets and accounting for stock options. Some observers, according to the NYT article , are not enthusiastic about the proposal. SEC accountant, James Kroeker, urged additional research before moving forward. Also, Teri Yohn, a professor at Indiana University and an appointee to the panel that proposed the new Council, dissented from the majority, saying that differing rules would add confusion and cost. No changes would be adopted until after the public comment period ends on January 4, 2012. Follow up : 1. Read a related article at Accounting News Today . How did the AICPA react to the proposal announced by the FASB to form this new entity? 2. Read the Wikipedia article about GAAP . That article mentions that GAAP is being phased out due to the growth of interrelated global economies. A new system is replacing it. What is that system called and what problems will it solve?
  • How do everyday taxpayers help businesses?

    picture from talkingpointsmemo.com TPM Elizabeth Warren likes straight talking without hedging. The video linked below delineates ways in which she feels that corporations benefit from public services funded by regular taxpayers. Professor Warren was too controversial to be confirmed as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and had recently returned to her position at Harvard as the Leo Gottlieb endowed Professor of Law. Previously she had been the Chair of the Consumer Oversight Panel of TARP. She was instrumental in making the language on credit card bills clearly represent the costs. She also advocated for the changes to laws regarding "overdraft" charges--that often were charges to students who used debit cards...and frequently resulted in multiple $35 overdraft charges on a single day for a visit to a yogurt shop for $3.50, and another charge for a coffee for $2.80...etc. A few days ago, Elizabeth Warren announced she was running for the open Senate seat in Massachusetts that is currently held by freshman Senator Scott Brown . She has held a few personal fundraiser/town hall meetings, where she has generated buzz by talking about how taxpayers support corporations. Check out the link at: Elizabeth Warren on Class Warfare: There Is No One Who Got Rich On Their Own (video) . The gist of her talk is this: Corporate investors deserve a "huge hunk" of return on their investments, but the "social contract" requires that they also pay taxes because of the tax-supported benefits that allow them to succeed in business: Highways, Police, Fire, and other support services. As of today, there is no internet response from Scott Brown. Scott Brown................................................Elizabeth Warren At some point, we hope to know how Scott Brown will respond to Elizabeth Warren's statements about the benefits that American corporations get just by being part of the regulated and protected environment of all US citizens and visitors. Follow up: 1. What benefits do corporations receive that are funded by taxpayers and provided by local governments? 2. What are your reactions to Elizabeth Warren's video?