Description: Sears Canada was back in the news this week as it shuttered some of its Canadian stores while keeping others open. Sears was also seeking an extension of its creditor protection to allow time to rearrange its affairs. Meanwhile, former Sears employees are recruiting legal help in trying to figure out what happened to the missing $200,000 in the employee hardship fund. A Sears executive had promised to provide $500,000 for a hardship fund to assist employees who had been let go. But the fund appears to be $200,000 short of the half-million it was supposed to have.
Date: October 3, 2017
1) Were you aware of Sears Canada’s financial woes? What do you think they stem from?
2) Would you be interested in a career as a bankruptcy trustee?
3) What ethical issues might emerge in a discussion of the management of this special fund? For example, using the framework of Wiley’s ethics cases in Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, Seventh Canadian Edition, who are the stakeholders and what are the ethical considerations?
Description: Estimates stated that approximately 4,000 customers lined up for last week’s opening of Canada’s 13th Ikea store in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Having exited the city about 30 years ago, Ikea’s new store seemed to be quite welcome, at least judging by those waiting in line for their chance to be first at the Swedish retailer’s wares. Many of the 4,000 customers camped out overnight in damp weather to claim their spot in line.
Date: September 27, 2017
1) What has Ikea done right to create such customer commitment?
2) Would you be prepared to camp out overnight in a damp environment to be among the first to shop at a new retail establishment? If so, which one?
3) The story tells us that the Halifax area was actually home to the first Ikea in all of North America. Why do you think the company may have chosen that location to launch its North American beachhead all those years ago?
Description: I took a second look this week when a tweet from the New Zealand Office of the Auditor General told me auditors now had their own day for pride in their profession – #AuditorProud .The Office had features on why various staff members took pride in their work, describing their feelings about the profession. You can take a look yourself by visiting the Twitter feed https://twitter.com/auditor_general
Date: September 28, 2017
1) Can you find any other sites proclaiming #AuditorProud? What sort of messages can you find?
2) Have you thought about a career in auditing? Does #AuditorProud have any impact on your decision?
3) Auditors have taken a bit of a beating in recent years in the aftermath of the financial failures. Do you think that this day of audit pride may be a reaction to the bad publicity?
Description: Once one of the top handset phone makers in the world, Blackberry has been on steady financial decline since the introduction of the iPhone and various Android smartphones. But Blackberry is bouncing from red ink to black, with the latest quarterly results showing a profit of approximately $19 million. The profit signals possible success as Blackberry continues its strategic move from being a hardware company to a software company.
Date: September 28, 2017
1) Were you aware that Blackberry has once again posted a profit?
2) Blackberry’s CEO John Chen says the company is doing well on its “key growth initiatives.” What do you think some of the key indicators might be that the CEO is receiving regular reports on to help judge whether the strategic plans are on track?
3) The article speaks of “the company’s improved margins.” What are two important margins you can read about in Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making?
Description: It was a beautiful day in Fredericton Saturday. But Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau might have wished he was outdoors enjoying that sunny weather as opposed to being in front of an audience at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, an audience upset about his Liberal government’s planned tax changes that will impact entrepreneurs, farmers and professionals. Morneau stated that the government was listening, but yet committed to its current approach.
Date: September 23, 2017
1) How do you think the government has been doing at the job of selling its tax program?
2) If you were advising the Finance Minister, Mr. Morneau, what strategy do you think you would advise?
3) Do you think the rising volume of protest will prompt changes in the government’s plans?
Description: The Nova Scotia Auditor General, Michael Pickup, has announced his office will be examining operations at the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax. The AG’s interest was piqued by a disclosure that former hospital CEO Tracy Kitch had a number of issues with her expense claims. This focus on high-ranking public officials reminded observers of previous AG Jacques Lapointe’s audit into expense claims by provincial MLAs, work that resulted in criminal charges against four of these elected representatives. Lapointe’s work was preceded by a similar audit in Newfoundland and Labrador by then Auditor General John Noseworthy. See for instance http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/third-mha-comes-forward-in-n-l-audit-scandal-1.569966
Date: September 20, 2017
1) Why do these expense scandals seem to keep happening from time to time? Why do people in positions of power end up treating public money like their own?
2) What type of audit would Mr. Pickup’s staff be performing here?
3) What type of internal controls might an organization put in place to prevent or detect this type of problem?
Description: Giant retailer Toys “R” Us announced this week that it is seeking to reorganize under the protection of bankruptcy regulations in both the United States and Canada. Like many a bricks and mortar retail establishment, part of the problem is the rise of online vendors, particularly Amazon. The company intends to remain open over the lucrative holiday season as it struggles with $5 billion in debt.
Date: September 19, 2017
1) Were you surprised to hear this news? Why or why not?
2) The CEO says the majority of the individual stores are profitable. How then could the corporation as a whole be in financial trouble?
3) In chapter two of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making, we read of an important assumption about accounting that can be called into question when a business is threatened with failure. What is that assumption?
Description: There has been considerable protest over the current federal government’s proposal to close tax loopholes for private corporations. Small business owners and professionals have been using various forms of ‘income sprinkling’ to lower their tax burden. One Liberal MP, Wayne Long, has broken ranks with his government colleagues, expressing his concern about the impact of the planned reforms on entrepreneurs. Meanwhile Michael Wolfson of the University of Ottawa maintains his research indicates the impact of the changes will be minimal.
Date: September 14, 2017
1) Do you know any entrepreneurs or professionals who have been discussing how these pending tax changes will impact them? What have they been saying about the matter?
2) Which argument do you find the most convincing, that of Professor Wilson or that of Mr. Long?
3) MP Wayne Long has taken the unusual step of publicly disagreeing with his own government. What might be some of the implications for his political career?
Description: And if the Equifax breach wasn’t bad enough, this past week we found out what a terrible job Equifax did in handling the crisis. First, we learned the company waited six weeks to tell us about the breach, leaving consumers uninformed their data was in peril. Second, we now know at least three Equifax executives dumped shares a few days after the breach, well before the business press and analysts knew enough to punish the company’s share price. Ed Zitron of media company EZPR was quoted in the CNN piece as saying “All they’ve done is terrify people more.”
Date: September 13, 2017
1) What does this additional information on the Equifax breach say to you? What is your opinion on the company’s response?
2) Why do you think Equifax executives sold their shares within a few days of the crash? Do you regard this as ethical?
3) Watch the brief video on how some companies have done a very bad job handling a crisis. Why do you think these bad choices occur?
Description: Canadians owe more. That is, for every dollar of income, Canadians owed $1.678, up from the amount owed in the prior quarter. With interest rates now on the way up following years of low rates, economists worry that this rising debt load poses an economic risk.
Date: September 15, 2017
1) Why do you think debt levels are rising?
2) Wiley’s Kimmel, Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making, Seventh Canadian Edition, often discusses the importance of financial information for decision making. Where do you find information in your personal financial life to help you decide whether or not to take on new debt?
3) Where in Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making, Seventh Canadian Edition, can you find information on ratios that will help you determine changes in a company’s debt load?