The story of a day in the life of an unsuccessful office worker

2:05pm Should I cook the books?

As a professional accountant, I believe that the monthly financial reports should reflect the true financial performance of the company. 

Some managers do not agree. The figures in the report influence both their performance evaluation and remuneration. Accordingly, they want the numbers to paint their department in the best possible light.  

Last month, we mistakenly overcharged Terrific Telecom, one of our largest customers, to the tune of $1.3 million. Accordingly, the accounts require a negative adjustment.  

The only question is the timing. The correct accounting treatment would be to process the adjustment in the current month, meaning that it would be reflected in the figures that I am now preparing. 

However, this is not convenient for Geoff Bretton, manager of the department concerned. His department is performing poorly and is currently under review. He therefore wishes to delay the adjustment until next month, after which time the review of his department will be complete.  

That is why I am in his office now. 

“Look, Stewie, I know we have to make an adjustment,” he reasons. “It’s just that, well, as you know, things are a little difficult right now. I just don’t want such a big adjustment in this month, if you know what I mean.” 

“I understand this is difficult for you,” I reply. “But I’m afraid the adjustment has to be processed this month. 

“C’mon Stewie,” he adopts a whispering tone. “Help me out just this once. Remember all the times I’ve helped you out of a tight spot?” 

“H’mm…When exactly are you referring to, Geoff?” 

“You know I’ll always help you when you need it. Go on. Help me out just this once.” 

With a wry smile, I get up and leave his office. “Nice try, Geoff. I’ll talk to Bill, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.” 

“Ha ha ha!” Back at Bill’s office, an evil laugh ensues on my boss’s face as I describe Mr. Bretton’s predicament.    

“Good old, Geoff, eh?” he reminisces. “Some things never change. On his last leg’s and he’s still trying to play tricks.” 

“Robertson,” he continues, “you’re a young man - still a bit wet behind the ears. Let me clue you in on a few things. Geoff Bretton is on his way out, as is his department. Manipulate the accounts for him and you’ll join him. 

We’re accountants, not politicians or lawyers. We make sure that the numbers are right. We don’t play tricks just to please managers.” 

Bill is right. Monthly financial reports must reflect true financial performance, not whatever makes sleazy line managers look good. 

Cooking the books to suit management might have earned you a raise at Enron, but anywhere else, it will get you canned


  1. January 15th, 2008 | 11:19 pm

    Sorry Andrew, but I can’t relate to this one.

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