Monday, February 27, 2006


Professional Pet Peeve

In an otherwise innocuous article about the accounting troubles at Fannie Mae in today’s Washington Post (New Light Shed on Critic of Fannie), Terence O'Hara writes:

“He (Roger Barnes) made these claims inside Fannie Mae and believed he was punished for it, retaliation that in effect ruined his career in the public accounting profession.”

….only Mr. Barnes wasn’t in the “public accounting” profession. He was working (for approximately 13 years) for Fannie Mae – that’s private accounting. Yes he was a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). That means at least he is eligible for the profession but doesn’t necessarily put him in the profession. This may seem like a small point but when I read such statements I wonder about the accuracy of other elements of the reporting that I may not have direct knowledge on. Mr. O’Hara has been reporting on the Fannie Mae story for over a year so he should be as well-versed on the story as anyone.

The accounting issues involved can be technical and seemingly arcane but are nevertheless fundamental to understanding this story. But when he displays such an elementary misunderstanding of the accounting profession, I can’t help but wonder if Mr. O’Hara really does understand all of which he is writing.

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