Question 1 (10 marks – 800 words)
Find a newspaper article or web page report of an item of accounting news, i.e. it refers to a current event, consideration, comment or decision that has been published after January 2019. Your article could also come from one of the professional journals. The article should not come from an academic journal. Academic journals generally do not contain news articles or articles of less than one page and are usually only published 2 or 4 times a year. If you are having a problem ensuring that your article is from an appropriate source contact your subject coordinator (Nick Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Explain the article that you have found in your own words and clearly relate the concepts, ideas and facts within the article to one or more of the theories or topics that you have studied this session. For example, this from the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2016 could be linked to accounting regulation, ethics and measurement (and perhaps others). Provide a copy of the article or web page, with details of the source, date and page number with your question answer.
ASIC kept watch on Pioneer Credit for 12 months
3 April, 2019
The corporate regulator has been in discussions with a whistle-blower over accounting standards at Perth-based buyer of bad debt portfolios Pioneer Credit since November 2017 but did not contact the company to express its concerns until a year later, The Australian Financial Review can reveal.
A spokesman for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it approached the company in October 2018 after it made statements in its 2017-18 annual report that it had no plans to change a controversial valuation method which subsequently has attracted the attention of its auditor and the ASX.
“ASIC raised questions with Pioneer Credit as part of our routine surveillance of financial reports … We are awaiting further information from the company at this time,” the ASIC spokesman said.
Documents obtained by The Australian Financial Review, however, reveal ASIC was aware of concerns about the company and its methods dating back almost a year earlier with the regulator asking a whistle-blower for more information in November 2017.
Pioneer Credit buys impaired books of retail credit from banks and utilities, often at cents in the dollar, before working with the debtor to collect the outstanding debt. It is the only operator in the space globally that values its debt portfolios at fair value or the price agreed between buyer and seller rather than amortised cost, which writes down the value of the asset over time.
Pioneer Credit’s business model has been under the spotlight since auditor PwC declared earlier this year “sufficient and appropriate information was not yet available to them to determine whether the group’s accounting policy is appropriate”.
The qualified audit from February 25 was produced by PwC partner Douglas Craig who also oversaw the annual report for 2017-18 that attracted ASIC’s attention. PwC has declined the opportunity to answer questions about the process, saying “we don’t comment on client matters”.
The company hired international tax specialist David Russell, QC to defend its approach earlier this year. The subsequent opinion from counsel – which backs fair value as an appropriate technique – has been delivered to both PwC and ASIC but has not been made public.
Sources within Pioneer Credit say the reason the company uses fair value and everyone else uses amortised credit is because the company is “a disrupter” and it is a case of “we are right and everyone else is wrong”.
Billionaire Kerry Stokes is among Pioneer’s shareholders with a 5 per cent stake through Wroxby Pty Ltd with the Seven Network holding another 5 per cent stake valued at a combined $14.2 million on Tuesday’s prices. Managing director and founder Keith John also holds 10 per cent, with 8.29 per cent in his own name and another 1.69 per cent held in a related company with the two parcels of shares also worth $14.2 million. Former chief operating officer Lisa Stedman, who left the company in February, holds 0.51 per cent worth $727,000.
Potential red flags
Although thinly traded, short interest in Pioneer Credit has surged in recent months, with investors taking short positions representing anywhere up to 54 per cent of daily traded stock.
Critics of the company say it has a history of making promises that it does not fulfil, including plans to launch a credit card which have been spruiked at regular intervals since its 2014 prospectus but appear to have been abandoned by 2017. They also highlight other potential red flags such as the abundance of related-party deals including the leasing of properties owned by managing director Keith John to the company.
In the 2014 prospectus it was disclosed that Mr John’s…
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