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Your features devoted to Work/Life (November 2004) were disheartening for aspiring CFOs, to say the least. I'm not changing my chosen ambition, but I will remain intent on taking my full vacation — and then some. I don't care if I don't get paid for the extra week. Engaging the world is just as important as succeeding in one's career. I'm not working in finance for my health, you know.
Once again CFO magazine offers cutting-edge and insightful coverage of an important topic with the articles on work/life for the senior finance executive. As a former CFO and now board member dealing with Sarbanes-Oxley at several companies, I am sympathetic to the onerous responsibilities and risks that the CFOs (and CEOs) must take. It has become more important than ever to make intelligent choices for business success and find time for personal priorities.
Blythe J. McGarvie
Leadership for International Finance
I have been in business development in both private and public organizations, and I could really relate to the story "Hard Times" (November 2004). In my current role as managing director of Central Connecticut State University's Institute of Technology and Business Development, I am more like a CEO or president.
Having worked in Corporate America and done international business, I understand very well the stresses mentioned in the article. Living and working by cell phone, laptop, and BlackBerry 24/7, including while on vacation (never taking all of it, either), takes its toll. Sorting out the producers and nonproducers very early on makes the job a bit easier from the start. Finding the right people and getting them in the right jobs is crucial to organizational success. Management by walking around is essential.
After reading the article, I again realized that I must refocus on my health and my family. In the end, this is what it's all about.
Richard C. Mullins Jr.
Central Connecticut State University
Institute of Technology and Business Development
New Britain, Connecticut
A Solution to the DoD's Problems
A number of my colleagues thought I misquoted "Losing Battles" (October 2004) when I said that the Department of Defense spent an eye-popping $19 billion on business systems in fiscal 2004. Imagine what the cost would have been if the DoD were subject to Sarbanes-Oxley's Section 404. While others shook their heads in disbelief, I came up with a solution: the DoD should outbid Oracle for PeopleSoft! The current bid is just under $8 billion, or $11 billion in savings. Owning PeopleSoft would provide a consistent platform to supplant the estimated 4,000 systems in place at a fraction of the cost. The DoD would have a viable commercial business, to boot. With a built-in marketplace (it's just a hunch, but I believe other governmental agencies may have similar problems), it should do very well.
Don't forget my consulting fee — 10 percent of the expected taxpayer savings in the first year, rounded to the nearest billion. Please wire the $1 billion.
Audit Committee Advisors
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Get On with It
After reading the two letters critical of Public Company Accounting Oversight Board chairman William McDonough ("Strong Words for the PCAOB," October 2004), I found myself quite annoyed. Instead of whining about the difficulties of detecting collusion or the burden of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, the two letter writers, Mr. Land and Mr. Schwartzenhauer, would do much better to "suck it up" and get on with the tasks at hand.
Agreed that even the best internal controls cannot protect against — nor can all audits detect — determined collusion. Despite this, I would ask Mr. Land what he and his organization are doing to create or strengthen a culture of honesty and fiduciary responsibility, thus lessening the likelihood of collusion.
For Mr. Schwartzenhauer, while I sympathize with his concerns about excessive regulation, the sorry state of the accounting practices and management ethics in many firms cries out for the reforms stipulated by Sarbanes-Oxley. I predict that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of the poor practices that Sarbox will reveal as more of its provisions finally take effect.
Robert M. "Mike" Kanze
Cornerstone Services Inc.
Half Moon Bay, California
Holding Government Accountable
The outrage engendered by such folks as those at Enron and the umbrage taken by Congress and the President have given us Sarbanes-Oxley, a law that severely punishes financial-statement "inaccuracies." So here's a proposal: How about a law to apply the essence of Sarbox to senior government administrative officials? There is now little personal risk for anyone knowingly issuing inaccurate financial statements at NASA, Defense, Agriculture, Education, and so on. No one gets fired, fined, chastised, frowned upon, or loses a raise.
If accuracy is deemed critical for private-sector management, should we expect less of public servants, whose responsibilities transcend most private companies and affect the welfare of our whole country?
Abrams, Moran & Associates Inc.
Calculating Excess Cash
I don't understand how REL Consultancy Group arrived at the data provided in your August 2004 cover story, "Too Much Cash." Please explain.
In the analysis, we divided companies into industry segments. Within each segment, we developed cash-level benchmarks based on the lowest quartile of companies' cash as a percentage of sales. Cash included funds and marketable securities. Each company's ratio of cash/ sales was compared with the industry benchmark to determine excess cash. The formula we used was as follows: excess cash = [cash/sales % - benchmark cash/sales %] x [sales]. (If a company's cash level was below the benchmark level, it wasn't considered to have excess cash.) We then calculated the company's return on capital employed (ROCE), as follows: [pretax operating profit] / [debt + equity], and compared that with what the return would have been if excess cash had been used to pay down capital. The formula for ROCE without excess cash: [pretax operating profit] / [debt + equity excess cash].
The scorecard data for the telecommunications industry reported in the CFO article "Capital Choices" (December 2004) contained a number of errors. The article also ailed to credit Thomson Financial for all of the raw data. The correct data and sourcing can be found in the online version of the story and at www.prtm.com/capex.
The caption for the photograph on page 42 of the October issue of CFO erroneously identified its subject as Malcolm Macdonald, then treasurer and now vice president of finance at Ford Motor Co. The individual pictured is Brent Callinicos, vice president of worldwide licensing and pricing at Microsoft Corp. We regret the mix-up.