Friday, October 25, 2013

Materially Mistweeted? Tale of the Ticker Symbol

My coworkers informed of a fascinating story of how one letter and an overactive stock rumour mill can provide us a valuable lesson in defining materiality in the world of a 140 character "tweet". As described in this post on Tech Crunch, the stock, "TWTRQ", went from less than a penny to a high of $0.15, which works out to - I am relying on TechCrunch on the math on this one - to be a rise of 1,400%. Wow! Was it the birth of new valuation model that made Wall Street realize the value of TWTRQ? Did the Federal Reserve grant TWTRQ, or  Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, the right to print money out of thin air (as they do with other banks)?

Looks like the free market fundamentalist really got it handed to them on this :) 

Apparently, the collective "wisdom" of the markets that drove investors into a feeding frenzy over TWTRQ. The reason? Well, investors apparently bought the stock of this company, which has been bankrupt since 2007, thinking it was the initial public offering of Twitter (symbol: TWTR). Who would have thought to assess the materiality of a ticker symbol? Could the investors sue the auditors on this one? Now that would be a court case worth watching.  

Of course on a more serious note, it really illustrates how little people do when investing their money in stocks. We are not talking about running the latest financial model pulling XBRL tagged information in real time to determine the value of the company. We're talking about checking financial news sites to see when the stock was released. 

And to finish a lighter a note, we can at least chuckle at's take on this

Friday, October 11, 2013

UWCISA 8th Biennial Research Symposium: A Unique Experience

Last weekend UWCISA held it's 8th Biennial Research Symposium.

For those who attended, it was a great opportunity to get together and understand what is the leading edge in terms of research in information security, data analytics and assurance issues related to technology. For those that may not be familiar with the conference it is a truly unique format. The Symposium brings academics together to present papers, but also brings together discussants from academia as well as practitioners from the field (click here for the list of papers presented as well as the list of practitioner/academic discussants). It is this unique blend of perspectives that makes the symposium a unique experience.

In prior years, the conference was only on the Friday and Saturday. However, this year the conference included a special XBRL session on the Thursday. This portion of the conference was standalone and actually was sold out! Gerry Trites, head of XBRL Canada, informed the attendees at the conference that over 250 Canadian companies are working to implement XBRL because they file in US GAAP they are effectively forced to produce in XBRL tagged financial statements. He is in the process of pulling together a study that will explore this in greater detail.

On the opening panel, it was interesting to see the different perspectives that were presented about the current state of data and assurance. It really highlighted the challenge of innovation in audit. On the one hand, there is an agreement regarding the tremendous potential that exists due to automate audit tasks and identify issues through analytic techniques. But on the other hand, due to the regulatory nature of audits, there was a consensus that the slow pace that standards change, it will be a while before auditors can take advantage of such techniques. However, the challenge from the audit firm side (as noted by one of presenters) is that the cost or quality advantage gained through R&D will be lost if it is scrutinized and thereby shared with the rest of the audit industry. Another panelists pointed out to another conondrum; can auditors be truly independent of management? His argument was that a more data-driven audit would make the team more objective, which is a more attainable goal.

All in all, it was a great symposium. Special thanks to Efrim Boritz, Lia Boritz, Jenny Thomspson, and the others behind the scenes for getting this mammoth event up and going. Thanks to  Bill Swirsky for keeping us on track and going). And thanks, of course, to the presenters and discussants who presented their papers and views.

See you all in 2 years!