CPA firm financial information is one of the most guarded pieces of information about the profession. Most firms do not disclose profits, capital structure or earnings per partner for fear of being placed at a competitive disadvantage and arising the ire of clients who don't know what a CPA earns.
But a divorce proceeding in Indiana involving Ernst & Young Global Chief Executive Richard S. Bobrow has forced the unveiling of part of the hidden world of Big Four finances. The New York Times successfully filed motions to obtain the documents, and presents some of the information in their January 14, 2003 article "Ernst & Young Financial Details Are Disclosed in Divorce Case."
Officially, the only financial information previously disclosed was offered in a statement by Ernst & Young that global revenues had risen to $10.1 billion, up $300 million from the previous year.
New information published in the New York Times reveals intimate financial details for the period ending in late 2000, including:
- U.S. revenue in FYE 2000 was $4.3 billion, up 12.3% from the previous year.
- U.S. total earnings were $1.3 billion, down 1% from the previous year.
- The profit margin was 31% in 2000, down from 35% in 1999.
- The equity stake of the firm's partners fell 19.6% from $525 million in 1999 to $422 million in 2000.
- Average cash earnings per partner rose 9.7% from $515,000 to $565,000.
- The Cap Gemini acquisition of E&Y Consulting, originally valued at $11.3 billion, actually shows a value of $7.9 billion because of the declined value of the Euro during the period of the acquisition. $5.5 billion went to the U.S. partners and the remaining $2.4 billion was divided among partners in 129 countries.
- Mr. Bobrow earned an annual salary of $2.75 million as Global Chief Executive of E&Y.
Veteran accounting profession observer Art Bowman was interviewed for the New York Times article and indicated that most people don't realize what an accountant makes. "The general public doesn't think accountants should make good money," said Mr. Bowman, who had previously estimated E&Y partner earnings in 2000 at $400,000.
The disclosure of the information is sure to anger the firm's 1,900 partners and will be of keen interest to any competitor firm, to spouses of those partners who are seeking a divorce, as well as any plaintiff's attorney who is seeking deep pockets.