Don't Shoot The Accountant . . .

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. . . he's doing his best.

Yesterday, David Kellermann, the newly appointed CFO of mortgage giant Freddie Mac committed suicide according to The Globe and Mail newspaper. This was an avoidable tragedy, one which we accountants need to learn from.

Some facts from the article:

  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency described him as "a person of the utmost ethical standards who was hardworking and knowledgeable in his field"
  • With Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac is responsible for about $6-trillion in mortgages, many of which are currently in default
  • Kellermann was one of the executives reviled because he was to receive a "bonus" of $850,000 over 16 months for his dedication and hard work pulling the company through this difficult time
  • Reporters and camera crews appeared at his home, making him fear for his family and property
  • He began working non-stop, sometimes returning home only to change clothes
  • He told a friend that no matter what he did, someone was always angry at him

I can see so many of my accounting friends in this picture, people who quietly put in the long hours to get the books right, people who shun the limelight, but are deeply committed and loyal to the company they serve. People who deserve support, but who are routinely overlooked because they are quiet and taken for granted.

When a company founders, the accountant is often put into an impossible situation, responding to critics and keeping the administration going despite layoffs and other crises. David had nothing to do with the bad lending decisions made by his employer. All he did was keep the books. Yet here he is, a victim of the sins of others.

If the world is caving in on you, talk to someone. Start with your partner, spouse, parent or best friend, but get it all out. Let someone see the impossible situation you're in and let them help you see where your responsibilities lie. You can't take on the whole problem yourself.

We are all poorer for the loss of this fine person.

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