After months of sparring on twitter, the two opponents were to face off at a recent conference on Fraud in the Bull Market organized by the Berkeley Center for Law and Business. Is activist short selling the best hope for cleansing the stock market of bad actors? Or is a plague of shadowy short-report gunslingers destroying worthy companies and fleecing retail investors?
"If the trade war continues to escalate as Trump has threatened, there's going to be a big impact on the capital markets... I expect that we're going to see a winter in IPOs next year."
Paul, you've gotten to this point where you've become this guru for all issues related to accounting in China. How did that journey come about?
I came to China 21 years ago. I was transferred here by the international accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. It was Price Waterhouse at the time. I was in China with them for seven years. Then I took early retirement from PwC and I tried playing golf for a while, but got bored with that. So I went back to school. I first studied theology. I enjoyed the academic side of it, so I decided to get a PhD in accounting. I chose, as my topic for my dissertation, the development of the accounting profession in China.
One of the things that I discovered in my research was that there were gaps in the regulation of Chinese companies that were starting to rush to U.S. stock exchanges in the early 2000s. Those gaps in regulation were likely to lead to an environment where there might be a lot of fraud. I predicted it would happen in my doctoral dissertation. About the time I finished it, it all came true. There were over 100 cases of fraud brought against overseas-listed Chinese companies. My work came to the attention of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which asked me to serve on their standing advisory group. And also a lot of hedge funds and other market participants got interested in what I had to say.
My blog, The China Accounting Blog, got quite a bit of attention. After a while, basically, everybody who was following the China stock market was reading what I was writing. That has led to me being, probably, the leading Western expert in Chinese accounting and auditing problems for overseas -listed Chinese companies.
An Interview with Howard Schilit
Howard Schilit is America’s foremost scholar of the accounting tricks that public companies use to make their financial performance appear more enticing than the underlying reality.
His seminal work, Financial Shenanigans: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks and Fraud in Financial Statements, is required reading for financial analysts and aspiring fund managers. But like the prophet without honor in his own country, Schilit’s work has been strangely ignored in his own profession of accounting. MarcumBP’s Drew Bernstein sat down with Howard to learn about the latest in accounting skullduggery and why every auditor should be schooled in the fine art of financial fraud.
More than eight years into the current stock market rally, professional equity bears have become an endangered species on Wall Street. And yet when I had the chance to sit down with famed short seller James Chanos last week, he was friendly, open, and highly optimistic about the opportunities to practice his tradecraft of sniffing out skunky accounting and malodorous business models.
Over the past twelve months, accounting scandals have tarnished some of the most illustrious corporate names and embarrassed some of the putatively smartest investors on Wall Street.
By Drew Bernstein
Following a number of successful listings by Chinese technology companies in the past six months, U.S. investors are eagerly awaiting the planned listing of Alibaba. The world’s largest e-commerce company will be the largest Chinese offering to date and perhaps displace Facebook as the largest technology IPO of all time.
Investment banks are jostling for a place at the banquet table for a slice of what might be a $200 billion market cap valuation, and hoping that investors’ appetites will be far from satisfied. If the price pops, Alibaba could be followed closely by JD.com, Sina’s Weibo, and a host of other smaller Chinese companies, which will seek to take advantage of the festive mood to launch on the U.S. stock markets.
One group of investors that is surprisingly enthusiastic about this new crop of Chinese public companies are the China short sellers.