Thursday, 23 April 2009

Don't Shoot The Accountant . . .

. . . 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.


Patricia Koblizek,CA said...

Yes, it is sad that this man chose to end his life but he made that choice and most likely because of the positions he put himself into. A victim is someone who has no choice in this world.

Can you honestly say that any position is worth $850,000, well beyond any amounts required to fill needs and reasonable pleasures. If we continue on with this mentality of greed and egoism, we will truly destroy ourselves. We forget that each time we put a plus on our balance sheet someone else's has a minus.

All our standards and professional rules which are intent on burying us, have not been able to stop the Enrons, Nortels or the financial crisis. If there was any integrity in our profession and humanity as a whole, we wouldn't need all the rules and regulations and we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.

Maybe we should return to honour and honesty in all our relationships, business and otherwise and no one would end up in the position this man did. We need to start treating everyone we have relationships with, as we do our family members. We wouldn't think (I hope) of exploiting our children, so why do we so freely exploit others?

It just is time we stopped living off the backs of one another. The machine is broken and has been repaired, patched, added to, taken away from and it still does not work. Maybe it is time to scrap the old and build a new machine; one built on honesty, integrity and global consciousness.

Bill Kennedy, CA said...

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment! I appreciate all feedback.

There's no question that there is too much fear and greed currently. I too would like less of a gap between rich and poor. Clearly, the $850,000 was not the motivator. It turned into one of the stressors that made life unbearable for Kellermann.

Suicide has been called a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I think being a victim is more of a feeling than a set of facts. It is a rare situation where the person involved had no choice whatsoever.

My purpose in writing this entry is to call attention to the problem of accountants internalizing company problems and not seeking help when they most need it.

sam said...


Yves Godbout said...

I understand the situation, the conclusion may have been harsh, but for this individual it may ahave seemed to be the only out.

Life balance is important, let us not forget that. You need time to work, but you must also play, pray, share with your family and freinds.

Even though this happenned to an accountant, it can happen to anyone. There can be instances when we see someone in a like situation - one where they see no end in sight. They may need our help, don't hesitate to jump in and help!