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More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting

ISBN: 978-0-470-00873-7
256 pages
September 2006
More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting (0470008733) cover image
The world certainly suffers no shortage of accounting texts. The many out there help readers prepare, audit, interpret and explain corporate financial statements. What has been missing is a book offering context and discussion for divisive issues such as taxes, debt, options, and earnings volatility. King addresses the why of accounting instead of the how, providing practitioners and students with a highly readable history of U.S. corporate accounting. More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting was inspired by Arthur Levitt's landmark 1998 speech delivered at New York University. The Securities and Exchange Commission chairman described the too-little challenged custom of earnings management and presaged the breakdown in the US corporate accounting three years later.

Somehow, over a one-hundred year period, accounting morphed from a tool used by American railroad managers to communicate with absent British investors into an enabler of corporate fraud. How this happened makes for a good business story. This book is not another description of accounting scandals. Instead it offers a history of ideas.

Each chapter covers a controversial topic that emerged over the past century. Historical background and discussion of people involved give relevance to concepts discussed. The author shows how economics, finance, law and business customs contributed to accounting's development. Ideas presented come from a career spent working with accounting information.

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Preface.

List of Figure and Tables.

1. Double-Entry.

2. Railroads.

3.Taxes.

4. Costs.

5. Disclosure.

6. Standards.

7. Science.

8. Inflation.

9. Volatility.

10. Intangibles.

11. Debt.

12. Options.

13. Earnings.

14. SOX.

15. Epilogue.

Notes.

Bibliography.

Index.

About the Author.

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THOMAS A. KING is treasurer of Progressive Insurance, which is regarded as one of the most innovative companies in the insurance business. He grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and studied liberal arts at Harvard College. King worked for three years on the New York audit staff of Arthur Andersen & Co., earned an MS in accounting from New York University, and obtained CPA and CMA certification. After receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School, he joined Progressive Insurance in Cleveland. King spent ten years in marketing and general management before returning to accounting. Since then, he has served as corporate controller, investment strategist, and treasurer. At Progressive, King helped craft financial policies that support business objectives and managed investor relations when the company became the first to report monthly financial results.
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"With his solid credentials—a CPA, CMA and Harvard MBA, as well as the current treasurer of Progressive Insurance—King proves himself to be the insider, the historian, the yenta of the accounting profession. More Than a Numbers Gameoffers enough insights to give occasional pause even to those who have a real grasp of the wheres and whys behind the regulations that are dear to the heart of every practitioner." (Journal of Accountancy, May 2007)

"The author is at his best when telling stories, whether of the twists and turns in specific accounting standards from the 1940s to the present, of the accounting transgressions of Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom, and HealthSouth, or of the factors leading to the demise of Arthur Andersen. ... King’s gift for rendering complex ideas into easily understandable explanations, all in a conversational style, makes this book accessible to the general investing public as well.... This refreshing book is a well-researched, well-written, and intelligent explanation of modern-day U.S. accounting and how it has evolved to its present state." (The CPA Journal, April 2007)

"King's chapter on volatility shows how U.S. companies can account for transactions in foreign currencies three different ways, all of them legitimate. His chapter about the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate disclosure laws has an astute analysis of the accounting frauds at Enron and WorldCom that begat that legislation." (Newsweek, April 16, 2007)

"This demystifying book is likely to interest corporate folk who want to understand better the whys of the accounting practices they use, as well as inquiring investors." (Harvard Magazine, November-December 2006)

"Inspired by a 1998 speech by former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, this book addresses the why of accounting instead of the how, providing practitioners and students with a highly readable history of U.S. corporate accounting." (SmartPros Accounting News & Insights, September 2006)

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