A recent scientific paper out of Florida International University examined data from Italian criminal records to determine the quality of accountants affiliated with organized crime groups. As it turns out, Mafiosos tend to hire meticulous, careful, and detailed accounting firms to cook their books with their care — and, perhaps more interestingly, that being associated with the mob has no negative impact on the accounting firms' reputations or non-mafia-related work (emphasis added):
While the work accountants do for organized crime group (OCG) ecosystem is not observable, we can determine if OCG hire "good" accountants by assessing the overall quality of their work as external monitors of legal businesses. We find that firms serviced by accountants with OCG connections have higher quality audited financial statements compared to a control group of firms serviced by accountants with no OCG connections. The findings provide evidence OCG are able to hire good accountants, despite the downside risk of OCG associations.
We find that private legal businesses serviced by accountants connected to criminal organizations have higher quality financial statements, as evidenced by reporting lower levels of abnormal accruals, fewer small earnings, fewer tax-related restatements, and lower levels of discretionary revenues, compared to private legal businesses serviced by accountants without connections to OCG. We also find that firms with accountants having Mafia ties receive more modified audit opinions and pay their accountants higher fees.
In other words: if you're gonna do some illegal shit, it's better to hire someone who's really good at following the rules than to hire an idiot who will just fudge the numbers. And if you're not gonna do some illegal shit, it's probably still better to hire someone who knows how to get away with doing illegal shit. Basically, you want someone who knows how to navigate the loopholes, for better or for worse.
Does the Mafia hire good accountants? [Pietro A. Bianchi, Jere R. Francis, Antonio Marra, and Nicola Pecchiari / SSRN]
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