Added Regulatory Burden is a Tax on Community Banks, Credit Unions and Small Business

This is the message from Financial Institutions (FIs) and Small Businesses burdened with Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank and Obamacare.

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Although the Sarbanes Oxley has been in effect since 1992, bank regulators have turned up the heat on FIs and small businesses that support them in recent years.  Regulators have tasked FIs with obtaining extensive background on their 3rd party vendors, not the least of which is a Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) 70 Type I or Type II.  Type II is much more comprehensive and is required if a 3rd party vendor has access to sensitive FI data.  Many small businesses have to deal with PCI compliance and regulatory uncertainties placed upon them by Dodd-Frank and Obamacare, as well.

The “short link” to this narrative is  community banks, credit unions and small businesses have to dedicate at least one full-time employees (FTE), plus high level management’s time to manage these regulatory requirements. 

FI’s are comprised mainly of community banks and credit unions with assets of 50 million to 10 Billion.  Many of them are small businesses too, employing 25-50 employees on the lower end to hundreds on the higher end.  Therefore FIs employ FTEs and/or outside consultants to manage the burden.  The SAS 70 requires a great deal of technical expertise.  In addition small businesses have had to hire their own 3rd party accounting, legal, security and compliance experts to test regs tied to intrusion detection, audited financial statements and site inspections.  Vendors have had to install and keep up-to-date hardware, including an array of security cameras and a “boat load” of security and encryption hardware and software, as well.

Consider these FIs manage 20-30 3rd party vendors .  Add to this the cost to each vendor, small community banks and credit unions, who have to manage the same regs.  Consider the changes vendors have needed to make to the software they provide to FIs.  The costs could be well into the billions. 

Add to this hundreds of businesses, call it a “cottage” industry, that have sprung up to aid  3rd party vendors and FIs who can’t afford to deal with all these new government regs and compliance.  Small business vendors can easily spend $10,000 or more per month to provide compliance to customers and the security they need under ever increasing government regulations.  Ironic isn’t it?  New businesses are spawned by increases in government regualtions.

Added regulatory burden is a tax on small business.  Businesses, especially small businesses have to pass that cost to our customers and so on to the end result, the consumer.

One final consideration.  Community banks, credit unions and small businesses are not going to get the media attention of Occupy Wall Street.  We are occupied with raising our families, growing our businesses and gainfully employing people who want to work for a living.  We generate over 60% of the new jobs in this country.  If our government continues to go down the path of increased regulatory burden and continues to place the burden on small business, legislators will have fewer laws to pass, fewer regulations to enforce and fewer job creators to tax.  You will put us and more of my fellow job creators out of work.

Here’s our  message to our representatives in government…

“If you continue to put small businesses,  the real job creators out of business, we will turn the full force of our entrepreneurial spirit into making those of you, who over-burden us with excessive regulatory burden, out of business, too!”

Background:  SAS 70 was issued in 1992 and there have been no changes in it until now. Now effective for accounting periods beginning on or after June 15, 2011 a new standard, Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) 16 will be in effect. Do not expect any immediate changes. Most companies have fiscal years that correspond to the calendar year. For those the new standard will not be effective until January 1, 2012 and the reporting under the new standard will not be available until the company’s financial results for 2012 are published in 2013. Many people misinterpreted the SAS 70 report as a means to obtain assurance regarding a vendor’s controls over compliance and operations. It was not. It was only a report of the vendor’s controls over financial reporting matters. The new SSAE16 reports will be much more comprehensive.

Under the new reporting regime there will be three varieties of reports, SOC 1, 2 and 3. The SOC 1 report will be similar to the existing SAS 70 report in that it will report on the company’s controls relative to its financial reporting. A SOC 2 report may address one or more of the following five key system attributes:

* Security – The system is protected against unauthorized access (both physical and logical).

* Availability – The system is available for operation and use as committed or agreed.

* Processing integrity – System processing is complete, accurate, timely and authorized.

* Confidentiality – Information designated as confidential is protected as committed or agreed.

* Privacy- Personal information is collected, used, retained disclosed and disposed of in conformity with the commitments in the entity’s privacy notice, and with criteria set forth in Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP) issued by the AICPA.

The new auditing framework places additional demands on the management of the organization being audited. Management must make a representation of the controls in place and a criteria for the description of the system, design and operating effectiveness of the controls. It must also evaluate the risks that threaten the achievement of the control objectives and any changes that were made in the system during the period.

 

Technology Can Drive Us Out of This Fog

Driverless cars, don’t worry there’s a BMW and Audi, too.

“Driverless cars,” what better message to tell government to get out of the way!

“This fog” being the deficit.  In fact we are in a fog and missing the “byte”when we as a country, look towards investing more in asphalt highways, in roads and rail and less towards technology, the information highway to invest in our future competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The future is technology and “smart or driverless cars” Yes, cars that drive themselves. 

Admittedly they have to “learn the course.”  Like on HWY 5 in LA bumper to bumper smart cars will drive at 80 mph during rush hour.  Think about navigating your iPad or reading your Kindle while your smart car drives itself.  Your commute can be cut in half because your car’s the ass who tailgate the car in front of you without getting flipped “the bird” or into a “fender bender.”  Who needs more infrastructure?

Currently we are chasing four economies in global competitiveness, including Number One, Switzerland.  Number Two is Singapore?  Number Three is Sweden and Number Four is Finland.  We’re Number Five.  Number Five!

Read my Blog post India Gets IT! Information Technology that is….  The message should be clear.  Most ground breaking technology (IT)  is spawned by small business.  I know.  I am the founder and CEO of an IT business who has spawned new products that include all the ingredients of a successful small business that can compete globally.

I consider myself a grinder, maybe a lone wolf.  Prideful.  A do-it-yourselfer.  Is that the definition of an entrepreneur?  It depends on who you ask.  Is that the definition of a small business owner?  More than likely the answer would be “yes.”  The difference between an entrepreneur and a small business owner?  None, until the entrepreneur, who is an idea capitalist who chooses outside angel or VC investors.

Everybody has heard of the IPO bubble in the early 2000’s where billions of investment dollars were squandered on ideas.  I pride myself by coining the phrase, “An idea is only worth it’s execution.”  The idea capitalist who decides to  forego outside investors, the grinder, the small business person, is more likely to sustain upticks and downturns in the economy.

We have a 14B deficit.  We have  over 9% unemployment,  We can argue how we might cut entitlements or raise taxes on the rich all day long.  The bottom line is all we want is our cake and eat it too. So I’ll let the experts argue what we need to do to stimulate the economy, reduce the deficit and add jobs.  Afterall they have all the answers, don’t they?

Unfortunately the answer is “no.”  Instead of idea capitalists, we have intellectual genocide where MSNBC pundits who have never had an original idea in their lives, interview (bait) Herman Cain about his 9.9.9 proposal and dismiss it with the age old adage that assumes “poor people” spend more of their  income? on consumer goods than rich people therefore a national sales tax is a burden on the poor.  Since poor people have little or no income how does this equate?  Herman Cain is an idea capitalist.  He is a grinder.  Given the opportunity, he will be successful in helping the US create jobs, lower the deficit and increase our global competitiveness.

The real answer is to increase small business competitiveness in a global economy.  The Obama administration wants to spend billions more on infrastructure.  All I can think of are traffic cones and hard hats standing in our way and in the way of the progress we are making in new technology.  Technology that solves the infrastructure problems and creates jobs.

“It makes little sense for the United States to turn away highly educated immigrants who seek to come here. It makes equally little sense to train talented foreign students in our universities but then fail to integrate them into our economy. Nearly 300,000 foreign students are enrolled in advanced degrees programs here, but the great majority will return home. We are casting away the fruits of our own investment. As has long been our American tradition, we should encourage the world’s innovators, inventors, and pioneers to immigrate to the United States and we should encourage those we train to settle and create jobs here.”  Romney for President (2011-09-01). Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

 Visa Caps for Highly Skilled Workers

As president, Mitt Romney will also work to establish a policy that staples a green card to the diploma of every eligible student visa holder who graduates from one of our universities with an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering. These graduates are highly skilled, motivated, English-speaking, and integrated into their American communities. Permanent residency would offer them the certainty required to start businesses and drive American innovation.  Romney for President (2011-09-01). Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.

Mitt Romney, Idea Capitalist

Are jobs coming back to the US?  Case in point.  A big business goes overseas to China  to make an integral component of a product going to market.  The product can be produced at 50% of the cost to produce the part in the US.  The product made overseas requires a delivery timeframe of 12 weeks as opposed to 4 weeks in the US.  The part is produced and delivered but not according to spec.  A US company, TJH Manufacturing, Zion, IL, with a stellar reputation is recruited to re-engineer and deliver the part in time for market.  The big business with the overseas propensity ends up paying four times the originally anticipated product cost.

My vote is for a “driverless government,” but first we have to put Congress and the Administration through the course.  Let’s start by teaching them the constitution.

We Need More “Idea” Capitalists to Bailout this Economy

“An idea is only worth it’s execution.”

We need more people with imagination running this government and this economy, but they need to be “idea capitalists.”  You don’t have to be a poet, a writer, a painter or movie producer too be an idea capitalist.  If you have a good idea, you can be a grinder, maybe even a lone wolf.  If you’re prideful, maybe to a fault, you can be an idea capitalist, one who capitalizes on their own ideas.

Idea capitalists do whatever it takes to execute on their ideas.  The idea capitalist, the grinder, the small business person, is more likely to survive upticks and downturns in the economy.

Herman Cain is an idea capitalist. He is a grinder. Given the opportunity he will be successful in helping the US create jobs, lower the deficit and increase our global competitiveness.

Herman Cain

The mainstream media and self-serving politicians contribute to idea capitalist’s genocide.

MSNBC pundits who have never had an original idea in their lives, interviewing (baiting) Herman Cain about his 9.9.9 proposal dismissed his ideas with the age old adage that assumes “poor people” spend more of their income on consumer goods than rich people therefore a national sales tax is a burden on the poor.  They have deep-sixed the FairTax too.  They haven’t researched the FairTax proposal otherwise they would know that FairTax offers rebates to lower income people who are FairTaxed.

The real answer is to increase small business competitiveness in a global economy. The Obama administration wants to spend billions more on infrastructure. More about this soon in a new post titled “Missing the Byte”, a play on words.  In fact we are ”missing the boat” when we, as a country, are investing more in the “asphalt highway”, in roads and rail than in new technology, the” information highway” which is an investment in our future competitiveness in the global marketplace.  Check out my post, India Gets IT.

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Hospitals Are For Sick People!

We are a small business in the “high tech” business.  Our goal is “advancing the paperless office.” It’s a shame our company and so many companies like ours simply cannot afford to do business with the government.

Doing business with the government is  a paperwork and regulatory nightmare.  We don’t have the time, the resources, a team of consultants to guide us or a team of  lawyers to protect us, God forbid we forgot to dot an “i” or cross a “t”.

“That is why The Affordable Care Act is destined to fail. It’s unintelligible.  Just ask anyone who hasn’t read it.”

As a software development company which replaces paper with electronic records, we believe technology can and will solve many of the cost containment problems with healthcare.

The problem is government needs to get out of the way.  Forget about subsidizing doctors with taxpayer dollars for buying government mandated and precertified technology called HITECH.  The problem is there’s too great a cost and too much red tape for a small business to get into the game.

Worse, doctors are going to pay too much money from the select few companies that are willing to run the government gauntlet to become certified under Obamacare.

Let the free market work.  My company has 32 employees.  Healthcare costs are a growing concern for our small business.  We pay the employee’s healthcare in full which has risen on the average more than 10% per year per employee over the past several years.  In the process we are seeing benefits shrink and costs increase for both employer and employee.

This is a partnership between employer and employee.  Employers want to provide a benefit in the form of compensation, in particular with a pre-tax benefit to the employee.  Employees want quality affordable healthcare for their families.  We ask the employees to participate in the decision making process.  We collaborate to find the best available plan for the money.

One of my employees with a spouse and 5 kids says, “I might as well just hand my paycheck back over to you to pay for my family’s healthcare.”

As an employer I feel terrible about this type of sentiment, but I’m paying for the employee’s healthcare, plus the cost to shop and administer the plan.  There’s nothing in it for me but to try to remain competitive in the salary and benefits area with other employers.

The 2011 National Physicians Survey, conducted by Thomson Reuters/HCPlexus and polling almost 3,000 American doctors, shows that while Obamacare would raise spending, premiums, overall U.S. health costs, and debt, it wouldn’t raise the quality of American health care. Rather, by a margin of well over 3 to 1, doctors expect the quality of American health care to decline over the next five years, in the wake of Obamacare’s passage: Only 18 percent of doctors expect the quality of health care to “improve,” while a whopping 65 percent expect it to “deteriorate.”

Recall that Gallup recently announced that only 13 percent of Americans support ObamaCare as is.  I’m not blaming this all on the President, but you have to walk the walk to talk the talk.  The President doesn’t do either.

Health insurance cost is a moving target for small business. In 2010 we paid full medical benefits for 27 FTEs.   Our cost averaged $4,900 per employee per year. This is up only 5% over 2009 due to changing providers from Blue Cross to Humana, changing plans from a PPO to an HMO, higher deductibles and over 1/2 of the FTEs selecting H.S.A.s due to the cost to their families. Since there is really no competition between providers, Blue Cross, Humana and United Healthcare we have been switching from one to the next every 2-3 years based on the plans available and the economics. In 2011 the cost will has increased to $5,030 per employee until August when we will again negotiate a new and undoubtedly less desirable coverage. Keep in mind the impact is felt not only by the employer, but by the employee with spouse and children as well.

The answer to rising prices and declining benefits is to increase competition in the health insurance market.  Why do we need a new law to create healthcare exchanges?  Why can’t we lift existing regulations to allow competition across state lines?  Encourage, not put limits on Health Savings Accounts H.S.A.’s as the new Affordable Care Act does.  I pay for my employee’s health and dental benefits up to the monthly H.S.A premium. If they select a more expensive plan they pay the difference.  I have physicians who have discounted procedures 25% because they know I’m paying for their services out of my own pocket (at least until I reach the out of pocket maximum).  The emphasis at our company is to be healthy.  We have our own gym.  We have a cycling team for the formed to fight MS.  If an individual is making decisions on their own behalf with regard to their health and their health care costs, the cost of healthcare will  truly become more affordable.

The bottom line is we simply cannot afford to get sick.

Where common sense fails. disingenuous, dishonest, demagoguery prevails.

From PoliticalCalculations.com: Combined, the Top Ten recipients of this corporate welfare took 45.6% of the total $1,789,449,634 taxpayer dollars that were doled out, with the United Auto Workers taking the largest chunk by a wide margin, with $206,798,086, or 11.6% of all the taxpayer money that was allocated for the purpose.

Surprisingly, two telecommunication giants AT&T and Verizon took the second and third positions, with 7.8% and 5.1% of the total take respectively.

After that, three state agencies occupied the fourth, fifth and sixth largest positions—the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the Georgia Department of Community Health and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the latter frequently in the news recently for corruption scandals and its massively underfunded pension liabilities.

The eighth and ninth ranks are taken up by the State of New York and the Pension Accounting Services Department within the State of New Jersey’s Treasury Department.  Corporate basket case General Electric, which has come to rely greatly upon government mandates, special protections, subsidies and bailouts for its revenue, rounds out the Top Ten with an even 2.0% of the total handout.

The remaining 1,305 entities collected the remaining 54.4% of the money paid out by the government to pay for the health benefits of people who chose to retire from their professions early, with the Minnesota Cement Masons taking the least of all the recipients, at 60 dollars.  Source: politicalcalcualtions.com


Why do politicians, the president the mainstream media and a plethora of celebs continue to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?  Not so at the Washington Times…

“The president’s own secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has admitted a major section of the Obamacare law is “totally unsustainable.”

“The now-familiar monthly trickling down of new waivers is, at best, a tacit admission that Obamacare is a failure. So far, seven entire states and 1,372 businesses, unions and other institutions have received waivers from the law. The list includes the administration’s friends and allies and, of course, those who have the best lobbyists.”

“More than 50 percent of the Obamacare waiver beneficiaries are union members, which is striking because union members
account for less than 12 percent of the American work force.”

“But the political payoffs don’t stop there. The Obama administration  didn’t forget its closest friends in the latest round of waivers. Although  there are 435 congressional districts across America, nearly 20 percent of the new waivers, amazingly, found their way to a single district – Mrs. Pelosi‘s.   As for Mr. Reid,  well, the entire state of Nevada found an early waiver in its Christmas stocking.”

The answer is they have no real stake in the game.  Politicians and the President want to be re-elected.  Their own constituents get a pass.  They don’t pay for their own healthcare. The mainstream media and celebrities and their Cadillac health insurance plans can afford to pay more.

The small businesses and their employees are left to deal with big government mandates already proven to unpalatable to 3.1 million individuals exempted from the plan, of which 1.55 million are in union plans. Those who received waivers and those who pay no taxes are going to continue to vote in favor Obama, Pelosi and Reid.  They have held the keys to the kingdom and skyrocketing debt too long.

If you are a taxpayer, do something.  Lean hard on federal, state and local politicians to come up with a better answer to the high cost of healthcare than the Affordable Care Act.

Ask your physician to cut you a break on your healthcare costs.  Negotiate with every insurer who offers healthcare in your state.  Look for plans which cover individuals and their families outside your employer’s plan(s).  Start moving.

Do everything you can to stay healthy.  Hospitals are for sick people.

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Lonely Man, You Know Who I Am

Lonely manI think “Lonely Man” epitomizes how many of us feel from time to time.

At the same time it pokes some fun at those same self-effacing feelings.

The most humorous aspect is that I had to submit the prose to a site called poetry.com.  They sent me a letter, said they selected me for a “coffee table” edition of their next book and wanted me to spend $45.00 for a copy.

Can you believe someone would actually fall for something so ludicrous?!  If you’re interested, I am selling  a serious surplus of these limited edition books for 1.99 on eBay!  Here my contribution…

Lonely Man

Lonely man, you know who I am.  You’re a labor of love, hand and glove.  If you ever want to shoot for the moon, you’ll need to bring your own silver spoon.  Your drink is empty, nothing’s on the table.  Miguel your waiter, sells only by the label.  So you dance to music that never ends, and toast bartender Mike, your new best friend. You’re anybody who has a story. You’re the blood and guts, but no glory.  You’re the play that’s no longer afloat.  You’re the poem, you never wrote.

Lonely man, you know who I am.  You’re a labor of love, hand and glove. Johnny Cochran’s not your deal. You’ll never win on your appeal.  You’re the crowd in every room.  The conversation that always spells doom.  You’re the fly that’s always unzipped, the greeting card, that’s always skipped. You’ve become the sweat on everyone’s brow.  You’re the answer to, “No, not now!”  You’re the best friend you’ll never have.  You’re the rub, without the salve.

Lonely man, you know who I am.  Labor of love, fit hand and glove.  Win the lottery prize in your office pool?  What are the odds you’ve played the fool!

You’re someone’s smile, without a face.  You’re the awkward in an embrace. You’re the gaze behind an empty stare.  You’re the voice that isn’t there. You’re the cold pavement under bare feet.  You’re the toothless grin that never eats. So when you dare ask for a slice of life, you’re the one to brandish a knife.  And when your chapter is finally read, you already know what’s been said.

Your best friend,

Mike, the Bartender

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Rejection wasn’t my strong suit!

The difference between Fred and myself?
Fred knew when he was lying.

My first job out of college was to work for ACME Forms.  My Dad owned ACME. Dad was the only full-time employee.   Business was good.

I joined my Dad as a sales rep in 1974. We were a force of two.  My Mom was the part time administrative support person and the mother of six.   I was the future.   It was a shaky start.  My job was to get new business.  I used the phone to solicit appointments.  I can remember my voice quaked and my message was ill-prepared.  After exhausting all legitimate leads I was proffered, by phone, I hit the road.

My first cold call, “cold “ being the vernacular used for an unsolicited visit on an unsuspecting business to make a sales pitch.  I was a major contributors as to why there are so many “No Solicitors” sign on doors.

Like the polyester plaid I was wearing, rejection isn’t my strong suit.  I have to admit there were days I could not face the day ahead without becoming physically ill, cramps and vomiting, anticipating the rejection that inevitably lay ahead.

For better or worse, most of the businesses I “solicited” on the south side of Chicago, were unaccustomed to a 21 year old young man in polyester and a “pleather” briefcase showing up at their door.  My first “sales call” and I use the term loosely, required considerable surveillance.  I drove around the block several times. In the end, it was a relief to just to be dismissed.  To hear a simple “no thanks” was a victory, of sort.  I had broken the sound barrier.  I had made contact with the other side.  Soon, I was making 20 cold calls in a day.

Thankfully gas was 30 cents a gallon!  My father would get a call from someone I had visited and he would say, “Yes, that’s my son, he’s like manure, he’s spread all over the place.”  The message was loud and clear, I needed to take the next step, get to the next level.

Speaking of manure, here’s a great joke from Ronald Reagan, only takes a minute, during one of his speeches.  Precious really.  Good clean fun!

I needed to convince my prospects I wasn’t just another pretty face in plaid polyester.  My contacts were bewildered, annoyed, amused, indifferent or thankfully, on rare occasion, sympathetic to my pitch.  It’s simply amazing.  I became accustomed to the word“no”.   I managed to solicit a cadre of variations   theme to the extent I began to expect and anticipate the response.  I learned to take a “no” and solicit another.  As my skin thickened and the manure piled higher, I was able to garner a “maybe” here and there and occasionally a yes!  It was the “ying and the yang” thing, “Yes means No” to the extent a Tibetan monk would have been proud.

Later, as a regional director at a large corp. at the sage age of 28 years, where I managed more than 70 neophyte sales reps in 10 states, I became well known for the expression, “lose more orders”.  My mantra was the more orders you lose, the more opportunities you have to win.  Spread that manure!  Well not exactly…

Anyway, my dad fired me.  he put me out of my misery!  His too.  He said I needed more experience.  He was right.  I was keeping him too busy  spinning his wheels.  At the time, I was devastated.  I finished the blueberry pancakes my Mom had made me.  I left town to seek employment.  I stayed with the in-laws while looking for work.

I painted their house for $70 bucks, but I painted their windows shut, so we were even.  I found a job right before I was evicted.  But there’s more to the story…

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