Accounting Policy and Research

During spring semester, all MAcc students take Accounting Policy and Research with Professor Zach. In addition to learning about accounting research methods, the efficient-market hypothesis, and Chipotle Mexican Grill (you’ll see when you take it), we worked in small groups on topics of our choice for session-long research projects that we presented during the final week of classes.

The words “accounting research” might not get your blood pumping right off the bat, but the projects were really interesting and much more entertaining to put together than I initially expected. My group worked on Petróleo Brasileiro (“PBR”), a Brazilian state-owned oil company that is currently embroiled in a massive corruption scandal. Using techniques that we learned from articles we covered in Professor Zach’s class, we ran regressions on the changes in PBR’s stock price during particularly important timeframes of the corruption probe, demonstrating that much of the loss in stock value could be attributed to the fall in the price of oil rather than the corruption investigation.

Not only did this give us the chance to show off our newly developed Excel skills (side note: make sure to take the Financial Modeling elective with Oglevee if at all possible), it gave us experience using accounting research as we would in a real-world scenario. We set up our project as though we were working with the PBR legal defense team against a shareholder class-action lawsuit, and used our research to argue that shareholder damages should be significantly reduced due to the impact of oil price changes.

This was interesting not just because of the dramatic background reading on the situation in which Petrobras currently finds itself, but because the techniques we were using could (and likely will) be used in actual litigation between PBR and shareholders. Instead of simply plugging in numbers, we had to strategically pick our event windows and market indexes, anticipate questions and counter arguments, and frame our data in the most persuasive manner possible.

I don’t want to get into technical details, as I certainly wouldn’t have understood them prior to joining the MAcc program, but I will include a few pictures of the more interesting charts we created as part of the project. We used our regressions to determine the abnormal returns during several specific event windows (the difference between the actual returns and the returns that would have been expected absent the relevant corruption event): 

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As you can see, the returns during these windows were actually better than would be expected given the drop in oil prices. We also created charts to show stock returns of PBR and several other oil companies during the period as compared with the price of oil:

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We concluded that while the corruption probe had increased stock volatility, the declines were much more correlated to oil prices than to developments in the corruption probe. And although we had a few classmates who seemed skeptical of our results during the presentation, it was a lot of fun to apply what we learned in a way that could actually be used in our future careers.

Fisher Impact Day

After months of waking up early for accounting classes and staying up late studying, what do Fisher students do with a day off? Wake up even earlier than usual to volunteer for Impact Day!

Fisher Impact Day gives students and staff the option of spending their Veterans Day holiday volunteering with local non-profit organizations – a chance that a pretty amazing number of students jumped at, given this was the first year. After meeting at the school for registration, shuttles took us to various locations around the city for our volunteer placements. I ended up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore East, breaking down and removing old wall shelving units and preparing the 2x4s for resale. So not only did I get to do some community service, I got to do so while making liberal use a sledgehammer – always a plus.

After a few hours we cleaned up and headed back to Fisher, where MAcc volunteers were treated to a delicious Chinese lunch while we discussed our various projects. Apparently one of the assignments was at a rabbit rescue and consisted of playing with rabbits all day… Something to keep in mind for next year.

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The Bad with the Good

In my first post, I mentioned how intense the Pre-MAcc was – packing Intermediate Accounting I & II into two and a half weeks was no small task. As it turns out, the rest of the semester so far has been just as busy! Between recruiting events, interviews, group meetings, classes, and studying, it can be difficult to keep up at times. That said, I’ve been just as busy many times in the past – both working and during law school – and it has never been as enjoyable.

This really came into focus the other night as I left a Sunday group meeting at around 7:30pm, having been at the school since 9:30am (again, this was SUNDAY) with a smile on my face. Yes, it can be a pain dragging yourself to school to do homework on the weekend, but it makes a huge difference when you enjoy being around the people with whom you’re working. Everyone that I’ve encountered since starting the MAcc program, from students to recruiters to professors, have all been fantastic. And for every frustrating moment when I don’t understand something in class, or feel buried in work, or consider setting up a cot in Gerlach, there are twenty moments that more than make up for it.

I know saying that the people are what make the difference is horribly cliché, but in this case it’s actually true. It’s much easier to get through the work when you’re having a good time, and the camaraderie you build with your classmates is really the best part of being at Fisher. And while I may have had to miss a few NFL games, the studying has yet to interfere with any Buckeye games, and that’s the important part!

Pre-MAcc and Orientation

As someone with almost no background in accounting (or economics…or business…), I was a little apprehensive about jumping into a Masters of Accounting program. I graduated from law school back in 2012, so I had experience with graduate level work, but I hadn’t taken a math class since high school. No worries, I was told, Fisher has a program for those who are new to accounting – the Pre-MAcc, which packs Intermediate Accounting I & II into a 2.5 week accounting bootcamp.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the Pre-MAcc is intense. Packing that much accounting into that short of a timeframe is definitely a grind, but it’s also a great opportunity to get to know some of the other students before the full contingent arrives. Seeing familiar faces on the first day of MAcc Orientation was definitely a plus, and professors Stephanie Lewis and Marc Smith are both excellent teachers who somehow managed to keep six-days-a-week, nine-to-five accounting classes engaging and interesting throughout the program.

As soon as the Pre-MAcc ended, we jumped into orientation with the other MAcc students. Along with the typical introductions from faculty and mixers to meet the other students, we all participated in a group trip to Summit Vision for team-building exercises and zip-lining – a laid back way to get to know some of our fellow MAcc students, and a welcome break from the Pre-MAcc workload before classes got started!

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