By Peter J. Reilly, Forbes
May 19, 2012
I know two former presidents of a corporation that had a bigger payday than Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook this week. They are both over 70. Don Collins lives in HUD housing in Knoxville. Tom Cahill lives in a “gentrified barn” on the Mendocino Coast. I’ve stayed with both of them. Tom’s setting is much more beautiful, but Don has the advantage of indoor plumbing, which, trust me, I appreciate much more now that I am over 60. Their lifestyle will not be changing, but they are probably feeling more satisfaction than the Facebook founder.
Their start-up company, which was and remains a not for profit has gone through two name changes. When they started it along with Russell Smith, it was called POSRIP -- People Organized to Stop The Rape of Imprisoned Persons. One of their earliest allies, no doubt the most colorful person I have ever known -- Richard Anthony Martin, a/k/a Stephen Donaldson, a/k/a Donny The Punk incorporated the group renaming it Stop Prisoner Rape and applied for recognition as an exempt organization. He recruited a CPA to serve on his board. That would be me. What is the big payday that in my mind dwarfs the Facebook IPO?
This is from a press release by Just Detention International:
Today the Department of Justice finally issued its long-delayed national standards aimed at ending the crisis of sexual abuse in U.S. corrections facilities. Mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, the new regulations are a milestone in the effort to end rape and other forms of sexual victimization of inmates. The PREA standards are immediately binding on federal prisons; other facilities have one year to comply.
According to the Department of Justice’s own estimates, at least 216,600 people are sexually victimized every year while in prisons, jails, and youth detention facilities. A major new Department of Justice study -- also released today -- confirmed the crisis of sexual abuse in U.S. detention, finding that a shocking one in ten state prisoners had been victimized during their most recent period of detention. “Sexual abuse in detention shatters hundreds of thousands of lives, of men, women, and children -- every year,” said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International. “We have fought long and hard for the PREA standards. They have the potential to cut prisoner rape dramatically.”
I am so pleased with this news that I was going to stray from the tax reservation and discuss it at length, but you would be better served by going to the Just Detention International to learn more. Just Detention International is the third name for POSRIP and I am happy to say I know the current president David Kaiser, who while much less colorful than Donny the Punk, is the best board leader I have ever run into and I have known some really good ones. JDI has grown to be a fairly substantial human rights organization with offices in Washington and Los Angeles and a highly professional and dedicated staff that has achieved a major breakthrough with these enhanced PREA standards. It was different before the turn of the millenium.
During the Collins and Cahill’s presidencies, SPR’s office was wherever they happened to be living and its business affairs were run from a checkbook in my desk drawer in Worcester. The balance rarely broke into five figures and was often perilously close to negative. There was a website, though. A really good website thanks to an MIT graduate student, Ellen Spertus, who is now a computer science professor at Mills College. The website and Don and Tom being there to answer the phone and talk to the press and other human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch account for SPR being discovered and adopted by more mainstream and competent activists starting with SPR’s first non survivor executive director Lara Stemple. In the mean time, though, books were still kept and returns were filed and there lies the lesson for some young CPAs.
In some ways it is totally laughable to think of public accounting as hazardous. People will talk about the stress, though. The stress right. Think about what it must be like to be a company commander in Afghanistan and then tell me you had a bad day at the office. I have little doubt that the number one hazard in public accounting is envy. If you do really well in the profession, it is close to certain that you will never do nearly as well, financially, as your most succesful clients. If financial success is your primary criterion, you are bound to feel that you came up short. I think it is envy that made the profession take some ill advised turns in the waning days of the twentieth century. There is an antidote for envy though.
Spend some of your time with people trying to make things better even though they have meager resources. You may well find that relatively small efforts on your part -- a simple 990, some bank reconciliations, handling a few IRS notices, a few hundred dollars -- will lighten their load considerably. It will earn you gratitude far out of proportion to your efforts. You don’t have to go as far as I did and visit an ex-convict anarchist in Harlem, who will want you to be his treasurer, but I certainly don’t regret it.
You can follow me on twitter @peterreillycpa.
Original post: http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2012/05/19/what-could-be-better-than-being-mark-zuckenbergs-cpa/