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  • oneyoungdoctor oneyoungdoctor May 6, 2004 7:12 PM Flag

    shareholder meeting

    Critics question accounting policy
    Calpers and Plath, meanwhile, aren't the only industry observers who want to see major changes at BB&T on a corporate level.

    Bov�, at Hoefer & Arnett, suggested that BB&T hire a consulting firm to examine ways to become more efficient.

    Bov� also was critical of BB&T's accounting policies. He said BB&T relies too much on cash-basis accounting, which differs from generally accepted accounting principals, or GAAP, by downplaying the impact of goodwill, or the price for the intangible assets tied to the deals, on earnings.

    There are significant differences in the results from the accounting methods.

    Using cash-basis accounting, BB&T had operating earnings of $355 million in the first quarter, up 6 percent from a year ago. With GAAP accounting, operating earnings totaled $334.6 million, up just 1.2 percent from a year ago, and net income was virtually flat at $328.5 million compared to a year earlier, according to BB&T's first-quarter filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

    "To suggest that we don't use GAAP accounting is ludicrous," responded bank spokesman Bob Denham. "All of our filings start with GAAP reporting, but we use other appropriate measures as well. People have to see (our results) from all sides."

    Addressing Calpers' issues with BB&T's auditing firm, Denham said the work performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers is permitted under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and by the New York Stock Exchange and the SEC. He said BB&T has no plans to change what it sees as "an efficient model."

    That response could lead to more action by Calpers, which said it could step up efforts next year if BB&T refuses to change. The fund said its efforts could include submitting shareholder proposals or looking to nominate a new slate of directors.

    Retooled school
    So far, BB&T has restructured its training programs in recent months in an attempt to improve lending and cross-selling efforts at banks it has acquired in recent years.

    The changes include revamping the bank's lending curriculum to cross train commercial and small-business lenders and training younger bankers on how to improve performance during an economic downtown.

    BB&T also changed how it trains retail employees, who were in Winston-Salem and then sent to any one of a number of markets. BB&T now trains prospects at offices in each worker's hometown, then allowing those employees to stay there once they finish their coursework.

    Denham said more changes could be in the works. There is a team within BB&T University -- the name of the inhouse training facility in Winston-Salem -- that is looking at other ways to improve efficiency at the bank.

    In response to the suggestion from Bov� that BB&T review its product lines, Denham said the bank already performs such evaluations on an annual basis.

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