J.C. Penney CFO to leave this week after 15 months on job

PLANO, Texas, Wed Apr 11, 2012 – J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said on Wednesday that Michael Dastugue is leaving on Friday after just 15 months as chief financial officer as the department store chain continues to work on its overhaul under its new chief executive.

COO Mike Kramer will assume the CFO duties on an interim basis while a search for a replacement is conducted, the company said. Kramer joined Penney in December, a month after his former boss at Apple Inc., Ron Johnson, became Penney’s new chief executive officer.

Shares of Penney rose 3 percent to $34.20 in morning trade.

Under Johnson, Penney quickly did away with its old pricing strategy and is bringing in stores featuring certain brands such as Martha Stewart inside the chain’s large department stores to revitalize the 110-year old chain.

Before he joined Penney, Kramer was most recently president and CEO of clothing maker Kellwood Co. From 2000 to 2005 he was CFO of Apple Retail, where he reported to Johnson.

Dastugue, 47, has been at Penney since 1991 and was named CFO in January 2011. He previously worked as a senior accountant at Arthur Andersen.

His departure was announced less than a week after Penney said it planned to cut hundreds of jobs at its headquarters and shut down a customer call center in Pittsburgh.

Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage ex-CFO pleads guilty in mortgage fraud case

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Tue Mar 20, 2012 – Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp’s. former chief financial officer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges he helped mislead investors and cover up shortfalls that led to the collapse of one of the largest mortgage companies during the recent U.S. financial crisis.

Delton de Armas, 41, of Carrollton, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and one count of making false statements, charges that each carry a maximum five-year prison term.

He admitted to helping inflate TBW’s balance sheet and helping the firm provide false financial statements to the federal loan enterprise known as Ginnie Mae, according to papers filed in federal court in Virginia.

He failed to intervene and report growing shortfalls in one of TBW’s primary funding mechanisms, Ocala Funding, which had two major investors: Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA, the court documents said.

“I regret that anybody was hurt and that I didn’t speak up more,” de Armas said in a barely audible voice during his plea hearing in federal court. Sentencing was set for June 15.

De Armas worked under the firm’s former chairman, Lee Farkas, who last year was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted on 14 counts of conspiracy, bank, securities and wire fraud that brought down the firm and one of the top U.S. banks, Colonial Bank.

“As CFO, Mr. de Armas could have put a stop to the fraud the moment he discovered it. Instead, the hole in Ocala Funding grew to $1.5 billion on his watch, and as it grew, so did his lies to investors and the government,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement.

Liz Claiborne taps Hilfiger exec to be CFO, COO

NEW YORK, Tue Mar 13, 2012 − Liz Claiborne Inc. tapped a former Tommy Hilfiger executive as its new finance and operations chief starting next month, saying his combined experience in both fields is important as the clothesmaker and retailer looks to cut costs.

George Carrara will become both COO and CFO on April 2 and be in charge of Liz Claiborne’s finances, global operations and information technology.

Carrara most recently worked for Tommy Hilfiger, which was sold to PVH Corp. in 2010, as COO of its North American business.

In the last few years, Liz Claiborne has sold off many brands, including its namesake, to lessen its debt load and focus on the businesses where it sees the most potential, such as Juicy Couture and kate spade.

Last month, Liz Claiborne reported lower-than-expected sales in the holiday quarter, with a sharp decline at Juicy Couture.

Verizon CFO says comfortable with January 2011 forecast

IRVING, Texas – Verizon Communications Inc chief financial officer said on Tuesday he expects to close the purchase of spectrum from cable companies by mid-year.

Fran Shammo said he sees wireless margin improving in 2012. Shammo also said he is still comfortable with a forecast he made in January 2011 related to earnings growth for 2012.

He said in January 2011 that he expected 2012 earnings growth to be double his estimate for 2011 earnings growth of 5-8 percent.

How a fee-only wealth manager is like having your own CFO and Chief Visionary Officer (CVO)

Robert Valente, CEO and Managing Member, RAV Financial Services LLC

Business owners are always striving for success, and success has many definitions. My favorite definition of success is that it is a progressive realization towards a worthwhile predetermined goal. We often use external measures to assess the success of our endeavors, and sometimes using only external criteria may make us feel unfulfilled.

Significance is an additional measurement, but it has internal measures that we can use to “take our own temperature” as to how well we are succeeding. The dictionary explains significance as the quality of being important; the quality of having notable worth or influence. Significance will have many definitions to all of us, but the words with purpose and importance seem to be associated with our personal feelings about significance.

On your life-plan journey, words such as honor, service, integrity, respect and love become interdependent with success and significance. Significance manifests itself in the various roles that you perform each day: business owner, employer, citizen, community leader, parent, and the list goes on. The path to significance does not have to be taken alone. You learn that there are individuals who can play important roles for you in shaping your concept of personal significance.

Let me entertain a candidate for you that may help you in building success in your personal and business financial life. You have seen articles on how a wealth manager can be a personal CFO to you and your business, but have you considered another dimension, CVO, as another characteristic for your financial advisor?

How is a fee-only wealth manager like having your own CFO and Chief Visionary Officer?

So let’s first define some of the “bolded” words within the title. Wealth managers come in “all flavors” and need to be categorized by scope of services/areas of concentration and compensation structure.

Wealth management is an investment advisory discipline that incorporates financial planning, investment portfolio management and a number of aggregated financial services. High net worth individuals (HNWIs), small business owners and families who desire the assistance of a credentialed financial advisory specialist call upon wealth managers to coordinate retail banking, estate planning, legal resources, tax planning and preparation and investment management. Wealth managers can be an independent Certified Financial Planner®, MBAs, Chartered Strategic Wealth Professional, CFA Charterholders, or many differently credentialed professionals.

When it comes to compensation, there are basically two groups: fee-only and all others. You may want to work with a firm or individual who has eliminated potential conflicts of interest (i.e. if a product sale is the basis of the transaction, is the advice given totally objective?). A product purchase may be a necessary component of the strategy, but does every piece of advice result in a commissionable event? The ideal situation is a flat-fee project or hourly contract that has been agreed to in advance of the engagement, outlining the scope of services desired and the expectations of both parties. Transparency and disclosure are critical to your relationship.

The chief financial officer (CFO) is a corporate officer primarily responsible for managing the financial risks of the corporation. This officer is also responsible for financial planning and record-keeping, as well as financial reporting to higher management. A personal CFO can manage your business or family’s financial risks and be responsible for your business and personal financial planning and record-keeping.

A chief visionary officer (CVO) is expected to have a broad and comprehensive knowledge of all matters related to the business of the organization as well as the vision required to steer its course into the future. The person in charge must have the core-competencies of every business executive, but in addition the visionary ideas must move the company (or the individual/family) forward. This vision is used as the basis for defining corporate and personal strategies and working plans. A personal CVO can provide the sophistication to incorporate quantitative data along with qualitative data to help create the family or business vision and move forward toward your goal.

The CFO-CVO combination in an advisor/advisory firm is the epitome of art and science in collaboration with one another, complementing and providing you and your family with a holistic approach to somewhat complex financial and life-planning strategies and direction.

These definitions should help you in formulating questions to ask as you build your group of advisors to create and implement your business and personal financial plan. Your specific questions to your prospective/current wealth manager should determine his or her competency and scope of services. What potential conflicts of interest are imbedded in their business model?

When you’re clear as to what they do, then you need to find out how they are paid for their services. If they are not disclosing their fee for service, and are telling you that they get paid from the investment/product purchase, are you comfortable? In summary, does their working agreement with you put you at the center of the process, and have all of the potential conflicts of interests been disclosed to you before you engage their service?

Success and significance are the direct result of personal and business relationships. As you build your wealth management team, choosing great partners can help the significance of your financial and life plan journey.

Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, is CEO and Managing Member of RAV Financial Services LLC. He can be reached at [email protected]