B. Marie Ebersbacher
With any luck, you’ll never take part in a high-net worth marital dissolution case.
Managing Director, ABV, CFF
Accounting, Tax & Advisory Services
With any luck, you’ll never take part in a high-net worth marital dissolution case. But should the unthinkable happen, you may run into Marie Ebersbacher. As shareholder of Mayer Hoffman McCann, a national accounting practice with more than 30 offices across the country, she deals with all kinds of litigation support services – including business valuation for divorces.
“If it's just Mom and Pop getting divorced,” she says, “An attorney can say ‘You get the Toyota and you get the Dodge.’” But with bigger deals, valuing businesses to decide who gets what, she explains, “That's when we get called in."
And it’s a good bit more interesting than divvying up keychains. “It’s something different all the time,” Marie says. “You use the analytical skills that you get with a finance and accounting background, but you get to use some intuition as well. You look around the whole process and come to the conclusion.”
For example, say there’s a corporate buyout, and the terms are in dispute. A company’s assets may not be that high, but their CEO’s salary is. Marie and her team can determine whether he’s really worth the big bucks. “We'll pull salary surveys, compare what he’s earning to others in the industry,” she says. “That single adjustment can make a huge difference in value.”
In addition to taking top executives down a notch, Marie and her team predict the future. But not with a crystal ball. “We evaluate current growth and look at historical growth,” she says. “We try to determine what's going to happen over the next five years.” Which helps, obviously, in determining what a company is worth.
Like building a business or maintaining a marriage, this requires some work. “The five or ten days before a deposition are the busiest,” she points out. “You’re preparing trial exhibits, finalizing your analysis. For the last deposition I had, I brought 86 binders of information.” Really? 86? That’s, like, a car-trunk full, plus some stacked on the front floorboards, easy.
“Yeah, they ask you to produce your entire file,” says Marie. “Some of it may be copies of other depositions or historical financials, but I literally had 86 binders of information that either I had reviewed or that we had used to analyze.”
Not all of that can be presented in the trial, of course. So in addition to doing their homework for the deposition, Marie and her staff have to whittle down that mountain of data into a workable chunk. “It needs to be easy for a judge to understand,” she says. “And that judge hasn’t been living with it for two years like we have.” (For juries, you have to make it even simpler, she points out.)
One thing that’s easy to understand is Marie’s effectiveness in court. From business valuation to fraud investigation, to setting economic damages in a breach of contract or personal injury cases, she’s all over it – in charge of her firm’s national litigation group, in fact. She’s a natural, and she knew it back in college.
“Joe Rosenthal came to our class from Arthur Andersen and talked about the business,” she recalls. “The sky opened up. I said to myself, ‘This is perfect. This is what I want to do.’”
8am: Arrive at the “Office”
I have sort of a different schedule because I live in Bakersfield and work in Los Angeles and San Diego. If I’m working in Bakersfield I’m at home, in my home office. If it’s in L.A. I’ll usually leave right after I take my kids to school and get to the office around ten.
Returning phone calls (90% of them from attorneys), clearing emails, addressing anything that came in while I was gone.
Meeting with my staff on any analysis I need to look over. They’ve done valuations of a business – normalizing the financials, finding things that are nonrecurring or extraordinary, checking the CEO’s compensation to see if it’s reasonable or not, that sort of thing – and I go through to make sure everything looks right.
11am: Site visit with client
It’s a low-tech part of valuating a business, but an important one – somebody has to go out and make sure there really are four walls there. We may also check on what equipment is on site and ask management some questions.
12pm: Lunch with NYC partners - 2 hours
The out-of-towners and some local partners are getting together for lunch, and the New York folks want to go to Spago in Beverly Hills and maybe see some celebrities. Sure enough, there’s Rob Reiner! Saw Samuel Jackson too, but decided against trying to take a picture of him. Wolfgang Puck came to our table, but it’s his restaurant. So that doesn’t really count.
I like to review things in the afternoon, so any changes can get made the next morning and sent right out at lunchtime. If simple changes are all that’s needed, I can just walk right down to the office of whoever did the report and we’ll talk through it.
3pm: Professional Development - 2 hours
Having a staff means doing employee reviews, so it’s time to sit down and discuss what someone is doing well and what could use improvement.
5pm: Leave for Vacation!
Santa Cruz is about 4 and a half hours north of the office, but believe me – it’s worth the drive. It’s also nice because it’s a *real* vacation: I signed a couple of declarations and reviewed a couple of things, but other than that it was all beautiful views and relaxation.