If you’re given the task of running down assets that are left over from a Ponzi scheme, you’d think somone would throw in a little something for the effort. That stolen money is going to find itself after all.
Well! Apparently this is not so, especially as it relates to UK recovery firm Vantis. Vantis has been scouring the Earth for any of the plunder left over from the Allen Stanford hide the $7 billion game.
Six months into it, Vantis can’t get paid for its treasure hunt services and now Ernst & Young has said that the firm’s very life is at stake if they can’t start convincing some people to pay up.
Among the excuses that Vantis is claiming are the fact that most of the assets in the U.S. have been frozen and that the U.S. liquidator Ralph Janvey doesn’t play nice.
But hey! They’re still confident everything will be hunk-dory, “The UK recovery firm said it remained ‘confident’ that it would be able to recover its fees ‘in due course’ but said the timing remained uncertain.”
So more or less you’re day-to-day, right? Welcome to the prestigious Club of Those Ripped off by Allen Stanford.
It’s been a few days since we had read anything on embezzler of the year 2009, Sue Sachdeva. We figured the whole thing was on the fast track to getting resolved since her attorney started claiming that the woman has an addiction. Well today, we checked in over at Fraud Files Blog where Tracy Coenen has come up with a theory that blows the whole shop until you die argument out of the water
Since Sue had 461 different pairs of shoes that ranged from sizes 8 to 14 (!) and 34 fur coats, Tracy is thinking that S-squared didn’t have a shopping problem; she was simply working on achieving an entrepreneurial dream:
She couldn’t have worn that range of sizes, but that range would have been perfect for someone retailing the merchandise. I bet we’re going to hear soon that Sachdeva was selling this merchandise to domestic and overseas retailers at a fraction of their wholesale value.
It’s already a matter of record that SS was having garage sales at her desk, so Tracy’s logic makes sense. We’re now convinced Sue had bigger plans.
Obviously enamored with the idea of a Sachdeva Goodman’s, Suze may have gotten a little ahead of herself as Tracy notes, “[I]n late 2009 (which is fiscal 2010 for Koss) she got greedy and stole much more in a six month period than she ever had in one year.”
The indictment lists six wire transfers (total of nearly $3 mil) from Koss accounts directly to her personal AMEX accountant, so girl was definitely burning up the plastic. That’s not an addiction; that’s inventory. Besides, isn’t a shopping addiction a faux-addiction? The real tragedy here is that a dream was not reached and an accounting firm was fired. Neither makes us feel very good.
In the spirit of O.J. Simpson, Tracy Coenen explains today, that if Sue Sachdeva stole $31 million and spent most of it on some high-end threads and then sold the crap she didn’t want, it would’ve been a snap.
We’re not talking Enron type stuff here, just making off with cash:
All it takes are three steps to make this fraud nearly undetectable in a company in which the other members of the executive team aren’t paying attention. (And don’t worry, dear readers, that I may be giving away any secrets to committing fraud and covering it up. Any serious fraudster already knows these three things.)
1. Keep the fraud off the balance sheet.
2. Keep all transactions below the scope of testing by the auditors.
3. Don’t commit fraud during the last month of the fiscal year and the first month of the following fiscal year.
Can it really be this simple?
Here’s the quick and dirty:
Point 1 – Tracy notes that 80% of audit procedures focus on the balance sheet so if Suze was slamming all the bogus transactions amongst 4 or 5 income statement expense lines, no one would get wise to it.
Point 2 – If she did it, Suze probably knew what GT’s scope was (it’s supposed to be super-secret). She could plan the amount of her transactions to fall under this scope every time.
Point 3 – Auditors probably spent most of their time looking at bank statements for the last month of the fiscal year and the first month of the subsequent fiscal year. The rest of them don’t get much attention.
So there you have it. Throw in the incestuous management team, auditors that may be trying to get on each other and you’ve got a slam dunk.
UPDATE 7:38 pm: We got to wondering if Tracy’s statement “Any serious fraudster already knows these three things” were true, so we asked one. Crazy Eddie CFO, Sam Antar indulged us:
[Tracy] is correct. The fraudster always has the initiative because they are judgment oriented in their approach to crime, while auditors are process oriented in their approach to audits. In other words, fraudsters know how to think out of the box to solve problems and achieve their goals, while auditors rely too much on process and procedure to accomplish their missions. In the criminal’s world, judgment is more powerful than process.
Okay auditors. No more excuses. You should already be giving everyone the stink-eye the second you walk in the door but now we’ve got a REPORT about embezzlement in the US of A that gives you all kinds of hints on who you should suspect — provable or not — of being the next Sue Sachdeva.
The Marquet Report on Embezzlement is an annual report put out by Marquet International, Ltd., a “an independent investigative, litigation support and security consulting firm” according to the company’s website.
Here are some of the key findings in the report:
• Women are more likely to embezzle than men.
• Men embezzle significantly more than women.
• Perpetrators typically begin their embezzlement schemes in their early 40s.
• By a significant margin, embezzlers are most likely to be individuals who hold
financial positions within organizations.
• The two broad industry categories that have the highest risk for a major
embezzlement are Financial Services and Government Agencies/Municipalities.
• The Financial Services industry suffers the greatest losses from major
• On average, major embezzlement schemes last about 4½ years.
• California and Florida are consistently the states that experience the greatest
losses from major embezzlements.
• The vast majority of major embezzlements are caused by sole perpetrators
• Gambling is a clear motivating factor in driving some major embezzlements.
• Fewer than 10 percent of embezzlers have a criminal record – less than expected, but enough to suggest that pre-employment screening has merit.
Some takeaways: 1) Immediately suspect anyone that gambles. Even if it’s bingo games in the church basement; 2) If you’re in California or Florida you’ve got your work cut out for you; 3) By “a significant margin” they mean accounting/finance personnel were responsible in 67% of the cases. Executives were second, in 13% of the cases.
Annnnd since we know you’re wondering: the largest embezzlement case in 2009 was none other than our Suz. Based on the criteria above, it appears that she should have been under suspicion from day one but you can’t fault Grant Thornton too much. This is only the second report that Marquet has issued so chances are she still would have made off with $20 million. Oh well, you’ll get ’em next time!
The top ten from 2009:
Report On Major Embezzlements 2009.pdf
Sue Sachdeva had this stealing money thing down so cold that she continually outdid herself, stealing greater sums of money every year until she was caught last month (thanks AMEX!).
Here’s the run down for the last six fiscal years ending June 30:
• 2005 – $2,195,477
• 2006 – $2,227,669
• 2007 – $3,160,310
• 2008 – $5,040,968
• 2009 – $8,485,937
• Q1 and Q2 of 2010 – $10,243,310
Jesus, she was really getting good those last six months. Girl couldn’t spend it fast enough.
We’d really like to hear from GTers from the Milwaukee/Chicago offices to let us know how TPTB are handling everything. Maybe it’s NBD to them but we just want to know. We thought this story would stop getting ridiculous but so far it continues to impress.
Koss: Unauthorized transactions increased over years [The Business Journal of Milwaukee]
Technically it was last week but dang, it’s been a helluva year for Satyam and PwC.
Two auditors in jail, the PwC Chairman resigned, Jim Quigely couldn’t wait to tell everyone that Deloitte was the new auditor and P. Dubs would really, really be stoked if everyone just forgot the whole thing ever happened.
Despite the non-existent coverage in the U.S., our contributor Francine McKenna has covered this story from the beginning so we got her thoughts:
What do we know about the scandal one year later – its causes and how to prevent similar frauds in the future? Not much. The experts we should look to for answers, Satyam’s auditors Price Waterhouse India, are accused of being complicit and are still in jail. Who’s guarding the guardians? We’ll have to wait for the shareholders’ lawsuits and the SEC here in the US to hear what really happened, who all benefitted, and who is ultimately responsible.
Judging by the pace of things, we’re guessing the lawsuits won’t be resolved in our lifetime. While we are around however, we’ll keep you updated on what does happen whether it’s reasonable requests from PwC to jailhouse brawls (please God).
Maybe! If you figure an incestuous management team is a clueless management team, the argument can certainly be made. How else could Sue Sachdeva hold garage sales at her desk without anyone noticing? This went on for five years:
How is it that nobody noticed $5 million missing each year when the company’s net income is about $5 million? I mean, the business of “stereo headsets” isn’t really a complex business model. There’s revenue, cost of sales, and expenses. How do you somehow manage to hide $5 million when expenses are only $10 million … and cost of sales is $25 million?
The answer becomes clear when you look at the company’s management team. Michael Koss is the company’s CEO. He’s also the company’s vice chairman, president, COO, and CFO. The company’s VP of sales is, that’s right, John Koss. Together they own 65 percent of the company’s stock. Another Koss, John Jr., owns 8 percent of the company’s stock. Who knows how many other Kosses there are scattered about the place. No checks and balances there. No hands on the wheel, either.
Sooo, the question becomes: Should Grant Thornton have noticed this sleepy management oversight? Did Michael Koss just give them the “I involved in every aspect of the business so there’s nothing to worry about” story and GT just bought it? Discuss.
The Problem with Incestuous Management [The Corner Office/Steve Tobak]
In early December, the JDA gave us a little taste of how the mind of a crook works when she interviewed Sam Antar, the former CFO of Crazy Eddie’s.
We caught up with Sam again recently and in case you had decided that he had redeemed himself by speaking to universities, government agencies, and businesses telling those people how to detect fraud, Sam would take issue with that.
“I’m the same crook that I was when I was the CFO of Crazy Eddie’s. I haven’t changed. I got caught,” Sam told us. Sam doesn’t believe in redemption but he will tell you that he’s reformed, “A criminal is like an addict. You’re either in recovery or you’re not.”
In addition to his feelings on his past criminal behavior, Sam has strong opinions about the audit profession and how the current accounting curriculum does not adequately prepare young auditors for the masterminds they’re up against. “To catch a criminal, you’ve got to think like a criminal.”
Sam would never suggest that you all take a turn at white collar crime in order to become better auditors. That would disappoint your parents.
So what are his ideas? Here’s a few things to get you started:
• Sam believes that the current curriculum should be expanded to include criminology, criminal psychology, forensic accounting, and courses that focus on internal controls.
• With this expanded curriculum, an advanced degree program should be implemented for those students that wish to become CPAs.
• In addition, Sam believes that the CPA exam should be expanded to include a section dedicated to fraud.
We did some looking around and found that two schools: Carlow University in Pittsburgh and Franklin University in Columbus, OH both offer undergraduate degrees in Forensic Accounting and that two more: St. Thomas University in Florida and University of Charleston in South Carolina offer graduate degrees.
As long as white collar fraud remains front page news, there will be people asking “where were the auditors?” Right or wrong, that is the reality of the situation. You can fight it tooth and nail but ultimately the market will demand more forensic audits for high risk clients. Even if the odds of you finding a single fraudulent transaction in your entire career is nil, shouldn’t you be prepared for that chance?
Sam thinks so. And he convinced (or maybe just conned?) us. You still got it, Sam.
Photo by Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York and Investment News.
Or something like that. Guest 28 put it out there that Sue Sachdeva was flipping those designer threads to fellow employees for low low prices.
On the one hand, maybe the two employees on leave that worked for Suze were the bargain shoppers. On the other, how hard up for extra money was this woman? Maybe she just wore it out once with the tags on and said “I don’t love it”? Can anyone in the Milwaukee area that hasn’t already gone to happy hour confirm this? Get on the horn.
So you’ve been embezzling money from your employer for awhile and what’s a girl to do? Well you could spend it on your wedding but if you’re already hitched then it’s has to get blown elsewhere. Besides, the £470,000 that Joanne Kent stole is chump change compared to what Sue Sachdeva had on her hands:
• $225,000 at Karat 22 Jewelers.
• $1.4 million at Valentina Boutique a high-end joint in Mequon, WI.
• $20 million on artwork.
• $649,000 at Zita Bridal Salon, even though she was already married. Probably just wants to wear a gown to slob around in.
• $670,000 at Au Corant a Milwaukee-based fashion retailer.
• $4.5 million on credit card bills.
A decent haul although the new GT leadership can’t be thrilled to have this shopping spree land in their laps.
Btw, congrats to Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, the new auditors, on the pickup. We’re sure it’ll be a breeze from here on out.
Okay ladies, we’re aware that some of you have the wedding fever. You want the string quartet, doves flying out of the house of worship, driving away in a Bentley while you leave your new hubby’s ex on her knees sobbing her stupid little head off. We get it.
What we don’t get is the lengths that a few of you are willing to go to make this super magical day happen.
Enter Joanne Kent, a 26 year old accountant who embezzled £470,000 from her employer. £50,000 went to bankroll her wedding, including £37,134 for the cliff-top hotel. That didn’t include the cost of the flowers, cars, and fireworks on the beach (all crucial).
And she would have gotten away with it had she not produced an American invoice that was in pounds rather than dollars. The poor girl was sentenced to two years for her little stunt and will likely have to pay the loot back. What’s not clear is if the guests will be demanding their gifts back.
Accountant stole £470,000 for wedding and luxury life [Telegraph]
More Theft for Necessities:
Accountant Steals from Toys ‘R’ Us, Buys Hookers Bentleys
Grant Thornton is having a helluva time keeping audit clients happy. After getting axed by Overstock.com in November, GT has now been fired by headphone maker Koss after it was discovered — by AMEX — that the company’s former VP of Finance had been embezzling millions of dollars since 2005.
In an 8-K filed yesterday, the Company stated that its financial statements from the past three years should not be relied on:
The Company has now concluded that its previously issued financial statements on Forms 10-K for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2005 through 2009 and on Form 10-Q for the three months ended September 30, 2009 should no longer be relied upon due to the unauthorized financial transactions.
A couple of commenters were debating this particular SNAFU over the Holiday break and while GT may not be responsible for discovering embezzlement, this is a perfect example of why small companies should not be exempt from Sarbanes-Oxley. As Guest 2 notes:
it looks like Koss will become the poster child for internal controls. The company clearly had to have deficient internal controls if the VP of Finance could use millions of dollars in company funds to pay her personal credit cards. We’re talking over $400,000 a month on average (if the $20 million figure is accurate) and that amount is clearly material to the company (i.e. that amount should not have gone unnoticed). My guess is that this will force all other small public companies to become full-pledged into 404 like the majority of public companies are.
We’d love to agree with Guest 2 but the simple fact of the matter is that Congress doesn’t give a rat’s ass about small companies complying with SOx. Most of the members have never even heard of Koss, especially since the company has a budget of around $0 for campaign contributions. Right now the only thing keeping the small company exemption at bay is the inability of Congress to move on financial regulatory reform, which is kinda sorta needed.
Despite Allen Stanford all but flipping out Judge David Hittner isn’t feeling it, denying his request to be released from prison while awaiting trial.
Stan’s attorney was shocked — SHOCKED! — that the judge was in such a cavalier mood with his client’s well-being:
“The issues we raised were real, as well as legally and factually compelling,” attorney Kent Schaffer said in an e-mail today. “I am surprised that we were shot down so abruptly and without a response from the government or a hearing. I am not sure how Allen will be able to participate in assisting in his own defense and, the truth is, he probably won’t be.”
Stanford is scheduled to go on trial in January 2011 which will probably seems a helluva lot longer if you’re slowly…coming apart…at the seams.
Stanford won’t be released, judge rules [Houston Chronicle]
The gamut of accounting bloggers that we’re acquainted with are good people despite their individual proclivities. Things like paranoid fantasies that involve every level of government bureaucracy (we’re looking straight at you, JDA) and perverse obsessions with stilettos that even freak us out (ahem, Francine) don’t make anyone a bad person, just well, weird.
That being said, it was only a matter of time before an accountant/blogger actually turned out to be criminal*.
Russ Fox at Taxable Talk:
About a year ago I discover a tax blog called Apirl15.com. I doubt we’ll be seeing any more of this blog; according to an affidavit from an IRS Special Agent, the proprietor of the blog has admitted to embezzling $8.5 million.
William Murray, a CPA from Sacramento, allegedly told his clients to pay their taxes through a “trust account” system. This “service” would help the clients and make things easier for them. Mr. Murray also allegedly had clients send money that he would allegedly “loan” to other clients.
William “No, not Bill” Murray used the client money for the run-of-the-mill stuff: cars, houses, entertainment (i.e. hookers, llelo), plus it’s alleged that he’s a degenerate gambler. A model citizen really.
Despite this blow to the accounting blogosphere image, you can sleep well knowing that if we ever ask for your money it will be used for the purposes of providing you with the finest accounting
rag news publication possible. There are reputations at stake.
April 15th No More [Taxable Talk via Tax Update Blog]
*You were a criminal before you started blogging, Sam.
It’s been just under two weeks since convicted Ponzi boy/swashbuckling industrialist Tom Petters was convicted in his trial and it’s all but off the RADAR of everyone. Unfortunately, we stumbled across the following audio this morning featuring Tom Petters, his part-time lover/executive and government witness Deanna Coleman, and their fellow conspirator Bob Coleman.
It sounds like some Fargo-esque plot gone terribly wrong without the visual of William H. Macy in that ridiculous hat.
It’s pretty clear from where we stand that a jury of cocker spaniels would have found Petters guilty just based on this recording, although we don’t get the ultimate money shot of “this is one big fucking fraud”.
Plenty of interesting moments including lots of talk about lies, money, more lies, Bob White’s “goddamn good imagination” and a flurry of “fucks” right at the end from TP. You do get the feeling that no matter how hopeless TP sounds, he somehow thinks it will all work out. Hindsight!
Around the 10 minute mark is when Petters first starts losing it and around 13:51 he remembers the good old days when “we laughed about it”. This should convince the last of you “Free Tom Petters” hold-outs. Enjoy.
You step away for a dentist appointment and look what happens:
A verdict has been reached in the trial of Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman accused of running a $3 billion Ponzi scheme. Here’s a look at the jury’s decision on each of the superseding indictment’s 20 criminal counts.
You can see the verdict, count by count, here.
If you’re a swashbuckling industrialist like Tom Petters, you’re probably not at all worried that the jury has yet to come back with a verdict of not guilty. It’ll only be a matter of time.
However, if you’re like us, you are borderline having a panic attack waiting for the results of this trial. The jury began deliberations on November 30th and as of this writing there’s no indication that they are near a verdict.
Considering the mountain of evidence to be reviewed and some complex charges, we’re told this probably isn’t unusual but like we said, we’re anxious. The jury of Minnesota nice is obviously taking their civic duty seriously. We can admire that.
In related news, Palm Beach Finance Partners, L.P. declared bankruptcy yesterday, saying that they lost more than $1 billion in TP’s alleged scheme. As you may recall, Palm Beach was one of the defendants listed in the Texas lawsuit that also includes Ernst & Young, McGladrey & Pullen, and Kaufman, Rossin, & Co. that we reported on last month.
Since we’re waiting, we’ll get your thoughts on the matter. Vote on what you think the outcome of the trial will be and we’ll report the result as soon as we hear the news.
UPDATE: Obviously we had some intuition about some justice going down.
In today’s edition of “They just made the numbers up,” the SEC has charged Home Solutions of America, Inc. with inflating revenues based on phantom business deals related to restoration projects after Hurricane Katrina and other weather-related disasters.
According to the Commission’s complaint, Home Solutions issued several “materially false press releases” bragging about their kick ass results after doing work related to the damage caused by Katrina.
The scheme wasn’t exactly rocket science, as the former, CEO, CFO and one Director created phony invoices in order to record fake accounts receivable. They also decided that cash basis accounting was more their speed, expensing bonuses when they were paid rather than earned, in order to inflate their earnings.
All this hocus-pocus led to a run up in the stock price, which in turn, resulted in the former CEO, Frank Fradella selling over $6 million in shares based on the inflated price. The stock later tanked after massive insider stock sales, the filing of the lawsuit alleging fraud, and the Company’s announcement that they had to restate their financial statements.
And because we know you’re wondering, the most recent auditor we can find for Home Solutions is KMJ Corbin & Company LLP. We left a voicemail seeking comment but so far our calls have gone unreturned.
SEC Charges Hurricane Restoration Company and Executives in Post-Katrina Accounting Fraud [SEC Press Release]
That means our neighbor to the north ranks numero uno for North America.* They rank 4th in PwC’s report behind Russia, South Africa, and Kenya with 56% of the Canadian respondents reporting incidents of fraud.
And no, it’s not all because the country is full of crooks, it’s party because Canada has more
So does Canada have more thieves in our midst, or are we just better at ferreting out perpetrators?
The study suggests there is a bit of both. Tipoffs from internal or external sources are higher in Canada than in other countries, as is our ability to detect fraud through electronic means. Automated systems used to detect inconsistencies or suspicious transactions accounted for more than 10% of frauds detected by companies in Canada. Thanks to rats and routers, more crimes are being reported in Canada then elsewhere.
By contrast, the PwC report argues that the overall decrease since 2003 in reported crimes elsewhere in the world does not necessarily speak to their better anti-crime fighting abilities, but rather to an “overall breakdown in anti-fraud regime controls which would usually assist in the detection of economic crime.”
So wait a minute, not only does Canada have more tattletales, they also have a superior ability to detect fraud “through electronic means”? Does anyone buy this? That must be the case with the other countries that are keeping Canada company in the top 5, right?
We’re more inclined to go with the notion that Canada doesn’t do such a good job discouraging would-be Mini-Madoffs. According to one expert: ‘We don’t put anyone in jail.’
There you have it. A simple dose of PMITA prison for the Earl Jones and Gary Sorenson types should get The True North out of the top 5.
Canada a fraud nation? [Financial Post]
*We will not be splitting hairs with anyone on whether Mexico is technically part of North America or Central America so don’t even bother going there.
Swashbuckling cocker spaniel Tom Petters has managed to keep his focus the last few days, testifying in his trial for his alleged $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme.
His cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Dixon included several interesting exchanges including Petters admitting that he was the ‘heart and soul’ of PCI despite his claim of being duped for fifteen years by his office manager/confidante/lover, Deanna Coleman and Robert White, his former CFO. Dixon also accused of Petters of getting drunk on the super-happy-fun times he was having as a captain of industry:
Dixon moved to a line of questioning meant to show Petters used investors’ money to support his other businesses and lifestyle.
Dixon asked about Petters’ ownership of a Bentley, his use of corporate aircraft and homes on Lake Minnetonka and in Florida.
“You wanted the life of a corporate tycoon,” Dixon said.
“No, others wanted me to have that life,” Petters said, his voice rising. “I did not want the life of a corporate tycoon. Absolutely, I didn’t want that.”
Petters said his friend Dean Vlahos, a founder of the Champps and Redstone American Grill restaurant chains, bought him a Bentley as a gift.
“I didn’t want a Bentley,” he said. “I’m not a Bentley guy.”
See? Tom Petters was thrust into this swashbuckling lifestyle by others. The man can’t finish a book if his life depended on it, he can’t possibly be this titan of capitalism. He would’ve been perfectly happy driving a late 70s Oldsmobile Cutlass around on fumes with the headliner completely torn out. In fact, he would’ve preferred that.
Prosecutor jabs, Petters takes to ropes [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
More GC Coverage of Tom Petters:
Even as the Doors Were Being Busted Down, Tom Petters Was Sure Everything Would Be Fine
Tom Petters Was Pretty Sure He Was Going to End Up in a Dumpster Somewhere
Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen Both Have a Petters Problem
The trial of Cocker Spaniel/Ponzi boy Tom Petters is moving along as more and more witnesses are giving testimony that pretty much solidifies Petters’ statement that his business was “one big fucking fraud”.
Testimony on Tuesday (there were no proceedings yesterday due to the holiday) included that of James Wehmhoff, an accountant for Petters Company Inc. (“PCI”).
Wehmhoff said that Petters and Robert White — Petters’ CFO — were taking money out of a subsidiary for personal use. In addition, he also testified that Petters was panicking about an audit and was desperate to stonewall them:
In an email Petters sent to Wehmhoff and other insiders, Petters allegedly wrote, “We need to send the auditors something every day no matter what and keep them from coming to Minnesota. We must pacify them.”
Yet when the Feds were raiding his businesses last September Petters thought everything was hunky-dory, allegedly telling one investor, ‘everything would be fine’. This despite Petters’ fear of getting clipped and, you know, having to explain just where the hell $3.5 billion went.
We’ll keep you updated until they find this guy guilty.
Accountant Testifies Petters Panicked Over Audit [KSTP]
Accountant: Petters execs misused investor cash [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Earlier: Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen Both Have a Petters Problem
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (“ACFE”) is bellyaching about the Garret-Adler amendment.
This is the measure that was passed by the House Financial Services Committee that would exempt small issuers (market cap less than $75 mil) from complying with section 404 of Sarbanes Oxley.
ACFE President, James Ratley:
“At a time when the economic downturn has heightened the risk of fraud for organizations large and small, it simply does not make sense to weaken accounting rules that are in place to protect investors,” he said in a statement. “The bottom line is that internal controls are one of the best fraud prevention tools for any organization to have in place. Providing exemptions for some public companies from the SOX 404 requirements only leads to an increased risk of fraud.”
Ratley very well may be right but let’s not forget who we’re talking about. Nobody — especially accountants — is going to stop the train wreck that is the U.S. Congress. Accordingly, the ACFE should embrace this as a golden opportunity to boost their membership and shout from the rooftops about the benefits of having a CFE certification.
Nobody seems to understand that it isn’t auditors’ job to detect fraud and most companies only seem interested in detective controls, so what’s the point?
Get on this ACFE. It’s fraud awareness week after all. We shouldn’t have to explain this to you.
ACFE Warns Not to Change SOX Rules [Web CPA]
What? Your firm hasn’t reminded you that November 8 – 14 is International Fraud Awareness Week? Shameful. Lucky for you, Crowe Horwath is all over this.
Crowe is offering tips to its clients “on how companies can help turn their own personnel into their best fraud preventers and fraud detectors” because they are sick and tired of being the ones finding all of it.
Here’s a taste of their ideas:
• Know who you hire &ndash Avoid guys in tracksuits and with short attention spans.
• Create an ownership environment &ndash That stapler? It’s yours.
• Keep employees informed &ndash Emails about the latest dead-end marriage in the office do not count.
• Establish sound internal controls &ndash Unless you don’t have to.
• Implement checks and balances &ndash Again, optional.
While we admire Crowe’s attempt to get proactive, we’re concerned that, inevitably, the “Army of Fraudbusters” will start using their newly acquired fraud detection skills for outing their office enemies for petty crimes such as leaving food in the fridge, ass-photo copying and the like.
Create An Army of Fraudbusters Within Your Organization [Press Release]
Tom Petters doesn’t buy the whole Minnesota nice routine. Can’t say we blame the guy. If we were robbing people blind we’d be suspicious of every Marge Gunderson in the Twin Cities too.
According to a tape recording from yesterday’s proceedings, the stress of ripping people off for so long was causing him to freak out a little.
“Nobody’s paying us,” Petters said on the 30-minute recording made Sept. 22, 2008, by federal authorities with the help of Coleman. “I can’t stand lying to people every day.”
“We’re at a breaking point,” Petters said on the tape. “I can’t stand where we are. … None of us are OK. … We’ve got problems. I’m trying as hard as I can to find a way out of this. I don’t think we can all think clearly anymore.”
He said he was afraid that Robert W. Sabes, 69, formerly of Wayzata, and his son Jon R. Sabes, 43, of Wayzata, who authorities say had invested $17 million to $19 million, might kill him.
“Jon Sabes needs to calm down a bit,” Petters said, adding that he believed Sabes was connected to organized crime. “They are bad, bad people. I think he’d kill me.”
Now maybe this goes back to whole notion that TP had the attention span of a dog with above average intelligence (still a disservice to the breed in our book) but if you steal $19 mil from anyone, they’re going to want to kill you. Call it a hunch.
For the Sabes’ part, they may have had some shady connections but Tom Petters doesn’t strike us as the type of guy that attracted devout religious types. When reached for comment, Robert Sabes was quoted as saying, ‘I think he’s been watching “The Sopranos” too much.’
Yep. Pretty sure he was going to kill that guy.
Petters feared mob hit [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
That’s not an official title but if you’ve got suggestions for someone else, please, enlighten us.
He told the court that he did not conduct any independent auditing or verification of financial statements or tax returns provided by Madoff and “others” at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in New York.
Friehling did not state who the ‘others’ were but the U.S. Attorney hinted that we’ll get to know sometime. For now, Friehling is a free man, out on $2.5 million bond until his sentencing which is tentatively set for February.
He faces up to 114 years in prison but similar to Madoff’s chief bald-faced liar, Frank DiPascali, his cooperation should result in a lighter sentence. And by lighter we’re guessing that means he’ll still leave prison horizontally.
In last Tuesday’s Preliminary Analytics we mentioned the case of Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman accused of running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
The trial is in its first week and already there has been testimony from the star witness — Petters’ former office manager — that included a recording of Petters saying ‘This is one bi his own defense counsel comparing him to a cocker spaniel:
[Defense counsel, John] Hopeman countered that while Petters was an accomplished salesman, he didn’t have the corporate skills necessary to run companies.
“He has the attention span of a cocker spaniel — about 15 seconds,” the defense lawyer told the 10-woman, six-man jury. “He couldn’t read a whole book if his life depended on it.”
Okay, a couple things before we get to the crux.
• Most cocker spaniels we know have attention spans exponentially longer than fifteen seconds. It would be much more believable if defense counsel had said, “He has the attention span of a pomeranian and you can’t leave him home alone or he’s eats the furniture.”
• Petters couldn’t read a whole book if his life depended on it? Are we talking classic literature? Because if we are, then he’s got company. What about children’s books? Do magazines count? He strikes as a guy that could at least make it through the pro football season preview.
Now that the trial is underway we’ll be following the more interesting developments in the case but we’ll be especially interested in the litigation involving the auditors of the hedge funds that cycled funds to Petters’ businesses.
There is pending litigation in Texas that involves both Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen related to the audits the two firms performed for feeder funds for Petters’ businesses.
These feeder funds received purchase orders for high-end electronics from Petters’ businesses that were seemingly made by big-box retailers such as CostCo. The feeder funds then solicited money from investors, including the plaintiffs in the case, in return for promissory notes for Petters’ businesses. The merchandise on the purchase orders secured the notes. Allegedly, there was no merchandise and Petters used the money received to pay off other investors who were looking to get out and so on and so forth.
The feeder funds that are the defendants in this case are Arrowhead Capital Partners II, L.P. of Minnetonka, Minnesota, Palm Beach Finance Partners, L.P. and Palm Beach Finance Partners II, L.P. of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Stewardship Credit Arbitrage Fund, LLC of Greenwich, Connecticut. The general partners and investment managers of these funds are also listed as defendants.
E&Y served as auditors for Stewardship while M&P served as the auditors of Arrowhead. A small Florida firm, Kaufman, Rossin, & Co., P.A. served as the auditors for the two Palm Beach funds. The firms are being sued, naturally, for not detecting the alleged fraud. In this case, however, the firms may have it coming since the fraud was run by someone with the alleged attention span of a canine.
We spoke with Guy Hohmann, who is representing the plaintiffs in this case, and according to Mr. Hohmann, M&P has the most significant exposure in the Petters case as they also served as the auditor for Lancelot Investors Fund and Colossus Capital Fund, L.P. both Oak Brook, Illinois based hedge funds. M&P also faces litigation from the investors of those funds in Illinois.
Lancelot’s Vice President of Finance was Harold Katz, who just pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Mr. Hohmann was recently informed that before taking the job at Lancelot, Katz was a senior manager at M&P that worked on the Lancelot audit. M&P would not comment. It has been speculated now that Katz — who pleaded guilty September 2nd — is cooperating with authorities in the cases against Petters and Lancelot founder, Gregory Bell.
In another strange twist, Mr. Hohmann told GC that Lewis Freeman — the forensic accountant that is under federal investigation that we told you about last week — was appointed as the Chief Restructuring Officer of the Palm Beach funds. The Palm Beach funds are not currently listed as an active case on the forensic firm’s website.
We reached out to all the firms named in the lawsuit, McGladrey & Pullen declined to comment while calls to E&Y, Kaufman Rossin & Co., and Kenneth A. Welt, the current receiver listed on the Lewis Freeman website, were not returned.
According to the complaint, the amount lost by the plaintiffs was $24 million dollars, however, according to a October 6, 2008 Bloomberg article, the two Palm Beach Funds were responsible for approximately $1.1 billion of the alleged $3 billion the scheme while the Lancelot funds held approximately $1.0 billion with Petters. Mr. Hohmann’s understanding was that the Palm Beach funds had provided approximately $1.0 and that Lancelot held approximately $1.6 billion. Because of the complex web of companies in this case, the final dollar amounts may not ever be known.
So regardless of the fact that the case in Texas is in its early stages, future lawsuits from other investors could arise, and all three firms could continue to face significant litigation.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on any developments in the cases involving these accounting firms and will be following any noteworthy developments involving the Petters trial.
The case is SSR v. Arrowhead et al., District Court of Dallas County.
Poor Frank DiPascali. The man’s name will be forever connected to largest Ponzi schemer (with, allegedly, the smallest penis) in history and he feels terrible about that.
Looks like DiPascali, who was a “CFO” in Ponzi World but in reality was probably just the best liar, will remain eating his meals with a spork until the end of his days.
His attorneys were trying bust the guy out so he can help investigators find a new Madoff cohort to put front and center but a judge denied bail yesterday despite a boatload of conditions:
Mr. DiPascali’s failed bail attempt came despite a new proposal presented by defense lawyers and prosecutors that included a $10 million bond, co-signed by nine people, including members of the DiPascali family, and the pledge of about $2 million in personal property. The new proposal required Mr. DiPascali to wear an electronic device that would plot his location by satellite. It also barred him from leaving home without an escort from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, except in a medical emergency.
Maybe the judge isn’t big on satellite technology but with Halloween on Saturday, it could have been a decision made on a more personal level. Those Madoff victims are a touchy bunch.
Court Denies Madoff Aide’s Request for Bail [NYT]
Let’s talk about fraud, friends. We’re all sure that you’re number crunching sleuths and that no accounting hocus-pocus would ever get past you but apparently executives are still expecting more of it. This probably means one of two things: A) You’re not as smart as you think you are, or 2) You’re in on it.
Now, we should clarify that in Web CPA’s piece, these executives polled expect a rise in one of three areas: “financial reporting, asset misappropriation, or as another illegal or unethical act”. If you’re involved in the first kind, that’s boring. If you’re involved in the second kind, we suggest you retain counsel.
More, after the jump.
We’d like to focus on the “illegal and unethical act” part. Now, assuming you’ve passed the CPA, and also passed the grueling ethics exam that most states require, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.
For the rest of you, we’re assuming that your typical day is rife with unethical behavior. Some of you are probably unable to consume lunch and turn the entire work environment into a biohazard. So what we’re getting at here is that your clients and/or bosses don’t trust seem to trust you. We’re sure they’re right. We want to know why.
What kind of chicanery is going on that the bigwigs wouldn’t want to know about? Do you jimmy the vending machine on a regular basis for your lunch? Are you raiding the supply closet to build replicas of the [insert city here] skyline with staples? Let’s keep it to minor offenses though. Nothing that qualifies as misdemeanors and above will be allowed.
A woman who was a CFO for a charity that invested with Bernie is claiming, in a book of course, that she not only had all her personal money invested with him that went poof but that she was also bumping uglies with the Master Ponz. Supposedly there will be pictures which obviously begs several questions. Check out Dealbreaker for the debate.
Sleeping with the enemy is certainly a new low for bean counters. She could’ve done us all a favor and gotten down with Dick Cheney and it wouldn’t look nearly as bad.
Madoff Had Affair With Ex-Hadassah Finance Chief, Her Book Says [Bloomberg]
In another case of former a IRS Agent having reckless disregard for their old employer (i.e. the Federal Govt.), a 76 year-old former agent was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for his part in a fraudulent tax scheme that went on from 1998 to 2000. Thomas Steelman was also ordered to pay more than $10 mil back to the Service.
The old guy really worked hard at his craft too:
He took part in promotional meetings, conferences, rallies and telephone conference calls to promote Renaissance’s services and recruit clients, according to prosecutors. Steelman was also a featured speaker on Renaissance’s promotional videotapes.
From the sound of it, this guy Steelman was the
Peter Olinto Tim Gearty Rick Duffy of Renaissance, The Tax People, the defunct company he worked for. It disappoints us how the pleasure of serving your country, as crusader for tax compliance, would eventually lead to a life of a scofflaw and tax avoidance. We are truly saddened that there continues to be very few true tax heroes among us.
Ex-IRS Agent Sentenced to 46 Months for Tax Fraud [Web CPA via TaxProf Blog]
Try to control yourselves, the SEC continues to kick some ass. The Commission has charged Terex Corporation of Westport, CT with accounting fraud:
Check out the details, after the jump
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Terex Corporation, a Westport, Conn.-based heavy equipment manufacturer, with accounting fraud for making material misstatements in its own financial reports to investors, as well as aiding and abetting a fraudulent accounting scheme at United Rentals, Inc. (URI), another Connecticut-based public company.
The Commission had previously charged URI executives with fraud back in September when the company paid $14 mil to settle with M. Schape and the gang. Terex is settling for $8 mil.
The complaint alleges that both companies engaged in some shady revenue recognition which enabled them to meet earnings forecasts. It also states that from 2000 to 2004, accountants at Terex couldn’t figure out some of their inter-company transactions so they just decided to RAM some journal entries in there to make it work.
We understand that. Every once in awhile it’s 1 am-ish and you’re looking at a bunch of numbers that are getting blurry and you say “F THIS“. Entry gets made. Done.
Problem is, the SEC doesn’t like that.
SEC Charges Terex Corporation With Accounting Fraud [SEC.gov]
As we mentioned last week, Frank DiPascali, the Chief
Financial Officer Accounting Officer Number-Maker-Upper is going to be arraigned today on multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and other bad stuff that will earn him a permanent wardrobe of bright orange or heavy denim jumpsuits. We’ll update you on the sitch after 3 pm EDT.
Frank DiPascali, Bernie Madoff’s
CFO Number-Maker-Upper is going to be charged in connection with some money gone missing. DiPascali has agreed to skip the grand jury and get down to business, according to Bloomberg, indicating that he might flip. DiPascali seems to be taking a cue from another pseudo-bean counter who’s only plausible defense is stupidity.
U.S. to File Charges Against DiPascali, Ex-Madoff CFO [Bloomberg]
The task of keeping Allen Stanford out of hell no longer falls on Dick DeGuerin. Clearly DeGuerin didn’t appreciate his client’s crusade to vindicate his name and reputation because he couldn’t even get the guy A/C.
Robert Luskin, a managing partner at Patton Boggs now gets the honor of leading Sir Al’s defense team. At the rate things are going, we’ll handicap the over/under on the number of attorney changes prior to 2010 at 4. Any takers?
Allen Stanford replaces criminal defence lawyer [Reuters]
The SEC would like everyone to know that it was “actively investigating” Stan the Man “well before the multibillion-dollar fraud by Bernard Madoff was revealed” but was “hampered by a lack of cooperation” from the Gun Show.
The investigation started back in 2005 but the SEC decided it wasn’t really time to get serious with Stan until after the whole Madoff SNAFU broke. So it sounds like from 2005 to late 2008, the “actively investigating” consisted of the following:
SEC: Hi. Are you running a Ponzi scheme?
Stan: I’ll die and go to hell if it’s a Ponzi Scheme
SEC: Good enough for us. Thanks for your help.
Give the SEC a break people. They were really trying on this one.
Stanford Hampered SEC Probe [WSJ]
The SEC sent a team to India in order to make sure that everything was hunky-dory re: Satyam. The three-member team met with Ashwani Kumar, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The SEC also met with the KPMG team that is responsible for restating Satyam’s balance sheet.
No details were given on any of the meetings but we imagine that the SEC/KPMG meeting went something like this:
SEC Bureaucrat: Hello KPMG India.
KPMG Paper Pusher: Hello SEC America.
SEC: How are things progressing?
KPMG: Oh this is a blast. Restating balance sheets is a dream job. We were just talking about how we wish we could work in the States so we could do stuff like this all the time.
SEC: What do you mean?
KPMG: Well, there seems to be much more fraud and other problems in the United States than here in India so the need for forensic accountants would be extremely high.
SEC: Are you insinuating that the Commission is unable to detect fraud?
KPMG: Well there have been some signficant fraud over there lately that you guys pretty much ignored or missed. Either way, it makes for a high demand for forensic accountants. Plus, we hear that the guy who tried warning you about the Madoff fraud has issues but still won an award.
SEC: This meeting is over. Keep us informed.
Satyam scam: SEC team meets CBI, SEBI, KPMG officials [The Hindu Business Line]
It’s bad enough that Allen Stanford can’t get out of jail in order to properly prepare his defense but now he’s dealing with what may be a preview of what happens if he’s found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme.
It’s bad enough that there isn’t any cricket coverage in prison but the walking gun show has complained about day to day annoyances like the lack of air conditioning in his prison cell, which he shares with 8 to 10 of his closest friends and also a power outage which likely prevented him from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (The Prison Edition).
Sir Allen discovers there’s no air conditioning in jail [FT Alphaville]
In probably the most shocking news of the day, KPMG’s “fraud barometer” reports that the number of fraud cases in UK courts in the first six months of the year are the highest since the firm started issuing the report, 21 years ago.
Here in the states, the big sexy fraud gets all the attention but there is plenty of small fraud to go around. Plus, the bright side is, we’ve haven’t seen anything yet:
“These figures are bad, but the worst is yet to come,” Hitesh Patel, a partner at KPMG, said. “It will be a number of years before the impact of the recession fully feeds through into the fraud statistics.”
So our advice would be for any of you that are nervous about layoffs, look into getting transferred to the forensic accounting practice. You won’t be out of work any time soon.
Record total of fraud cases in court – and worse to come [FT.com]
Another press release from the SEC today stating how they’ve thwarted yet another Ponzi scheme.
Ponzis being the norm lately we’re not terribly impressed by this but what we did find surprising was the title of the Commission’s press release: “SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases” (that’s our emphasis).
Is the Commission making the assumption that those individuals that are actually reading the press releases need informed about what the money stolen is actually used for? Seriously, Bernie and Big Al don’t strike us Robin Hood types, even before indictments were handed out. No where in Bern’s statement at sentencing did he state:
Your honor, I’ve become increasingly despondent about the wealth gap in this country. I stole from the wealthiest individuals, investment companies, and charities possible in order to help the people that couldn’t help themselves. It was not my intention to take all my clients’ money. I merely wanted to level the playing field. I thought this method would be most effective as opposed to raising tax rates on the rich, which I’m personally opposed to.
Didn’t hear that did you? Let’s break this down: Bernie liked handjobs(and God knows what else, shudder) and Aston Martins. Stan liked doing bumps off hookers’ asses (we’re guessing here) and buying cricket teams (this is documented).
We will give the credit to the Commission for busting another scofflaw but we would now advise that knowing your reading audience is equally important.
SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases [SEC.gov]
Your latest bit of hilarity regarding the Stanford Ponzi Party is that a group of plaintiffs is suing the government of Antigua and Barbuda for $24 billion because the island was allegedly a “full financial partner in the fraud”.
Alphaville isn’t buying it, and they not so accidently, put “Fraud Victims” in quotations which we find hilarious because it almost appears that Alphaville isn’t even buying the “victims” angle as so much as they’re buying the “morons” angle.
The post goes on to inform us that “$24bn is also 24 times Antigua’s 2008 GDP“. Which moves this particular case from the “frivolous” category to the “downright idiotic” category.
Nevertheless, one might conclude that any or all of the following is what got this thing off the ground:
1. Big Al is pulling the strings from jail in order to pay for his defense because, as we learned, he’s got no legit cash.
Ambulance Ponzi victim chasing attorney
3. Banana farmers in Antigua that really don’t have any alternative after getting shaken down by the EU.
So duped people are pissed and they want their money back. They have finally come to the conclusion that the original $8bil has been long ago spent on Scarface-size piles of blow and endless hours spent in houses of ill repute so they’re clutching at straws.
Our advice: Just sue the SEC already.
“Fraud victims” want $24bn from the government of Antigua and Barbuda [FT Alphaville]
As expected, James Davis, Stanford Financial’s Chief Number-Maker-Upper has entered his not guilty plea but his counsel has stated that his client will plead guilty to all the charges against him as early as next week. The initial plea has been made in order to finalize the plea agreement with Davis prior to his pleading guilty
This is all occurring while Stan the Man’s attorneys are in New Orleans appealing a Houston judge’s ruling that he has to pump iron in prison throughout his trial. Stan’s attorneys continue to maintain that their client is NOT a flight risk, which is kinda like saying that Bernie Madoff is NOT in jail.
Ex-Stanford CFO to plead guilty within 2 weeks: lawyer [Reuters]