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September 21, 2023

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Must Not Mind That Their Audit Firm Is Also a Strategic Partner for a Presentation That Includes a Blogger That Doesn’t Say Particularly Nice Things About Their Financial Reporting

As most of you know, convicted-fraudster-turned-accounting-sleuth and all-around ham Sam Antar now spends his days blogging, exposing companies whose financial reporting and disclosures strikes him as a little too familiar to some of the tricks he pulled in his Crazy Eddie days. 

Sam also spends a fair amount of time educating the less criminally-inclined on how to bust people like him, giving presentations, interviews, everything short of shouting from the top of a bucket in Times Square, to anyone who wants to hear the sheisty ways of a reformed sheister. Later this month Sam will be interviewed by Crowe Horwath's Jonathan Marks, the firm's leader of the Fraud, Ethics, & Anti-corruption Practice. Yesterday, a little bird pointed out to us that PwC, often a target of Sam's mockery, is a strategic partner for the event:

Appears reasonable. PwC certainly has a well-established forensics practice and being affiliated with this presentation makes sense from a marketing perspective.

However, as is the case in all things corporate or political, the situation makes for strange bedfellows. You see, after spending years tormenting Patrick Byrne and, Antar has found a new muse in Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Sam has been exposing dodgy financial reporting, missing disclosures, and sometimes poor arithmetic at GMCR for well over a year now. Since Sam has been writing about GMCR, hedge fund manager David Einhorn has spoken out against the company's financial reporting practices and the company has been on the defensive ever since.

PwC is the auditor for GMCR. 

In a recent motion to dismiss (in full below) a lawsuit brought by shareholders, GMCR cites Sam's blogging as part of their problem:

The Amended Complaint also cites a rogue’s gallery of blog postings, as well as a presentation authored by an anonymous blogger who goes by the pseudonym “TheLongShortTrader.” AC ¶¶ 18, 93-97. One of the bloggers cited is Sam Antar, a “former CFO convicted of fraud” and whom Plaintiffs themselves characterize as being openly “critical” of Green Mountain. AC ¶ 18. These blog posts are rife with conclusory conspiracy theories, including claims that the Company’s practices are “downright ludicrous” and that Green Mountain has engaged in “stealth restatements.” Id. ¶¶ 94-95. Such speculative commentary cannot overcome the absence of factual allegations that support a cogent and compelling inference of scienter. See Hershfang v. Citicorp, 767 F. Supp. 1251, 1255 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (the “gratuitous commentary of outsiders” cannot substitute for scienter allegations); see also In re Pfizer, Inc. Secs. Litig., 538 F. Supp. 2d 621, 630-31 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (“In addition to identifying the source, the source must be shown to have been likely to know the relevant facts. There is no reason to believe that the author of this blog, identified only as RADmanZulu, is likely to have known the relevant facts.”).
So really, who feels the most sheepish here? Certainly not Sam. He doesn't care. PwC? Meh. Audit and forensics (more specifically, the people making marketing decisions for the group) are completely separate from each other, so there's little chance that forensics knew the connection between the firm and GMCR and the further connection of Sam to GCMR.
Green Mountain, on the other hand, looks pretty silly. Casting blame towards bloggers is bad enough. (They could have learned their lesson from Patrick Byrne.) But when your audit firm is affiliated with a presentation that one of these bloggers will give, who will no doubt discuss things that are similar in nature to the allegations made by the people suing you…that's awkward. 

Motion to dismiss – Horowitz v. GMCR

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