Anyone who’s gone through a single busy season will tell you that there’s no messing around. It’s crunch time. That’s why many accountants go to work when they’re sick, forgo austere obligations, ignore their loved ones, and in general, compromise their principles to keep busy season moving along as smoothly as possible. Today we have […]
Francine McKenna did some expert sleuthing and reports at MarketWatch that Ambac Financial Group was one of the unnamed issuers in the indictment of former KPMG employees and one former PCAOB inspector. There were enough clues to piece together that “Issuer-2” was Ambac, one of the companies that were allegedly subject to a re-review by […]
Six former employees of KPMG have been arrested and charged “with conspiring to defraud securities regulators and misuse of confidential auditing information.” These charges stem from the leak of confidential PCAOB inspection information that we learned about last year. The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed civil charges in a parallel action. The 54-page indictment lists […]
Normally, this should all go without saying, but apparently not everyone knows the rules, as evidenced by a report out of Fayetteville, Arkansas: Victor Rudsell walked out to his car on the 1900 block of North Garland Ave. Monday morning, when he saw Joshua Pry inside his car, the report says. Rudsell saw Pry wearing […]
Here's an impressive feat of (alleged) fraud: a woman worked at a company for one day and that was enough for her to embezzle almost $15,000. St. Louis County prosecutors say that Angela Phan stole the money from Triplematic Dispensers from July 1, 2014, and Dec. 6, 2015: Phan had worked for the company for […]
When people ask, "Is so-and-so the next Enron?" they usually don't make a strong case that "so-and-so" is much like Enron. Rather, "It's involves some accounting mumbo jumbo, so let's call it Enron." Which brings us to Valeant Pharmaceuticals, who hasn't had a good day. A report from Citron Research claims that the company is […]
If you were an accountant accused of making off with about $9 million of your employer’s money, I can think of few places better to hide than the wilderness. Allegedly, that’s what James Hammes did after he was confronted by […]
Jack Weichman, CPA has been indicted on 34 criminal charges ranging from bank fraud to money laundering to filing false tax returns, among others. His attorney, for one, is flabbergasted by this situation: In a statement issued Thursday morning, Weichman's attorney, Theodore Poulos, said "we are deeply disappointed and, quite frankly, appalled that the government […]
Quoting our tipster, "Wow. Just wow." The New York Post has the scoop: A TV meteorologist claims her millionaire ex-boyfriend forced her to abort their baby — and choked her while she was recovering from the procedure, Manhattan court papers show. “I will kill you and our unborn child if you don’t have an […]
Patrick Oki, who stepped aside as PKF Hawaii's managing partner on Wednesday, pleaded not guilty yesterday to stealing $500k from his firm. Charges include theft, money laundering forgery and whole bunch of other bad stuff. Despite all that, PKF Hawaii has his back: KHON2 spoke with Reg Baker, who’s now in charge with two other […]
During my first year, the firm sent me on a solo engagement to audit a bundle of Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) that a client was preparing to sell. I’d never worked on that client or in that industry, and I’d never heard of a CLO before. The manager gave me a crash course on CLOs over lunch and told me, “Just follow what they did last year.”
Here's an interesting story about a fella by the name of Craig Haber. Craig became a partner at Grant Thornton in 1993. Around 2004, Craig decided to start helping himself to client fees that rightfully belonged to GT. This went on for a while. Approximately $4 million in fees from 2004 to 2012, to be […]
As luck would have it, we don't get to coast this Thanksgiving week as HP had to come along and screw it all up by announcing a $8.8 billion write-down, $5 billion of which is described as "serious accounting improprieties, misrepresentation and disclosure failures" at software company Autonomy, who HP acquired back in 2011. And where […]
Joe Andolino's career highlights as a tax expert will probably not include this little episode: Authorities in Texas took to the Internet to nab seven men accused of arranging to pay for sex in north Harris County during an undercover prostitution sting Thursday. One of the suspects is Joseph Francis Andolino, a 59-year-old senior vice president with Halliburton. An […]
On Monday, we learned that Deloitte found itself in a bit of awkward situation with New York's Department of Financial Services because they "apparently aided" Standard Chartered Bank in hiding about $250 billion in transactions with Iran. In the order, DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky states that Deloitte "intentionally omitted critical information in its 'independent report' […]
Everyone knows that the IRS makes silly mistakes from time to time, but presuming that the Service employees who look at these tax returns won't be fooled by a 1040 from "First Name: Mr." and "Last Name: Bojangles" seems a little reckless: According to an indictment obtained by CBS4, Mathew and Sandra Zuckerman are accused […]
How big? In the neighborhood of $53 million, according to the indictment. Earlier reports had put it closer to $30 million and change. It further alleges that Rita Crundwell stated the scheme in December of 1990 and was "[creating] fictitious invoices purported to be from the State of the Illinois to show the auditors for […]
Crundwell reported to the city's finance commissioner, a member of the City Council, but the mayor declined to comment on whether that current commissioner, David Blackburn, or former Commissioner Roy Bridgeman should have detected the alleged thefts. As Bridgeman left office last year, he praised Crundwell for being an asset to the city and said […]
Last week we learned that the CFO/comptroller/treasurer for the city of Dixon, Illinois, Rita Crundwell, was arrested for allegedly stealing $30,236,503 and 51¢. She also stands accused, in the court of public opinion, of having awful taste in automobiles, as federal agents seized a Ford Thunderbird upon her arrest. Regardless, these allegations came as a surprise […]
Rita Crundwell has been the CFO/comptroller of Dixon, Illinois since the 1980s; a typical tenure for even an unelected Illinois official. In those 30-ish years, it appears that she performed her duties adequately enough, but she was just put on unpaid leave. You see, at some point in 2006, it is alleged that Ms. Crundwell […]
Courtesy of lawyers representing The Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, who are suing the Green Dot over WG Trading Co., a firm allegedly used in a Ponzi scheme: Deloitte “acted in willful blindness of the scheme, and its auditing practices were so deficient that the audits amounted to no audit at all, or an egregious refusal […]
Weren't we just talking about child pervs the other day?! We were! Well lo-and-behold, a tipster enlightens us to the sordid tale of 41 year-old Jeffrey R. Bainter of St. Louis who – according to his LinkedIn profile [ed. note: which has been pulled as of Monday but appears below]- has worked as an audit […]
Last month we learned that Virgnia Spidle, the Chief Accountant for the City of Birmingham, Alabama, was fired a second time by her employer. The grounds for the first dismissal were racism, which a personnel board dismissed. Not one to be dismayed by awkwardness around the office, Spidle returned to her job only to be […]
A mobster, a lawyer and an accountant walk into a bar… Okay, maybe not.
Yesterday, thirteen people – including five lawyers and a Certified Public Accountant – were arrested in early morning raids in New Jersey, Florida and Texas for their part in a complicated scheme that involved taking a mortgage company by force and frittering away its assets.
Federal prosecutors say the son of imprisoned crime boss Nicodemo D. “Little Nicky” Scarfo and his associate Salvatore Pelullo took over Irving, TX mortgage company FirstPlus Financial Group, a company with plenty of cash but very little sophistication. The change in ownership was not amicable for both involved parties. According to the indictment, Pelullo told a member of the FirstPlus board that if he did not go along with the planned takeover, “your kids will be sold off as prostitutes.” Harsh. At what B-school do they teach that tactic?
The indictment goes on to allege that Pelullo wanted the company’s board to agree to give control over to his and Scarfo’s new board of directors and that he wasn’t willing to wait around for this to happen. “I don’t care if they’re in a funeral parlor, I don’t care if they’re in a [bad word] hospital on a respirator, we’ll send somebody there. I want their vote, I want their signature, and I want it done by the close of the day today,” he is alleged to have said to other individuals also charged in the scam.
Among those indicted are former FirstPlus Chief Executive Officer John Maxwell and former Chief Financial Officer William Handley. Court documents show that both individuals were placed on the board by, er, unconventional means that don’t include the desires of shareholders ifyouknowwhatI’msayin.
Fun fact: former Vice President Dan Quayle was once a FirstPlus board member. He is not mentioned in any indictments. Also, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino used to be a shill for FirstPlus. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and, according to a Chapter 11 filing from June of this year, was dormant but profitable due to a securitized pool of mortgages it expected to make a profit from for at least a decade. Ernst & Young resigned as the company’s auditor in 1999, citing, uh, irreconcilable differences but not anything to do with accounting issues or, you know, the fact that the company was basically broke.
The 25-count indictment includes charges of money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice.
Authorities say that the (alleged) criminal masterminds took $12 million from the company in a year and spent it on multiple homes, weapons and ammo, pricey luxury vehicles, a plane, jewelry and a yacht. You know, the usual.
It really sucks when tragedy is caused by utter stupidity and that’s exactly what we have in the Chicago ‘burbs. Timothy Salvesen, an accountant from Wheaton, was charged with aggravated street racing and leaving the scene of a fatal crash in relation to an incident that occurred back in January.
Killed in the crash were 32-year-old Joseph Paliokaitis of North Aurora, who prosecutors said appeared to be racing with Salvesen as both drove west on Golf Road at speeds that two witnesses estimated at 80 to 90 mph.
The speed limit on that stretch of four-lane road was 55 mph, Assistant State’s Attorney during Salvesen’s bond hearing Tuesday.
As the two westbound lanes merged into one, Paliokaitis apparently lost control of his 2003 Jaguar and rolled into eastbound traffic, striking a 2001 Hyundai Tiburon head-on.
The crash killed its driver, 62-year-old Migdalia Bloch. of Hoffman Estates, who was on her way home from work, McCarthy said.
Salvesen’s attorney said his client, an accountant who has no prior criminal record, will fight the charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and Tim maintains his innocence,” defense attorney Henry Samuels said.
After poking around a bit, we found a Tim Salvesen on LinkedIn who is a Senior Audit Manager at KPMG and another Tim Salvesen on Facebook who lives in Barlett, IL (a town next to Wheaton) and lists “KPMG” on his networks but we have not confirmed that the “accountant” charged is the “auditor” we found online.
Messages left with a KPMG spokesman, Mr. Samuels, and Tim Salvesen in KPMG’s Chicago office have not been returned.
UPDATE: A couple more reports give us more details that indicate that Salvesen “accountant” is Salvesen “KPMG auditor.” First, the Tribune reports more details of the crash, saying it was “apparently impromptu […]as the men did not know each other.” It also states that Mr. Salvesen is “an ex-Marine” which matches the profile on LinkedIn.
But the mugshot from ABC7 may be the clincher:
This looks a lot like the guy on LinkedIn but now the photo from the profile no longer appears (it’s not just me, DWB confirmed). Regardless, it’s increasingly appears that Salvesen is Salvesen and since no one likes to return our phone calls, we’ll leave it up to you to decide.
37-year-old Wheaton accountant charged in drag-racing crash that killed two [CST]
Man charged with street-racing months after fatal crash [CT]
Accountant charged in drag racing crash that killed 2 [ABC7]
Jay Patrick Knaub, the former accounting major from Bucknell University accused of flashing four girls between the ages of 12 and 16, was back in court yesterday with his victims present. CBS21 reports that a few of the charges have been dropped and other charges consolidated but the most surprising thing we learned was that Mr. Knaub’s modus operandi was something that would have most women backing away slowly from the car with their hands in the air.
Each time the Middletown resident and former Bucknell University student would reportedly drive up to the girls and ask for directions. At least twice he’s accused of showing them a map, and then moving that map to expose his genitals. [At least twice he’s accused of showing them a map, and then moving that map to expose his genitals.]
Because of the age of these girls, chances are they’ve never been in the presence of a man admitting to being lost and needing directions since that is something simply doesn’t not happen unless A) he’s being forced to do under duress (e.g. future sex is being withheld) or B) he is not from this planet.
Any woman that has ever been lost with a man, knows that stopping and asking anyone for directions is something that men simply do not have the capacity to do. Accordingly, any man waving them down from a car and saying, “I think I’m lost and need directions,” would have send them running, arms flailing and screaming for the nearest police officer.
Unfortunately, these young girls had to learn this life lesson in a very shocking way and not in the normal course of experiencing the stupidity of men.
Last year we told you about Colin Tenner who was suing PwC on the grounds of disability discrimination. If you remember, back in 2009 Tenner was told his services were no longer needed after he took some sick time due to depression and severe stress that was a result of a client he was serving and his bosses inside P. Dubs. Tenner’s fellow partners allegedly weren’t impressed by this pansyness, as one partner said “real partners don’t get sick.”
While the judge in the tribunal said that some of these partners “were clearly at the end of the queue when tact and sensitivity were being handed out,” it wasn’t enough to constitute discrimination and Tenner’s suit was thrown out.
An industrial tribunal found that while there may have been a “macho culture within the firm”, it did not accept Mr Tenner had been discriminated against. […] [T]he tribunal said there was no evidence that any of the witnesses for PWC “showed any animosity, prejudice, or intolerance to disabled persons”.
In other words, they weren’t saying “that skitzo retard shouldn’t be calling in sick.” Apparently that’s what was needed here.
Marc Jacobs International claims that its former COO and CFO, Patrice Lataillade, got a little fancy with the company’s numbers in order to give himself “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bonuses. The Post reports that court documents state that audits revealed “false and inflated entries” for about $20 million or so. The company says Lataillade was fired from his job for all this financial hocus pocus,
This all came out because Lataillade sued the company alleging that he was fired for entirely different reason altogether. Apparently MJI co-founder and President Robert Duffy likes to have a little fun around the office that wasn’t appreciated by everyone, namely Mr. Lataillade.
“Examples of Duffy’s conduct which created a hostile work environment include his displaying gay pornography in the office and requiring employees to look at it; his production and dissemination of a book which includes photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude; his requirement that an MJI store employee perform a pole dance for him,” the suit said.
Accounting/finance types can be get a little stuffy, that’s a given but seeing co-workers in various compromising positions and/or working a pole at the boss’s behest could make for some awkward looks/conversations later. Not that it excuses running through some bullshit journal entries for your own personal financial benefit but I suppose there may be a legitimate beef in there.
The grand theft auto allegations stuck though.
Dykstra, 48, was charged with 25 misdemeanor and felony counts of grand theft auto, attempted grand theft auto, identity theft and other crimes, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. He faces up to 12 years in state prison if convicted.
His accountant and a friend were charged in connection with the alleged auto theft but not with drug crimes, Robison said.
Prosecutors contend that the three men tried to lease high-end cars from dealers this year by providing phony information and claiming credit through a phony business called Home Free Systems.
Two dealerships rejected the lease applications but a third allowed the men to drive off with three cars, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.
Timothy Mask worked at Flint Hydrostatics for 25 years calling the company “a true blessing in my life.” Not an extraordinary statement, considering many people have strong feelings for the companies they serve but it’s possible that Mask felt that Flint was such a “blessing” because he spent the last twelve years allegedly “stealing” $1.2 million.
Things started unraveling when Tim up and resigned on May 5th, leaving his boss a Dear John letter of sorts:
“Effective immediately, I resign from Flint Hydrostatics, Inc.,” said the letter Timothy W. Mask left on the president’s desk.
“Flint has been a true blessing in my life,” wrote Mask, 46, of Corinth, Miss. “I will always cherish friendships that I have built and my fellow employees. It has just come time for me to move on to new endeavors.”
You see, Kevin Fienup, Flint’s director of business development and secretary, as well as the son of the company’s president, started looking into Mask’s old endeavors and found a number of checks that were made out to Mask and the company’s janitor. Allegedly, Mask would have his assistant cut checks to the janitor (or Mask if the janitor wasn’t available) who would cash them and then place the cash in a locked drawer in Mask’s office. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Fineup “left his office door open and had documents on his desk about the irregular transactions the night before Mask resigned.” One might conclude that Tim saw said documents, figured the jig was up and sat down to write his heartfelt letter.
As for his “new endeavors” it appears that Mask may have been trying to make a break for it, as the Appeal also reports that he had a “two-week vacation to Hawaii” scheduled to start yesterday, had recently sent mail to a passport processing center and had started transferring $200,000 from his 401k. But instead he got arrested which probably kinda threw a wrench into his plans.
~Update includes KPMG statement.
Former KPMG Senior Manager Donna Kassman is suing the firm in the Southern District of New York. She worked for the firm for seventeen years, resigning in October 2010 after “relentless gender discrimination and harassment le, and it was clear that the Company had no interest in remedying the situation.”
Plaintiff Kassman alleges that KPMG engages in systemic discrimination against its female Managers, including but not limited to Managers, Senior Managers and Managing Directors. The lawsuit is intended to change KPMG’s discriminatory pay and promotion policies and practices, as well as its systemic failure to properly investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment. The Plaintiff is filing this action on behalf of a class of thousands of current and former female employees who have worked as Managers at KPMG from 2008 through the date of judgment.
Ms. Kassman and the class are represented by Janette Wipper, Siham Nurhussein, and Deepika Bains of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP and they don’t spare the details:
Despite Plaintiff Kassman’s long tenure and stellar performance, KPMG refused to promote her along the partnership track. Ms. Kassman’s supervisors repeatedly told her throughout 2008 and 2009 that she was next in line for a promotion to Managing Director. Around the time Ms. Kassman was to be promoted, however, two male employees complained that she was “unapproachable” and “too direct,” thinly-veiled gender-based criticisms designed to derail her career advancement. Based on these unfounded, discriminatory comments, KPMG removed Ms. Kassman from the promotion track, subjected her to numerous hostile interrogations, and advised her to meet with a “coach” to work on her supposed issues. Instead of disciplining the two male employees for their campaign of harassment, KPMG rewarded them by putting them up for promotion.
KPMG’s female Managers are not only under-promoted, but underpaid as well. In one particularly egregious act of discrimination, KPMG slashed Ms. Kassman’s base salary by $20,000 while she was on maternity leave because she was paid “too much.” KPMG cited no business justification for slashing her salary. When Ms. Kassman complained about the salary cut, her male supervisor asserted that she did not need the money because she “ha[d] a nice engagement ring.”
“Unfortunately, Ms. Kassman’s story is completely representative of the treatment of women at KPMG,” Siham Nurhussein said. “Ms. Kassman repeatedly complained up the chain of command about the gender discrimination and harassment she was experiencing, and the Company reacted with neither surprise nor concern. Her supervising Partner told her matter-of-factly that her male colleague might have a problem working with women, and the Office of Ethics and Compliance told Ms. Kassman that men had ganged up on women at KPMG before. KPMG not only tolerates gender discrimination, but displays an active interest in perpetuating it.”
In addition to the systematic discrimination faced by female Managers at KPMG, female employees with children also face discrimination based on their status as caregivers and/or being pregnant. After she gave birth to her first child, Ms. Kassman’s career advancement at KPMG came to a screeching halt. Without any warning or provocation, KPMG abruptly cut her salary while she was on maternity leave and placed her on a Performance Improvement Plan upon her return to work. Ms. Kassman felt that she had no choice but to move to a “flexible” schedule, under which she retained all the responsibilities of a full-time employee, but was paid less. KPMG frequently touted Ms. Kassman as a role model for other working mothers, even though one of the Partners acknowledged that women on flexible schedules were “not going to get anywhere [at KPMG].”
An email to a KPMG spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
UPDATE: KPMG spokesman George Ledwith provided us with the following statement, “KPMG is recognized as a leader for its strong commitment to supporting women in the workplace. In fact, among the Big Four accounting firms, KPMG is tied with the highest percentage of women partners. We believe this lawsuit is entirely without merit.”
We’ll keep you updated with any developments.
Nearly two years after Texas financier Allen Stanford was indicted in an alleged massive Ponzi scheme, investors have just filed a $10 billion proposed class action suit against his auditor—the giant accounting firm BDO.
The suit—filed Thursday in federal court in Dallas—says BDO did not only aid and abet the $7 billion dollar fraud…it was a “co-conspirator.” “BDO’s cozy relationship with the Stanford Financial Group was steeped in conflicts of interest and required ongoing deceptive and duplicitous manipulation of the facts to allow the Ponzi scheme’s exponential growth for over a decade,” the complaint says. “The result of this deception is the loss of thousands of investors’ life savings.” [CNBC]
Great find by Joe Kristan who would have no problem jumping on the New York Post’s headline desk.
This could only happen in the South:
A murder suspect accused of cutting out his own tongue has been arrested for tax evasion.
The Mobile County District Attorney’s office says Michael Crocker and his wife, Donna, didn’t pay taxes on $1 million they earned from their waste burning plant in Mount Vernon.
Investigators learned about the tax evaision while investigating Crocker for the murder of Stephen O’Neal Perret. Perret was found shot to death in a work truck near his Citronelle home on August 17, 2007. Perret was Crocker’s neighbor and the plant manager at Vulcan Industrial Services, Crocker’s company.
One day after Perret’s funeral, Crocker called 911 and said someone cut out his tongue, but police believe Crocker cut out his own tongue.
Mark Schreiber, a former controller of fitness guru Tony Little’s business empire, has been accused of embezzling nearly $600k by forging Little’s signature. Apparently Schreiber was involved in some “online horse wagering” which must not have gone too well since he ended up…stealing money (allegedly).
According to T. Little’s lawyer, Latour “L.T.” Lafferty, the $600k is pocket change to his client but he’ll be damned if they aren’t going to pursue every means necessary to get every cent back:
“We’re certainly going to pursue any legal avenues to recover every cent that was taken from Mr. Little,” said his attorney, Latour “L.T.” Lafferty. “It doesn’t impact the financial well-being of Mr. Little. But certainly it’s a significant blow and a serious breach of Mr. Schreiber’s place as controller of his business operations.”
Since TL is a man of health and fitness and not of numbers, it’s not surprising that he’s found himself in this conundrum but he did have his suspicions:
Little realized something was amiss last year, according to court records, when he moved to fire Schreiber as a controller overseeing his Pinellas Park companies’ finances. He was dissatisfied with Schreiber, records show. He set up a July 27, 2010, meeting.
But before they could meet, Schreiber sent an e-mail: “I quit.”
After Little’s new accountant had been poking around for awhile, it was pretty obvious things weren’t kosher. They called in a forensic expert who discovered that 152 checks were drawn over 11 months to the sum of $583,379.
Right now the “degenerate gambler” motive seems to be the most plausible scenario, although it’s entirely possible that Mr Schreiber was sick with jealousy over the sexual tension between Little and his infomercial leading lady, Darla Haun. We’ve presented some footage that will likely be introduced into evidence during Schreiber’s trial:
If you’re an insomniac and adverse to softcore porn, you’ve probably seen Roni Deutch at some point, talking tax relief for those oppressed by the IRS to the point of it being a hate crime.
Last August, former California Attorney General and current Governor Jerry Brown sued Ron for a “heartless scheme,” of ripping off those people that needed her help settling disputes with the IRS. RD disputed the charges, continues to tout her expertise and is still issuing lame press releases that gives her some appearance of still being in the game.
As annoying as that probably is, the AG really got bent out of shape when it discovered that Deutch was destroying records and using client refunds to pay off some debts.
Harris’ office said Deutch has systematically destroyed documents for months and may have shredded up to 2.7 million pages of records.
The Attorney General said Deutch had been spending $3 million a year on advertising, mainly late at night on cable TV and that only one in 10 clients received any benefit from working with her firm.
The state also said Deutch was supposed to pay $435,000 in refunds by January, but instead released the money to other creditors, including family and friends, a NASCAR racing team and a casino.
Since these types of actions are typically frowned upon, current California AG Kamala Harris has asked a judge to find the Tax Lady to be in contempt of court and be given a free five-day stay at a local prison for each violation. Not sure how that math will work out but that could amount to a lot of NASCAR being watched on prison TV.
From John Veihmeyer’s favorite local broadsheet, the South Bend Tribune:
A local certified public accountant has been arraigned in Berrien County Trial Court in St. Joseph in connection with the alleged embezzlement of nearly $100,000 from a trust fund.
As for the how and the why:
Officers said the funds allegedly were taken from the trust fund account of Winifred Lentz around the time of Lentz’s death in 2005. Falsified documents were used to disguise where the money actually went, police said
They said Barnes used the money to carpet his home and purchase Euros during a period when he took a cruise. He also allegedly took more than $45,000 to pay off a personal loan.
Or throws another scalp on the pile, whatever you prefer.
The Journal is obviously very cozy with the Governor-elect:
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a lawsuit against Ernst & Young for civil fraud Tuesday, accusing one of the nation’s largest accounting firms of helping Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. hide its financial weakness from investors for about seven years before the bank finally collapsed in September of 2008.
Ernst & Young knew about, supported and advised Lehman on its “R s, a type of debt the bank took on, but labeled as sales, which made the firm appear to investors less risky than it really was, according to the complaint. The audit firm also stood by while Lehman misled analysts and investors on conference calls and in financial filings about its levels of risk, particularly after the firm’s stability began to crack after the credit crisis began in 2007, said the complaint.
“Ernst & Young substantially assisted Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., now bankrupt, to engage in a massive accounting fraud,” Mr. Cuomo wrote in his complaint.
Now that the AG has pulled the trigger on this, we’re wondering what’s next. E&Y still isn’t talking, other than the statement they’ve been giving since the bankruptcy examiner’s report came out in March. One comment suggested a settlement in the nine figure range which would put them in proximity of the DOJ’s fine of KPMG back in 2005.
Colin Barr over a Fortune reports that Cuomo wants at least the audit fees back ($150 million, according to the complaint):
The complaint, filed in state Supreme Court, seeks the repayment of at least $150 million in fees the audit firm collected between 2001, when Lehman’s aggressive accounting began, and 2008, when the venerable bank collapsed, precipitating a global bank run.
“Our lawsuit seeks to recover the fees collected by Ernst & Young while it was supposed to be using accountable, honest measures to protect the public,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Something tells us that Cuomo won’t be satisfied by simply the audit fees; we’re talking about the largest bankruptcy in history, after all. If you feel like ballparking the fine, we wouldn’t turn away any outlandish guesses.
UPDATE: Felix Salmon also points out E&Y’s lack of communicado:
E&Y knew this was coming—we all did—but despite that fact, its only public reaction so far has been to refuse to comment. That doesn’t look good, and it forces us back to what the company said in the wake of the Valukas report—that its work as Lehman auditor “met all applicable professional standards,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
He also agrees with us that the fine will be greater than the $150 million and notes (not hiding his disappointment) that no partners were named, “E&Y will avoid admitting blame and also avoid criminal prosecution. […] [T]he only defendant is Ernst & Young LLP; there are no named individuals on the list. So E&Y’s partners are probably safe too. Sadly.”
Unless, of course, the SEC or PCAOB opt to take up that disciplinary slack. Don’t forget that some people think that Cuomo is making this move because he wants the “last scalp” before leaving the AG’s office for the Governor’s mansion. We realize pinning hopes on the SEC and PCAOB isn’t exactly comforting for those wishing to see more action but maybe Cuomo’s actions are the motivation they needed.
We’ll keep you updated throughout the day and if there’s any internal word from the hallowed walls of 5 Times Square, do email us the details.
Shocking development out of Pakistan as an accountant has died from a heart attack after allegations of corruption were brought against him. Judging by the complete omission of anything to the contrary, a predator drone does not appear to be involved in any way shape or form.
An accountant of a school in Pakistan’s Multan city suffered a heart attack and died after the teaching staff levelled corruption allegations against him and the principal.
Ehsan Ghauri, chief accountant of the Multan Public School, died Monday following a heart attack after the teaching staff, during a protest demonstration, charged him and the principal with corruption, Dawn reported Tuesday.
Finally some good news for KB Home.
The homebuilder said the Securities and Exchange Commission has concluded its investigation into the company’s accounting and disclosures and does not plan to recommend any enforcement action. The letter from the regulator concludes the SEC’s investigation, which began in October 2009.
“We are pleased to announce that the SEC has concluded its investigation,” said Jeffrey Mezger, president and chief executive officer of KB Home, in a statement.
There are no details about the nature of the allegations.
Same was true in October 2009 when the company first announced in its quarterly report that the staff of the SEC notified the company that a formal order of investigation had been issued regarding possible accounting and disclosure issues. At the time, it stressed that the probe should not be construed as an indication by the SEC that there has been any violation of the federal securities laws.
And this is exactly how it turned out.
What were the allegations? What prompted the SEC to look into the matter? Was it a disgruntled whistle-blower?
The answers would be instructive to other companies that could wind up as targets of SEC probes. Guess we’ll never know.
The good news here is that the SEC informed the company that the investigation was closed. Sounds basic, right?
Believe it or not until a few years ago the regulator did not often communicate to companies under investigation that the probe was completed and that no further action would be taken, leaving the company hanging and suspicion hovering for all potential customers and investors to speculate.
Their attitude at the time was that as a policy, the Commission does not disclose the existence of an investigation in the first place, so it typically won’t announce that one has ended.
KB Home, however, is no stranger to controversy.
The company was embroiled in the options backdating scandal. In April, former chief executive officer Bruce Karatz was convicted by a federal jury of four felony counts, including two counts of mail fraud, one count of lying to company accountants and one count of making false statements in reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was acquitted on 16 other charges.
In September 2008, Karatz agreed to pay $7.2 million to settle civil charges for his role in the stock-option backdating scheme that benefitted himself and other KB Home officers and employees.
Last November, a Texas homeowner filed a class-action lawsuit today against KB Home, Countrywide Financial and LandSafe Appraisal Services, claiming the three conspired to rig housing prices in Texas and Colorado, costing home purchasers millions of dollars and pushing homeowners into dangerous loans.
Earlier, a lawsuit filed against the same parties alleged they fraudulently inflated sales prices of KB homes in Arizona and Nevada.
But that’s exactly what they got! The pro-Israel nonprofit Z Street filed suit against IRS Commish Doug Shulman because Z Street and other “pro-Israel groups whose policies conflict with that of the [Obama] administration,” are getting the stinkeye from the IRS.
From Zulu Avenue’s complaint:
The case is brought because, through its corporate counsel, Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” These statements by an IRS official that the IRS maintains special policies (hereinafter the “Israel Special Policy”) governing applications for tax-exempt status by organizations which deal with Israel, and which requires particularly intense scrutiny of such applications and an enhanced risk of denial if made by organizations which espouse or support positions inconsistent with the Obama administration’s Israel policies, constitute an explicit admission of the crudest form of viewpoint discrimination, and one which is both totally un-American and flatly unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
Pro-Israel group claims IRS persecution [Politico]
“We thought it was important for people to appreciate that the announcement today has nothing to do with the operational performance of the company, it is all about Mark’s behavior and judgment.”
~ HP Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak, who is now interim CEO after an abrupt resignation by Mark Hurd amid sexual harassment allegations.
Unless you were born blind and deaf, you may have noticed that South Florida has its share of shady characters. We all know that Berns Madoff frequented the area. Plus there’s the obsessively dapper Lew Freeman, who was Miami’s go-to forensic accountant until he thought he’d just keep his client’s money.
Another model citizen/criminal in FLA is Scott Rothstein. His Ponzi Scheme managed to bring in just over $1 billion and he got 50 years for his trouble. But now the fallout from Rothstein’s little stunt is now raining hell on Miami accounting firm Berenfeld Spritzer Schechter & Sheer.
The trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler has accused Berenfeld, et al. of funneling $450 million to Rothstein.
As you can imagine, the crew over at BSS&S aren’t thrilled with the accusations and called the suit, “inaccurate and flawed,” and claim that they “conducted [our] duties professionally, conscientiously and in good faith.”
Well, the trustee obviously doesn’t see things that way and laid out several allegations, specifically, the following:
• Berenfeld improperly adjusted RRA’s income by $20 million in 2007 and by $75 million in 2008.
• Berenfeld withheld information from RRA President Stuart Rosenfeldt (who has claimed he had no knowledge of firm finances and couldn’t read a balance sheet).
• Berenfeld prepared tax returns in a way that did not distinguish between RRA operating cash and client trust funds, giving the misimpression that RRA had more available cash than it actually owned.
• Berenfeld did not pursue information about bookkeeping after RRA staff – including CFO Irene Stay and COO Debra Villegas – denied access to information about bank statements, fee income and trust accounts.
• Berenfeld “knew of wildly inaccurate RRA bookkeeping and inadequate accounting personnel evidenced by the way in which books and records were created and maintained, leading to extraordinary adjustments, tantamount to rewriting the books and records of RRA.”
• Berenfeld provided a “nebulous” letter to Rothstein to help cover up $15 million in suspicious transactions in response to an anti-money laundering compliance inquiry from Gibraltar Bank.
Now, we’ve heard that law firms aren’t the best when it comes to running their businesses, but ‘wildly inaccurate bookkeeping and inadequate accounting personnel’ that leads to ‘extraordinary adjustments, tantamount to rewriting the books,’ takes things to a whole new level. Berenfeld employee
TerryTracy Weintraub gets special attention in the suit, so we can presume he’s the one responsible for knowing – and not being too concerned – about RRA’s exceptionally shitty books. Oops!
Last time we saw Congressman Anthony Weiner, he was attempting to discuss the IRS’ role in the enforcement of healthcare with spin-hater Bill O’Reilly. While that particular encounter was quite fun (especially Weiner’s huffing and O’Reilly’s eye-rolling) the video of the Congressman’s recent appearance on Fox Business News is quite good.
But what we’d really like to see him have a conversation with Barry Minkow about how that Barry thinks the Congressman’s report on Goldline International is unmitigated bullshit:
Friend of GC, Tracy Coenen participated in the Minkow’s investigation and she presents the findings over at Fraud Files Blog. Here’s a sample:
• Allegation: Weiner criticizes Goldline because of complaints on the website Ripoff Report lodged by consumers who say Goldline representatives improperly hold themselves out as investment advisors.
• What Weiner didn’t tell you: Ripoff Report says (in response to the consumer complaints) that you can feel completely confident doing business with Goldline. Weiner gave us only half of the story in his report.
Allegation: Goldline grossly overcharges for its products
What Weiner didn’t tell you: Our sampling of coins listed in the Weiner report showed that Goldline’s prices were very comparable to those of six competitors. He also forgot to mention that companies are free to set whatever prices they like for their products.
Allegation: Goldline says they’ll buy back your gold and silver, but doesn’t “guarantee” that
What Weiner didn’t tell you: It is against the law for Goldline to offer a buyback guarantee. If they offered such a guarantee, they would be in violation of securities laws because their salespeople are not licensed broker dealers.
Regardless of how you feel about Glenn Beck, gold coins, or Anthony Weiner’s Fox News-esque ability for interrupting, it kinda sorta sounds like the Congressman’s investigators don’t know a non-fraud when they see one. Besides, we’ll take the word of a convicted-felon-turned-fraud-buster over any report that comes out of Congress. Especially in an election year.
A message left with Congressman Weiner’s spokesperson was not immediately returned.
Goldline International: An In-Depth Look at Congressman Weiner’s Allegations, And How He Got It Wrong [FDI]
Barry Minkow debunks the Glenn Beck and Goldline International fraud connection [Fraud Files Blog]
Weiner Takes on Goldline and Fox Business — At The Same Time [Weiner.house.gov]
What the hell is gonna to take for a celebrity to get an honest money manager around these parts?
The SEC has frozen his assets alleging that Starr “made unauthorized transfers of money in client accounts that ultimately wound up in Starr’s personal accounts.” But it was for a good reason – the man needs roof over his head, according to the complaint “Starr and his companies transferred $7 million from the accounts of three clients between April 13 and April 16, 2010, without any authorization. The transferred funds were ultimately used to purchase a $7.6 million apartment on the Upper East Side in Manhattan on April 16.”
Former New York City Council President Andrew Stein was also named in the complaint, and “is charged with lying to the IRS and federal agents about his involvement with Wind River.” Wind River being a company that Starr allegedly syphoned money to, that Stein used for personal expenses. However we’re mostly shocked to learn that Stein briefly dated Ann Coulter – shudder.
Financial whiz busted for duping celebs clients Wesley Snipes, Martin Scorsese in $30M Ponzi scheme [NYDN]
Celebrity Investment Adviser Charged With Ponzi Scheme [Gawker]
SEC Files Emergency Charges Against New York-Based Financial Advisor for Defrauding Clients [SEC Press Release]
Can We Trust Bidz.com’s Financial Reporting? [White Collar Fraud]
We won’t tell you what to think but you should know that Bidz reported “material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting” specifically those controls over “management oversight and anti-fraud controls specifically in processing of financial transactions, vendor review and payment processing,” in its most recent 10-K and