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.
Fox Business Network’s ace news-breaker Charlie Gasparino reports that Citigroup’s management team, including CEO Vikram Pandit and CFO John Gerspach will not meet with CLSA banking analyst Mike Mayo since he’s been telling investors that the big C should be writing down their $50 billion in deferred tax assets.
Carlito reports that Mayo states that this refusal to write down the DTAs amounts to “cooking the books by inflating its earnings through an accounting gimmick.”
Simple question from Mayo via CG, “I’d like to know why all my competitors get meetings with Pandit and the key people there and I don’t.” It’s not like the guy is one of the top banking analysts in the entire world. It’s not like Citigroup has a solid track record of transparent financial reporting. Or did everyone forget that C has the U.S. Treasury as its backstop?
The KPMG audit team can weigh in on this at any time. Or just email us the details.
The Diebold CFO, controller and Director of Corporate Accounting had a fairly standard routine back from 2002 to 2007 – 1) get daily “flash reports” 2) look at BS estimates that analysts came up with 3) cook up some ideas for meeting those estimates 4) make up the numbers.
Pretty standard stuff, especially if you buy the idea that “legally cooking the books is a critical skill for attracting investors.”
The SEC presented the accounting hocus-pocus earlier today:
The SEC alleges that Diebold’s financial management received “flash reports” — sometimes on a daily basis — comparing the company’s actual earnings to analyst earnings forecasts. Diebold’s financial management prepared “opportunity lists” of ways to close the gap between the company’s actual financial results and analyst forecasts. Many of the opportunities on these lists were fraudulent accounting transactions designed to improperly recognize revenue or otherwise inflate Diebold’s financial performance.
Among the fraudulent accounting practices used to inflate earnings and meet forecasts were:
• Improper use of “bill and hold” accounting.
• Recognition of revenue on a lease agreement subject to a side buy-back agreement.
• Manipulating reserves and accruals.
• Improperly delaying and capitalizing expenses.
• Writing up the value of used inventory.
Gotta give yourself some options, amiright? Can’t just simply rely on channel stuffing!
But in all seriousness, if you’re a top financial executive at a company and part of your daily routine is finding ways to increase profitability through accounting manipulation, at some point you’d have to think to yourself, “This is one shitty business we’re running.”
That accountant is Ren Carlton, CPA, CSMC and “native Michigander.” Although Ren is hesitant to broach the subject because, “this information can be abused to defraud investors and cheat on taxes.” Who knew?!?
Despite that caveat, Ren has decided that sharing this information is too critical to be kept to himself, “I have decided that lega s is a critical skill for attracting investors and lenders, as well as satisfying the occasional customer or vendor requests.”
Okay then! So if we understand correctly, the rationale here is that cooking the books is sort of like drinking alcohol. In moderation, it’s fine and sometimes even the right thing to do but if you abuse it, you start making an ass out of yourself and probably some bad decisions that could lead to, ya know, jail.
But wait, do you really even know what “cook the books” means? You may be under the cockamamie notion that it’s a bad thing. Well, it’s not and Ren explains it for us:
Cooking the books (also known as creative accounting and earnings management) are euphemisms referring to accounting practices that may follow the letter of the rules of standard accounting practices, but certainly deviate from the spirit of those rules. They are characterized by excessive complication and the use of novel ways of characterizing income, assets, or liabilities and the intent to influence readers toward the interpretations desired by the authors. The terms “innovative” or “aggressive” are also sometimes used.
See? Cooking the books just doesn’t follow the “spirit of those rules,” it’s not breaking the rules. Strangely enough, Ren’s definition is strangely similar to this Wikipedia entry for creative accounting:
Creative accounting and earnings management are euphemisms referring to accounting practices that may follow the letter of the rules of standard accounting practices, but certainly deviate from the spirit of those rules. They are characterized by excessive complication and the use of novel ways of characterizing income, assets, or liabilities and the intent to influence readers towards the interpretations desired by the authors. The terms “innovative” or “aggressive” are also sometimes used.
Cooking the books, creative accounting – they’re the same right? Close enough, anyway. Now that the semantics are out of the way, what other words of wisdom can we get from Ren? How about an example of acceptable book cooking? Say, revenue recognition:
One example of cooking the books is acceleration of revenue recognition. This tactic is used to recognize revenue before it is considered earned by GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Methods for accelerating revenue include recognizing sales that are not yet earned or complete. Another method is to book sales that are actually earned in another period (e.g., recognizing January 2011 sales on your 2010 income statement). Flagrant abuse of the Revenue Recognition Principle includes backdating sales and fabricating fictitious sales.
How are you going to impress that bank with your revenue numbers if you ram in some revenue from a future period? What if you need another investor to help you reach the next stage of your business? It’s your God-given right to present them with phony numbers in order to get them on board. This is America, people. Don’t let the spirit of GAAP hold you back!