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In the wake of Roddy Boyd’s epic post from March 11th, China MediaExpress announced some bad news today – Deloitte resigned as their auditor effective Friday and as a result the company’s CFO, Jacky Lam, quit yesterday:
China’s largest television advertising operator on inter-city and airport express buses, today announced that the Company’s registered independent accounting firm, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (“DTT”) has formally resigned its engagement by the Company as of March 11, 2011. Following the receipt of the DTT resignation letter, on March 13, 2011, the Company received notice of the resignation of Jacky Lam from his position as Chief Financial Officer and director of the Company, effective immediately. As a result, CME will delay its fourth quarter earnings release and will not file its Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010 by March 16, 2011, its original due date.
As you might have already guessed, Deloitte got spooked after all the fraud talk and they also came to the conclusion that management couldn’t be trusted (even if he did say great things about them):
The DTT resignation letter stated that DTT was no longer able to rely on the representations of management, and recommended that certain issues encountered during the audit be addressed by an independent investigation. DTT’s letter also stated that these issues may have adverse implications for the prior periods’ financial reports and that, in their view, further investigatory procedures would be required to determine whether the prior periods’ financial reports are reliable. Upon receipt of the formal DTT resignation letter, the Company requested the suspension of trading in the Company’s common stock on the NASDAQ Global Market to permit full disclosure of DTT’s resignation to be disseminated to the public.
So the company now needs a new auditor and a new CFO. Of course you’ll have to work around forensic accountants and a bunch of lawyers that will be helping the company through this little hiccough but otherwise, this should be a snap.
Apparently ‘The Purpose of Auditors Is Completely, Entirely, and Wholly’ to Look for Fraud and ‘Deloitte is the best. Period. End of Statement.’
Remember China MediaExpress? That’s the company whose CEO – Zheng Cheng – responded to the accusations of fraud by evoking ‘reputable and well-known’ Deloitte to get the haters off their back. Even though the company is still taking heat, Mr Cheng will be happy to know that he’s got someone in his corner: Glen Bradford, CEO of ARM Holdings LLC, a Hedge Fund Advisory Company. The thing is, Mr Bradford seems a little confused about what an auditor’s purpose is (for fun, I added some emphasis):
I have received tons of messages that can be summarized by the belief that auditors do not look for fraud and that all they do is make sure things line up in the reports. I can say that this is not true simply by being practical. If we didn’t have auditors to verify the claims that companies make, then companies could claim whatever they want to. The purpose of auditors is completely, entirely, and wholly to look for indications of fraudulant activity — and to do their best to remove all possible doubt that the company is misrepresenting itself on its financial statements.
You can make of that what you will but then Glen continues:
Then, if things are OK, they sign off on them. Some auditors are better than others. Deloitte is the best. Period. End of Statement.
Well then! I’m sure Deloitte appreciates the ringing endorsement regardless if it comes from someone who is under the impression that “The purpose of auditors is completely, entirely, and wholly to look for indications of fraudulant activity.” At the very least, this is debatable point, so if you have a difference of opinion with anything above, feel free to share below.
China MediaExpress Holdings: All Eyes on Deloitte [Seeking Alpha]
Maybe color blindness is the reason everyone misses the “red flags.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a supplier of body armor to the U.S. military for engaging in what it called “massive accounting fraud.”
The SEC alleges that DBH Industries, now known as Point Blank Solutions Inc. (PBSOQ), “engaged in pervasive accounting and disclosure fraud through its senior officers and misappropriated company assets to personally benefit” its former chief executive, David Brooks.
The regulator also charged outside directors Jerome Krantz, Cary Chasin and Gary Nadelman for their parts in the scheme, saying they were “willfully blind to numerous red flags” signaling the fraud.”
“As the fraud swirled around them, Krantz, Chasin, and Nadelman ignored the obvious and submitted to the directives and decisions of DHB’s senior management while themselves profiting from sales of the company’s securities,” said Eric Bustillo, director at the SEC’s Miami office.
China MediaExpress CEO Responds to Fraud Allegations by Falling Back on ‘Reputable and Well-Known Auditors’
For anyone out there concerned about Chinese companies who have less-than solid accounting practices, you can rest easy, as Gary Weiss reported in his TheStreet.com column yesterday:
All you have to do is believe in the infallibility of Big Four auditors!
Responding to allegations that the company is a “fraud and reported revenue is exaggerated by tens of millions of dollars,” China Media’s CEO Zheng Cheng said in a letter to shareholders: “The company is strong and doing well. Its revenues and cash position have been audited by reputable and well-known auditors who have confirmed both.” [Emphasis is GW’s.]
With China Small-Caps, It’s Shorts vs. Auditors [The Street]
Universal Travel Group, Who Appears to Be ‘Partially a Fraud,’ Has Gone Through a Shocking Number of Auditors, CFOs
Yesterday, Henry Blodget wrote about Universal Travel Group’s auditor – Goldman Kurland Mohidin, LLP – quitting two weeks after Bronte Capital’s John Hempton issued a re ss explained that the whole damn company was a fraud.
This, of course, resulted in a reactionary measure by UTA, who denied all the allegations immediately and announced that they were looking to sue Hempton because, seriously, who likes getting their feelings hurt?
So that’s the backstory. A little bird suggested to us that maybe we should look into the company’s past to see just how many auditors they’ve burned through and maybe check out how many CFOs they’ve gone through also. WELL!
First we went back to the 10-K filed on March 31, 2008 and discovered that on June 23, 2006, the company dismissed Moore & Associates, Chartered:
On June 23, 2006, we dismissed the firm of Moore & Associates, Chartered (“Former Auditor”), which had served as our independent auditor until that date. The Former Auditor was our auditor prior to the acquisition of control of our Company by Xiao Jun.
On June 23, 2006, we retained Morgenstern, Svoboda & Baer, CPA’s, P.C. to serve as our principal independent accountant.
This seemed to be a pretty good call on UTA’s part since it turned out that Moore & Associates was issuing bogus audit reports. No cause for concern at this point.
The relationship with Morgenstern, Svoboda & Baer appeared to be going on swimmingly but ultimately, for reasons unbeknownst to all, it didn’t work out. MS&B resigned on June 30, 2009 to make way for Acqavella, Chiarelli, Shuster, Berkower & Co., LLP:
On June 30, 2009, our prior independent registered public accounting firm, Morgenstern, Svoboda & Baer CPA (“Morgenstern”) resigned and on the same day, we appointed Acqavella, Chiarelli, Shuster, Berkower & Co., LLP (“ACSB”) as our new independent registered public accounting firm.
Similar to their predecessors, ACSB & Co. was humming along just fine, getting ratified in the recent preliminary proxy statement filing until they were up and fired on September 1st:
On September 1, 2010, our current independent registered public accounting firm, Acqavella, Chiarelli, Shuster, Berkower & Co., LLP (“ACSB”), was dismissed and on the same day, we appointed Goldman Kurland Mohidin (“GKM”) as our new independent registered public accounting firm.
Anyone weirded out yet? Does appointing a new auditor the same day that the previous quit strike anyone as panicky? Maybe that’s just us. Anyway, so GKM spends four weeks on the job until:
On September 29, 2010, we received a letter dated September 28, 2010 from our current independent registered public accounting firm, Goldman Kurland Mohidin, LLP (“GKM”), informing us that they had resigned as our independent registered public accounting firm effective with the commencement of business on September 27, 2010. No reason was given as to the cause for their resignation.
Windes & McClaughry Accountancy Corporation is new auditor and has not quit at the time at the time of this writing. They way things seem to be picking up, however, it could be any minute. So for those of you not counting, that makes five different auditors going back to June 23, 2006. Probably not a record but it certainly puts the auditor musical chairs at Overstock.com to shame.
The CFO situation is less exciting but there’s enough going on that should make any investor run screaming for the hills. Xin Zhang was appointed CFO as of July 12, 2006. After an eternity (by UTA standards anyway), on February 17, 2009, UTA appointed 27 year-old Jing Xie as CFO. Now maybe this Jing is a financial wizard but this seems, at best, fishy.
Xie lasted exactly six months, resigning on August 17th and Yizhao Zhang was appointed to the big chair the same day, again because there was no time to waste.
Yizhao was on quite a roll but then he resigned on August 16th for “personal reasons” (freaked the hell out?) and the company promoted the crafty veteran Xie back to his old position (on an interim basis). This rivals the CFO shuffle that was going on at Lehman.
So quite the riddle. Quite the riddle indeed. Maybe Hempton and Blodget are on to something with this whole “it’s a complete sham” notion. Or maybe UTA is just a bunch of jerks. Theories are welcome at this time.