Accounting News Roundup: Ernst & Young Settles with HealthSouth Bondholders; SEC Accountant Tried to Access Porn 16,000 Times in a Month; The Best Accounting Rules Won’t Fix Everything | 04.23.10
UBS to Pay $217 Million to Settle HealthSouth Case [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
After the better part of a decade, Ernst & Young has finally settled with the bondholders of inpatient service provider HealthSouth. Bloomberg is reporting that the firm agreed to pay the Company’s bondholders $33.5 million after settling with shareholders last year for $109 million. HealthSouths’ investment bank, UBS settled with shareholders and bondholders for $117 million and $100 million respectively.
The $2.7 billion fraud resulted in guilty pleas from 15 executives, including five former CFOs but an acquittal of CEO Richard Scrushy. Scrushy managed to wind up in prison on bribery charges instead and is currently serving 6 years and 10 months. As is typical in these matters, both UBS and E&Y ponied up yet denied any wrongdoing.
GOP ramps up attacks on SEC over porn surfing [AP]
The official SEC porn report has been leaked and some interesting things that are new include:
• One guy had so much porn on his computer that he had to bring in CDs and DVDs to help expand the collection. He thought it wise to keep these at the office.
• “An accountant” was blocked from accessing sites 16,000 times yet still amassed a “collection of ‘very graphic’ material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter.” He refused to ” testify in his defense” and was suspended for fourteen days.
• Seventeen employees were “at a senior level” with the highest salary reported over $222k.
Darrell Issa (R-CA) is not amused by this porn bonanza, saying, “[it is] disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse,” according to the AP. Based on this response, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Issa ensnarled in a porn scandal of his own before this year’s election.
Best accounting rules are not enough [FT]
A reader responded to the epic article published by the Financial Times, raising the notion that “one set of high quality accounting standards” will not solve the world’s problems.
Those who prepare and use accounts very often have a different perspective on accounting questions from accountants as such, whether or not they have had an accounting qualification in the past…
[T]he report on Lehman explicitly did not address the question of accounting arbitrage. This was because Lehman used an accounting rule to disguise from the markets the weaknesses in the balance sheet in a way which, as the examiner reported, was invalid even if the rule itself was completely valid in all jurisdictions.
This points to the fact that the best accounting rules possible are not enough – the financial reporting chain has other links: corporate governance, auditing and regulation.
Quote of the Day: From ‘Rockstar’ CFO to Mowing Lawns | 04.12.10
“Before the fraud broke, people would ask me what I did before I retired and I’d say I was founder and former CFO of HealthSouth. But today when people ask me what I did before I retired I kind of look away and say I was an accountant and hope they don’t ask me any other questions.”
~ Aaron Beam, former CFO of HealthSouth and current lawn-care business owner, at the University of Texas-Dallas Fraud Summit, earlier this month.
‘Hannibal’ Scrushy is Accused of Hiding Assets
Because the entire blogosphere/media is still suffering from a serious 4th of July cocktail flu, we’ll jump back on HealthSouth briefly.
Richard Scrushy, whom former CFO Aaron Beam said he would take over Hannibal Lecter (uncanny resemblance) in a fight, has been accused of HealthSouth Corp of hiding assets in order to avoid paying down some of the $2.8-odd billion that he was ordered to pay to the company after the civil proceeding.
HealthSouth says that Scrushy has $600 million in offshore accounts plus real estate in other people’s names that should be turned over. Scrushy, who we understand is held behind glass, did not comment other than that he def recommends Chianti with liver.
HealthSouth accuses Scrushy of hiding assets [AP via Miami Herald]
CFO Confession: HealthSouth Edition
It might be a fair statement that we like to talk a little trash here at Going Concern. We do our best to embrace our natural inclination. However, every once in awhile we try to spread some positive news.
Today’s attempt at a positive story comes courtesy of Aaron Beam, a former CFO at HealthSouth. Beam was CFO at HealthSouth when the fraud first began in 1996. Beam describes his decision to make the numbers up this way, “one night, during the second quarter of ’96, I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and we credited revenue that did not exist and we debited assets that did not exist.”
Not exactly the most sophisticated fraud in the world but whatevs. The Street and Richard Scrushy demanded results.
And so it went, until Beam left in 1997. HealthSouth continued to commit accounting fraud until 2002 when it imploded. Beam testified against
“Hannibal Lecter” Scrushy but the slimeball walked on the criminal charges only to be found liable for damages to the tidy sum of a shade under $2.9 Billion.
As for Beam, he spent 3 months in a non-FPMITA prison and now speaks to business students around the country about ethics and has a lawn-service business.
I’m trying to turn a big negative into a positive, because there is such a need for ethics in the business world today, and I’m in a unique position to talk about it. If we can teach college students that they’re going to face these kinds of temptations every day in the business world, we can make a difference.
WTG man, and hey, we’re being serious.
“I Should Have Said No.” [CFO.com]