Lawsuits

A Muslim Working in Arkansas. You Know Where This Is Going

A former Deloitte Consulting employee has filed suit against the firm and Wal Mart claiming that, “his civil rights were violated when he was fired for exercising his religious right to pray and clean himself beforehand in a ritual known as [Wudu]”
After the jump, Hairballs (yes) has the story.

According to the lawsuit, Deloitte assigned Memon to a consulting project at Wal-Mart’s corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas in November 2007. Memon claims he would wash up in the restroom before going to pray in an area designated by Wal-Mart, such as the parking lot or in a hallway. The whole process took about five minutes or so.
…the lawsuit states, Wal-Mart employees began to get upset with Memon for using the bathroom to sprinkle water on himself and Memon was told not to perform the “Wazu.”…Memon’s boss at Deloitte suggested that Memon pray at the hotel. However, this was not practical because it meant driving more than half an hour for each prayer instead of just taking a short five-minute break.
It didn’t take long until Memon was then taken off the Wal-Mart project. He claims that a Deloitte project manager told him that other colleagues would also be removed from the job, but in the end he was the only one.
According to the lawsuit, the project manager told Memon that, “Americans do not deal with Islamic practices and clients particularly in the South do not understand these religious practices.” The manager also allegedly said that Memon “is putting himself at risk” by practicing his religion. Deloitte then fired Memon, citing “poor performance,” the lawsuit states.

Having never been to Arkansas, we can’t really give any first hand account on the populace’s tolerance for, well, anything but we do know a few people that went to school in Arkansas and they are very nice, tolerant people.
Since Hairballs wasn’t interested in Deloitte’s statement, we went ahead and got it:

“The allegations in this case are false and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously. Deloitte is deeply committed to all aspects of workplace diversity and inclusion, including expression of religious beliefs, and is proud to be regularly recognized as a leader in this area.”

Based on the Green Dot’s statement, we’re assuming Mr. Memon was let go for performance reasons, which as you all know, are subject to change at any time.
Wal-Mart And An Accounting Firm Fire A Muslim For Praying, Suit Says [Hairballs]

Grant Thornton to Tango with E&Y at Dismissal Party

grant-thornton-logo-with-rose.jpgActually we’re not sure but it would be pretty awesome if they did. A judge in New York has dismissed the case against GT, E&Y, and law firm Mayer Brown that was filed by customers of Refco’s currency trading-unit.
More, after the jump


There may still be a problem, according to Bloomberg:

[Judge] Lynch dismissed the case against Refco’s auditor Grant Thornton, outside counsel Mayer Brown and tax adviser Ernst & Young because the trustee who sued failed to allege enough facts in his complaint to show the defendants aided the Refco fraud. He said the trustee may file a new complaint.

So if you’re feeling it you can put on “Por Una Cabeza” but we think that GT and E&Y will probably get cut off mid-dip.
Grant Thornton, Ernst Win Dismissal in RefcoFX Suit [Bloomberg]

PwC Canada Wants Everyone to Know That They Didn’t Audit Bernie Madoff’s Funds

pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgWith all the D talk out there re: anything Madoff, and most recently possible hotboxing and manscaping we’d hoped that maybe this whole story had taken a turn towards smut for good. Alas, we find ourselves back to a litigious story, this time it’s P. Dubs of the Canadian variety that are getting their asses sued:
More, after the jump

The Canadian arm of PwC has been named in seven separate lawsuits claiming as much as $2bn in damages for investors who lost almost everything in the largest fraud in history…PwC Canada has been accused of negligence for failing to spot that Fairfield Sentry’s $7.2bn of assets simply did not exist. The firm signed off accounts in 2007 that stated 97.3pc of Fairfield Sentry’s assets were held in short-term US treasury bills – an asset class that should be safer than cash.

PwC, obviously quite aware that a sex scandal wrapped inside a financial scandal may confuse anyone that is both distracted by sex and financially illiterate, issued this statement:

“PwC Canada provided auditing services to the Fairfield Sentry fund, but was not the auditor for Bernard Madoff Investments where the alleged fraud occurred. PwC Canada’s auditing of the fund’s financial statements fully complied with professional standards.”

Now, to some, this may seem unness for P. Dubs to explain that they didn’t audit Bernie’s funds since this never would have gotten past any reputable firm. However, since we now have a sex scandal mixed with the biggest financial scandal ever, involving thousands of duped investors, PwC decided to err on the side of caution.
Madoff victims to sue accountants PwC over feeder fund audits [Telegraph]

Deloitte Settles American Homes Lawsuit

Barry Salzberg.jpgDeloitte becomes the first accounting firm, to our knowledge, to settle a sub-prime lawsuit by burying the hatchet with American Home Mortgage Corporation.
The total settlement was for $37.5 million of which Deloitte’s share was $4.75 million. We’re guessing that Barry Salzberg wasted more money on Rogaine last year.
We should mention that Deloitte and their fellow defendants decided to settle prior to the judge hearing their motions to dismiss the case. We thought this was a little strange so we decided to consult with some experts.
Their take was that the settlement seemed a little premature but made the points that 1) It’s often cheaper to settle early and B) if your company’s name is associated anything “sub-prime” you’re more or less responsible for the whole damn financial crisis.
Another Significant Subprime-Related Securities Lawsuit Settlement [The D&O Diary]

McGladrey & Pullen Sued for Helping Bad Guys

fraud.jpgMark this suit in the “Accountants are Crooked” column as opposed to the “Accountants are Stupid” column.
McGladrey & Pullen, its predecessor auditor, and the partner on the audit engagement, G. Victor Johnson, are being sued by the Sentinel Management Group Trustee for being a knowing participant in the fraud put on by Sentinel who collapsed in 2007.
More, after the jump


M&P is accused of “knowingly and substantially assisted and participated in the fraud by [Sentinel], and as a result, committed and are liable for fraud themselves.”
Many suits against accounting firms accuse negligence related to technical mistakes that were made so we’re impressed see a lawyer say “To hell with it, these guys are crooks, I’m taking them down like Arthur Andersen.”
On a more personal level, between this suit and the messy divorce with RSM McGladrey, we’re expecting to M&P to have the CPA firm equivalent of a nervous breakdown any day now. Feel free to speculate as to what that might actually be.
Collapsed Financial Company’s Trustee Claims Accountants Knew About Fraud [Chicago Bar-Tender]

Arlen Specter Not Pandering to the Bean Counter Vote

Arlen_Specter_official_portrait.jpgArlen Specter is many things. Senator. Cancer survivor. Some might say, turncoat. And since he is a newly minted Democrat, Specter is expected to prove his political stripes.
Well, Specter has decided that the best way to earn those stripes is to embrace the recent investor outrage and introduce legislation that will allow investors to sue accountants, lawyers, and investment banks, that provide, what Specter calls “substantial assistance” in a fraud.
More, after the jump


According to Bloomberg:

Shareholders are barred from suing parties that have only an indirect role in a fraud after Supreme Court decisions that limited liability to those directly and publicly involved in the scheme.The Specter measure would upend rulings in Stoneridge Investment Partners LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc. of 2008 and Central Bank of Denver v. First Interstate Bank of Denver. Prior to the rulings, investor lawsuits against fraud accomplices were common, Langevoort said. The 1994 Central Bank decision was a “major gift” to individuals and corporations that aided in a fraud

The Refco scandal is right at the heart of this debate as attorneys, auditors, and investment bankers were all misled by Philip Bennet, Refco’s then-CEO. Suits against PwC, Grant Thornton, KPMG, and E&Y were dismissed back in April along with suits against several investment banks. Refco’s outside counsel Joseph Collins of Mayer Brown is currently involved in a lawsuit that is being reviewed by the SEC.
We’re all for making accountants responsible when they screw the pooch but if clients just flat out lie and go way the hell out of their way cover those lies up, there’s very little that can be done.
And if there’s one thing that keeps Big 5 4 partners up at night it’s the threat of litigation. The premise that this legislation would increase that litigious exposure is, at the very least, disconcerting to partners.
Specter Law Would Let Investors Sue Fraud Accomplices [Bloomberg]

UK Court Decides it Will Leave the Major Lawsuits to the Americans

Big 4 firms dodge a bullet in the UK as the highest court dismissed a negligence lawsuit against an accounting firm that failed to detect fraud that brought down a trading company. The ruling will significantly limit the firms’ liability in cases “where a determined criminal drives a company to financial ruin”.
Doesn’t make sense to us, since if you can’t make auditors accountable, who the hell is accountable? Hey, whatevs, we’re sure the Big 4 and other accounting firms won’t be celebrating long anyway, since a ruling like this won’t happen in the States, which is where the serious money gets handed over.
Auditors win ruling over Madoff-style frauds [FT.com]

California Overtime Lawsuits Update

This is our initial coverage of the overtime lawsuits against some of the major accounting firms doing business in California. For those of you not up to speed, these suits were filed by non-licensed associates who believe they were misclassified under California law as exempt professionals and are due overtime and other benefits due to non-exempt employees.

The suits are all in various stages but the key case that may determine how the other cases will proceed is Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Campbell is currently awaiting argument before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The primary issue before the court has to do with whether or not, under the professional exemption, an associate is required to be licensed by the state of California in order to qualify for exempt status. Counsel for Campbell essentially argues that only licensed or certified accountants can qualify for exempt status in California while PwC argues that uncertified accountants who can qualify as “learned professionals” are exempt employees and thus not eligible for overtime pay.


The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment on liability in favor of Plaintiff Campbell and ruled that attest associates must have a license in order to be exempt. The court further held that they may not qualify for exempt status under the “learned professional” section of the exemption. However because the trial court felt it was a close question, it certified the matter to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for interlocutory appeal.

According to Bill Kershaw, of Kershaw, Cutter, Ratinoff LLP, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the ruling in this matter could have significant repercussions for other remaining wage and overtime lawsuits. Mr. Kershaw believes that if 9th Circuit does rule in the favor of the plaintiffs, then the likelihood of the case resolving itself prior to trial would substantially increase.

If the court of appeals rules that learned professionals can be defined as exempt, PwC (and likely the other defendant accounting firms) will center their argument back in the trial court on the appeals court’s ruling that unlicensed accountants are indeed “learned professionals.”

We contacted Dave Nestor, Head of Communications for PwC in the U.S. and he provided us with the Firm’s statement:

PwC believes that its attest associates are professionals who spend the majority of their time engaged in challenging work requiring the use of their intellectual abilities, judgment and discretion. Based on these and other factors, PwC’s attest associates are properly considered exempt under applicable law, and are therefore appropriately compensated.

We’ve provided a list below of all the cases against accounting firms currently in the courts in California for your information. Check the list for your firm and please remember that it is your right to participate in any of the class action lawsuits if you meet the criteria set forth in the case. Even if you are still employed by the firm being sued, they cannot retaliate against you.
Likewise, you can participate in the case on behalf of the defendants if you are approached and choose to do so. You also have the right to not participate at all if you so choose.

If you receive any correspondence from your firm regarding the overtime and wage lawsuits, please let us know using tips@goingconcern.com. We’ll always keep you anonymous.

We’ll be covering this story as it progresses and continue to check back here for periodic updates.

List of OT Accounting Cases.pdf

Ernst & Young Found to be ‘Marginally Negligent’ in Superior Bank Case, Will Pay Plaintiff $10M

Color us surprised:

A Broward County jury on Wednesday dealt a small blow to Ernst & Young in a negligence and fraud lawsuit, deciding that the accounting giant was only marginally negligent for a local businessman’s losses in connection with the demise of Superior Bank in 2001.

UPDATE, 7:00 pm EST, E&Y Statement: We believe we should have prevailed and will seek appropriate relief from the courts.
Ernst & Young to pay $10M in Superior Bank lawsuit [Triangle Business Journal]

Big 4 Firms Will Probably Have to Cut Some Checks

Since BDO International Global Coordination was able to dodge the bullet in the Banco Espirito case, litigation against the Big 4 has been pretty quiet. Oh sure, you could bring up Schein v. E&Y but the money at stake isn’t that big and Schein is claiming Oliver Stone-type conspiracy theory so we’re hesitant to get too worked up about it.
However, if you’re craving bean counter courtroom drama it won’t be long until you’re up to your ass in Jack McCoy-types screaming about how crooked accountants are.
According to research firm, Audit Analytics, there are eight firms at risk for potential lawsuits related to King Ponzi alone along with six other potential lawsuits related to the financial clusterfuck.
Audit Analytics also was kind enough to pull together some data on who’s winning the race to pay out the most settlement. The top 50 malpractice suits against the Big 4 since 1999 break down like this, per Compliance Week:
1. E&Y – $1.92 billion
2. KPMG – $1.42 billion
3. PwC – $1.27 billion
4. Deloitte – $1.24 billion
Don’t expect the trend of the firms handing over asstons of cash to end anytime soon as settling these cases out of court seems to be best way for the firms to extend their seemingly shortening lives.

Review Comments | 07.20.09

ernst_young.jpgLawyer: Ernst auditing helped sink Hinsdale’s Superior Bank – Plaintiff Alan Schein is still claiming conspiracy on E&Y’s part. [Daily Herald]
Securities Lawsuits Plummet in 2009 – Because they’ve all been filed already [CFO.com]
Stanford case spreads its tendrils – For a Ponz that simply offered CD’s with out of this world interest rates, the international law and jurisdictional aspects will turn your head in knots. [FT.com]
TD Ameritrade Settles Securities Case – “TD Ameritrade Inc. agreed to buy back $456 million of auction-rate securities from its clients as part of a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Pennsylvania securities regulators.” [WSJ]

Funny homeless guy sign

You Know That Guy Who Panhandles on Your Block? He May Be a CPA.

Anybody out there looking to help their fellow CPA, who’s down on his luck?
The Wall St. Journal is reporting that the former BDO Seidman LLP CEO, Denis Field may have to pay back a portion of $180 million that is being sought by prosecutors in the tax shelter case that involves Field and six others.
Natch, everybody has denied wrongdoing. The charges include conspiracy and tax evasion. Good luck with that.

Prosecutors Seek Ex-BDO Seidman CEO, 6 Others To Forfeit $180M
[WSJ]

BDO

Jeremy Newman Just Wants to Be Clear, We are NOT Declaring Victory Over Banco Espirito…YET

BDO_International.pngAfter throwing an all night rager last week when BDO International Global Coordination skated on the $521M verdict, Jeremy Newman, BDO Boss, wants everybody to chill.

Newman said he had always been confident that BDO International’s arms-length approach would be proved but added: ‘There is still the risk of a further appeal, as well as the appeal by the US firm.’

See? Staying cool. Not out of the woods yet. But when we beat those bastards on appeal, then we are getting down.

Newman stays cool after BDO victory
[Accountancy Age]