With apologies to Crazy Eddie's Sam Antar, Andrew Fastow might be the most notorious CFO in the history of financial reporting fiction. Mr. Fastow, as you're probably aware, was the Chief off-balance sheet-SPE web-builder at Enron. In other words, he's one of the guys you should probably be thanking for your jobs. Fastow was released […]
The bright side in all this is…oh, let's face it: when your broker's auditor is in jorts, the situation is hopeless: Peregrine Financial Group's bankruptcy trustee has hired a team of forensic accountants to help figure out what remains at the failed futures brokerage after its CEO's arrest and confession to years of stealing from customers. PricewaterhouseCoopers […]
Gary Gensler, who may or may not be aware that PFGBest's auditor preferred to don jorts at the (home) office, is familiar enough with auditing standards to know there are certain ones that always need to happen: Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler told lawmakers on Wednesday that Peregrine Financial Group's outside auditors should […]
Former Olympus CEO Michael "Go ahead and fuck with me, I'm from Liverpool" Woodford took a big risk blowing the whistle on the $1.5 billion accounting fraud at his old employer. In a show of thanks for finding the booboo, the company promptly fired him. A questionable strategy it seems because Mr. Woodford sued Olympus […]
Joseph Traxler was the CFO of Centennial Mortgage and Funding Inc. in Bloomington. He helped run an $8 million fraud by misleading banks that allowed Centennial to obtain more loans. He also hid defaults and double-funded mortgages from lenders, as well as little check kiting in order to keep the business afloat (rather than enrich […]
There probably aren't too many of them floating around out there, but if you happen to see one, see if you can get a second opinion: The SEC alleges that James Michael Murray raised more than $4.5 million from investors in his various funds including Market Neutral Trading LLC (MNT), a purported hedge fund that claimed […]
James Li and David Chow used to run a shop called Syntax-Brillian Company as the CEO and Chief Procurement Officer respectively. They sold high-def, LCD TVs under the Olevia brand in China. Problem was, they didn’t really sell TVs under the Olevia brand in China. According to the SEC:
[F]rom at least June 2006 through April 2008, Li and Chow engaged in a complex scheme to overstate Syntax’s financial results by publicly reporting significant sales of LCD televisions in China, when in fact the vast majority of these sales never occurred. Li and Chow initially concealed the scheme through the use of fake shipping and sales documents.
Of course, they couldn’t do it alone. They needed a CFO. A CFO who would backdate things when asked and ignore obvious signs of bogus revenue. That man was Wayne Pratt who, from the sounds of it, wasn’t too concerned about ANYTHING:
The SEC alleges that Wayne Pratt, Syntax’s Chief Financial Officer, ignored red flags of improper revenue recognition and participated in preparing backdated documentation that was provided to Syntax’s auditors to support fictitious fiscal 2006 year-end sales. Pratt also ignored indications of impaired assets, agency sales, and potential collectability issues.
So, budding criminals, get on the look out for a guy/gal who is accustomed to shrugging their shoulders and responding “Meh. Whatever.” to your demands. Should work out well for you.
For some people, NASCAR is a big deal. So big that it, like other “sports,” deserves a hall of fame. The location of which is carefully chosen after a competition amongst cities who feel they are best suited to give the legends of the sport an appropriate and worthy grounds which to immortalize their seemingly noteworthy accomplishments. For NASCAR, this city was Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, who operates the Hall of Fame, predicted that the facility would be a monstrous success with 800,00 visitors coming to this shrine of southern boys behind steering wheels in its first year.
Things didn’t really turn out as planned with disappointing attendance and operating losses. Of course this ruffled a few feathers and they invited PwC to perform an “80-hour, monthlong audit” to see what’s what.
Among its findings: Projections for 800,000 visitors in the $200 million NASCAR museum’s first year of operation were based on bluster as much as anything. “Our limited analyses have not identified due diligence or studies supporting these projections,” the PwC report states. “Rather, we understand from our discussions with CRVA representatives that earlier, more modest attendance projections were revised as the competition between Charlotte, Atlanta, and Daytona intensified for the Hall of Fame. It is not clear what, if any, due diligence was conducted in support of these upward revisions.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors about the risk of fraud, accounting problems and other abuses at companies that obtain stock listings through so-called reverse mergers.
The warning on Thursday comes amid a rash of accounting scandals involving China-based companies listed on U.S. exchanges through reverse mergers, or mergers with U.S. shell companies. “Many companies either fail or struggle to remain viable following a reverse merger,” the SEC said in an investor bulletin. Investors should be especially wary of reverse merger operating companies that are “nonreporting,” meaning they are not required to file reports with the SEC, the agency said. “Keep in mind that information from online blogs, social networking sites and even a company’s own website may be inaccurate and sometimes intentionally misleading,” the SEC said. [Reuters]
In what might be a lagging indicator of recession-spawned misdeeds, the percentage of reported corporate frauds compared with all other reported incidents increased to 20.3% in the first quarter of 2011, a rise of more than 60 basis points from the previous quarter, according to data from 1,000 organizations worldwide. Of the 30,000 ethics- and compliance-related reports from people at those organizations in the first quarter, more than 6,100 concerned accounting or auditing irregularities, embezzlement, kickbacks, and other forms of fraud. [CFO]
Deroy Murdock seems to feel that the government should revisit its accounting practices since it appears government accounting is little more than legal fraud. Obviously he has absolutely no idea how accounting really works or he’d call the entire thing fraudulent (I mean, let’s be real, it is and everyone knows it), so let’s humor his opinion for a moment and consider government accounting.
Rep. John Shimkus (R., Ill.) grilled Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius about this before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. He wondered how, in essence, the Obama administration could move $500 billion from its left pocket (Medicare) to its far-left pocket (Obamacare) and somehow finance $1 trillion worth of Medicare and Obamacare.
“Your law cuts $500 billion in Medicare,” Shimkus reminded Sebelius at a March 3 hearing. “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to say you’re funding health-care [reform]. Your own actuary says you can’t do both.”
“So,” the eight-term congressman continued, “are you using it [the $500 billion] to save Medicare, or are you using it to fund health-care reform? Which one?”
Secretary Sebelius confessed: “Both.”
“So, you’re double-counting,” Shimkus replied.
“The same dollar can’t be used twice,” observed Health Subcommittee chairman Rep. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.). “This is the largest of the many budget gimmicks Democrats used to claim Obamacare would reduce the deficit.”
As any college business major knows, such double counting would earn a big, fat F on an accounting final. Far worse, this is illegal.
Obviously Joe Pitts is not at all familiar with how accounting works. The funny part, as Murdock points out, is that the SEC does not consider non-GAAP financial statements to be anything but misleading and inaccurate. It’s a good thing the federal government won’t be trying to file an IPO any time soon.
Financial statements filed with the Commission which are not prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles will be presumed to be misleading or inaccurate.
Question: is there a particular reason “generally accepted accounting principles” is not capitalized? Because GAAP and gaap are two different things, one of which is a set of rules (not principles, no matter what James Kroeker may believe) while the other is basically a bunch of bullshit that we call “accounting” and agree is OK. Sort of like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for financial statements.
Or in some cases, just plain fraudulent.
In prepared remarks at an investors conference, Luis Aguilar said he is increasingly concerned about the proliferation of small private companies that elect to merge with public shell companies in lieu of more rigorous methods of becoming public, such as a traditional IPO. “While the vast majority of these companies may be legitimate businesses, a growing number of them have accounting deficiencies or are outright vessels of fraud” Aguilar said, speaking at a Council of Institutional Investors conference here.
”There appear to be systematic concerns with quality of auditing and financial reporting,” he said. “Even though these companies are registered in the U.S., we have limitations when it comes to enforcing U.S. securities laws with them.”
US Securities Regulator Aguilar Sounds Backdoor-Merger Alarm [Dow Jones]
SEC official concerned with ‘back-door’ listings [MarketWatch]
Maybe! David Friehling was supposed to be sentenced last week but apparently it got pushed back again.
On November 3, 2009 Friehling pleaded guilty to various charges ranging from securities fraud to filing false reports to the SEC. He was to be sentenced for these crimes in February 2010 but because of his cooperation with the government, that was postponed until September 2010….that was then postponed until March 15, 2011….now that has been postponed until September 16, 2011. […] So what does a guy know who claims he did not know a lot? Is Friehling working with the Feds and Irving Picard (Madoff Trustee) on strong-arming Mets’ owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon? I doubt it. Can Friehling put a finger on one of the Bernard Madoff family members, who have yet to be charged criminally? Maybe.
Of course this could mean that Friehling also knows the location Jimmy Hoffa, the true identities of the participants in the Kenneday assassination and the Coke formula. Oh wait, everyone knows that one now. ANYWAY, the investigators may just be enjoying the anecdotes and would hate to see the poor guy shipped upstate. But most likely, he’s trying to save his ass from a sentence in FPMITAP like his #1 client received.
Giving Friehling the benefit of the doubt, he is cooperating to do the right thing now but he is also trying to get his sentence reduced in the process. With a fraud so large, I do not see how the Federal Sentencing Guidelines keep this guy in prison for less than 20 years.
Madoff Accountant — Now Auditing To Save His A#$ [Forbes/Walter Pavlo]
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.
The head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India seems to feel as though 2009’s massive Satyam failure was not, in fact, a failure of the auditors but levels before the auditors and then the auditors. “There were promoter shareholders, executive directors and directors, and the auditors were the last rung. On the other side, there were independent directors, one of whom was a dean of the Indian School of Business, but nobody questions the role of independent directors.”
Amarjit Chopra feels corporate governance (or should that be complete lack of…) is to blame, not the PwC auditors who somehow missed the following:
• $1.09 billion in artificially inflated cash and bank balances (psst, baby auditors, that’s called a material amount)
• $81.59 million in accrued interest that was accrued out of thin air and never existed
• An understated liability of $266.91 million
• An overstated debtors’ position of $575.27 million that was more like $106.33 million (oops)
Maybe PwC should have waited for Chopra’s comments. Had they done so, they wouldn’t have already come out and admitted they missed a few issues on the September 30, 2008 Satyam balance sheet:
The former [Satyam] chairman has stated that the financial statements of the company have been inaccurate for successive years. The contents of the said letter, even if partially accurate, may have a material effect (which is currently unknown and cannot be quantified without thorough investigations) on the veracity of the company’s financial statements presented to us during the audit period. Consequently, our opinions on the financial statements may be rendered inaccurate and unreliable.
So if that’s the case, someone remind me why we even have auditors then? Sure financial statements belong to management but aren’t auditors there to give everything a good once-over to ensure giant fraud is not staring them directly between the eyes? You’d think at least one of those brilliant Indian first years would have realized that cash was a tad high once they started doing the work.
In fact, Rino has some hella-fraud going on, as the CEO is quoted, “[T]here might be problems with 20-40 percent of [customer contracts],” according to a letter from the company’s auditor Frazer Frost. As is the natural progression of these matters, an 8-K was filed informing anyone who cares to know that restatements are happening and that previously issued numbers are more or less worthless.
Then came the news from Financial Investigator’s Roddy Boyd, that Frazer Frost – the offspring of a merger between Moore Stephens Wurth Frazer and Torbet and Frost PLLC – was not really Frazer Frost:
One day shy of the one year anniversary date, the accountancy is scrapping a “trial merger” and is splitting back into Frost LLP of Little Rock, Ark. and Raleigh, N.C. and Moore Stephens, which is headquartered in Brea, Ca.
“Trial merger” kinda sounds like a two accounting/finance types hooking up for the first time. It’s nothing major, just testing the motion in the ocean. But if you go by the Accounting Today article from last year, there doesn’t appear to be anything “trial” about it.
Anyway, Boyd reports that Frost managing partner Dan Peregrin told him that a ‘culture clash’ led to the break up and that, “There is a lot of [issues] right now in [Chinese reverse mortgage] practice area and we just felt it would be smarter to wish them luck and stick to our practice areas.”
Right. The old, “it’s not you, it’s me” routine. But there’s more! Over at Citron Research, it’s not entirely clear just what is going on:
If you call Frost today in Arkansas, they answer “Frost & Co” and say they’re no longer associated with Frazer. Citron spoke to managing partner Dan Peregrin and twice he told us that the two firms have gone their own way. ….but if you call Frazer, they answer “Frazer Frost” and in a brief conversation with Susan Woo, the RINO auditor, she told Citron that Frazer Frost is still an operating entity.
Really? If you go to the Frazer Frost website, you see a homepage with no content in the about us section.
Which is quite true. This is all very strange/sad/pathetic because everyone else seems to be aware of the situation. It’s like Frazer doesn’t know they’ve been dumped and are just going along like everything is find and dandy.
Could someone let them down gently?
News From Auditorville [Financial Investigator/Roddy Boyd]
Dude! Where’s My Auditor?? The Curious Case of Frazer Frost [Citro Research]
A recent study, “Why Do CFOs Become Involved in Material Accounting Manipulations,” by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington attempts to answer just this question. Their finding? Pressure from the companies’ CEOs, more than the possibility of financial gain, tends to drive the actions of crooked CFOs.
Of course, the researchers couldn’t actually divine the motivations that drove the CFOs who manipulated numbers. Instead, they reviewed a group of firms subject to SEC enforcement, analyzing the role of the CFOs, as well as the costs they incurred and any benefits they gained from their actions.
They found – not surprisingly – that the CFOs involved faced stiff penalties for their actions. More than half of the CFOs (54 percent) employed by the nearly 300 firms in the sample that were charged by the SEC for accounting manipulation were prohibited from serving as an officer, director or accountant with a public company in the future. About 48 percent of CFOs were fined as a result of their wrongdoing, with a median fine of $50,000. A small number – about 4 percent – also faced criminal charges. Clearly, monkeying with the numbers can be quite costly for CFOs.
On the other hand, the CFOs that engaged shady number crunching didn’t have significantly higher equity incentives than CFOs in the control sample. That means the CFOs involved in misstatements took on a lot of risk, yet couldn’t expect to come out much further ahead financially than their counterparts at law-abiding firms.
Conversely, the CEOs of firms in trouble exhibited both greater power and equity incentive than CEOs of control firms. For instance, these CEOs were more likely to be company founders and to serve as chair of their boards than the heads of the other firms. “This evidence is also consistent with the pressured CFO explanation; that material accounting manipulations are more likely in the presence of powerful CEOs,” the researchers write.
What’s more, CFO turnover jumped during the three years before the misstatements occurred. That suggests that at least some CFOs either left or lost their jobs because they refused to participate in the manipulation.
The SEC also seems to have taken note of the larger role that CEOs, rather than CFOs, typically played in the schemes. When the researchers examined 188 companies in which both the CFO and CEO were charged with manipulating numbers, they found that the SEC had charged 18 percent of CFOs with orchestrating the schemes. When it came to CEOs, however, 32 percent were charged – almost double the CFO number.
Moreover, when the SEC charged just the CFO with wrongdoing, 30 percent of them benefited financially. That’s a lot, but it’s significantly less than the 46 percent of CEOs who were charged and also gained financially.
Given these findings, are there changes that could reduce accounting shenanigans? To be sure, the research doesn’t mean that CFOs who cook the books can simply blame their actions on their bosses; clearly they could have acted differently, as difficult as doing so might have been. The findings do suggest, however, that one step to reducing the opportunity for wrongdoing would be to provide CFOs with greater independence from their CEOs. One way to accomplish this would be to expect greater participation from corporate boards or audit committees when it comes to hiring and evaluating their firms’ chief financial officers.
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.
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!
We don’t mean to crush anyone’s dreams of walk-offs or eating disorders but sometimes when you’re not sure if things are working out in your modeling career, you have to be able to recognize the signs when they appear.
One sure sign that you won’t be America’s Next Top Model (or the person fetching ANTM’s rice crackers) is that you find yourself claiming to have earned $550,000 working for an “environmental group” and then requesting a $200,000 refund for that “work”:
Nyemah Johnson, who models under the name Nyemah Marxx, falsely claimed he made $550,000 working for an environmental group and was entitled to the six-figure refund, prosecutors said.
He was one of five people arrested last week in a $1.1 million tax scheme that prosecutors said was led by Queens accountant Diana Rabin.
The bright side, of course, is that there is no such thing as bad publicity and assuming Mr Marxx has access to something a step above a public defender, he’ll manage to stay out of jail for too long and maybe then he’ll be able to land the “shirtless bro” gig outside the A&F.
Oregon attorney Micaela Renee Dutson and her husband Tony Dutson were convicted of defrauding the U.S. Government of over $7 million but not before doing their damnedest to stave off the IRS and DOJ investigating them.
The Dutsons were a creative couple, selling “pure trust” packages to their clients who were told that their income would be tax free if it were placed in trust. They sold these products despite “several warning letters from the IRS, articles in the Oregonian newspaper warning the public against tax shelter scams, and a compl stice Department on behalf of the IRS in an effort to stop them from selling their tax shelters.”
The IRS started auditing the Dutsons’ clients who, prior to engaging the dynamic tax duo, were seemingly compliant taxpayers. The IRS informed these clients that the “trusts” were actually illegal tax shelters and that they were being bamboozled.
This was, of course, unacceptable to the Mr and Mrs and they went on a serious offensive:
[T]he Dutsons began a campaign to obstruct the IRS’s audits and investigation, and to harass and intimidate the individual IRS employees who were auditing or investigating them. First, they created and presented dozens of fictitious financial instruments to the IRS purporting to pay off back taxes for themselves and a number of their clients.
Even though they knew the bogus instruments had no financial value and had never been accepted by a creditor, they continued to sell them to their clients with false promises they would pay off their tax liability. The Dutsons also advised clients to use them to pay off commercial debts, including mortgages and court-ordered obligations. Together, the Dutsons and their clients presented over $44 million worth of these bogus financial instruments over a four-and-a-half-year period.
To further obstruct the IRS, and harass and intimidate its employees, the Dutsons advised clients to file frivolous lawsuits against the IRS employees. The Dutsons charged their clients $3,500 each to prepare court documents and help their clients file them. They continued to advise clients to file these lawsuits — even after a federal court had dismissed the first of these suits as frivolous and without merit — without telling their clients about the dismissal.
After the Justice Department filed the complaint for a permanent injunction, and IRS special agents had notified the Dutsons in person that they were under criminal investigation, the Dutsons filed a $1 trillion lien in California against several IRS employees who had attempted to audit or investigate the Dutsons, as well as the DOJ attorneys who filed the complaint. A federal court later ruled that the lien was null, void and without legal basis, but one week later, the Dutsons prepared a $108 million lien for a client against John Snow, who was then Secretary of the Treasury.
The Dutson probably figured the jig was up and since $1 trillion is a nice round number the figured “why the hell not?!?” Back in the early ’00s a trillion was fantastical number (for the most part), not tossed willy-nilly like it is these days. The Dutsons could have filed the lien for $1 gabizillion and it would have made as much sense.
Oh and while they were at it, just file another one against the Secretary of the Treasury. If it was Tim Geithner, sure we can see that happening for a whole host of reasons but John Snow? Wasn’t he one of the most harmless cabinet members of the Bush Administration? If they would have filed the lien against Dick Cheney they could have garnered a little popular support at least.
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!
Today in “they just made the numbers up” news, it’s shocking that a company with this business description:
We design, produce, market, and distribute cleaning products primarily for vehicular use utilizing patented technology relating to sponges containing hydrophilic, or liquid absorbing, foam polyurethane matrices and other technologies. Our products can be pre-loaded with detergents and waxes, which are absorbed in the core of the product then gradually released during use. We have designed and are conducting additional research and development for products and applications using hydrophilic technology and other technologies for kitchen and bath, health and beauty, auto, medial and pet use, which we intend to market and sell as part of our product offering. There is no assurance that we will successfully be able to market and sell products for kitchen and bath, health and beauty, auto, medial and/or pet use.
…would have to make up five customers out of thin air to account for 99% of their revenue:
According to the SEC’s complaint, after several years of relatively little business with a single customer comprising the bulk of Spongetech’s limited sales, Metter and Moskowitz began to paint a more promising and misleading picture of Spongetech’s business. Beginning in approximately April 2007, Spongetech issued dozens of phony press releases touting increasingly larger, yet fictitious, sales orders and revenue. The press releases fraudulently exaggerated the demand for pre-soaped sponges by referencing millions of dollars in sales orders, business, and revenue from five primary customers that purportedly accounted for 99 percent of Spongetech’s business, yet none of those customers actually existed.
SEC Charges Spongetech and Senior Executives in Pump-and-Dump Scheme [SEC Press Release]
SEC v. Spongetech, et al. [SEC]
So! Thinking about getting a little aggressive with the accounting? Forget aggressive, let’s just say you need to make your numbers next quarter come hell or high water? Maybe there are some pesky internal controls that you would really, really like to get around. For the good of the company of course.
Do whatcha gotta do but before you do, consider the sentence of Charles McCall, the former chairman of McKesson Corp. first. If, after reading his story, you decide it’s still worth the risk, then proceed with your plans.
A former chairman of San Francisco-based McKesson Corp. has been sentenced in federal court to 10 years in prison for securities fraud in an accounting scheme that cost shareholders $8.6 billion in 1999.
Charles McCall, 65, of Delray Beach, Fla., was given the prison term by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco on Friday.
McCall was convicted by a jury in Alsup’s court in November of four counts of securities fraud and one count of circumventing the company’s internal accounting controls.
Prosecutors said that in the fraud, HBO & Co. and McKesson HBOC inflated revenues by backdating software sales and concealing side letters that would have allowed buyers to cancel proposed purchases that the company had counted as revenue.
This poor bastard got sentenced to 10 years (at 65, he’ll be lucky if manages to serve the full sentence) and he probably doesn’t know a internal control from his ass, other than at one time, he thought it was enough of a hindrance that he’d just ignore it altogether. If anyone has an extra copy of COSO laying around, kindly send it his way. He’ll have time to get caught up on the idea.
Ex-McKesson chairman gets 10 year sentence [SF Chronicle]
While kicking it in Davos, Dennis Nally had to have known that eventually he was going to have to answer questions about his mother of all nightmares, Satyam. Having just passed the one year anniversary of the cat being let out of the bag about, you know, totally bogus numbers, everyone is talking about it. In India.
CNBC India caught up with Nalls and considering everything that’s going down, DN doesn’t seem worried. He’s leading P. Dubs full steam ahead into India; there’s no crying over failed audits, “Without question the firm has had real challenges in India but that has not changed my outlook and view on the importance of India economy to global economic picture.”
Stoic; as he should be. Not that the firm hasn’t had to do a little damage control. But no worries; Dennis is a man with a plan, “We just need to continue to deliver, service our clients, respond to their needs, help them deal with their issues and challenges. If we do that and we do that consistently over a period of time the PwC brand in India will be as strong and as good as it has been in the past and where we want it to be into the future.”
Plus, this is a blip, an outlier, a rare occurrence, “Any one-off instance can do harm to your brand and that is the reality. Our job is to make sure we are doing everything and we have done a number of things in India to ensure that this would not happen again,” so there’s no cause for concern.
This isn’t Tiger Woods brand damage we’re talking about. It will all be a distant memory before you know it.
Satyam scam has hurt PwC brand: Global Chairman [Money Control]
Football is a tough sport. Not the physical demands mind you, it appears to be more of a challenge to stay out of trouble.
Today’s ne’er-do-well is Antrel Rolle of the Arizona Cardinals. The IRS is claiming that the all-pro safety understated his taxable income by 50% in 2005 and 2006 and they sent him a bill for $2.2 million in order to get him back in the Service’s good graces.
Rolle, who does not dispute the claims, does complain that the Service, “violated the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, denied him due process and failed to treat him in a ‘fair, professional and courteous manner.'” Perhaps he was unaware that the IRS is not really known for its good etiquette.
Congeniality aside, it’d be one thing if Rolle had made some mistakes using TurboTax or something (you don’t have to tell Doug Shulman that this shit is complicated) but he seems to have been just ramming onto his Schedule C without prejudice.
Drawing particular IRS attention was Rolle’s report of a Schedule C “sole proprietorship” involving “management and consulting” that he said he operated both years. Over that period he listed $557,000 in revenue and $1.9 million in expenses. The IRS disallowed all but $71,000 of the expenses, which included $254,000 for “advertising” and $372,000 classified as “rent or lease–vehicles.” Rolle said his business was located at an address in Chandler, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb. But “correspondence mailed to that address was returned indicating ‘no such number,’ and electronic research turned up the same result,” the IRS agent wrote.
So you claim over $1 mil in expenses, the IRS takes a look and says that only $71k is actually legit? Hopefully he fired his CPA.
IRS Hits Cardinals’ Antrel Rolle With $2.2 Million Bill [Forbes via TaxProf]
Technically it was last week but dang, it’s been a helluva year for Satyam and PwC.
Two auditors in jail, the PwC Chairman resigned, Jim Quigely couldn’t wait to tell everyone that Deloitte was the new auditor and P. Dubs would really, really be stoked if everyone just forgot the whole thing ever happened.
Despite the non-existent coverage in the U.S., our contributor Francine McKenna has covered this story from the beginning so we got her thoughts:
What do we know about the scandal one year later – its causes and how to prevent similar frauds in the future? Not much. The experts we should look to for answers, Satyam’s auditors Price Waterhouse India, are accused of being complicit and are still in jail. Who’s guarding the guardians? We’ll have to wait for the shareholders’ lawsuits and the SEC here in the US to hear what really happened, who all benefitted, and who is ultimately responsible.
Judging by the pace of things, we’re guessing the lawsuits won’t be resolved in our lifetime. While we are around however, we’ll keep you updated on what does happen whether it’s reasonable requests from PwC to jailhouse brawls (please God).
Maybe! If you figure an incestuous management team is a clueless management team, the argument can certainly be made. How else could Sue Sachdeva hold garage sales at her desk without anyone noticing? This went on for five years:
How is it that nobody noticed $5 million missing each year when the company’s net income is about $5 million? I mean, the business of “stereo headsets” isn’t really a complex business model. There’s revenue, cost of sales, and expenses. How do you somehow manage to hide $5 million when expenses are only $10 million … and cost of sales is $25 million?
The answer becomes clear when you look at the company’s management team. Michael Koss is the company’s CEO. He’s also the company’s vice chairman, president, COO, and CFO. The company’s VP of sales is, that’s right, John Koss. Together they own 65 percent of the company’s stock. Another Koss, John Jr., owns 8 percent of the company’s stock. Who knows how many other Kosses there are scattered about the place. No checks and balances there. No hands on the wheel, either.
Sooo, the question becomes: Should Grant Thornton have noticed this sleepy management oversight? Did Michael Koss just give them the “I involved in every aspect of the business so there’s nothing to worry about” story and GT just bought it? Discuss.
The Problem with Incestuous Management [The Corner Office/Steve Tobak]
All right Klynveldians, we don’t know which one of you was a little generous with the letterhead but you’ve really done it.
Jeremy Blackburn, COO and President of Canopy Financial was able to raise $75 million for Canopy Financial based on bogus audit reports he provided to investors and pocketed more than $2 million for himself, according to the SEC’s complaint against Blackburn and the Company.
We’ll give the man cred ew the script:
Blackburn sent [Canopy CEO, Vikram] Kashyap an email dated June 30, 2009, attaching the KPMG Audit Report and the audited Canopy financial statements, with an email subject heading of “Audit Finally Complete,” and email text stating “I never wanna [sic] go through this again!!”
Kashyap apparently wasn’t in on the little secret that KPMG was not engaged to audit squat for Canopy. Nice work staying on top of everything, Vik. Meanwhile, Canopy’s investment bank, Financial Technology Partners, didn’t need an email telling them the audit was hell. They just ran to VCs with the notion that everything was on the up and up.
The bank is all bent out of shape because they’re taking heat and claim ‘We clearly had no clue about any such wrongdoing.’ Who wants to bother with the auditors? As Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch notes, “A 10 second phone call could have cleared this up before investors plowed $85 million into the company.”
The whole thing finally went south when Canopy’s new general counsel contacted an acquaintance at KPMG to help him find a new CFO. Canopy’s general counsel then sent over the “audit report.”
KPMG quickly responded to Canopy and advised Canopy in a “Cease-and-Desist Demand” letter dated November 3, 2009, that Canopy used KPMG’s name without KPMG’s authorization and consent. Further, KPMG told Canopy that it: (1) had never been retained nor agreed to audit any of Canopy’s financial statements; and (2) did not issue the audit opinion dated June 29, 2009. KPMG demanded, among other things, that Canopy “immediately CEASE AND DESIST from using the subject report and/or the unauthorized use of the KPMG name….”
It’s seems obvious that KPMG did nothing wrong here but this is still a big bowl of awkward. The firm’s name is all over the complaint and who knows how many other companies are running around with the firm’s letterhead throwing their “audited” financials around.
As we’ve indicated, this may call for a completely new look for KPMG. That means no more blue squares. We realize that’s a horrifying thought but the whole firm may be compromised. If you’ve got suggestions for the look (other than pink) or any thoughts on this snafu, discuss in the comments.
UPDATE: A tiny clarification/correction here: The original post over at Tech Crunch states, “Multiple sources have told us that Canopy was absolutely making up their financial statements, even forging audited statements with fake KMPG [sic] letterhead.” One could get the impression from our post here that genuine KPMG letterhead was used. That does not seem to be the case. The SEC’s complaint states that the audit report was “falsified” or “forged” without mentioning the authenticity of letterhead.
Nevertheless, we still stand by our conclusion that the Firm has no choice to either revisit stationery controls (since it’s obvious you can’t just get the shit anywhere) or change the entire logo as a precautionary measure. Similarly, we will continue to address this particular scandal as “Letterheadgate” to best follow the tradition of any scandal happening in the post-Nixon era to be suffixed with “gate”. We’re done here.
Canopy Financial Turns Into Sad, Comical Game Of Hot Potato [Tech Crunch]
Earlier: KPMG Will be Stingy with the Letterhead From Now On
In today’s edition of “They just made the numbers up,” the SEC has charged Home Solutions of America, Inc. with inflating revenues based on phantom business deals related to restoration projects after Hurricane Katrina and other weather-related disasters.
According to the Commission’s complaint, Home Solutions issued several “materially false press releases” bragging about their kick ass results after doing work related to the damage caused by Katrina.
The scheme wasn’t exactly rocket science, as the former, CEO, CFO and one Director created phony invoices in order to record fake accounts receivable. They also decided that cash basis accounting was more their speed, expensing bonuses when they were paid rather than earned, in order to inflate their earnings.
All this hocus-pocus led to a run up in the stock price, which in turn, resulted in the former CEO, Frank Fradella selling over $6 million in shares based on the inflated price. The stock later tanked after massive insider stock sales, the filing of the lawsuit alleging fraud, and the Company’s announcement that they had to restate their financial statements.
And because we know you’re wondering, the most recent auditor we can find for Home Solutions is KMJ Corbin & Company LLP. We left a voicemail seeking comment but so far our calls have gone unreturned.
SEC Charges Hurricane Restoration Company and Executives in Post-Katrina Accounting Fraud [SEC Press Release]
Have you been craving a tech startup accounting scandal? Thought so. Enter Canopy Financial, Inc. who “provides technology-enabled electronic payment, account management, and investment technology platforms for health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, and health reimbursement arrangements.”
The company was ranked #12 in the 2009 Inc. 500 List of fastest growing companies in America:
In 2008 CEO Vikram Kashyap said his company had 2007 revenues of $9 million. More recently, we’ve heard, the company was saying they’d hit $60 million in revenue and $9 million or so in EBITDA.
All of this may have been lies.
Until recently all the venture capitalists involved proudly placed Canopy Financial on their portfolio pages. Now all trace of the company have been erased from the portfolio pages of investors GGV Capital, Spectrum Equity and Foundation Capital. And their investment bank has erased them from their trophy page as well.
So what happened? Multiple sources have told us that Canopy was absolutely making up their financial statements, even forging audited statements with fake KMPG [sic] letterhead. And somehow the investment bank and all the investors never figured it out.
Jesus, this doesn’t even qualify as cooking the books. This is more along the lines of:
CFO: No, we cannot say $100 kajillion.
CFO: Because no one will believe it.
CFO: Do you know what a kajillion looks like?
CEO: Um, no.
CFO: It has to look like a real number. I’m saying $59,984,387.
CEO: What about…
CFO: Shut up, that’s the number.
Then all you have to do is get your hands on some KPMG letterhead and BAM your company is listed in a magazine.
We tried contacting KPMG about this but our emails have gone unreturned. We’ll let you know if we hear back from them. In the meantime, if you know anything more about this particular story, enlighten us in the comments.
UPDATE: See the clarification about the authenticity of the letterhead on our post from December 3rd.
Canopy Financial Accused Of Serious Financial Fraud, Investors Burned [Tech Crunch via FINS]
Some people think so. Emily Chasan at Reuters discusses the perceived rise of accounting irregularities today:
“Corporate balance sheets may be showing signs of the wear and tear from the prolonged U.S. recession as accounting irregularities are starting to surface at growing numbers at U.S. companies.”
Okay but don’t accounting regularities happen all the time? If the economy is humming along nicely does that mean that less companies are engaging in accounting hocus-pocus? Hmmmmm.
But there’s more argument for “it’s the economy stupid”:
“Statistically you can show any time you have a recession or some type of tremendous decline in an economy you’re going to see financial pressures on companies,” said Bruce Dorris, program director at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, noting that corporate employees can sometimes be motivated to be overly aggressive with accounting or commit outright fraud to meet targets, particularly in difficult economic times.
The article cites Apollo Group’s stock dropping 18% yesterday after announcing that the SEC was starting an “informal inquiry” into its revenue recognition policies. It also lists Overstock.com, Town Sport International Holdings (owns NYSC), Zale Corp and also Huron Consulting whose stock price is still down 40% since the announcement of the SEC investigation. All these companies have delayed earnings reports or had investigations into their accounting practices.
So feel free to discuss your clients and their creative nature in this economy. Are their hard-nosed GAAP puritan ways caving to earnings pressure or are your partners the ones caving in the name of client service? Nobody wants a to be working on a client that’s going through a restatement. Nobody.
Poor Frank DiPascali. The man’s name will be forever connected to largest Ponzi schemer (with, allegedly, the smallest penis) in history and he feels terrible about that.
Looks like DiPascali, who was a “CFO” in Ponzi World but in reality was probably just the best liar, will remain eating his meals with a spork until the end of his days.
His attorneys were trying bust the guy out so he can help investigators find a new Madoff cohort to put front and center but a judge denied bail yesterday despite a boatload of conditions:
Mr. DiPascali’s failed bail attempt came despite a new proposal presented by defense lawyers and prosecutors that included a $10 million bond, co-signed by nine people, including members of the DiPascali family, and the pledge of about $2 million in personal property. The new proposal required Mr. DiPascali to wear an electronic device that would plot his location by satellite. It also barred him from leaving home without an escort from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, except in a medical emergency.
Maybe the judge isn’t big on satellite technology but with Halloween on Saturday, it could have been a decision made on a more personal level. Those Madoff victims are a touchy bunch.
Court Denies Madoff Aide’s Request for Bail [NYT]
If you’re an accountant and you see a company’s name in the same sentence as “accounting irregularities”, “alleged cooking of the books”, or “SEC investigation”, your likely advice to any person would be to run away from said company like it was a band of lepers.
This is just conventional wisdom, nothing ground breaking. However, since Huron Consulting reported big second quarter numbers, the stock price is up more than 30%.
Now some of this is short sellers getting burned but according to one analyst quoted by Reuters, some investors may be going long because of “confidence in the underlying business”.
We’re not too crazy about the “underlying business” for a lot of reasons:
1. The Company said in a filing that they are likely going to take a goodwill impairment charge that will put it in noncompliance with a financial covenant of its credit agreement.
2. It’s worried about “‘reputational issues’ that may affect the company’s ability to retain its senior managers and attract new talent and new business”.
3. Can’t predict the outcome of the SEC investigations or private lawsuits (P. Dubya take note).
4. They warned that their current numbers may not be legit since the new management has no idea what the hell else is out there in the way of
kickbacks payments made to Huron Management, questionable allocated billable hours (but don’t worry, this won’t affect client billings) or anything else for that matter that may call for another restatement of its results.
5. The whole Arthur Andersen connection creeps people out.
Far be it from us to speculate on a company’s future but this place seems doomed. We might just listen to tomorrow’s earnings call to see if there’s anything worth mentioning but in the meantime, put your money in…WTFK?
Huron Consulting fights to stay alive [Greg Burns/Chicago Tribune]
Huron Consulting, after cleaning house, admitting to some book cooking, and having multiple class action suits filed against it, now has a brand new SEC investigation to look forward to. This new investigation is in addition to a separate investigation the SEC was conducting related to its chargeable hours.
The new investigation relates to the accounting hocus-pocus that led to the announcement that three years of financial results were being restated. On top of all this, the 10-Q, due yesterday, has yet to be filed. The company said everything is cool though and that it will be filed…
who the hell knows as soon as possible.
Huron crossed its heart and hoped to die that it would cooperate with the new investigation. After all, they’ve won new business since the scandal dropped, so not everybody thinks they’re crooks.
SEC investigating Huron accounting errors [Chicago Tribune]