As the multibillion-dollar scheme led by Tom Petters approaches its sixth anniversary, the meter is still running for the lawyers and accountants sorting through the corporate empire created by the former Wayzata businessman, and the array of creditors and investors who did business with him. More than $83 million has been paid to the lawyers […]
Remember back in February when we learned that Eide Bailly and Wipfli couldn't make their accounting firm love work? It was a sad occasion to see these two part ways after getting so excited about their pending merger, but the word on the street was that the "key terms" blamed for the fall-out were EB's Tom […]
Wehmhoff “did not set out to commit tax fraud for Tom Petters, but slowly became aware of it, then did nothing to halt it, and eventually was right in the middle of it, preparing and filing returns he knew to be false,” the government attorneys wrote. Prosecutors also called attention to Wehmhoff’s otherwise “unblemished” professional history and “striking” remorse. [MSPBJ]
E&Y auditors investigated over Lehman Brothers [Accountancy Age]
“The Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) has begun an investigation of E&Y in its role in reporting to the FSA on audit client Lehman Brothers International Europe’s compliance with the authority’s client asset rules, which govern the protection of client money.”
And since they were on a roll, the AADB is also investigating PwC for its role in J.P. Morgan’s misuse of client assets.
Study Finds the Mortgage Interest Deduction to be Ineffective at Increasing Owner ef=”http://www.taxfoundation.org/blog/show/26762.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TaxPolicyBlog+(Tax+Foundation+-+Tax+Foundation’s+%22Tax+Policy+Blog%22)”>Tax Foundation]
“Proponents for the MID often offer the justification that it increases homeownership rates, which they say has positive benefits for society. But most economists seriously question the benefits of MID and many believe homeownership is greatly over-subsidized.”
Visa, MasterCard Antitrust Decision by U.S. Said to Be Near [Bloomberg]
“The U.S. Justice Department may decide as early as this week how to resolve its two-year antitrust probe of merchant restrictions imposed by Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and American Express Co., three people briefed on the matter said.
The department still hasn’t decided whether it can reach a deal with the three biggest U.S. payment networks or challenge their policies in court, one of the people said. The department likely will file a lawsuit, and MasterCard and Visa are expected to settle, people familiar with the matter said.
The talks focus on rules that bar merchants from charging extra to customers who use credit cards and steering them to competing cards, and require retailers to accept every type of card banks issue, said the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. The department is leaning toward allowing the companies to maintain prohibitions against surcharging, two of the people said.”
Will KPMG Ever Wake Up and Finally Learn Its Lesson after Being Duped into Completing Crazy Eddie’s Audits Too Early Twenty Three Years Ago? [White Collar Fraud]
Today’s lesson in duping auditors – Sam Antar explains exactly how he fooled KPMG (then Peat Markwick Main) into signing off on incomplete audits back in the 80s.
PwC takes $26.6bn in global revenues [Accountancy Age]
Thanks to the miracle of rounding, $26.6 billion puts P. Dubs in a tie with Deloitte for largest firm in terms of revenues, who reported the same number last month. This obviously will not stand and we will investigate the matter further to the appropriate number of significant digits to determine who the top dog is.
Citi says CEO, CFO “rebutted” Mayo’s criticisms in meeting [Reuters]
On Friday, banking analyst Mike Mayo met with Citi execs including CEO Vikram Pandit and CFO John Gerspach and they discussed, among other things, why Citi hasn’t been writing down their DTAs. Citi says that successfully rebutted the Mayo Man who is issuing a report today with his thoughts on the sit-down.
Accountant gets year-and-a-day in Petters scam [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
“Harold Katz, the hedge fund accountant who doctored financial statements to hide the Petters Ponzi scheme from investors, was sentenced Friday to 366 days in prison after apologizing to family, friends and investors.
Katz, 43, will be eligible for parole in about 10 1/2 months. He was sentenced for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
‘I made a colossal error in judgment,’ Katz told U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle. ‘I hope I can use this horrific experience to help others not make the same mistakes as I have.’
Katz created false financial statements at the behest of Gregory Bell, manager of Lancelot Investment Management, a Chicago-area hedge fund, to mislead investors about the stability of Petters Co. Inc., which was defaulting on various promissory notes as its decadelong Ponzi scheme unraveled in 2008. Katz also assisted Bell in making phony banking transactions with Petters Co. Inc. to make it appear the Petters Co. was paying off notes it owed to Lancelot.”
Summers exit lets Obama retool team and message [Reuters]
“The departure of economic adviser Larry Summers opens the way for President Barack Obama to shake up leadership of his economic team and show he is taking seriously growing public frustration over the sluggish economic recovery.
Whoever replaces Summers ions constrained by a record $1.47 trillion budget deficit and the possible Democratic loss of control of the House of Representatives in November 2 congressional elections.”
The Obama Tax Plan: Who’s in the Crosshairs? [TaxVox]
“President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the nation’s highest income households may not quite mean what you think. A closer look suggests that fewer people may get whacked than either Obama or his Republican critics suggest. And for many of the victims, the club won’t be the president’s plan to raise rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent. Those rate hikes may be getting most of the attention, but the real cudgel would be higher taxes on capital gains and dividends going to high-earners.”
H&R Block Announces New Chief Financial Officer [MarketWatch]
“H&R Block (HRB 12.82, -0.08, -0.62%) announced today the appointment of Jeff Brown as chief financial officer. Brown has been the company’s interim CFO for the past five months. As an eight-year veteran of H&R Block, Brown has played an important role in a variety of financial functions.
‘I am very pleased with the leadership Jeff has provided me and the organization in his interim role,; said Alan Bennett, H&R Block’s president and chief executive officer. ‘Jeff has all the talent and personal characteristics needed to be highly successful as the permanent CFO. He has earned my full confidence, as well as that of the board of directors.’
Most recently, Brown served as H&R Block’s corporate controller. Prior to that, he was the corporate controller and vice president of finance (Americas) at Bacou-Dalloz, now Sperian Protection, and served in key positions at KPMG. Brown has a business administration degree from the University of Nebraska and is a certified public accountant.”
Sentencing of Petters’ accountant is postponed [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
“Tuesday’s scheduled sentencing of James Wehmhoff, the accountant who helped Tom Petters file false tax returns, has been postponed until sometime in October. The postponement was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle at his own behest.
Wehmhoff faces a prison sentence of between 70 and 80 months on tax charges, but federal prosecutors have asked Kyle to consider Wehmhoff’s cooperation in the Petters investigation and his previously “unblemished” career before he hooked up with Petters Group Worldwide. The government also noted that Wehmhoff was not part of the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme that Petters and others orchestrated for more than 10 years.”
KPMG Continues to Add Restructuring Talent With Appointments of Tony Murphy, Tom Bibby [PR Newswire]
The House of Klynveld must be counting on more companies falling prey to their massive debt loads with the appointment of Tony and Tommy who both have “proven track records” as restructuring professionals.
Accounting Basics: A Guest Post From Robert B. Walker [Re:The Auditors]
“[New Zealand] follows an American model in which people who are to become accountants are ‘educated’ in Universities. There is minimal emphasis on double entry. Most of the courses are dedicated to theory, bullshit sociology, complex management accounting, auditing and so on. None of this makes any sense to a student if they first do not know the basics of accounting and that can only be gained by actually practicing the discipline.”
Comparing the Ethics Codes: AICPA and IFAC [JofA]
“Sharp increases in the number of multinational audits being performed by U.S. accounting firms means that more CPAs are performing services under the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) audit and attest standards. Although auditors must comply with the specific standards adopted in each jurisdiction, familiarity with IFAC’s International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (IESBA Code) in addition to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (AICPA Code) is a critical first step. When specifications differ, members should comply with the more restrictive of the applicable standards.”
BP replaces CEO and posts $17 billion quarterly loss [Reuters]
“Oil giant BP Plc launched a plan to repair its battered image in the United States on Tuesday, ditching its xecutive and promising to slim down by trebling an asset sale target to $30 billion.
However, the company, the target of public anger over its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, tempted further ire by denying it needed cultural change and offsetting the costs of the spill, including expected fines, against its taxes.
The tax move will cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $10 billion.”
Northern Rock CFO Banned And Fined GBP320,000 Over Bad Loans [Dow Jones]
“David Jones, the former chief financial officer of Northern Rock PLC, was Tuesday fined GBP320,000 and barred from working in finance after the Financial Services Authority found he misled investors about the bank’s bad loans in the lead-up to the bank’s eventual collapse.
Jones most recently was CFO at Northern Rock Asset Management PLC, the “bad bank” of the nationalized lender after a restructuring of its operations. He left the company in April because of the FSA investigation, a week after two former colleagues were fined and banned for their roles in making the bank’s 2006 bad-loan figures appear better than they were.”
Where will those next gen clients come from? [AccMan]
And what will ask of their professional service providers? Right now, Gen X and Millenials don’t compromise much of the client base but that will change quickly when Baby Boomers start retiring en masse. What these new business owners will ask of their service providers is not quite clear. Similar to the demands currently placed on employers, service providers will have to be flexible and innovative.
Bernanke Says Tax-Cut Extension Maintains Stimulus [Bloomberg]
“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said extending at least some of the tax cuts set to expire this year would help strengthen a U.S. economy still in need of stimulus and urged offsetting the move with increased revenue or lower spending.
‘In the short term I would believe that we ought to maintain a reasonable degree of fiscal support, stimulus for the economy,’ Bernanke said yesterday under questioning from the House Financial Services Committee’s senior Republican. ‘There are many ways to do that. This is one way.’ ”
Accounting firm Kaufman Rossin & Co. settles case for $9.6M [Miami Herald]
Kaufman Rossin was the auditor of the two Palm Beach funds that invested over a billion dollars with convicted Ponzi Schemer Tom Petters.
And in case you forgot, convicted forensic accountant and suit lover Lew Freeman was the Chief Restructuring Officer for the Palm Beach funds. Quite the cesspool.
How Low Self-Esteem Can Cost You The Job [Forbes]
Are you a low talker? No one is suggesting that you don’t know what you’re talking about but the perception could be that you don’t and in turn, It could be affecting your career.
Lords to probe audit market [Accountancy Age]
“A recent report from the FRC and FSA criticised the role of auditors during the crisis saying they had failed to tackle management bias.
The Lords investigation will look at basic questions such as wether Big Four dominance increases the price of audit and whether the market needs to be opened up.”
Oracle’s Ellison: Pay King [WSJ]
$1.84 billion over the last ten years is not too shabby.
Sales tax holidays 2010 [Don’t Mess with Taxes]
Kay Bell has a rundown of the sixteen states that are having sales tax holidays right before the kids go back to school.
Showdown on Fund Taxes [WSJ]
The U.S. Senate plan to tax private equity and hedge fund managers who earn carried interest has been rolled out and it would double the rate on this income from 15% to 30% in 2011 and 33% in 2013. Supporters of the bill argue that carried interest is “basically wages” and that the 15% is a “fundamental unfairness in the tax code.”
The industry is not amused by the Senate’s latest rich hating measures. The Journal quotes Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Private Equity Council, “[E]arning carried interest involves taking risks, making long-term investments and exposing yourself to t you’ll have to return your earnings if things don’t work out. No one who gets a paycheck has to face those consequences.”
But that’s not all! Also in the proposal is a “enterprise-value tax” provision that would tax the sale of any private equity fund, hedge fund, or real estate partnership at higher rates than of other businesses including publicly traded oil and gas partnerships.
Ex-CEO and CFO of Duane Reade Convicted in NY [AP]
No matter what Anthony Cuti and William Tennant did (“scheming to falsely inflate the income and reduce the expenses that Duane Reade reported to investors.”), if you bank with Jamie Dimon, you’re grateful for every DR.
How White-Collar Criminals Exploit Your Vanity – Beware of Compliments [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar has all but eliminated any possibility of ever getting a date ever again by admitting that any compliment that he gives is may have an ulterior motive, “The more likable and charming that I was as a criminal, the easier it was for me to successfully lie to my victims and deceive them. People are far less skeptical of people who they like and the white-collar criminals know it and exploit it.”
Most of you have never been paid a compliment by Sam but maybe some of you can think of a client that seems to go out of their way to stroke your ego. Or maybe it’s a combination of a compliment here or there (e.g. “you’re looking buff” or “nice ass”) from the controller and the hot junior accountant that keeps inviting you out to lunch for no discernible reason.
The lesson here is be skeptical of things being a little too good to be true for an audit. If your client doesn’t particularly like you and they look like they came from deep inside the ugly forest you might be able to rest easy. Otherwise, stay on your toes.
EBay’s Whitman Faces Brown for California Governor [Bloomberg]
A former auctioneer will face off against a failed Presidential candidate for the arguably the worst job in the country.
Four who took down Petters honored [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Swashbuckling industrialist-cum-Ponzi Scheme architect Tom Petters is doing 50 years for his crimes but the four investigators – FBI special agents Brian Kinney and Eileen Rice, FBI forensic accountant Josiah Lamb and Kathy Klug of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division – were honored yesterday for their efforts with a 2009 Law Enforcement Recognition Award by the Minnesota U.S. Attorney.
Of course, they couldn’t have done it alone (plus it’s honor just to be nominated), as they were assisted by more than 100 other agents who brought down Petters. Then someone made a Bernie Madoff joke and the fun ended right there.
“Every day, I am fraught with pain and anguish for those affected by my actions. For those who lost money, I will work to repair and replace what has been lost.”
~ Convicted Ponzi Schemer Tom Petters, at his sentencing where Judge Richard Kyle sentenced him to 50 years in prison.
It’s been just under two weeks since convicted Ponzi boy/swashbuckling industrialist Tom Petters was convicted in his trial and it’s all but off the RADAR of everyone. Unfortunately, we stumbled across the following audio this morning featuring Tom Petters, his part-time lover/executive and government witness Deanna Coleman, and their fellow conspirator Bob Coleman.
It sounds like some Fargo-esque plot gone terribly wrong without the visual of William H. Macy in that ridiculous hat.
It’s pretty clear from where we stand that a jury of cocker spaniels would have found Petters guilty just based on this recording, although we don’t get the ultimate money shot of “this is one big fucking fraud”.
Plenty of interesting moments including lots of talk about lies, money, more lies, Bob White’s “goddamn good imagination” and a flurry of “fucks” right at the end from TP. You do get the feeling that no matter how hopeless TP sounds, he somehow thinks it will all work out. Hindsight!
Around the 10 minute mark is when Petters first starts losing it and around 13:51 he remembers the good old days when “we laughed about it”. This should convince the last of you “Free Tom Petters” hold-outs. Enjoy.
• Court Allows Cuban to Seek Discovery in S.E.C. Case – No one questions Mark Cuban’s patriotism and gets away with it. [DealBook]
• Ohio school will return Petters’ scholarship donations – Miami of Ohio is giving back $5 million that was gifted to establish the John T. Petters Center for Leadership, Ethics and Skills Development. [Pioneer Press]
• Doesn’t Sound V-Shaped to Me – The recovery that is. [Financial Armageddon]
• Fixed assets and year-end planning – Joe Kristan is getting you ready for the upcoming tax prep season. [Tax Update Blog]
• Nonprofit Executive Compensation Changes in 2009 – Charity doesn’t pay like it used to. [Mission Accountable]
You step away for a dentist appointment and look what happens:
A verdict has been reached in the trial of Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman accused of running a $3 billion Ponzi scheme. Here’s a look at the jury’s decision on each of the superseding indictment’s 20 criminal counts.
You can see the verdict, count by count, here.
If you’re a swashbuckling industrialist like Tom Petters, you’re probably not at all worried that the jury has yet to come back with a verdict of not guilty. It’ll only be a matter of time.
However, if you’re like us, you are borderline having a panic attack waiting for the results of this trial. The jury began deliberations on November 30th and as of this writing there’s no indication that they are near a verdict.
Considering the mountain of evidence to be reviewed and some complex charges, we’re told this probably isn’t unusual but like we said, we’re anxious. The jury of Minnesota nice is obviously taking their civic duty seriously. We can admire that.
In related news, Palm Beach Finance Partners, L.P. declared bankruptcy yesterday, saying that they lost more than $1 billion in TP’s alleged scheme. As you may recall, Palm Beach was one of the defendants listed in the Texas lawsuit that also includes Ernst & Young, McGladrey & Pullen, and Kaufman, Rossin, & Co. that we reported on last month.
Since we’re waiting, we’ll get your thoughts on the matter. Vote on what you think the outcome of the trial will be and we’ll report the result as soon as we hear the news.
UPDATE: Obviously we had some intuition about some justice going down.
Swashbuckling cocker spaniel Tom Petters has managed to keep his focus the last few days, testifying in his trial for his alleged $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme.
His cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Dixon included several interesting exchanges including Petters admitting that he was the ‘heart and soul’ of PCI despite his claim of being duped for fifteen years by his office manager/confidante/lover, Deanna Coleman and Robert White, his former CFO. Dixon also accused of Petters of getting drunk on the super-happy-fun times he was having as a captain of industry:
Dixon moved to a line of questioning meant to show Petters used investors’ money to support his other businesses and lifestyle.
Dixon asked about Petters’ ownership of a Bentley, his use of corporate aircraft and homes on Lake Minnetonka and in Florida.
“You wanted the life of a corporate tycoon,” Dixon said.
“No, others wanted me to have that life,” Petters said, his voice rising. “I did not want the life of a corporate tycoon. Absolutely, I didn’t want that.”
Petters said his friend Dean Vlahos, a founder of the Champps and Redstone American Grill restaurant chains, bought him a Bentley as a gift.
“I didn’t want a Bentley,” he said. “I’m not a Bentley guy.”
See? Tom Petters was thrust into this swashbuckling lifestyle by others. The man can’t finish a book if his life depended on it, he can’t possibly be this titan of capitalism. He would’ve been perfectly happy driving a late 70s Oldsmobile Cutlass around on fumes with the headliner completely torn out. In fact, he would’ve preferred that.
Prosecutor jabs, Petters takes to ropes [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
More GC Coverage of Tom Petters:
Even as the Doors Were Being Busted Down, Tom Petters Was Sure Everything Would Be Fine
Tom Petters Was Pretty Sure He Was Going to End Up in a Dumpster Somewhere
Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen Both Have a Petters Problem
For those of you that were maybe developing a soft spot for Tom Petters because, among other things, his own lawyer doesn’t think too much of him, the latest testimony in TP’s trial should help squash your sympathy.
Janet Leck, a 79 year old widow, was convinced by Frank Vennes, Jr. — an evangelist who “steered unwitting investors to [Petters]” — to invest her money with Tom Petters. At one point Vennes, apparently having reconnected with the Almighty, told Leck that he was ending his business relationship with TP because of ‘things he was seeing in Mr. Petters’ personal life’ and was returning her money.
Now, one could assume that Vennes was getting the creeps from Petters because either: 1) he realized that Petters was a complete man-child that couldn’t finish a copy of Go Dog Go! or 2) typical hooker/llelo chicanery.
Two years after dumping Petters for his sinful ways, Vennes decided redemption was in order (or, most likely, he just missed the hookers) because he went back to TP and got the Lecks to invest with him again:
She re-mortgaged her home and drew out $190,000 in equity to invest with Petters, she said. Leck said she relied on the $3,400 monthly payments from that loan for living expenses until September 2008, when authorities raided Petters’ home and business looking for evidence that he was running an alleged $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme.
Now, unless she can restructure her mortgage, Leck said, “I’m looking at foreclosure. …I will move from my home of 30 years.”
In other overwhelmingly convincing testimony, investment banker Michael Liss described Petters, “as a ‘swashbuckling industrialist’ who had an arsenal of ‘ridiculous’ excuses for not paying his debts on time.”
Ridiculous excuses like, “Do you treat your other swashbuckling industrialist clients this way?” or “I’m busy ripping off senior citizens. Do you mind?” OR “My ass is going to end up in dumpster any second, sorta busy.”
Petters trial: Retired widow fears losing her home [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
The trial of Cocker Spaniel/Ponzi boy Tom Petters is moving along as more and more witnesses are giving testimony that pretty much solidifies Petters’ statement that his business was “one big fucking fraud”.
Testimony on Tuesday (there were no proceedings yesterday due to the holiday) included that of James Wehmhoff, an accountant for Petters Company Inc. (“PCI”).
Wehmhoff said that Petters and Robert White — Petters’ CFO — were taking money out of a subsidiary for personal use. In addition, he also testified that Petters was panicking about an audit and was desperate to stonewall them:
In an email Petters sent to Wehmhoff and other insiders, Petters allegedly wrote, “We need to send the auditors something every day no matter what and keep them from coming to Minnesota. We must pacify them.”
Yet when the Feds were raiding his businesses last September Petters thought everything was hunky-dory, allegedly telling one investor, ‘everything would be fine’. This despite Petters’ fear of getting clipped and, you know, having to explain just where the hell $3.5 billion went.
We’ll keep you updated until they find this guy guilty.
Accountant Testifies Petters Panicked Over Audit [KSTP]
Accountant: Petters execs misused investor cash [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Earlier: Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen Both Have a Petters Problem
Tom Petters doesn’t buy the whole Minnesota nice routine. Can’t say we blame the guy. If we were robbing people blind we’d be suspicious of every Marge Gunderson in the Twin Cities too.
According to a tape recording from yesterday’s proceedings, the stress of ripping people off for so long was causing him to freak out a little.
“Nobody’s paying us,” Petters said on the 30-minute recording made Sept. 22, 2008, by federal authorities with the help of Coleman. “I can’t stand lying to people every day.”
“We’re at a breaking point,” Petters said on the tape. “I can’t stand where we are. … None of us are OK. … We’ve got problems. I’m trying as hard as I can to find a way out of this. I don’t think we can all think clearly anymore.”
He said he was afraid that Robert W. Sabes, 69, formerly of Wayzata, and his son Jon R. Sabes, 43, of Wayzata, who authorities say had invested $17 million to $19 million, might kill him.
“Jon Sabes needs to calm down a bit,” Petters said, adding that he believed Sabes was connected to organized crime. “They are bad, bad people. I think he’d kill me.”
Now maybe this goes back to whole notion that TP had the attention span of a dog with above average intelligence (still a disservice to the breed in our book) but if you steal $19 mil from anyone, they’re going to want to kill you. Call it a hunch.
For the Sabes’ part, they may have had some shady connections but Tom Petters doesn’t strike us as the type of guy that attracted devout religious types. When reached for comment, Robert Sabes was quoted as saying, ‘I think he’s been watching “The Sopranos” too much.’
Yep. Pretty sure he was going to kill that guy.
Petters feared mob hit [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
In last Tuesday’s Preliminary Analytics we mentioned the case of Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman accused of running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
The trial is in its first week and already there has been testimony from the star witness — Petters’ former office manager — that included a recording of Petters saying ‘This is one bi his own defense counsel comparing him to a cocker spaniel:
[Defense counsel, John] Hopeman countered that while Petters was an accomplished salesman, he didn’t have the corporate skills necessary to run companies.
“He has the attention span of a cocker spaniel — about 15 seconds,” the defense lawyer told the 10-woman, six-man jury. “He couldn’t read a whole book if his life depended on it.”
Okay, a couple things before we get to the crux.
• Most cocker spaniels we know have attention spans exponentially longer than fifteen seconds. It would be much more believable if defense counsel had said, “He has the attention span of a pomeranian and you can’t leave him home alone or he’s eats the furniture.”
• Petters couldn’t read a whole book if his life depended on it? Are we talking classic literature? Because if we are, then he’s got company. What about children’s books? Do magazines count? He strikes as a guy that could at least make it through the pro football season preview.
Now that the trial is underway we’ll be following the more interesting developments in the case but we’ll be especially interested in the litigation involving the auditors of the hedge funds that cycled funds to Petters’ businesses.
There is pending litigation in Texas that involves both Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen related to the audits the two firms performed for feeder funds for Petters’ businesses.
These feeder funds received purchase orders for high-end electronics from Petters’ businesses that were seemingly made by big-box retailers such as CostCo. The feeder funds then solicited money from investors, including the plaintiffs in the case, in return for promissory notes for Petters’ businesses. The merchandise on the purchase orders secured the notes. Allegedly, there was no merchandise and Petters used the money received to pay off other investors who were looking to get out and so on and so forth.
The feeder funds that are the defendants in this case are Arrowhead Capital Partners II, L.P. of Minnetonka, Minnesota, Palm Beach Finance Partners, L.P. and Palm Beach Finance Partners II, L.P. of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Stewardship Credit Arbitrage Fund, LLC of Greenwich, Connecticut. The general partners and investment managers of these funds are also listed as defendants.
E&Y served as auditors for Stewardship while M&P served as the auditors of Arrowhead. A small Florida firm, Kaufman, Rossin, & Co., P.A. served as the auditors for the two Palm Beach funds. The firms are being sued, naturally, for not detecting the alleged fraud. In this case, however, the firms may have it coming since the fraud was run by someone with the alleged attention span of a canine.
We spoke with Guy Hohmann, who is representing the plaintiffs in this case, and according to Mr. Hohmann, M&P has the most significant exposure in the Petters case as they also served as the auditor for Lancelot Investors Fund and Colossus Capital Fund, L.P. both Oak Brook, Illinois based hedge funds. M&P also faces litigation from the investors of those funds in Illinois.
Lancelot’s Vice President of Finance was Harold Katz, who just pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Mr. Hohmann was recently informed that before taking the job at Lancelot, Katz was a senior manager at M&P that worked on the Lancelot audit. M&P would not comment. It has been speculated now that Katz — who pleaded guilty September 2nd — is cooperating with authorities in the cases against Petters and Lancelot founder, Gregory Bell.
In another strange twist, Mr. Hohmann told GC that Lewis Freeman — the forensic accountant that is under federal investigation that we told you about last week — was appointed as the Chief Restructuring Officer of the Palm Beach funds. The Palm Beach funds are not currently listed as an active case on the forensic firm’s website.
We reached out to all the firms named in the lawsuit, McGladrey & Pullen declined to comment while calls to E&Y, Kaufman Rossin & Co., and Kenneth A. Welt, the current receiver listed on the Lewis Freeman website, were not returned.
According to the complaint, the amount lost by the plaintiffs was $24 million dollars, however, according to a October 6, 2008 Bloomberg article, the two Palm Beach Funds were responsible for approximately $1.1 billion of the alleged $3 billion the scheme while the Lancelot funds held approximately $1.0 billion with Petters. Mr. Hohmann’s understanding was that the Palm Beach funds had provided approximately $1.0 and that Lancelot held approximately $1.6 billion. Because of the complex web of companies in this case, the final dollar amounts may not ever be known.
So regardless of the fact that the case in Texas is in its early stages, future lawsuits from other investors could arise, and all three firms could continue to face significant litigation.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on any developments in the cases involving these accounting firms and will be following any noteworthy developments involving the Petters trial.
The case is SSR v. Arrowhead et al., District Court of Dallas County.