“I didn’t feel I had a choice. I had to fight for justice. And any cursory examination of the facts of the case showed that I was clearly in the right. Given that, I have never been able to understand why EY fought a losing battle for so long.” — Amjad Rihan, a former audit […]
PwC ‘Punished’ Thorough Auditing, Whistleblower Testifies [Law360] A couple Augusts ago, Adrienne wrote about an academic study that revealed the market for audit services penalizes audit firms for disclosing information critical of management in their audit opinions and that audit firms that find internal control material weaknesses experience lower client and fee growth. In other […]
In response to the 2008 financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act in July 2010, which, among other things, created the SEC Whistleblower Program. A decade later, the program has proven to be successful in generating high-quality information regarding securities laws violations that have enabled the SEC to halt fraud schemes and protect investors. Since issuing […]
While all this talk has been going on about the uncertain future of the PCAOB, a letter was sent on Feb. 10 to the chairs and ranking members of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets, asking that a hearing be called for lawmakers to discuss […]
Snitching on tax cheats could be just as lucrative in 2019 as it was in 2018, according to Dean Zerbe, national managing director for alliantgroup and former tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. In his latest column for Forbes, Zerbe noted that there was a tenfold increase in tax whistleblower awards last year: Honest, […]
This Sunday, July 30, 2017, marks the 15th anniversary of the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”) of 2002. SOX emerged after the “smartest guys in the room” caused Enron to implode, and WorldCom magically erased billions in earnings overnight. The scandals shook the public’s confidence in the reliability of financial reporting and led to […]
Unsatisfied whistleblowers Whistleblowers go through a lot to expose wrongdoing. Their lives are turned upside down for years — loss of jobs, income, etc. — and sometimes it's all for nothing; the company is never held accountable and everyone moves on. This was not the case for the Monsanto whistleblower who was awarded $22 million. […]
Bloomberg reported yesterday that one of the ex-PwC employees responsible for LuxLeaks "was actually looking for training documents when he stumbled upon the files." That sounds less like a “quirk” and more like some idiot naming a folder: “HOW TO: MASSIVE INTERNATIONAL TAX AVOIDANCE.”
This month in white-collar crime: Will you use your accounting skills for good or for evil? A new money-making scheme for all of usFun fact: in 1925, a scrap-metal dealer bought the Eiffel Tower from an Austro-Hungarian con-man named The Count. Instead of selling international landmarks to unsuspecting scrap dealers –- which I've considered and […]
Things are looking pretty good for someone who will not be named in the matter of something that will not be mentioned: The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced a whistleblower award of more than $3 million to a company insider whose information helped the SEC crack a complex fraud. The multi-million dollar payout is […]
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced an expected award of more than $30 million to a whistleblower who provided key original information that led to a successful SEC enforcement action. The award will be the largest made by the SEC’s whistleblower program to date and the fourth award to a whistleblower living in a […]
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that the whistleblower who received the first award under the agency’s new whistleblower program will receive an additional $150,000 payout after the SEC collected additional funds in the case. The whistleblower, who the SEC did not identify in order to protect confidentiality, has now been awarded a total […]
The Internal Revenue Service has rejected a reward claim made by a whistleblower, former banker Joseph Insinga, who had sued the agency in a closely watched case. In a letter dated April 15, the IRS told Insinga that he was not entitled to a reward. A copy of the letter was provided to Reuters by his […]
If you've ever met a whistleblower, or heard one give a speech, you never get the sense that they're too caught up in their 15 minutes, marching around to the beat of their kick ass do-gooderness. Typically, it's more of a matter-of-fact story and less a reflection on the heroic moments that turned an ordinary […]
Last week, the SEC announced that it had paid out its first whistleblower award and that the program was coming along just grand as the Whistleblower Office said that the Commission receives "about eight tips a day" since the it started last August. That's great and all, but the internal auditors might be feeling slighted […]
Indianapolis TV station WTHR is reporting IRS tax examiner Howard Antelis has apparently developed some concerns about the way his esteemed employer handles Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers and, more importantly, what possible abuse and fraud mean for the Service's flawless record. "I'm horrified and ashamed and embarrassed by what I've seen. It's not supposed to […]
The Service has heard everyone's concerns that whistleblower tips aren't being reviewed in a timely manner, rewards aren't paid, blah blah blah, so just everyone cool it while they sort this out: The IRS will work with “internal and external stakeholders” on a “comprehensive review” of the agency’s guidelines and procedures for handling whistle-blower complaints, Deputy […]
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 […]
Anyone that's ever had the pleasure of being exposed to any batshit crazy televangelists have not only thought, "Why, God, why?" but also, "I bet they're totally ripping people off," or "He probably frequents hookers." And you'd be right! Today in PTL shenanigans, we have Paul and Janice Crouch who are part of the Trinity […]
FT Alphaville found this notable quote from District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s opinion (whole thing after the jump):
The TAC alleges that Lee told E&Y in June 2008 “that Lehman moved $50 billion of inventory off its balance sheet at quarter-end through Repo 105 transactions and that these assets returned to the balance sheet about a week later.” Assuming that is so, E&Y arguably was on 308 notice by June 2008 that Lehman had used Repo 105s to portray its net leverage more favorably than its financial position warranted, a circumstance that could well have resulted in the published balance sheet for that quarter being inconsistent with GAAP’s overall requirement of fair presentation. Accordingly, the TAC adequately alleges that E&Y misrepresented in the 2Q08 that it was “not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the consolidated financial statements referred to above for them to be in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles” notwithstanding Lee’s disclosure to it.
“Lee” you may remember is Matthew Lee Lee, the Senior VP for Global Balance Sheet and Legal Entity Accounting who also said this about E&Y’s reaction to his warning on Repo 105:
They certainly didn’t support it. On the Repo 105 issue, they knew about it; they did not appear to know that the number was so large.
Do you happen to know for an absolute fact that a former co-worker was taking their threadbare clothes to the Salvation Army and claiming them as being in “good condition”? Does your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend exaggerate the expenses they incur from their side business? Does your neighbor’s six-year old underreport their lemonade stand profits? Are you looking for a way to get back at them without the fear of a confrontation? Good news! Taxsqueal.com will let you snitch on them anonymously and you don’t have to deal with any scary IRS forms.
Al Drucker – a former IRS agent – founded Taxsqueal because he thought there was lots of opportunity for Joe or Jane Whistleblower to do their part in closing the tax gap but were maybe hesitant because the idea of being on hold was too much to bear (that and the Big Brother thing):
He said the IRS once manned a toll-free telephone number, but callers to that number now are met with an automated message that directs them to the IRS website. Other potential callers are uneasy about contacting the government and worry they won’t stay anonymous.
Drucker’s idea: Develop a website in which informants can fill out an easy-to-use form written in plain English. TaxSqueal.com then forwards the information to the IRS and erases from its computer system information about the person making the allegation.
The catch is you have to be willing to do it as an act of patriotic duty or hateful spite as opposed to landing a tidy reward for narking out a tax scofflaw:
Whistleblowers would miss their chance to collect. But Drucker figures most people aren’t eligible for a reward anyway, because most of the cases that come into TaxSqueal.com are for less than $2 million.
What’s in it for whistleblowers? Not much. “This site is not designed for people seeking rewards,” Drucker said.
Sweet revenge awaits.
The corporate watchdog has received just 168 complaints alleging corporate fraud in the first 6½ months of the program’s existence, according to data the SEC provided to The Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. The tally is from July 22, 2010, when the program was launched, through Feb. 2, 2011. At that rate, the SEC is receiving less than one tip a day — hardly the flood that led the agency to delay staffing the program while it pleaded with lawmakers for more funding. [NYP]
“I don’t think the SEC’s culture is one that will make this effective one iota,” said Sherron Watkins, a one-time vice president at Enron, referring to expanded protections for whistleblowers included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. If she was in the same situation today as 10 years ago, when Watkins approached government authorities about accounting fraud at Enron, she would probably instead take her information to an organization like WikiLeaks, Watkins said. [Paper Trail]
“Zero Hedge kindly requests any and all Big 4 (and all other) accounting firm whistleblowers to please stand up and let us know of any and every case of improper accounting they are aware of (preferably with supporting documentation).”
SEC Homes In on Lehman, ‘Funds of Funds’ [WSJ]
“The Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation into the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is zeroing in on an accounting maneuver used to give the appearance that the companyt levels, according to people familiar with the situation.
Agency officials also are probing whether former Lehman executives failed to adequately mark down the value of the huge real-estate portfolio acquired in the securities firm’s takeover of apartment developer Archstone-Smith Trust or to disclose the resulting losses to investors, these people said.
The narrowing probe could move the SEC closer to bringing civil charges related to Lehman’s collapse in September 2008, though a decision doesn’t appear imminent.”
Study Says Directors Favor Themselves, Not Shareholders [FINS]
“A new study found that directors who field whistleblowing claims are likely to discount charges that could threaten their board seats and will assign fewer resources into investigating such claims.
In weighing hypothetical charges, 83 veteran directors at large U.S. corporations said they would allocate 42% fewer resources on average to fraud tips that might ultimately cost them their board seats.”
Dubai World reaches $24.9 billion debt deal [Reuters]
“State-owned conglomerate Dubai World DBWLD.UL on Friday reached a formal deal to restructure around $24.9 billion of liabilities, partly easing recently heightened concerns over the Gulf emirate’s debt woes.
While Dubai World’s agreement with most of its creditors is seen as a positive step for Dubai, the announcement comes just days after a unit of Dubai Holding, the conglomerate owned by Dubai’s ruler, said it will delay repayment on a $555 million loan, the second time it has failed to meet a repayment deadline.”
Huguette Clark’s multi-million-dollar fortune remains in hands of her financial managers [NYDN]
“Millionaire recluse Huguette Clark’s $500 million fortune will remain in the hands of financial managers who are under investigation, a Manhattan judge decided Thursday.
Judge Laura Visitacion-Lewis tossed a request by Clark’s relatives to appoint an independent guardian to oversee her finances and property, including Fifth Avenue’s biggest co-op apartment.
The judge called the family’s concerns about Clark’s health and state of mind “speculative” and “insufficient” to merit wresting control from her lawyer, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler.”
Control Freak Q&A With Caleb Newquist [Control Freak]
Approva’s Control Freak blog asked me what I liked about being “control freaky.” Check out this post for the answer and more bits of wisdom from Adrienne’s favorite blogger.
Trump Offers to Buy Out Islamic Center Investor [WSJ]
“Mr. El-Gamal, founder of SoHo Properties, is one of eight investors who paid $4.8 million for a building two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The statement came following reports that real estate mogul Donald Trump was offering to buy one investor’s stake in the property.
In a letter to Hisham Elzanaty, an Egyptian-born Long Island businessman and a major investor in the project, Mr. Trump offered to buy his stake for 25% more than Mr. Elzanaty paid for it.”
Former GE Unit Executive Says He Was Pushed Out for Questioning Accounting [Bloomberg]
“General Electric Capital Services was sued by a former executive who claims he was forced out for questioning the company’s treatment of an asset.
Edward Gormbley, who worked for GE Capital from 2000 until he quit in September 2009, filed his suit today in state court in Stamford, Connecticut. The complaint also names parent General Electric Co. and its chief executive officer, Jeffrey Immelt.
Gormbley said he was punished for challenging the valuation of silicon-maker Momentive Performance Materials, an investment asset. GE Capital overstated Momentive’s value in December 2008 to improve its own balance sheet, he said. Valuing the asset correctly would have reduced ‘GE Capital’s earnings 100 percent,’ in the fourth quarter that year, according to the complaint.”
H-P Board Surprised Hurd Didn’t Go Quietly [WSJ]
H-P’s directors ‘hoped he would move on,’ said one person familiar with the situation, adding that the board prefers to focus on ‘protecting the brand and taking the higher ground.’
Mr. Hurd resigned Friday over ethics violations related to his relationship with a former H-P marketing contractor, Jodie Fisher. His exit was immediately followed by hard-hitting comments from H-P executives and a board member. Mr. Hurd left with a separation agreement that included a $12.2 million cash payment and a promise not to disparage the company or ‘induce others’ to do so.
In the days bn, according to a person familiar with the matter, Mr. Hurd hired Sitrick & Co., a Los Angeles-based firm known for handling crisis communications for high-profile individuals, including former H-P chairman Patricia Dunn and celebrity Paris Hilton.”
What Not to Do When Blowing the Whistle [FINS]
Sure you can get paid the big bucks to sing like a canary these days but are some things you might want to consider first.
Black Accountants Group Names New Leader [Afro American]
“Calvin Harris Jr., was recently elected the 24th national president and CEO of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). NABA, a 501 c(3) nonprofit, is the leading association for African Americans and minorities in the accounting, audit, finance, information technology, tax, and other business related fields. Harris’s two-year term began July 1.”
Wipfli LLP: Washington state-based Michael R. Bell & Company, PLLC, joins Wipfli LLP [WisBusiness]
“Effective August 1, the partners and associates of Washington state-based Michael R. Bell & Company, PLLC, joined Wipfli LLP, an international CPA firm headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Michael R. Bell & Company specializes in providing audit, accounting and consulting services to a variety of health care organizations and will become part of Wipfli’s full-service health care industry practice.”
Salesforce Customers Want Better Link to Accounting [Web CPA]
“A new survey of Salesforce.com customers found that the majority of them want to link more closely between their customer relationship management software and accounting software.
The survey, by Salesforce.com partner FinancialForce.com, found that 67 percent of those using competing packages cited a lack of integration of their current accounting software with customer relationship management software as their biggest headache.”
Plum Benefit to Cultural Post: Tax-Free Housing [NYT]
Being a director of some of the best known museums in the world is not only lucrative (multi-million dollar salary), you can also get a pretty sweet pad – tax free!
Mickelson Has Arthritic Condition That Made Him Question His Golf Future [Bloomberg]
Rest easy T Fly, Phil says he’s back to 90% just in time for the PGA that starts tomorrow.
“We thought auditors and investors would like to have an avenue to report violations of accounting and auditing standards and financial fraud.”
~ Claudius Modesti, PCAOB Enforcement and Investigations Division director. Last year, the Board fielded 179 tips – a record – that alleged wrongdoing by audit firms and their employees.
A couple of weeks ago we told you about fired Tyco accountant Jeff Weist who wasn’t really into, among other things, mermaid greeters and costumed wenches. Whether or not he’s not a fan of starfish bikinis wasn’t the issue, it was the principle of the matter.
You see, some Tyco executives got into a bit of trouble back in the day for some accounting fraud but the kicker was the footage of a four-day “Roman orgy” rager in Sardinia. The jury didn’t have much problem throwing the book at former CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz after concluding that awesome party = crooked execs. Weist figured the company didn’t really need more trouble so he raised a fuss over the expenses for another epic bash that was being planned for execs in the Bahamas.
FOX Business Network’s Neil Cavuto got wind of this and had Weist on his program only to do most of the talking. When Weist was able to squeeze a word in, he didn’t exactly come across as a fun-loving guy but more like your typical accountant that would probably frown on these types of shenanigans. Nevertheless, Weist was given the boot and that has caused a bit of stir – specifically, Weist filing suit against Tyco.
Anyway, a guy that knows a little something about awesome parties – Dennis Kozlowski – caught Cavuto’s little program and felt obligated to write a letter (a copy follows in the following pages) expressing his disappointment.
Koz writes, “As I write this letter in my 6′ x 9′ cell jail cell, all I can muster in response to your show is ‘My, how things have changed.’ ”
Right! Like, how on Earth can you justify stingray feedings? COME ON. You want sexy men and women running around in togas, that’s understandable. You just raid your linen closet and you’re good to go. But can you believe someone would throw a corporate bash in the Western Hemisphere? Shameful.
He goes on to hem and haw that if it wasn’t for some idiot deciding to tape his little bash in Sardinia, which was later shown to 12 Manhattan jurors, he wouldn’t even be in this predicament. Further, DK would like to know where the outrage is re: the mermaids, wenches, tattoo artists, bonuses and so forth, “With the Tyco extravaganza where employees were paid ‘bonuses’ to attend, you have to ask where is the outrage?”
Well? Outrage? Anyone? The man is in a prison upstate and he can’t hear you!
Fired Tyco Accountant (and no fan of mermaids or wenches) Jeff Wiest was on Neil Cavuto last night and he attempts to explain his story where he would not approve of some expenses for, what sounds to be, a pretty kick ass party that any one of you would love to attend. Regardless, it wasn’t Jeff’s job to judge the awesomeness of said party but merely to determine if the bash was for legitimate business purposes.
In his opinion, the mermaid greeters, wenches, tattoo artists, so on and so forth were simply too extravagant and no one at Tyco was going to convince him otherwise.
As you can see, Jeff manages to tell his story despite appearing pretty nervous and dealing with several Cavuto outbursts (he has no time for the delicate intricacies of expense approval, get to the mermaids!).
But in part deuce, Jeff gets all accountant-y, discussing intricate details of Sarbanes-Oxley and Cavuto will not stand for it. Neil finally levels with the guy saying that he goes to plenty of Fox Biz shindigs (awesome ones, at that) and it’s NBD. So what the hell man? Are you just not a fun guy?
Stingray feedings! Who wouldn’t want to feed a stingray? And of course Cavuto likes the mermaid greeters (which somehow gets a chuckle out of Jeff) but who doesn’t, amiright?
[caption id="attachment_13953" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Not a legitimate business expense?"][/caption]
Remeber Tyco? Dennis Kozlowski. Mark Swartz. Roman orgy parties. It sounded like a hoot. Too bad the law got in the way.
An accounting manager at Tyco Electronics claims that he was ‘coercively’ fired for taking issue with “Tyco’s exorbitant bashes for its CEO Thomas Lynch and other top executives ‘were almost identical to parties for which Tyco’s former CEO [Dennis Kozlowski] was criminally charged and convicted.’ ”
What kind of party expenses you ask? Run-of-the-mill stuff like ‘mermaid greeters’ and ‘costumed pirates/wenches.’
It doesn’t hurt to have a little eye candy at a company bash, amiright? And maybe Jeffrey Weist was okay with the scantily clad roaming hotties and really just took exception with the $2,350 for the tattoo artist (tatts included!) and limbo and fire dancers, $2,500 for chair covers and sashes and the $1,000 hotel rooms.
Whatever lavish (read: kick-ass) expense it was that turned out to be the straw that broke the stuffy accountant’s back, Jeff Wiest not letting this happen:
The complaint adds: “This requested payment seemed particularly inappropriate from a morale aspect, coming in the midst of continued downsizing pressure, and seemed contradictory in that this one party equated to approximately seven positions for one year in the accounts payable function managed by Wiest,” according to the complaint.
Wiest says that despite his objections, “it was decided to go ahead with the event, to treat the proportionate share of the party as income, and to ‘gross-up’ the bonuses to the employees involved. In other words, the company would pay each highly paid employee an additional amount of cash beyond the value of the trip in order to cover his/her tax liability.”
This approach brought “the total cost of the event to approximately a half million dollars,” according to the complaint.
He claims that each high-ranking Tyco employee was awarded up to $7,500 per person, or $15,000 per couple, as additional “income,” for attending the party. All of the 30 employees who attended were receiving salaries of more than $102,000, Wiest says. He adds that 23 of them took their wives.
And they got paid to go! What is going on at Tyco? Other than it’s the best place to work EVER.
Back to Wiest. For taking high road, Weist alleges that Tyco turned the screws back on him:
In response to his repeated questioning of these extravaganzas, Wiest says, Tyco began an “investigation” of him. This led to bogus accusations that he had made sexually oriented comments, Wiest says.
“Examples given included a comment to an employee going on a honeymoon cruise to not stay on the ship the whole time; a comment about his wife’s hormone issues during her pregnancy being difficult for him, and a comment regarding the uses of improved flexibility from working out. It is noteworthy that the hormone comment would have been several years old, as Wiest’s child was born in 2006,” the complaint states.
He claims Tyco also raised questions about a decade-old brief relationship he had had with a California-based Tyco employee, and baseball tickets that Wiest had been given by a superior.
Jesus. If they would have just invited him to the party, we probably wouldn’t have to go through all this.
Same Old Tricks at Tyco, Accountant Says [Courthouse News Service]
“These changes appear to be limiting the scope of whistleblowers and the type of recoveries that would be eligible for an award. The fewer people eligible for rewards, the fewer people coming forward with information that might check out as tax fraud.”
“They certainly didn’t support it. On the Repo 105 issue, they knew about it; they did not appear to know that the number was so large.”
~ Matthew Lee, the Lehman Brothers whistleblower, in testimony today.
• Koss sues American Express over Sachdeva purchases [MJS]
Headphone factory Koss is suing American Express (the whistleblower!) for not reporting alleged embezzler extraordinaire Sue Sachdeva sooner.
Koss alleges that AMEX knew about Suze paying her credit card with Koss funds in February 2008 but then did nothing about it until August 2009; a month when SS spent $3.5 million on high end threads.
Sue Sach was finally exposed last December after allegedly making off with $31 million. So more or less, Koss is suing AMEX for $20 million because Koss’ management was far too busy to pay attention to their own company. The good news is that a whistleblower that happens to be corporation gets about as much gratitude as a human whistleblower. Consistency!
• IRS worker’s widow sues Texas suicide pilot’s wife [AP via NYDN]
The widow of IRS employee Vernon Hunter is suing Sheryl Stack, widow of Joseph Stack, in order to determine if JS had a life insurance policy or other assets. The suit alleges that Mrs. Stack should have “should have warned others about her husband,” apparently because someone bitching about the IRS regularly flies a plane into a building.
• Four Twitter Feeds for Tax Pros [FINS]
FINS put together their top four Twitter feeds for tax professionals yesterday and lo and behold, we ended up on the list! Thanks to FINS for including us but a special thanks goes to people like Terry “Dozer” and wives that shoot at their greedy husbands. They make our jobs easier.