October 23, 2020

without admitting or denying charges

PwC India Affiliates Settle with SEC, PCAOB Over Satyam Audit Failures

The affiliates – Lovelock & Lewes, Price Waterhouse Bangalore, Price Waterhouse & Co. Bangalore, Price Waterhouse Calcutta, and Price Waterhouse & Co. Calcutta – must pay $6 million to the SEC, $1.5 million to the PCAOB and are barred from accepting U.S.-based clients for six months. The SEC fine is the largest ever levied against a foreign-based accounting firm in an SEC Enforcement Action and the PCAOB fine is the largest in the regulator’s history. PW India must also “establish training programs for its officers and employees on securities laws and accounting principles; institute new pre-opinion review controls; revise its audit policies and procedures; and appoint an independent monitor to ensure these measures are implemented.” The SEC’s press releasilures “were not limited to Satyam, but rather indicative of a much larger quality control failure throughout PW India.”

More from Bob Khuzami & Co.:

“PW India violated its most fundamental duty as a public watchdog by failing to comply with some of the most elementary auditing standards and procedures in conducting the Sataym audits. The result of this failure was very harmful to Satyam shareholders, employees and vendors,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

Cheryl Scarboro, Chief of the SEC’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit, added, “PW India failed to conduct even the most fundamental audit procedures. Audit firms worldwide must take seriously their critical gate-keeping duties whenever they perform audit engagements for SEC-registered issuers and their affiliates, and conduct proper audits that exercise professional skepticism and care.”

For the PCAOB, Chairman James Doty:

“The reliability of global capital markets depends on auditors fulfilling their obligation to investors to perform robust audits, resulting in well-founded audit reports. Two of the PW India firms, PW Bangalore and Lovelock, repeatedly violated PCAOB rules and standards in conducting the Satyam audits. These confirmation deficiencies contributed directly to the auditors’ failure to uncover the Satyam fraud.”

And Claudisu Modesti, the Director of Enforcement:

“Accounting firms that audit U.S. issuers, including affiliates of international accounting networks, provide an essential bulwark for investors against issuer clients that are committing fraud. PW Bangalore and Lovelock repeatedly failed to meet their obligation to comply with PCAOB standards, and these failures contributed to PW Bangalore and Lovelock failing to detect the fraud committed by Satyam management.”

You can see both the enforcement actions on the following pages. As for the firm, here’s a portion from PW India’s statement:

The SEC and PCAOB orders found that PW India’s audits of Satyam did not meet US professional standards and, as a result, did not discover the fraud underlying Satyam’s 2005-2008 financial statements. The orders make clear that Satyam management engaged in a years-long fraud, going so far as to create scores of fictitious documents for the purpose of misleading the auditors.

These settlements, in which PW India neither admits nor denies the U.S. regulators’ findings, apply only to the U.S. regulatory enquiries into Satyam. Neither of the orders found that PW India or any of its professionals engaged in any intentional wrongdoing or was otherwise involved in the fraud perpetrated by Satyam management. The settlements mark the end of the Satyam-related U.S. regulatory enquiries concerning PW India and are a positive step and important milestone in putting the Satyam issue behind PW India. PW India remains hopeful of resolving the outstanding enquiry with the Indian market regulator.

Sounds a little defensive, doesn’t it? Here’s what PwC International Ltd. had to say:

PricewaterhouseCoopers International fully supports PW India’s decision to resolve these issues with the US regulators and is hopeful that an agreed resolution will also be reached with the Indian market regulator. The PwC network will continue to work closely with PW India as it fulfils its commitments to its regulators, its clients, and to the Indian and global marketplaces.

PricewaterhouseCoopers International is committed to a PwC presence in the vibrant and fast growing Indian marketplace.

“India is a key market for PwC and we are committed to working with our colleagues in India to build on a successful practice with quality at the centre of everything it does,” said Dennis Nally, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International. “The last two years have been challenging for PW India but I believe that PW India has learned the lessons of Satyam, made the right changes and is on a sound footing to move forward, dedicated to quality work.”

This may be a foreign firm but it makes us wonder if the SEC and PCAOB are just getting warmed up. Mr Doty and SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker will be on the tomorrow’s panel that we will be live-blogging and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

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Dell Is the Latest to Go the SEC’s Woodshed; Settlement of $100 million for Fraudulent Accounting, Disclosure Violations

Sure, it’s not $550 million and it’s certainly not Goldman Sachs but the SEC seems to be having a pre-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good July. On the other hand, some people think this settlement is more harsh than Goldman’s since Michael Dell was fined personally and Lloyd Blankein was not.

In addition to Dell, the man, the SEC charged former CEO Kevin Rollins and former CFO James Schneider for their roles in the disclosure violations related to payments the company received from Intel Corp. Former VP of Finance Nicholas Dunning and former Assslie Jackson were charged for their roles in the fraudulent accounting.

Washington, D.C., July 22, 2010 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Dell Inc. with failing to disclose material information to investors and using fraudulent accounting to make it falsely appear that the company was consistently meeting Wall Street earnings targets and reducing its operating expenses.

The SEC alleges that Dell did not disclose to investors large exclusivity payments the company received from Intel Corporation to not use central processing units (CPUs) manufactured by Intel’s main rival. It was these payments rather than the company’s management and operations that allowed Dell to meet its earnings targets. After Intel cut these payments, Dell again misled investors by not disclosing the true reason behind the company’s decreased profitability.

The SEC charged Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell, former CEO Kevin Rollins, and former CFO James Schneider for their roles in the disclosure violations. The SEC charged Schneider, former regional Vice President of Finance Nicholas Dunning, and former Assistant Controller Leslie Jackson for their roles in the improper accounting.

Dell Inc. agreed to pay a $100 million penalty to settle the SEC’s charges. Michael Dell and Rollins each agreed to pay a $4 million penalty, and Schneider agreed to pay $3 million, to settle the SEC’s charges against them. Dunning and Jackson also agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.

“Accuracy and completeness are the touchstones of public company disclosure under the federal securities laws,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Michael Dell and other senior Dell executives fell short of that standard repeatedly over many years, and today they are held accountable.”

Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Dell manipulated its accounting over an extended period to project financial results that the company wished it had achieved, but could not. Dell was only able to meet Wall Street targets consistently during this period by breaking the rules. The financial results that public companies communicate to the investing public must reflect reality.”

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., alleges that Dell Inc., Michael Dell, Rollins, and Schneider misrepresented the basis for the company’s ability to consistently meet or exceed consensus analyst EPS estimates from fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2006. Without the Intel payments, Dell would have missed the EPS consensus in every quarter during this period. The SEC’s complaint further alleges that Dell’s most senior former accounting personnel including Schneider, Dunning, and Jackson engaged in improper accounting by maintaining a series of “cookie jar” reserves that it used to cover shortfalls in operating results from FY 2002 to FY 2005. Dell’s fraudulent accounting made it appear that it was consistently meeting Wall Street earnings targets and reducing its operating expenses through the company’s management and operations.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Intel made exclusivity payments to Dell in order for Dell to not use CPUs manufactured by its rival – Advance Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD). These exclusivity payments grew from 10 percent of Dell’s operating income in FY 2003 to 38 percent in FY 2006, and peaked at 76 percent in the first quarter of FY 2007. The SEC alleges that Dell Inc., Michael Dell, Rollins, and Schneider failed to disclose the basis for the company’s sharp drop in its operating results in its second quarter of FY 2007 as Intel cut its payments after Dell announced its intention to begin using AMD CPUs. In dollar terms, the reduction in Intel exclusivity payments was equivalent to 75 percent of the decline in Dell’s operating income. Michael Dell, Rollins, and Schneider had been warned in the past that Intel would cut its funding if Dell added AMD as a vendor. Nevertheless, in Dell’s second quarter FY 2007 earnings call, they told investors that the sharp drop in the company’s operating results was attributable to Dell pricing too aggressively in the face of slowing demand and to component costs declining less than expected.

The SEC’s complaint further alleges that the reserve manipulations allowed Dell to materially misstate its earnings and its operating expenses as a percentage of revenue – an important financial metric that the company itself highlighted – for more than three years. The manipulations also enabled Dell to misstate materially the trend and amount of operating income of its EMEA segment, an important business unit that Dell also highlighted, from the third quarter of FY 2003 through the first quarter of FY 2005.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Dell Inc. consented to the entry of an order that permanently restrains and enjoins it from violation of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13. Dell Inc. also agreed to enhance its Disclosure Review Committee and disclosure processes, including the retention of an independent consultant to recommend improvements to those processes and enhance training regarding the disclosure requirements of the federal securities laws.

Michael Dell and Rollins settled the SEC’s disclosure charges, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, by each agreeing to pay the $4 million penalties and consenting to the entry of an order that permanently restrains and enjoins each of them from violating Sections 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act and from violating or aiding and abetting violations of other provisions of the federal securities laws.

Schneider consented to settle the disclosure and accounting fraud charges against him without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, and agreed to pay the $3 million penalty, disgorgement of $83,096, and prejudgment interest of $38,640. Dunning and Jackson consented to settle the SEC’s improper accounting charges without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations. Dunning agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000. In their settlement offers, Schneider, Dunning and Jackson consented to the issuance of administrative orders pursuant to Rule 102(e) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice, suspending each of them from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant with the right to apply for reinstatement after five years for Schneider and three years for Dunning and Jackson.

The SEC’s investigation is continuing as to other individuals.

James Blenko, Shelby Hunt, Jonathan Jacobs, Ian Rupell, Robert Peak, Brian Palechek, and Jeffrey Anderson conducted the SEC’s investigation in this matter. Litigation efforts in the ongoing case will be led by Jack Worland and Richard Skaff.

The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Federal Trade Commission in this investigation.