25 Jan

Audit Malpractice Defense: Four Key Issues

When a major fraud is discovered in a company, one of the key targets of litigation is usually the independent auditors. Two well-publicized cases in which management or shareholders suing the auditors after fraud was uncovered involve Koss Corp. (auditors Grant Thornton) and Navistar International Corp. (Deloitte & Touche).

Plaintiffs look to the auditors for potential recovery since the auditors typically have deep pockets and large insurance policies. Auditors (and their attorneys) need to know how to defend themselves in these suits.  Naturally, the auditors recognize that audits are supposed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements are fairly stated. Read More

23 Jan

Putting the “Expert” in “Witness”

Written by Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, CFF

On Balance – The Magazine for Wisconsin CPAs
January/February 2012

Lawyers are constantly on the lookout for financial experts who can help them win cases. Virtually all civil suits involve issues about money, and a certified public accountant is one of the best resources for sorting out the financial details.

As a CPA, you don’t have to focus on litigation work to become an expert witness. As a professional doing income taxes, financial statement audits, benefit plan consulting, or other advisory work, you possess valuable expertise that could help expand your practice. The key is to set yourself up as an expert on a narrow range of issues and market yourself to the right potential clients. Read More

20 Jan

Ponzi Scheme and Investment Fraud Red Flags

Charles Ponzi

How do you know if you’re considering investing in a Ponzi scheme? The promoters will never come out and tell you they are running a pyramid scheme, so the investors have to be smart enough to recognize them on their own. The good news is it is easy to spot a Ponzi scheme.

Now I don’t mean that it’s easy to prove in a court of law that something is a Ponzi scheme. In a civil or criminal case, there are certain standards of proof that need to be met. But you’re not a court. You’re simply an investor. Whether you have $10,000 to invest or $10 million to invest, your money is probably pretty important to you.

Read More

17 Jan

Auditor Malpractice: How to Sue an Audit Firm and Win

Last week, Reuters printed an interesting and enlightening interview with Steven Thomas, the managing partner of Thomas, Alexander & Forrester … an attorney known for suing large auditing firms for malpractice… and winning!

Recent big wins include $520 million and $130 million judgments against BDP Seidman, on behalf of Espirito Santo and Batchelor Foundation, respectively. Auditors Ernst & Young (E&Y) and KPMG have been on the losing sides of large cases, and Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG, and McGladrey & Pullen are all current defendants.

So how does Thomas (or any plaintiff’s attorney) win a case against an auditing firm when there is a sizeable fraud (such as the Koss Corp. embezzlement) or the collapse of a Ponzi scheme (such as the Bernie Madoff case)? Read More

13 Jan

Divorce Financials: Lifestyle Analysis in Family Law Cases

This article was originally printed in the ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter, November 2011.

One of the chief concerns in a divorce or child custody case is identifying the true income of one or both of the parties. It is not unusual for such a case to include allegations of hidden income or assets. It is common for a closely held business to suspiciously encounter declining sales and profits following the filing of a family law case.

In each of these instances, properly determining the income of the party is critical to getting a fair and equitable settlement, maintenance award, or child support award. Until you have the correct numbers, the attorney may find it very difficult to decide what is fair or in the best interest of the client. Read More

09 Jan

Article at CFO.com: Investigating a Compliance Failure

How to determine the right mix of expertise for a fraud investigation.

By Tracy Coenen, Contributor to CFO.com

It’s every CFO’s worst nightmare: despite your best efforts, your company’s compliance program has failed. There are credible reports of fraud and corruption inside the company, and an initial analysis of the situation confirms a problem. An internal investigation is necessary to determine the magnitude of the fraud, the parties involved, and the company’s financial and reputational exposure under government regulations.

How should you proceed? These investigations are often high stakes, so it is important to do things the right way from the start. In-house counsel should be involved in any situation involving allegations or evidence of fraud. Once executives have sufficient reason to believe the allegations are credible, they should involve outside counsel as well. Read More

05 Jan

Groupon: Problems With Customer Loyalty and Marketing Costs

Prior to Groupon’s IPO last year, I wrote a few articles that were critical of the company. In one of my articles, I noted problems with loyalty of customers and merchants:

  • It’s expensive to get new customers. Sure, a large email list is nice. But how much does it cost to get people on it, and more importantly, how much does it cost to get buying customers on it?
  • Only about 21% of subscribers have purchased a Groupon since January of 2009. The company has nearly 143 million subscribers, but less than 30 million of those have actually made a purchase. Worse yet, only 16 million (or 11%) are repeat customers, buying more than one Groupon since January of 2009. Read More
05 Jan

Investigating a Compliance Failure

How to determine the right mix of expertise for a fraud investigation.

Tracy L. Coenen – CFO Magazine

It’s every CFO’s worst nightmare: despite your best efforts, your company’s compliance program has failed. There are credible reports of fraud and corruption inside the company, and an initial analysis of the situation confirms a problem. An internal investigation is necessary to determine the magnitude of the fraud, the parties involved, and the company’s financial and reputational exposure under government regulations. Read More

02 Jan

Inline Marketing Scam: Same MLM Scam, Different MLM Name

Through the years, multi-level marketing companies and MLM distributors have played a clever game of changing the wording to hide the truth. MLM activities have been referred to as direct sales, dual marketing, network marketing, multilevel marketing, consumer direct marketing, affiliate marketing, seller assisted marketing scams, home-based business franchising, and referral marketing. (Skeptics refer to this “business model” as pyramid selling, pyramid schemes, pyramid scams, endless chain recruiting, and Ponzi schemes.)

Why all the names? To confuse potential customers and recruits. These companies know negative impressions are associated with multi-level recruiting and sales. So if they can change the name, maybe they will get to people who would otherwise be turned off by the name MLM. Read More