Benjamin Wey Threatens Investigative Reporter Francine McKenna

Francine McKenna is an investigative reporter who focuses her writings on the auditing profession. She blogs at re: The Auditors, and also writes for financial publications such as Forbes, The Financial Times, American Banker, and more.

In February, Ms. McKenna wrote about the auditors of AgFeed, a Chinese company involved in an elaborate accounting fraud. In March 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company and its top executives with fraud:

With the bulk of its hog production operations in China, the executives used a variety of methods to inflate revenue from 2008 to mid-2011, including fake invoices for the sale of feed and purported sales of hogs that didn’t really exist.  They later tried to cover up their actions by saying the fake hogs died.  Because fatter hogs bring higher market prices, they also inflated the weights of actual hogs sold and correspondingly inflated the sales revenues for those hogs. 

Mandatory Auditor Rotation is Dead

Almost two years ago, I wrote about a PCAOB proposal that would require companies to rotate auditors every 5 to 10 years.  The theory was that forcing companies to change auditors regularly would make audits better, because fresh eyes on the books every few years would mean a more skeptical audit.

My position was that it doesn’t matter how long an auditor worked on the same engagement. Instead, the problem is audits themselves. Audits have never been designed to detect fraud. Thus, audits rarely find fraud. I wrote previously:

Fooling the Auditors in Seven Easy Steps

mncpa-footnoteMinnesota Society of CPAs Footnote Magazine
February/March 2014

Even with all of the publicity surrounding the issue of financial fraud in the last decade, most auditors, investors and other professionals still do not “get it” when it comes to detecting fraud. Traditional financial statement audits were never designed to detect fraud. The audit is simply a process by which auditors check the company’s math and application of accounting rules.

Fraud is rarely detected by financial statement audits because they are not designed to do so. Occasionally, fraud is detected by auditors, but they could increase their chances of finding fraud if they changed their audit procedures.

Expert in Koss Case Blames Michael Koss and Management for Fraud

It has been almost four years since the massive fraud committed by Sujata Sachdeva against her employer, Koss Corp., was uncovered. A year after the discovery, Koss sued Park Bank for failing to find the fraud.  The company says that Park Bank should have known that a fraud was occurring when Koss employees with proper authority withdrew funds from the Koss bank account and had Park Bank make out cashier’s checks with the funds. Koss says that Park Bank should have realized that the endorsements on the cashiers checks did not match the payees. (For example, a cashier’s check made out to N.M. was endorsed by Nieman Marcus.)

If you know anything about fraud, you know how absurd these claims are. It is the company’s responsibility to prevent and detect fraud. This is not the first time that the company made silly claims against parties it was suing in order avoid taking responsibility for Michael Koss’s own mismanagement of the company. Mind you, the company was sanctioned for its own part in the fraud, including lack of oversight, inadequate accounting controls, failure to reconcile accounts, and failure of Michael Koss to review figures before certifying the financial statements.

Mind the Expectation Gap (Guest Post at FEI Financial Reporting Blog)

auditor-expectation-gapYesterday Financial Executives International (FEI) ran a guest post by me on their Financial Reporting Blog. The introduction is below, and you can read the entire article about the expectation gap between auditors and the users of financial statements here.

One of the greatest problems with the process of traditional financial statement audits is the expectation gap, which is commonly defined as the difference between what auditors do and what the clients, investors or the public expects.  There are also gaps in understanding as to the role of other parties in the financial reporting supply chain, including financial executives, internal auditors, and audit committee members, and how those parties interact with auditors and each other, and the public’s expectations thereof.

[snip]

Let’s look at the first part of the Expectation Gap,  that between auditors and their clients. The audit engagement letter and other pieces of correspondence from the auditors to the client state that the company is responsible for preventing and detecting fraud. In spite of this, management often points the finger at the auditors for failing to uncover a fraud scheme.

Escaping Detection: Why Auditors Do Not Find Fraud

needle-in-a-haystackThis article was originally printed in Valuation Strategies, a magazine published by Thomson Reuters.

Even with all the publicity surrounding the issue of financial fraud in the last decade, most auditors, investors, and other professionals still do not “get it” when it comes to detecting fraud. Traditional financial statement audits were never designed to detect fraud.

The audit is simply a process by which auditors check the company’s math and application of accounting rules. Auditors examine a very small percentage of transactions. Fraud is rarely detected by financial statement audits because they are not aimed at doing so. However, sometimes fraud is detected by auditors, and they can increase their chances of finding fraud if they are so inclined. There are opportunities during each financial statement audit to find fraud, if only the auditors are diligent. One of the keys to becoming better at detecting fraud is by understanding why auditors so often do not find fraud.

Scott London’s Other Crime: Tax Fraud

Former KPMG audit Partner Scott I. London brought great shame to the accounting profession this week by being charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud through insider trading. After nearly 30 years with KPMG, London went down in flames after being caught passing insider information on audit clients of the Los Angeles office to his “friend,” Bryan Shaw.

Proving once again that there is no honor among thieves, Shaw got caught first, and then sold out his friend Scott to the Feds.  He helped them get a gorgeous trail of evidence, including phone calls and photographs of the crime.  Both are now charged with insider trading.

Once Again, Audits Don’t Find Fraud (But Short Sellers Do)

Anyone who is being honest will tell you that financial statement audits don’t find fraud. On the rare occasion they do, but by and large audits are not designed to detect fraud and the auditors don’t have enough fraud detection training.

One solution to this problem is the engagement of forensic accountants to look for fraud. But companies don’t seem to interested in going the extra step.

Today Hewlett-Packard announced that an internal investigation revealed accounting fraud by Autonomy, a company that was acquired by HP last year for more than $10 billion. More specifically, the company said:

PricewaterhouseCoopers a Defendant in Two Lawsuits Over Audits

In the last week Big Four auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has been sued over its performance of audits of companies with massive frauds. First, PwC was named as a defendant in a suit filed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as the receiver for Colonial Bank.

Colonial Bank went under thanks to a fraud by Taylor Bean & Whittaker Mortgage Corp., its largest mortgage banking customer. Executives at Taylor Bean & Whitaker cooked up a scheme whereby they sold $400 million in worthless mortgages to Colonial Bank. The mortgages were worthless because they either did not exist, or had already been sold to other investors.

MF Global One Year Later: Where’s the Money?

One year after MF Global “misplaced” $1.6 billion in customer funds, those funds still haven’t been recovered for investors. The money has allegedly been found, but that still doesn’t help customers who would like to get their misappropriated funds back.

Francine McKenna, a contributor at Forbes, notes there is another party that still hasn’t been held accountable in the MF Global debacle: auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers. She says:

The global audit firm would rather come off as stupid than complicit in the actions of whomever broke the law and stole MF Global customer funds.

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