Update on recording of AOL account cancellation


Thanks Des Walsh for pointing me to this clip on WNBC. They play the recording and then interview Vincent Ferrari to get his perspective on it. He mentions that people have heard lots of horror stories about trying to cancel AOL accounts, but that a recording of such a situation would be very interesting. He was right! The interview is concluded with an apology from AOL and a statement that the employee has been fired.

My original post is here.

Prosecutors Can’t Pressure Companies to Stop Paying Legal Fees For Indicted Employees


The federal judge in the KMPG accounting fraud case in New York ruled that federal prosecutors cannot pressure companies to stop paying legal fees for indicted employees. In doing so, the government would get an unfair advantage and violate due process for the indicted employees.

Companies such as KPMG, Enterasys, and HealthSouth have not paid legal feesĀ  for certain indicted executives after prosecutors told the companies that their payment of legal fees on behalf of those employees would signal non-cooperation.

A key document in this issue is a 2003 memo from former Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson that advises U.S. attorneys to “scrutinize the authenticity of a corporation’s cooperation” when deciding whether or not to issue criminal charges against a corporation.

Defense lawyers have said that withholding legal fees is really pressure by the government to get defendants to plead guilty. A guilty plea would save the employee huge legal bills. Prosecutors deny trying to get employers to stop paying the legal bills, and the government is expected to appeal this ruling.

Problems Exposed in Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission


The city of Milwaukee hired the Los Angeles-based Police Assessment Resource Center to analyze police oversight in the city. The group determined that the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission spends too much time on personnel issues, and almost no time on investigating complaints received.

Another problem cited is the appeals process for fired police officers, which includes a lengthy process during which fired officers still collect pay. The ability to collect a paycheck during the appeals process actually encourages fired officers to drag out the proceedings. According to the report, the practice of paying fired officers who are appealing does not happen anywhere else in the country.
The following changes were proposed in the report:

  • Expanding the commission from 5 to 7 members
  • Adding investigators
  • Creating an independent monitor to review citizen complaints the come into the police department (Currently, the police department reviews these complaints without any outside involvement.)

The Milwaukee Police Accountability Coalition says that even if these changes are made, that the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission will still not be a truly independent monitor for the police department. One of the founders of the group says that there will still be inadequate accountability, and the relationship of the police with the community will not be improved.

Wisconsin’s Taxes Are Sixth Highest


The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has analyzed state and local taxes and U.S.Census data, and has determined that the state is sixth highest in taxes as a percentage of personal income. If measured per capita, Wisconsin ranks twelfth. And if only income, sales and property taxes are measured Wisconsin is third.

The taxes as a percentage of personal income included state and local revenue from property, income, gasoline, cigarette and retail sales taxes. State and local taxes in Wisconsin are 12.2% of personal income. The national average is 11%. And the numbers ranged from 12.7% for New York down to 8.9% for Alabama.

Efforts to put limits on taxes died in the legislature. What’s next, governor? (I’m sure he’s got some reason why we should be happy about this!)

Sentence Handed Down for Murder That Involved Identity Theft


A Fargo, North Dakota judged sentenced convicted murderer Dennis Gaede to life in prison without parole yesterday. Gaede was found guilty of killing Timothy Wicks, a Milwaukee-area drummer and house painter. After stealing his identity and moving to North Dakota, Gaede later killed and dismembered Wicks. Gaede was awaiting sentencing on a felony conviction when he stole the identity and moved out of state.

The headless and handless body of Wicks was found in 2002 near the Menominee River, which separates Wisconsin and Michigan. The head was found two weeks later, but the hands were never found. Continue reading

Women of Influence: Where Are They Now?


The Business Journal of Milwaukee

TRACY COENEN, 2002 Women of Influence Awards

Tracy Coenen continues to expand the reach of Sequence Inc. through consulting, writing, and speaking. In addition to running a successful forensic accounting practice, she regularly authors fraud-fighting articles for industry publications and presents anti-fraud training to organizations across the country. Tracy was recently appointed Adjunct Faculty for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Read the original Women of Influence article here.

Trying to cancel an AOL account


Oh my. How many of us have tried to cancel [tag]America Online[/tag] accounts? I got rid of mine a long time ago, but I remember that it was quite challenging.

This guy called [tag]AOL[/tag] to cancel his account and gladly recorded the phone call for our listening pleasure. Surprise, surprise. He got a huge runaround. This is unbelievable. You must hear it.

And they wonder why people don’t like AOL anymore.

UPDATE: Thanks Des Walsh for pointing me to this clip on WNBC. They play the recording and then interview Vincent Ferrari to get his perspective on it. He mentions that people have heard lots of horror stories about trying to cancel AOL accounts, but that a recording of such a situation would be very interesting. He was right! The interview is concluded with an apology from AOL and a statement that the employee has been fired.

What does fraud really cost companies?`


[tag]Fraud[/tag] is expensive when you look at the dollars lost under the various schemes perpetrated by employees. An estimated 5% of revenues is lost to [tag]occupational fraud[/tag] each year, which amounts to $652 billion in the U.S. alone. These statistics come from the 2006 [tag]Report to the Nation[/tag] on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, published by the [tag]Association of Certified Fraud Examiners[/tag] ([tag]ACFE[/tag]).

Yet people fail to consider the fact that there are many additional costs that are incurred as a result of fraud. Certainly, it becomes expensive to investigate and prosecute these acts. It also causes stress and anger for employees, and that could lead to unexpected turnover. For more on the true cost of fraud, read my article from the [tag]Wisconsin Law Journal[/tag].

Concerns Arise Over Expert Witness Fees Paid by Milberg Weiss


Payments from Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman to expert witness John Torkelsen are being examined by federal prosecutors. They are trying to determine whether Milberg Weiss improperly used money recovered in lawsuits to pay Torkelsen for work performed in earlier cases.

Torkelsen is a financial analyst who gave expert witness testimony in shareholder lawsuits filed by Milberg Weiss in the 1980s and 1990s. He was reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars for his testimony.

It has been alleged that Torkelson was paid out of shareholder recoveries for work performed in a separate case. Any such payment made out of shareholder recoveries in an unrelated case would be inappropriate.

Torkelsen’s ex-wife has agreed to provide evidence to the criminal investigators, but the nature of the information is not currently known. The ex-wife pleaded guilty last year to federal charges related to the theft of $1.9 million from a venture capital partnership called Acorn Technology Fund.

Last year, Torkelson himself was convicted of making a false accounting entry into the books of Acorn. It is also alleged that he wrongfully converted $5 million of Acorn’s funds.

Verizon files patent infringement suit against Vonage


Verizon Communications Inc. has filed a [tag]patent infringement[/tag] [tag]lawsuit[/tag] against Vonage Holdings Corp. The suit is based upon information in technical documents and diagrams, which was filed with the SEC in their pursuit to go public.

In the suit, Verizon alleges that Vonage is using technology that was developed by Verizon and its predecessor companies. Seven patents related to voice over Internet protocol (VOIP), the technology that facilitates Internet calls, have been identified in the suit. Specifically, Verizon alleges that its patents cover techonology that routes call from the Internet to landline phones. Other Verizon patents include calling features such as voicemail and Internet call waiting.

Vonage counters that the technology the company uses has been developed internally or is licensed through third parties. The company has 1.6 million subscribers, which is a small fraction of the telephone market in the U.S.

This suit is a headache for Vonage, which had a far-from-stellar IPO. The offering was so horendous, that shareholder lawsuits have already started. The launch price of the Vonage stock was $17, but since the offering last month, the share price has dropped fifty percent.