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. Continue reading
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)? Continue reading
In cases of corporate fraud, including embezzlement, financial statement fraud, earnings management, bribery, and the like, it’s easy to blame the auditors. After all, they have very deep pockets, often with large malpractice policies.
Even though the task of auditors is usually well-defined and agreed-to by shareholders, management, and the board of directors, it doesn’t seem to matter to them that the financial statement auditors aren’t responsible to find fraud during their audits. People quickly forget that the auditors disclaim responsibility for finding fraud multiple times before, during, and after the audits, and that management is ultimately responsible for preventing and detecting fraud in their own companies.
Last week Navistar sued their former auditors, Deloitte & Touche, for fraud, fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, and malpractice. The lawyers say Deloitte lied about its competency in performing audits, and the company ultimately restated its financial statements for 2002 through 2005. Whose fault is it that Navistar overstated its pre-tax income by $137 during those years? According to them, Deloitte. Continue reading
UPDATE: On February 17, 2010, Medifast Inc. filed suit in US District Court, Southern District of California, alleging defamation, violation of California Corporations Code, and unfair business practices. On March 29, 2011, Judge Janis Sammartino dismissed all of Medifast’s claims against me in her ruling on my anti-SLAPP motion.
Last week, Medifast Inc. (NYSE:MED) announced that it changed auditing firms. The company previously used Bagell, Josephs, Levine and Company, and they were criticized for the choice of auditors by Fraud Discovery Institute and Sam Antar. FDI’s criticism was summed up in a press release:
Expert’s letter sites possible stock-touting of Medifast (NYSE:MED) stock by company’s single-officed, New Jersey based, outside auditors through their alleged independent investment entity. Expert also notes that PCAOB cited Medifast auditors for significant deficiencies in three of six audit engagements reviewed by them, or 50% of audits in their sample.
Antar simply said that if Medifast was serious about the quality of its auditors, then it would find new ones. Continue reading
I have been criticized for “defending” Grant Thornton, the auditors of Koss Corp, which has suffered a fraud loss of at least $31 million at the hands of the company’s Vice President of Finance, Sue Sachdeva. In fact, my comments relating to this case are not a defense of Grant Thornton, in the least. They are meant to point the finger squarely at Koss management, which is wholly responsible for this fraud.
I’m not saying that Grant Thornton did a bang-up job when it comes to Koss. I couldn’t possibly know that without knowing exactly how the fraud was carried out (Koss still hasn’t said) and without seeing GT’s workpapers and taking a good look at what they actually did. What I am saying is that audits have so little usefulness and are so awful at detecting fraud, that it’s a given that a woman like Sue Sachdeva would easily be able to get away with a massive theft. Continue reading
It should come as no shock to anyone that lots of fingers are being pointed related to Wall Street’s meltdown, and specifically related to the banking industry. And auditors are likely to find themselves the targets of lawsuits. Auditor malpractice is often hard to prove, but in this case, I think there will be several victories against the auditors. Continue reading