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
What is a company to do when it wants to hide losses? Manipulation of the financial statements is the obvious first choice. It’s not hard. Sure companies have “internal controls,” which are supposed to include policies and procedures which ensure that financial information is properly recorded. But companies of all sizes have problems with their internal controls, such that it’s not terribly difficult to issue fraudulent financial statements.
Michael Woodford was dismissed in October as CEO of Olympus, and subsequently disclosed that he was fired because he raised questions about some acquisitions by the company. He alleges that Olympus paid incredibly high prices for companies it acquired, and also paid huge “advisory fees” to agents who supposedly represented Olympus in the transactions. The purpose behind these transactions? To cover up investment losses that were decades old without drawing any attention to the issue. Continue reading
In July, critics attacked Groupon (GRPN) and it use of a made-up accounting measure management called Adjusted CSOI. I suggested that the company made up the measure to exclude many of the company’s expenses to make the company look more successful.
There was more to the story, however, as the Grumpy Old Accountants revealed Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) violations in reporting revenue. Essentially, Groupon was recording more than twice the amount of revenue it should have been reporting under GAAP. The Grumpies explained: Continue reading
The current issue of New York Magazine has a lengthy story about the collapse of Lehman Brothers. To cut to the chase: Management knew in June that the company was in serious, serious trouble. Which leads me to ask when their auditors knew? Continue reading
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) and Ernst & Young (E&Y) have been chosen by the United States Treasury to help oversee the $700 billion bailout plan. CFO.com reports: Continue reading
Last week, the U.S. Atorney’s office unsealed an indictment of Ernst & Young tax partners. The indictment alleges that Robert Coplan, Martin Nissenbaum, Richard Shapiro, and Brian Vaughn created and marketed tax shelters which were fraudulent, for use by individuals with taxable income in excess of $10 or $20 million. The tax shelters were created to improperly eliminate or reduce taxes due to the Internal Revenue Service.
The eight counts in the indictment include: conspiracy to defraud the IRS, tax evasion, making false statements to the IRS, and impeding and impairing the lawful functioning of the IRS.
The E&Y partners were part of a tax shelter development group first called VIPER (Value Ideas Produce Extraordinary Results) and then called SISG (Strategic Individual Solutions Group. It is alleged that the conspirators deceived the IRS about the true facts of the tax shelters, and that they knew discovery of the true facts by the IRS would result in the collection of unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties.