Whistleblower Complaints: Fast Action Required

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Recently I wrote about an internal investigation I did for a company which received a whistleblower complaint, sent to executives, the board of directors, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Upon receiving notification that allegations of fraud were being made by a former employee, management immediately started evaluating the claims. The board of directors began planning for an independent investigation.

This was the right thing to do, particularly as the SEC’s whistleblower program gives a 120 day window of time for companies to react to internal allegations of securities fraud. If someone reports allegations to a company, 120 days pass, and then the informant goes to the SEC, the SEC will consider the person making the report to be a whistleblower eligible for a bounty. Continue reading

Update on Koss Fraud

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VIDEO: World of forensic accounting unveils how companies are cheated out of millions

The story of the alleged $31 million fraud at Koss Corp by the company’s former VP of Finance, Sue Sachdeva, hasn’t gotten much air time over the last month or so.  Aside from the usual class action lawsuits when there is a fraud discovered at a public company, the only bits of news that are remotely notable at Koss are the continued declaration of dividends and the filing of a 10-Q without any financial statements included.

Koss is a public company, but the stock is thinly traded. The Koss family apparently owns about 70% of outstanding shares of stock. The declaration of a dividend, therefore, is nothing more than the Koss family publicly announcing that they are going to pay themselves. Continue reading

Grant Thornton to SEC: Overstock.com Is Lying

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Patrick Byrne of Overstock.comUPDATE: Overstock.com just issued a press release in which Patrick Byrne calls Grant Thornton a bunch of liars. Add them to his list of “miscreants.”

No longer can Patrick Byrne, wacky CEO of Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) claim that those pointing out his lies and materially misleading financial statements are just “miscreants,” operatives of an imaginary “Sith Lord,” or [insert any of a number of Jewish slurs that Byrne is prone to use].  Now national auditing firm Grant Thornton is calling Patrick Byrne and his clowns liars. He’s collecting quite a slew of admirers.

Yesterday, Overstock filed an 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding their firing of Grant Thornton. Here’s what Overstock.com has to say about the accounting issue that led to the firing, and I have placed in bold the most important part: Continue reading

Overstock.com: The Circus Continues

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Sam Antar has often referred to Overstock.com and CEO Patrick Byrne as the gifts that keep on giving. And he sure is right! There is never a dull moment when it comes to wacky conspiracy theories and accounting woes that never end.

Last week, Overstock (NASDAQ:OSTK) announced that it wouldn’t be filing its 10-Q for the third quarter on time. The reason? Patrick Byrne had created another clever (but completely wrong) accounting treatment for another accounting error recently discovered, and the auditors wouldn’t sign off on it. Continue reading

Conservatism is no excuse for false financial statements, Overstock.com

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I’ve written extensively in the past about the train wreck that is Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) and its nutty CEO, Patrick Byrne.  Just when I think there couldn’t possibly be more to write about the horrible company and Byrne’s crazy antics, I’m proven wrong.

For those that have been following Overstock.com for the past few years, it came as a great surprise that the Securities and Exchange Commission decided to investigate the company and its financial reporting. It came as a surprise because for three years, Sam Antar (former CFO of Crazy Eddie and convicted felon) has been exposing their financial reporting misdeeds on his blog. Yet the SEC didn’t seem willing to take any action. Continue reading

Mannatech Receives Wells Notice From SEC

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In July of last year, the Attorney General of Texas filed a lawsuit against  multi-level marketing company Mannatech (NASDAQ:MTEX), alleging the company used illegal sales and marketing practices.

Then in August, the company’s CEO, Sam Caster, stepped down. Although he resigned as CEO, he stayed on as chairman of the board.

In October, Grant Thornton, the company’s auditing firm, was fired. Mannatech issued a press release which stated that Grant Thornton was dismissed because they wanted the company to relieve Sam Caster of all duties, and the board said no. Mannatech said there were no disagreements about accounting principles or audit matters. Continue reading

The SEC Investigation of Overstock Was Because Patrick Byrne is Trying to Expose Corruption on Wall Street?

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That appears to be what Patrick Byrne is suggesting in this interview. The story keeps changing. At one point, Patrick said he and Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) weren’t really the target of the SEC investigation. Rather, the investigation was focused on others (hence the “celebration” of subpoenas). When the SEC issued a no-action letter, suddenly the investigation really was about Overstock and Patrick, and they were vindicated (according to their supporters).

Byrne blathers and I paraphrase…. Continue reading

Perspectives on the SEC’s No Action Letter to Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK)

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The discussion of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s “no action” letter to Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) continues around the blogosphere.

On the one side we have the supporters of the company and wacky CEO Patrick Byrne (whos says “yipikaye” in response to the situation), who see this as a complete vindication of the company. They believe this means the SEC is blessing everything Overstock does, and giving the company its stamp of approval. They claim a no action letter is equivalent to the SEC finding “nothing wrong” with Overstock’s accounting and disclosures.

On the other side we have those who think the company’s financials and disclosures stink, and that Patrick Byrne and his executives are actively misleading investors. Those on this side acknowledge that the SEC’s no action letter is disappointing, but realize that it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be future action. Continue reading

Securities & Exchange Commission Closes Inquiry Into Overstock.com

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Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) announced today that the Salt Lake City office of the SEC notified them that it is not recommending any enforcement action against the company.

The following was reported:

“I know that the SEC has an obligation to look into allegations it receives about any company — even when those allegations are false,” said Patrick Byrne, Overstock.com’s chairman and chief executive officer. “I believe that this inquiry was initiated, and persisted, because of false allegations made by a cohesive group of short sellers and a few financial journalists who dutifully serve them. In this case, I believe these folks fomented the SEC investigation against Overstock.com then tried to claim that the existence of an SEC investigation was evidence of wrong doing. We knew that was false.”

Continue reading

Gradient issues negative report on UTStarcom in 2003; SEC files fraud charges against UTSI in 2008

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – (Business Wire) Five years after Gradient Analytics first reported on UTStarcom (UTSI), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has announced accounting fraud charges and a settlement fine against two UTSI executives for “false financial filings.”

Gradient Analytics initiated coverage of UTSI on Sept. 25, 2003, after finding that “insider selling activity ha[d] ballooned” at a time when the company was reporting “extremely high accruals… and anemic cash flows.” Gradient’s report also noted that, “despite a 77.4% increase in earnings, UTSI’s operating cash flow declined over 300% in the six months ended 06/30/03.” Continue reading