June 23, 2018

Analyst Rightly Grew Suspicious of Gorgeous Woman Who Laughed at His Accounting Jokes

AmTrust accounting

“And then I said, ‘It’s accrual world!'”

Earlier this year, we discussed a tradecrafty story out of The Wall Street Journal of a BDO auditor who “casually wandered around the accounting firm’s New York offices, striking up conversations with colleagues.” Little did anyone know, the auditor recorded those conversations for the Federal Bureau of Investigation with “a tiny recording device disguised as an ordinary Starbucks gift card” about AmTrust Financial Services, an audit client.

You see, AmTrust’s accounting practices have come under scrutiny of many interested parties besides the FBI, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Harry Markopolos’s merry band of fraud-busters, and a slew of short-sellers. This scrutiny has put lots of pressure on the company. AmTrust announced a big restatement back in April, and its stock has been trading near its 52-week low ever since.

And now a new story from the Journal reports that some “mysterious strangers” have been popping around AmTrust’s most notable critics. One of these involved an analyst at research firm at GeoInvesting, and his suspicions grew for a very obvious reason:

Chris Irons, an analyst at research firm GeoInvesting LLC, which has published several reports critical of AmTrust’s accounting practices, said he was contacted in July by a woman who identified herself as a London-based consultant to a European software multimillionaire seeking contributors to a new investment website. He agreed to meet at a Philadelphia-area restaurant.

At the dinner, Mr. Irons said, the woman, whom he described as gorgeous, plied him with drinks and slipped in several questions about critiques of AmTrust and its accounting methods. “It was the second or third follow-up question on AmTrust that gave me a lot of pause,” he said, adding that she “laughed at many things I said that probably weren’t that funny.”

Okay, maybe we took some liberties with the headline, but if a gorgeous woman is throwing liquor at you, asking questions about a company’s questionable accounting, some corny wisecracks are going to get thrown in. That’s just a fact. Of course, if she keeps asking about the accounting, and the jokes keep getting worse, even the densest of men will recognize when the laughs start ringing hollow.

In this case, the analyst’s suspicions were right. “Diana Ilic” turned out to be a phony name and the consulting firm she purportedly worked for had a mailbox drop as its London address. This suspicious encounter was one of many experienced by critics of AmTrust since last summer, but the only one that we suspect to have involved the  enjoyment of accounting humor under false pretenses.

[WSJ]

Image: iStock/Bobex-73

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The SEC Takes a Trip to India

140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngThe SEC sent a team to India in order to make sure that everything was hunky-dory re: Satyam. The three-member team met with Ashwani Kumar, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The SEC also met with the KPMG team that is responsible for restating Satyam’s balance sheet.
No details were given on any of the meetings but we imagine that the SEC/KPMG meeting went something like this:
SEC Bureaucrat: Hello KPMG India.
KPMG Paper Pusher: Hello SEC America.
SEC: How are things progressing?
KPMG: Oh this is a blast. Restating balance sheets is a dream job. We were just talking about how we wish we could work in the States so we could do stuff like this all the time.
SEC: What do you mean?
KPMG: Well, there seems to be much more fraud and other problems in the United States than here in India so the need for forensic accountants would be extremely high.
SEC: Are you insinuating that the Commission is unable to detect fraud?
KPMG: Well there have been some signficant fraud over there lately that you guys pretty much ignored or missed. Either way, it makes for a high demand for forensic accountants. Plus, we hear that the guy who tried warning you about the Madoff fraud has issues but still won an award.
SEC: This meeting is over. Keep us informed.
Satyam scam: SEC team meets CBI, SEBI, KPMG officials [The Hindu Business Line]

Huron Consulting is Clearly Not a CPA Firm

iStock_000006509640XSmall.jpgFridays are great for lots of reasons. They’re especially great for announcing bad news long after everyone has left work to get their drink on.
Huron Consulting announced late last Friday that the CEO, CFO, and Chief Accounting Officer were all quitting and that their financial results for 2006-2008 were being restated. The restatements result in total net income for that period being reduced by nearly 50% from $120 million to $63 million.
According to Reuters:

The restatements are being made because Huron’s board audit committee discovered that shareholders of four businesses that Huron acquired between 2005-2007 redistributed portions of their acquisition-related payments among themselves and to certain Huron employees.

More, after the jump


Soooo, regardless of what Huron is saying, the CEO, CFO, and CAO sounds like someone might have been taking kickbacks, which we totally understand considering the economy and whatnot.
Huron was ranked 43rd on Fortune’s list of 100 fastest growing companies just last year. They help their clients “face complex matters that demand extraordinary combinations of financial, technical, and industry expertise.” Clearly they are not using any of this expertise on their own books but whatevs, nobody’s perfect.
What’s also strange is that Huron really goes out of their way to put the universe on notice that they are not a CPA firm and do not provide attestation services.
“Huron is a management consulting firm and not a CPA firm, and does not provide attest services, audits, or other engagements in accordance with the AICPA’s Statements on Auditing Standards.” This is stamped at the bottom of virtually every page on the website because THEY WANT TO MAKE THAT CLEAR.
Btw, Huron’s auditors are PwC, who really don’t need any additional bad publicity. If any of you Chicago P. Dubs peeps got any inside info on this story, shoot it our way to [email protected]. The stock is getting hammered today so we’ll continue to watch this to see how it plays out.
Huron CEO, CFO quit as restatements slash profits [Reuters]