July 19, 2018

Dan Ginsburg

New Jersey Appeals Court Deals ‘Devastating Loss for KPMG’ Over Malpractice in Cast Art Merger

We briefly mentioned this case on Monday but since everyone seems to have checked out mid-week, we’re sure you won’t mind.

Way back in the dawn of the Clinton Administration, some financial reporting chicanery went down at Papel Giftware, Inc. so that Cast Art Industries of Corona, California would run into the company’s outstretched arms. More specifically, chicanery that consisted of ” ‘systemic, organized, improper accounting practices at Papel.’ ” Cast Art failed in 2003 which made everyone sad/mad.

KPMG was on watch as this all went down and a jury found the firm negligent in 2008 under the Accountant Liability Act.

The bitch of it is, the KPMG partner was thisclose to pulling out of the engagement, “[A] July 2000 letter by KPMG partner John Quinn that said Papel Chief Financial Officer Rick Wasserman gave an ‘unfair and misleading characterization of the accounting and auditing issues.’ Quinn said he was ‘very much inclined’ to recommend ending work with Papel after that year’s audit, according to the opinion.”

That ‘very much inclined’ didn’t result in “we withdraw from the engagement.”


However, since the KPMG is a professional services firm with the necessary means and a reputation to protect (according to some, anyway) they appealed the ruling and on August 26th a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division still said, “yep, it’s accounting malpractice.”

This was a thrilling result for plaintiffs who are looking to squeeze more damages out of the firm:

“This is a huge win and no matter how KPMG wants to spin it, it’s a devastating loss for KPMG,” plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Avenatti said in an interview. “KPMG’s appeal of this case may go down as Exhibit A of ‘Be careful of what you wish for.’ Now, we have the ability to go collect potentially $10 million to $20 million more in additional damages.”

Right. The spin.

A KPMG spokesman, Daniel Ginsburg, said the firm is “considering our available options” after the ruling.

“We are pleased that the court affirmed dismissal of the plaintiff’s fraud claim against us, and also reversed the jury’s verdict by ordering a new trial on the issue of damages,” Ginsburg said in an e-mail. “We are disappointed, however, with the court’s ruling on legal issues regarding the plaintiff’s negligence claim.”

Actually, not much spin there. Just one of those kiss your sister/brother moments.

KPMG Committed Malpractice Tied to Cast Art Merger, Appeals Court Rules [Bloomberg]