Internal controls or lack thereof

PCAOB Inspectors Find IT Auditors on the Struggle Bus

In case you missed the news earlier this month, all of the PCAOB reports are out for the Big 4's 2015 cycle of inspections. What schadenfreude awaits us? Let’s take a look. Big picture — regarding overall deficiency rate — PwC is the winner this year. Even if PwC is only slightly ahead, the firm […]

Will KPMG Join Wells Fargo in its Walk of Shame?

In 2011, Going Concern speculated about potential issues with internal controls at Wells Fargo that prompted the then CFO, Howard Atkins, to abandon ship. Just a little foreshadowing of what is happening to good ol’ Wells this month. If you haven’t been following the news, here’s the scoop: Over the last 5 years a handful […]

Even a State Board of CPAs Isn’t Immune From Weak Internal Controls

Anyone hoping for a heavy dose of irony to start their week is going to enjoy this next story. Earlier this month, a tipster pointed us to a press release from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor who found issues with the internal controls at the Louisiana State Board of CPAs, "the entity responsible for licensing and […]

Tighten Up Privileged Access Now, or Hate Yourself Later

The 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (aka: “DBIR”) is out and it isn’t pretty. Where to start…? Maybe by saying that 2015 heralded over 100,000 information security incidents — including 3,141 data breaches. If those numbers are not staggering enough, it’s more unnerving to realize this is the first time I have heard about […]

#TBT: Auditors Cringe While Watching Office Space

In honor of throwback Thursday let me take you on a journey down memory lane to reminisce about Office Space, a light hearted and irreverent comedy starring Ron Livingston and Jennifer Aniston. Spoiler alert! (Actually, if you haven’t seen the movie during the last 17 years I don’t feel bad.) Peter, played by Ron Livingston, […]

Please Don’t Be Like This Accountant Who Got Scammed Over Email

Here's an unfortunate situation that hopefully none of you ever have to go through: The accountant for a U.S. company recently received an e-mail from her chief executive, who was on vacation out of the country, requesting a transfer of funds on a time-sensitive acquisition that required completion by the end of the day. The […]

SOX 404 Not Helping: Study

A recent study by Sarah Rice of Texas A&M and David Weber and Biyu Wu of the University of Connecticut has found that everyone's favorite section of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is falling short on expectations: The study, which appears in in the new issue of the American Accounting Association’s journal The Accounting Review, found […]

Let’s Not Rush to Judgment Just Because a Guy Blew Off a Meeting About Accounting Discrepancies 5 Minutes Before It Started

A man who spent his entire 32-year-career in the accounting department of Frisch's Restaurants — purveyors of the iconic Big Boy — has been accused of stealing $3.3 million from the company, which he may or may not have blown at the casino. In a statement filed with the SEC, the company assured shareholders that […]

Deloitte Client and Trading Firm Wants to Go Public, Admits To Being Awful at Accounting

Anyone who has ever struggled through Intermediate or scored two consecutive 74s on FAR can tell you accounting is hard, man. But when you're in the financial business and hoping to go public, there is a minimum expectation that you at least have some idea what you're doing before you invite the auditors over to […]

JOBS Act Hasn’t Encouraged as Many Companies to Avoid Sarbanes-Oxley as Some Would Have Hoped

Before the House of Representatives got down with some Audit Integrity whatever whatever, we had the Jumpstarting Our Business Startups Act as an example of Congressional wading into the accounting/auditing regulatory waters. If you need a refresher, the JOBS Act flew through Congress and the got the President's signature last year despite a lot of people saying […]

PwC Not Sticking Around to See If Stein Mart Can Fix the Rest of Its Lousy Internal Controls

Here's the opening paragraph from a press release released by Stein Mart today: Stein Mart, Inc. (Nasdaq:SMRT) today announced that in connection with a review of the Company's auditor relationship, on June 6, 2013, a request for proposal was sent to several national accounting firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). On June 11, 2013, PwC informed […]

Going Concern Contributor Is a Suspect in a $60 Fraud Case

Ed. note: We welcome back Greg Kyte after a brief post-April 15th vacation. He'll join us every month in his Accumulated Deprecation column. Go here to read more of Greg's posts.   Somebody stole $60 out of my desk drawer at work. Not my money. My company's money. You know, the stuff that, as an […]

Internal Controls Are of the Devil (Or: Why Stealing from the Catholic Church Is So Easy)

The other day I asked my wife if she'd be mad if I started a new religion. I clarified that she would not be required to join my new religion; I just wanted to know if I'd have her support. She didn't really answer. Not out loud. But her nonverbal message was as clear as an auditing standard that was clarified in the Clarity Project1. What she wasn't saying was either (a) she'd be pissed if I really did it, or (b) she'll tolerate my stupid questions, or (c) she'd be shocked if I could get more religious followers than I have Twitter followers2.

ICYMI: WFT’s Tax Accounting Is Still a Giant WTF

By its own admission, Weatherford International has pretty awful internal controls. Back in March 2011, the company's disclosed that controls (and employees) for its tax function were virtually non-existent and it led to a $500 million error. The team in the C-suite was pretty disappointed with this development and the company replaced their Chief Accounting […]

This Is Not a Good Day For South Carolina

What the heck is going on in South Carolina? First we find out last week that an "international hacker" got into the SC Department of Revenue and managed to get his or her hands on 3.6 million tax returns going all the way back to 1998. It is being called "the largest cyber-attack against a […]

Internal Control Zealots May Be Helpful in Preventing Accounting-related Reckonings

Lawyers. Gotta love 'em. They have many functions but when it comes to accounting and financial reporting, it's usually to sue the pants off those who make gross errors in these two areas. Maybe the company was stupid; maybe the company did something illegal. It doesn't matter. If some numbers are wrong and someone lost […]

City of Detroit’s Finance Department Makes Case for Most Hysterically Pitiful Internal Control System in Recent Memory

There are plenty of examples of internal control systems that are, shall we say, miserably deficient. Koss is one example. Dixon, Illinois is another. Churches are victims, too. And there are many, many others. Let it be known that the City of Detroit shall be included as having one of the most contemptible control systems […]

Note to Thieving Church CFOs: Sex Scandals Are Not a Good Excuse For Stealing

42-year-old Anita Guzzardi worked at the Philadelphia archdiocese since the ripe old age of 20, rising through the ranks to make $124,000 a year as their CFO until she was canned last year for embezzling $900,000 from the church. Her lawyer says she gave in to gambling and shopping addictions after feeling betrayed by the […]

“Emerging Growth Company” Still Working on the “Emerging Growth” Part

Yesterday we discussed Ignite Restaurant Group, an emerging growth company ("EGC") under the JOBS Act, and their battles with financial reporting. Today we were introduced to another EGC, this time the company is WeRvaluecoupons.com who filed its Form S-1 with the SEC earlier this month. WeRvalue isn't quite as far along in the "emerging" process […]

Possibly Racist Georgia Accountant Forgets To Pay State Taxes But Remembers To Test Internal Controls

Alright listen, we're all busy. Sometimes I forget to scoop out the litter box or to take a shower for, you know, a few days. It's hard to balance work and your personal life and, in the case of 37-year-old Summer Payne, the work and personal life of an employee made up just so she […]

Oh Look, the Dixon, Illinois Fraud Is Way Bigger Than Everyone Thought

How big? In the neighborhood of $53 million, according to the indictment. Earlier reports had put it closer to $30 million and change. It further alleges that Rita Crundwell stated the scheme in December of 1990 and was "[creating] fictitious invoices purported to be from the State of the Illinois to show the auditors for […]

Here’s an Ominous Statement a Former Dixon City Finance Commissioner Made About Accused Embezzler Rita Crundwell

Crundwell reported to the city's finance commissioner, a member of the City Council, but the mayor declined to comment on whether that current commissioner, David Blackburn, or former Commissioner Roy Bridgeman should have detected the alleged thefts. As Bridgeman left office last year, he praised Crundwell for being an asset to the city and said […]

Koss (Man and Company) Settles with SEC for Four Years Worth of Trainwreck Financial Statements

One-man C-suite Michael Koss and the company that bears his name settled with the SEC today, according to a Commission litigation release. This all stems from the dodgy financial statements the company put out from 2005 to 2009 that were carefully orchestrated by shopper-'til-you-stopped-her Sue Sachdeva. As for the punishment, well, it's kinda meh: The […]

WFT Has Another WTF Moment with Its Tax Accounting

Remember Weatherford International? That's the company whose internal controls (or lack thereof) led to $500 million in tax errors and restatements going back to 2007. Also as a result, the Chief Accounting Officer left the company to "pursue another career opportunity." Not the company's finest hour. After such a harrowing financial reporting experience, one might […]

Imagine, If You Can, Someone Taking Advantage of a Lack of Oversight at a Roman Catholic Archdiocese

Hard to believe, right?! Well, a "quiet unassuming woman" named Anita Collins spent the last eight years stealing $1 million from the Archdiocese of New York. Funny story! Ms. Collins has been known to have sticky fingers in the past, pleading guilty to grand larceny in 1999 and a misdemeanor charge in 1986. How did […]

PwC Didn’t Do CME Group Any Favors

The CFTC’s action against PwC probably came as a result of a shocking CME Group announcement late Wednesday: “It now appears that the firm [MF Global] made … transfers of customer segregated funds in a manner that may have been designed to avoid detection.” These transfers, CME Group said, appeared to have taken place after its audit team showed up last week at MF Global to take a look and found everything to be in order. CME Group couldn’t have been hoodwinked like that if PwC had been doing its job all along. You can’t circumvent controls unless there are none or there are holes. It was PwC’s job to review controls and the adequacy of policies and procedures to support them. [Francine McKenna/AB, Earlier]

President’s Council on Jobs Report Suggests We Should Try Sarbanes-Oxley Light for IPOs

Barbara Roper wrote a commentary piece in WaPo Capital Business over the weekend that suggests the unthinkable: softening hard ass SOX rules for IPOs could actually kill jobs. How is that possible? Aren’t IPOs great for the economy?

Well, not always. Case in point: Groupon. Healthy, financially strong businesses are good for the economy. Scams, frauds or even overambitious accounting tricks might temporarily get the economy’s spirits up like a few rails of coke but eventually reality sets in and the economy is left broken and penniless in the alley looking for its next hit.


The report is an effort on the part of the Obama crew, who surveyed 27 business executives (including AOL’s Steve Case… and we know how his business turned out) for ideas on how to get the economy moving again. Among the suggestions, the report recommends Congress make compliance with all or part of Sarbanes-Oxley voluntary for public companies with market valuations up to $1 billion or, alternatively, exempt all companies from SOX compliance for five years after they go public.

The report blames burdensome SOX rules for the sharp drop in small IPOs in recent years, writing:

In the aftermath of the dot-com bubble and unintended consequences stemming from the Spitzer Decree and Sarbanes-Oxley regulations, the number of IPOs in the United States has fallen significantly. This is especially true for smaller companies aspiring to go public. As noted earlier, the share of IPOs that were smaller than $50 million fell from 80% in the 1990s to 20% in the 2000s. Well-intentioned regulations aimed at protecting the public from the misrepresentations of a small number of large companies have unintentionally placed significant burdens on the large number of smaller companies.

That would totally work as a justification except the SEC already debunked this silly idea. In a report earlier this year recommending no new 404(b) exemptions, SEC analysis showed that the United States has not lost U.S.-based companies filing IPOs to foreign markets for the range of issuers that would likely be in the $75-$250 million public float range after the IPO. “While U.S. markets’ share of world-wide IPOs raising $75-$250 million has declined over the past five years, there is no conclusive evidence from the study linking the requirements of Section 404(b) to IPO activity,” the report stated.

And as we all know, companies under $75 million haven’t had to worry about the SOX burden at all thanks to Congressional intervention. So how could it be that the burden they haven’t had has somehow prevented them from going public?

New boogeyman, please. I’m no huge fan of SOX but you’re going to have to come up with something better than this to convince me it’s a good idea to can it.

Note: The IRS Does Not Appreciate You Not Reporting Your Embezzlement Gains

Let this serve as a warning to any would-be embezzlers out there, if you steal, you better report it to the IRS.


42-year-old Collette Snyder of Timonium, MD pleaded guilty earlier this month to filing false tax returns in 2007 and 2008 after she neglected to claim over $382,000 embezzled from her former employer, Towson, MD-based Maple Leaf Title.

As part of her duties at the title company, Snyder had signature authority over the company’s operating, settlement and recording accounts, which allowed her to begin embezzling money from MLT accounts starting in 2007. She deposited company checks directly into her personal bank account, as well as made checks payable to her husband without his knowledge, forging his signature to deposit those checks in an account he was not aware of. At that point, Snyder had been an employee of MLT for two years.

Snyder took around $149,560 in 2007 and $232,968 in 2008. These embezzled funds were used to purchase jewelry, a BMW, trips, home improvements and private school tuition.

Because reporting this money to the IRS without it clearly declared on her W-2 (despite her writing “payroll” in the memo section of company checks she wrote out to herself) would have alerted authorities to the fraud, Snyder neglected to mention the ill-gotten gains. This resulted in an estimated tax loss of $115,529.37 for her 2007 and 2008 returns.

Due to the embezzlement by Snyder and MLT President Anthony Weis, MLT was unable to perform its duties as a provider of settlement services. With MLT’s escrow account drained, existing mortgage notes could not be paid off by MLT, meaning clear and free title could not be passed to the new lender and borrower of those notes. An insurance company that had issued title insurance policies to the borrowers guaranteeing clear title ultimately paid out $3.9 million to financial institutions that held mortgage notes.

Weis pleaded guilty to wire fraud, was sentenced to 78 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $4,007,705, which includes the loss to the title insurance company and the expenses of the individual victims. He began his sentence in May of this year. The interesting part of this story is that Weis stole money intended for his clients’ real estate closings. And then Snyder stole from the company. Birds of a feather…

Snyder faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled her sentencing for February 3 , 2012 at 11:00 am.

“Mortgage fraud adds to the underground economy that erodes the integrity of our tax system and threatens the financial health of our communities. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice,” said IRS – Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett.

Wanted: Accountants for Large Protest; Organizational Skills and Experience with Anything Slightly Resembling a Expense Reimbursement Policy a Plus

As you may have heard, there is a number of mighty upset people occupying various streets around the country. By reading some of the signs being held by these occupants, it’s obvious they’re peeved about a number of things. With such a wide range of gripes, the crowds have gotten quite large and since many people sympathize with the protestors, lots of donations are being made by those passing by, usually in the form of cash. This, as any accountant worth their salt knows, can be problematic, as evidenced by this video:

As the protests have grown, so have the donations. And since protests aren’t exactly bastions of internal controls, the problem of tracking the money coming in and being spent has become quite a chore. That chore has fallen on one person named Victoria Sobel who is functioning as Occupy Wall Street’s “chief treasurer.”


There’s no indication that Victoria is an accountant and, oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ready accountants amongst the occupiers, so the methods currently being used aren’t exactly robust. They started housing collections using “a large cooking pot covered in cardboard and duct tape” and gradually moved towards high-tech tools such as “donation buckets” and “a yellow messenger bag.” Despite these improvements, this system still needs some work Fortunately for Ms. Sobel, a person with some relevant experience recently turned up:

Then the first consultant, a certified public accountant sympathetic to the cause, came to help. Jo Ann Fleming […], who besides her accounting work has a radio show called Flash Talks Cash, sat down in a red tailgating chair next to three activists volunteering on the Occupy Wall Street finance committee.

Fleming heard a rundown of how the operation is working so far: Most of the money comes in through two donation buckets stationed at the ends of the park, where a steady throng of tourists and commuters is always passing by.

Teams of volunteers are split up into working groups for areas like food, sanitation and medical supplies, then spend the money on communal goods. Anyone who wants to be reimbursed for expenses has to get approval from a finance committee member before making a purchase. If it’s less than $100, they’ll sign out some cash, with orders to return with the goods and the receipt. If it’s more than $100, the purchase is supposed to be approved at a town meeting.

Once again, a CPA to the rescue! But since Ms. Fleming can’t quit her day job, she gave the best advice she could to the team on the ground:

After some probing, accountant Fleming determined the group needs to come up with a clear policy on how to get reimbursed for expenses. She suggested more frequent collection of the donation buckets, to avoid the temptation of dipping hands in—“cash is very troublesome.” And she urged them to create a spreadsheet tracking how much was received and paid.

More frequent collections. Clear, common sense policies. Spreadsheets. All excellent suggestions. But perhaps most importantly, Ms. Fleming recognizes when someone is doing the job of three people and is on the brink of cracking up (an important instinct in today’s accounting firms) so she gave Victoria some advice.

She turned to Sobel: “One woman can’t run the show. You’re exhausted; I can hear it in your voice. You need to delegate. You’re going to get burned out.”

Any double-entry experts that have some time on their hands and want to help the cause need to get downtown ASAP.

Anti-Bankers’ Dilemma: How To Process $$ [NHI]

Man Who Left CFO Job for ‘New Endeavors’ Failed to Mention That His Old Endeavors Involved Embezzlement (Allegedly)

Timothy Mask worked at Flint Hydrostatics for 25 years calling the company “a true blessing in my life.” Not an extraordinary statement, considering many people have strong feelings for the companies they serve but it’s possible that Mask felt that Flint was such a “blessing” because he spent the last twelve years allegedly “stealing” $1.2 million.

Things started unraveling when Tim up and resigned on May 5th, leaving his boss a Dear John letter of sorts:

“Effective immediately, I resign from Flint Hydrostatics, Inc.,” said the letter Timothy W. Mask left on the president’s desk.

“Flint has been a true blessing in my life,” wrote Mask, 46, of Corinth, Miss. “I will always cherish friendships that I have built and my fellow employees. It has just come time for me to move on to new endeavors.”

You see, Kevin Fienup, Flint’s director of business development and secretary, as well as the son of the company’s president, started looking into Mask’s old endeavors and found a number of checks that were made out to Mask and the company’s janitor. Allegedly, Mask would have his assistant cut checks to the janitor (or Mask if the janitor wasn’t available) who would cash them and then place the cash in a locked drawer in Mask’s office. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Fineup “left his office door open and had documents on his desk about the irregular transactions the night before Mask resigned.” One might conclude that Tim saw said documents, figured the jig was up and sat down to write his heartfelt letter.

As for his “new endeavors” it appears that Mask may have been trying to make a break for it, as the Appeal also reports that he had a “two-week vacation to Hawaii” scheduled to start yesterday, had recently sent mail to a passport processing center and had started transferring $200,000 from his 401k. But instead he got arrested which probably kinda threw a wrench into his plans.

Former chief financial officer at Memphis company accused of stealing nearly $1.2 million [MCA]

GSI Group: Internal Controls Won’t Be an Issue Going Forward

GSI Group Inc. (GSIG) said it reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by consenting to a cease and desist order related to accusations that it improperly recognized revenue on certain transactions at its semiconductor business from at least 2004 through June 2008, partly because of insufficient internal controls. The SEC alleged that as a result, the supplier of precision technology and semiconductor systems had overstated revenue by 0.7% in 2004, 1.4% in 2005, 17% in 2006 and 5% in 2007 and by 13% and 5.6% in the first and second quarters of 2008. The company said it agreed to the settlement without admitting or denying the SEC finding and wasn’t charged with fraud or required to pay any penalties. “GSI fully cooperated with the SEC in its two year investigation and has undertaken a number of corrective actions and internal control enhancements,” said Chief Executive John Roush. [Dow Jones]

Technology at SEC Good Enough for Viewing Porn, Not Reliable Internal Controls

Last year the Government Accountability Office issued a report that called attention to the SEC’s accounting system (or lack thereof). Reuters now reports that the SEC will admit in testimony tomorrow that the material weaknesses in their accounting system are largely due to technology that would make your grandparents laugh.

“These material weaknesses are unacceptable,” the SEC’s top division directors said in prepared testimony that was viewed by Reuters. They added the “root causes” of the problems stem from “years of underinvesting in financial system technologies.”

It should be noted that while the accounting systems were not quite up to snuff for the GAO, the equipment used by employees was sufficient for viewing a metric asston of porn, which we just learned moments ago, was even more widespread than initially thought.

SEC says its accounting problems stem from technology [Reuters]

WFT’s Material Weaknesses Led to Giant Tax WTF

It’s bad enough that 3% of Weatherford International’s revenues come from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain but the company also revealed in a their NT 10-K filed yesterday that they aren’t so good at staying top of their taxes:

The Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K (the “Form 10-K”) for the year ended December 31, 2010 cannot be filed within the prescribed time period because the Company has identified a material weakness in internal controls over financial reporting for income taxes and requires additional time to perform additional testing on, and reconciliation, of the tax accounts to be included in the annual financial statements to be presented in the Form 10-K. The Company expects to file the Form 10-K on or before the 15th calendar day following the prescribed due date.


FuelFix has the gory details:

Oil field services firm Weatherford International goes by the stock ticker is WFT, but analyst reaction to the company reporting more than $500 million in tax errors is more likely drawing the reaction of “WTF?” from investors.

The company said it will have to restate its earnings going back to 2007 due to “material weaknesses” in its internal controls, namely:

1. inadequate staffing and technical expertise within the company related to taxes,
2. ineffective review and approval practices relating to taxes,
3. inadequate processes to effectively reconcile income tax accounts and
4. inadequate controls over the preparation of quarterly tax provisions.

So in other words, Weatherford has no tax experts in their accounting department, no one to supervise or review the work of those experts and no checks or balances over the tax provision process as a whole. Was the Ernst & Young audit team aware of this? Last year’s 10-K had a clean opinion, in case you were wondering. Oh, and Weatherford moved its HQ to Switzerland back in ’08. So there’s that.

Oops: Weatherford reports $500M tax error [FuelFix]

How Did Citigroup’s Internal Controls Cut the Mustard with KPMG?

Jonathan Weil writes in his column today about Citigroup and their “acceptable group of auditors,” (aka KPMG) and he’s having trouble connecting the dots on a few things. Specifically, how a love letter (it was sent on February 14, 2008, after all) sent by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit:

The gist of the regulator’s findings: Citigroup’s internal controls were a mess. So were its valuation methogage bonds, which had spawned record losses at the bank. Among other things, “weaknesses were noted with model documentation, validation and control group oversight,” the letter said. The main valuation model Citigroup was using “is not in a controlled environment.” In other words, the model wasn’t reliable.

Okay, so the bank’s internal controls weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. Ordinarily, one could reasonably expect management and perhaps their auditors to be aware of such a fact and that they were handling the situation accordingly. We said, “ordinarily”:

Eight days later, on Feb. 22, Citigroup filed its annual report to shareholders, in which it said “management believes that, as of Dec. 31, 2007, the company’s internal control over financial reporting is effective.” Pandit certified the report personally, including the part about Citigroup’s internal controls. So did Citigroup’s chief financial officer at the time, Gary Crittenden.

The annual report also included a Feb. 22 letter from KPMG LLP, Citigroup’s outside auditor, vouching for the effectiveness of the company’s financial-reporting controls. Nowhere did Citigroup or KPMG mention any of the problems cited by the OCC. KPMG, which earned $88.1 million in fees from Citigroup for 2007, should have been aware of them, too. The lead partner on KPMG’s Citigroup audit, William O’Mara, was listed on the “cc” line of the OCC’s Feb. 14 letter.

Huh. There has to be an explanation, right? It’s just one of the largest banks on Earth audited by one of the largest audit firm on Earth. You’d think these guys would be more than willing to stand by their work. Funny thing – no one felt compelled to return JW’s calls. So, he had no choice to piece it together himself:

[S]omehow KPMG and Citigroup’s management decided they didn’t need to mention any of those weaknesses or deficiencies. Maybe in their minds it was all just a difference of opinion. Whatever their rationale, nine months later Citigroup had taken a $45 billion taxpayer bailout, [Ed. note: OH, right. That.] still sporting a balance sheet that made it seem healthy.

Actually, just kidding, he ran it by an expert:

“As I look at the deficiencies cited in the letter, taken as a whole, it appears that Citigroup had a material weakness with respect to valuing these financial instruments,” said Ed Ketz, an accounting professor at Pennsylvania State University, who reviewed the OCC’s letter to Pandit at my request. “It just is overwhelming by the time you get to the end of it.”

What Vikram Pandit Knew, and When He Knew It [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]

Ohio County Auditor Discovers an Ongoing 30-Year Tax Mistake

After a massive flood in the Ohio county of Butler March 25, 1913, the Miami County Conservatory was formed to preserve the quality of Great Miami River water. This mission, hammered out in 1914, allowed for a tax against Butler County residents but apparently when this tax was raised in 1976, it didn’t actually go in front of Butler County votes like it was supposed to.

Which means $4 million in taxes has been collected since then ($252,793.74 in 2009) and somehow no one noticed until now.


Via the Oxford Press (OH):

Following an internal review and opinion from the Ohio Department of Tax Equalization, Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds is removing the tax from the 2010 bill.

“I am proud of my office for this discovery, and for instituting our plan for stronger internal controls on behalf of the citizens of Butler County,” Reynolds said in a press release. “Our role as government leaders must be to protect taxpayers’ money, and to safeguard against waste and error.”

The tax is allowable according to Ohio law. A 1914 statute states taxes for a conservancy district can be collected up to 10 mills, but anything greater must have voter approval.

The funny part is that according to Miami Conservatory District PR, the county is only obligated to pay $207,982 a year to the conservatory. So they really over-collected.

This county auditor is the same who caught another tax boo-boo in early 2010 in which a $1.46 assessment was wrongly collected from every parcel of land in the county for a grand total of $2.3 million.

And you guys wonder why tax protesters do what they do.

SEC’s Storied Tradition of Producing Unreliable Financial Statements Makes for an Awkward Situation

Namely, the Commission would like a bigger budget because Dodd-Frank is making their lives increasingly difficult but since they got such bad marks from the GAO the Times reports that it might be just a tad inappropriate since, ya know, the SEC’s own numbers are, arguably, unreliable:

Since the commission began producing audited statements in 2004, the Government Accountability Office has faulted its reporting almost every year. Last November, the G.A.O. said that the commission’s books were in such disarray that it had failed at some of the agency’s most fundamental tasks: accurately tracking income from fines, filing fees and the return of ill-gotten profits.

“A reasonable possibility exists that a material misstatement of S.E.C.’s financial statements would not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis,” the auditor concluded.

The auditor did not accuse the S.E.C. of cooking its books, and the mistakes were corrected before its latest financial statements were completed. But the fact that basic accounting continually bedevils the agency responsible for guaranteeing the soundness of American financial markets could prove especially awkward just as the S.E.C. is saying it desperately needs money to increase its regulatory power.

S.E.C. Hurt by Disarray in Its Books [NYT]

Accountant Sets Bar for Idiotic Embezzlement Schemes

The snatch and grab and burn technique isn’t the most sophisticated plan we’ve read about but we are talking about a man who is an accountant first (we’re guessing a very bad one) and an extremely dimwitted criminal second:

An accountant faces seven years in jail after a court convicted him yesterday of deliberately setting fire to Dh250,000 in cash and stealing a similar amount from the taxi company where he worked.


Why this particular accountant-cum-thief decided half the money wasn’t worth his trouble is unclear but what is CRYSTAL is that setting the remainder on fire was the equivalent of writing “I’M EMBEZZLING FUNDS” with a Sharpie™ across the cash ledger.

According to the arraignment sheet, prosecutors said [the accused] deliberately set fire to the money bag which contained Dh500,000. He burned Dh250,000 and stole the rest.

He was also charged with causing intentional damage and financial loss to the company. The company’s Indian manager testified that one of the employees informed him over the phone that the accounting office was on fire.

“I rushed to the company’s premises to check what happened. We had left nearly half a million dirhams in a money bag which we kept inside a wooden cupboard. The money was our drivers’ daily revenues. I discovered that half of the money got stolen and the remaining half was burned,” the manager told prosecutors.

But to be fair to our asshat accountant du jour, “a money bag which we kept inside a wooden cupboard” isn’t the most secure internal control procedure we’ve ever heard of. Let this be a lesson.

Nun-cum-former CFO, Who May Have a Gambling Problem, Allegedly Made Off with Some Iona College Cash

We’re a few days late to this story so save the indignation, it’s still worth mentioning.

Sister Marie E. Thornton (aka Sister Susie) was doing the Lord’s work as the CFO at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY and it appears that she was embezzling around $80k a year for nearly 10 years to fund a wee bit of a gambling problem. She surrendered to authorities last week over said embezzlement of ‘more than $850,000,’ according to Talk of the Sound, a New Rochelle blog, that quotes a DOJ press release.


The school fired Sister Suz last year, along with another employee, in relation to the embezzlement and the DOJ got around to charging her last week.

The story got picked up by several outlets, including Fox News who reported that Sister Suz had been blowing the money on trips to Atlantic City:

As chief financial officer at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. from 1999 to 2009, Sister Marie Thornton, 62, bet her six-figure income and school money away during frequent trips to Atlantic City, federal prosecutors said.

Thornton was arrested Thursday and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan. She was released without posting bail. Sources confirmed to MyFoxNY that a former Iona basketball coach has said that Sister Marie definitely had a gambling problem.

Now why the former coach, Jeff Ruland (who was fired from his job, according to the Post), felt obligated to dish on the gambling issue is not clear, although it does provide a motive for Sister Susie’s (alleged!) stealing, which would have probably come out of the investigation. Odd revenge theories aside, the good news is that Sister Suz had seen the error of her ways and has been “cloistered at the Sisters for St. Joseph Order, near Philadelphia,” according to the Fox News report.

However, that is a lot closer to AC, so maybe we’re jumping the gun on repentance.

BREAKING: Sister Susie Arrested, U.S. Attorney Charges Former Iona College VP of Finance in $1.2 Million Embezzlement [Talk of the Sound]
Nun Accused of Embezzling $850,000 From College, Then Gambling It Away in Atlantic City [Fox News]
Nun charged with embezzling $1.2M from Iona [NYP]

GAO: SEC Basically Needs to Replace Their Entire Accounting System

“These material weaknesses are likely to continue to exist until the SEC’s accounting system is either significantly enhanced or replaced, key accounting activity in other systems is fully integrated with the accounting system at the transaction level, information security controls are significantly strengthened, and appropriate resources are dedicated to maintaining effective internal controls.”

~ From a report issued by the Government Accountability Office

Duoyuan Printing Is All Kinds of Screwed Up After Firing Deloitte

By “all kinds of screwed up” we mean “screwed 17 ways to Sunday”. After firing Deloitte last week, two top DY executives (CEO Christopher Holbert and CFO William Suh) have bailed, DYP shares are in the tank (down 47% as of publication) and, oh, they’re going to need to find a new audit committee chairman as their last one, James Zhang, ran for the hills.

Before running, however, he sent this really nice note explaining his motivations:

To: The Board of Duo Yuan Printing(DY).

6th Sept, 2010.

Dear Mr. Chairman and the follow directors of the Board:

Subject: My resignation as Company Audit Committee (AC) Chairman and Independent Director with immediate effect.

It has been almost one year since DY listed in the NYSE. I have to say that working closely with the Chairman, CEO and CFO of the company has been a great pleasure for me.

From Roughly one month ago, I got the phone call from Frank Li, the Audit Partner of Deloitte (DT) to express concerns to the Audit Committee over several financial irregularities and management control weakness. After hearing the full story, I immediately called an AC meeting and upon receiving unanimous approval from the AC as a well as support from the Chairman, the AC immediately engaged Latham Watkins, the US Law Firm, to handle the independent investigation not only to report back to the AC, but also as a part of the audit process requested by DT to give an opinion to the 2010 DY company financials. As our Chairman put it in the board Meeting just now that maybe due to the cross culture differences between US style work and maybe because of the second tier management don’t fully understand the US listing requirements, the investigation has not progressed in the last month. This delay could potentially render the company not filing its annual financial statements on time to the SEC.

In the past week, the Management has suggested to change the auditors of the company from DT to Frazer Frost (FF) who was the company prior auditors. This proposal has just been resolved in the full board meeting and Full AC meeting with voting taking place of 4 against 3 in favor and 2 against 1 in favor.

As the AC chairman and independent Director of the company, I respect the company democratic decision process as stipulated by the company Memorandum and Articles of Association. However, as a qualified UK Chartered Accountant and a trained Professional, I have brought to the attention of the board the following potential risks related to the change of auditors. These risks can be summarized as follows:

1. FF has not yet signed engagement letter with the company which is a risk to the company.

2. Change of auditors during the investigation process could potentially lead to further investigation from the SEC.

3. To change from a Big4 audit firm to a non-Big4 could have very negative impact in the investment community in terms of corporate governance thus lead to potential share price drop and subsequent US class law suit.

4. Even the Company US counsel has indicated in the meeting against change of auditors at this particular time frame.

Keep it classy, JZ, and good luck wherever you end up after this disaster of a company.

Maybe If We Put Internal Controls Last, No One Will Notice

“That is quite a risk to put at the end of the list.”

~ Peter Henning isn’t so sure that General Motors is taking the whole “disclosure controls and procedures and our internal control over financial reporting are currently not effective” serious enough.

KV Pharma Names New CFO; Hunt for Auditor, Signs of an Internal Control System Begins

The AP reports that K-V Pharm named Tom McHugh as their new CFO today which is good news for KV but could be some serious bad news for Tom.

As you may recall, things haven’t been as good as you could ask for over at KV this year – directors, auditors and executives are all bolting for the door and someone has to make a run at this thing. One of those lucky ducks is Tom McHugh:

K-V Pharmaceutical Co. on Thursday named Chief Accounting Officer Thomas McHugh as its new chief financial officer, replacing Stephen Stamp after three months.

The company said McHugh becomes its CFO effective immediately. McHugh served as the company’s interim CFO from September 2009 until April 2010. He was named chief accounting officer in February.

So it sounds like Tommy probably knows the place well enough but he still gets to fix all this:

“Material weaknesses have been identified and included in management’s assessment in the areas of entity-level controls (control awareness, personnel, identification and addressing risks, monitoring of controls, remediation of deficiencies and communication of information), financial statement preparation and review procedures (manual journal entries, account reconciliations, spreadsheets, customer and supplier agreements, stock-based compensation, Medicaid rebates and income taxes) and the application of accounting principles (inventories, property and equipment, employee compensation, reserves for sales allowances and financing transactions).”

And find an auditor! Since KPMG quit, the hunt is on for a new one, so hopefully there’s someone in St. Louis willing to help them out because…the NYSE kinda, sorta took notice that the company didn’t file their 10-K on time and well, that’s a no-no. Just ask Koss.

So the good money is probably is riding against Tom but we’re rooting for you buddy. Turn this ship around!

K-V Pharma replaces CFO after 3 months [AP]

KPMG Has Gotten Tired of KV Pharmaceutical’s Financial Reporting Side Effects

Last week we ran a post courtesy of Sheryl Nash at CFOZone that discussed the tough 2010 that KV Pharmaceutical was having. Well, it’s getting worse. KPMG, not completely adverse to risk,ps and has dropped KVP like a sack of spuds.

In an 8-K rammed through just before quitting time yesterday, “On June 25, 2010, KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) notified K-V Pharmaceutical Company (the “Registrant” or the “Company”) that it had resigned from its engagement as the Registrant’s principal accountant. KPMG’s resignation was not recommended or approved by the Audit Committee of the Registrant’s Board of Directors.”

What was the problem, you ask? Where do we start? There’s a lot in this 8-K so we’ve bolded the good parts for you:

KPMG’s report on the consolidated financial statements of the Registrant and subsidiaries as of and for the year ended March 31, 2009 contained a separate paragraph stating that “As discussed in Note 3 to the consolidated financial statements, the Company has suspended the shipment of all products manufactured by the Company and must comply with a consent decree with the FDA before approved products can be reintroduced to the market. Significant negative impacts on operating results and cash flows from these actions including the potential inability of the Company to raise capital; suspension of manufacturing; significant uncertainties related to litigation and governmental inquiries; and debt covenant violations raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

The audit report of KPMG on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2009 did not contain any adverse opinion or disclaimer of opinion, nor was it qualified or modified as to uncertainty, audit scope, or accounting principles, except that KPMG’s report indicates that the Registrant did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2009 because of the effect of material weaknesses on the achievement of the objectives of the control criteria and contains an explanatory paragraph that states “Material weaknesses have been identified and included in management’s assessment in the areas of entity-level controls (control awareness, personnel, identification and addressing risks, monitoring of controls, remediation of deficiencies and communication of information), financial statement preparation and review procedures (manual journal entries, account reconciliations, spreadsheets, customer and supplier agreements, stock-based compensation, Medicaid rebates and income taxes) and the application of accounting principles (inventories, property and equipment, employee compensation, reserves for sales allowances and financing transactions).

We’ll interject here with…why didn’t they just admit, “We have internal controls in place but they suck. Every last one of the controls is ineffective and we’re really not sure they’re being performed anyway. In fact, we don’t even employee people with accounting degrees. We have a weekend COSO crash course to get temps up to speed.” ?

Back to the filing:

As of the date of their resignation, KPMG had not completed the audit of the consolidated financial statements and the effectiveness of the internal controls over financial reporting of the Registrant as of and for the year ended March 31, 2010. KPMG had informed the Audit Committee prior to the date of their resignation that upon completion of their audit of the consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended March 31, 2010 they expected their audit report would contain a separate paragraph expressing substantial doubt about the Registrant’s ability to continue as a going concern and their report on internal controls over financial reporting would indicate that the Registrant did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2010 because of the effect of material weaknesses reported as of March 31, 2009 that had not been remediated.

We’d continue but it’s probably not necessary.

A Wisconsin Non-Profit Learns an Important Lesson in Internal Controls

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What is in the water up in America’s Dairyland? We’ve been going on and on about the internal control failures at Koss in Milwaukee but now there’s more of it at a non-profit organization just up the road. Let’s hope everyone at UW Madison is taking notes.

The latest tale of non-profit fraud stars 56 year-old Leonard V. Lauth of Beaver Dam.

Wings Over Wisconsin bills itself as a conservation organization dedicated to natural resource preservation and education through youth and community involvement. Spelling errors and obvious lack of updates since 2006 on its website aside, WOW manages nearly 1,300 acres of land and provides mostly young hunter education to the future gun-toting blue-stater babes in Wisconsin.


While it prides preservation of Wisconsin’s precious wetlands, internal controls do not appear to be high on WOW’s priority list. Hopefully this changes that.

It’s a textbook fraud case, starting with the mounting medical bills and the poor internal controls that allowed its Treasurer to lift $16,875 since 2005. Lauth’s advanced methods of fraud include writing checks to himself labeled “office supplies” in the books and taking home banquet funds after the event insisting he’d deposit them at the bank in the morning.

While typically WOW practice to require two signatures, Lauth had been with the organization for 24 years, leaving the “trust” issue totally taken care of. Opportunity, motive, what else do we need?

Rationalization, of course! Lauth told Beaver Dam Police Lt. Joel Kiesow he thought he’d taken $788 from the organization in the four year period in which he executed his fraud. When informed it was more like $17,000, Lauth was shocked. I guess he didn’t realize how expensive “office supplies” can be these days.

“Maybe I was robbing Peter to pay Paul on different things,” said Lauth in regards to using WOW funds to pay off family medical bills. Actually, he was robbing the little Dustins and Bobbys with their baby shotguns and wildlife of Wisconsin who counted on the funds to which he so sloppily helped himself. Shame shame.

Let this be a lesson to all you non-profits: cash management and financial literacy (including fraud prevention measures) are not only best practices for public companies and private industry. If anything, non-profits need sharper internal controls – without shareholders to answer to, money can easily slip into the fraud vacuum undetected for years, as in the case of Mr Lauth and WOW.

Calls to WOW left after business hours were not returned.

Man accused of taking funds from non profit [Beaver Dam Daily Citizen]