September 21, 2019

Lawsuits

Accounting News Roundup: Congress Delay on Taxes Could Hit January Paychecks; KPMG Settles with Hollinger; PwC Asking Clients to Share Internal Info | 10.07.10

Republicans See a Political Motive in I.R.S. Audits [NYT]
“Leading Republicans are suggesting that a senior official in the Obama administration may have improperly accessed the tax records of Koch Industries, an oil company whose owners are major conservative donors.

And the Republicans are also upset about an I.R.S. review requested by Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the Finance Committee, into the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Such a review threatens to “chill the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” wrote two Republican senators, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona, in a letter sent to the I.R.S. on Wednesday.
ick to point out that the I.R.S. was put under tight restrictions about access to Americans’ tax returns as a result of political shenanigans by the Nixon administration involving tax audits.”

AIG’s Real Numbers Still Shrouded in Secrecy [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
“Two years ago when the government seized control of AIG, the Treasury in effect took a 79.9 percent ownership stake in the company, through preferred shares and warrants it received as part of AIG’s $182 billion bailout package. By keeping its stake below 80 percent, the government ensured that a financial-reporting method known as push-down accounting wouldn’t be permitted under U.S. accounting rules.

The reason that was so important? Had AIG chosen to implement push-down accounting, it would have had to undergo a complete re-assessment of all its assets and liabilities. And, with a few possible exceptions, the company would have been required to begin showing them on its balance sheet at their fair market values, which may have left AIG’s books looking a lot worse.”

Delays to Tax Tables May Dent Paychecks [WSJ]
“Lack of congressional action on 2011 income taxes may force the Treasury Department to make unprecedented moves to prevent U.S. workers from seeing large tax increases in their January paychecks.

The issue: 2011 tax-withholding tables. Treasury officials usually release the tables, which determine the take-home pay of millions of wage-earners, by mid-November because it takes payroll processors weeks to adjust their systems before Jan. 1.”

Steven Bandolik Joins Deloitte’s Distressed Debt & Asset Practice [PR Newswire]
“Deloitte announced today that Steven Bandolik has joined its distressed debt and asset practice. Bandolik’s hire marks the latest in a series of strategic growth initiatives executed over the last 18 months to expand Deloitte’s distressed debt and asset practice.

‘Challenges need to become opportunities in order for borrowers, lenders and investors to move forward, and get back to their core business of making positive returns on investments. Despite lower interest rates, obtaining new financing regardless of loan performance continues to be an issue unless properties and financial positions are extremely strong,’ said Bandolik. ‘In this environment, clients require intellectual capital to re-structure transactions, and design sensible underwriting, due diligence and risk management procedures. Their debt may need to be structured more conservatively, requiring higher equity levels that could withstand future stress, with a focus on deleveraging over the holding period.’ ”

Hollinger Inc.: Settlement of Claims Against KPMG LLP [Marketwire]
“The Litigation Trustee of Hollinger Inc. (“Hollinger”) announced today that he has entered into a settlement agreement with KPMG LLP to resolve all claims against Hollinger’s former advisor advanced by the Litigation Trustee on behalf of Hollinger. The settlement entails no admission of liability on the part of KPMG LLP. The terms of the settlement include releases in favour of KPMG LLP from Hollinger and its subsidiaries, as well as from third parties involved in related Hollinger litigation. The settlement and the releases are subject to court approval, which will be sought on notice to other affected parties. The rest of the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.”


CAQ Reports on Fraud Best Practices, Launches New Effort [Compliance Week]
“The CAQ conducted five roundtables and 20 in-depth interviews to develop consensus on how companies can best create a financial reporting environment where fraud has little potential to seed or take root. The CAQ published the findings as a cornerstone to further collaborative efforts with other professional groups to share ideas and best practices on how to derail fraudulent financial reporting.”

PwC audit clients asked to give up internal information [Accountancy Age]
“Ian Powell, chairman of PwC told an audience of 300 business professionals, the audit model needed reform, and believed some internal discussions, now privately held between an auditor and company, needed to be made public.

‘It may well be that by making more of those discussions public, the value of an audit can be collectively improved,’ he said.

‘I have asked our lead audit partners to discuss this idea with audit committee chairs of PwC clients to see if we can work together on a voluntary basis to improve the disclosure of such matters over the next reporting cycle.’

The comments come as the European Commission prepares to release a green paper on audit competition, due later this month, and the House of Lords prepares to hear evidence on the issue, next week.”

Greenspan: Financial overhaul to have ‘significant impact’ on economic growth [On the Money/The Hill]
Some people are still listening to this man.

Madoff clan denies fraud role, seek suit dismissal [Reuters]
A consistent message may actually convince someone, some day.

Koss Demands Sue Sachdeva’s Help Winning Their Civil Case Against Sue Sachdeva

The least convicted embezzler-cum-recovering shopaholic Sue Sachdeva could do is help out the company that she ripped off to the tune of $34 million.

Despite how Suz feels about it, her lawyers do not want her to be deposed in Koss’s civil case against her and Grant Thornton until after she is sentenced to prison for the rest of her worthwhile shopping days. Doing so would jeopardize putting her back at Nordstrom’s sooner than they would like:

Sachdeva anticipates receiving a two-level decrease in the federal court sentencing guidelines by accepting responsibility for her actions, her Madison attorney Jack Williams said in court documents filed last month. She reached a plea agreement on the charges in July.

“Submitting to a deposition could jeopardize Mrs. Sachdeva’s opportunity to receive that decrease,” Williams argued.

Koss Corp. vehemently opposes Sachdeva’s motion on the grounds that she needs to cooperate not only with prosecutors in her criminal case, but also with her former employer in its efforts to win a civil judgment against her and former Koss auditor Grant Thornton LLP.

Sachdeva tries to delay her deposition in Koss suit [The Business Journal of Milwaukee (partial subscription required)]

Accounting News Roundup: Obama Opposes Deal on Tax Cuts for Wealthy; Former Advatech CFO Sentenced; Citrin Cooperman One of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing | 09.08.10

Obama Against a Compromise on Extension of Bush Tax Cuts [NYT]
“President Obama on Wednesday will make clear that he opposes any compromise that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy beyond this year, officials said, adding a populist twist to an election-season economic package that is otherwise designed to entice support from big businesses and their Republican allies.

Mr. Obama’s opposition to allowing the high-end tax cuts to remain in place for even another year or two would be the signal many Congressional Democrats have been awaiting as they prepare for a showdown with Republicans on the issue and ends speculation that thee open to an extension. Democrats say only the president can rally wavering lawmakers who, amid the party’s weakened poll numbers, feel increasingly vulnerable to Republican attacks if they let the top rates lapse at the end of this year as scheduled.”

Oracle CEO Rails Against H-P For Mark Hurd Lawsuit [Dow Jones]
Were the HP board membersnot aware that Larry Ellison does what he wants? Oh and that’s he’s filthy rich and will buy all of their homes and their families’ homes and burn them to the ground if you dare cross him?

“Oracle Corp. (ORCL) Chief Executive Larry Ellison issued on Tuesday a strongly worded criticism of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and its lawsuit against H-P’s former Chief Executive Mark Hurd, suggesting that Oracle might discontinue its 25-year partnership with H-P.

‘Oracle has long viewed H-P as an important partner,’ said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in a statement. ‘The H-P board is acting with utter disregard for that partnership, our joint customers, and their own shareholders and employees. The H-P Board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and H-P to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace.’ ”

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation Announces John Duffey to Join Company as Chief Financial Officer and Lance Balk to Serve as General Counsel [PR Newswire]
Despite rumors that Duffey is scared to death of roller coasters, he assumes the big chair.

Former Advatech CFO Sentenced To 51 Months In Prison [Dow Jones]
“Richard Margulies, 59, was convicted of a June 2008 scheme that involved hiring two individuals to make “manipulative” purchases in the company’s stock in exchange for illegal kickbacks. He provided the two with shareholder lists, confidential information and non-public press releases to help slowly drive up the share price.

Soon after, Margulies was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was indicted in December 2008 on charges that included conspiracy and securities fraud. Margulies pleaded guilty.

The court found he intended to cause $2.5 million to $7 million in losses as a result of his actions.”


Deloitte Becomes a Thomson Reuters Certified Implementer [PR Newswire]
Apparently this is BFD.

BP Takes Some Blame in Gulf Disaster [WSJ]
“The report finds BP facing a tricky balancing act. The British company risks exposing itself to greater legal liability if it assumes a large part of the blame for the disaster, but if it doesn’t do this it likely would be accused of evading responsibility. Meanwhile, parceling out blame to other companies involved in the well risks drawing blowback from them. BP officials and legal analysts say the company is trying to be careful to avoid letting the findings devolve into more mud-slinging.”

Citrin Cooperman Ranked Among Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-growing Private Companies [PR Log]
“According to Inc., Citrin Cooperman was the 148th fastest growing firm in the magazine’s broad “financial services” category, which includes accounting firms, brokerages, lending services and technology firms serving the financial industry.”

A Whole Mess of People Aren’t Impressed with PwC’s Offer to Buy Diamond M&T’s Stock

PwC isn’t necessarily to blame, mind you, at least not yet. As it stands, Faruqi & Faruqi are investigating Diamond’s Board of Directors for accepting the $12.50 offer that PwC made last month.

F&F cites “at least one financial analyst values Diamond’ common stock at $14.00 per share,” hence, gypping investors. This is just the latest in a long line of investigations that were announced since the deal was announced. HOWEVER!


As far as we can tell only one actual lawsuit has been filed, in Delaware and it also notes that the deal was structured “that bars other bidders from making an offer” and includes a $9 million termination fee.

Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, a leading national securities firm headquartered in New York City, is investigating the Board of Directors of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, Inc. (?Diamond? or the ?Company?) (NasdaqGS: DTPI) for potential breaches of fiduciary duties in connection with their conduct related to the sale of the Company to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (?PricewaterhouseCoopers?). The proposed transaction offers Diamond shareholders to only receive $12.50 in cash for each share they own. According to Thomson/First Call, at least one financial analyst values Diamond’ common stock at $14.00 per share.

Whether the Diamond’ Board of Directors breached their fiduciary duties to Diamond’ stockholders by failing to conduct an adequate and fair sales process to sell the Company prior to agreeing to this proposed transaction, whether the proposed transaction undervalues Diamond shares and by how much this proposed transaction undervalues the Company to the detriment of Diamond shareholders are the key focus of this investigation.

Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP is a national law firm which represents investors and individuals in class action litigation. The firm is focused on providing exemplary legal services in complex litigation in the areas of securities, shareholder, antitrust and consumer litigation, through all phases of litigation. The firm has an experienced trial team which has achieved significant victories on behalf of the firm’s clients.

Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP Announces Investigation Related to the Acquisition of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, Inc [Business Wire]
PWC, Diamond Management Sued Over $378 Million Buyout [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

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]

Famous Last Words

“The lawsuit is a bunch of BS. They’re throwing everything at me. I’m not afraid of the IRS.”

~ William Alexander, on allegations brought against him by the IRS.

The Last Thing the IRS Needed Was a Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Israel

But that’s exactly what they got! The pro-Israel nonprofit Z Street filed suit against IRS Commish Doug Shulman because Z Street and other “pro-Israel groups whose policies conflict with that of the [Obama] administration,” are getting the stinkeye from the IRS.


From Zulu Avenue’s complaint:

The case is brought because, through its corporate counsel, Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” These statements by an IRS official that the IRS maintains special policies (hereinafter the “Israel Special Policy”) governing applications for tax-exempt status by organizations which deal with Israel, and which requires particularly intense scrutiny of such applications and an enhanced risk of denial if made by organizations which espouse or support positions inconsistent with the Obama administration’s Israel policies, constitute an explicit admission of the crudest form of viewpoint discrimination, and one which is both totally un-American and flatly unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Pro-Israel group claims IRS persecution [Politico]

There Are More Than a Few Texans Who Aren’t Impressed with Ernst & Young’s Auditing Abilities

And this has nothing to do with Lehman Brothers.

Attorneys from Houston’s Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Anaipakos are representing a group of investors in a lawsuit filed against hedge fund auditors Ernst & Young after the group lost more than $17 million following the collapse of a Plano, Texas-based hedge fund that promised low-risk investments.

The lawsuit focuses on two funds sold by Plano’s Parkcentral Global and was filed on behalf of Houston financial consultant Gus H. Comiskey and four Tucson, Ariz.-based entities, including the Thomas R. Brown Family Private Foundation. The now-defunct Parkcentral Global was operated by affiliates of billionaire and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot before closing its doors after losing a total of more than $2.6 billion.

“Our clients were told that an investment in Parkcentral was designed to preserve capital. Instead, they lost every penny in record time. E&Y was supposed to be auditing Parkcentral, but the audited financial statements never once warned Parkcentral’s investors of their impending doom,” says attorney Demetrios Anaipakos, who will try the case with Amir H. Alavi.


Did you hear that E&Y? RECORD TIME! But why the Ross Perot mention, Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Anaipakos? Got something against eccentric Texas billionaires that like explaining complex things with charts? Sadly, the BPR does not elaborate.

The lawsuit includes claims that New York-based Ernst & Young falsely represented that the company fairly audited Parkcentral Global and the auditor failed in its “watchdog” [Ed. note: These quotation marks appear to be unnecessary. Also, the “watchdog” thing, sucks as metaphor.] role to warn relying investors of the risk of fraud and noncompliance by management. The suit accuses Ernst & Young of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, securities fraud and conspiracy.

This month, Brown Investment Management, L.P., one of the plaintiffs in this suit against Ernst & Young, won a Delaware Supreme Court ruling that requires Parkcentral Global to disclose its former investors. Those investors could be added to the new Houston lawsuit.

The investments of the Brown foundation, Brown Investment Management and the two other family-related ventures totaled $16 million and were lost within 90 days despite a “worst case loss” estimate of 5 percent. Mr. Comiskey, like his fellow investors, lost 100 percent of his investment when Parkcentral Global went under.

Mr. Anaipakos and Mr. Alavi have handled disputes against hedge funds and private equity firms for more than a decade. This lawsuit is separate from a class action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Parkcentral Global.

Judge Grants Preliminary Approval in New Century Shareholder Settlement: KPMG to Pay $44.75 Million

Not to be confused with the settlement that KPMG reached with the Trustee of New Century that we reported on back in June. This particular lawsuit was brought by New York State Teachers’ Retirement System and shareholders in New Century.

Law.com reports:

A federal judge on Monday granted preliminary approval to a $125 million cash settlement for shareholders of bankrupt New Century Financial Corp., one of the largest lenders to collapse during the subprime mortgage meltdown.

The settlement involves three stipulations: Auditor KPMG LLP will pay $44.75 million; the underwriter defendants will pay $15 million; and New Century’s former officers and directors collectively will pay more than $65 million.


Along with the undisclosed sum from the Trustee of New Century, KPMG also paid $24 million to settle with the shareholders of Countrywide. Since we have no idea what the firm paid to settle with the Trustee we can’t give a ballpark number for settlements for the last 3-ish months but on the low end it’s at least $69 million.

If we put the over/under at $100 million, what are you taking? Throw in your ballpark figure just for fun.

$125 Million Shareholder Settlement in New Century Financial Collapse [Law.com]

Earlier:
A Few People Noticed That New Century Execs Settled with SEC

Apparently the ‘Wildly Inaccurate’ Accounting at Scott Rothstein’s Law Firm Didn’t Impress Some Miami CPAs

Unless you were born blind and deaf, you may have noticed that South Florida has its share of shady characters. We all know that Berns Madoff frequented the area. Plus there’s the obsessively dapper Lew Freeman, who was Miami’s go-to forensic accountant until he thought he’d just keep his client’s money.

Another model citizen/criminal in FLA is Scott Rothstein. His Ponzi Scheme managed to bring in just over $1 billion and he got 50 years for his trouble. But now the fallout from Rothstein’s little stunt is now raining hell on Miami accounting firm Berenfeld Spritzer Schechter & Sheer.


The trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler has accused Berenfeld, et al. of funneling $450 million to Rothstein.

As you can imagine, the crew over at BSS&S aren’t thrilled with the accusations and called the suit, “inaccurate and flawed,” and claim that they “conducted [our] duties professionally, conscientiously and in good faith.”

Well, the trustee obviously doesn’t see things that way and laid out several allegations, specifically, the following:

• Berenfeld improperly adjusted RRA’s income by $20 million in 2007 and by $75 million in 2008.

• Berenfeld withheld information from RRA President Stuart Rosenfeldt (who has claimed he had no knowledge of firm finances and couldn’t read a balance sheet).

• Berenfeld prepared tax returns in a way that did not distinguish between RRA operating cash and client trust funds, giving the misimpression that RRA had more available cash than it actually owned.

• Berenfeld did not pursue information about bookkeeping after RRA staff – including CFO Irene Stay and COO Debra Villegas – denied access to information about bank statements, fee income and trust accounts.

• Berenfeld “knew of wildly inaccurate RRA bookkeeping and inadequate accounting personnel evidenced by the way in which books and records were created and maintained, leading to extraordinary adjustments, tantamount to rewriting the books and records of RRA.”

• Berenfeld provided a “nebulous” letter to Rothstein to help cover up $15 million in suspicious transactions in response to an anti-money laundering compliance inquiry from Gibraltar Bank.

Now, we’ve heard that law firms aren’t the best when it comes to running their businesses, but ‘wildly inaccurate bookkeeping and inadequate accounting personnel’ that leads to ‘extraordinary adjustments, tantamount to rewriting the books,’ takes things to a whole new level. Berenfeld employee TerryTracy Weintraub gets special attention in the suit, so we can presume he’s the one responsible for knowing – and not being too concerned – about RRA’s exceptionally shitty books. Oops!

Accounting firm sued over Rothstein work [SFBJ]

KPMG Partner Thinks It’s Really Unfair That Audit Firms Keep Getting Sued

You know what sucks? Getting sued. Ask Bill Michael, KPMG’s UK head of FS. He’s pretty sick and tired of all the sue-happiness going on in the world today. Sure, the financial crisis nearly destroyed the world as we know it but dammit, blaming auditors is downright ludicrous. Why? Because it’s unfair.

Bill Michael, UK head of financial services at KPMG, attacked what he described as “unfair”, “deep pocket” lawsuits which pay “little or no attention to the balance of responsibility between auditor and management”.

“We operate in a highly litigious environment where the balance of risk and reward has driven us to a world of caveats,” said Mr Michael. “Any corporate failure or financial loss invariably carries with it the risk of suing the auditor.”

Right. Because in law school they teach future litigators to “pay attention to the balance of responsibility between auditor and management.” Supposedly Bill Mike would like everyone to start respecting the Big 4 business model and leave them alone to do their work. Because in case you hadn’t heard, this is a life and death matter for accounting firms, you know:

“I can tell you, we are acutely aware of risk management and its consequences from both an individual and a firm perspective.

“You only have to look at what happened to a great firm like Arthur Anderson after its audit of Enron,” said Mr Michael. Arthur Anderson was eventually cleared after its audit of the collapsed energy trader, but the accountancy has already folded as a result.

He also criticised the “enormous rewards for failure” in the banking industry, drawing attention to the way some of those responsible for the collapse of major firms were able to move to other banks or hedge funds.

“The risk-reward relationship is not only lop-sided; it impairs our ability to provide broader observations,” said Mr Michael.

Describing the sometimes tense relationship between accountants and the firms they are auditing, he said that each review often started with the premise of “we don’t trust you”.

So in other words, get your witch hunt on with the banks and hedgies but leave us the hell alone. Nobody likes us the way it is.

Litigation culture is ‘unfair’ warns KPMG accounting head [Telegraph]

Fired Tyco Accountant Claims That the Company Is Still Throwing Ridiculously Awesome Parties

[caption id="attachment_13953" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Not a legitimate business expense?"][/caption]

Remeber Tyco? Dennis Kozlowski. Mark Swartz. Roman orgy parties. It sounded like a hoot. Too bad the law got in the way.

Koz and Swartz may be locked up but that doesn’t mean the good times at Tyco had to end!

An accounting manager at Tyco Electronics claims that he was ‘coercively’ fired for taking issue with “Tyco’s exorbitant bashes for its CEO Thomas Lynch and other top executives ‘were almost identical to parties for which Tyco’s former CEO [Dennis Kozlowski] was criminally charged and convicted.’ ”

What kind of party expenses you ask? Run-of-the-mill stuff like ‘mermaid greeters’ and ‘costumed pirates/wenches.’

It doesn’t hurt to have a little eye candy at a company bash, amiright? And maybe Jeffrey Weist was okay with the scantily clad roaming hotties and really just took exception with the $2,350 for the tattoo artist (tatts included!) and limbo and fire dancers, $2,500 for chair covers and sashes and the $1,000 hotel rooms.


Whatever lavish (read: kick-ass) expense it was that turned out to be the straw that broke the stuffy accountant’s back, Jeff Wiest not letting this happen:

The complaint adds: “This requested payment seemed particularly inappropriate from a morale aspect, coming in the midst of continued downsizing pressure, and seemed contradictory in that this one party equated to approximately seven positions for one year in the accounts payable function managed by Wiest,” according to the complaint.

Wiest says that despite his objections, “it was decided to go ahead with the event, to treat the proportionate share of the party as income, and to ‘gross-up’ the bonuses to the employees involved. In other words, the company would pay each highly paid employee an additional amount of cash beyond the value of the trip in order to cover his/her tax liability.”

This approach brought “the total cost of the event to approximately a half million dollars,” according to the complaint.

He claims that each high-ranking Tyco employee was awarded up to $7,500 per person, or $15,000 per couple, as additional “income,” for attending the party. All of the 30 employees who attended were receiving salaries of more than $102,000, Wiest says. He adds that 23 of them took their wives.

And they got paid to go! What is going on at Tyco? Other than it’s the best place to work EVER.

Back to Wiest. For taking high road, Weist alleges that Tyco turned the screws back on him:

In response to his repeated questioning of these extravaganzas, Wiest says, Tyco began an “investigation” of him. This led to bogus accusations that he had made sexually oriented comments, Wiest says.

“Examples given included a comment to an employee going on a honeymoon cruise to not stay on the ship the whole time; a comment about his wife’s hormone issues during her pregnancy being difficult for him, and a comment regarding the uses of improved flexibility from working out. It is noteworthy that the hormone comment would have been several years old, as Wiest’s child was born in 2006,” the complaint states.

He claims Tyco also raised questions about a decade-old brief relationship he had had with a California-based Tyco employee, and baseball tickets that Wiest had been given by a superior.

Jesus. If they would have just invited him to the party, we probably wouldn’t have to go through all this.

Same Old Tricks at Tyco, Accountant Says [Courthouse News Service]

Accounting News Roundup: Are “Tax-Aware” Juries the Solution to Deductible Punitive Damages?; Financial Fake Twitter Feeds; Deloitte’s Czech Problem | 07.02.10

Damages Control [NYT]
Because BP could end up paying a metric asston in punitive damages over the Deepwater Horizon whathaveyou, the Senate recently approved a repeal of punitive damages awarded in civil disputes being deductible for tax purposes.

The problem is that it probably won’t work, as Gregg Polsky and Dan Markel, two law professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Florida State University write in an op-ed in today’s Times:

“When plaintiffs and defendants reach a settlement before a trial, which happens in most cases, they aren’t required to specify which parts of the settlement are punitive and which are compensatory; therene number. That allows defendants to disguise the amounts that they would have paid as punitive damages as additional compensatory damages.

And because the measure maintains the deductible status of compensatory damages, nearly all punitive damages will remain, as a practical matter, deductible. This easy circumvention surely explains the meager revenue projections from the measure: $315 million over 10 years.”

The solution, according to Polsky and Markel is to make juries “tax aware” so that they may adjust their findings appropriately, “the prospect of tax-aware jurors would also raise the amounts of settlements before trial — when, again, most cases are actually resolved. This is because the amount of a settlement depends on the amount that a jury is expected to award after a trial. If tax-aware juries became the norm, plaintiffs would push for higher settlements, and thus both settling and non-settling defendants would bear the correct amount of punishment. Under the Senate’s approach, in contrast, only the very few non-settling defendants would bear that punishment.”

Five Fake Finance Twitter Feeds [FINS]
These are far better reasons to be on Twitter than Ashton Kutcher or Kim Kardashian.


Charities fail to communicate in annual reports: Deloitte [Accountancy Age]
Whatever they are communicating, it’s still more informative than a “Transparency Report.”

More cloud accounting benefits [AccMan]
“It is becoming increasingly obvious that clouding computing benefits as they apply to the accounting arena stretch way beyond the ability to save time, effort and cost. As I meet with more customers, I am discovering benefits that only customers can express.”

Apollo Said to Hire PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Donnelly as CFO [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
“[Gene] Donnelly, who starts in his new role today after 29 years at New York-based consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, fills a vacancy left by the departure of Kenneth Vecchione in January, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the hiring wasn’t announced. Barry Giarraputo, the company’s chief accounting officer, had been serving as interim CFO.”

Deloitte answers fraud reports [The Prague Post]
Francine McKenna tweeted about this story yesterday, where Deloitte has been cited by one Czech newspaper as being investigated by Czech anti-corruption police.

“Deloitte has been put on the defensive since the June 28 report in the daily Lidové noviny (LN) that quoted unnamed sources alleging a slush fund used to bribe public officials and fraudulent accounting that gave clients better financial results. Deloitte says the results of an internal review highlighted ‘certain deficiencies in management reporting,’ but considers the results an internal matter and will not make any comments.”

KPMG Resolves Lawsuit with New Century

Francine McKenna reported briefly last week that KPMG settled the $1 billion lawsuit with the New Century Liquidating Trustee. Sure enough, we checked with Steven Thomas and he gave us the same statement:

“The New Century Liquidating Trustee and KPMG LLP have entered into a confidential settlement agreement, pursuant to which the lawsuits and arbitration against KPMG LLP and KPMG International have been resolved.”


Well! That’s some important news. We called up KPMG shortly after we read Francine’s post last week to see what they had to say about it and we were told that they’d get back to us. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting but we’re sure they’re excited, just taking the time to find the right words. Anyway, we’re here when you’ve perfected the prose. In the meantime, if you’d like to take a shot at what the response might be, pen it below.

We’ll pass along more details as they become available.

Accounting News Roundup: Auditors ‘Portray Worrying Lack of Skepticism’; Are Tax Strategies Patentable?; Method Man Pleads Guilty, Cuts Check for NYC Tax Evasion | 06.29.10

FSA accuse auditors of failing to question management bias [Accountancy Age]
The Financial Services Authority has decided that it was about time it called out a few people, “Auditors have become yes men who don’t adequately question management bias according to concerns raised by the UK’s chief financial regulators. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Financial Reporting Council today released a scathing discussion paper into the profession following concerns raised in the wake of the financial crisis. Among its concerns is that auditors ‘portrays a worrying lack of skepticism’ when scrutinising potential management bias.”

Not onlef=”http://www.accountancyage.com/accountancyage/news/2265630/fsa-audit-report-regulator”>FSA wants new enforcement powers including the ability to ” fine, censure or disqualify audit firms.” The FSA also wants to meet with auditors several times a year, rather than just once, as well as direct access to audit committees.

Alex to Become Hurricane as Swells Reach Gulf Spill [Bloomberg]
“Tropical Storm Alex, the first named system of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened today, forcing the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and pushing swells toward the worst U.S. oil spill.

The storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, was 460 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, before dawn today, moving north-northwest at 8 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The circulating winds were near reaching hurricane status of 74 mph.”

New York state may tax out-of-state hedge fund execs [Reuters]
Desperate idea of the day from the brain trust in Albany, “Recession-hit New York could raise an extra $50 million a year by collecting income taxes from people who work for hedge funds in the state but live elsewhere, according to a legislative plan to raise revenue…A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said by telephone on Monday that it means hedge fund managers would be treated the same way as other commuters.”


Aprill: The Impact of Bilski on Tax Strategy Patents [TaxProf Blog]
In non-PCAOB SCOTUS news, the decision in Bilski v. Kappos addressing “Whether a ‘process’ must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (‘machine-or-transformation’ test), to be eligible for patenting….” was examined by Ellen P. Aprill of Loyola-L.A. regarding the impact on tax strategy patents:

“Bilski is at best a mixed bag for those who think tax strategies should be patentable. It gives little help and does allow business method patents, albeit somewhat begrudgingly. It demonstrates that for those who believe that tax strategies should not be patented, legislation is needed.”

Method Man pleads guilty to NYC tax-evasion charge [AP]
“Hip-hop star Method Man pleaded guilty to a tax-evasion charge Monday, writing a check on the spot for the final $40,000 restitution payment after owing about $106,000.” What, no cash?

U.S. Court to Hear Janus Appeal In Securities Case [Reuters]
“The lawsuit, brought on behalf of those who bought Janus stock from mid-2000 through early September 2003, alleged that the prospectuses of several of Janus funds created the misleading impression that the company would adopt measures to curb market timing, when in fact secret arrangements with several hedge funds permitted such transactions, to the detriment of long-term investors.”

Koss Sues Grant Thornton, Blames Firm’s Assignment of Newbie Auditors

Well! You might have thought that Koss would just handle this Sue Sachdeva situation like gentlemen headphonesmiths but you would have thought wrong!

Koss is suing S-squared and Grant Thornton for their respective roles in the alleged embezzlement of $31 million from the Brew Town company.

While it sounds like , that won’t protect her or Chipman & Co. from the wrath of Koss. But one thing is for sure, despite the lawsuits and whatnot, this is not the company’s fault. Just ask Koss’ attorney Michael Avenatti, “I’m confident the company will be exonerated.”


Why? Because
Grant Thornton threw a few young associates on the engagement, that’s why!

Koss hired one of the best accounting firms in the world, Grant Thornton, and should have been able to rely on Thornton’s audits to uncover wrongdoing, Avenatti said. The suit against the auditing firm says auditors assigned to Koss were not properly trained.

The lawsuit lists hundreds of checks that Sachdeva ordered drawn on company accounts to pay for her personal expenses. She disguised the recipients — upscale retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Marshall Fields — by using just the initials. But the suit says Grant Thornton could have ascertained the true identity of the recipients by inspecting the reverse side of the checks, which showed the full name.

Forget the fact that the CEO was also vice chairman, chief operating officer, president and chief financial officer. Oh, and he sat on the audit committee at another company. Apparently Koss wanted GT partners auditing those cash accounts rather than implement anything that even closely resembles an internal control system.

Grant Thornton, meanwhile, is still sticking to the boilerplate statement as reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “We remain confident that we have met all of our professional obligations and that our work complied with professional standards.”

Sigh. Of course no one wants to be responsible, so let’s decide for them. Let’s get a show of hands:

It’s worth mentioning that the lawsuit comes just a few short days before Koss’ tardy restated financials are due. If the company doesn’t cough them up, the Nasdaq will banish them like they’ve got lice.

Koss sues former executive, auditor over alleged embezzlement [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

BDO Wins New Life as Florida Appeals Court Orders New Trial

In what amounts to a HUGE win for BDO, the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami has ordered a new trial in the case between BDO and Banco Espirito Santo:

A Florida appeals court has thrown out a $521 million jury verdict and ordered a new trial in a dispute over audits between accounting firm BDO Seidman and a major Portuguese bank.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled Wednesday that the 2007 trial was wrongly divided into three phases.

That meant jurors decided BDO Seidman should pay punitive damages too early in the case.

BDO Seidman was sued by Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santmed on a Miami company later exposed as a huge fraud. The bank claimed BDO Seidman was negligent for not detecting the fraud, costing the bank $170 million in losses.

Jurors awarded the bank $170 million in losses plus $351 million in punitive damages.

We reached out to the Steven Thomas, lead counsel for the Banco Espirito for his reaction:

This case has been sent back for another trial because of the procedural ‘bifurcation’ issue. We are pleased that the effort and hard work the jury put into this case was recognized by the appellate court, and we specifically note that the Court did not dispute BDO unethical conflicts of interest or its negligence. The evidence of BDO Seidman’s failures of even the most basic auditing procedures is so overwhelming that we expect a new jury will reach the same conclusion as the original jury. We look forward to trying this case and reminding everyone of BDO Seidman’s neglect of its public duty and the enormous conflict of interest they had.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, undisputed negligence cited by Mr Thomas, the mood inside BDO is one of vindication. From the firm’s press release not yet posted on the firm’s website:

The firm is pleased to announce that the Third District Court of Appeal of the state of Florida has unanimously overturned a 2007 jury verdict against the firm and ordered that the Bankest case be retried in the 11th Circuit Court. The Court of Appeal concluded that:

• The Trial Court erred in its original decision to trifurcate the trial, ruling that it was prejudicial to have allowed the case to be presented in three phases. This made it possible for the jury to find BDO grossly negligent without, at the same time, considering the conduct of other actors, including representatives of Banco Espirito Santo.

• The Appellate Court further concluded that the evidence of reliance on BDO’s audit opinions was insufficient to sustain the claims of the Bankest investors, save for the one individual who testified at trial.

• The Trial Court improperly allowed into evidence prejudicial hearsay testimony and documents that further served to deprive BDO of a fair trial.

The Appellate Court concluded, “We have carefully considered every substantive and procedural authority that might be applied to preserve at least some of the jury’s findings. In this case, no such balm is found.”

“We are very pleased that the Appeals court has reversed the lower court verdict. We have consistently stated that we were confident that the jury’s erroneous verdict in this case would be reversed on appeal. The addition of punitive damages at the time only served to emphasize the injustice that took place at the trial court,” said CEO Jack Weisbaum. “A new trial will be in accordance with the Court of Appeal’s decision and we will prove that BDO acted at all times consistent with its professional obligations and that its audit opinions were based on the proper application of generally accepted auditing standards.”

So we’ve got a new trial with a re-energized BDO and a tenacious plaintiff. It sounds like BDO will stick with its defense strategy of “we did no wrong,” so this should be fun.

Florida Third District Court of Appeal Decision [PDF]

Crowe Horwath Audit Partner Uses “The Tax Department Is on Another Floor” Defense

Auditors and audit firms have few options when it comes to defense strategy when they are sued for missing a fraud. If fraud occurs and an auditor partner claims to know everything that one should about his/her client, then the partner was probably in on it. That’s a little tricky.

However, if fraud occurs and the partner claims that he/she had no knowledge of any unscrupulous activity, then that means the audit sage is really just a two-bit glad-hander that couldn’t tell a debit from a credit.


And that appears to be the case of William Brizendine, a Crowe Horwath partner, who is claiming that he didn’t know about the relationship between executives of Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky and Bill Erpenbeck who were engaged in scheme that artificially inflated the purchase price of model homes. Brizendine claims that he couldn’t possibly known that his client was involved with such a shifty character A) the bank’s execs didn’t tell him until after the shit hit the fan and B) this Erpenbeck character’s name only came up on the tax returns and why on Earth as an audit partner, would he look at those?

The bank’s lead attorney, Ron Parry, tried to establish that Brizendine was in a unique position to expose the fraud before it became large enough to take down the bank. Parry said auditors had to be aware of the business relationship because they also did the taxes of the company Finnan and Menne created with Erpenbeck.

[…]

Brizendine claimed he didn’t know of the relationship because he was just involved in the auditing of the bank and that JAMS tax returns were done by the tax department on another floor of the company’s offices.

Parry was able to show, however, that JAMS tax documents were sometimes sent directly to Brizendine. Brizendine claimed he never looked at those documents since his department didn’t prepare taxes.

Brizendine also admitted on the stand that he was the person who brought in the contract to do JAMS taxes.

Cautionary Tales: Enterprise Software Edition

A few weeks ago, I was talking about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Essentially, CRM should help a company (as Dennis Howlett – business software blogger put it), “sell more stuff.”

I don’t have a problem with that result. We can argue all day long abo really “needed” as opposed to “pushed”. That’s a philosophical debate, indeed, it’s a MORALISTIC debate. In Obama’s address to the USA (re: BP oil sands) he prayed for a “hand to guide us.” Was he talking about the hand of god, or the invisible hand? … But I digress.

My point about CRM was much less lofty. CRM systems are simply about attempting to know your customer. How much data can we collate and analyze in order to maximize our value proposition? Or, if you’re a cynic – how can we, as Homer Simpson would say, “cram one more salty treat into America’s already bloated snack hole?”


Sidenote: Back in the heyday of the SUV craze, there was a great interview on 60 Minutes with some analyst/pundit who described the motivation that seemed to underlie the populating of these beasts. He described it as “reptilian.” The term stuck with me and I find it helpful to think about in around any purchasing decision of consequence. A well executed CRM can create a veritable “Jurassic Park” of suckers if that is what one is so inclined to create. Although, it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be evil.

My point this week though is less about CRM per se and more about what happens when an enterprise software implementation goes awry. A different kind of evil. There have been two big stories recently detailing lawsuits being leveled against firms who had been contracted to install an enterprise system and had allegedly failed to deliver on the contract.

In one case, EDS (now owned by Hewlett Packard) just agreed to pay British Sky Broadcasting $460 million for a failed CRM implementation. This was from a project undertaken in the year 2000 and abandoned two years later. The settlement is four times the value of the budgeted project cost.

In a second case, Marin County, CA is suing Deloitte Consulting for an alleged failure in rolling out an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. Marin County is seeking $30 million. Their contention is that Deloitte didn’t have the technical skills on the software in question. That’s an important point. This type of technical skill is of the “use it or lose it” variety.

So, is that the answer? When a software implementation goes awry, you sue everyone? Well, sometimes.

You see, buying an enterprise software system isn’t like buying a vehicle. You can’t just hand the wheel over to your reptilian brain and pray for the invisible hand to hook up financing and you’re on your way.

There’s work involved, normally a third party, that is paid to configure the software and integrate it into your organization’s existing infrastructure. In a complex business model, the process of defining and integrating all the business rules, data flows, and connections can be daunting… sometimes, impossible. Failure, unfortunately, is always an option.

These recent examples deal with alleged failures on the part of the third party implementers, but failures can occur anywhere within “hell’s half-acre.”

I’ve seen examples where it was clearly a management failure to provide project leadership that created an implementation failure. The example I am thinking about resulted in the company taking a $2 million dollar charge then having to start over. When I went to see them, it looked like they were heading right back down the same road. Making the same mistakes. Me? I can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

Some folks point to Saas products as a way to alleviate these nightmare scenarios. If only it was that easy. Wherever a business has an existing IT architecture, there is the possibility of an integration problem (assuming you want integrated systems which I have to believe that you’ll want). There is another company I can think of who, when I met them, had been working for at least 6 months on an integration with a Saas ERP system and their back office. For a number of reasons, it really just didn’t seem like it was going to work. And the red flag for me was that the CFO and the Director of Finance had vastly different views as to how the project was going.

These are just a couple examples I can name from my own experiences and I’m not even in the software implementation game!

The moral of the story is know the statement of work inside out. Understand the terms of the contract. Technical skills are finite. Be very clear on the desired outcomes.

And beware of the reptilian brain.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

Jury Awards $30 Million to Nonprofits That Alleged Fraud Against Wells Fargo

The Minneapolis Foundation, the Minnesota Medical Foundation, the Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children and the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association have won $29.9 million from Wells Fargo in a Minnesota case that alleged investment fraud and breach of fiduciary duty based on investments the non-profits made that were deemed safe by Wells Fargo.


While similar cases against banks have mostly been settled out of court, this is the first time one such case has gone to trial.

Though the non-profits lost $14.1 million to these shoddy investments, Wells Fargo attorney Robert Weinstine blamed it on the financial crisis and insisted it was not Wells’ fault that funds were lost. The 10-member jury felt otherwise based on internal memos, e-mails and handwritten notes admitted as evidence in the trial.

The jury determined last Thursday that the bank would not be subject to additional payments for punitive damages. Attorney for the four non-profits Mike Ciresi had requested $100 million. Mathlete and Wells Fargo attorney Larry Hofmann told jurors that “zero is the correct number here” in terms of punies.

Accounting News Roundup: Ernst & Young Wants Lawsuit Dismissed; KPMG Study Finds Goodwill Impairments Slowing; Deloitte Names New Tax Partners | 06.07.10

Lehman, Nortel, Bank of America, Google in Court News [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Dick Fuld and the rest of the ex-Lehman Brothers management team as well as Ernst & Young asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit against them brought by the Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association in Oakland, California, and the Government of Guam Retirement Fund.

This lawsuit focuses on the failed disclosure by Fuld et al. of the use of Repo 105 and E&Y’s confirmation of its usage as being in accordance with U.S. GAAP.


George Clinton in funk: Accountants sue Parliament-Funkadelic star over fees [NYDN]
GC engaged Wlodinguer Erk & Chanzis to audit his royalties from Universal Records and EMI in 2003. The firm claims that they have only been paid $25,000 while the agreement they had stated that WEC would receive 20% of the $1.2 million settlement Clinton received.

KPMG Study Shows Tapering Off in Goodwill Impairment [Compliance Week]
How bad of a year was 2008? KPMG’s recent study of goodwill impairment charges of 1,700 U.S. public companies found that ’08 was a bloodbath “KPMG’s study shows goodwill impairment charges across the 1,700 companies fell from $340 billion in 2008 to $92 billion in 2009. Only 12 percent of companies in the study took a charge for goodwill impairment in 2009 compared with 17 percent in the prior year.”

And of that bleeding, banks were considerably less involved, “The study showed the technology hardware sector accounted for 23 percent of total goodwill impairment charges in 2009, followed by telecommunication services. Banks had the highest level of goodwill impairment charges in 2008, but represented only 4 percent of the total goodwill charges in 2009.”

Inquiries mount after PwC ‘failed to notice’ mistakes [Times Online]
JP Morgan settled with the UK’s Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) last week over its mishandling of client funds, fining the bank £33.3 million. Now the Financial Reporting Council and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, who both oversee accountants in the UK, are now expected to launch inquiries into PwC’s role in JPM misallocation of client funds of £1.3 billion to £15.7 billion between 2002 and July 2009:

In addition to serving as principal auditor, PwC was retained by JP Morgan to produce an annual client asset returns report — a yearly certification to prove that customers’ funds were being effectively ring-fenced and therefore protected in the event of the bank’s collapse. But PwC signed off the client report even though JP Morgan was in breach of the rules.

MOVES-Barclays Wealth, Deloitte, BlueCrest Capital, RFIB [Reuters]
Reuters reports that Deloitte’s tax practice promoted eight new partners: Pippa Booth, Andy Brook, Stephen Brown, Christie Buck, Sue Holmes, Anbreen Khan, David McNeil and Marcus Rea and three associate partners: Andrew Cox, Ashley Hollinshead and Claire Wayman.

Marin County Accuses Deloitte of, Among Other Things, Using ‘Neophytes’ on SAP Project

Deloitte is being sued by Marin County in California, who is alleging fraud by misrepresenting its “skills and experience.” In other words, the County says that D used their ERP project as more or less a training ground for its newbie consultants. And no client likes it when you bring the blades of grass on site. They can’t even turn on their laptops without causing some sort of scene, amiright?


Channel Web has some of the particulars:

The County in April 2005 hired Deloitte to implement its SAP ERP system. However, the County alleged in the court document, “rather than providing the County with SAP and public sector expd the County’s SAP project as a trial-and-error training ground to teach its consultants — many of them neophytes — about SAP for Public Sector software, all at the county’s expense.”

Plus! The County claims Deloitte promised their very best people. From the complaint: “Deloitte further represented that for the County’s SAP implementation, Deloitte had assembled a team of its ‘best resources’ who had ‘deep SAP and public sector knowledge.’ ”

A Big 4 firm promising their best and brightest on the job in an RFP? There’s a shocker. “Best” being relative, as we all know but Marin County (obviously not familiar with a Big 4 sales pitch) must have been expecting a team to fly in from hyperspace that could slap this thing in lickity.

Thankfully, Michael Krigsman explains over at ZDNet that this isn’t exactly rare:

1. The court filing describes sales practices that are common through the consulting and systems integration industry.

For example, the complaint alleges that Deloitte committed to “dedicate our best resources and bring tailored implementation strategies to meet [Marin’s] long-term needs.” Many IT customers complain their system integrators do not follow through on such commitments and use inexperienced labor in attempts to reduce their own costs and increase profits.

We’d be so bold to say that this true of many Big 4 engagements, whatever the service line. Newbies have to get their teeth cut somewhere – why not on a public service job where money obviously grows on trees?

Deloitte isn’t impressed with this gnat of a lawsuit, claiming that they did exactly what they were supposed to do (not to mention to put up with the amateurs at MC that have zilch ERP experience) and the system was working just fine when they left:

As stated previously, we fulfilled each and every one of our obligations under the contract, as evidenced three years ago when all of our work was approved by the County officials responsible for the project. To be clear, the SAP (NYSE:SAP) software was working properly when we completed our work in November 2007. Not only is the complaint without merit, but we are filing our own claim against the County for breach of agreement and unpaid invoices. Although we are confident that we will prevail in court, it remains our belief that this dispute can and should be resolved in a more logical fashion that benefits the County and its taxpayers.

So Deloitte gets a little huffy basically saying, “Suck it, Marin County. MBAs love Deloitte. OH, and btw, you owe us some money,” but ultimately wants to keep things civilized for the sake of the taxpayers. Let’s hope it stays childish just for the sake of entertainment purposes. Taxpayers in California are f—ed anyway.

Marin County complaint against Deloitte Consulting on failed SAP project

California County Sues Deloitte For Fraud In SAP ERP Project [Channel Web]
Marin County sues Deloitte: Alleges fraud on SAP project [IT Project Failures/ZDNet]

Accounting News Roundup: PwC Dealt a Blow on Penn. Healthcare Bankruptcy Ruling; Zipcar Going Public; Altria Gets Smoked by IRS | 06.02.10

PwC loses ruling on big Pa. healthcare bankruptcy [Reuters]
We’re a little late to the party on this one – holiday and all – but we’ll get you caught up. Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation (“AHERF”), a large Pittsburgh hospital system, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1998 with over $1.3 billion in debt. Unsecured creditors of AHERF accused Coopers & Lybrand of “conspiring with AHERF officials in the 1996 and 1997 fiscal years to hide the increasingly dire financial health of the Pittsburgh-based system.”

In 2007, a District Court in ruled that the creditors could not recover any damages from PwC on behalf of AHERF due to “a legal doctrine governing cases of equal fault, concluding AHERF was at least as much at fault as PwC.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals finally got the case on their docket and unanimously overturned the ruling saying that PwC could be liable if they had “not dealt materially in good faith with the client-principal.” The Third Circuit also disagreed with the lower court’s finding that misstated financial statements could have a short-term benefit to AHERF, saying “‘a knowing, secretive, fraudulent misstatement of corporate financial information’ cannot benefit a company.”


Zipcar Files for a $75 Million I.P.O. [DealBook]
The car-sharing company announced yesterday that it has filed for a $75 million offering to pay off debt and pay for general expenses as it plans to expand its business in the U.S. and Britain. DealBook reports that the company, founded in 2000, has lost money every year and warned in its S-1 filing that it might not become profitable as it incurs significant expenses in the expansion.

Man accused of ‘bomb bag’ threat at IRS office [SF Chronicle]
Lawrence Rios was charged yesterday for allegedly threatening an IRS employee after he handed the woman a note that read “bomb bag” and patted his backpack, insinuating that he had more than trail mix in there, in August of last year. This occurred after the employee had been assisting him for 10 minutes. We’d hate to see how he reacts at the post office.

SEC Is Boosting Scrutiny of Offshore Accounting, Fagel Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Shoddy accounting practices that were/are rampant in the U.S. – revenue recognition and outright fraud – have not been rooted out offshore, so the Commission is looking to tighten up the controls and practices of foreign subsidiaries. Marc Fagel, head of the SEC’s San Francisco office told Bloomberg, “They’re not doing that so much in San Jose, but they may have a Hong Kong office where they haven’t figured out they’re doing that, or that it’s a problem.” The San Fran office is looking to add a dozen attorneys and accountants to help with the Commission’s efforts.

Altria to pay $971 million in taxes, interest to IRS [Reuters]
The payment settles a dispute between the company (aka Philip Morris) and the Service over its 2000 to 2003 tax returns.

Accounting News Roundup: Tipsters Expose Fraud More Often Than Most Controls; What if the PCAOB Is Unconstitutional?; BDO Could Question Forensic Accountant’s Credibility | 06.01.10

Something Wicked This Way Comes [CFO]
A recent Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) study discovered that “[o]f the top eight controls ranked by effectiveness, only one — surprise audits, which cut fraud losses by 51% — is part of the traditional accounting-based control structure. Financial-statement review, internal audits, and Sarbanes-Oxley-mandated certifications by CEOs and CFOs all ranked below the nonaccounting controls in terms of effectiveness in preventing fraud.”

Controls have no match for good old human conscience, “tips expose fraud three times as often as do management reviews, internal audits, or account reconciliations.”


The problem however, is that employees may not be getting the training about how to report fraud if they know it’s happening, “an unsupportive corporate culture and poor employee training leave potential whistle-blowers unsure of whom to talk to.” Plus the baddies are doing their best to dissuade them, as Sam Antar told CFO, “[They] don’t go down without a fight, they don’t fight fairly, and they are going to intimidate whistle-blowers — that’s the nature of their game.”

Accounting for Crisis [Portfolio.com]
Gary Weiss writes over at Portfolio about the impending decision in Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB and he’s not impressed with the FEF’s argument, “claiming that the board would give our Founding Fathers heart attacks because its members are appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and not the president and can’t be removed except for cause.”

That despite the PCAOB’s lack of fireworks in its daily activities, “The PCAOB has not exactly rocked our world—and obviously its existence did nothing to keep Lehman from its Repo 105 book-cooking scheme. But getting rid of it, particularly on specious Constitutional grounds, would be a blow to the cause of more accurate financial statements.”

The odds say that the SCOTUS will affirm the lower court’s decision but just in case, Gary agrees with Interim PCAOB Chairman Dan Goelzer that Congress needs to act fast if the Court surprises us and reverses the decision.

Clifton Gunderson buys Stockton Bates [Philadelphia Business Journal]
Philadelphia-based Stockton Bates will join Clifton Gunderson’s 1,900 employees and 300 partners effective today. Stockton has 32 employees between three offices in Philadelphia, Lancaster, PA and Haddonfield, NJ.

BDO Seidman fights claims brought by fraudster Lew Freeman [South Florida Business Journal]
Convicted forensic accountant Lewis Freeman testified in the case of ES Bankest and BDO. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Freeman’s conviction could call his credibility as a witness into question as well as the Bankest bankruptcy proceedings, where Freeman acted as the court-appointed receiver.

BDO Not Thrilled with the Legal Advice It Got Re: Tax Shelters

BDO’s Tax Solutions Group was going gangbusters back in the late 90s and early aughts. Unfortunately, the party more or less ended in December 2000 when the IRS served notice to the firm that some of the products were not ingenious tax planning strategies but rather illegal tax shelters. The DOJ launched an enforcement action in 2002 and just last year BDO partners started pleading guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy and some other fun charges.

BDO isn’t crazy about shouldering all the shame and embarrassment so it has decided to sue the law firm Morgan Lewis for “professional negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and constructive fraud.” BDO alleges that ML’s breach amounted to “disastrous results” which is likely referring to the tax shelter shitshow. They just want their $9 million back that they paid in fees and call it a day (they’re saving up!).


Morgan Lewis finds this all very amusing, stating that they advised BDO only on minor issues. ML is represented by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher led by James Fogelman, who made his client’s position very clear:

Morgan Lewis called the lawsuit a “sham” and contended it only advised [BDO Partners] on a few minor questions — none of which involved the questionable tax products. “There was nothing that Morgan Lewis knew about to warn BDO concerning BDO’s own conduct. … There was nothing more BDO needed to know,” Fogelman wrote.

The only time Morgan Lewis opined on a tax product, the firm contends, was in February 2000, when BDO asked it to weigh in on a tax shelter dubbed the Sentinal Transaction. Morgan Lewis responded that the tax shelter was “unlikely” to expose BDO to criminal convictions. In its motion to dismiss, the firm said, “[I]t does not appear that anybody has ever been convicted of any federal crime based on the Sentinal Transaction.”

And Morgan Lewis doesn’t simply want to be vindicated in this matter, they want to be right AND they they would like BDO and DLA Piper (BDO’s counsel) to have sanctions slapped on their asses for lying through their teeth in their complaint. ML contends that they presented evidence disproving the allegations but BDO and DLA must have decided that a bitter fight would be more fun.

And it is.

BDO Seidman Seeks $9 Million in Fees Back From Morgan Lewis [The National Law Journal via Law.com]

Accounting News Roundup: PwC Has an Iceland Problem; Chief Audit Execs as the Bad News Messengers; Would IFRS Result in More Shareholder Litigation? | 05.13.10

How Dangerous is the Two-Billion Dollar Suit Against PwC Over Iceland’s Glitnir Bank? The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind [Re: Balance]
In terms of a European financial laughingstock, prior to Greece, there was Iceland. Glitnir Bank (or what’s left of it) is suing its former chairman, CEO, other directors, and PricewaterhouseCoopers for their implosion last year.

For PwC’s part, one might think that since the lawsuit is in a country no one really pays much attention to, that it’s a bit of a joke. Well, that would not be so:

PwC faces a real lawsuit (for the complaint, here), in a real court – Manhattan’s New York Supreme – brought on behalf of the bank’s creditors and advised by Steptoe & Johnson and Slaughter & May – real lawyers who know their billions from their millions. Nor, any more than any of the other Big Four accounting firms, does PwC have the resources to absorb a ten-figure litigation blow (here).

Prosecutors Ask if 8 Banks Duped Rating Agencies [NYT]
Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Crédit Agricole and Merrill Lynch come on down!

When the CAE is the bearer of bad news – and gets shot in the process [Marks on Governance]
What’s that saying about messengers? Chief Audit Executives (“CAE”) are often bad news messengers and talk about a thankless job. As Norman Marks tells us about one person that shared with three tricky situations with past employers:

In each of these situations I firmly believed that something that the organization was doing was highly unethical and/or not in the best interest of the organization, placing it at risk. Two of the organizations actually admitted that what was being done was in direct violation of the organization’s policies and in one situation state employment laws. In one situation I had my exit meeting with HR, and in the other two organizations only with the CAE.

In case you’ve misremembered, whistleblowers usually have a rough go of it, as Norman states, “All CAEs recognize that this is a risk, and in my experience they all accept it with full knowledge that their career at their company may effectively end with the delivery of the bad news.”

GAAP’s Lawsuit Buffer [CFO]
Some might argue that U.S. GAAP has a very distinct advantage over a more principles-based accounting system – lower litigation risk.

Of course companies could document the hell out of their “principles-based” conclusions to mitigate this risk but shareholders would likely still question their cockamamie reasoning. Now a recent study entitled “Rules-Based Accounting Standards and Litigation” is suggesting “that companies that violate rules-based standards have a lower likelihood of getting sued than those that are accused of violating more-principles-based standards,” giving the pro-U.S. GAAP contingent more to stand on.

The authors did admit that it’s difficult to conclude that principles-based would absolutely, 100% lead to more litigation due to our “unique litigation system” and the fact that we live in a sue-happy paradise.

Joe Francis Can’t Land an Attorney Thanks to the IRS, Says Joe Francis

Douche of the Last Decade Joe Francis is having trouble finding a lawyer in North Florida. No, it’s not due to his all around doucheness. And no, it’s not due to his inability to pay his previous attorney, Rick Bateman (who is suing him) $500k. It’s because he claims that the IRS has slapped levies on his hard earned drunk topless girl fortune.


A judge is set to enter a default judgment against J Fran for in a case where four women are suing him for taping them while they were underage. Since Fran can’t find counsel, he had to personally write a motion to request Judge Richard Smoak for leniency.


This is interesting not only because we didn’t know Joe could write but also because we thought the IRS had given up on old Joe after it was reported that his $30 million+ lien was reportedly dropped:

“My efforts to obtain new counsel have been hampered by levies upon my companies’ financial accounts by the Internal Revenue Service,” Francis wrote. “Prospective counsel that have agreed to entertain engagement as counsel in the case require large retainers which could not be facilitated in the time permitted by this Court’s Order of March 12, 2010.”

Joe is confident he’ll bag some representation before the June 10 deadline, saying that barring “unforeseen developments” (i.e. douchiness) he’ll no longer be forced to write words.

Joe Francis blames IRS for attorney-finding troubles [Panama City News Herald]

Accounting News Roundup: Why Did Power Integrations Fire Their CFO?; Spain Making ‘Sweeping Austerity Measures’; GM May Want GMAC Back | 05.12.10

Power Integrations fires chief financial officer [AP]
Not to worry Power Integrations investors, Bill Roeschlein’s firing “was not related to financial statements or regulatory issues,” according to the company. However, he is currently the “subject of a felony domestic assault criminal complaint filed in Missouri,” which he denies and naturally he will “defend himself vigorously.” Unfortunately, that might cut into the job search.

Spain joins euro zone austerity bandwagon [Reuters]
Spain has agreed to “sweeping austerity measures,” cutting civil service pay 5% and freezing it for 2011. The country will also cut approximately 13,000 public sector jobs.


Minority Owner Sues Cuban, Calls Mavericks ‘Insolvent’ [NYT]
Ross Perot, Jr. is suing SEC target Mark Cuban, accusing him of turning the Dallas Mavericks into a financial catastrophe. The Times reports, “Perot is seeking damages, the naming of a receiver to take over the team and the appointment of a forensic accountant to investigate its finances. Perot said that Cuban’s actions had diminished the value of his investment in the team and violated his and other minority owners’ rights.”

Cuban, as you might expect, isn’t impressed with Charts Boy, Jr.’s loserness. He wrote in an email to the Dallas Morning News, “There is no risk of insolvency. Everyone always has been and will be paid on time. Being in business with Ross Perot is one of the worst experiences of my business life. He could care less about Mavs fans. He could care less about winning.”

Failed Bomber’s Resume Fail [FINS]
Faisal Shazad’s resumé sucks.

Is G.M. Looking to Buy Back GMAC? [AP]
Sources say that GM is interested in buying back GMAC (now known as Ally Financial) “so they can offer more competitive lease and loan deals.” The U.S. Government currently owns 56% of GMAC and 61% of GM, who plans to announce its first quarter earnings next week.

Apparently PwC Partners Aren’t Eligible for Anti-Bullying Protection

When you become a partner at a Big 4 firm, the culture rewards you with certain privileges. Some of these include: 1) the ability to strut out the door before 5 pm and no one gives you the stink eye; 2) stealing food out of the fridge without fear of retribution; 3) “Black” Starbucks cards; 4) private bathrooms that blast “You’re the Best” when you walk in the door, among others.

Unfortunately, it turns out that sometimes you lose some privileges when you take seat at the big table.

We previously mentioned Colin Tenner, who is suing PricewaterhouseCoopers for disability discrimination, alleging that he was fired after taking time off due to depression and anxiety. His suffering was caused, he claims, by a client bullying him (e.g. taking his lunch money, using emails as TP and returning them) and PwC’s mishandling of the situation.

His fellow partners weren’t buying it, claiming that he was a total wuss, “partners simply do not get sick” and possibly just faking it.


At first, we thought this sounded a little harsh but the Times Online is now reporting that there is a perfectly good explanation for partners’ reaction. They had a policy to back them up:

Mr Tenner, 45, said that a junior member of his team had raised a formal complaint against the same individual, which was investigated by PwC.

Although he complained about his treatment from the individual on several occasions over six months and had asked PwC to implement specific procedures in its anti-bullying policy, “nothing was done”, it is alleged.

Instead, Mr Tenner said, several senior managers told him that he was not protected by the anti-bullying policy because he was a partner.

Now this makes sense. Had this been one of P. Dubs’ rank and file, certainly there would have been hell to pay for this type of treatment by a client. But since a partner was involved, they figure your bully tolerance should be at such a keen level that no protection is necessary.

Bullying ‘did not apply’ to PwC partner [Times Online]

KPMG Chips in as Countrywide Picks up $600 Million in Settlement

Investors who lost money in King Oompa Loompa’s house of no hassle mortgages announced that they have reached a $624 million settlement with KPMG and Countrywide. Maybe that’s why the Kaptains of Klynveld were in such an optimistic mood.


KPMG’s share of the settlement was $24 million which hardly seems worth it. Think about it. Bank of America could probably cough up an extra $24 mil without any trouble and KPMG would probably be fine not cutting a check at all. It’s just like your friend that hassles with you over the check at, “My share was only $18.25.” Eventually you just tell them to f**k off and pay for the whole thing yourself.

BofA’s Countrywide in $624 mln lawsuit settlement [Reuters]

Stressed Out PwC Partner Was Criticized By Fellow Partners for Being a Total Pansy

On Monday we briefly mentioned the unfortunate case of Colin Tenner, a former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner that is suing the firm for disability discrimination. He is claiming that after he took a leave from the firm after “mismanagement by PwC and bullying by a client,” after which, negotiations for him to return to the firm fell apart and he was let go.

Now the Times Online is reporting some of the feelings of Tenner’s fellow partners. In January 2007, Mr Tenner took sick leave for a couple of days and that did not sit well with his fellow partner Hugh Crossey:

While Mr Tenner was on sick leave in January 2007, his managing partner, Hugh Crossey, e-mailed a third partner to say that he had heard that Mr Tenner was ill again and that the firm needed to point out that “real partners simply do not get sick”, it was alleged.

Depression? Anxiety? Apparently those aren’t real sicknesses, according to Hugh. But wait! Hugh wasn’t the only ones that thought Tenner was a total wuss. The tribunal also heard that a member of PwC’s “partner affairs team” (which probably has nothing to do with treating people like whores) wrote to the firm’s chief medical officer (?) “that there was a ‘very strongly held view that [Mr Tenner] was not as unwell’ as he claimed.” So not only is he total sissy, he’s also a faker.

Tenner claimed that his health had deteriorated to the point that it led him to “actively research ways of committing suicide,” although he actually never made any attempts on his own life.

PwC maintains that this mental health thing is all bullshit, sticking with the standard communiqué, “We believe that his claim is completely without merit and we will vigorously contest it.”

PwC manager told Colin Tenner ‘real partners do not get sick’ [Times Online]

Apparently Ernst & Young Doesn’t Buy the “C’s Get Degrees” Mantra

We know that lots of you out there are perfectionists, so this could never happen to you but for you mere mortals, you can sympathize a little bit.

Courthouse News Service reports that a class action suit in California has been filed against E&Y claiming that the contracts signed by graduating seniors “compel” them to work for the firm but allow the company “to legally renege or cancel the offer of employment” if the senior does not maintain “continued strong academic standing.” Apparently this means if you slack off your senior year and slip a couple of C’s in there, you could be out on the street.


Yunjung Gribben, 43, is the named plaintiff in the suit and she is seeking damanges for wrongful termination, age discrimination, breach of employment, specific performance and violations of the Labor Code.

Ms. Gribben claims that she graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a 3.6 grade point average but, “After working for Ernst & Young for a month, Gribben says, she got a call from human resources, questioning her about the C’s she got in her senior year. She says she was fired the next days [sic].”

She claims that “continued strong academic standing” was not defined in her contract, although she admits that there is a “hazy reference” to the term on the firm’s website.

Dale Fiola is representing Ms. Gribben and he us, “No student should be under the impression that they have an employment agreement once they graduate. Most of the time when people sign offers of employment they think they’ve got something.”

The suit alleges that other students have cited the “continued strong academic standing” language and in Ms. Gribben case, “younger employees were allowed to stay at the company.”

Ernst & Young spokesman Charlie Perkins had no comment at the time our post was published.

Class Sues Ernst & Young Over Contract [Courthouse News Service]

Accounting News Roundup: Will an International Audit Regulator Become a Reality?; GMAC Shopping for a CFO Candidate; FASB Sued for Antitrust Violations | 05.06.10

Audit chief welcomes debate on international regulator [Accountancy Age]
The idea of an international audit regulator is being kicked around in the EU with about as much seriousness as returning to the moon. That is, it’s absolutely something to be discussed but at this point nobody’s firing up the boosters just yet. IFRS has been proved to be, putting it lightly, a challenge but ever since the Lehman Brothers/E&Y fiasco, reform of the auditing business doesn’t seem far behind.

And while the idea is being entertained, the hurdles to an international regulator sound a little familiar:

Ian Powell, senior partner at PwC UK, said the establishment of an international regulator is “worthy of debate” but believes global consensus among nations may prove difficult.

“Most countries think their regulation is good and it is their system which should be applied – that is going to make it difficult to convince them to give up their system,” he said.

“If you talk to virtually any regulator in any country they do want to see more globalisation of regulation, but the big problem is there are certain political issues that are different in different countries.”

GMAC Said to Consider Ex-Citigroup Banker Yastine as Next CFO [Bloomberg Businessweek]
GMAC is hot on the trail for a new CFO after their last one bolted in March shortly after his TARP testimony. The ward of the state is said to be considering Barbara Yastine, who formerly was the CFO at both Credit Suisse’s and Citigroup’s investment banking groups.

FASB Defendant in Suit Alleging Antitrust Violations and Patent Misappropriation [Silicon Economics, Inc. Press Release]
Silicon Economics, Inc. is suing the FASB, alleging “antitrust violations and with willfully attempting to misappropriate patented technology,” according to the San Jose-based company’s press release.

The lawsuit concerns Silicon Economics’ EarningsPower Accounting™ (EPA™) – a patented method developed by the company to improve the accuracy, validity, and usefulness of financial statements. Silicon Economics recommended the merits of EPA to FASB in response to FASB’s request for public comment on the objectives of financial accounting (No. 1260-001, July 6, 2006). FASB claims that its website terms and conditions gave it ownership of Silicon Economics’ technology, even though such terms were not part of FASB’s invitation for public comment or otherwise disclosed to Silicon Economics.

REMEC Court Decision Could Expose Companies to More Accounting Fraud Litigation

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

As if it wasn’t a big enough risk already, CFOs may have to brace themselves for more private litigation over accounting fraud if a court decision on April 21 involving failed telecom equipment maker REMEC serves as precedent. The good news is that plaintiffs will have to show evidence of the executives’ intent in such cases.


Most cases involving accounting are either dismissed because they involve judgment or are settled before they go to trial, Robert Brownlie, a partner in the law firm of DLA Piper who represented the defendants in the REMEC case, told CFOZone last Thursday. The Del Mar, Calif., company filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

One of the largest such cases involved former Lucent executives, whom shareholders charged had defrauded them through improper accounting for goodwill. In that case, shareholders agreed in 2003 to accept a $600 million settlement.

In contrast to the Lucent case, the one filed by shareholders against REMEC’s former CEO, Ronald Ragland, and former CFO, Winston Hickman, was dismissed, though it also rested on charges that they misled investors because they didn’t write off goodwill that was impaired.

But the dismissal was more difficult to achieve than it would otherwise have been, said Brownlie, because the plaintiffs submitted evidence of internal reports and testimony showing that the company was behind schedule on certain objectives and not meeting its internal forecasts. The court said that those reports created a factual issue that should be determined by a jury; the defendants had to show there was no evidence of intent to deceive on the part of management.

“Normally, with matters of opinion or judgment, you either can’t bring a suit or it’s very difficult to do so,” Brownlie said. But he warned that the decision could mean more cases against corporate executives over accounting fraud.

The court dismissed the charges even though the plaintiffs’ accounting experts testified that they would have reached different conclusions than the former executives did.

Brownlie added that his case was helped by evidence of good faith conduct by the defendants, including evidence of transparency between the company and its auditors, disclosures of disappointing results and write-offs of other accounting items during the period of the alleged fraud and the absence of stock sales.

Describing the outcome for CFOs as “both good and bad news,” Brownlie said the decision showed that the critical issue in such cases will be “a connection between claims and evidence.” And he cautioned that in other accounting cases, it’s likely to be harder to defend executives on the basis of intent, which is why he said “there’s a paradox” in the REMEC decision.

PwC Report: We’re Not Getting Sued for Accounting Issues Nearly as Much

That goes for the rest of you Big 4 and non-Big 4 too! Okay, the report doesn’t come out and state that CPA firms are the ones getting slapped around by plaintiffs but it seems like a logical conclusion since we’re talking about, ya know, accounting.


The PricewaterhouseCoopers report states that of the 155 federal lawsuits in 2009, only 37% of them were related to accounting issues, compared to 41% in 2008. To clarify just a little bit, the decline was because “many of the cases were connected to the financial crisis and tended to focus more on disclosure issues not having to do with whether the defendants followed generally accepted accounting principles.” In other words, the accounting is wrong as much but apparently people are forgetting to bring up certain important details. Like say, repos?

Plus the lawsuits that do involve accounting issues are the most expensive settlements. The reports states that out of the top ten lawsuits, seven of them had an accounting component to them. The total value of settlement in ’09 was $2.3 bil.

So what causes all the problems? Lots of bad guessing for starters. According to the report, 57% of the cases mentioned issues related to estimates, while 43% of the suits cited internal controls. Unfortunately, those two things are right in the wheelhouse of auditors. Bright side is that revenue recognition isn’t citied nearly as much. Don’t let anyone tell you different, screwing up less is a good thing.

Accounting-Related Lawsuits Fall [CFO]

Accounting News Roundup: Accounting for Healthcare Reform Begins; Should Small CPA Firms Partner with Large Firms on Projects?; Lawsuits Against Accounting Firms Rising Fast in UK | 03.28.10

The healthcare party is over – now comes the (accounting) hangover [FT Alphaville]
Now that healthcare reform is behind us, the matter of sorting out the impact on corporations now falls to the accounting professionals in those companies as the first quarter winds down this week.

FT Alphaville notes that AT&T, for one, has already filed an 8-K that states that it will “take a non-cash charge of approximately $1 billion in the first quarter of 2010 to reflect the impact of this change.” The change that the company is referring to is the “Medicare Part D subsidy” which, under the new law, is no longer eligible for a write-off against a company’s taxes. The subsidy is given to companies to help to pay prescription drug benefits to its employees.


FTA cites a report by Credit Suisse that shows many companies’ (including Goodyear Tire, International Paper and The New York Times) first quarter earnings will be impacted significantly by new healthcare legislation. And it also appears that it will cause companies to take a second look at the benefits they currently provide to employees, as Ma Bell stated in its filing that it “will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company,” as a result of the legislation.

Why solos and small firms shouldn’t “partner” with larger CPA firms on projects [Fraud Files Blog]
Tracy Coenen recently had a large firm approach her to see if she’d be interested in helping them out with some “Fraud Risk Assessment services.”

The larger firm asked her if she would be interested in “a partner/subconsultant” arrangement. Tracy explains why this isn’t a good situation for solo practitioners like herself, “[T]he consulting firm doesn’t have the know-how necessary to provide their client with the services they need. But they’re not about to let something silly like competence stand in the way of collecting fees! They will find a way to do it.”

Tracy says that the larger firm will ask you to discount your billing rate, train their staff, and ultimately, give them the secrets to your practice, “Don’t lose money by discounting rates, training someone else’s staff for those discounted rates, and creating a competitor for yourself who uses your proprietary methodology.”

U.K. Accounting Suits Reached 5-Year High Last Year, Study Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The number of lawsuits filed in the UK against accounting firms in the past year is greater than the last five years combined according to Bloomberg. The thirteen suits filed in 2009 is more triple than the four suits filed in the previous five years. Although the number of suits is considerably smaller than the 61 suits filed after the collapse of Enron, et al. in the 2002-2003 time period, Jane Howard, a partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP, is quoted that it’s not clear whether things are just getting started, “What is still hard to tell is whether this sudden rise in claims will subside quickly or whether accountants will face a higher number of claims over the coming years.”

Can the Month of March Get Worse for Ernst & Young?

Today in non-Lehman Brothers Ernst & Young news, the firm has been sued by a liquidator in Luxembourg just a few weeks after a Lux court ruled that individual investors couldn’t bring suits against UBS and E&Y. The suit seeks over $400 million in damages against the two firms. The Iriving Picard de Lux is Alain Rukavina, who filed the suit today.

BBW reports that “Rukavina is one of two liquidators who in December sued UBS and Ernst & Young over Access International Advisors LLC’s LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection Fund, which once had $1.4 billion in net assets.”


A UBS spokesperson stated that this development was not unexpected and we’re sure that E&Y isn’t yawning at this news, chalking it up to fairly typical Monday.

So in case you’ve been in a coma for the last week or so, you’re probably aware that JT and Co. haven’t had such a great March. Anyone got ideas for how they turn all these frowns upside downs? Do Canadian Tuxedos become standard dress code M – F? Does Jimbo send everyone a complimentary pair of Timberlands? An E&Y Hitler video to lighten the mood? Suggestions are welcome.

UBS, Ernst & Young Sued by Madoff-Fund Liquidators [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

CPA Suing Craigslist Vindicated by New Reviews

In Tuesday’s QOTD someone did not have kind words for Leo Kehoe, a Queens CPA. Specifically, “Watch out for this fraudulent scumbag! … He will botch up your tax returns and forget to submit them.” Scumbag? Fine. “Botch up” and “forget to submit” are also tolerable. Stuff like that happens (right?). What no CPA needs or wants, is their name associated with “fraudulent.”

Anyway, someone had a bad enough encounter with Kehoe that it demanded these words for anyone searching out both a CPA and perhaps some NSA coitus.


Mr Kehoe should be able to rest a little easier now as the Gothamist reported yesterday that a certain someone or someones has a completely different opinion on his services, “Leo Kehoe is a great CPA. He charged me a lower fee than what I had payed with someone else and he did a much better job,” and this one from yesterday, “Leo Kehoe: Much better than Cats. I’m going to see him again and again!”

Depending on your point of view, the “Cats” compliment may be worth far more than the $4 million that Kehoe isn’t likely to get but since accountants seem to be hung up on money far more than cultural comparisons, we expect him to continue moving forward with the lawsuit.

Accountant Sues Craigslist Over Negative Rant [Gothamist]

Accounting News Roundup: CFOs, Staff Are Getting Worn Down by Guidance; Miami Forensic Accountant to Plead Guilty; Big 4 In Pari Delicto Defense Strategy | 03.10.10

A Growing Contagion: Accounting Fatigue Syndrome [CFO Blog]
Anyone getting worn out from all the guidance that is coming from the alphabet soup of regulators? You’re not alone and there appears to be an epidemic, something that CFO Blog has deemed “Accounting Fatigue Syndrome.” The long/short of it is that things are only going to get more complex as FASB and IASB continue to converge their rules and guidance continues to come out of both rule making bodies.

“Like many finance executives, Terry Lillis, CFO of Principal Financial Group, is tired. The constant stream of guidance from regulators and accounting standard-setters — plus the expected inflow of more to come over the next few years — has created “huge accounting fatigue” among his finance staff”


What’s the solution to AFS? How about just getting out of the biz altogether? “While the panelists gave no hope to CFOs who wish the standard-setters would either slow down or cut back on their agenda, they did offer one tip for ending accounting fatigue. ‘If I were a CFO, the first thing I would do is look at my early-retirement provisions,’ quipped J. Edward Grossman, a Crowe Horwath partner.”

High-profile Miami accountant Lew Freeman to plead guilty to fraud [Miami Herald]
A couple of weeks ago we told you about “go-to” forensic accountant turned swindler Lewis Freeman and his legal trouble.

Today he is expected to plead guilty in Miami to embezzling $2.6 million from his clients. Prosecutors have alleged that Freeman, “wrote 162 unauthorized checks to himself totaling about $6 million from the accounts of five failed businesses once under his company’s control, but put back about half of the money.” Freeman has been cooperating with investigators since his arrest but still may face 10 – 20 years in prison.

In Pari Delicto: Are Auditors Equally At Fault In The Big Fraud Cases? [Re: the Auditors]
Francine tackles PwC and KPMG’s defense strategy involving in pari delicto to avoid their roles in fraud cases.

The way I see it, the in pari delicto doctrine is being used like a pair of needle nosed pliers by audit firm defense lawyers to diffuse a bomb – huge liability for some of the biggest frauds in history. The in pari delicto doctrine attempts to pull the auditors’ tails from the fire by excusing any of their guilty acts due to the approval of those acts by potentially equally guilty executives.

Accounting News Roundup: Koss Sues AMEX for Sachdeva Spending Spree; IRS Worker’s Widow Sues Stack’s Widow; Twitter Feeds for Tax Pros | 02.24.10

Koss sues American Express over Sachdeva purchases [MJS]
Headphone factory Koss is suing American Express (the whistleblower!) for not reporting alleged embezzler extraordinaire Sue Sachdeva sooner.

Koss alleges that AMEX knew about Suze paying her credit card with Koss funds in February 2008 but then did nothing about it until August 2009; a month when SS spent $3.5 million on high end threads.

Sue Sach was finally exposed last December after allegedly making off with $31 million. So more or less, Koss is suing AMEX for $20 million because Koss’ management was far too busy to pay attention to their own company. The good news is that a whistleblower that happens to be corporation gets about as much gratitude as a human whistleblower. Consistency!


IRS worker’s widow sues Texas suicide pilot’s wife [AP via NYDN]
The widow of IRS employee Vernon Hunter is suing Sheryl Stack, widow of Joseph Stack, in order to determine if JS had a life insurance policy or other assets. The suit alleges that Mrs. Stack should have “should have warned others about her husband,” apparently because someone bitching about the IRS regularly flies a plane into a building.

Four Twitter Feeds for Tax Pros [FINS]
FINS put together their top four Twitter feeds for tax professionals yesterday and lo and behold, we ended up on the list! Thanks to FINS for including us but a special thanks goes to people like Terry “Dozer” and wives that shoot at their greedy husbands. They make our jobs easier.

Arguments Heard in BDO Appeal of $521 Million Verdict

Oral arguments for BDO’s appeal of the verdict in the Banco Espirito fraud case were this past Tuesday, the 16th, in front of the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami.

If you’re not familiar with this case, we’ll catch you up: Banco Espirito Santo International Ltd., Banco Espirito Santo S.A., and ESB Finance all invested in E.S. Bankest L.C. BDO served as the auditor of Bankest. Crazy massive fraud (bogus accounts receivable) was going on at Bankest that was discovered by Banco Esprito. Bankest went bankrupt, their executives went to jail, Banco Espirito lost millions.


Banco sued BDO in 2004 and in 2007 a jury found the Firm liable for malpractice and gross negligence. Prior to the jury’s decision, BDO CEO Jack Weisbaum testified that the firm would not be able to pay punitive damages. The jury didn’t care and awarded Banco $170 million in compensatory damages and $351.7 million in punitive damages for a grand total of $521.7 million, the same amount of accounts receivable that BDO “audited”. Now here were are, it’s 2010, appeals process. Whew. Follow?

We spoke with Steven Thomas, who has represented Banco Espirito Santo throughout this case, earlier this week and he filled us in on many details. BDO is appealing the verdict arguing that the case should not have been bifurcated (i.e. divided into two) at trial. In other words, it sounds as though BDO has resorted to arguing technical legal points in this appeal as opposed to defending against the finding that they both performed malpractice and were grossly negligent.

As we explained above, the malpractice and gross negligence arose out of BDO’s failure to discover the fraudulent accounts receivable at Bankest. At trial, Mr. Thomas told us that under cross-examination, the BDO engagement partner admitted that it was the auditors’ job to find fraud and then subsequently contradicted himself when being questioned by his own counsel, saying it wasn’t their job.

Regardless of what side you fall on in the whole auditors’ responsibility to discover fraud argument, Mr. Thomas told us this, “I have a litigated a lot of cases on this issue and we never, ever, ever lose.”

We reached out to BDO and Greenberg Traurig the law firm representing BDO for comment. Neither firm has gotten back to us.

BDO has indicated that it will appeal this case to the Florida Supreme Court if necessary and since BDO International was found to be not liable, the entire judgment falls to the U.S. firm. BDO had $620 million in revenues in its most recent fiscal year and currently has around 3,000 employees. And despite the fact that this case will not be resolved for some time, if BDO ultimately compelled to pay the damages it could have a devastating impact on the firm.

Koss Investors Lining Up for Litigation; Will Grant Thornton Join the Party?

Investors in Koss Corporation are lining up in the pending litigation against the company and a press release from law firm Carney Williams, announced this morning that those interested in as lead plaintiff have until March 12th to make their desires known.

Form the press release, “The Company and certain key executives are alleged to have violated federal securities laws by issuing false financial statements and failing to maintain adequate internal and financial controls.”

Many, like Tracy Coenen, have argued that the internal controls are management’s responsibility and Grant Thornton was not engaged to audit these controls but does that mean that GT will dodge these investor lawsuits?


We spoke with Randy Pulliam, a partner at Carney Williams on the case if he expected Grant Thornton to be named in the litigation, “the lead plaintff will ultimately decide as to who will be named in the litigation, including the accountants.”

There’s nearly a month until the deadline so it’s far too early to tell who will decide whether Grant Thornton needs to be included but we’ll go on record saying that we’d be shocked(!) if GT manages to get forgotten in this whole matter. Regardless of your feelings on the firm’s responsibility (i.e. GT should have discovered the fraud or not) the fact that Sue Sachdeva is accused of embezzling $31 million over a period of five years while Grant Thornton was auditing Koss will not be lost on the investors or their attorneys.

“This is a five year class period so many investors are eligible to participate,” Mr. Pulliam told us. Plenty of investors out there would like to see someone make things right. Grant Thornton seems like a decent candidate especially since their pockets are far deeper than Koss’. So if you asked us to put a wild-ass guess on the odds of Grant Thornton being named in the lawsuit, we’d put it somewhere in the nabe of 10-1. Not Mine that Bird territory but not Secretariat either.

We left a message at Koss and dropped an email to Grant Thornton seeking comment and neither have gotten back to us at this time. We’ll continue to update you on the developments, shopping addictions and otherwise.

Plaintiffs File Brief in Big 4 Overtime Lawsuit

Last summer we initiated our coverage on the wage and hour lawsuits against the Big 4 and other firms that have been filed in California. As you may remember, the case that is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the key case as it may decide how the rest of the cases proceed.

Just a quick refresheramicus (i.e. friend of court) briefs following in early November.


The plaintiffs’ amicus briefs are scheduled to be filed tomorrow and while Mr. Kershaw would not share any names with us, he did inform us that there were some notable supporters that will be filing briefs. Parties claiming support via web (though it is not clear whether they are expected to file as amicus) include among others, labor union UNITE HERE.

The briefs are under seal at the request of the defendants who are claiming proprietary privilege.

In the past, the 9th Circuit has been accused of having a liberal bias which could be perceived as an advantage to the plaintiffs. While Mr. Kershaw agreed that the 9th Circuit was more “worker friendly” in the past, he told us, “After eight years under the Bush administration, the court has considerably more conservative justices.”

According to the 9th Circuit’s website, former President George W. Bush appointed seven justices while in office. Of the 47 justices currently serving, 21 were appointed by Republican Presidents and 26 by Democratic Presidents.

Despite the political makeup, Mr. Kershaw believes, as he did when we last spoke with him on the matter, that the evolution of the law of the exemptions (i.e. who, among other things, is and is not eligible for overtime) will demonstrate that the plaintiffs were not “learned professionals,” and will prevail in case.

Lead counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Norman Hile of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP did not respond to our request for an interview.

We reached out to all the firms; receiving responses from only BDO, who provide the following statement: “We believe that the employee in this case was properly classified as exempt. This case has been stayed pending resolution of the PwC appeal. As is our policy on matters of litigation, BDO does not intend to comment further until this case is resolved.” We were also informed that in the BDO case that the class certification was denied by the trial court and the appeal was also denied.

In the case of Hood & Strong, LLP, we were referred to their attorney, Jonathan R. Bass of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass, who we spoke with briefly about his case, Kathleen McFarland v. Hood & Strong LLP.

Mr. Bass indicated to us that the lawsuit against his client is only one of four that is being tried in state court and would not necessarily be affected by the ruling in Campbell. He further indicated that these lawsuits are something that his client, and most likely all the defendants, did not anticipate, “it is not likely that any of these firms considered the possibility of their employees being treated as anything other than exempt.”

No other firms listed as defendants responded to our request to comment.

Ultimately a decision in Campbell may not be known until 2011 at which point the litigation could actually proceed or be settled. We’ll continue to follow these cases as they progress.

Luckily for Nicolas Cage, Ghost Rider 2 Is In Development

raising.arizona.073007.jpgToday in getting-sued-by-your-ex-but-my-name-isn’t-Steven Cohen news, Nicolas Cage is now being sued by his ex-girlfriend, Christina Fulton for $13 mil.
She’s claiming that Ghost Rider and his accountant, Samuel Levin (no relation), were really not very fucking good with the money and now she owes $1 million to the IRS annnnnd she has $250,000 in credit card debt annnnnd she lost her house.
If that’s not enough, Cage and Levin already don’t think too much of each other as they’ve been suing/countersuing each other over whether Cage sucks more at spending money ($1.6 million comic book collection) or Levin at managing it (risky real estate investments).
Good luck lady. The ex-Mrs. C’s chances seem better.
Nicolas Cage’s Ex Sues Him and His Former Accountant [Web CPA]

Here’s a Good Example of How Not to Sue a Big 4 Firm

Thumbnail image for morans.jpgWere you at all concerned that you would never hear another story about a lawsuit related to the AOL/Time Warner merger from 2001? A merger described by BusinessWeek as possibly being the “worst of the worst.”
AOL’s revenue recognition practices for booking online ad revenue led to restatements of their financial results from 2000 to 2002. This led to hundreds of shareholder lawsuits, most of which were consolidated into a class action suit. All of the suits have been settled or dismissed.
E&Y, who audited the AOL portion of this little gem, has now had the final lawsuit against the them dismissed. Back in 2003, AOL shareholder Dominic Amarosa decided that he was going to file suit on his own rather join the class action. Problem was, he didn’t file suit on time and failed to connect his losses to statements that were made by E&Y. Those both sound kind of important.
On top of that, Judge Colleen McMahon didn’t really care for the plaintiff or his attorney Christopher Gray, calling Amarosa a ‘vexatious litigant pursuing clearly frivolous claims’ and Gray’s tactics, ‘shenanigans.’ Judge McMahon also indicated that she was considering sanctions against Gray for said shenanigans.
So if you’re looking for a blueprint on how to completely screw the pooch on a lawsuit against a Big 4 firm, this is probably a good place to start.
Lawsuit over Time Warner-AOL merger dismissed [Reuters]

Hertz Has Second Thoughts About Suing Audit Integrity

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for lawn chair.jpgTurns out Hertz doesn’t have the stones to follow through on its lawsuit against Audit Integrity, as the car rental company has dropped its libel suit against the independent research firm.
Audit Integrity issued a report back in September that stated that Hertz was one of several companies that “face[d] ‘the greatest risk of bankruptcy’ in the next 12 months.” Hertz took the high road, suing Audit Integrity for saying such mean (and untruthful) things.
Well now Hertz has decided that it’s not worth the time and money. That very well may be, although were more inclined to think that they came to their senses that suing an independent research firm for their opinion wasn’t such a hot idea.


Crain’s New York:

Hertz’s aborted suit joins the pantheon of other unsuccessful legal efforts by companies to silence disagreeable analysts. Those that brought such actions include BankAtlantic Bancorp, retailer Overstock.com and drug-maker Biovail.

Overstock suing an analyst for saying not-so-nice things? There’s a shocker. BankAtlantic went after DB’s favorite woodland creature, Dick Bové (which is sort of embarrassing since he’s so cuddly), and Biovail’s lawsuit caused the SEC and DOJ to launch investigations which resulted in the company paying millions in fines and pleading guilty to criminal charges. Not exactly pristine company.
Audit Integrity — not being one to just bend over for some a company that once was endorsed by a certain acquitted murderer — called on the SEC to investigate Hertz for this dodgy lawsuit and now Hertz seems to have seen the light.
Press Release.pdf
Hertz puts brake on libel suit against analyst [Crain’s New York]
See also:
Hertz caves [Felix Salmon/Reuters]

Ernst & Young Is Thankful for Lawyers, Possibly Toblerones

Thumbnail image for madoff-sentenced.jpgJust when we think the Madoff beat has quieted down, we’re reminded that the tentacles of the Ponzi scheme of our lifetime reach far and wide and for that we are thankful.


Not because we enjoy the carnage that has come about from this particular scheme. No, that would be in bad taste. We’re mostly thankful because we’re certain that today, 90% of you will spend the entire day gabbing about turkey-lurkey-do instead of sending us details on your firm’s cost saving initiative du jour, thus making it a slow news day.
So, thank you Berns, for providing us a story on this most non-productive day of the year:

Private and institutional investors who lost money through Access International Advisors LLC’s LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection are suing UBS and Ernst & Young for “seriously neglecting” their supervisory duties of the fund. A Luxembourg court will decide in hearings that started today whether investors have the right to bring direct claims against the fund’s custodian and auditor.
“These cases are very important,” Pierre Reuter, who represents clients in six of the lawsuits being reviewed over four days of hearings, said by telephone before the hearing. “They could set the course for some 100 pending cases and many more to come.”

Since these are simply “test cases” the plaintiffs will be anxious to see the results, especially since the Swiss are involved. A pallet of Toblerones will certainly find their way to the offering table at some point. Whether UBS allows E&Y to squeeze in on this valuable bargaining chip remains to be seen.
UBS, Ernst & Young Face Test Cases Over Madoff Funds [Bloomberg]

Deloitte, Grant Thornton Settle with Parmalat Investors

check.jpgU.S. Investors in Paramalat — the disturbingly long-life milk producer — have settled their lawsuit with Deloitte and Grant Thornton for $8.5 million and $6.5 million respectively.

Personally, if you make the decision to be associated with a company that consciously screws with the natural dairy production of a bovine, we’d say you’re on your own. However, this is America, where if you lose an asston of money on an investment (despite the morally ambiguous nature of said investment, not to mention the shiesty management), you sue.

The case was brought by several funds on behalf of thousands of investors who said they lost money from Parmalat’s multi-billion-dollar fraud.

“It is very rare that worldwide coordinating audit networks enter into settlements like what we have,” said James Sabella, a lawyer at Grant & Eisenhofer PA in New York representing the investors, in an interview.

Lead plaintiffs include Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe Ltd, Cattolica Partecipazioni SpA, Capital & Finance Asset Management, Societe Moderne des Terrassements Parisiens and Solotrat, court documents show.

We don’t know about the statement that settlements are “very rare”. The Big 4 has paid out nearly $6 billion in settlements since 1999 and settlements this year have included Deloitte/American Homes and E&Y/Akai.

Regardless, the good news for the investors is at least they got something. The bad news is that it was far less than the amount they claimed to have lost:

The U.S. equity investors believed they suffered $138.2 million of damages, but Sabella said their claims might have been reduced by earlier settlements. He also said taking their case to a jury could have been “full of difficulties.”

A Deloitte spokesperson declined to comment pending the approval of the settlement by Judge Lewis Kaplan. Grant Thornton did not immediately return our email requesting comment.

This latest development in the story that never ends Parmalat case is the first that we’ve reported that doesn’t involve the persistence of the company trying and failing and trying again to chase down banks and auditors for money related to the company’s bankruptcy in 2003. From the looks of it, we’ll be following these developments long into the next decade.

Ex-Parmalat auditors settle US investor lawsuit [Reuters]

Satyam Would Like the U.S. Lawsuits Moved to India, Oh, and PwC Would Like to be Left Out Altogether

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgSatyam wants the U.S. Courts to kindly BTFO of business that should be handled in India. Specifically these silly fraud lawsuits.
Besides, PW India has already said that they want to bury the hatchet, so they feel that this whole will be best handled in the Eastern Hemisphere:

In a court filing yesterday, the software-services provider said it was joining a motion by its auditors, Price Waterhouse and Lovelock & Lewes, to dismiss the American fraud suits brought by investors.
“This case belongs in India,” the auditors wrote. “Satyam’s alleged billion-dollar fraud, as well as the allegedly improper audit, took place in India. Virtually all of the defendants are India-domiciled companies or individuals.”

P. Dubs India and Lovelock want the whole thing dropped since they were acting on the honor system. Annnnnnnd, since PwC International doesn’t have control over any of the individual firms they’d like it very much if the judge just dropped them out of this thing too:

PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd. said it should be dropped from the case because the investors failed to show it had control over its Indian member, Price Waterhouse, as is required by U.S. securities law.

From the looks of it, no PwC firm wants to be responsible for anything that went wrong with Satyam even though they signed the audit report. Fine, so can we agree that audit opinion was worthless? That’d be great.
Satyam Says U.S. Fraud Suits Must Be Moved to India [Bloomberg]

The Deloitte Lawsuit Du Jour

Thumbnail image for DTa.jpgDeloitte is doing a damn fine job of keeping attorneys in business these days.

Two founders of casino industry supplier Global Cash Access Holdings Inc. [(“GCA”)] of Las Vegas are suing an accounting firm, charging it harmed them by disclosing information in an FBI bulletin they say wrongly associated the founders with criminal activity.
Attorneys for Robert Cucinotta and Karim Maskatiya filed suit Friday in federal court in Las Vegas against Deloitte & Touche LLP and Larry Krause, managing partner of Deloitte’s Nevada practice.
Asked about the allegations Monday, Deloitte & Touche said in a statement: “We believe the complaint to be without merit and intend to defend against it vigorously.”

The lawsuit alleges that Deloitte told GCA’s audit committee that Cucinotta and Maskatiya were involved in criminal activity including, ‘murder, extortion, tax fraud and financial fraud, and also may be subject to substantial back taxes.’
That didn’t go over well:

Cucinotta and Maskatiya assert Deloitte didn’t contact them or investigate the information in the FBI Bulletin before contacting the GCA Audit Committee; and that Deloitte demanded that GCA investigate the allegations and said it wouldn’t certify the third quarter 2007 financial statements until the probe was completed.
The actions by Deloitte caused GCA to announce on Nov. 14, 2007, it would delay filing its quarterly financial report with the Securities and Exchange Commission pending conclusion of an investigation into “confidential” issues, the lawsuit says.
“Predictably, the market reaction to that shocking press release was brutal and GCA market capitalization declined by $400 million,” the lawsuit charged, adding Cucinotta and Maskatiya together lost almost $100 million in a single day.

GCA hired Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom to perform an internal investigation and the subsequent report found, ‘no evidence that (Cucinotta and Maskatiya) engaged in serious wrongdoing or are under investigation by law enforcement officials.’
Deloitte, still sketched out by Cucinotta and Maskatiya, threatened to resign as the auditors of GCA if they didn’t remove themselves from the company’s board of directors. Eventually the two men agreed and ‘pursuant to seriously oppressive terms’ sold all their shares in GCA back to the company.
So C&M get strong-armed into selling their shares back to company at a huge loss and now they want to Deloitte to settle up. While the plaintiffs’ seem to have a legitimate beef, was Deloitte acting as they should have?
Sure, maybe they jumped the gun with the information. It’s not uncommon. If you assume that Deloitte informed the audit committee that C&M were bad dudes to protect GCA’s investors, then they were probably acting in good faith (insane as that may seem). Auditors just can’t seem to win.
Casino supply company’s founders sue over link to criminal activity [Las Vegas Sun]

Deadline Watch: Porsche Suing Crocs For ‘Cayman’ Use

crocs533.jpgAs we warned last week, today is the filing deadline of 3rd Quarter 10-Qs for accelerated filers. While many of you may be coming down to the 5:30 deadline, just as many have probably hit the button long ago and the filings are now getting scoped.
Michelle Leder over at Footnoted.org has one interesting Q that tells us about the fashion eyesore company Crocs, who is being sued by Porsche in Germany over the use of the name “Cayman”:

Now few people would probably confuse Crocs’ Cayman sandal for the Porsche Cayman. After all, one sells for $29.99 and the other starts at $51,000. And if this had been filed in the United States, instead of in Germany, we’d be even quicker to dismiss it. But at the very least, it’s got to be an expensive distraction for Crocs, which had to find a law firm in Germany to represent its interests. In the filing, Crocs says it plans to “vigorously defend” itself against the claims. But vigorous defenses rarely come cheaply. It’s not clear from the filing whether Crocs has already stopped selling the Caymans in Germany or not.

Crocs has survived plenty of near-death experiences already so we’re not getting our hopes up. Besides, if the First Lady wears them, is there really any hope for rubber shoe extinction?
Porsche vs. Crocs… [Footnoted.org]

Another Lawsuit Against Deloitte Is Back from the Dead

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DTa.jpgDeloitte has another lawsuit on its hands that is seemingly back from the dead. After last week’s revival of the Washington Mutual shareholders’ lawsuit, a suit in New York has gained new life after Deloitte initially won a dismissal.
The plaintiff in the case, Symbol Technologies, is proving tenacious:

…the panel found that Symbol Technologies had sufficiently alleged that the “continuous representation” exception to the statute of limitations and the company’s amended complaint “trigger[ed]” the “adverse interest” exception to the in pari delicto doctrine.
“Symbol’s pleading is sufficient to establish that the parties mutually contemplated that Deloitte’s work and representation for each audit year would continue after the issuance of the audit opinion/report and, therefore, the continuous representation doctrine applies,” Justice Leonard B. Austin wrote for the 4-0 panel in Symbol Technologies v. Deloitte & Touche, 2008-06642.
He later added, “In its amended complaint, Symbol set forth sufficient allegations that members of its senior management committed accounting fraud for their own benefit and totally abandoned its interest, thereby triggering the adverse interest exception.”

Nothing too fancy. Just a good, old-fashioned case of senior management fraud not being detected by the auditors:

Symbol’s lawsuit against its former auditing firm stems from an accounting-fraud scandal at Symbol that culminated with the technology giant agreeing to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $37 million and shareholders an additional $100 million.
The SEC had charged Symbol, a Long Island, N.Y.,-based supplier of mobile information systems, and 11 of its former executives with numerous fraudulent accounting practices that together overstated the company’s reported revenue for the fiscal years of 1998 through 2001 by more than $230 million and its pre-tax earnings by more than $530 million.
The fraud resulted in overpayments to Symbol’s senior management of more than $100 million.
At least eight former Symbol executives have pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from the fraud. The company’s former chief executive, Tomo Razmilovic, remains a fugitive, living in Bussevik, Sweden.
Symbol sued Deloitte & Touche, now known as Deloitte, in November 2005, alleging the “Big Four” auditor had failed to detect the fraud. The company’s complaint does not specify the amount of damages sought.

The amount of damages being sought by Symbol hasn’t been disclosed but you’d figure Deloitte could cough up $137 mil just to put the company back to square one. But no, Deloitte is as equally determined, saying ‘the action is without merit and intends vigorously to defend this matter’.
Sorry. With a sub-par year in revenues and breaking ground on the new Animal House, Big D can’t spare the change. We’ll see you in another ten years when this thing is finally settled.
Symbol Technologies’ Massive Malpractice Action Against Deloitte Is Reinstated [New York Law Journal vi Law.com]

Lawsuit Against Deloitte Gets New Life

Thumbnail image for DTa.jpgDeloitte has managed to keep its name out of the news lately, except for breaking ground at its version of Animal House and releasing the number of employees it has on LinkedIn.
On a more litigious note, Deloitte has managed to keep its name out of well publicized lawsuits, whether they relate to Madoff feeder funds or subprime lenders. Until now, that is.


According to AM Law Litigation Daily, a judge in Seattle has allowed a revised lawsuit to proceed that lists “Washington Mutual officers and directors, underwriters, and the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche” as defendants.
The revised lawsuit was trimmed down to a “concise” 267 pages from the original 388 that the judge described as “verbose” and “disorganized”.
The plaintiffs allege that “offering documents contained “materially misstated financial returns for WaMu” and that “offering documents contain false or misleading statements as to WaMu’s internal controls”.
Specifically — without getting into too many gory details — the plaintiffs say that WaMu did not have a sufficient loan allowance in a “manner commensurate with the quality of its home mortgage products” and that their “Loan Performance Risk Model” that determined the allowance, was basically bunk.
Deloitte, as the auditors, was supposed to call WaMu on all this shoddy work and the plaintiffs aren’t satisfied with the job they did. Unfortunately, this all amounts to a pretty major (and long) headache for Deloitte but their attorneys at Latham and Watkins are probably grateful.
Let us be the first to welcome Deloitte back to the high-profile litigation party.
Second Time’s the Charm for Plaintiffs in Washington Mutual Complaint [AM Law Litigation Daily via Law Review]
Wamu.pdf

We’d All Appreciate It if Grant Thornton Got Involved in a New Lawsuit

bondi_enrico01g.jpgGrant Thornton just isn’t able to shake Parmalat, the freaky-ass extended-life milk company. Parmalat appealed the latest dismissal of its lawsuit against GT and Bank of America that accuses the two companies of helping set up phony transactions so “insiders could steal from the company.”
Parmalat’s Chief Milk-Magician, Enrico Bondi, is obviously not satisfied with the $100 million that he twisted away from BofA and will continue to hassling both companies until long past the expiration date on his product.
Parmalat appeals BofA, auditor lawsuit dismissals [Reuters]

(UPDATE) Madoff Investors Sue KPMG, JP Morgan, Bank of New York Mellon

By our last count KPMG had been named in ten lawsuits related to Madoff feeder funds. What’s one more?

KPMG, JP Morgan, Bank of New York Mellon, Oppenheimer Acquisition Corp. and Mass Mutual Life Insurance, along with the Tremont founders were all named in an amended lawsuit that was filed yesterday.

Cotchettt, Pitre, & McCarthy, the attorneys for the Plaintiffs, are not mincing words on KPMG’s part in the whole mess. From the firm’s website:

The sheer size and scope of the fraud make it impossible for Madoff to have acted alone. The complaint alleges JP Morgan and the Bank of New York as well as powerhouse accounting firm KPMG LLP and their international counterparts, KPMG UK and KPMG International were primary players responsible for the fraud.

The amended complaint further alleges that the phantom trades “should have been discovered by KPMG UK, the auditor for Madoff’s London based operation, Madoff Securities International Ltd. Instead, KMPG UK never raised any red flags that investors’ money was used by Madoff as his personal piggy bank.”

KPMG declined to comment for the Reuters article but we’ll assume that they don’t take kindly to the complaint.
Madoff investors sue KPMG and major banks [Reuters]

MADOFF_WEXLER_FIRST_AMENDED_COMPLAINT.pdf

UPDATE: The UK Firm issued the following, per Accountancy Age:

KPMG considers the allegations in the complaint to be wholly without merit and will defend them vigorously. The complaint cites KPMG in its capacity as statutory auditor of Madoff Securities International Limited (MSIL), a London based company directly owned by the Madoff family. KPMG acted in this capacity for several years and issued unqualified audit opinions on MSIL’s financial statements. We are not aware of any suggestion that the financial statements of MSIL contain errors.

The SEC Probably Thought Madoff Victims Would Just Let the Whole Thing Slide

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 140px-United_States_Securities_and_Exchange_Commission.pngFinally someone has had enough of the SEC’s new-sheriff-in-town act and is suing their asses for missing Bernie Madoff’s not so subtle Ponzi scheme.
Two victims are suing the House of Schape for their money that just up and disappeared, which amounts to $2.4 million. The suit also serves as a friendly reminder for the Commission that they sucked at their jobs big time for the better part of a decade.
According to the suit, the two victims, Phyllis Molchatsky and Steven Schneider, initially tried playing nice by filing administrative claims with the SEC but the Commission told them to get bent, thus allowing Molcahtsky and Schneider to sue in Federal court.
This may result in other Madoff victims filing suit as well, so our advice to M. Schape would be to call over to the Fed and to see if she can borrow that money printing machine.
Two Madoff victims file lawsuit against the SEC [Reuters]
See also: Madoff Victims Devise Hedging Strategy [DB]

If KPMG Had Just Made Her Feel Like a Prostitute, They Would Have Gotten Off Way Cheaper

8ball.jpgKPMG has been ordered to pay £45,000 to a former employee who failed The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’s (ICAEW) computerized qualifying exams due to her dyslexia.
According to Accountancy Age, “[Dhrupa] Bid failed her first exam and was given permission by the firm to defer her retake so that a dyslexia assessment could be obtained from the ICAEW. She was warned by the firm if she failed she would have to be dismissed.”
More, after the jump


Previously, Ms. Bid had taken paper exams scoring in the 80s before taking the computerized exam and scoring 40% lower. She only found out that she had dyslexia until after she had failed the exam the second time. Her condition warranted her to an extension of time and to be given a paper exam.
It seems a little odd that she would take the exam again and fail, before finding out she had dyslexia since she was allowed to defer her re-take of the exam to determine if she had dyslexia.
Maybe the ICAEW was dragging on the assessment or KPMG didn’t have the patience to wait for the results but since Ms. Bid failed the second time she has had to return to Kenya since she no longer held a work visa.
KPMG issued the following statement:

“KPMG believes it acted properly and fairly at all times and did what was required of a responsible employer in supporting Ms Bid once the probability of her having dyslexia was made known to us.”

What’s not clear is whether the Radio Station would have preferred paying out less in damages and ended up being perceived as a pimp. Pretty tough call but it looks as though shelling out the additional £45,000 was worth it to the Firm.
The bright side for Ms. Bid is that she wasn’t made to feel like a prostie and she got paid way better than one too. Silver lining people. Silver lining.
KPMG forced to pay £45,000 in discrimination case [Accountancy Age]

Former KPMG Partner Sues Firm for $30 Million

prison.jpgThis whole tax shelter problem for KPMG is back from the dead, as a former partner who was indicted and later exonerated of the charges has sued the firm for “attorney fees, lost wages, and future earnings,” according to the L.A. Times.
David Greenberg’s lawsuit alleges that “[he] was singled out as a rogue employee to cover up the company’s own widespread practice of tax evasion and conspiracy. The suit says KPMG publicly accused Greenberg of committing crimes and allegedly tried to divert attention from its illegal practices.”
So, yeah, that kinda sounds ugly. Nineteen people were originally indicted in 2005 for the tax shelter schemes and the lawsuit alleges that Greenberg is the only person whose legal fees have not been paid by KPMG. He also claims that he’s still being named in lawsuits and has amassed $10 million in legal fees. Dude’s probably a little pissed.
Continued, after the jump


Natch, KPMG isn’t amused by the whole accusation of ‘widespread practice of tax evasion and conspiracy’ and released the following statement:

“The claims throughout this lawsuit are baseless,” KPMG spokesman Dan Ginsburg said. “We will use all appropriate measures to defend ourselves…This lawsuit attempts to revive issues that are long dead,” Ginsburg said. “Mr. Greenberg released KPMG from any obligation to pay his legal expenses in a 2003 agreement which has been upheld by the court.”

Hell, if that’s true, then this thing should get thrown out, no prob, right? WTFK really but it’ll be fun following how nasty this gets.
Oh and just for fun, Greenberg is suing for an additional $20 million for “…defamation and emotional distress from spending five months in jail.” Not sure where Greenberg did his time but if the digs qualify as PMITA prison, then $4 million a month is probably fair.
We realize that it’s still early in LA for a Monday but if you’ve got insider information on this story, shoot it our way. You know, the ugly stuff.
Former KPMG partner sues accounting firm for $30 million [Los Angeles Times]

Deloitte Passes on the Opportunity to Admit Mistakes

DTa.jpgObviously we were too busy promoting democracy and creativity to notice Deloitte getting named in Private Capital Management co-founder Bruce Sherman’s lawsuit against Bear Stearns.
Continued, after the jump


WSJ:

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleges that [Jimmy “Don’t Call Me Cheech”] Cayne and others at Bear made material misrepresentations about the company’s financial health and its risk management, causing Sherman to hold shares of Bear stock he “would otherwise have sold months before Bear ultimately collapsed.”
“Defendants knew that the market and the financial press would view Sherman’s sale of his Bear stock as a loss of confidence in Bear by a well-known and long-standing investor,” the lawsuit said. “This, in turn, would have undermined confidence in Bear’s management at a critical time when Bear’s liquidity and Bear’s valuation of its assets were open to question following the implosion of two Bear-sponsored hedge funds in the summer of 2007.”
Cayne; Warren Spector, Bear Stearns’ former co-president and chief operating officer; Bear Stearns; and its outside auditor Deloitte & Touche are defendants in the case.

Regardless of what Deloitte ‘knew’, the firm did not jump at the chance to start a trend of Big 4 firms issuing mea culpas. Big D issued the following statement, which we plan on to memorize for future reference, per the Journal, ‘Deloitte believes the complaint to be totally without merit and we will defend against it vigorously.’ We’ll continue to update you on the vigorous defense as it progresses.
PCM Co-Founder Sues Bear Stearns For Misstatements [WSJ]

If Failure = ‘Chaos’, What Does Chaos Look Like?

Riots.jpgThe British government has denied a change in the law there that would limit audit firms’ liability. The Big 4, who seem to enjoy a far more prestigious and influential existence in Britain than in the U.S., lobbied for a change to the law but it was ultimately dismissed by the British Business Secretary.
The British government cites existing law that would allow companies to reach agreements with their auditors to limit their liability.
Continued, after the jump

Under present company law, directors can agree to restrict their auditors’ liability if shareholders approve; however, to date, no blue-chip company has done so. Directors have seen little advantage in limiting their auditors’ liability, and objections by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have also been a significant obstacle.

Ahh, the SEC, exerting its far-reaching influence another over sovereign government, not to mention their stellar track record . This does not amuse in the UK:

Peter Wyman, a senior PwC partner, who was involved in the discussions, said that the Government’s lack of action was disappointing. He said: “The Government, having legislated to allow proportionate liability for auditors, is apparently content to have its policy frustrated by a foreign regulator.”

The firms are lobbying, not solely for their own survival, dammit, but the sake of everyone, “They warned that British business could be plunged into chaos if one of them were bankrupted by a blockbuster lawsuit.”
We’re not really sure what ‘choas’ would entail. Hank Paulson had his own version of financial Armageddon but we hardly think that’s a plausible scenario if a Big 4 firm were to fail.
Perhaps there would be an army of accountants roaming the streets in zombie-like states offering their excel expertise to anyone that would accept it. While this is a completely horrifying scene, we’re skeptical of true ‘chaos’.
If you’ve got your own visions of chaos in the event of a large firm failure, describe it in the comments.
Audit firms left unprotected against claims of negligence [Times Online]
Also see: No legislated cap on audit liability [AccMan]

PwC ‘Prostitute’ Hopefully Won’t Spend it All in One Place

Thumbnail image for prostie2.jpgDammit people, if someone is going to go to the trouble to sue the #1 company in all of Great Britain for every bloody list that can possibly be put out could we possibly get a more anti-climatic ending?
Mihaela Popa, who was obviously unaware that accountants are made to feel like prosties all over the world on a daily basis, hence, why the f*ck are you so special, wound up receiving £750 from a tribunal, according to the Romanian Times.
More, after the jump


The court:

“We find that in no way whatsoever did the unlawful victimisation either prevent Miss Popa from obtaining employment or cause her to lose employment. There was no loss of opportunity in this case. It is simply a case of injury to feelings.”

Maybe we’re a little shrewd but repeatedly seeing your name in the British press next to ‘whore’, ‘prostitute’, and ‘communist spy’, and then for a court to basically say you’re thin-skinned, all for £750 seems totally worth it.
Earlier: What if Everyone Sued Their Employer for Being Made to Feel Like a Prostitute?

Grant Thornton Continues on Some Sort of John Gotti Teflon-esque Run

john20gotti.jpgThe Wall St. Journal reports that a judge has tossed a case brought by freaky-ass, longlife milk company Parmalat against Grant Thornton and Bank of America.
Parmalat filed for bankruptcy back when everyone thought invading Iraq was a good idea so this thing has been dragging.
This is another major lawsuit that G to the T has managed to avoid, along with the dismissal of the Refco suit last month.
GT seems to be quite the bullet dodger and can probably breathe easy. For now, anyway.
Judges Tosses Parmalat Lawsuits [WSJ]

What if Everyone Sued Their Employer for Being Made to Feel Like a Prostitute?

prostie2.jpgIn, if first you don’t succeed suing your former employer news, a London Employement Tribunal opened yesterday for a former PwC forensic accountant who is suing P. Dubs for £40 million after the firm was exonerated in a similar suit she brought in 2007.
More, after the jump


Mihaela Popa claims that while she worked at PwC in London, the following allegedly happened:
• She was made to feel like a prostitute
• She was told ‘Eastern European women are whores’
• She was known as ‘Mihaela and porn’
• During the initial swine flu hoopla, she was told ‘this Romanian bird will have a slow death’
• She also claims that some co-workers thought she was a Communist spy
For all this alleged name calling and accused espionage, Ms. Popa is suing PwC for “£40 million in compensation for loss of earnings and hurt feelings”. That tidy sum wasn’t just pulled out of the air, mind you. This is because she “previously claimed that she was given promises she could become a £750,000-a-year partner.”
Since being made to feel like a whore is common at accounting firms many of you have referred to yourselves as such, we’re not sure that “being made to feel like a prostitute” really flies with us.
As for the Communist spy charge, we can’t barely recall a time when this actually mattered, since the Cold War effectively ended 20 years ago.
P. Dubs “strenuously denies the allegations” but we could probably all agree that there are a few bigots working at PwC in London. On the other hand, this could said about any firm, in any city in the world.
Discuss your thoughts on the case, and if you feel more like a whore at your job then Ms. Popa, in the comments.
Accountant claims £40m from PricewaterhouseCoopers [Telegraph via Accountancy Age]

A Muslim Working in Arkansas. You Know Where This Is Going

A former Deloitte Consulting employee has filed suit against the firm and Wal Mart claiming that, “his civil rights were violated when he was fired for exercising his religious right to pray and clean himself beforehand in a ritual known as [Wudu]”
After the jump, Hairballs (yes) has the story.

According to the lawsuit, Deloitte assigned Memon to a consulting project at Wal-Mart’s corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas in November 2007. Memon claims he would wash up in the restroom before going to pray in an area designated by Wal-Mart, such as the parking lot or in a hallway. The whole process took about five minutes or so.
…the lawsuit states, Wal-Mart employees began to get upset with Memon for using the bathroom to sprinkle water on himself and Memon was told not to perform the “Wazu.”…Memon’s boss at Deloitte suggested that Memon pray at the hotel. However, this was not practical because it meant driving more than half an hour for each prayer instead of just taking a short five-minute break.
It didn’t take long until Memon was then taken off the Wal-Mart project. He claims that a Deloitte project manager told him that other colleagues would also be removed from the job, but in the end he was the only one.
According to the lawsuit, the project manager told Memon that, “Americans do not deal with Islamic practices and clients particularly in the South do not understand these religious practices.” The manager also allegedly said that Memon “is putting himself at risk” by practicing his religion. Deloitte then fired Memon, citing “poor performance,” the lawsuit states.

Having never been to Arkansas, we can’t really give any first hand account on the populace’s tolerance for, well, anything but we do know a few people that went to school in Arkansas and they are very nice, tolerant people.
Since Hairballs wasn’t interested in Deloitte’s statement, we went ahead and got it:

“The allegations in this case are false and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously. Deloitte is deeply committed to all aspects of workplace diversity and inclusion, including expression of religious beliefs, and is proud to be regularly recognized as a leader in this area.”

Based on the Green Dot’s statement, we’re assuming Mr. Memon was let go for performance reasons, which as you all know, are subject to change at any time.
Wal-Mart And An Accounting Firm Fire A Muslim For Praying, Suit Says [Hairballs]

Grant Thornton to Tango with E&Y at Dismissal Party

grant-thornton-logo-with-rose.jpgActually we’re not sure but it would be pretty awesome if they did. A judge in New York has dismissed the case against GT, E&Y, and law firm Mayer Brown that was filed by customers of Refco’s currency trading-unit.
More, after the jump


There may still be a problem, according to Bloomberg:

[Judge] Lynch dismissed the case against Refco’s auditor Grant Thornton, outside counsel Mayer Brown and tax adviser Ernst & Young because the trustee who sued failed to allege enough facts in his complaint to show the defendants aided the Refco fraud. He said the trustee may file a new complaint.

So if you’re feeling it you can put on “Por Una Cabeza” but we think that GT and E&Y will probably get cut off mid-dip.
Grant Thornton, Ernst Win Dismissal in RefcoFX Suit [Bloomberg]

PwC Canada Wants Everyone to Know That They Didn’t Audit Bernie Madoff’s Funds

pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgWith all the D talk out there re: anything Madoff, and most recently possible hotboxing and manscaping we’d hoped that maybe this whole story had taken a turn towards smut for good. Alas, we find ourselves back to a litigious story, this time it’s P. Dubs of the Canadian variety that are getting their asses sued:
More, after the jump

The Canadian arm of PwC has been named in seven separate lawsuits claiming as much as $2bn in damages for investors who lost almost everything in the largest fraud in history…PwC Canada has been accused of negligence for failing to spot that Fairfield Sentry’s $7.2bn of assets simply did not exist. The firm signed off accounts in 2007 that stated 97.3pc of Fairfield Sentry’s assets were held in short-term US treasury bills – an asset class that should be safer than cash.

PwC, obviously quite aware that a sex scandal wrapped inside a financial scandal may confuse anyone that is both distracted by sex and financially illiterate, issued this statement:

“PwC Canada provided auditing services to the Fairfield Sentry fund, but was not the auditor for Bernard Madoff Investments where the alleged fraud occurred. PwC Canada’s auditing of the fund’s financial statements fully complied with professional standards.”

Now, to some, this may seem unness for P. Dubs to explain that they didn’t audit Bernie’s funds since this never would have gotten past any reputable firm. However, since we now have a sex scandal mixed with the biggest financial scandal ever, involving thousands of duped investors, PwC decided to err on the side of caution.
Madoff victims to sue accountants PwC over feeder fund audits [Telegraph]

Deloitte Settles American Homes Lawsuit

Barry Salzberg.jpgDeloitte becomes the first accounting firm, to our knowledge, to settle a sub-prime lawsuit by burying the hatchet with American Home Mortgage Corporation.
The total settlement was for $37.5 million of which Deloitte’s share was $4.75 million. We’re guessing that Barry Salzberg wasted more money on Rogaine last year.
We should mention that Deloitte and their fellow defendants decided to settle prior to the judge hearing their motions to dismiss the case. We thought this was a little strange so we decided to consult with some experts.
Their take was that the settlement seemed a little premature but made the points that 1) It’s often cheaper to settle early and B) if your company’s name is associated anything “sub-prime” you’re more or less responsible for the whole damn financial crisis.
Another Significant Subprime-Related Securities Lawsuit Settlement [The D&O Diary]

McGladrey & Pullen Sued for Helping Bad Guys

fraud.jpgMark this suit in the “Accountants are Crooked” column as opposed to the “Accountants are Stupid” column.
McGladrey & Pullen, its predecessor auditor, and the partner on the audit engagement, G. Victor Johnson, are being sued by the Sentinel Management Group Trustee for being a knowing participant in the fraud put on by Sentinel who collapsed in 2007.
More, after the jump


M&P is accused of “knowingly and substantially assisted and participated in the fraud by [Sentinel], and as a result, committed and are liable for fraud themselves.”
Many suits against accounting firms accuse negligence related to technical mistakes that were made so we’re impressed see a lawyer say “To hell with it, these guys are crooks, I’m taking them down like Arthur Andersen.”
On a more personal level, between this suit and the messy divorce with RSM McGladrey, we’re expecting to M&P to have the CPA firm equivalent of a nervous breakdown any day now. Feel free to speculate as to what that might actually be.
Collapsed Financial Company’s Trustee Claims Accountants Knew About Fraud [Chicago Bar-Tender]

Arlen Specter Not Pandering to the Bean Counter Vote

Arlen_Specter_official_portrait.jpgArlen Specter is many things. Senator. Cancer survivor. Some might say, turncoat. And since he is a newly minted Democrat, Specter is expected to prove his political stripes.
Well, Specter has decided that the best way to earn those stripes is to embrace the recent investor outrage and introduce legislation that will allow investors to sue accountants, lawyers, and investment banks, that provide, what Specter calls “substantial assistance” in a fraud.
More, after the jump


According to Bloomberg:

Shareholders are barred from suing parties that have only an indirect role in a fraud after Supreme Court decisions that limited liability to those directly and publicly involved in the scheme.The Specter measure would upend rulings in Stoneridge Investment Partners LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc. of 2008 and Central Bank of Denver v. First Interstate Bank of Denver. Prior to the rulings, investor lawsuits against fraud accomplices were common, Langevoort said. The 1994 Central Bank decision was a “major gift” to individuals and corporations that aided in a fraud

The Refco scandal is right at the heart of this debate as attorneys, auditors, and investment bankers were all misled by Philip Bennet, Refco’s then-CEO. Suits against PwC, Grant Thornton, KPMG, and E&Y were dismissed back in April along with suits against several investment banks. Refco’s outside counsel Joseph Collins of Mayer Brown is currently involved in a lawsuit that is being reviewed by the SEC.
We’re all for making accountants responsible when they screw the pooch but if clients just flat out lie and go way the hell out of their way cover those lies up, there’s very little that can be done.
And if there’s one thing that keeps Big 5 4 partners up at night it’s the threat of litigation. The premise that this legislation would increase that litigious exposure is, at the very least, disconcerting to partners.
Specter Law Would Let Investors Sue Fraud Accomplices [Bloomberg]

UK Court Decides it Will Leave the Major Lawsuits to the Americans

Big 4 firms dodge a bullet in the UK as the highest court dismissed a negligence lawsuit against an accounting firm that failed to detect fraud that brought down a trading company. The ruling will significantly limit the firms’ liability in cases “where a determined criminal drives a company to financial ruin”.
Doesn’t make sense to us, since if you can’t make auditors accountable, who the hell is accountable? Hey, whatevs, we’re sure the Big 4 and other accounting firms won’t be celebrating long anyway, since a ruling like this won’t happen in the States, which is where the serious money gets handed over.
Auditors win ruling over Madoff-style frauds [FT.com]

California Overtime Lawsuits Update

This is our initial coverage of the overtime lawsuits against some of the major accounting firms doing business in California. For those of you not up to speed, these suits were filed by non-licensed associates who believe they were misclassified under California law as exempt professionals and are due overtime and other benefits due to non-exempt employees.

The suits are all in various stages but the key case that may determine how the other cases will proceed is Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Campbell is currently awaiting argument before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The primary issue before the court has to do with whether or not, under the professional exemption, an associate is required to be licensed by the state of California in order to qualify for exempt status. Counsel for Campbell essentially argues that only licensed or certified accountants can qualify for exempt status in California while PwC argues that uncertified accountants who can qualify as “learned professionals” are exempt employees and thus not eligible for overtime pay.


The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment on liability in favor of Plaintiff Campbell and ruled that attest associates must have a license in order to be exempt. The court further held that they may not qualify for exempt status under the “learned professional” section of the exemption. However because the trial court felt it was a close question, it certified the matter to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for interlocutory appeal.

According to Bill Kershaw, of Kershaw, Cutter, Ratinoff LLP, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the ruling in this matter could have significant repercussions for other remaining wage and overtime lawsuits. Mr. Kershaw believes that if 9th Circuit does rule in the favor of the plaintiffs, then the likelihood of the case resolving itself prior to trial would substantially increase.

If the court of appeals rules that learned professionals can be defined as exempt, PwC (and likely the other defendant accounting firms) will center their argument back in the trial court on the appeals court’s ruling that unlicensed accountants are indeed “learned professionals.”

We contacted Dave Nestor, Head of Communications for PwC in the U.S. and he provided us with the Firm’s statement:

PwC believes that its attest associates are professionals who spend the majority of their time engaged in challenging work requiring the use of their intellectual abilities, judgment and discretion. Based on these and other factors, PwC’s attest associates are properly considered exempt under applicable law, and are therefore appropriately compensated.

We’ve provided a list below of all the cases against accounting firms currently in the courts in California for your information. Check the list for your firm and please remember that it is your right to participate in any of the class action lawsuits if you meet the criteria set forth in the case. Even if you are still employed by the firm being sued, they cannot retaliate against you.
Likewise, you can participate in the case on behalf of the defendants if you are approached and choose to do so. You also have the right to not participate at all if you so choose.

If you receive any correspondence from your firm regarding the overtime and wage lawsuits, please let us know using tips@goingconcern.com. We’ll always keep you anonymous.

We’ll be covering this story as it progresses and continue to check back here for periodic updates.

List of OT Accounting Cases.pdf

Ernst & Young Found to be ‘Marginally Negligent’ in Superior Bank Case, Will Pay Plaintiff $10M

Color us surprised:

A Broward County jury on Wednesday dealt a small blow to Ernst & Young in a negligence and fraud lawsuit, deciding that the accounting giant was only marginally negligent for a local businessman’s losses in connection with the demise of Superior Bank in 2001.

UPDATE, 7:00 pm EST, E&Y Statement: We believe we should have prevailed and will seek appropriate relief from the courts.
Ernst & Young to pay $10M in Superior Bank lawsuit [Triangle Business Journal]

Big 4 Firms Will Probably Have to Cut Some Checks

Since BDO International Global Coordination was able to dodge the bullet in the Banco Espirito case, litigation against the Big 4 has been pretty quiet. Oh sure, you could bring up Schein v. E&Y but the money at stake isn’t that big and Schein is claiming Oliver Stone-type conspiracy theory so we’re hesitant to get too worked up about it.
However, if you’re craving bean counter courtroom drama it won’t be long until you’re up to your ass in Jack McCoy-types screaming about how crooked accountants are.
According to research firm, Audit Analytics, there are eight firms at risk for potential lawsuits related to King Ponzi alone along with six other potential lawsuits related to the financial clusterfuck.
Audit Analytics also was kind enough to pull together some data on who’s winning the race to pay out the most settlement. The top 50 malpractice suits against the Big 4 since 1999 break down like this, per Compliance Week:
1. E&Y – $1.92 billion
2. KPMG – $1.42 billion
3. PwC – $1.27 billion
4. Deloitte – $1.24 billion
Don’t expect the trend of the firms handing over asstons of cash to end anytime soon as settling these cases out of court seems to be best way for the firms to extend their seemingly shortening lives.

Review Comments | 07.20.09

ernst_young.jpgLawyer: Ernst auditing helped sink Hinsdale’s Superior Bank – Plaintiff Alan Schein is still claiming conspiracy on E&Y’s part. [Daily Herald]
Securities Lawsuits Plummet in 2009 – Because they’ve all been filed already [CFO.com]
Stanford case spreads its tendrils – For a Ponz that simply offered CD’s with out of this world interest rates, the international law and jurisdictional aspects will turn your head in knots. [FT.com]
TD Ameritrade Settles Securities Case – “TD Ameritrade Inc. agreed to buy back $456 million of auction-rate securities from its clients as part of a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Pennsylvania securities regulators.” [WSJ]

Funny homeless guy sign

You Know That Guy Who Panhandles on Your Block? He May Be a CPA.

Anybody out there looking to help their fellow CPA, who’s down on his luck?
The Wall St. Journal is reporting that the former BDO Seidman LLP CEO, Denis Field may have to pay back a portion of $180 million that is being sought by prosecutors in the tax shelter case that involves Field and six others.
Natch, everybody has denied wrongdoing. The charges include conspiracy and tax evasion. Good luck with that.

Prosecutors Seek Ex-BDO Seidman CEO, 6 Others To Forfeit $180M
[WSJ]

BDO

Jeremy Newman Just Wants to Be Clear, We are NOT Declaring Victory Over Banco Espirito…YET

BDO_International.pngAfter throwing an all night rager last week when BDO International Global Coordination skated on the $521M verdict, Jeremy Newman, BDO Boss, wants everybody to chill.

Newman said he had always been confident that BDO International’s arms-length approach would be proved but added: ‘There is still the risk of a further appeal, as well as the appeal by the US firm.’

See? Staying cool. Not out of the woods yet. But when we beat those bastards on appeal, then we are getting down.

Newman stays cool after BDO victory
[Accountancy Age]