My grandma got wrapped up in an illegal money-making scheme once. She started taping movies off TV, editing out the commercials, hand-labeling the VHS tapes, and selling them for $3 out of a cardboard box on her driveway. When I caught her, I quickly shut her new business venture down. Luckily, it's 2016 and none […]
Auditors facing over 100 years in prison should take note: Madoff auditor David Friehling to get 2 yrs supervised release which includes 12 months home detention. So no prison time — Matthew Goldstein (@MattGoldstein26) May 28, 2015 Friehling given credit for cooperation which included days of testimony at long criminal trial last year. DOJ called […]
As the multibillion-dollar scheme led by Tom Petters approaches its sixth anniversary, the meter is still running for the lawyers and accountants sorting through the corporate empire created by the former Wayzata businessman, and the array of creditors and investors who did business with him. More than $83 million has been paid to the lawyers […]
Paul Konigsberg is going with the guilty but ignorant and terrible at accounting defense: A longtime former accountant to Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to falsifying records and other charges in connection with the convicted financier's Ponzi scheme. "I'm here today to take responsibility for what I did that was wrong," Paul Konigsberg, a former […]
It's kind of like an infomercial but with fewer incompetent idiots trying to accomplish basic tasks like using Tupperware and cracking eggs. Before we get to the video, let's get to the press release from the SEC: The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges and an asset freeze against the operators of a […]
When you're known as "the guy Bernie told us could help with our tax returns," it means getting the ball rolling before the crack of dawn: At 6 a.m. on Thursday, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation met Mr. Konigsberg at his lawyers’ offices in Midtown Manhattan and arrested him. He is expected to […]
Anyone remember Frederick Darren Berg? He's a guy who had a thing – nay, a passion – for charter buses. It just so happens that he also was running Washington's largest ever Ponzi scheme to finance his passion. Moss Adams (who Berg says is not at fault) was the auditor for FDB's Meridian funds – […]
Yes, even if it was Allen Stanford's auditor: CAS Hewlett, an accountant in the Caribbean nation of Antigua where Stanford operated a bank and numerous other business interests, received $4.6 million for auditing services, said Morris Hollander, a certified public accountant who testified as an expert witness. “Are amounts paid for auditing these companies in any way […]
File this under "serious tax questions" posed to the Intuit community: Back in 2007 I invested $80,000 into a company for Real Estate develeopment. No property was involved just a written contract. After 5 years and an FBI investigation I have come to the realization that the money is not recoverable. Where in Turbo Tax […]
Nearly two years after Texas financier Allen Stanford was indicted in an alleged massive Ponzi scheme, investors have just filed a $10 billion proposed class action suit against his auditor—the giant accounting firm BDO.
The suit—filed Thursday in federal court in Dallas—says BDO did not only aid and abet the $7 billion dollar fraud…it was a “co-conspirator.” “BDO’s cozy relationship with the Stanford Financial Group was steeped in conflicts of interest and required ongoing deceptive and duplicitous manipulation of the facts to allow the Ponzi scheme’s exponential growth for over a decade,” the complaint says. “The result of this deception is the loss of thousands of investors’ life savings.” [CNBC]
Allegedly! Admittedly, we’re a little behind on this one but you know how it is. Anyway, your Ponzi scheme du jour comes by way of the great Northwest, where Frederick Darren Berg, who seems to have some sort of charter bus fetish, is being prosecuted for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in Washington.
When he was at the University of Oregon in the 80s, Berg allegedly helped himself to his fraternity’s cash to fund a “charter bus venture” and then pleaded guilty to a check-kiting scheme with another bus company a few years later. After those nickel and dime failures, Fred was done messing and decided to really do this:
The 48-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Meridian Group is accused of defrauding hundreds of more than $100 million invested in his Seattle company’s mortgage funds between 2003 and 2010.
Prosecutors allege Berg spent tens of millions on a ritzy lifestyle, including a posh Mercer Island mansion, two yachts and two jets.
But investigators say Berg diverted a bigger chunk, estimated at $45 million, to create a luxury bus line that served tour groups and sports teams, including the Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
And we all know what happened to mortgage funds, don’t we? Okay, then. So your next question probably is, “how did the auditors miss this one?” Well!
Berg used some simple stratagems to mislead auditors at Moss Adams, a large Seattle-based firm, which produced audits for a trio of Meridian funds for three years.
The standard procedure is to send out confirmation letters to a random sample of mortgage borrowers and compare what they say they’ve paid with what the lender’s records say.
But Moss Adams didn’t notice most of the confirmations it sent out were going to post-office boxes and coming back with the same handwriting, said [bankruptcy trustee Mark] Calvert.
Berg had rented more than 20 P.O. boxes and had the mail forwarded to another address in Seattle. He was replying to the auditors’ queries himself, according to the indictment.
[Cringe] Oops. To be fair, auditors can’t be expected to be hand-writing experts…can they? Mr. Calvert seems to think so and told the Seattle Times that he plans on suing Moss Adams and Deloitte for their roles. Oh, right! How do they fit in? To wit:
Berg also hired Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to do a “valuation report” on funds V through VII, meant just for Meridian management. Meridian, however, used it to reassure investors, touting Deloitte’s conclusion “the sample mortgage pool appears to be of higher quality and better performance” than comparable loan portfolios.
But Calvert said Deloitte’s supposedly random sampling “was not completed as outlined” in its agreement with Meridian. He declined to be more specific.
Moss Adams and Deloitte would not comment on their work for Meridian.
While Wes continues to fight his conviction (sometimes using unorthodox methods) on tax evasion tooth and nail, Ken Starr is ready to get on with it and pleaded guilty today to charges related to his Ponzi to the Stars.
Government sentencing guidelines have Starr looking at 10 to 12.5 years which is long enough to outlast the appeals that Willie Mays Hayes has out there.
Since we’re not at all familiar with how convicts are assigned their prison quarters, our desire for an awkward reunion between Snipes and Starr that includes debating over who gets the top bunk is merely wishful thinking. If it lightning stirkes, we’ll just chalk it up to the gods smiling down on us all.
PwC To Provide Up To $12.5M To JPMorgan For FSA Fine [Dow Jones]
“J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) disclosed in a regulatory filing Friday that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP agreed to provide up to an aggregate of $12.5 million to the bank related to a fine J.P. Morgan had to pay to the U.K. Financial Services Authority.”
Late Ponzi schemer’s accountant surrenders license [Nashville Business Journal]
This accountant managed to surrender his CPA in just under four months for his role in a Ponzi scheme. Dave Friehling had to be stripped of his license nearly 9 months after pleading guilty. NY DoE should get with Tennessee and see how they do things.
IRS to stay at new Austin site after plane crash [AP]
“An Internal Revenue Service office will not return to the Texas building where a tax protester killed himself by crashing his plane into the structure.
IRS spokeswoman Lea Crusberg said Thursday that the agency has signed a two-year lease on another office space in Austin. She declined to identify the location.”
Senate Democrats Propose Scaling Back IRS Reporting Law [WSJ]
“The Nelson proposal would exempt from the reporting rules firms with fewer than 25 employees. For larger businesses, it would require information returns only in cases where payments to a single vendor exceeded $5,000 in a given year—down from $600 in the health-care law.”
Richtermeyer to Chair Management Accountants [Web CPA]
“The Institute of Management Accountants has named accounting professor Sandra Richtermeyer as the chair of its board of directors for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Richtermeyer, who also chairs the Department of Accountancy in the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati, is only the fourth woman ever to hold the position of IMA chair since the organization’s inception in 1919.”
BKD looks to grow health care practice with purchase of Grant Thornton team [Wichita Business Journal (partial subscription required)]
According to the message sent from Stephen Chipman, that we reported on at the end of July, this is the final transition that Grant Thornton will be making. What happens from here is anyone’s guess.
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!
Not that it’s impossible for an accountant to score a trophy wife – a former Scores Dancer, no less – but observers of accountant/business manager-cum-Ponzi Schemer du jour (allegedly!), Kenneth I. Starr are pretty confident that it was a decent sign of things going in the wrong direction.
Vanity Fair’s article on “not that Ken Starr” gets a lot of perspective from people that knew Starr, including Blackstone co-founder, Pete Peterson, ” Did something in the way of a profound midlife crisis trigger this behavior?”
But of course, there are people that are more forthright:
Like a Greek chorus, his shocked clients pointed as one to the lavishly endowed Diane, for whom, the indictment notes, Starr purchased more than $400,000 of jewelry from bling jeweler to the rap world Jacob Arabo. “When your business manager marries a stripper,” says one rueful client, “that’s a tell.”
All The Best Victims [Vanity Fair]
UBS Customers May Have `Mere Hours’ to Report to IRS [Bloomberg]
Since the Swiss Parliament were finally able to give the OK on the agreement to disclose UBS client names to the U.S., it’s only a matter of time until the IRS starts kicking down doors in the middle of the night.
“For UBS account holders, they have mere hours to run to the IRS and hope they can disclose the account before the Swiss hand the data over,” said Asher Rubinstein, a partner at Rubinstein & Rubinstein LLP in New York who said he’s been “getting panicked calls all week.”
The lesson to be learned here, it appears, is that he IRS on a bluff, you are likely to be wrong, wrong, wrong. Doug Shulman doesn’t like to be take for a fool, “We will immediately follow up on the information we receive from the Swiss and we will vigorously enforce the laws against those who have attempted to evade their tax responsibilities by hiding their assets offshore.”
KPMG chief calls for audit reform [Accountancy Age]
John Griffith-Jones, who wishes everyone would get comfortable with the idea of the Big 4, does admit that the question about the purpose of audit is a legit one that should not be ignored, “What is the point, they and others ask, of doing extensive and increasingly elaborate audits of the financial accounts of our banks, when audits failed to identify the huge and systemic risks which led to the near collapse of the Global banking system in the Autumn of 2008?”
Campbell Recalls SpaghettiOs [WSJ]
600 Parish investors sue accounting firm [Charleston Post Courier]
Dixon Hughes is being sued by 600 investors of convicted mini-Madoff Al Parish for their “Comfort Report.” “The lawsuit alleges that the firm claimed to compile the report from brokerage statements, when it received statements generated only by Parish that ‘summarized imaginary account balances.’ ” Oops.
Oh, You Mean Like the Same Fed Audits We Already Have? Way to Go, Congress! [JDA]
“As any accountant will tell you, we perform audits each year to ensure the comparability of financial statements for the sake of investors. Since there is no comparing Fed statements and there are no investors (excluding the banks with mandated stock holdings in the Fed banks they are regulated by), basically all we’re doing is jerking off with our left hands pretending it is someone else doing the jerking.”
Firing squad execution sobering, but dramatic [AP]
And who doesn’t like drama?
Restrictive bank covenants keep the Big Four on top [Accountancy Age]
“Big 4 only covenants” in lending agreements are blackballing smaller firms according to BDO International CEO Jeremy Newman and others. Nonsense, you say? AA presented an example:
Buried in the 81-page credit agreement for US-based healthcare provider Amedisys is a 22-word stipulation that highlights a problem some fear is threatening the stability of the global economic system.
“Audited consolidated balance sheets of the group members… [must be] reported on by and accompanied by an unqualified report from a Big Four accounting firm,” the phrase reads.
There’s no telling how many loan agreements have this exact language but “Big Four” is often replaced by “reputable” so it’s not if the “Big 4 covenant” is cooked right into the template. That being said, AA reports that the Big 4 + GT and BDO admitted last month that the covenants do exist in the UK.
CFOs on vacation: Fewer call office [San Francisco Business Times]
What the hell is gonna to take for a celebrity to get an honest money manager around these parts?
The SEC has frozen his assets alleging that Starr “made unauthorized transfers of money in client accounts that ultimately wound up in Starr’s personal accounts.” But it was for a good reason – the man needs roof over his head, according to the complaint “Starr and his companies transferred $7 million from the accounts of three clients between April 13 and April 16, 2010, without any authorization. The transferred funds were ultimately used to purchase a $7.6 million apartment on the Upper East Side in Manhattan on April 16.”
Former New York City Council President Andrew Stein was also named in the complaint, and “is charged with lying to the IRS and federal agents about his involvement with Wind River.” Wind River being a company that Starr allegedly syphoned money to, that Stein used for personal expenses. However we’re mostly shocked to learn that Stein briefly dated Ann Coulter – shudder.
Financial whiz busted for duping celebs clients Wesley Snipes, Martin Scorsese in $30M Ponzi scheme [NYDN]
Celebrity Investment Adviser Charged With Ponzi Scheme [Gawker]
SEC Files Emergency Charges Against New York-Based Financial Advisor for Defrauding Clients [SEC Press Release]
Mysterious letter rattles E&Y’s Iraq ambitions [Accountancy Age]
Ernst & Young has been trying to get its audit on in Iraq shortly after Saddam Hussein’s party ended in 2004. The firm has been providing services there, however not yet been approved to perform auditing services. E&Y has been claiming that it was making headway, “on the verge of obtaining an accounting license” but now a letter from somewhere within the dense Iraqi bureaucracy seems to have delayed those plans.
It came as a shock when the firm learned of a letter sent to the Iraqi Supreme Court, the Central Bank of Iraq, the Commission of Integrity gistrar and the Iraqi Banks Union, among other senior institutions, from the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors, which claimed the firm had been banned.
“It has been decided to forbid the accreditation of any financial statements audited by Ernst & Young (E&Y) company and forbid its operations in accountancy and auditing for governmental and private sectors in Iraq,” the letter stated.
The letter, in Arabic and signed by the Union Secretary Dr Rafed Obaid Al Nawwas, said the union reserved the right to go to “legal authorities to stop non-Iraqis from conducting audit and accountancy in Iraq”.
So in case you missed it, E&Y did not actually receive this purported letter but heard of it second-hand and then responded that the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors has no authority on the matter, since it’s just an “association of Iraqi accountants.” So it sounds like the AICPA of Iraq basically tried to tell the Iraqi version of the SEC, PCAOB, et al. that E&Y was not fit to be in country (if you’ve got another idea, by all means).
Iraq’s chief accounting regulator claims to not knowing about the letter and that E&Y is “just about to obtain its license” so this may be a nuisance more than anything else.
How Stanford is worse than Madoff [Fortune]
Mostly because CDs are the basic financial instrument that is usually held by little old ladies and other common folk. Not Kevin Bacon.
Unenrolled Tax Preparer: Preparer Regulation is a CPA Plot to Put Me Out of Business [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
Naturally, there are some unlicensed tax preparers that are taking the IRS’ proposed regulations a little personally. Peter Pappas at TLB tells us about one unlicensed preparer who did some bellyaching to the Service. This sage of taxes challenges anyone to question his expertise:
1. “I prepare my returns accurately and would challenge anyone to find errors.”
2. “I have seen numerous returns prepared by CPAs and other similar preparers that were incorrect. [the man strives for perfection]”
3. “I am willing to take some courses or some certification, but to become an enrolled agent or CPA would cause an undo burden on my business. [i.e. require me to work more than 8 hours a day]”
And that’s just a sampling. Mr Pappas kindly debunks all of these (and more):
1. “A self-serving declaration by an unenrolled tax preparer that the returns he prepares are 100% accurate is about as valuable as an NBA player announcing that nobody can guard him.”
2. “This is utterly irrelevant and, if anything, an argument for more regulation, not less…[This] is dumber than texting while driving.”
3. “Becoming an enrolled [preparer] would force Mr. Jamieson to make expenditures of time and money he does not wish to make, therefore, because he is not prepared to make those sacrifices he believes that people who have made them should get no benefit from it whatsoever.”
Barry Minkow Gives Medifast the Middle Finger [White Collar Fraud]
At this point we’re assuming it’s only the figurative bird, by way of a report that states that Medifast’s business model is effectively a multi-level marketing scheme.
Things are not going so well for the Stan as he awaits trial in H-town.
For starters, he managed to fire another lawyer, which is not going to go over well with Judge David Hittner. Judge Hittner warned Stan about his Steinbrenner-ish ways last month, “You’ve had 10 attorneys attempt to enter this case on your behalf. I will not entertain any further substitutions.”
And secondly, Al doesn’t seem to be very good at making friends:
When Mr. Stanford surrendered to authorities, he was a healthy 59-year-old man,” Stanford’s Houston-based lawyer, Robert Bennett, wrote in a brief on which Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz consulted.
“Mr. Stanford’s pretrial incarceration has reduced him to a wreck of a man: he has suffered potentially life-impairing illnesses; he has been so savagely beaten that he has lost all feeling in the right side of his face and has lost near-field vision in his right eye,” Bennett said.
Naturally, AS’s lawyers want him out and placed on house arrest ASAP since his trial doesn’t start until January but so far no one is convinced that Al won’t bolt the second he gets outside the prison walls.
“Every day, I am fraught with pain and anguish for those affected by my actions. For those who lost money, I will work to repair and replace what has been lost.”
~ Convicted Ponzi Schemer Tom Petters, at his sentencing where Judge Richard Kyle sentenced him to 50 years in prison.
“[I]t is hard to justify giving special compensation to the investors of Mr. Madoff and Mr. Stanford just because they lost significant amounts of money with little prospect of any recovery.”
~ Peter J. Henning, on Madoff and Stanford victims lobbying members of Congress for a law that would compensate them for some of their losses.
Of course the investors are appealing but one win at at time, amiright?
The suits were filed in the fall by investors who lost millions in the LuxAlpha Sicav-American Selection fund which had 95% of its fund invested with Bernie Madoff. The fund claims that it had $1.4 billion in net assets a month prior to Madoff’s arrest.
UBS acted as the custodian while E&Y was the auditor and were sued for “seriously neglecting” their supervisory duties for the fund. Investors in the fund filed more than 100 lawsuits against the two companies.
Luxembourg’s commercial court said in a ruling today concerning 10 test cases that investors can’t bring individual lawsuits for damages. The court said it’s up to the liquidators of the funds that invested with Madoff to seek the “recovery of the capital assets.”
In other words, UBS and E&Y, you’re going to get sued by Irving Picard de Luxembourg rather than 100+ pissed off individuals whose life savings went *poof*. Setting legal precedent aside, taking emotion of the equation works wonders for making an argument.
UBS, Ernst & Young Win Bid to Block Madoff Lawsuits [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Allegedly of course! Despite our best wishes for a forensic accountants to be fraud-busting crusaders that pursue truth, justice and all that crap, this corner of the profession is not immune from shiesty characters.
Lewis Freeman, “Miami’s go-to forensic accountant”, has been charged with embezzling $2.6 million from his clients. The Miami Herald is reporting that Lew has pleaded not guilty but is planning to change his plea to guilty “within a few weeks” while his attorneys try to negotiate a lighter sentence. The Herald also reports that two other employees of his firm, including the CFO, will be charged as co-conspirators in the case.
When you think about it, this really exposes Freeman as not being a very smart guy, just smarter than the people he was ripping off. As criminal mastermind Sam Antar told us in an email, “Lewis Freeman may have been considered ‘Miami’s go-to forensic accountant’ but he was not a very bright guy. He simply took old money from his client’s trust accounts and replenished it with new money. As a forensic accountant, he should have known that ultimately such Ponzi schemes end up collapsing over time.”
Despite this, Freeman was able to carry on the scheme for approximately a decade, swindling up to 250 victims.
Wondering what this latest development meant in terms of fraud involving forensic accountants, Sam told us, “Forensic accountants turned white collar criminals present a real challenge for law enforcement, since they (excluding Lewis Freeman) are far more sophisticated in their knowledge of anti-fraud measures and are more innovative in exploiting weaknesses in internal controls than the common white collar criminal.”
And don’t worry, they’re out there, “Freeman is probably not the only forensic accountant turned Ponzi schemer out there. The smarter and more sophisticated one’s have not been caught yet,” Sam said. Got it. Suspect everyone.
We first mentioned Lewis Freeman last fall when his firm was under investigation by the FBI and that his firm briefly served as the Chief Restructuring Officer for the Palm Beach Funds that were part of the Tom Petters orgy of fraud.
The bright side is we can’t foresee any scenario where the image of accountants gets worse.
• AP: Ponzi collapses nearly quadrupled in ’09 – Thimble-dick Bernie, Allen Stanford, Tom “Cocker Spaniel” Petters, all did their part. [via HuffPo]
• The First Annual Jr Deputy Accountant Year in Review Awards (or some h*t) – Somehow we ended up on this list and somehow JDA managed to make it a backhanded compliment (we think). [JDA]
• Koss financial records will get more scrutiny in 2010 – With comments from Tracy Coenen at Fraud Files. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
• The Man Who Wired Silicon Valley – How Raj got the world by the short and curlies. [WSJ]
• GM Plans Pontiac Fire Sale – “GM sent letters to dealers Dec. 23 saying it would pay them $7,000 for every new Saturn or Pontiac on their lot that is moved to rental-vehicle or service-vehicle fleets operated by the dealers.” So yes, they’ll seem extra pushy. [WSJ]
• The Big Zero – As in the decade we’re finishing up. Prof. Krugman also quotes Diet Coke fiend Larry Summers stating that GAAP was the most important innovation in history and that it allows investors to make good decisions. According to PK, also a big zero. [Paul Krugman/NYT]
• Spurious academic study of the day, Tiger Woods edition – Ball-parking investors’ losses due to TW’s cheating ways is not so easy, nay, ridiculous. [Felix Salmon/Reuters]
Despite Allen Stanford all but flipping out Judge David Hittner isn’t feeling it, denying his request to be released from prison while awaiting trial.
Stan’s attorney was shocked — SHOCKED! — that the judge was in such a cavalier mood with his client’s well-being:
“The issues we raised were real, as well as legally and factually compelling,” attorney Kent Schaffer said in an e-mail today. “I am surprised that we were shot down so abruptly and without a response from the government or a hearing. I am not sure how Allen will be able to participate in assisting in his own defense and, the truth is, he probably won’t be.”
Stanford is scheduled to go on trial in January 2011 which will probably seems a helluva lot longer if you’re slowly…coming apart…at the seams.
Stanford won’t be released, judge rules [Houston Chronicle]
It’s been just under two weeks since convicted Ponzi boy/swashbuckling industrialist Tom Petters was convicted in his trial and it’s all but off the RADAR of everyone. Unfortunately, we stumbled across the following audio this morning featuring Tom Petters, his part-time lover/executive and government witness Deanna Coleman, and their fellow conspirator Bob Coleman.
It sounds like some Fargo-esque plot gone terribly wrong without the visual of William H. Macy in that ridiculous hat.
It’s pretty clear from where we stand that a jury of cocker spaniels would have found Petters guilty just based on this recording, although we don’t get the ultimate money shot of “this is one big fucking fraud”.
Plenty of interesting moments including lots of talk about lies, money, more lies, Bob White’s “goddamn good imagination” and a flurry of “fucks” right at the end from TP. You do get the feeling that no matter how hopeless TP sounds, he somehow thinks it will all work out. Hindsight!
Around the 10 minute mark is when Petters first starts losing it and around 13:51 he remembers the good old days when “we laughed about it”. This should convince the last of you “Free Tom Petters” hold-outs. Enjoy.
• Geithner Said to Be Seeking TARP Extension Until Next October – Timmay is expected to scribe a letter to Congress letting them know about the little extension. [Bloomberg]
• Standard Chartered Sees No ‘Material’ Impairments in Dubai – Let’s remember this for future reference. [WSJ]
• Lessons Lost – Gary Weiss links to GC in his remembrance of Enron. Does anyone else remember Enron? [Portfolio]
• Obama’s Stimulus II – BO wants to help small business by letting them “eliminate capital gains taxes on the sale of small firms, allow them to continue to expense capital investment, and give them tax breaks for hiring new workers.” Sounds nice but Howard Gleckman says, “It’s a bit like throwing a drowning man a 64-inch flat panel TV. He might love to have one, but not right now.” [Tax Policy Center]
• U.S. SEC Sues to Freeze Assets Of ‘Ponzi Scheme’ – Rockford Funding Group LLC, come on down! [DealBook]
Swashbuckling cocker spaniel Tom Petters has managed to keep his focus the last few days, testifying in his trial for his alleged $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme.
His cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Dixon included several interesting exchanges including Petters admitting that he was the ‘heart and soul’ of PCI despite his claim of being duped for fifteen years by his office manager/confidante/lover, Deanna Coleman and Robert White, his former CFO. Dixon also accused of Petters of getting drunk on the super-happy-fun times he was having as a captain of industry:
Dixon moved to a line of questioning meant to show Petters used investors’ money to support his other businesses and lifestyle.
Dixon asked about Petters’ ownership of a Bentley, his use of corporate aircraft and homes on Lake Minnetonka and in Florida.
“You wanted the life of a corporate tycoon,” Dixon said.
“No, others wanted me to have that life,” Petters said, his voice rising. “I did not want the life of a corporate tycoon. Absolutely, I didn’t want that.”
Petters said his friend Dean Vlahos, a founder of the Champps and Redstone American Grill restaurant chains, bought him a Bentley as a gift.
“I didn’t want a Bentley,” he said. “I’m not a Bentley guy.”
See? Tom Petters was thrust into this swashbuckling lifestyle by others. The man can’t finish a book if his life depended on it, he can’t possibly be this titan of capitalism. He would’ve been perfectly happy driving a late 70s Oldsmobile Cutlass around on fumes with the headliner completely torn out. In fact, he would’ve preferred that.
Prosecutor jabs, Petters takes to ropes [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
More GC Coverage of Tom Petters:
Even as the Doors Were Being Busted Down, Tom Petters Was Sure Everything Would Be Fine
Tom Petters Was Pretty Sure He Was Going to End Up in a Dumpster Somewhere
Ernst & Young and McGladrey & Pullen Both Have a Petters Problem
For those of you that were maybe developing a soft spot for Tom Petters because, among other things, his own lawyer doesn’t think too much of him, the latest testimony in TP’s trial should help squash your sympathy.
Janet Leck, a 79 year old widow, was convinced by Frank Vennes, Jr. — an evangelist who “steered unwitting investors to [Petters]” — to invest her money with Tom Petters. At one point Vennes, apparently having reconnected with the Almighty, told Leck that he was ending his business relationship with TP because of ‘things he was seeing in Mr. Petters’ personal life’ and was returning her money.
Now, one could assume that Vennes was getting the creeps from Petters because either: 1) he realized that Petters was a complete man-child that couldn’t finish a copy of Go Dog Go! or 2) typical hooker/llelo chicanery.
Two years after dumping Petters for his sinful ways, Vennes decided redemption was in order (or, most likely, he just missed the hookers) because he went back to TP and got the Lecks to invest with him again:
She re-mortgaged her home and drew out $190,000 in equity to invest with Petters, she said. Leck said she relied on the $3,400 monthly payments from that loan for living expenses until September 2008, when authorities raided Petters’ home and business looking for evidence that he was running an alleged $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme.
Now, unless she can restructure her mortgage, Leck said, “I’m looking at foreclosure. …I will move from my home of 30 years.”
In other overwhelmingly convincing testimony, investment banker Michael Liss described Petters, “as a ‘swashbuckling industrialist’ who had an arsenal of ‘ridiculous’ excuses for not paying his debts on time.”
Ridiculous excuses like, “Do you treat your other swashbuckling industrialist clients this way?” or “I’m busy ripping off senior citizens. Do you mind?” OR “My ass is going to end up in dumpster any second, sorta busy.”
Petters trial: Retired widow fears losing her home [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
That’s not an official title but if you’ve got suggestions for someone else, please, enlighten us.
He told the court that he did not conduct any independent auditing or verification of financial statements or tax returns provided by Madoff and “others” at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in New York.
Friehling did not state who the ‘others’ were but the U.S. Attorney hinted that we’ll get to know sometime. For now, Friehling is a free man, out on $2.5 million bond until his sentencing which is tentatively set for February.
He faces up to 114 years in prison but similar to Madoff’s chief bald-faced liar, Frank DiPascali, his cooperation should result in a lighter sentence. And by lighter we’re guessing that means he’ll still leave prison horizontally.
Editor’s note: Adrienne Gonzalez is founder and managing editor of Jr Deputy Accountant as well as regular contributor to leading financial/investment sites like Seeking Alpha and GoldmanSachs666. By day, she teaches unlicensed accountants to pass the CPA exam, though what she does in her copious amounts of freetime in the evening is really none of your business. Follow her adve and CPA-wrangling on Twitter @adrigonzo but please don’t show up unannounced at her San Francisco office as she’s got a mean streak. Her favorite FASB is 166.
There’s nothing we appreciate more than a really juicy tale of crappy auction rate securities, fire sales ignored by regulators, and bankruptcy when the scam runs out, especially when the perps happen to be audited by a Big 4 firm you may have heard of (there are only 4, just throw a dart).
Excuse our bad grammar and run-on sentences, we just don’t know where to start with this.
More, after the jump
Once upon a time not that long ago when a tarp was just something you brought camping, LandAmerica was at the top of the 1031 exchange game. That entire story is a tad too long for today’s 140 character attention span so let’s fast-forward to the part where there are even entire forums dedicated to discussing why regulators missed LandAmerica. In short: LandAmerica exchangers are pissed off.
To get a hint at just how pissed off, take a peek at what the forum has to say:
Then LandAm files Bankruptcy proceedings on their 1031 subsidiary, saying: “…you 1031 clients of ours are ‘…going under the wheels of the Bankruptcy bus” because “we” made bad decisions in $290 million ARSs. Wow! a $300 million “wash.” A “Back-Door” merger without the “toxic” ARS funds. LandAm1031 clients get hosed!
Burn! Those are some wild accusations, is it fair to spit such venom at LandAmerica?
Well… um… yeah, actually. And
LandAmerica has due diligence to blame Fidelity has due diligence to thank.
On November 24th, 2008 LandAmerica went into free-fall after Fidelity announced that it would be pulling out of the tentative deal (subject to final due diligence). Given the BBB mark of the beast by Fitch shortly thereafter, LandAmerica slumped off to bankruptcy court. Meanwhile, those who found themselves at the short end of LandAm’s 1031 exchange stick started getting letters from the IRS while their money was off in SunTrust accounts getting killed by illiquid auction rate securities without their knowledge. You’d think more people would be discussing something that involves millions of misappropriated investor dollars but who are we to judge?
As with most (alleged) Ponzi schemes, the “scheme” escapes detection until the money runs out. And when Fidelity backed out of the LandAmerica deal, LandAmerica had what can only be called a Madoff Moment.
Making this saga even better is, that for some completely bizarre reason that escapes us, the Richmond Fed has decided to hire LandAmerica’s former legal counsel Michelle Gluck to serve on their team as Chief Legal Officer (perhaps they are taking a cue from the Fed Board of Governors who hired an ex-Enron PR girl awhile back?). We truly
love hate to wildly speculate here but this goes against logic, which we are generally used to seeing from Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and his bank. “With her broad range of leadership experience and extensive legal expertise, I know she’ll make great contributions to the Bank and to the Federal Reserve System,” he said of his new hire.
So what exactly is Richmond trying to do here? With credentials like that, I’m only slightly concerned now.
We’ll let you know if we ever figure that out. The SEC couldn’t be bothered to comment about it and reminded me why I don’t like picking up the phone.
We did however speak with one angry LandAmerica creditor who has a lot of questions and no answers and we’d be happy to update you with his comments as the investigation unravels. Oh wait, who said there was an investigation? Could someone kindly forward this to the SEC? Some of us have a day job.
The task of keeping Allen Stanford out of hell no longer falls on Dick DeGuerin. Clearly DeGuerin didn’t appreciate his client’s crusade to vindicate his name and reputation because he couldn’t even get the guy A/C.
Robert Luskin, a managing partner at Patton Boggs now gets the honor of leading Sir Al’s defense team. At the rate things are going, we’ll handicap the over/under on the number of attorney changes prior to 2010 at 4. Any takers?
Allen Stanford replaces criminal defence lawyer [Reuters]
It’s bad enough that Allen Stanford can’t get out of jail in order to properly prepare his defense but now he’s dealing with what may be a preview of what happens if he’s found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme.
It’s bad enough that there isn’t any cricket coverage in prison but the walking gun show has complained about day to day annoyances like the lack of air conditioning in his prison cell, which he shares with 8 to 10 of his closest friends and also a power outage which likely prevented him from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (The Prison Edition).
Sir Allen discovers there’s no air conditioning in jail [FT Alphaville]
• Lawyer: 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]
Another press release from the SEC today stating how they’ve thwarted yet another Ponzi scheme.
Ponzis being the norm lately we’re not terribly impressed by this but what we did find surprising was the title of the Commission’s press release: “SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases” (that’s our emphasis).
Is the Commission making the assumption that those individuals that are actually reading the press releases need informed about what the money stolen is actually used for? Seriously, Bernie and Big Al don’t strike us Robin Hood types, even before indictments were handed out. No where in Bern’s statement at sentencing did he state:
Your honor, I’ve become increasingly despondent about the wealth gap in this country. I stole from the wealthiest individuals, investment companies, and charities possible in order to help the people that couldn’t help themselves. It was not my intention to take all my clients’ money. I merely wanted to level the playing field. I thought this method would be most effective as opposed to raising tax rates on the rich, which I’m personally opposed to.
Didn’t hear that did you? Let’s break this down: Bernie liked handjobs(and God knows what else, shudder) and Aston Martins. Stan liked doing bumps off hookers’ asses (we’re guessing here) and buying cricket teams (this is documented).
We will give the credit to the Commission for busting another scofflaw but we would now advise that knowing your reading audience is equally important.
SEC Freezes Assets of Florida Resident Stealing Investor Funds for Luxury Purchases [SEC.gov]
Your latest bit of hilarity regarding the Stanford Ponzi Party is that a group of plaintiffs is suing the government of Antigua and Barbuda for $24 billion because the island was allegedly a “full financial partner in the fraud”.
Alphaville isn’t buying it, and they not so accidently, put “Fraud Victims” in quotations which we find hilarious because it almost appears that Alphaville isn’t even buying the “victims” angle as so much as they’re buying the “morons” angle.
The post goes on to inform us that “$24bn is also 24 times Antigua’s 2008 GDP“. Which moves this particular case from the “frivolous” category to the “downright idiotic” category.
Nevertheless, one might conclude that any or all of the following is what got this thing off the ground:
1. Big Al is pulling the strings from jail in order to pay for his defense because, as we learned, he’s got no legit cash.
Ambulance Ponzi victim chasing attorney
3. Banana farmers in Antigua that really don’t have any alternative after getting shaken down by the EU.
So duped people are pissed and they want their money back. They have finally come to the conclusion that the original $8bil has been long ago spent on Scarface-size piles of blow and endless hours spent in houses of ill repute so they’re clutching at straws.
Our advice: Just sue the SEC already.
“Fraud victims” want $24bn from the government of Antigua and Barbuda [FT Alphaville]
As expected, James Davis, Stanford Financial’s Chief Number-Maker-Upper has entered his not guilty plea but his counsel has stated that his client will plead guilty to all the charges against him as early as next week. The initial plea has been made in order to finalize the plea agreement with Davis prior to his pleading guilty
This is all occurring while Stan the Man’s attorneys are in New Orleans appealing a Houston judge’s ruling that he has to pump iron in prison throughout his trial. Stan’s attorneys continue to maintain that their client is NOT a flight risk, which is kinda like saying that Bernie Madoff is NOT in jail.
Ex-Stanford CFO to plead guilty within 2 weeks: lawyer [Reuters]
The SEC alleges that from at least June 2006 through January 2009, Provident [Royalties, LLC] made a series of fraudulent securities offerings involving oil and gas assets through 21 affiliated entities to more than 7,700 investors throughout the United States. Provident’s entities made some direct retail sales of securities, but primarily solicited retail broker-dealers to enter into placement agreements for each offering, and those retail broker-dealers sold the stock to retail investors nationwide.
Dudes were promising 18% returns and that 85% of funds would be invested in “interests in oil and gas real estate, leases, mineral rights, and interests, exploration and development.” SEC alleges that less than 50% of the funds received were used for such investments.
SEC Obtains Asset Freeze in $485 Million Nationwide Offering Fraud [SEC.gov]
Allen Stanford is pissed. How on Earth can a man with those guns not be allowed to invoke his rights to counsel if you don’t let him get his mitts on some cash?
We’re not talking about a public defender here, judge. We’re talking downtown, probably wears a Stetson to the courthouse, Houston representation we’re talking about. Serious scratch.
“‘The government’s unfettered, and thus far successful, attempts to prevent Mr. Stanford from being able to mount a defence in his criminal proceedings amount to a deprivation of both his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,’ attorney Dick DeGuerin argued in in the filing.”
The judge is like, IDGAF: “Judge [David] Godbey replied to – and denied – that request last week, saying Sir Allen had ‘not shown that he has $10m dollars, or any lesser amount, in personal assets untainted by potential fraud.'”
Fine, but Stan would just like you to know that selling tickets to the gun show inside the joint doesn’t work the cons like it does the fine Texas ladies.
Stanford lashes out at federal prosecutors [FT.com]
This after speculation earlier about whether Davis would flip. Looks like he’s going to sing:
James Davis, the former chief financial officer of Stanford Financial Group and who is facing charges related to an alleged $7bn fraud at the group, intends to plead guilty to the three charges against him, his attorney told the Financial Times.
Attorney David Finn, who is representing only Mr Davis, told the FT there would likely be a “procedural not guilty plea” entered at his arraignment, but that his client would ultimately plead guilty to the charges against him “once all the details are worked out.” Mr Davis is due to appear in court in Houston on July 13.
You got that ticket to hell stamped, Stan?
Stanford CFO James Davis “intends to plead guilty”, laywer [sic] says [FT Alphaville]
Financial Officer Bean Counter Number-Maker-Upper Officer at Stanford Financial, James Davis, is appearing in court Wednesday to answer fraud and conspiracy charges.
Davis has spent the last few months cooperating with prosecutors and may flip on Stan the Man regarding the small matter of some money gone missing.
No agreement has been reached yet for Davis but considering the number of years being handed out and Stan’s potential fate of multiple centuries in prison, he may at the very least, consider cooperating.
Stanford CFO to appear in court [Accountancy Age]
Stan the Man will spend the weekend pumping iron in a Houston jail because all signs are kinda, sorta pointing to the possibility of him going on the lam after a judge granted the silver medalist in the Ponzi competition a measly $500,000 bail.
Stanford’s attorney called bullshit because “he had already shown the financier was no flight threat.”
Judge David Hittner didn’t buy it and remanded Stan to jail until Monday based on the evidence presented by prosecutors:
testimony from a pilot who flew Mr. Stanford to Libya and Switzerland before government officials raided his Houston offices; testimony from a friend of Mr. Stanford’s daughter who gave him $36,000 in cash, and claims that $100 million was withdrawn from a Swiss bank account Mr. Stanford controlled
C’mon, your honor, that’s just walking around money! My client can’t be expected to strut around without serious money on hand!
New Bail Hearing Set for Stanford [WSJ]
The SEC, feeling confident these days, has filed a complaint against Cohmad Securities Corporation and its Chairman, Chief Operating Officer, and one of the brokers, saying they “actively marketed Madoff investments while ‘knowingly or recklessly disregarding facts indicating that Madoff was operating a fraud.'”
Call us Captain Obv but that sounds like they were either dumb or in on the scam. Either way, they can’t be too psyched about it.
An additional complaint has been filed by the SEC against Stanley Chais, an investment adviser who put all of the assets he oversaw into casa de Madoff.
Irving Picard, who might have the most thankless job in America, also sued both Cohmad and Chais, because, you know, a few people want their money back. The trustee’s complaint against Cohmad spells it out:
The trustee’s lawsuit asserted that fees paid to Cohmad by Mr. Madoff were based on records showing the actual cash status of customer accounts — the amounts invested and withdrawn — without including the fictional profits shown in the statements provided to customers. When a customer’s withdrawals exceeded the cash invested, Cohmad’s employees no longer earned fees from that account — even though the customer’s statements still showed a substantial balance, according to the lawsuit.
This arrangement indicated that Cohmad and its representatives knew about the Ponzi scheme and knew that the profits investors were allegedly earning were bogus, according to the trustee’s complaint.
Good luck explaining that.
Brokerage Firm and 4 Others Sued in Madoff Case [New York Times]
Last week’s indictment of Allen Stanford has brought up the always popular question when fraud, occurs: “Who are the auditors that were asleep at the wheel of this disaster?”
Well, in this case, the auditors were a local UK two-person shop, CAS Hewlett, which must be Queen’s English for Friehling & Horowitz.
It doesn’t appear that CAS Hewlett has a website, but they’ve been doing the Stanford “audits” for at least 10 years, so obv they’re legit. PwC and KPMG both have offices on Antigua but Stanford preferred to stay with its “trusted firm”. Totally understandable.
And the best part? The founder of the firm, Charlesworth “Shelly” Hewlett died in January, approximately a month before the story broke on the Ponz de Stanford.
This all adds up to who-the-fuck-knows if audits were even occurring and for us to speculate if Shelly needed to get got because Stan knew that the poo and fan were coming together. Just sayin’.