September 19, 2019

Restatements

Thumbs down BDO LLP

Auditor Swap: AZZ Says Buh-Bye to BDO USA, Hires Grant Thornton

Auditor shopping has made the news a little more than usual of late, with high-profile companies like Fitbit and Goldman Sachs in the U.K. both kicking PwC to the curb in favor of a fresh, new set of eyes. Then there’s General Electric, which might end its century-old relationship with KPMG after this year. While […]

Auditor

Financial Restatements On the Decline—Again

There has been a trend in recent years of financial restatements for public companies decreasing, and 2017 was no exception. A new report by Audit Analytics revealed that the total number of restatements fell for the fifth consecutive year—from 873 in 2013 to 553 in 2017, according to Tammy Whitehouse of Compliance Week. She also […]

AmTrust accounting

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

“And then I said, ‘It’s accrual world!’” Earlier this year, we discussed a tradecrafty story out of The Wall Street Journal of a BDO auditor who “casually wandered around the accounting firm’s New York offices, striking up conversations with colleagues.” Little did anyone know, the auditor recorded those conversations for the Federal Bureau of Investigation […]

pwc legal us

Big 4 Audit Quality Hiding in Plain Sight: Restatement Mentions in PCAOB Reports

For the last several years, one very interesting audit quality metric has not been widely reported in the media, and the largest audit firms barely mention it. It has been hiding in plain sight and could be a useful data point to audit committees or investors that are trying to understand the quality of audits. […]

Weatherford International Gets in Trouble for Letting Execs Choose Their Own Numbers

Going Concern history buffs will recall a period in 2011-2012 when oil services company Weatherford International had some chronic problems with its tax accounting. Manipulations by two of its former accounting executives — James Hudgins and Daryl Kitay — resulted in a $500 million restatement in 2011. This was followed by two more restatements in […]

Valeant Pretty Sure They Got This Now

Valeant, a pharmaceutical company better known for impressive feats of corporate chicanery that are in no way related to developing drugs, says that its ad-hoc review committee checked out its accounting and determined that everything's a-okay. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (NYSE: VRX and TSX: VRX) today announced that the ad hoc committee of the board […]

Toshiba Restating, Concedes That Restatement Could Be Restated

A "special task force" assigned by Toshiba Corp to look into accounting irregularities found that the company underestimated the costs of three infrastructure projects by ¥50 billion ($419 million). The company also said that "the review was continuing and the ¥50 billion figure could be revised later," allowing for the possibility that this could reach VA […]

Hertz Can’t Promise That Its Accounting Troubles Won’t Get Worse

UPDATE: I relied on that figure provided by The Journal that incorrectly stated that the cost of the accounting error was $180 million. The correction states it hit profits by $153 million. Sorry for the error.      Hertz, a car-rental company once endorsed by O.J. Simpson, disclosed that its shoddy accounting have cost the company $180 $153 […]

CAQ-Commissioned Study Finds Reasonable Assurance Somewhat More Reasonable These Days

We're sharing the following with you not because we think it is a sign that both clients and their auditors have cleaned up their acts but it is a perfect example of how dangerous data can be in the wrong hands. Let's take a look at the results of the work done by Susan Scholz, […]

According to This, Suing Auditors Is Trendy Now

According to a Cornerstone Research report that you should absolutely read in its entirety if you are into this sort of stuff, lawyers are suing auditors more: Overall, auditor participation in class action settlements in the last several years has been lower than in the early years following passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform […]

Public Companies Filing Restatements Totally Aware That Many People Blow Friday Off

Audit Analytics has a great post today about Friday filing dumps, something that Footnoted has been calling attention to for years. Any time a company has to disclose bad news, the theory goes, they will most likely file it late in the day on Friday to soften the effect of an auditor resignation/restatement/announcement of massive […]

Study Suggests That a Brodeo of Directors May Be More Prone to Restatements

Here's a sign that a board of directors resembling a Guys Night Out at the Tilted Kilt could be a problem:    New research shows that firms with at least one woman director are significantly less likely to restate quarterly or annual earnings than are companies with an all-male slate of directors—40% less likely, researchers […]

“Emerging Growth Company” Still Trying to Get Its Accounting Figured Out

Earlier today, a little bird pointed us to an 8-K filed by Ignite Restaurant Group ("IRG") on July 18, 2012. In this filing we learn that IRG shared the always-riveting Item, "Non-Reliance on Previously Issued Financial Statements or a Related Audit Report or Completed Interim Review." Observe: On July 18, 2012, the Board of Directors of […]

Why Yes, Cleaning Up an Enormous Accounting Fraud Is as Bad as You Might Imagine

Before she became CFO of AES (and now Gannett), Victoria Harker had the distinct pleasure of mopping the floor at WorldCom after the company imploded in 2002 and, yeah, it was pretty awful:  What has been your worst day on the job?The WorldCom meltdown was likely the worst day on the job. I knew only how little […]

Nobody Seems to Care About Williams Companies’ $497 Million Accounting Error

Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil likes digging through dirty laundry. If you're an auditor, the PCAOB, a TBTF bank or in today's case, a natural gas producer, playing games that just so happen to cross his radar and it insults his intelligence, you can expect JW to open up your ringer of dirty undies for all of […]

Groupon Got Some of Their Numbers Wrong

The Wall St. Journal reports: Groupon Inc. GRPN +3.84% said it was revising lower the financial results it reported for its fourth quarter, after discovering the company had to set aside more money for customer refunds. The online-coupon site, which went public in November, said its auditor, Ernst & Young, discovered a "material weakness in its […]

WFT Has Another WTF Moment with Its Tax Accounting

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

UPDATE: Diamond Foods’ Nutty Accounting Leaves Their CEO and CFO Looking For Work

Fun fact: Emerald's sea salt and pepper cashews are pretty much the tastiest nuts ever (don't tell my boyfriend I said that). As for Emerald parent company Diamond Foods' nutty accounting? Not so much. Just after this afternoon's closing bell, Diamond Foods' audit committee released the results of its investigation into the company's accounting for […]

First Marblehead Taking a Mulligan on Financial Statements

More importantly, how are the KPMG auditors celebrating (because we want to know)?

From the 8-K, filed this morning:

On May 10, 2011, The First Marblehead Corporation (the “Corporation”) announced that its board of directors (the “Board of Directors”), in consultation with management, the audit committee of the Board of Directors (the “Audit Committee”) and KPMG LLP, the Corporation’s independent registered public accounting firm, concluded that certain unaudited financial statements previously issued by the Corporation should no longer be relied upon.

In order to correct errors in the recording of certain non-cash items, as described below, the Corporation will restate the unaudited financial statements contained in the Corporation’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended September 30, 2010 (the “Q1 Form 10-Q”) and the Corporation’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2010 (the “Q2 Form 10-Q”). The Corporation expects to file the restated Q1 Form 10-Q and the restated Q2 Form 10-Q, as well as the Corporation’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2011 (the “Q3 Form 10-Q”), no later than May 16, 2011.

If you really want to get into the gory details, First Marblehead is bringing 14 securitization trusts onto the balance sheet that were previously accounted for off-balance sheet and its deferred tax assets in Q1 and Q2 are jumping over to the liability side (and the corresponding benefits are becoming expenses). The company says this is NBD as CFO Ken Klipper said, “These restatements … do not affect our cash position and are expected to have no impact on our ongoing business operations.” But the next six days may be a little uncomfortable for the accounting department and the KPMG audit team.

O Bank Restatements, Where Art Thou?

Because Jonathan Weil is wondering.

He noticed that Audit Analytics found that 699 SEC-registered companies filed restatements last year which was slightly higher than ’09. This was considerably less than the 1,566 restatements in ’06 but when it came to the number of banks that had restatements, he noticed something strange:

The figures for banks, in particular, look unnaturally low. Forty-four banks restated last year, one fewer than in 2009. Even more curious, there were 133 banks that issued corrections from 2008 through 2010. That was down from 169 banks during the previous three-year period, before the financial crisis took off in earnest, which makes no sense.

Here we had the greatest banking industry meltdown since the Great Depression. Hundreds of lenders failed. And yet the number of banks correcting accounting errors declined while the collapse was unfolding. There were no restatements by the likes of IndyMac, Washington Mutual or Lehman Brothers, for example. The obvious conclusion is the government has been giving lots of banks a free pass, as have their auditors.

Honesty for Banks Is Still Such a Lonely Word [Bloomberg]

WFT’s Material Weaknesses Led to Giant Tax WTF

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

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


FuelFix has the gory details:

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

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

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

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

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

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: Gosh, We Ended Up Having Way More Accounting Errors Than We Thought

Back in September, Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters put the world on notice that the SEC was asking some questions about their revenue recognitions policies. Despite the SEC Q&A, analysts we’re cool with the company and the GAAP the crunchy accounting group was putting out.

Also at that time, the company disclosed that there were some immaterial accounting errors that were NBD. That was until they dropped a little 8-K on everyone last Friday!


Turns out, there was a whole mess of accounting booboos and the company will be restating “previously issued financial statements, including the quarterly data for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 and its selected financial data for the relevant periods.”

From the aforementioned 8-K with all the bad news:

The Company has discovered the following errors:

• A $7.6 million overstatement of pre-tax income, cumulative over the restated periods, due to the K-Cup inventory adjustment error previously reported in the Company’s Form 8-K filed on September 28, 2010. This error is the result of applying an incorrect standard cost to intercompany K-Cup inventory balances in consolidation. This error resulted in an overstatement of the consolidated inventory and an understatement of the cost of sales. Rather than correcting the cumulative amount of the error in the quarter ended September 25, 2010, as disclosed in the September 28, 2010 Form 8-K, the effect of this error will be recorded in the applicable restated periods.

• A $1.4 million overstatement of pre-tax income, cumulative over the restated periods, due to the under-accrual of certain marketing and customer incentive program expenses. The Company also has corrected the classification of certain of these amounts as reductions to net sales instead of selling and operating expenses. These programs include, but are not limited to, brewer mark-down support and funds for promotional and marketing activities. Management has determined that miscommunication between the sales and accounting departments resulted in expenses for certain of these programs being recorded in the wrong fiscal periods.

• A $1.0 million overstatement of pre-tax income, cumulative over the restated periods, due to changes in the timing and classification of the Company’s historical revenue recognition of royalties from third party licensed roasters. Because royalties were recognized upon shipment of K-Cups by roasters pursuant to the terms and conditions of the licensing agreements with these roasters, Keurig historically recognized these royalties at the time Keurig purchased the K-Cups from the licensed roasters and classified this royalty in net sales. Management has determined to recognize this royalty as a reduction to the carrying cost of the related inventory. The gross margin benefit of the royalty will then be realized upon the ultimate sale of the product to a third party customer. Due to the Company’s completed and, when consummated, pending acquisitions of third party licensed roasters, these purchases and the associated royalties have become less of a factor, since the post-acquisition royalties from these wholly-owned roasters are not included in the Company’s consolidated financial statements.

• An $800,000 overstatement of pre-tax income, cumulative over the restated periods, due to applying an incorrect standard cost to intercompany brewer inventory balances in consolidation. This error was identified during the preparation of the fiscal year 2010 financial statements and resulted in an overstatement of the consolidated inventory and an understatement of the cost of sales.

• A $700,000 understatement of pre-tax income for the Specialty Coffee business unit, due primarily to a failure to reverse an accrual related to certain customer incentive programs in the second fiscal quarter of 2010. The over-accrual was not identified and corrected until the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010.

• In addition to the errors described above, the Company also will include in the restated financial statements certain other immaterial errors, including previously unrecorded immaterial adjustments identified in audits of prior years’ financial statements.

So naturally you shouldn’t rely on anything out there. Despite the discovery and disclosure of this massive fuckup and warnings from Sam Antar including some possible insider trading (it’s a theme today) and disclosure violations, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch thought it would be rad to upgrade the stock which has sent the price soaring. Why not, right?

In directly related news, anyone on the PwC audit team shouldn’t make any Thanksgiving plans.

American Apparel Subpoenaed Over Auditor Switcheroo

American Apparel’s downward spiral continues as Bloomberg reports that the company has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY over the company’s “change in accounting firms.”

If you’re justl started with Deloitte quitting as the auditors of APP late last month. At that time, Deloitte warned that the ’09 financial statements may not (read: definitely are not) reliable and that they were getting the hell out of Dov.

Former APP auditor Marcum – for reasons unbeknownst to us – went back to their old client to try and help them straighten things out. Here’s the latest from the “preliminary results” for the second quarter, while thetardy 10-Q remains elusive. These prelims (i.e. a wild stab?), that were filed today warn that things are likely to get worse before they get better:

Potential Restatement of previously issued financial statements

Effective July 22, 2010, Deloitte resigned as our independent registered public accounting firm. On July 26, 2010, we engaged Marcum as our independent registered public accounting firm. On July 28, 2010, we reported on a Form 8-K that we had been advised by Deloitte that certain information had come to Deloitte’s attention that if further investigated may materially impact the reliability of either Deloitte’s previously issued audit report or the underlying consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009. Deloitte has requested that we provide Deloitte with the additional information Deloitte believes it is necessary to review before any conclusions can be reached as to the reliability of the previously issued consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 and auditors’ report thereon.

Depending on the outcome of this review, a restatement of our financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 could be required. Any restatement may subject us to significant costs in the form of accounting, legal fees and similar professional fees, in addition to the substantial diversion of time and attention of our Chief Financial Officer, our other officers and directors and members of our accounting department in preparing and reviewing the restatement. Any such restatement could adversely affect our business, our ability to access the capital markets or the market price of our common stock. We might also face litigation, and there can be no assurance that any such litigation, either against us specifically or as part of a class, would not materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or the market price of our common stock.

But that’s not all! The company discusses a few more issues, “We are subject to regulatory inquiries, investigations, claims and suits. We are currently defending one wage and hour suit, one sexual harassment suit and responding to several allegations of discrimination and/or harassment that have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state counterpart agencies.”

At that point, the filing finally gets to the problem du jour:

In addition, in connection with our previously disclosed change in auditors, on July 30, 2010, we received a grand jury subpoena from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for the production of documents relating to the circumstances surrounding the change in our auditors. We have also received inquiries from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding this matter. We intend to cooperate fully with these requests and any related inquiries.

If consider all that, plus the fact that the company is spending cash like Pacman Jones at a strip club and that they’re likely to be in noncompliance with a major debt covenants at September 30th, it’s no surprise that the stock is off even more than when Deloitte first quit as auditors.

American Apparel Drops After Receiving Subpoena on Change in Accountants [Bloomberg]
10-Q [SEC]

Koss Files Restated Financial Statements, Just in the Nick of Time

As you may recall, restated financial statements for headphonesmith company Koss were due yesterday and they used all the time they were allowed.

According to our friends aty filed its restated 10-K for June 30, 2009, and 10-Qs for September 30, 2009, December 31, 2009 and March 31, 2010 5 pm, 5:06, 5:11, 5:16 and 5:17 respectively.

Oh and they topped everything off with an 8-K at 5:27 that explains the barrage (not that we need it but, you know, securities law and stuff):

On June 30, 2010, Koss Corporation (“Koss”) released restated consolidated financial statements for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2009 and 2008, and the quarter ended September 30, 2009. Koss filed amendments to its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009 and its Quarterly Report for the three months ended September 30, 2009 containing the restated consolidated financial statements for the applicable periods. The restatements were required as a result of previously disclosed unauthorized transactions by Sujata Sachdeva, Koss’s former Vice President of Finance and Principal Accounting Officer.

Koss also amended its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the three months ended December 31, 2009 and March 31, 2010 to include financial statements, which were omitted from the Company’s reports when previously filed. The release of these financial statements was delayed due to the restatement of Koss’s financials statements required by the unauthorized transactions. With the filings of these amended Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Koss understands that it will regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5250(c)(1), which requires the timely filing of periodic financial statements.

That about covers it, doesn’t it? Oh right, the actual numbers. We checked in with forensic sleuth and GC friend Tracy Coenen on these and she gave us some perspective on the restated numbers:

So I’ve taken a run through the restated numbers for 6/30/09 and 6/30/08. Very interesting.

2009 – Revenue was understated by $3.5 million to conceal the fraud, while COGS was overstated by $1.7 million. Overall there is now a loss for 2009, thanks to $8.5 million of theft, but without that, the company would have had profits of $8.2 million, or 19.6% on net sales. Wow!

2008 – Revenue was understated by $2.1 million to conceal the fraud, while COGS was overstated by $1 million. Overall there is now a loss of 2008 of $1.3 million thanks to $5.1 million of theft, but without that, the company would have had profits of $10.7 million or 21.9% of sales.

Pretty impressive stuff. Maybe the company was right when they said everything would be hunky-dory once they got this little mishap out of the way. Chief headphone inheritor Michael Koss explains in the company’s press release, “Given that certain unauthorized transactions were concealed in the Company’s sales and cost of sales accounts, our sales were higher and our cost of sales was lower than previously reported in both 2009 and 2008. This correction has revealed an increase in gross margins for our Company. From this perspective, the Company’s performance was actually stronger than originally reported.”

Tracy continues:

What you see is that 65%-75% of the theft on an annual basis was concealed on the P&L, and the remainder was dumped into the balance sheet, via inflated A/R, Inventory, and fixed assets, and understated liabilities. The adjustments on the balance sheet are large by 2009 because those irregularities were cumulative.

So the bottom line is that the company is very profitable, if shareholders could actually count on them to watch over the money and see to it that the profits aren’t all being stolen. My original theory was that Sachdeva was expensing her theft, and that’s true to some extent, but failure to record sales was presented to me later as part of her her scheme, and she also involved the balance sheet which created a cumulative (and messy) problem.

Oh right! Watching the money. Should probably write that one down. Hopefully we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.

Satyam: Does Anyone Mind if We Take Another Three Months to Finish Our Restatements?

With just a couple weeks until the June 30 deadline for the company to issue its restated financial statements, Satyam is requesting just a little more time to get this mulligan nailed down. Three months to be precise.

Yes, they’re completely aware that it’s been nearly 18 months since the shit hit the fan. And yes, this is the third time they’ve asked India’s Company Law Board (“CLB”) for an extension on the filing but at this point they figure expectations are so low, no one will get too worked up over it.


Except for an “analyst with a leading brokerage house.” who is quoted in the Business Times, “There is no clarity on what is happening within the company. They should have at least provided the current sales figure or the bench strength. How is the shareholder supposed to rate their stock?”

Since more than a few people might be caught up in “sales figures” and whatnot, Satyam went to the trouble to let everyone know that they’re working hard, ordering in, etc. etc. so you can rest your pretty little heads:

A Satyam official said, “The records have been under the custody of investigating agencies and we recently got a court clearance. Also, our auditors (KMPG and Deloitte) told us they need some more time for the restatement. It’s only a matter of a quarter.”

See? It’s just a matter of a quarter. Plus, you can’t really blame them – KPMG and Deloitte are the ones saying they need more time. Satyam has likely been bugging them for months about wrapping up but KPMG and Deloitte are probably complaining, saying things like, “we can’t find any documentation to supports these numbers” and “this doesn’t add up.”

So, TFB if some whiny analysts don’t like it. We’ll just find out just how big of nightmare these financial statements will be in due course.

Overstock.com Blames Restatements on Accountants

Last week the financial three-ring circus Overstock.com officially put an end to its 2009 by filing its 10-K with the SEC (after a two week extension). Ring managed to keep his promise about turning a profit and managed to keep his head about it in his letter to shareholders only mustering, “It’s nice to be profitable.”

As you might expect, Sam Antar was not impressed and since the Company’s filing he and others (including Gary Weiss) have pointed out major internal control problems, mistakes in the footnotes, false disclosures related to an alleged “tax dodge” and now, NOW the most unforgivable thing yet.


Sam notes that the Company, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to blame its own accountants and their lack of knowledge for the most recent restatement in its 10-K:

We lacked a sufficient number of accounting professionals with the necessary knowledge, experience and training to adequately account for and perform adequate supervisory reviews of significant transactions that resulted in misapplications of GAAP.

Information technology program change and program development controls were inadequately designed to prevent changes in our accounting systems which led to the failure to appropriately capture and accurately process data.

These are the only two “control failures” identified by the Company in its filing that constitute material weaknesses. Naturally, the management team and the audit committee agreed with this assessment, “Our management concluded, and the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors agreed with management’s conclusions,” that former CFO David Chidester and former Treasurer Rich Paongo are the ones at fault here.

Is that class or what? So did Patrick Byrne finally realize that David Chidester and Rich Paongo, after several years at Overstock, lacked the “necessary knowledge, experience and training” so they and the Company “parted ways” (aka fired their sorry asses) for the latest restatement? What about the previous umpteen restatements? Why wasn’t didn’t the parting of ways occur after those?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, Sam has appealed to none other than Mary Schapiro to make sure the shenanigans don’t continue:

From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, April 05, 2010 3:56 AM
To: ‘Mary Schapiro’; ‘enforcement@sec.gov’;
Cc: ‘Patrick Byrne’; ‘Joseph Tabacco’; ‘Board – Jonathan Johnson’
Subject: Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures
Importance: High

To Chairperson Mary Schapiro:

Enclosed is a link to my blog post entitled, “Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures.”

Link here: http://whitecollarfraud.blogspot.com/2010/04/open-letter-to-securities-and-exchange.html

The blog post referred to in the link above, is to be considered a formal complaint to the SEC for continued false and misleading disclosures by Overstock.com and its officers. Please note that as a courtesy, I have cc’d Overstock.com on this email.

Respectfully,

Sam E. Antar

Is the SEC not interested in a slam dunk case? We’ll see.

Overstock.com Turns a Profit; Patrick Byrne Writes a Very Un-Patrick Byrne Letter to Shareholders

This morning we thought the KPMG audit team working on Overstock.com would continue slaving away through the extension deadline tomorrow to get that beast of 10-K finished. Well! Turns out they’ll bet of you tonight because the OSTK 10-K has been filed and, as promised Overstock shareholders, your humble servant Patrick Byrne and Co. are reporting an annual profit for the first time ever!


After such a high, restatement or not, we’re guessing Sam Antar definitely won’t be getting an apology but Gary Weiss has already noted a couple of things:

First–stop the presses! Overstock’s auditors at KPMG says that Overstock has insufficient internal controls.

Second, the Marin County District Attorney and four other DAs in northern California want the company to fork over $8.5 million to settle consumer ripoffs by Overstock. The company disagrees and is fighting it, so …. No, wait a moment, make that read “$7.5 million.”

First off, we share Gary’s shock — SHOCK! — on the insufficient internal controls revelation. Second – AUDITORS! We talked about this, remember? Read the 10-K carefully. Overstock’s “Risk Factors” section runs 25 pages for crissakes. A million fucking clams can’t get missed!

You know what though? Mistakes happen, so we’ll let it slide.

Oh, and about that letter to shareholders. Patsy doesn’t bring up former auditor Grant Thornton once, doesn’t quote Nietzsche, compiain about short sellers, bring up Facebook, or say anything remotely antagonizing (although on page 32, the Company’s states he still might).

This makes think: 1) Is he not feeling well? 2) We want the old Patrick back! Read for yourself:

Dear Owner:

In Q4 our revenues grew 27%, twice the ecommerce industry’s rate, and we earned $12.7 million in net income. In 2009 we grew revenues 6%, earned $7.7 million in net income, generated $46 million in operating cash flow, and generated $39 million in free cash flow. It’s nice to be profitable.

I am proud that, for the second year in a row, we rank number 2 in the NRF/Amex survey of American consumers, behind only LL Bean and ahead of Amazon, Zappos, eBay, Nordstrom, and many other fine firms.

As you may know, at the end of Q4 we engaged KPMG as our independent auditors, and announced that we were restating our FY 2008 and Q1, Q2 and Q3 2009 financial statements. I thank you for being patient with us as we worked through the questions raised by the SEC, the transition to the KPMG team, and the extra time it took to ensure that our financial statements are accurate.

I look forward to our conference call next Monday. Until then, I remain,

Your humble servant,

Patrick M. Byrne

PwC Had Enough with Old Republic’s Sketchy Accounting

Accounting firms take a lot of grief for bending over backwards for their clients. They’re in the client service business after all and keeping them as happy as possible is priority numero uno (despite what you might hear). Considering this factoid, when an accounting firm decides to cut a client loose for a “disagreement” over an accounting practice, we feel that’s a pretty good reason for any future accounting firm to think long and hard before taking on said client (case in point: KPMG taking the Overstock.com audit).


PricewaterhouseCoopers notified Old Republic International Corp. on March 19th that they would be “declining to stand for re-election as Old Republic’s independent registered public accounting firm for 2010.” That’s nice SEC filing language for “We’re so grossed out by you that we refuse to audit you any more.”

The two firms disagreed about the accounting treatment of “certain mortgage guaranty reinsurance commutation transactions with captive reinsurers owned by lending institutions.” That description alone makes us nauseous. The gist from Old Republic’s 8-K filing:

Old Republic had concluded that, in accordance with traditional reinsurance accounting practices, funds received ($82.5 million) in excess of amounts owed to it by the captive reinsurers should be deferred and recognized in the income statements of the future periods during which the related claim costs were expected to occur. PwC believed that generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) required that the $82.5 million be recognized immediately as income from a contract termination.

So you have “traditional accounting practices” versus almighty GAAP. The tradish accounting wasn’t good enough for PwC, so they brought the probelme to the attention of the audit committee. The AC ultimately decided…wait…that management was correct. Shocked? Us too. The disagreement was brought to light back in November and in a press release when the company said that the transactions in question “which resulted in little consequential effect on the pretax loss.”

Apparently PwC wouldn’t let it go and the Company called in the SEC to get their $0.02 on the matter. Lo and behold, the Commission sided with PwC. After a lot profanity-laced belly aching (that’s what we imagine, anyway) and sleepless nights for both OR’s accounting department and the PwC audit team (that’s not debatable), Old Republic filed the delayed 10-Q last month with restated financial statements.

After what was surely 5 or so months of pure hell, PwC figured that this was an awkward enough situation that a break up was warranted. This was probably the perfect opportunity for PwC to get out of this engagement. They figured Old Republic wasn’t going to change their less-than GAAP-y ways, the audit committee is obviously no help, and God knows you don’t want to get the SEC involved every single time there’s a disagreement. If you were to ask us, its seems like a pretty logical reaction.

Now the only question is, which audit firm picks up Old Republic? PwC will certainly have some interesting things to share with the firm that decides they’re up for this particular headache.

PricewaterhouseCoopers drops Old Republic [Chicago Breaking News/CT]
8-K [SEC.gov]

Sam Antar Is Still Waiting for an Apology from Patrick Byrne and By the Way, Has Never Engaged in Naked Short Selling

Sam Antar knows an accidental criminal hero when he sees one: his cousin Eddie Antar was hailed as a champion of cheaply-priced consumer electronics in the Crazy Eddie days, though the poor saps in New York didn’t realize he could price his goods so cheaply because he was stiffing the government on sales and payroll taxes. Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com are pushing to corner the accidental criminal hero market by denouncing the evils of naked short sellers (bad bad bad), of which they seem to be convinced Sam is one.

While we’re on the topic of OSTK’s campaign to end evil naked short sales, I hereby volunteer to help Overstock edit their naked short selling page, by the way, as it’s not only a dry read but a tad poorly-written. Just sayin. Helpful girl that I am, it’s the least I can do.


Anyway, Sam’s still waiting for his apology from Patrick Byrne but in the meantime, would like him to take back those mean things he said about Sam naked shorting them to death. In an email to the SEC, Byrne himself and Overstock.com audit committee member Joseph Tabacco this weekend, Sam sets the record straight:

First off, I have never been involved any illegal naked short selling.

Second, how can Overstock.com label me as an “anti-Overstock.com blogger” when:

I correctly reported in my blog that Overstock.com used an improper EBITDA from Q2 2007 to Q2 2008 in violation of SEC Regulation G to materially inflate its financial performance, in light of its later amended disclosures.

I correctly reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement.

Third, please note Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff received $5,000 in cash from Overstock.com a few days prior to writing his defamatory letter about me. Both Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen and Deputy Attorney General Richard Hamp acknowledged that Shurtleff’s claims about me were false in various tape recorded conversations cited in my blog.

Sam goes on to explain that he’s actually doing Overstock a favor by uncovering fraud that its own audit committee has seemed to, um, overlook. You know, so they can set themselves right with the SEC and skip the restatement next year, filing all those extensions can get pricey and time-consuming you know.

See, Patrick, why so hostile? We’re all just trying to help!

Three Ways That Patrick Byrne Can Apologize to Sam Antar

As you’re probably aware (if not, check the links below), it hasn’t been the friendliest of exchanges between criminal CFO/forensic accounting sleuth Sam Antar and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Sam being Sam, he recently reached out to Patrick Byrne to see if he would be interested in a mea culpa:

From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Patrick M. Byrne
Subject: Overstock.com Restatement
Importance: High

Hi Patrick:

Will you finally admit that I was correct when I reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement?

You owe me a public apology.

Regards,

Sam


Our understanding is that Pat hasn’t responded to Sam’s request for an apology yet (we’re hopeful!) so Team GC thought we’d offer some suggestions to Dr Byrne should he decide to take the high road and apologize to Sam. Having been in this situation more than once myself, I can honestly say sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up, buy some flowers, and admit that you’re an ass but totally repentant.

Overstock.com gift cards – Nothing says I’m sorry like free stuff that the aggrieved party can pick themselves. Bonus, the overhead on Byrne’s own inventory must be low. You know, because it’s his, not because there is any monkey business going down on OSTK’s financials.

An SEC Gift Shop Goodie BasketI busted Sam in an SEC baseball hat at Stanford last week so wouldn’t it be cute if Byrne got him a whole basket full of fun regulatory shwag? Awww, what a precious moment it would be watching Sam pull out DoJ beer cozies and a color-changing SIGTARP coffee mug. Who doesn’t love tchotchkes? PB can’t go wrong! I’d even throw in a pair of NY Fed Pistol Team patches for that added touch of flair.

Cupcakes – Come on, no one can resist cupcakes, not even Sam E. Antar’s hardened criminal ass. You know, might as well send some to the GCHQ while he’s at it, we’ve been putting up with this Overstock shit for months too. Hopefully even Patrick Byrne knows when it comes to cupcakes, it’s best to invest in high quality, over-priced boutique cupcakes. Even my cheap ass knows that.

Earlier:
Winners and Losers in the Overstock Restatement
Even Earlier:
Is Patrick Byrne’s Facebook Friends List Motivated by a Farmville Obsession?

Accounting News Roundup: Is the ‘Era of Sloppy Accounting’ Over?; Rangel Running for Reelection; Supreme Court to Hear Skilling Appeal | 03.01.10

Companies are making fewer accounting mistakes [USA Today]
“In another potential boost to investor confidence, the era of sloppy accounting appears to be ending,” declares USA Today. Okay but perfection is unattainable people, so until machines take over for you, keep at it. In the meantime, the results presented by Audit Analytics certainly indicate that things are going in the right direction.

We don’t want to be the party pooper here but if accounting is less sloppy, i.e. more sophisticated, doesn’t that mean that the methods for massaging the accounting are also more sophisticated? Just chew on that while you check the the findings.

The article lists three reasons for the improvement in reporting:

There is steady and ongoing improvement. The number of companies with restatements and the number of restatements have declined in each of the past three years.

Mistakes are getting caught sooner. Among the companies with restatements, errors covered a period of 476 days, or less than a year and a half. That’s down 7% from 2008 and well below the 716 days, or nearly two years, of problematic numbers restated in 2006.

Restatements are less serious. Restatements reduced companies’ reported earnings by $4.6 million on average last year, down dramatically from the $7.2 million and $23.5 million hits in 2008 and 2006.

Even though it’s virtually impossible to eliminate restatements, we must admit that these are encouraging trends. Another thing to keep in mind is that accounting rules are becoming increasingly complex so it’s not like things will be on cruise control from here on out.

Defiant Rep. Charles Rangel vows reelection bid despite uproar over alleged ethics violations [NYDN]
Ethics violations be damned! The 79-year-old announced over the weekend that he would be seeking reelection. It would be his 21st term in Congress, first winning election in 1970. Even if Rangs is able to do another victory dance, holding on to his Chairmanship of the Ways & Means will be a different matter entirely. PBO has already distanced himself from Chuck and some are saying that even Nancy Pelosi is getting creeped out a little too.

Skilling Asks High Court for New Trial Minus ‘Tar and Feathers’ [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The Supreme Court will consider Jeff Skilling’s appeal today in the Enron scandal that he was convicted of four years ago. Skilling’s attorneys will argue that the trial should not have been held in Houston where it would have been “impossible” to get a fair trial.

Skilling’s appeal says the atmosphere in Houston when the trial began in January 2006 was one of hostility toward him, fed by unrelenting and “searing” media coverage. The appeal points to a Houston Chronicle column titled “Your Tar and Feathers Ready? Mine Are” and a local rap song, “Drop the S Off Skilling.”

The 12 jurors reflected that antipathy, Skilling contends. During pretrial questioning, three said they were “angry,” three said they had negative feelings toward Skilling or doubted his impartiality and one said that all CEOs were “greedy,” according to his appeal.

Skilling is currently doing far worse than tar and feathers (probably NBD in this day and age), serving a 24 year sentence in a Colorado prison. If the SCOTUS rules in his favor on the “jury-bias” issue Skilling would get a new trial which open old wounds and could create a media circus (we hope).

Huron Consulting is Clearly Not a CPA Firm

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

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

More, after the jump


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

The SEC Takes a Trip to India

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