Sam Antar

Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO Now Judging Fellow Criminals on Their Criminal Talents or Lack Thereof

If there's anyone who knows about being a criminal, it's former Crazy Eddie CFO Sam Antar because he is one. Perhaps that's why CNBC recruited him to judge fellow criminals' performance much like Michelle Visage judging drag queens on their cakes and tucks (don't Google that). First, the background on the scam up for judging: […]

Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO’s 10 Tips for Advancing Your Accounting Career

Generally speaking, you can't trust Sam Antar because he's a crook. But when it comes to advice on advancing your accounting career, you can trust these tips. Sam studied under Abe Brilloff at Baruch, graduated in 1980, became a CPA in 1985, worked for Crazy Eddie predecessor auditor Penn Horowitz (which was replaced later by […]

Defunct Crazy Eddie Won’t Let Fraud Get in the Way of Continued Excellence

As far as bullshit recognitions go, this one has to be up there. Former Crazy Eddie CFO, reprehensible villain and (full disclosure:) friend of GC Sam Antar tipped us off to an email he received on behalf of Mitchell Antar — brother of criminal mastermind Eddie Antar — who did prison time for his part […]

Listen to a Fake IRS Agent Try Telling Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO He’s About to Be Arrested

Perhaps you have heard of some very ambitious (and stupid) scammers posing as IRS agents who have been relentlessly threatening honest Americans with jail if they don't pay up immediately. Today, those scammers called the wrong former CPA. Considering the fact that Sam Antar didn't do any time for the Crazy Eddie fraud, you can […]

CFO Felon Not Sure Why AICPA Didn’t Pick Up the Phone to Talk About His Fraud

Last week, ex Crazy Eddie CFO, notorious convicted felon and known Twitter troll Sam Antar tipped us off to a questionable AICPA webcast called "Voices of Fraud," which ended up on his radar likely because he has a robust Google Alert for his own name. Here's what he told us: The AICPA is offering a […]

Citi’s Twitter Team Fails to Perform Due Diligence on Felon Seeking Loan

Remember how a Mexican subsidiary of Citigroup kinda loaned a few hundred million to a shitty oil company? No? Allow us to refresh you: Banking giant Citigroup cut its fourth quarter and full year 2013 estimates on Friday, as its profit was hit by fraudulent activity at a Mexico-based subsidary. The bank said in a […]

Per Criminal, PwC is Preferred Audit Firm for Criminals

Our favorite 1980s felon, Sam "The Ham" Antar has given his enthusiastic endorsement to every fraudster's favorite audit firm:   Tip for Fraudsters: Every criminal mastermind loves to hire PwC pic.twitter.com/CeinNT9w1C — Sam E. Antar (@SamAntar) March 28, 2014 Hey Sam, can you grab us one of those Koozies? Thanks, guy!

Herbalife Director Confident in PwC’s Audit; Others, Not So Much

This is fun. Here's what Herbalife Director Jeff Dunn, who's not a member of the company's audit committee, told Bloomberg about the current state of the re-audits: “I have nothing that suggests anything’s going to come out of the audit,” Dunn said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We view it as an opportunity because now […]

Footnotes: ‘This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale.’; IRS Nominee Gonna Get Grilled; The End of Estate Tax Planning? | 09.12.13

Siegfried Group is looking for Client Service Directors in Washington, DC, Chicago, and San Francisco. [GCJ] We’ve confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale. — Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2013  Hatch: IRS nominee has 'great many questions' to answer  [The […]

Crooked CFO Amused By Pearl-Clutching Tweet

RT @footnoted "Seriously flouting established SEC rules makes a mockery of the system!" — Sam E. Antar (@SamAntar) August 30, 2013

Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO Wondering Why He Hasn’t Got a Second Chance Like *Some* People

Sam Antar knows an inequitable situation when he sees one:    Memo to SEC: If Weiner and Spitzer can run for office again, why am I still banned from being an officer or director of a public company? — Sam E. Antar (@SamAntar) July 23, 2013 A regular reader of GC wondered to us: "In Spitzer's […]

It’s a Perfect Day for the Vintage Crazy Eddie ‘Beat the Heat’ Commercial

I wonder if Sam and Eddie were there for the shoots saying things like, "I think we need a little more crazy. Like full-on lunatic," while figuring out how to steer the auditors away from the empty boxes of inventory. This guy is mesmerizing. Enjoy.  

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Must Not Mind That Their Audit Firm Is Also a Strategic Partner for a Presentation That Includes a Blogger That Doesn’t Say Particularly Nice Things About Their Financial Reporting

As most of you know, convicted-fraudster-turned-accounting-sleuth and all-around ham Sam Antar now spends his days blogging, exposing companies whose financial reporting and disclosures strikes him as a little too familiar to some of the tricks he pulled in his Crazy Eddie days.  Sam also spends a fair amount of time educating the less criminally-inclined on […]

NASBA Tool Easily Allows You To Verify If Your Colleague Is a Liar

Up until now, the easiest way to verify a CPA license was to check with the individual state boards for license information. That's great if you know the state in which the CPA in question might be licensed but what if you need to do a broad, nationwide search? Enter CPAverify, NASBA's central repository of […]

Confirmed: Overstock.com Is Doomed

Overstock.com has had its detractors over the years. Everyone from Barry Ritholtz to Felix Salmon to Joe Weisenthal to, of course, Sam Antar have been calling shenanigans on the company on everything from financial reporting to social media stalking. The company has made some dumb decisions and they seem to be willing to blame anyone and […]

Has an Auditor Ever Been Whacked For Snitching on Fraudsters?

I’ve gotten some crazy questions over the years but this one pretty much takes the cake. I’m not saying it’s stupid, nor am I saying it’s all that crazy, it’s just… well… out there, is all. Read on.

Dear Adrienne,

I’m a college student at the University of North Texas. Fraud has been a hot topic in my courses this month. We covered many scandals including Crazy Eddie, Barry Minkow, NextCard, Enron, and Bernie Madoff. This has got me thinking a lot about how I would react if I was in the shoes of the auditor. The students in my class always say to just report the fraud, however they never put themselves in the shoes of the fraudster to determine how the fraudster would act nor do they think about protecting the reputation o watched enough movies to know that if a fraudster finds out that somebody knows “too much,” then that person probably won’t make it home alive that night, unless they cooperate. I remember in that movie, “The Other Guys,” the auditing partner got killed because the fraudsters didn’t want him snitching out any information to authorities.

Another thing is that if it is found out that a partner is involved in fraud, this will ruin the firm’s reputation if this gets reported to the SEC. However, if the firm handles this internally, fire the partner, admit mistake, and let the public know that it doesn’t want anything to do with the partner, then perhaps only the partner would get in trouble and not the firm.

So exactly how are you suppose to act in situations of fraud? Of course AICPA tells us to first report it to your supervisor, then to the audit committee, and then the SEC. But still though, you got to get this out before someone kills you and you’ve got to handle it in a manner that best protects the reputation of the firm. Am I right? Also, have you ever heard of any auditors that were murdered because they knew too much? When you read about Enron or the Bernie Madoff scandal, there are talks about death threats, but you don’t necessarily hear about any murders involved. So it may be something that only happens in the movies.

Well, since you brought up Crazy Eddie, my first instinct was to pose this question to Crazy Eddie’s corrupt CPA, Sam Antar. Thankfully Sam obviously checks his Twitter account every five minutes and had some thoughts for me almost immediately.

“Yes, the potential is there. Depends on the client. Have that person contact me if worried,” he tweeted. Now isn’t that sweet? If anyone out there is feeling the heat, you know who to hit up.

His thought? It’s rare, if not impossible. Why would a fraudster whack the auditor? By the time the fraud is uncovered, it’s too late. The workpapers would likely document said fraud, so the fraudster would then be forced to whack the entire chain on up to the partner and who has time to do all that killing? “No logic in whacking outside auditor unless part of conspiracy,” Sam said.

That being said, does anyone remember Allen Stanford’s sketchy auditor C.A.S. Hewlett (“C.A.S.H.” get it?!)? He apparently kicked the bucket on January 1st (a real accountant would have kicked the bucket on December 31st, pfft), just a month before Stanford was charged with fraud (though he didn’t get arrested until June of that year). The circumstances surrounding his death were, uh, weird to say the least but I don’t think anyone is going to go so far as to say he got whacked.

Or how about Ken Lay? I mean, does anyone really believe he had a heart attack? There is even an entire website dedicated to exposing Ken Lay’s post-mortem life.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky, and I don’t expect you to know this since you haven’t made it out into the real world yet. What is an auditor’s job? Is it to uncover fraud? Or is it to verify with a minimum of certainty (a.k.a. “reasonable assurance”) that the financial information presented by a company is probably legit? If you answered the latter, you win. Forensic accountants dissect fraud, auditors simply check boxes. I’m sorry if this offends any of you hardcore auditors out there but in your hearts, even you guys know I’m right. Auditing is a joke, an intricate dance (read: performance) that exists more for entertainment than functionality. If you don’t agree with me, I’d be happy to name any number of companies that prove my point for me (let’s see… Enron, Worldcom, Overstock, Satyam, Olympus…).

What do you think the odds are that a first or second year auditor would even be able to detect fraud? Don’t you think the criminals behind it are at least clever enough to hide their wrongdoing from a bunch of fresh-faced kids with their SALY checklists? Look at the lengths Crazy Eddie went to – to success until their greed got the best of them and a chick ruined the whole scam. And that’s the thing, the auditors rarely uncover fraud, it’s usually the fraudsters themselves who end up exposing themselves though greed or just plain stupidity.

Whistleblowers don’t make friends but they don’t have to hire armed guards either. Like I said, by the time the fraud is exposed, it’s too late to start killing people to hide the truth.

And thanks to SOX, it is illegal to “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass or in any manner discriminate against” whistleblowers, so a more likely scenario is that revelations of fraud will come from within the firm, not from the outside auditors who are pissed off to be doing inventory counts on New Year’s Day.

You watch too many movies, kiddo. Just check the list, collect the bank recs and call it a day.

Crooked CFO: “KPMG knows nothing about the character traits of criminals.”

Earlier this week we shared with you the latest analysis from KPMG that listed “key fraudster traits” and some of them seemed to describe a lot of the people you have worked or are currently working for. Things like “volatile,” “unreliability,” “unhappy,” and “self-interested” describes everyone I’ve ever been in around in the corporate world to one extent or another.

Since I was skeptical of this list, I asked Sam Antar what he thought of it. If you’ve been reading us for awhile, you’re familiar with Sam. If you’re new, I’ll do a quick refresher. Sam was the CFO of Crazy Eddie’s and was one of the masterminds behind one of the biggest financial frauds of the 1980s. While you (and I) were eating cereal in front of the TV on Saturday morning, Sam and his cousin Eddie were selling electronics and home appliances to our parents for rock bottom prices, while ripping off the government and investors for untold millions of dollars. In other words, the guy is a crook and knew/knows lots of crooks and knows their hopes (read: money), their dreams (read: money) all that crap (read: more money) and what they’ll do to get them. With that, Sam told me what he thought of KPMG’s analysis:

I was both a friendly and likable crook who treated my enablers real well as I took advantage of them. I treated my victims even better than my enablers, as I emptied their pockets. Old saying, “You can steal more with a smile, than a gun.” KPMG knows nothing about the character traits of criminals. They couldn’t even catch me as Crazy Eddie’s auditors. They trusted me!

So maybe – JUST MAYBE – you should also be wary of the client or co-worker that you really like because he/she takes you to lunch every day, gets you laid, takes you for rides in a fancy car or invites you to coke-fueled weekend ragers with seemingly no strings attached. Plus any client that has a viral marketing campaign should get an extra look:

Former Business Journalist Needs Help Becoming the Next Great Forensic Accountant

Welcome to the christ-is-it-next-Wednesday-yet edition of Accounting Career Couch. In today’s edition, a former business journalist is looking to get into forensic accounting. How on Earth can you do that?

Need help with your next career move? Want some advice on an awkward confrontation? Looking for a loophole in your firm’s dress code so you can show off your fantastic gams/guns? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll recommend what to say/wear.

Back to Mikael Blomkvist:

I’m in my earr worked in accounting. I have a B.A. in liberal arts and am currently enrolled in a Masters in Accountancy program. I formerly worked 10+ years as a business journalist, during which I learned a fair amount of basic accounting and financial statement analysis. I especially enjoyed investigative business journalism, which led me to get a PI license and a CFE designation and work as a freelance fraud investigator for several years. But I quickly saw that I needed a CPA license and real-world accounting experience to command decent fees.

Once I get my M.Acc., I’d like to get a job in forensics at a public accounting or consulting firm and starting working toward the CPA. I know exactly what I want to do: forensics, and even more specifically, fraud investigations. I’d rather not toil in entry-level audit and try to worm my way into forensics if I can avoid it.

My questions are myriad. For starters, am I too old to do this? (Yes, I’m a married parent, have paid dues before, don’t mind paying them again as a career-changer.) Where should I apply? Would the Big 4 even be interested, or should I concentrate only on specialized/regional firms? Would I have more luck going the entrepreneurial/sole proprietor route than trying to get a firm to hire me? Will investigate for food. Anything helps, even a smile.

Dear Blomkvist,

Let us just start by saying two things as it relates to the age question: 1) it doesn’t mean shit and 2) it’s irrelevant at this point. Judging by your actions you’ve already made up your mind and you’re just looking for a little confirmation.

Now, then. As far as where you should apply – Big 4 is an option but not a great one. They have forensics practices obviously but getting your foot in the door can be tough as the groups are small and positions are hard to come by. That being said, it won’t hurt to get in touch with the experienced-hire recruiters at the major firms in your area to see if there are openings. You’re certainly a better candidate than someone internal that has no investigative experience and wants to get into forensics for the hell of it. A little pavement pounding could turn up a great opportunity.

That being said, it seems to make more sense to seek out opportunities at boutique or small firms in your city. You will likely get the opportunity to meet the owner(s)/partners of the practice who will probably value your experience as an investigative journalist. Someone like Tracy Coenen would be a good example of an expert that could take you under their wing and show you the ropes (assuming they need someone).

As far as starting hanging your own shingle, it’s an option but you’ll eat what you kill. Are you prepared to live that way? Is your family prepared to live that way? Conversations need to be had. You may be able to lend a hand to other forensics specialists to get your feet wet but it will be a tough sell to land your own clients for quite awhile.

You’ve got the investigator’s instinct and presumably the iron-clad balls that Sam Antar insists are a must and that cannot be taught. These intangibles are extremely valuable and should be a major selling point no matter what path you choose. Skål!

Accounting News Roundup: Investigation of E&Y Over Lehman Begins in UK; Study: Mortgage Interest Deduction Doesn’t Increase Home Ownership; PwC Announces Revenue Numbers | 10.04.10

E&Y auditors investigated over Lehman Brothers [Accountancy Age]
“The Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) has begun an investigation of E&Y in its role in reporting to the FSA on audit client Lehman Brothers International Europe’s compliance with the authority’s client asset rules, which govern the protection of client money.”

And since they were on a roll, the AADB is also investigating PwC for its role in J.P. Morgan’s misuse of client assets.

Study Finds the Mortgage Interest Deduction to be Ineffective at Increasing Owneref=”http://www.taxfoundation.org/blog/show/26762.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TaxPolicyBlog+(Tax+Foundation+-+Tax+Foundation’s+%22Tax+Policy+Blog%22)”>Tax Foundation]
“Proponents for the MID often offer the justification that it increases homeownership rates, which they say has positive benefits for society. But most economists seriously question the benefits of MID and many believe homeownership is greatly over-subsidized.”

Visa, MasterCard Antitrust Decision by U.S. Said to Be Near [Bloomberg]
“The U.S. Justice Department may decide as early as this week how to resolve its two-year antitrust probe of merchant restrictions imposed by Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and American Express Co., three people briefed on the matter said.

The department still hasn’t decided whether it can reach a deal with the three biggest U.S. payment networks or challenge their policies in court, one of the people said. The department likely will file a lawsuit, and MasterCard and Visa are expected to settle, people familiar with the matter said.

The talks focus on rules that bar merchants from charging extra to customers who use credit cards and steering them to competing cards, and require retailers to accept every type of card banks issue, said the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. The department is leaning toward allowing the companies to maintain prohibitions against surcharging, two of the people said.”

Will KPMG Ever Wake Up and Finally Learn Its Lesson after Being Duped into Completing Crazy Eddie’s Audits Too Early Twenty Three Years Ago? [White Collar Fraud]
Today’s lesson in duping auditors – Sam Antar explains exactly how he fooled KPMG (then Peat Markwick Main) into signing off on incomplete audits back in the 80s.

PwC takes $26.6bn in global revenues [Accountancy Age]
Thanks to the miracle of rounding, $26.6 billion puts P. Dubs in a tie with Deloitte for largest firm in terms of revenues, who reported the same number last month. This obviously will not stand and we will investigate the matter further to the appropriate number of significant digits to determine who the top dog is.


Citi says CEO, CFO “rebutted” Mayo’s criticisms in meeting [Reuters]
On Friday, banking analyst Mike Mayo met with Citi execs including CEO Vikram Pandit and CFO John Gerspach and they discussed, among other things, why Citi hasn’t been writing down their DTAs. Citi says that successfully rebutted the Mayo Man who is issuing a report today with his thoughts on the sit-down.

Accountant gets year-and-a-day in Petters scam [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
“Harold Katz, the hedge fund accountant who doctored financial statements to hide the Petters Ponzi scheme from investors, was sentenced Friday to 366 days in prison after apologizing to family, friends and investors.

Katz, 43, will be eligible for parole in about 10 1/2 months. He was sentenced for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

‘I made a colossal error in judgment,’ Katz told U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle. ‘I hope I can use this horrific experience to help others not make the same mistakes as I have.’

Katz created false financial statements at the behest of Gregory Bell, manager of Lancelot Investment Management, a Chicago-area hedge fund, to mislead investors about the stability of Petters Co. Inc., which was defaulting on various promissory notes as its decadelong Ponzi scheme unraveled in 2008. Katz also assisted Bell in making phony banking transactions with Petters Co. Inc. to make it appear the Petters Co. was paying off notes it owed to Lancelot.”

Accounting News Roundup: Doubt Over Taxes Reaching Fever Pitch; E&Y to Hire 6k Off Campus in FY11; Honest Answers on Tax Policy in an Election Year | 09.24.10

‘Consumers Are Paralyzed’ Over Tax Doubt [WSJ]
“Congress halted plans to pass a major tax bill before the November elections, leaving taxpayers and financial advisers unsure of how to plan for the future.

One of three scenarios face Congress when it returns from the election recess: It will extend all of the Bush tax cuts of 2001, which expire this year; it will hammer out a new law, perhaps using some of President Barack Obama’s budget proposals; or lawmakers will let the cuts expire, which would mean higher rates for all taxpayers.

Meantime, ‘consumers are paralyzed,’ said Dean Barber, a planner who heads the Barber Financial Group near Kansas City. ‘They have money to spend but they aren’t going to until they know where the tax burden will lie next year.’

The problem extends to business as well. ‘There are 29 million private businesses in this country, and they interact with our members,’ said Barry Melancon, head of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. ‘Universally we are hearing that businesses are paralyzed by lack of capital and uncertainty over taxes.’ ”

SEC Hiring for Multiple Offices [FINS]
“The SEC is hiring qualified talent for both its Division of Enforcement and its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). The agency is looking for candidates with experience in risk management, operations and accounting and other specialties.

In testimony given yesterday at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Robert Khuzami, director of the Division of Enforcement and Carlo di Florio, director of OCIE, spoke to their respective units’ hiring needs.”

Ernst & Young Previews New Campus Recruitment and Social Media Strategies [PR Newswire]
E&Y is hiring 6,000 campus recruits – both interns and new associates – this fiscal year. That’s an increase over last year’s numbers (although the press release doesn’t say by how much). The firm also states that 60% of its workforce will be Gen Y by the end of 2011.


Tax Policy in an Election Year [Tax Updated Blog]
Joe Kristan answers questions that politicians won’t.

Comtech Telecommunications Does the Right Thing by Fixing Errors in Latest Report [White Collar Fraud]
Sam is sending an autographed “WANTED” poster of his cousin “Crazy” Eddie as an “attaboy” for Comtech CEO Fred Kornberg for “[taking] the high road and corrected its errors without attacking a critic.” That “critic” being Sam, who reported on Comtech’s erroneous EBITDA calculation last July.

Whether this type of nostalgic temptation works for the other company execs that are on Sam’s radar remains to be seen.

Pastors to challenge IRS by endorsing candidates [AP]
One hundred men and women of the cloth will be endorsing political candidates from their pulpits this Sunday. If the IRS is doing its job, agents should be kicking down doors at many of God’s homes on Monday.

Sam Antar Respectfully Requests to Be Included in the Overstock.com Earnings Call

Sam is certainly as insightful as the Easter Bunny:

From: Sam E. Antar

To: Patrick Byrne
Board – Jonathan Johnson
Joseph Tabacco

Dear Patrick Byrne and other persons from Overstock.com:

Overstock.com’s Q2 2010 conference call is scheduled for today at 3 PM ET. I will be calling in. I expect to be permitted to participate in said call and ask relevant questions about Overstock.com. As I recall, in 2005 you allowed a lay person named Phil Saunders AKA Easter Bunny to participate in the call.

Sam E. Antar


Gary Weiss predicts that Sam won’t be allowed to participate but stranger things have happened (e.g. Overstock turned a profit last year).

Earlier:
Remember the $3 Million in Overstock Shares Patrick Byrne Sold? Sam Antar Does

Remember the $3 Million in Overstock Shares Patrick Byrne Sold? Sam Antar Does

Last we heard from Patrick Byrne, the Overstock.com CEO and Farmville enthusiast, he had just disposed of 140,000 shares of OSTK via High Plains Investments, LLC, an entity 100% owned by PB. This had a few people scratching their heads, including us.

At the time, we wondered why Patsy would need to dump the shares, especially after all the excitement the company generated by turning their first profit ever in 2009 and a profitable Q1. We were hoping that the KPMG engagement team – that was doing such a bang-up job – would get some new Segways to cruise SLC but pesky independence rules probably got in the way of that.


Regardless, Q2 wasn’t expected to be a showstopper but when asked, Patsy wasn’t worried, telling Investor’s Business Daily, “Given that in 2009 we had close to $40 million of free cash flow (and $8 million net income), I think we should just continue building the intrinsic value of the business right now.”

Well! The Company reported its Q2 earnings after the close yesterday and, um, they missed the numbers badly. The $0.02/share loss expected by analysts was tripled with a loss of $0.06/share. As you might expect, the shares are taking a beating and Byrne nemesis Sam Antar finds this just a little bit fishy:

[N]ine days after Q2 2010 ended, Byrne led investors to believe that Overstock.com was going to break even in that quarter by citing previous year’s free cash flow numbers. However, Byrne did not mention that Overstock.com’s free cash flow for the six months ended June 30, 2010 was negative $54.8 million compared to negative $35.8 million in the previous year’s comparable perid [sic] or about $19 million lower.

So, there’s that. OH! And the $3 million in shares. Don’t forget that.

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Dumped Stock Ahead of Bad Earnings Report and Misled Investors About Earnings [White Collar Fraud]

Accounting News Roundup: Geithner Is Ready to Let Tax Cuts Die; Hayward on His Way Out?; PwC Wants Glitnir Lawsuit Tossed | 07.26.10

No new recession, let tax cuts die: Geithner [Reuters]
“The economy is not likely to slip back into recession but letting tax cuts for tans expire is necessary to show commitment to cutting budget deficits, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Sunday.

In appearances on several Sunday talk shows, Geithner said only 2 to 3 percent of Americans — those making $250,000 or more a year — will be affected when tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush end on schedule this year.”

BP Said to Prepare Dudley as CEO as Board Looks for Recovery [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc plans to name Robert Dudley to succeed Tony Hayward as chief executive officer as the board looks to recover the company’s position in the U.S., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Dudley, the director of BP’s oil spill response unit, is ready to be announced as the company’s first American chief and to take the helm Oct. 1, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because a final decision hasn’t yet been made. The decision was reached in discussions with board members about how best to take BP forward and rebuild its U.S. position, the person said.”

Madoff Investors Brace for Lawsuits [WSJ]
“Irving Picard said he could wind up suing about half the estimated 2,000 individual investors he has called “net winners” from their dealings with Mr. Madoff. Such investors withdrew more from Mr. Madoff’s firm than the amount of principal they invested.

‘The people who made money, who got more, have made money at the expense of the people who didn’t,’ said Mr. Picard, who has the power under federal bankruptcy provisions to pursue money withdrawn from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC before it collapsed in December 2008 and redistribute the funds fairly among victims.

Mr. Picard must file any so-called clawback lawsuits by December, the two-year anniversary of Mr. Madoff’s arrest and the filing of regulatory proceedings against him. ‘We’re not going to wait until the last minute,’ Mr. Picard said.”


Change the world or go home [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett implores you that if you want your firm or business to really stand out then it’s going to take more than a catchy slogan or a boilerplate email to get people’s attention. You best recognize an opportunity when you see one.

“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve said but it is worth repeating. When disruption like SaaS comes along, it represents an opportunity. From a professional standpoint it should mean that firms can further commoditize what they do by using accounting dashboards that show them the status of their clients’ activity. It is a short step to seeing how this might be integrated into fees, billing, customer satisfaction measurement and the like.”

If You’re Going To San Francisco…AAA Will Be There [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Edith Orenstein has the lowdown on this year’s American Accounting Association’s (AAA) annual meeting. This year’s event is in AG’s backyard (she loves giving directions, btw) from July 31 to August 4th and will feature Francine McKenna and Professor Albrecht on one of the panels.

Join Me For a Nice Little CPA Exam Chat on August 3rd! [JDA]
Speaking of Adrienne, she’ll be over at CPA Exam Club to take your questions on everyone’s favorite test on August 3rd. Yes, that’s one week from tomorrow.

PwC Demands Dismissal of Glitnir Lawsuit [Iceland Review]
PwC’s lawyers argue that Glitnir and the firm agreed to do any legal wrangling in Iceland if the poo hit the fan. Late last week they requested that the lawsuit in New York be tossed.

Saltzman Hamma firm details merger with RubinBrown [Denver Business Journal]
“Saltzman Hamma Nelson Massaro LLP, a century-old Denver accounting firm, is merging with St. Louis-based RubinBrown LLP to form what’s expected to be among the 50 largest accounting firms in the United States, principals were set to announce on July 23.

The new entity, which will operate as RubinBrown, will employ 375 people in offices in Denver, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. The merger will be effective Aug. 1.”

District Court Denies Charitable Deduction for Donation of Home to Fire Department [TaxProf Blog]
Just donate a car next time. It’s a far worse investment than a house.

IRS Proposes PTIN Fees [JofA]
$50 for your very own preparer tax identification number! Of course there’s also a ‘reasonable fee’ on top of that from “a third-party vendor that will administer the application and renewal process,” that gets thrown in for good measure.

My Life as a White-Collar Criminal [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar went on Canadian TV last week to talk about how much fun it is to be a crook. Except the whole possibility of prison part.

Accounting News Roundup: Liberty Tax CEO Hints at Combination with H&R Block; Former NABA President Killed in Skydiving Accident; Sam Antar Has a Question | 07.20.10

Liberty Tax CEO Floats Combining With H&R Block [AP]
John Hewitt, CEO of Liberty Tax, is hinting that maybe he’d like to merge with H&RB, “John Hewitt, founder and CEO of Liberty Tax Service, said Monday he is trying to contact departing board member Thomas Bloch to discuss the potential for combining his privately held company with Kansas City, Mo.-based H&R Block.

‘With my leadership and the name and backing of the Bloch family, we could put a great company going back in the right direction,’ said Hewitt.”

We didn’t say it was a subtle hint.

SEC May Add 800 New Positions as Part Of Reform [Reuters]
At least try to keep the porn enthusiasts out, “The top U.S. securities regulator will need to add about 800 new positions to carry out its part of the massive financial reform legislation, the head of the agency said in testimony to be delivered on Tuesday.

Mary Schapiro, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said the agency is still crunching the numbers on costs and hiring, and expects the upcoming rulewriting task to be ‘logistically challenging and extremely labor intensive.'”

Two 70-somethings, Theodore Wilson and George Flynn, killed after mid-air skydiving collision [NYDN]
Messrs Wilson and Mr Flynn were both experienced jumpers and were having textbook jumps until something went wrong with approximately 100 feet to go. Mr Wilson was born and raised in the Bronx and he was a former president of the National Association of Black Accountants.

Job Hunting Is Often One Step Forward, Two Steps Back [FINS]
A recent study from the University of Minnesota suggests that people on the hunt for a new job are their own worst enemies, “The results won’t be news to anyone who has ever returned from a jog and mauled a chocolate cake or followed up a productive hour of work with some heavy Facebooking.”

In other words, if someone has a good interview, they’re likely to return home and vedge for the rest of the day, feeling good about their prospects, when the best thing would do is to land the next interview with another prospect.


BP Weighs New Way to Kill Gulf Well [WSJ]
“Oil giant BP PLC was Monday considering yet another method to kill its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well amid concerns that the cap it installed last week could be allowing oil and gas to seep out the sides.

Meanwhile, a federal panel investigating the disaster heard that the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig suffered a series of power outages and seized-up computers in the months before it exploded.

BP’s new containment cap has stopped the flow of oil since Thursday, but with the well now sealed at the top, government officials are worried that oil and gas could now be escaping elsewhere.”

Facebook Claimant Must Answer `Where Have You Been?’ to Succeed [Bloomberg]
“Paul Ceglia, the western New York man who says a 2003 contract with Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg entitles him to 84 percent of the company, will have to answer a critical question to pursue his claim, lawyers said.

‘The first thing that comes to mind is, where have you been all this time?’ asked Los Angeles litigator Bryan Freedman, who isn’t involved in the case.”

Answer: Been busy on Facebook.

Nokia Conducting Search for New CEO [WSJ]
Get your résumé in now.

I Have A Question [White Collar Fraud]
If Sam Antar is asking a question, something usually stinks. This time he’s wondering if someone had the NBTY Directors jumped the gun on some stock purchases prior the company’s purchase by the Carlyle Group, “If [CNBC’s David] Faber’s reporting is correct, does ‘early May’ mean before or after Michael Ashner and Peter White bought their NBTY shares?”

Accounting News Roundup: More Execs Say Benefits Sarbanes-Oxley Outweigh Costs; New Jersey Millionaire Tax Fails; Has the SEC Learned Anything? | 06.22.10

As Congress Mulls SOX Exemption, Survey Suggests Acceptance [Compliance Week]
Just when Sarbanes-Oxley compliance was about to get torpedoed by the financial reform bill, a new study comes out that shows companies are starting to see benefits from the legislation, “In its 2010 Sarbanes-Oxley compliance survey, Protiviti says 70 percent of executives in at least their fourth year of working to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley say they believe the benefits outweigh the costs. That’s a big swing from the first year the firm asked the same question and heard only 39 percenbenefits greater than the costs.”


Showdown Over Strippers [WSJ]
Some people in the Show Me State are not interested in living up to that name, “Last month, the Republican-controlled legislature passed one of the nation’s toughest state laws aimed at strip clubs and other adult-entertainment venues. It would ban nude dancing and the serving of alcohol in adult cabarets, force strip clubs to close at midnight and forbid seminude dancers to touch patrons.”

The legislation is currently awaiting sign/veto from MO Governor Jay Nixon.

Opponents argue that the state’s very economic recovery is at stake, “Club owners and dancers say that the venues rarely attract crime, and that the new rules would be so strict that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in state revenue could be lost at a time when Missouri’s economy is struggling to recover from the recession.”

JP Morgan Names Doug Braunstein CFO in Shake-Up [AP]
“JPMorgan Chase said Tuesday it is shuffling the positions of three executives, including naming a new chief financial officer. The shake up is part of a program JPMorgan Chase has put in place to have executives work across multiple divisions to broaden their experience. Doug Braunstein is taking over as CFO. He was previously head of the bank’s investment banking division in the Americas. Braunstein, 49, replaces Michael Cavanagh, who had served as CFO since 2004. Cavanagh was named head of the bank’s treasury and securities services business.”

Tropical Storm May Pose Threat to BP Spill Cleanup [Bloomberg]
The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season may enter the Gulf of Mexico as soon as next week, possibly disrupting BP Plc’s efforts to clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Thunderstorms in the Caribbean may strengthen into a tropical storm this week before heading into the Gulf between Mexico and Cuba, said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

“The first named tropical storm of the 2010 season appears more likely to form over the northwestern Caribbean late this week and will go on to represent a formidable threat to the Gulf, along with heightening concerns about the oil slick,” Rouiller said in an e-mail yesterday.

Forecasters are predicting this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, may be among the most active on record and hamper the U.K. oil company’s efforts to plug the leaking well. AccuWeather Inc. forecast at least three storms will move through the region affected by the spill.

New Jersey Democrats fail to extend millionaires tax [Reuters]
Garden State millionaires rejoice!

SEC Crazy Talk [Portfolio/Gary Weiss]
Sam Antar recently turned over 37,000 documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission but not because the SEC was getting nostalgic for the Crazy Eddie days.

The SEC wanted documents, emails etc. from both Antar and Fraud Discovery Institute founder Barry Minkow on companies that have been covered by both men. The information relates mostly from information obtained from short-sellers. However, Gary Weiss writes that the SEC also asked for emails that the two exchanged with two reporters and from Antar’s ex-wife.

Gary thinks that this poking around by the Commission is all too familiar, “Well, I think what we may be seeing is a repeat of the [David] Einhorn fiasco, and then some,” referring to the SEC’s investigation into Einhorn’s criticism and short-selling of companies.

Einhorn was eventually vindicated and the companies – most notably Allied Capital – outed for their shady practices. Why the SEC is digging around the very people trying to help them isn’t quite clear but then again the SEC doesn’t have the greatest track record.

Accounting News Roundup: Senate Proposal Would Double Tax on Carried Interest; Take Client Compliments with Skepticism; Agents Honored for Busting Petters | 06.09.10

Showdown on Fund Taxes [WSJ]
The U.S. Senate plan to tax private equity and hedge fund managers who earn carried interest has been rolled out and it would double the rate on this income from 15% to 30% in 2011 and 33% in 2013. Supporters of the bill argue that carried interest is “basically wages” and that the 15% is a “fundamental unfairness in the tax code.”

The industry is not amused by the Senate’s latest rich hating measures. The Journal quotes Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Private Equity Council, “[E]arning carried interest involves taking risks, making long-term investments and exposing yourself tot you’ll have to return your earnings if things don’t work out. No one who gets a paycheck has to face those consequences.”

But that’s not all! Also in the proposal is a “enterprise-value tax” provision that would tax the sale of any private equity fund, hedge fund, or real estate partnership at higher rates than of other businesses including publicly traded oil and gas partnerships.


Ex-CEO and CFO of Duane Reade Convicted in NY [AP]
No matter what Anthony Cuti and William Tennant did (“scheming to falsely inflate the income and reduce the expenses that Duane Reade reported to investors.”), if you bank with Jamie Dimon, you’re grateful for every DR.

How White-Collar Criminals Exploit Your Vanity – Beware of Compliments [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar has all but eliminated any possibility of ever getting a date ever again by admitting that any compliment that he gives is may have an ulterior motive, “The more likable and charming that I was as a criminal, the easier it was for me to successfully lie to my victims and deceive them. People are far less skeptical of people who they like and the white-collar criminals know it and exploit it.”

Most of you have never been paid a compliment by Sam but maybe some of you can think of a client that seems to go out of their way to stroke your ego. Or maybe it’s a combination of a compliment here or there (e.g. “you’re looking buff” or “nice ass”) from the controller and the hot junior accountant that keeps inviting you out to lunch for no discernible reason.

The lesson here is be skeptical of things being a little too good to be true for an audit. If your client doesn’t particularly like you and they look like they came from deep inside the ugly forest you might be able to rest easy. Otherwise, stay on your toes.

EBay’s Whitman Faces Brown for California Governor [Bloomberg]
A former auctioneer will face off against a failed Presidential candidate for the arguably the worst job in the country.

Four who took down Petters honored [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Swashbuckling industrialist-cum-Ponzi Scheme architect Tom Petters is doing 50 years for his crimes but the four investigators – FBI special agents Brian Kinney and Eileen Rice, FBI forensic accountant Josiah Lamb and Kathy Klug of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division – were honored yesterday for their efforts with a 2009 Law Enforcement Recognition Award by the Minnesota U.S. Attorney.

Of course, they couldn’t have done it alone (plus it’s honor just to be nominated), as they were assisted by more than 100 other agents who brought down Petters. Then someone made a Bernie Madoff joke and the fun ended right there.

Why Did Patrick Byrne Sell $3 million in Overstock.com Shares?

So Patrick Byrne (via his 100% wholly owned entity High Plains Investments, LLC) sold 140,000 OSTK shares in the past five days and that has a few people talking/wondering aloud about what the hell is going on.

Barry Ritholtz, who is long OSTK (quantitative drivers) despite, “I…think it is a steaming pile of shit, that the CEO is an asshole, and that the entire company is probably corrupt,” is really curious:

Is Byrne in possession of material insider information? Would he be so stupid as to sell the shares? (I doubt anyone could be that dumb).

Perhaps he sees a favorable outcome to the SEC investigation? Maybe he is raising money to pay a fine?

These are all excellent jumping off points (although we disagree with the notion “I doubt anyone could be that dumb”) but let’s explore other possibilities:

A) Segways for the KPMG audit team.

B) Reverse Psychology – he’s done fighting the short selling crowd (or is he?)

C) He’s going to apologize to Sam Antar monetarily (how generous he will be, is another matter entirely).

D) He needs some cash for a Father’s Day gift.

E) Needs to feed the Farmville addiciton.

These are merely some ideas. And there’s always the possibility that PB has gone right out of his mind. Share your own, should you feel inclined.

Long OSTK, Short Byrne [The Big Picture]
Proxy Statement/Schedule 14A [SEC.gov]
Patrick Byrne Pockets $3.1 Million from Dumping Overstock.com Shares [White Collar Fraud]
Patrick Byrne Dumps His Overstocked Overstock Shares [Gary Weiss]

Accounting News Roundup: Bidz.com’s Financial Reporting Could Have Some Issues; Tax Planning Stays One Step Ahead Financial Reform; Accountant Denied Bail in Terror Case | 05.18.10

Can We Trust Bidz.com’s Financial Reporting? [White Collar Fraud]
We won’t tell you what to think but you should know that Bidz reported “material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting” specifically those controls over “management oversight and anti-fraud controls specifically in processing of financial transactions, vendor review and payment processing,” in its most recent 10-K and 10-Q As an investor in Bidz, this should make you queasy. Unless, of course, you’re not concerned with such matters.


Sam Antar probably doesn’t care either way but he does put something out there, “Bidz.com cannot effectively prevent anyone from robbing the company blind and cannot prevent material errors in paying its vendors. Yet, the company wants you to believe that its financial reports contain no material errors and comply with GAAP.” But if you’re not sketched out by such things, then by all means, invest away.

But wait, in case that doesn’t earn your skepticism, the SEC began its investigation last year after Sam pointed out inventory irregularities at the company. Shortly thereafter, the Commission expanded its investigation into “the Company’s co-op marketing contributions and minimum gross profit guarantees.” If that wasn’t enough, the company’s auditors, Stonefield Josephson, were cited by the PCAOB for “significant deficiencies in a smaller sample of one of four audits reviewed.” So, again, if you can get over all that, this is probably a fine company to have your money invested in.

Bobbing as the Taxman Weaves [DealBook]
As Congress continues to dispel its wisdom on financial reform, it’s has become the natural order of things for any regulation to be circumvented prior to the passage of any bill.

In the case of carried interest, an incentive paid to hedge and private equity fund managers out of gains on the funds’ investments, Congress would like to tax these incentives at the ordinary rate (soon to be 39.6%). Currently, carried interest is taxed at the capital gains rate of 15%. DealBook reports that, despite threats by House to penalize those who use creative tax strategies that later fail, the maneuvering has not slowed:

The House of Representatives, aware that some titans of finance were already charting a course around any proposed change to their tax status, included a special provision in its version of the new legislation levying a 40 percent penalty for executives who invoked a loophole to cut their tax bill but were later ruled to have been wrong in doing so.

Still, that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

One of the latest machinations being whispered about in the industry goes like this: Private equity executives would sell their “carried interest” to a third party and then use the cash they received to invest directly in the deal so that any increase in value would be a capital gain.

It’s not clear whether this will work or not but it sure seems like fun.

Accountant held without bail in NYC in terror case [AP]
Sabirhan Hasanoff, a former PwC Senior Manager, was denied bail yesterday for his role in an alleged conspiracy that supported al-Qaida. He pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

(UPDATE) Accounting News Roundup: Europe’s $1 Trillion Deal; PwC Gets Some Action in Dubai; The Longest Auditor-Client Relationships | 05.10.10

EU Crafts $962 Billion Show of Force to Halt Euro Crisis [Bloomberg]
With the Euro under pressure, the European Central Bank has hatched a plan to “offer financial assistance worth as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion) to countries under attack from speculators.” EU countries are chipping in 440 billion in loans, the EU’s budget throws in 60 billion, and 250 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

The funds will be available to those countries that experience a financial crisis similar to Greece. Portugal and Spain have debt to GDP ratios of 8.5% and 9.8% respectively, exceeding the EU’s mandated limit of 3%. package approved last week, receiving 110 billion euros “after agreeing to unprecedented austerity measures,” triggering riots in the country.


Dubai Holding Hires Debt Advisers [WSJ]
Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, a part of Dubai Holding (not to be confused with fellow Dubai conglomerate Dubai World) has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to help them with a teenie debt restructuring project. DH’s debt issues come about after Dubai World is still working to restructure the $14 billion in outstanding debt that it has with its creditors after a slight panic late last year.

UPDATE: KPMG and Deloitte are getting in on the fun as well, as the Financial Times reports that they have been engaged to advise Dubai Group and Dubai International Capital, respectively.

You Complete My Audit [CFO]
Had your auditor for awhile? If you want to crack the top 100 of longest auditor-client relationship, you’d have to be putting up with the same firm for over 50 years. According to the CFO’s analysis of Audit Analytics data, the longest auditor-client relationship belongs to Deloitte and Proctor & Gamble who have been together since 1890. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ longest relationship is with Goodyear Tire & Rubber, starting in 1898; Ernst & Young with Manulife Financial, 1905; KPMG and General Electric go back to 1909.

Of the 100 companies that have stuck with their auditors the longest, 97 of those companies were with Big 4 firms:
• PricewaterhouseCoopers – 34
• E&Y – 25
• Deloitte – 24
• KPMG – 14

Straight Talk about Brutality of White Collar Crime from a Convicted Felon [White Collar Fraud]
GC friend and forensic sleuth Sam Antar recently had some a two part interview produced that from his recent speaking presentations at Stanford Law and Business Schools. Part one is below and you can see part two over at WCF.

Accounting News Roundup: Would IFRS Prevented Repo 105?; The Crazy Eddie Movie Hits a Snag; JP Morgan May Bolt Tax-Refund Loan Business | 04.29.10

Lehman case “backs” accounting convergence [Reuters]
Philippe Danjou, a board member at the IASB has been quoted as saying that Repo 105 would not have been allowed under IFRS, “From an IFRS perspective I would suspect that most transactions would have stayed on the balance sheet. It makes a case for convergence, it makes a case that we should not have different outcomes under different accounting standards when you have such big amounts.”

The G-20 asked the sages at both the FASB and the IASB to converge their rules by June-ish 2011 but some people don’t sec, as there are too many disparities on treatment of key issues between the two boards.


The Real Reason Behind Danny DeVito’s Crazy Eddie Movie Project Meltdown [White Collar Fraud]
Danny DeVito wants to make a movie based on the Crazy Eddie Fraud, which was perpetrated by, among others, Eddie and Sam Antar. The project has run aground primarily because of Eddie Antar’s life rights and the potential profit he would reap from the making of the movie. Danny D is disappointed by the developments and has sympathy for Eddie, discussing it in s recent Deadline New York article:

“He’s gone through tough times, and he’s not the aggressive tough guy they paint him to be,” De Vito said. “He’s in his 70s and the past has come back to bite us all in the ass. Peter [Steinfeld] and I told him we think there is a terrific story there, but we can’t do it with you involved, in any way. We’ve taken a breather, but we’re figuring out how to jump back in.

Sam Antar is not amused by this and chimed in with his side of the story:

Eddie Antar is plainly still in denial about his cowardice towards his own family and investors. There actually is a “family dynamic” that “explains Antar’s fall” as DeVito claims. However, Eddie Antar and other members of his immediate family are simply unwilling to give a truthful account of what really happened at Crazy Eddie, while Danny Devito is willing to accept Eddie Antar’s bullshit excuses for his vile behavior.

As Chipotle Sizzles, CFO Sells Stock [Barron’s]
Ten thousand shares at $144 and change will buy a bunch of burritos.

Medifast Lawsuit: Anti-SLAPP motions filed [Fraud Files Blog]
Back when we discussed forensic accounting, the aforementioned Sam Antar said that forensic accountants can look forward to “making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.”

Tracy Coenen, no stranger to this retaliation, is now fighting back against Medifast who has sued her and others for saying not so flattering things about the company:

Anti-SLAPP motions have been filed in the Medifast lawsuit by me and by my co-defendant, Robert FitzPatrick. My motion can be read in its entirety here, and Fitzpatrick’s can be read here.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It’s basically when a big company tries to shut up a little guy with expensive litigation. In my opinion, Medifast sued me and others in an attempt to get us to stop publicly analyzing or criticizing the company and it’s multi-level marketing business model.

In filing an anti-SLAPP motion, we are essentially asking the court to rule in our favor and in favor of free speech. Consumers should have the right to discuss, analyze, and criticize companies without the fear of expensive lawsuits.

JPMorgan May Quit Tax-Refund Loans, Helping H&R Block [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Bloomberg reports that JP Morgan may discontinue its financing of 13,000 independent tax preparers, a move that will benefit H&R Block, according to a competitor:

“Block is the biggest winner in this,” said John Hewitt, chief executive officer of Liberty Tax Service, a privately held company in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that also may benefit…

The reason HSBC is exiting this industry, even though they’re making $100 million a year in profit from it, is because of reputation risk,” Hewitt said in an interview. “Bankers don’t like the consumer advocacy groups picketing outside their offices.”

Refund anticipation loans (RALs) are attractive to clients that need cash immediately, based on their anticipated refund. The business is controversial because the high interest rates can drive people further into debt and consumer groups oppose them vehemently.

Funding for smaller shops that offer these loans will likely lose the business altogether as large banks like JP Morgan discontinue the financing, thus driving the business to franchise tax prep shops like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty.

Despite Past Investigations and Borderline Childish Behavior, McGladrey & Pullen Takes Medifast Audit

McGladrey & Pullen/RSM McGladrey has been named the new audit/tax firm of Medifast, the company announced in a filing last Friday. The Company dropped Bagell, Josephs, Levine and Company LLP of New Jersey who was purchased by Friedman LLP, citing/blaming Sarbanes-Oxley for reducing the number of accounting firms that have the “extensive resources and experience with public companies on a national and regional basis to better serve Medifast.”

For those of you not familiar, Medifast is “an amazing weight loss program” whose products “are formulated with a

So You Want to Be a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting is about as sexy as it gets these days for boutique accounting services. For starters, there’s no shortage of work. And even if you’re too inexperienced to start up your own firm, you might be able to cut your teeth at a Big 4 forensic practice or since the SEC seems to getting serious about doing its job, you could go that route.

Hell, even if you’re currently on the other side of this equation (i.e. the perp) it seems to have worked out for at least a couple people, namely Barry Minkow and Sam Ae–>
The AICPA sees the potential and is on the offensive, offering a
“Certified in Financial Forensics” credential starting in 2008 after demand for such a cred came from its members.

The Institute recently published Characteristics and Skills of the Forensic Accountant, a survey of attorneys, forensic CPAs and academics that presents their “views on the qualities they believed were essential in a forensic accountant.”

Surprisingly, the three groups managed to agree on the most important trait, “All three groups surveyed overwhelmingly cited analytical ability as the most essential characteristic of a forensic accountant: 78 percent of attorneys, 86 percent of CPAs and 90 percent of academics.”

And that’s where the agreement ends:

Attorneys believed oral communications to be the most important skill, reflecting the need to express an opinion effectively in a court of law. CPAs, on the other hand, identified critical and strategic thinking as most important, with written and oral communications as second and third, respectively. The academics agreed with the CPAs that critical and strategic thinking was the prime skill, but, interestingly, rated auditing skills and investigative ability as second and third.

Hard to believe this differing opinions here. Lawyers prefer blabbing? Accountants prefer keeping their heads down and academics take it to an even brainier level? Shock.

We shot a message over to Tracy Coenen, friend of GC, forensic accountant for her thoughts and she notes that all these people surveyed are missing something important – intuition:

I think what they’re missing is investigative intuition. It’s common for people to think that a good auditor makes a good forensic accountant, and that’s simply not the case. Some people have a gift for thinking outside the box and can get a gut feel for what’s wrong. Others only have a gift for reconciling numbers and using checklists. The survey addressed investigative intuition, but it didn’t even make it into the top five of core skills. I think that’s wrong on many levels.

We’d have to agree that there is something to be said for raw talent. You can try and teach someone the necessary skills but if they don’t have that sleuth mentality, forensics probably won’t be a natural fit. Sam Antar agrees, and he laid out his own crucial characteristics for us:

The AICPA likes to talk about the skills of an effective forensic accountant, but it ignores the important personality traits required for them to be successful:

• An effective forensic accountant must have a pair of double iron clad balls and a triple thick skin. Prospective forensic accountants can count on making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.

• The saying, “It takes one to know one” applies to being an effective forensic accountant. If a forensic accountant is not a convicted felon (like me), there must be at least some degree of larceny wired into their personalities. Effective forensic accountants must at least think like a scumbag to understand criminal behavior, techniques, and countermeasures.

• “Critical and strategic thinking” are relatively ineffective unless the forensic accountant exercises “professional paranoia” in the conduct of their work. Effective forensic accountants must be born cynics and skeptics and never accept any information at face value. A healthy degree of paranoia helps.

Without the personality traits enumerated above, no amount of education can help a person be an effective forensic accountant.

Regardless of the differing opinions, the AICPA wants more people getting into forensics and we think that’s a good thing. However, since the chances of a CSI: Bean Counter are nil, more traditional recruitment measures have to be employed.

AICPA Report Educates CPA Firms, Professors on Forensic Accounting [AICPA Press Release]
AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services Center [Website]

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.

Quote of the Day: That Profit Really Put Patrick Byrne in a Good Mood | 04.01.10

“Dear Sam, I apologize. Sincerely, Patrick”

~ Patrick Byrne, finally responding to Sam Antar.

In bizarro world.

Accounting News Roundup: Treasurer Is Not a Disclosure-Worthy Position at Overstock.com; SEC Investigating Repurchase Accounting; Deloitte Considers Camping at World Financial Center | 03.30.10

Another Key Departure at Overstock.com: It Went Unreported, Too [White Collar Fraud]
Criminal-turned-forensic sleuth Sam Antar is reporting on his blog that SEC problem child Overstock.com had another key employee depart the company but this time, the Company failed to report it publicly. Gary Weiss was tipped off about the departure of Richard Paongo, the former Treasurer at OSTK, in an anonymous post that was confirmed on Mr Paongo’s LinkedIn profile.

It appears that Mr Paongo’s departure occurred around the same time as ex-CFO David Chidester’s which was reported to the SEC.


Sam notes the requirements of an 8-K disclosure:

If the registrant’s principal executive officer, president, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer, principal operating officer, or any person performing similar functions, or any named executive officer, retires, resigns or is terminated from that position, or if a director retires, resigns, is removed, or refuses to stand for re-election (except in circumstances described in paragraph (a) of this Item 5.02), disclose the fact that the event has occurred and the date of the event.

So maybe OSTK figured that Paongo’s was worth sharing with investors? Sam says, “Apparently, it’s Overstock.com’s position that none of the above applies to Rich Paongo. However, Paongo’s departure from Overstock.con [sic or maybe not?] can be viewed as a material event requiring disclosure amid an expanding SEC investigation and given Paongo’s role at the company.”

Whether or not Paongo’s departure qualifies as a disclosable event might be arguable but the timing of his departure is certainly noted. In semi-related news, Overstock still has a couple of days before the 10-K extension runs out, so we’re likely to hear more out of SLC.

S.E.C. Looks at Wall St. Accounting [NYT]
With Repo 105 on everyone’s brain, the SEC figured it should snoop around and see who else is using the repurchase agreements. Bank of America and JP Morgan have already admitted that they use repurchase agreements but Mary Schapiro remains coy about what companies are getting the crook-eye.

Deloitte eyes sticking with World Financial Center [Crain’s New York]
Deloitte is in the market for about 600,000 square feet to house some its New York employees and one possibility is that the firm will set up camp at World Financial Center where it is currently the largest tenant. The firm is also reportedly considering 825 Eighth Ave.

Crain’s reports that Casa de Salzberg was looking for 1 million square feet last year, considering possible locales at 11 Times Square and 277 Park Ave. Deloitte insists that it was never looking for 1 million square feet and will be perfectly happy to cram the employees from the current two non-WFC locations into one place.

Quote of the Day: Sam Antar Is Ready to Rumble | 03.26.10

I challenge John Thomas Financial CEO Thomas Belesis to a match on the Jerry Springer show. To even the odds, he can bring Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Two crooks versus a convicted felon born in Brooklyn. They can bring actor turned stock pumper Shia LaBeouf for added muscle, too.

~ Sam Antar, reacting to Thomas Belesis calling him an idiot after Antar suggested that Shia might be able to shed some light on the goings-on at John Thomas Financial involving InterOil. And if you forgot, Sam and Patrick have a bit of a history.

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?

Sam Antar at Stanford: Jr. Deputy Accountant Gets a Live Dose of the Criminal Mind

Last week, I took the day off from work and headed down the 101 to sit in on former Crazy Eddie CFO and self-proclaimed criminal Sam E. Antar speaking to Stanford MBA students on, what else, fraud and the criminal mind. Sam is a friend of both JDA and Going Concern and it was excellent to see him recount the Crazy Eddie story to an auditorium of future MBAs.

Ironically, he showed up wearing an SEC baseball cap, which is akin to JDA owning a Federal Reserve hoodie (I do) and didn’t waste a second getting to the point of his visit.

“I’m gonna be the guy that fucks you guys up,” he told the room before beginning the presentation, “I’m a racist and a scum bag but I hate everyone equally.”


I could literally see the audience squirm in response. I already knew Sam was a tad offensive and was counting on getting an extra dose of it; there was no squirming in the media corner.

“Political correctness helps the criminal, not you,” he explained, “It limits your behavior, not the criminal’s.”

Right.

Sam went into auditor standards like the fraud triangle though insisted there is no such thing as rationalization. “Criminals know right from wrong. We don’t plan on failure.”

We even got to see a vintage Crazy Eddie ad spot as Sam’s presentation was spliced with images from the 2006 Court TV episode of Masterminds detailing the Crazy Eddie fraud. That’s for the sections that Sam doesn’t tell you; the details are plentiful in his spiel though don’t let that catch you off guard, he insists he is still just as dangerous as he was before he was caught.

You can get the Crazy Eddie backstory from Sam’s Web site (if you aren’t fortunate enough to be able to play hooky and see him spook Stanford MBA students in person) here, here, and here. If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking him out live (leave your valuables in the car).

And then there’s the video of Sam and Eddie meeting up decades after their fraud was discovered — and Sam gave up his family (and, consequently, himself) — that I recommend you not miss.

So long as there are unqualified auditors being piled into audits they aren’t trained to perform, there will be guys like Sam E. Antar figuring out a way to distract, deter, and delude them, no matter what it takes. For Crazy Eddie, it didn’t take much. What’s to say things have changed?

Sam Antar Photograph by Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York Business and Investment News.

Bad News: Forensic Accountants Are Crooks Too

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.

Miami’s ‘go-to’ forensic accountant pleads not guilty to fraud [Miami Herald]

(UPDATE) Fooling Auditors Is So Easy, a Caveman Could Do It

Thumbnail image for sachdeva_sue.jpgIn the spirit of O.J. Simpson, Tracy Coenen explains today, that if Sue Sachdeva stole $31 million and spent most of it on some high-end threads and then sold the crap she didn’t want, it would’ve been a snap.
We’re not talking Enron type stuff here, just making off with cash:

All it takes are three steps to make this fraud nearly undetectable in a company in which the other members of the executive team aren’t paying attention. (And don’t worry, dear readers, that I may be giving away any secrets to committing fraud and covering it up. Any serious fraudster already knows these three things.)
1. Keep the fraud off the balance sheet.
2. Keep all transactions below the scope of testing by the auditors.
3. Don’t commit fraud during the last month of the fiscal year and the first month of the following fiscal year.
Can it really be this simple?


Here’s the quick and dirty:
Point 1 – Tracy notes that 80% of audit procedures focus on the balance sheet so if Suze was slamming all the bogus transactions amongst 4 or 5 income statement expense lines, no one would get wise to it.
Point 2If she did it, Suze probably knew what GT’s scope was (it’s supposed to be super-secret). She could plan the amount of her transactions to fall under this scope every time.
Point 3 – Auditors probably spent most of their time looking at bank statements for the last month of the fiscal year and the first month of the subsequent fiscal year. The rest of them don’t get much attention.
So there you have it. Throw in the incestuous management team, auditors that may be trying to get on each other and you’ve got a slam dunk.
UPDATE 7:38 pm: We got to wondering if Tracy’s statement “Any serious fraudster already knows these three things” were true, so we asked one. Crazy Eddie CFO, Sam Antar indulged us:

[Tracy] is correct. The fraudster always has the initiative because they are judgment oriented in their approach to crime, while auditors are process oriented in their approach to audits. In other words, fraudsters know how to think out of the box to solve problems and achieve their goals, while auditors rely too much on process and procedure to accomplish their missions. In the criminal’s world, judgment is more powerful than process.

We’ll leave it there (that’s right CNN).
Koss Corp.: Commit the fraud and cover it up [Fraud Files Blog]

Sam Antar Wants You to Think Like a Crook

Sam Antar.jpgIn early December, the JDA gave us a little taste of how the mind of a crook works when she interviewed Sam Antar, the former CFO of Crazy Eddie’s.
We caught up with Sam again recently and in case you had decided that he had redeemed himself by speaking to universities, government agencies, and businesses telling those people how to detect fraud, Sam would take issue with that.
“I’m the same crook that I was when I was the CFO of Crazy Eddie’s. I haven’t changed. I got caught,” Sam told us. Sam doesn’t believe in redemption but he will tell you that he’s reformed, “A criminal is like an addict. You’re either in recovery or you’re not.”
In addition to his feelings on his past criminal behavior, Sam has strong opinions about the audit profession and how the current accounting curriculum does not adequately prepare young auditors for the masterminds they’re up against. “To catch a criminal, you’ve got to think like a criminal.”


Sam would never suggest that you all take a turn at white collar crime in order to become better auditors. That would disappoint your parents.
So what are his ideas? Here’s a few things to get you started:
• Sam believes that the current curriculum should be expanded to include criminology, criminal psychology, forensic accounting, and courses that focus on internal controls.
• With this expanded curriculum, an advanced degree program should be implemented for those students that wish to become CPAs.
• In addition, Sam believes that the CPA exam should be expanded to include a section dedicated to fraud.
We did some looking around and found that two schools: Carlow University in Pittsburgh and Franklin University in Columbus, OH both offer undergraduate degrees in Forensic Accounting and that two more: St. Thomas University in Florida and University of Charleston in South Carolina offer graduate degrees.
As long as white collar fraud remains front page news, there will be people asking “where were the auditors?” Right or wrong, that is the reality of the situation. You can fight it tooth and nail but ultimately the market will demand more forensic audits for high risk clients. Even if the odds of you finding a single fraudulent transaction in your entire career is nil, shouldn’t you be prepared for that chance?
Sam thinks so. And he convinced (or maybe just conned?) us. You still got it, Sam.
Photo by Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York and Investment News.

Because There is No Shortage of Criminals

fraud.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam Antar of White Collar Fraud. I won’t give him too many props (lest he think his wily criminal charms got to me) but our conversation was both relevant and disconcerting.
In case you aren’t acquainted with Sam, he’s the ex Crazy Eddie CFO who ripped them off and now does speaking tours talking about, well, crime. But there’s a lot more than that at work here, that’s just his schtick.


So what did I learn?
I believe my editor thinks I’m a doom and gloomer so here’s some good news: besides suggesting we start training more qualified forensic auditors fresh out of school, Sam insists there is a chance for real financial reform.
Do you take your reform advice from an ex-criminal? I remind you here that a tax cheat is in charge of the IRS, do with that information what you will.
Anyway, the point here is that financial statements lack integrity. Without integrity, investors are groping in the dark and criminals are able to execute their schemes. Foreign investors are scrambling to leave US capital markets, could that be because our statements are – generally speaking – unreliable?
So. Sam’s 3 step plan to restoring sanity to financial statements. Take it for what it is.
1. Redefine audit committees as truly independent. No member of the audit committee should derive a salary or other compensation from stock options or stock holdings. Period.
2. Committee members should be qualified. CPAs and securities lawyers are qualified to sit on an audit committee, not marketing managers and other “average” sections of the corporate population.
3. Forensic accounting should be standard curriculum in university accounting programs. Don’t eliminate 404(b), if a corporation can’t afford the audits required to be a public company, then don’t become one.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on that final point, I don’t think tedious audits are the solution. However, perhaps if we had more qualified auditors out in the trenches, I might be inclined to be slightly less skeptical about the effectiveness of more softcore audits.
Stay tuned as we’ll be picking Sam’s brain again soon.
GC Posts Referencing Sam Antar:
Grant Thornton: Patrick Byrne’s Pants Are on Fire
Obvious Sign of Fraud: You’re Having Sex with the Client