SEC inquiries

PwC Is in the Midst of a Independence Quagmire

Independence: its complicated. Except it isn’t, really. Audits firms are conflicted because they’re paid by the organizations who they’re supposed to be independent of audit clients. Most people, I think, know this yet choose to ignore it. Fine.

IBM: We Mind the GAAP

IBM disclosed an investigation into its revenue recognition today but isn't worried too about it: In a statement on the investigation, IBM defended its accounting practices as “rigorous and disciplined,” adding that it is “confident that the results and information we report have been appropriate and consistent with GAAP,” or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The […]

St. Joe’s Accounting for Real Estate Impairment to Get the ‘Informal’ SEC Inquiry Treatment

If Greenlight Capital founder David Einhorn takes issue with your accounting policies, we don’t suggest laughing it off. We could talk about Lehman Brothers but it’s probably not necessary.

The most recent company that Einhorn has pegged for sketchy reporting is The St. Joe Company, who, after acting all amused about DE shorting the company’s stock, has now received a, what we imagine to be, very nice letter from the SEC launching an “informal inquiry” about the company’s practices concerning real estate impairment. The company shared the news with the world yesterday in this 8-K:

The Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) has notified The St. Joe Company (“St. Joe”) that it is conducting an informal inquiry into St. Joe’s policies and practices concerning impairment of investment in real estate assets. St. Joe intends to cooperate fully with the SEC in connection with the informal inquiry. The notification from the SEC does not indicate any allegations of wrongdoing, and an inquiry is not an indication of any violations of federal securities laws.

Despite St. Joe’s “nothing is fucked” position, Team Greenlight insists that things remain fishy:

“St. Joe’s valuation practices remain open to question,” Jonathan Doorley, a spokesman for Greenlight Capital, said today. “It is hard to understand how the company invested hundreds of millions of dollars during the real estate bubble and hasn’t seen fit to take a material writedown.”

Ideas welcome from those that want to line up against or with Einhorn & Co. Especially anyone that’s on the KPMG audit team.

St. Joe Reports Informal SEC Inquiry of Accounting for Land Impairments [Bloomberg]

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.

Berkshire CFO Attempts to Kill SEC Curiosity

When you’re a folksy billionaire octogenarian, you can afford to have others do your dirty work. In the case of the Warren Buffet, he has Charlie Munger hate on accountants for anything and everything under the sun.

Similarly, when the SEC comes calling, the Sage of Omaha can ring up Berkshire CFO Marc Hamburg. On the one hand, you might expect WB to shoot the breeze with the SEC employees since they likely share a fondness for a certain film genre.


However, when the conversation turns to business, the old man probably claims that he has an interview on tax cuts, a bridge match with WHGIII or a lunch date with Z-Knowles. This allows him to turn the SEC scamps over to Hamburg who plays a little bit of a bad cop to the Buffet’s chatty, dirty Grandpa. The CFO then lets the SEC know, in no uncertain terms, that they’re barking up the wrong tree:

In an April letter, the SEC asked Berkshire why it was not recording write-downs on shares with $1.86 billion in unrealized losses, all of which had been in that position for at least a year.

Given the duration of those losses, the SEC said they appeared to be more than temporary and as such should have been written down.

In a detailed response, Berkshire Chief Financial Officer Marc Hamburg said most of the losses with more than 12 months’ duration as of December 31 were concentrated in Kraft and U.S. Bancorp, shares it had acquired in 2006 and 2007.

Hamburg said that as of December 31, Berkshire determined both companies had enough earnings potential that their share prices would eventually exceed the original cost of the stock. It also has the “ability and intent” to hold the shares until they recovered, he said.

“We believe it is reasonably possible that the market prices of Kraft Foods and U.S. Bancorp will recover to our cost within the next one to two years assuming that there are no material adverse events affecting these companies or the industries in which they operate,” Hamburg said.

And if this doesn’t work, they’ll just schedule Munger for another speech.

SEC questioned Warren Buffett’s Berkshire on loss accounting [Reuters]

Analysts Aren’t Concerned About SEC Probe of Vermont Hippies’ Revenue Recognition Policies

Somewhat related: It’s National Coffee Day. Does the SEC have no sense of timing?

Shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc (GMCR.O) fell as much as 18 percent on Wednesday, a day after it said U.S. regulators made an inquiry into some of its revenue recognition practices and its relationship with a vendor, which analysts said was M.Block & Sons.

However, most analysts believe Green Mountain’s accounting policies are sound.

“We are comfortable with Green Mountain’s revenue recognition policy, the fact that it does not have control over M. Block & Sons, unquestioned management integrity and strong auditors (PricewaterhouseCoopers),” Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Mitchell Pinheiro said.

At least this analyst knows the name of the auditors. We’re looking straight you, Dick Bové.

Green Mountain roasted on SEC probe; analysts unfazed [Reuters]