There’s an old saying that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind very fine. In the accounting world the wheels of justice don’t even start to turn until the criminal justice wheels have ground everyone into powder.
Effective this past August and November two of the key former partners from KPMG involved in the PCAOB inspection cheating scandal surrendered their licenses.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 131 judges had an investment in one or many stocks of litigants who appeared in front of them.
Two presidents of regional Federal Reserve Banks were trading stocks during the tumultuous early months of the pandemic.
Two updates in the news recently. First, the situation with judges is worse than it appears. Second, restrictions have been placed on extremely senior staff of the Fed prohibiting them from owning individual stocks.
Wall Street Journal – 10/21/21 – Fed Imposes New Restrictions on Officials’ Investment Activities – The new rules will apply to the seven governors sitting on the board of the Federal Reserve, the 12 presidents of the regional Federal Reserve Banks, and an unspecified number of senior staff who work with the rate-setting committees.
It is so sad to say, but a reality never-the-less, there are so many major banking fiascos with such a wide range of willing participants that it is impossible to keep straight the players and disasters and fines based just on memory.
So, that means I have a spreadsheet to track the willful disasters I’ve been following.
My tally does not include all the billions of dollars paid to settle mortgage issues arising from the Great Recession. That is another massive set of disasters all by itself.
Here is my running tally of the amount of stockholder equity wasted for a range of different debacles. Amounts in millions of dollars:
There is a long list of banking scandals in the last decade or so with a long list of banks choosing to play in each of the fiascos. Plenty of banks have joined multiple schemes.
The time I’ve allocated to watching the apparently unending disasters has been concentrated on the money laundering and interest rate / exchange rate / pricing manipulation messes, along with the unending variations of cheat-your-customer plans at Wells Fargo.
Until now I’ve not been focused on the bribery disaster involving 1MDB’s shenanigans in Malaysia. If you’ve not tuned in, you can categorize this mess in the international corruption and bribery sector of bank fiascos.
On 10/23/20 Goldman settled up with the U.S. and several other national governments. The bank agreed to clawback $174M from several executives.
They also admitted breaking U.S. corruption laws, specifically with a plea of guilty to charges of conspiring to violate antibribery laws. To keep the parent company in business it was actually a subsidiary of Goldman who entered a guilty plea. Only two executives have been hit with criminal charges.
The feds say billions were stolen from 1MDB and bribes aggregating $1.6B were paid to various government officials around the world.
Financial penalties paid by Goldman:
$2.9B – US Department of Justice and other regulators around the world
From browsing headlines it looks like there are a few other fines but those are in the mere $50M or so range. Chump change for the big banks.
So, five and a half billion dollars of stockholder money burned by bribery and corruption. The irritated populists will loudly remind us that only two executives, merely two, have drawn criminal charges in the U.S.
As refresher, some time back senior level staff from KPMG worked to illegitimately gain access to the list of engagements which were going to be subject to inspection by PCAOB. You can catch up on the news by reading my posts with tag of Big 4.
This is old news at this point. Those of us interested in the ethical failure still want to monitor the status of the players. Previous list, found here, has been reworked since it was getting a bit cumbersome to update and confusing to read.
The five KPMG staff and one PCAOB staff who were charged are listed below with their status at various times. Updates will be mentioned as time passes and this page updated with new status.
10/19/20 – 1 released from prison, 1 sentenced & awaiting deportation, 2 awaiting sentencing, 2 convictions on appeal.
12/13/20 – 4 sentenced (of whom 1 released from prison, 1 to serve house arrest after deportation, 2 on probation/supervised release) and 2 convictions on appeal.
10/18/20 update – David Britt was sentenced to six months home confinement to be served from his new home in Australia after he is deported from the United States.
12/13/20 update – Thomas Whittle sentenced to two years supervised release and Brian Sweet sentenced to time serviced, three years probation, and to-be-determined restitution.
1/4/22 – Brian Sweet and David Britt surrendered their CPA license to the California Board of Accountancy in 11/21 and 8/21, respectively.
Haven’t talked about the massive Volkswagen diesel fraud much on this blog. Just don’t have enough time to cover every business fiasco. Time for a brief recap of the financial cost of the cheating mess.
Here is a fast tour from the guilty plea in 2017 to the latest estimate of total costs in 2019.
Either there hasn’t been much going in the money laundering news or I’ve not paid enough attention. On the other hand, governmental investigations are run behind the scenes. Perhaps the regulators are working out of sight.
Here are a few articles I’ve noticed in the last few months.
One thing I’ve learned while being in leadership at my church is that a conflict that appears simple to outsiders is usually far more complicated and messy and ugly than it appears, with blame for a conflict sometimes belonging to the party that appears innocent.
I’m slowly catching on that maybe that idea sometimes applies to massive financial fiascos. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I usually catch on really slow.)
Who is at fault?
Back in January 2008 a trader, Jérôme Kerviel, engaged in €50B of unauthorized trades for Société Générale and hid his trades. That’s fifty billion euros. He admits to making fake entries to hide his admittedly unauthorized trades.
Unwinding the trades cost the bank €4.9B.
I recall at the time that the story line was he was a rogue, a scoundrel, etc., doing all this by himself, etc., single handedly pulling off a huge scam, etc, cleverly wending his way between those tight internal controls, etc.
Previously, Mr. Kerviel was tried and convicted on criminal charges. His initial sentence was five years, which was reduced to two years (I think it was 2 but maybe was 3).
He served five months in prison, according to the following article.
Well, multiple parts of the French judicial system are saying that allocating the blame is a bit more complicated.
The bank will pay a mere $185M to settle claims brought by OCC, CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the new creation of the Dodd-Frank legislation), and LA city attorney.
This scheme involved customer-facing employees opening fake bank accounts in the name of existing customers without the customer’s permission. Another variation is opening a fake account in the name of a nonexistent customer. Article says sometimes money would be transferred from a customer’s account into the new, fake account with occasional NSF fees because there wasn’t enough money in the legitimate account to cover legitimate checks.
That threaten its business phrase in the headline actually means could take down the entire firm.
There are three major cases, each with a serious enough impact, that an adverse ruling in any one could take out the firm. One is in court now, another expected next February, with the final one in court within a year.
Work with me as I try to process through the cases. Here is the thumbnail version.
Two lawsuits over one client
Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp allegedly generated massive amounts of fraudulent loans, a large portion of which were sold to Colonial Bancgroup. Both companies failed during the financial crisis.
PwC audited Colonial Bank and allegedly did not discover the bad loans that their client, Colonial Bank, bought from PwC’s non-client Taylor Bean.