Fraud

The view inside a Deferred Prosecution Agreement is not pretty. Selling airplane parts to Iran edition.

Fokker Dr.1 Dreidecker. produced by Fokker Services BV parent early in 1900s. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Fokker Dr.1 Dreidecker. Produced in early 1900s by Fokker Services BV’s parent. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

I’ve taken a look inside one of the hundreds of Deferred Prosecution Agreements that the current Department of Justice has negotiated with corporate felons. It is not a pretty sight.

The value for me in looking at this particular DPA is the admitted criminal behavior is on a small enough scale that I can actually wrap my little brain around the situation.

This particular DPA has been denied by a federal judge instead of getting his automatic rubber stamp approval. The DoJ and now-confessed felon both appealed. The case will soon be heard on appeal. There are ripple effects if the judge’s denial is ratified at appeal.

There is an old saying you should never look at how sausage or legislation is made. Reason is the details can turn your stomach.

Here is what I’ve learned of this particular sausage making effort:

8/8, print edition – Wall Street JournalCorporate Prosecution Deals Headed for a Legal Test / Justice Department worries judges may gain sway over agency’s pacts with firms under criminal investigation

Time to start paying attention to the Toshiba accounting scandal

Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Yeah, yeah, I’m late to the party.  Since this has been in the news for a few months, I am a bit tardy talking about the issue. On the other hand, yet another round of billion-dollar book-cooking in Japan doesn’t have a lot of impact on accounting firms that only work in the US.

So what’s going on?

Apparently Toshiba has around a dozen different schemes to inflate profits. Make that two dozen. Make that two dozen and counting. Amounts involved are reported to be half a billion dollars, one billion, or three billion. Take your pick.

Former Upland mayor works to rebuild his life after time in prison

New book. New consulting company. Forming a nonprofit. Working in construction industry.

John Pomierski is building a new life after prison.

He accepted a guilty plea for one count of bribery because of his actions while mayor of Upland, California. That’s the city immediately to the west of where I live.

He was sentenced to two years in federal prison. He was in custody from October 1, 2012 until April 28, 2014. I’ve written of his case extensively.

He is working to rebuild his life. Yesterday, he held a book signing for his new book describing his experiences in federal prison. It is a guide for people heading off to ‘federal camp.’

Primer on money laundering and tax havens

High level overview on the how-to of laundering money and using tax havens. Will leave you curious for more details, but it’s a good intro. Also, article on another couple of billion in another settlement from the Great Recession.

4/7/13 – ICIJ – Tax Havens 101: the high cost of going offshore – Good 4 minute primer on how to set up and run an offshore operation to hide assets, whether from the taxman, your spouse, or creditors.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=gy2RgjIIZyA]

 

For under 4 minutes, it is a good explanation.

A few places to expand the ideas:

Price cut on print books

I’ve dropped the prices for the print copies of my books available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes store.

Here is what you can find on-line:

tragedy-cover

 Tragedy of Fraud – Insider Trading Edition

Story of Scott London’s fall from regional audit partner at KPMG to prison inmate because of his insider trading.

Rationalization in action is frightening to see

It is scary to see the power of rationalization. We humans can exert great effort to persuade ourself that wrong is right. With enough effort, we can persuasively argue that wrong is a positive good, the noble alternative.

It is unsettling to me when I see a client deeply believe that tax or accounting fraud is perfectly legitimate and I am the one who is in the wrong to suggest otherwise.  Worrisome is a watching a friend who believes that hurtful or destructive or nasty or evil behavior is Godly. Even more upsetting is when I catch my brain in full rationalization mode.

No, I’m not about to give any examples from clients, friends, or my life.

Unfortunately, we have a sad public example of rationalization racing at full power (sad pun intended).

Some background on Lance Armstrong’s massive doping schemes

Many public sources report that Lance Armstrong has been found to use performance enhancing drugs for a very long time. He won seven consecutive Tour de France races.

According to Wikipedia, in 2012 he received a life-time world ban on all competitive events in all sports. His seven wins were revoked. He was found to have engaged in sophisticated doping schemes for many years.

In 2013, he admitted massive doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. He admitted using a long and specific list of banned substances and did so in each of the 7 Tour de France races.

Rationalization on display

Having set the background, let’s look at an article in The Guardian:  Lance Armstrong: I would probably cheat again in similar circumstances. Thanks to Professor Mike Shaub (twitter @mikeshaub) for pointing out the article.

More good stuff for auditors – 1/9

A few articles for your growth. Comp and Review reports under SSARS 21 and 19. Bake-your-own net income measures. Lunch money thief gets 5 years in prison and $1.8M restitution

1/7 – CPA-Scribo – SSARS 21 Reports – Preparation, Compilation, and Review – Charles Hall has a great post providing sample reports under SSARS 21. Gives the reports under SSARS 19 for contrast. You gotta’ check it out.

Journalist falling for teen claiming $72M in stock market profits is object lesson for auditors

How many failures in the smell test can you identify in this story, which was published by New York Magazine?

In a few years of trading*, a 17-year old* High School junior has cleared $72 million* in profits from a diverse strategy* of penny stocks*, oil futures, and mid-cap stocks. He owns a BMW and has already rented an apartment in Manhattan that his parents won’t let him live in*. He lives with his parents in the same place they’ve lived for a while*. To validate his story, a fact-checker looked at a* Chase bank statement* that shows a $72M balance*. The stock whiz now says he met with the fact-checker “for about 10 seconds” to view the one statement*.

Update, forgot this part:  After one of the interviews, he was going to an appointment with some guy who wanted to give him* a $150M investment* to start a hedge fund* the day he turns 18*.

The whole thing was a hoax.

“The dozy watchdogs” – Deep discussion in The Economist on the state of audit profession

Gotta’ love the drawing of a seated Doberman with a wondering look on his face as he stares at a trail of muddy feline paw prints. Staring around helpless are three other dogs. The befuddled watchdog has a tag labeled “PwC” in case you hadn’t yet caught the point.

The previous drawing was of an overfed cat in a three-piece suit helping himself to a bag of cash from a safe as four dogs snoozed in front of the safe. Said dogs have a tag identifying each as a member of the Big 4.

If you are an auditor, you really should get a fresh cup of coffee and check out The Economist’s discussion of The dozy watchdogs. Will let you see what non-accountants think of the profession (not too much) and the job the big firms are doing (not so great).

Yeah, there is a problem

Huge fines are a tax on illegal behavior

Several weeks ago I listened to a continuing education class presented by Sam Antar, current felon and formerly CFO of Crazy Eddie.

In the session, he made two comments that caught my ear. First, the fines we read about as a result of various financial scandals are just a tax on illegal behavior. Second, those fiascos are, he said, a cancer destroying capitalism.

After the session, I had opportunity to interview him by phone and follow-up on both of those ideas.

Fines are a tax on illegal behavior

He indicated that essentially no one has been implicated in any of the disasters we’ve read about, which I have discussed extensively on my blog.

He said corporations don’t commit crimes. People commit crimes.

And the people who committed crimes aren’t going to jail.

Is the cost of reducing fraud risk greater than the loss from a fraud incident?

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Sam Antar, convicted felon and former CFO of Crazy Eddie. This is cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.

During our interview, Mr. Antar suggested a reason why businesses don’t put enough effort into fraud prevention and detection. He said the cost of deterring fraud may be more expensive than the consequences of fraud. Before I refine the concept, look at some costs he mentioned:

  • In the corporate world, particularly companies that have grown for a while, there needs to be a lot of systems put in place to deter and mitigate fraud risk.
  • There needs to be an audit committee and they need to have resources available to them. Translate that to they have authority to hire legal and accounting experts. They need training personally. This is expensive.
  • The audit committee, consisting of skilled and knowledgeable people, must have a direct line of contact to the Board of Directors. That is expensive in terms of time.
  • The Board of Directors has to have a substantial amount of financial skills. That is expensive in terms of time and dollars for training and dollars for their access to expert resources.
  • At some point in the growth curve, there needs to be a robust, skilled internal audit department. That could get quite expensive, if you look at it only in terms of cash outflows.

I would add to that the time involved to implement quality controls, policies, and procedures. Those will take a lot of time for the finance & accounting team. In turn, those procedures will take time for operational staff to follow. All of that translates into more staff.

That can get costly fast.

What is the cost of a fraud incident

Nonprofits cannot *prevent* fraud but they can reduce the risk

Sam Antar is a convict and former CPA. He was the CFO of Crazy Eddie, which by his description was an intentionally fraudulent business.

I recently had opportunity to interview him by phone. Will have more of our conversation in future posts.

What I’m going to do in these discussions is combine his comments and ideas with my thoughts. Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.

Advice for charities

I asked him what advice he would have for small charities to prevent fraud.

Wow, was that a mistake. I should not have used the word “prevent.”

You can’t prevent fraud. If someone is intending to steal or is completely determined to cook the books, they will find a way.

Tragedy of Fraud series now available in print as well as e-book formats

tragedy-cover   tragedy-cover

 

Both books in my Tragedy of Fraud series are now available in print format from Amazon.

The newest book:

tragedy-cover

Tragedy of Fraud – Insider Trading Edition describes – Scott London’s long fall from Big 4 audit partner to prison inmate.

Click the link for your reading preference:

First book in the series:

tragedy-cover

Tragedy of Fraud – The Ripple Effects from Fraud and the Wages Earned – Consequences of fraud spread far. There is a long list of well-earned wages from fraud that will be paid in full.

Available in your preferred format: