accounting fraud

Financial reporting issues to consider during early stages of COVID-19 pandemic

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A range of financial reporting issues need careful attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues are old news in the professional literature but need to be considered more intentionally.

The AICPA published a special report on March 18, 2020. The report, Consequences of COVID-19 Financial Reporting Considerations, was drafted by the Center for Plain English Accounting and is available at no charge.

On 3/14/29, I was Pondering impact of coronavirus prevention steps on financial statements. An auditor’s perspective. The AICPA report goes into far more detail.

Here, in bullet point italics, are the items mentioned for your focus, with a few of my comments for highlight:

  • Subsequent Events

Type II subsequent events are those which take place after the financial statement date which are so significant that they warrant mention in the financial statements to keep those statements from being misleading.

  • Subsequent Events – Market-Value Declines

A technical Q&A (TQA 9070.06) indicates there are some occasions that can arise which warrant adjusting financial statements based on subsequent declines in market value.

  • Subsequent Events – COVID-19

Litigation cases that could possibly take down a Big 4 firm

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

If a judgment at trial were big enough, it could mean the end of a large firm. Writing on August 13th at Market Watch, Francine McKenna explains PwC faces 3 major trials that threaten its business.

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.

Cheating on your Fitbit? After you stop laughing, think about this from the fraud perspective.

One option to get superb results on your exercise tracker. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.
One option to create superb results on your exercise tracker. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

On June 9, The Wall Street Journal asked Want to Cheat Your Fitbit? Try a Puppy or a Power Drill.

Those informal office challenges to get people to exercise often involve using a Fitbit device to track how far participants walk or run.

Apparently a few folks have decided to take some shortcuts.

One fellow attached his tracker to the blade of an electric saw. After leaving it run overnight he had recorded 57,000 steps the next morning.

Followup on Toshiba accounting scandal – “Record” fine as cost of doing business

Cleaning up the numbers. Image courtesy of
Cleaning up the numbers. Image courtesy of

A couple of articles have caught my eye on Toshiba’s book-cooking fiasco.

Tiny lawsuit to recover damages

11/10 – Wall Street Journal – Toshiba Shares Fall After Loss, Lawsuits – Toshiba has sued three former presidents and two current executives. Goal is to recover ¥300M ($2.4M).

Claimed amount of the accounting fraud is still ¥155B ($1.26B) after tax. Previously mentioned the estimate in September was about $1.87B pretax and $1.29B after tax. Looks like the estimated of amount of book-cooking is holding firm.

Just as a completely wild guess, I’ll guess the $2.4M would not even cover the legal fees already incurred by Toshiba to deal with the mess created by the named executives.

“Record level” fine as a cost of doing business

Audit of Parmalat’s fraud based on faked bank deposit settled by Grant Thornton for $4.4 million

The amount will be $4,400,000. Image courtesy of
The amount will be $4,400,000. Image courtesy of

Chicago Business reports on 10/30 that Grant Thornton settles lawsuit for $4.4 million.  Another quick survey:  Reuters – 11/2 – Parmalat settles dispute with Grant Thornton.

If I got it straight, the international consortium of Grant Thornton is writing the check to settle up for the fiasco on the Parmalat audit.

You may vaguely recall that mess.  In two sentences, Parmalat had a fake bank account in the Cayman Islands that supposedly held €3.95B (yes, four billion Euros, that’s 4,000,000,000) which was around half of the consolidated balance sheet of about €8B as of 12/31/03. The auditors in the Italian affiliate (if I recall correctly) of GT sent a confirm to the address the client gave them for the bank in the Caymans which was, of course, intercepted, signed by company staff, and returned to the auditor.

The scheme fell apart and has been rattling around in the legal system for just over a decade, in and out of the US and bouncing between circuits when here.

Current estimate of Toshiba book-cooking is at $1.9B, surpassing Olympus

Cleaning up the numbers. Image courtesy of
Cleaning up the numbers. Image courtesy of

After delaying their earnings announcement a while, Toshiba announced a ¥224.8B pretax write-down for accounting irregularities which hits net income for ¥155.2B.

That would be US$1.87B pretax and US$1.29B after-tax. Even if those amounts don’t increase that means Toshiba has out Olympused Olympus at $1.7B.

The now-admitted fraud ran for seven years, not the six previously mentioned.

Time to start paying attention to the Toshiba accounting scandal

Picture courtesy of
Picture courtesy of

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.

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.

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.

Irony: Charity’s anti-fraud manager pleads guilty to fraud

BBC reports on 3/6 that Oxfam ex-fraud chief admits defrauding charity.

Oxfam, a development charity in England, has revenue of £385.5M (~$645M) in 2012.

The charity’s head of the counter-fraud department pled guilty to embezzling about £62.6K (~US$105K) and will be sentenced May 16.

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update, since this is useful info for CPAs.)

His scheme?

eBook ‘Tragedy of Fraud’ now available in multiple formats

Fraud has tragic effects on innocent people who didn’t commit the fraud. The person who did the deed will pay a severe price far beyond what the judge imposes. Just like a stone thrown into a pond causes ripples all across the water, so a fraud ripples out to cause all sorts of harm.


Only 99 cents.

Available in Epub for iPad, iBooks, Nook, and Sony Reader.

Also in mobi for Kindle, PDF for desktop reading, and 5 other formats.

Newest versions can be found here.

Has been available at Amazon since February.

3 bank confirmation frauds

Previously mentioned that AU-C 505.07 requires auditors to look at the address used on confirmations.

Here are three illustrations of how things can go sour when sending bank confirmations: PFGBest, Parmalat, and a small company in North Carolina:

PFGBest – Peregrin Financial Group

The organization’s CEO was sentenced to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $215.5 million.

All the Enron accounting was approved by the attorneys and the auditors and the board. Everything was perfectly legit. Until indictments were issued.

In a speech that should give all auditors pause, Andrew Fastow, former CFO of Enron, tells us that all the off-balance sheet transactions were reviewed and approved in advance by everybody.

Enron was one of the biggest in the host of business frauds after the turn of the century.

Half of Enron’s assets were off-balance sheet. According to the article, Former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow Confronts the Fraud Examiners, Mr. Fastow says those deals were intended to deceive:

Fastow admitted that his role was engaging in structured finance transactions that intentionally created a false appearance for Enron. 

The goal was to create misleading financial statements.

Did he violate the accounting rules?


Did he break specific laws?


The transactions were reviewed and approved, yet still fraudulent

Live example of a fraud fiasco

“Going to meet your Maker with the fresh scent of theft on your hands is not a good way to go…”

is how Charles Hall starts his story of a long ago fraud – Stealing While Dying.

We’ve all seen the situation where the bookkeeper does the main bookkeeping, receives the bank statements, reconciles the accounts, and is an authorized check signer.

In this situation, the most-honest-and-nicest-person-you’ll-ever-meet bookkeeper starting stealing lots of money when she became gravely ill.

Check out the full story. …