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Thursday, July 28, 2005

3 former WorldCom executives settle with investors

Three former executives of WorldCom Inc. have reached settlements in a class action lawsuit brought by investors who lost billions of dollars when the telecommunications firm collapsed in an $11 billion accounting fraud, a federal judge said Monday.

Judge Denise Cote, of Manhattan federal court, scheduled a hearing Thursday to discuss preliminary approval of the settlements, reached by former WorldCom finance chief Scott Sullivan, former accounting director Buford Yates and former controller David Myers.

The three former executives were the last remaining defendants in the investor lawsuit.

Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, 12 former WorldCom directors, auditing firm Arthur Andersen and major investment banks that underwrote WorldCom securities have reached settlements with the investors totaling more than $6 billion.

The judge, in an order posted on a court Web site, did not indicate how much money Sullivan, Yates and Myers would pay for their parts of the settlements or whether they were likely to forfeit property. She said the details of the settlements would be made public Tuesday.

Lawyers for the three defendants and for the investors were not immediately available for comment by telephone Monday.

In Ebbers' settlement, he agreed last month to forfeit nearly all his personal assets _ a total that could reach $40 million _ including selling his Mississippi mansion. The same week, he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for his role in the accounting fraud, which came to light in 2002.

Read on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Time Warner settles SEC fraud charges

Time Warner just agreed to pay securities regulators $300 million and restate three years of financial results to settle civil fraud charges stemming from its accounting of online advertising revenues and subscriber counts at its AOL unit.

The settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission also calls for the world's largest media company to open its books to an independent examiner, which could result in additional restatements.

The settlement closes another chapter in a federal investigation of more than two years into the accounting practices and deal-making at America Online before and after its January 2001 merger with Time Warner.
Time Warner said it had restated financial results for 2000 to 2002 by about $500 million to correct its accounting for deals under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

The SEC also settled with the company's finance chief, controller and deputy controller, who stood accused of causing false financial reports to be filed in $400 million worth of transactions that Time Warner negotiated with German media company Bertelsmann.
The three men, who were responsible for approving corporate accounting practices, received false information from unnamed insiders and "failed to pursue facts and circumstances" that would have thrown into question the payments in 2000 and 2001, according to court papers.

Chief Financial Officer Wayne Pace, Controller James Barge and Deputy Controller Pascal Desroches are not required to pay fines or face other sanctions as part of yesterday's settlement.

The three men, who did not admit or deny wrongdoing, remain employed at Time Warner, company officials said. Their defense lawyers declined to comment.

SEC enforcement chief Stephen Cutler said the charges in the 29-page complaint detail "a wide array of wrongdoing" at the world's biggest media company, including schemes to inflate advertising revenue and subscriber numbers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Worldcom-Chief Ebbers found guilty over WorldCom fraud

A jury has found Bernie Ebbers, the former head of WorldCom, guilty of the biggest accounting fraud in history over his role in the firm's $11bn collapse. After deliberating for eight days, the New York jury found Ebbers guilty on nine counts, one each of conspiracy and securities fraud and seven of false regulatory filings. He faces a possible 85 years in jail when sentenced on 13 June.

In a trial that pitted Ebbers' word against that of his former chief financial officer, Scott Sullivan, it's virtually impossible to know for certain whether Ebbers was responsible for the $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom, the largest in U.S. history. The jury clearly believed Ebbers was.

The court heard that WorldCom fixed its corporate figures to the tune of $11bn over 2000 to 2002 in order to keep the share price high. When the company collapsed, investors lost $180bn and 20,000 people were laid off."

The conviction of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers, a former milkman, bouncer and motel manager, underlines the accountability of business leaders, according to legal and corporate analysts.

While his wife and stepdaughter cried, Ebbers, 63, sat impassively and listened to the jury's decision: Guilty of one count of conspiracy, one count of securities fraud and seven counts of false regulatory filings.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Bestselling Books on Corporate Fraud

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Outcome-oriented auditing

Outcome-oriented auditing - looking at a situation as a whole rather than its individual parts - can help think like a fraudster and find deeply embedded crimes.
Focusing on the whole and not just the parts of a F. audit has helped find F. in numerous situations that probably would have overlooked.
Instead of looking at separate elements (such as each individual internal control in a transaction) and testing each individually, you look at the transaction or activity as a whole. You ask yourself these questions:
- Who are the customers (internal and external)?
- What are the customers' expectations?
- What would happen if expectations weren't met?
- If something were to go wrong, what would you expect to go wrong?
Then look for evidence that someone may have followed this course of action. Once the first indication is found that that someone has, in fact, attempted to perpetrate a F. scheme, dig deeper.
Bonita Warnell explains about a case in which outcome-oriented auditing helped to find thousands of dollars in well-hidden overcharges.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Money laundering and disclosing of confidential client information by accountants

Plans by home secretary David Blunkett to make the UK 'one of the most difficult environments in the world' for organised crime, could see accountants forced to disclose confidential client information.

A white paper, titled: One Step Ahead: A 21st Century Strategy to Defeat Organised Criminals , will see the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) set up, bringing together the responsibilities of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, and sections of the Immigration Service and Customs and Excise.

It is expected to suggest that accountants and other advisers such as bankers and lawyers - normally bound by confidentiality rules - will be forced disclose information about clients that may be involved in organised crime, or face jail themselves.

This will place even more pressure on the profession already reeling from requirements in the Proceeds of Crime Act which force accountants to report any suspicious activities to NCIS or face the threat of prosecution.

Accountants' protests against current legislation to combat money laundering could be paying off as home secretary David Blunkett considers changes to reporting processes.

The Home Office has reportedly opened discussions with professional advisers who are adopting different approaches to deal with the new legislation.

A Home Office spokesman said: 'The Home Office will be looking at the current legislation to make sure we've got the right balance. We are looking at the money laundering reporting processes to make sure they are as effective as possible', reported The Telegraph.

Under new rules accountants, lawyers and other advisers must report to authorities any suspicious transactions carried out by clients. The law was designed to target terrorists and fraudsters but advisers have complained the restrictive laws are hindering their ability to work.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Audit Committee Handbook, 4th edition is out

Out now: The Audit Committee Handbook, Fourth Edition. This comprehensive reference fills the need for an up-to-date in depth coverage to help busy professionals perform oversight responsibilities during this time of great financial liability.

Comprehensive in scope and an invaluable professional reference, this timely revision provides in-depth guidance on all functions and responsibilities of today’s audit. Features of the Audit Committee Handbook include:
  1. Checklists and practical guidance to help audit committee members meet their responsibilities in this new era of accountability
  2. The latest guidance for compliance from the SEC and the major stock exchanges
    New material addressing the scandals of the past two years and their impact on audit committees
  3. Guidance from the IIA on how to work with internal auditors

The Audit Committee Handbook is a 'must-have' for all audit committee members, board directors, CEOs, CFOs and auditors fighting fraud. Order The Audit Committee Handbook at Amazon


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Say It Loud, Say It Proud -- `Shareholder Value!

According to Orit Gadiesh, chairman of management consultants Bain & Company, in a WSJ article of August 3rd, 2004, fraud cases not only dominate the headlines; their fallout makes senior managers more circumspect and risk-averse.

Gadiesh argues that because of scandals like WorldCom's, many CEOs shy away from bold pronouncements or actions. Instead, they're preoccupied with mounting concerns, some seemingly outside of running the business, that add up to huge distractions for CEOs:

  1. The first is defending themselves against the charge that all senior executives are crooks; crooks, moreover, who justified their crimes by citing shareholder value as their gospel. Many CEOs understand they can't win this debate. So they remain silent. They deal, instead, with the hassles of Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress's attempt to legislate trust, and the Higgs rules in the U.K.
  2. The second, related, CEO distraction is corporate image. CEOs are spending more and more time on the reputational front, promoting good deeds in social responsibility in an effort to be seen as "giving back."
  3. The third CEO preoccupation encompasses geopolitical risks, terrorism and the state of the global economy. For instance, U.S. companies increasingly worry about the "American-ness" of their brands overseas

However according to Gadiesh, CEOs have to reclaim their agenda. They must have the confidence to set long-term goals and the will to communicate those goals clearly. So it's long-term shareholder value creation that matters and CEOs need to earn the public's trust the old-fashioned way -- through performance. Because ultimately, the trust that companies build through continuous, solid performance outshines every other consideration.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

***** Websites on Corporate Fraud

I found this ***** comprehensive website on financial scandals, maintained by Roy Davies. The site has massive fraud contents including:
Classic Financial and Corporate Scandals
BCCI, Barings, Daiwa, Enron, Sumitomo, Credit Lyonnais, Bre-X, Lloyds, NASDAQ, Savings and Loan, WorldCom, Parmalat etc.
Scandals involving Central Banks
Criminal or scandalous activity involving the pillars of the international financial system.
Political Corruption
Corruption in governments and official organisations in Great Britain, Europe, the United States, Japan and other countries.
Organized Crime:
The Cosa Nostra or Mafia, the Yakuza and other major criminal organisations and their role in financial scandals.
Money Laundering
How it is done and what is being done about it.
Bankers Behaving Badly
Cases of sexual harassment, racism, embarrassing e-mails, and outrageous extravagance.
Official Regulatory and Anti-Fraud Organisations
Links to the web sites of official organisations combating fraud.
Other Organisations Fighting Financial Crime
Professional Bodies, Investigative Services and Forensic Accounting.
Plus many links to other sources of information on Financial Schandals.

What are your favorite Websites on Fraud?