Monthly Archives: September 2016

Understanding the Mind of a White Collar Criminal

Posted by Ola Mohammed Alghasham.

The world encounters cases where frauds are committed by white collar criminals. Executives whom fight against fraud are beneficial for the company. Although the board and management make strong efforts in composing fraud preventing policies, there are several behavioral, environmental, and fraud assessment elements which are ignored during the composition of such policies and their absence provides shelter to the fraudsters. White collar criminals often attain confidence from their role in the organization. This confidence gets transformed into arrogance which prohibits the criminal from applying organizational policies and rules on himself, as an employee of the company.

There is no doubt that the top management always looks for the creative and clever individuals as employees. They forget, however, this creativity and cleverness can be used against the company instead of in its favor. Employees with these traits can cunningly commit frauds by practicing unnoticeable unethical behavior. Companies should execute proper controls with the recruitment of talented people. The tone of top management can either promote or discourage the ethical behavior because it is supposed to set an example for the rest of the organization. The whistle-blowing attitude is shaped by the organizational culture. Moreover, an illogical increase in pay, without any improvement in the performance, allows the fraudsters to continue their unethical activities.

Board members and executives should identify the fraud tactics and fraud hidden strategies of these individuals to compose a fool-proof risk assessment process. Major warnings can appear from the financial data (e.g. unusual, frequent or large transactions), documents with missing or incomplete information or suspicious signatures, poor controls (e.g. lack of monitoring, poor reconciliation of accounts, lack of position to manage conflicts of interest), behavior (e.g. unstable behaviors, mismatched lifestyle with income, high expectations family, and job dissatisfaction). Management must implement strong controls in the day-to-day business operations to avoid fraudulent activities. The board must adopt a proactive behavior in the elimination or early detection of fraud by establishing an audit committee with full authority, monitoring transactions, promoting and maintaining an ethical environment, and composing a procedure for the reporting of fraudulent activities. The board must compose and enforce certain strategies to cope up with the frauds. The executives must develop an ethical environment for keeping the employees loyal with the company and directing the human talent towards the betterment of the company.

Ola is an graduate accounting major with a certification in forensic accounting at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Source:

Marks, J., (2012), A Matter of Ethics: Understanding the Mind of a White-Collar Criminal, Financial Executive, pp. 31-34. Retrieved from www.financial executives.org.

Wells Fargo Scandal

Posted by Dylan Beland.

One of the most talked about issues in business law news is the Wells Fargo scandal. The story behind this scandal is that the Department of Justice and many attorneys are investigating the possibility that Wells Fargo has millions of fake accounts opened at their banks. The result of the investigation was Wells Fargo had to pay a 185 million dollar fine.  Wells Fargo had to let go over 5,300 workers for fraudulent sales tactics.

From this, the concern and worry in the banking industry instigated a lot of questions about the fake accounts being opened. Employees were pushed to reach near-impossible sales targets, which in turn led to the creation of fake accounts. Mike Mayo, a banking analysist at CSLA, said the investigation “reflects pent-up frustration by the public over the lack of accountability at big banks post financial crisis.”

The people that could see some blame for this are the investors of the banks. One of Wells Fargo’s biggest investors has not spoken, since the situation has arisen. Warren Buffett is Wells Fargo’s biggest investor and he owns Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

On September 20, Wells Fargo is meeting with the Senate and is having John Stumpf, CEO, represent and testify at the hearing. He apologized for the fake accounts but also said he does not plan on resigning from being CEO of Wells Fargo.

Dylan is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

No Liability for Yelp – Court rules

Posted by Steven Otto.

The San Francisco rating company, Yelp, is not found liable for negative reviews posted on its site. This is because it relies on ratings posted by users, not the company itself. A federal appeals court on Monday, September 12, dismissed a libel lawsuit filed against Yelp by Douglas Kimzey, the owner of a Washington state locksmith company. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, under federal law, Yelp is not liable for content it gets from its users. The features of Yelp are based on users’ input and it is not content created by the company, whose site helps guide people to anything from restaurants to plumbers and much more.

The court said that Douglas Kimzey’s business received a negative review on Yelp in 2011. Kimzey claimed that the negative review was actually meant for another business, and claimed that Yelp transferred the review to his business on purpose in an attempt to extort him. He claims that Yelp was trying to force him into paying to advertise with Yelp. The appeals court said that his allegations were not substantial and that there were no facts at all supporting Yelp fabricating content under a third party’s identity. Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel decision, said “We fail to see how Yelp’s rating system, which is based on rating inputs from third parties and which reduces this information into a single, aggregate metric, is anything other than user-generated data.”

The appeals court previously ruled under the 1996 Communications Decency Act that “websites that provide what are known as ‘neutral tools’ to post material online cannot be held liable for libelous material posted by third parties.” Kimzey’s claim that Yelp should be held liable for distributing reviews to search engines was dismissed by this act. The appeals court stated that distributing the content does not make Yelp the creator or developer of the content.

Aaron Schur, Yelp’s senior director of litigation, said the appeals court “rightly confirmed Yelp’s ability to provide a forum for millions of consumers to share their experiences with local businesses.” Kimzey said he lost 95% of his business after getting one star on Yelp and said, “If you have a one-star rating, people won’t go near it (the business). They don’t care if you’ve been in business for one week or 25 years.” Obviously upset over what had occurred to him and the ruling, Kimzey, serving as his own attorney, plans to appeal to a larger court panel.

Steven is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2019.

 

Sacramento Kings Limited Partnership LP v. M-F Athletic Co. Inc.

Posted by Abigail Hofmann.

Francisco Garcia of the Sacramento Kings was lifting weights on a Ledraplastic exercise ball on October 9th, 2009. The 195 pound player was lifting two 80 pound weights while on the ball when it suddenly burst beneath him. This supposed “burst resistant” ball advertised its ability to withstand weight up to 600 pounds. In the fall, Garcia suffered a fracture to his forearm, causing ineligibility for upcoming games. This injury came shortly after signing a five year, $30 million contract. Because of this, the Sacramento Kings wanted “to recoup the more than $4 million in salary, medical expenses and other costs it incurred after Garcia’s injury, as well as prejudgment interest.” (Bricketto)

Ledraplastic initially refused to reimburse the Kings or Garcia for the financial loss or issue a statement recalling the products or forewarning about potential dangers. In the Kings’ product liability case, they were able to prove that the ball burst at weights of mere 400 pounds, rather than the advertised 600 pounds, and that “for a very small expense, the ball could have been made thicker and would have provided the burst resistant capacity as represented.” (Bricketto) Eventually, a settlement was done in private, but the Kings “sought reimbursement for the salary they paid Garcia,” and “Garcia had also sought damages for pain and suffering as well as loss in future earning capacity.” (Lu)

Ultimately, this product liability case was pretty clear on who was at fault: Ledraplastic claimed to have a ball that withstood weights up to 600 pounds, yet failed to hold even 400 pounds. This caused an injury resulting in millions of dollars of damages, and up until the settlement, Ledraplastic refused to forewarn others about this potential danger. Although the settlement was private, we do know that Ledraplastic is now required to warn users of the dangers of using the ball while lifting free weights, hopefully preventing many similar injuries.

Abigail is a management, marketing, and finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Works Cited:

Bricketto, Martin. “NBA Team Sues Exercise Ball Cos. Over $4M Injury – Law360.” NBA Team Sues Exercise Ball Cos. Over $4M Injury – Law360. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 2016.

Lu, Andrew November 1, 2012 5:54 AM. “NBA Star Francisco Garcia Settles Exercise Ball Lawsuit.” Injured. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

Tesla Attempts to Bypass Dealerships

Posted by Ali Paladino.

Recently, on September 1, 2016, the electric car maker Tesla Motors was called out for attempting to sell their vehicles directly to their customers in Missouri. The judge ruled Tesla’s efforts to rule out the middleman, car dealerships, violated state law.  The Missouri Revenue Department “gave the California-based manufacturer a license for a University City dealership in 2013 and a franchise license for a Kansas City dealership in 2014.” Both of these licenses allowed Tesla motors to sell their vehicles directly to their customers, disregarding any use of dealerships.

The court ruled this was not suitable, and Missouri Automobile Dealers Association agreed. The Association sued the State claiming that “it had given Tesla special privileges,” in their attempts to disregard using franchised dealerships to sell their vehicles. The court ruled that Tesla’s action was not technically unconstitutional, but held the licensing was not allowed. Tesla argued the ruling against them was going to damage the company and suppress their ability to compete with other motor vehicle companies. The company also argued the order was an “attempt” to “limit consumer choice in Missouri.” Yet, Tesla appears to be determined to try and continue to sell to their customers directly in the hopes that this will improve their bottom-line. Doug Smith, head of the Dealers Association, however, does not agree with Tesla’s actions and believes that it is not fair to other manufacturers. He believes all manufacturers should be “treated the same in Missouri.”

I have to agree with Doug Smith. I do not think Tesla should have the right to sell directly to their customers and completely bypassing dealerships, only because it puts the company on a different playing field than other motor vehicle companies. I do not believe that is fair.

Tesla has looked at other ways to get around laws in other states in order to improve their sales; however, I do not agree with this either. In this situation, the law stands blurry and unclear and it is intriguing to see how far Tesla will go in attempts to get around the law.

Ali is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.