Category Archives: Forensic Accounting

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Posted by Shellian A. Murray.

The basis for this blog will be an Enron story” The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)” which was retrieved from the documentary listings on Netflix. A 2929 Entertainment, a Wagner/Cuban Company, Magnolia Pictures, HDNet Films. The documentary takes a behind the scenes look at the reliable energy company whose downfall will forever change the scope of business prospects around the globe. The “Jesus saves” notion was embedded with everyone asking the same sets of questions, which include, whether or not one main person was to be blamed, or it is a shared effort, and what mechanisms were put in places to make sure such events will never occur again. The fall of Enron was considered to be the largest bankruptcy in the United States of America history.

Enron, a company that took approximately 16 years to build and with a net worth of over a 100 million in assets took 24 days to go bankrupt.  What everyone thought was a significant investment and a company that was poised to take over the energy section with major gas prices, turns out to be the biggest Ponzi scheme. But in an instructive tale of corporate greed, negligent and diffusion of responsibility, there was no evidence of directors’ fiduciary duty, integrity, and stewardship displayed from those who were the leading players in the Enron scandal.

Jeffery Skilling, the former president and CEO and Kenneth Lay chairman/CEO were both Harvard graduates, the leaders of Enron, and were known as “the smartest guys in the room.”  Skilling and Lay were the captains of the ship; one that they thought was too powerful to go down. The employees that were involved were consumed by pride, greed, arrogance, and intolerance that they fail to realize they were just sinking themselves into a hole: a hole that will be unable to climb back out. The chaos caused by Enron traders in the 2000 California energy crisis left many disgruntled. California was seen as the money pit for Enron. The game was to create blackouts that would then drive-up gas prices significantly.  Many called on the federal government to fix a deregulatory system that Enron officials took for self-interest, but were told that the state was on its own and had to correct the problem by themselves.

On the other hand, Enron’s CFO, Andrew Fastow was still able to continue leaving massive debts off the balance sheets and booking future earnings, producing an illusion of market-to-market profit.  The Security Exchange Commission (SEC) did not have a problem with this accounting method and failed to enforce against companies like Enron. But reported profits were actually losses, even though amounts were not collected or collected, but were supposedly prepayments from clients, where such momentum was created to keep the stock price up.  But after winning the award for the best innovative company six years in a row, many persons started to question, how Enron made its money. A reporter by the name of Bethany Mclean wrote an article, “Enron stock overpriced?”  realizing that the cash flows were not coming together.

Jeffery Skilling the CEO had resigned suddenly, which lead the SEC to launch an investigation.  Enron declared bankruptcy on December 4, 2001, giving employees thirty (30mins) to leave the building. But before such bankruptcy declaration, on October 23, 2001, Author Andersen, the prestigious accounting firm had destroyed thousands of documents which were related to Enron finances.

Opinions and Reactions

The operation of Enron defrauded employees and investors out of millions of dollars, which at the same time the “big guys” who were involved in the game were quietly bailing themselves out, putting millions in personal and offshore accounts including the banks, such as, Chase and Citi Bank. Ken Lay had a high level political figure as a good friend, one that could help Enron to maintain its operation’s practices. Consequently, and if one were to believe it or not, politics is the driving factor for all regulatory and policies within any countries operations.

ArthurAndersen, the prestigious accounting firm, was paid a million dollar per week, denied their awareness of such practices of Enron. Auditors that supposedly gave reasonable assurance that the financials were, in fact, true and fair and free of material misstatements. As a result, many persons questioned the integrity and independence of the accounting and auditing profession. Such questions left a bitter taste in my mouth, within a career that has my interest and aspiration. A profession I held a role as an external auditor, internationally, and now as an accountant, I am in an “aww” moment, as to how people’s greed could allow them to continue embezzling cash or equivalents by any means necessary, no matter what harm may have caused by such actions. The disappointment I have with these people that are involved, by allowing their integrity to be compromised because of the greed of money is very heart rendering, wherein the end, mostly the poor suffer from such harsh deals.

Shellian is a master of science in accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2018.

 

 

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho Caught up in Spain Tax Scandal

Posted by Faris Alzahrani.

On June 20th Christiano Ronaldo was accused by the government prosecutor for evading tax four times amounting to $16.5 million. Ronaldo was investigated and was expected to appear before Pozuelo de Alarcon court No. 1 on July 31. His summoning accorded with the same prosecutor who indicted Mourinho for evading tax two times. The prosecutor reported that there was enough evidence that Christiano Ronald used a shell firm to hide the cash she had acquired from the team image rights. However, Ronaldo pleaded not guilty.

It believed that Ronald had to move out of the country and join another football club because of the accusations against him. It was alleged that Mourinho committed tax deception in a period between 2011 and 2012; this is according to Madrid’s prosecutor. All of the evidence was based on the facts delivered by Spain Tax Office that indicated that Mourinho also hides money from profit rights and avoided to pay tax (Fox, 2017).

Everything was left in judges hands. It is crucial to note that these individuals are not the first to be accused of tax fraud. Last year a Barcelona striker, Lionel Messi was indicted for tax fraud on three counts that amounted to $4.6 million, this mainly from the income made from image rights. He was given a 21-month jail sentence, but he was not expected to serve in prison, since it was his first offense and his sentence was below two years.

Faris is a graduate student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Reference:

News, F. (2017, June 20). Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho caught up in Spain tax scandal. Retrieved from Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2017/06/20/cristiano-ronaldo-jose- mourinho-caught-up-in-spain-tax-scandal

DMX Pleads Not Guilty to Tax Fraud

Posted by Ahmed Alzahrani.

In this article, the rapper DMX is accused of evading tax. The rapper pleaded not guilty to any of the charges against him.  He was later released in prison after spending one day in jail; this was after he paid $500,000 bond. The persecutor asserts that Earl Simmons also known as DMX evaded an estimated $1.7 million in tax in the peak of his profession between 2002 and 2005.

He purportedly avoided paying taxes, including establishing accounts on other names and paying most of his expenditure in cash. This was a violation of the law whether you are a celebrity rapper or not; paying taxes is necessary to all Americans. The prosecutor also indicated that DMX failed to file his returns in the period between 2010 and 2015; the prosecutor added that the accuser filed a fake affidavit in the US Bankruptcy Court (LIBBEY, 2017).

The bail postulated that DMX to be restrained in New York City. However, his lawyer reported that he would ask for permission for the accuser to travel for a show performance in summer. After the hearing, Mr. Simmons (aka DMX) told the journalist that his faith played a significant role in coping with a legal issue. It gave him the courage to face the situation.

Ahmed is a graduate accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Reference:

LIBBEY, P. (2017, July 16). DMX Pleads Not Guilty to Tax Fraud. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/16/arts/music/dmx-pleads-not-guilty-to-tax-fraud.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FTax%20Evasion&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collect.

 

 

 

Jail for Landlord – Tax Fraud

Posted by Abdullah Almohammadi.

51-year-old Steven Croman is a landlord with more than 141 apartment buildings in Manhattan. In 2016, was arrested for the allegations of obtaining loans fraudulently and committing tax fraud. Croman pleaded guilty for giving false business records, grand larceny, and criminal tax fraud. He was sentenced to one year jail and a five million fine.

The case came from the investigation of the allegations that Mr. Croman was harassing his tenants. He was alleged that he pushed rent-regulated out of their apartments. He also withheld the state payroll taxes to earn a bonus for forcing the rent-regulated tenants.

He was taken to court on Tuesday but declined to address the court. Justice Jill made a judgment stating that he was given time in jail to think about the people he has harmed. As he left the court in handcuffs heading to prison, an elderly tenant, Carol, stated that his apartment was in bad condition since Mr. Croman had refused to clean the apartment. Another elderly tenant by the name Cynthia suggested that the public ought to be protected from such a person as Croman forever. This indicated that Mr. Croman should have life jail term. On the other hand, Mr. Croman lawyer believes that Mr. Croman will behave appropriately in jail which will make him be released after eight months instead of one year.

Abdullah is a graduate accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Source:

http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/10/03/nyc-landlord-sentenced-to-year-in-fraud-case.html

 

Energy Investor Sentenced for Tax Evasion

Posted by Kelly Shaw.

Morris Zukerman, age 72, plead guilty in June 2016 to obstructing the IRS as well as tax evasion. He was sentenced to 70 months in prison for his criminal offenses in March 2017. Morris sold a co-owned petroleum products company, which was owned by a subsidiary of his investment firm M.E. Zukerman & Co., and then proceeded to mask the income he received from the sale. By doing so, Morris was able to evade taxes on his $130 million in income in 2008.

One may wonder how Morris was able to hide such a large profit from his accountants and receive clean audits over the years. The cover story that was given stated that in 2007, Morris transferred ownership of the subsidiary to a trust account. He even went as far as creating false documents to support his story such as a promissory note. By not reporting the $130 million sale, M.E. Zukerman & Co was able to avoid paying $33 million in corporate income taxes.

To add to Morris’s list of crimes, he also claimed a $1 million charitable contribution deduction in 2009  and 2011, which he was not entitled. Morris was registered to purchase a property on Black Island that the Maine Coast Heritage trust (MCHT) was preparing to purchase and use for business purposes. After contemplating about whether he would make a charitable contribution or not, he ultimately purchased the land for himself through his new LLC for $1 million. On his personal tax return, he convinced his accountant that the purchase should be stated as a charitable contribution to MCHT which was incorrect.

A quote from the US Attorney John H. Kim, “While amassing a personal fortune through, among other things, the $130 million sale of his company, Morris Zuckerman cheated on his taxes for years, illegally scheming to evade almost every one of his tax liabilities. Through his criminal schemes, Zukerman deprived the public of over $45 million in taxes he rightfully owed.” It is evident that Morris Zukerman’s actions were motivated by pure greed with little regard for the consequences of his actions.

Kelly is an MBA student with a concentration in accounting at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Reference:

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/manhattan-energy-investor-sentenced-70-months-prison-evading-over-45-million-income-and

Uber Goes on Legal Offensive Using Embattled Ad Agency

Posted by Mohammed Almanqari.

Uber Company is always thought of being sued now and then for one or two issues. Apparently, the company has sued an advertising company called Fetch Media. Uber has taken to court Fetch Media accusing it of click fraud. The company had improperly billed Uber for online advertisements, which were not genuine. Fetch Media took advantage of the same and benefited from application downloads that did not belong to it. Fetch Media is owned by Dentsu, one of the largest advertising company in Japan. The case was filed by Uber on 19th September 2017 in the US District Court in San Francisco.

After placing the charges, Uber said that it expected not less than forty million dollars as compensation for the damages caused by Fetch Media. However Uber is not fond of taking to court most of the issues it faces; in fact, according to report prepared by Bloomberg, Uber has been a plaintiff twice but has been accused in more than 250 cases. Ever since the internet became a money-making platform, fraud related to online advertising has been on the rise. “One of the biggest challenges we face as digital marketers is to reduce mobile ad fraud.” This was according to the chief executive of Fetch Media, James Connelly. According to the head of media at Fetch Company, Steve Hobbs, a big percentage of downloads from Fetch`s system are noted as invalid or not genuine.

Uber became aware of this fraud during a period when it was putting efforts to shut down and avoid a scandal that was different. Uber Company then requested Fetch Media not to post any advertisements on a certain website called Breitbart news which was being run by the former chief strategist of President Donald Trump. However, ads stills appeared on that site. Fetch canceled the running of ads from any network that was related to Breitbart but this did not reduce the number of application downloads. There is a specific fee paid to Fetch by Uber when a customer downloads the company`s application. From the years 2015 to 2017, Uber had paid close to $8.4m for ads regulated by Fetch Company.

Mohammed is a graduate student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Reference:

http://www.fin24.com/Tech/Companies/uber-goes-on-rare-legal-offensive-suing-ad-agency-for-fraud-20170919

 

 

Issues Facing Forensic Accountants

Posted by Muhammad Azeem.

 

Playing the role of a forensic accountant can be a fundamental one as it will influence various individuals whether in a business valuation or in a fraudulence sense. This article talks about how forensic accountant can play an indispensable part in perceiving issues and working up new tradition proceeding, irrespective of facing issues during the trial.

When in doubt, forensic accountants will join money related and legal capacities in choosing the proximity of a wrongdoing. Also, they can use their skills and expertise in recognizing those factors that should be considered in a business valuation. The arranging of using a forensic accountant could in like manner ask for quick and excellent results that oblige relationship with existing clients.

Whether it is for the inspirations driving business valuation or diverse examination of data, an accountant can be a fundamental part in recognizing issues. Observation is one of the biggest issues that forensic accountants face. If you are estimating a business or attempting to choose something that requires examination of a huge amount of data, an expert accountant might be the individual you require at the end.

Muhammad is an undergraduate student in accounting at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Article Link: http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Are-the-Biggest-Issues-Facing-Forensic-Accountants&id=9240899

 

Orthofix International Charged With Accounting Failures and FCPA Violations

Posted by Alexander D. Bakogiannis.

Earlier this year the SEC reported that a medical device company named Orthofix was being charged with improperly booking revenue and making improper payment to doctors and government owned hospitals in Brazil.

They improperly recorded revenues as soon as a product was shipped before securing payments. When a company makes revenues from its operations, it must be recorded in their ledgers and then reported on the income statements every reporting period. According to GAAP, there are two criteria the company must meet before it can record revenues. First there must be a critical event that triggered the transaction process, and the amount collected from that transaction is measurable within a certain degree of reliability.  These wrongdoings cost the company over $14 M to settle charges.

One specific instance involved Orthofix recording revenue even when they gave their customers significant extensions of time to make payment. A company can recognize revenue from a transaction when the buyer of the company’s good or service agrees to a purchase, and the amount that the customer is going to pay is determined. By giving their consumers all this time to make their payments, the payments are fully determined, thus all the revenues should not have been recorded yet. These accounting failures make the company misstate data on their financial statement from 2011 to 2013. “Their accounting failures were so widespread that it caused them to make false statements to the general public regarding their financial condition”.

Orthofix violated the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) when their associates in Brazil used high discounts and made improper payments through third parties to solicit doctors employed by the government to use their products; fake invoices were used to facilitate this. All of this could have been avoided or contained if Orthofix had the proper internal controls in place and to ensure that proper payments were being made on their behalf to the correct individuals, and the right data was being recorded at the times times. Unfortunately, this was not the case. As a result, their sales were inflated.

Alex is an MBA with concentration in Accounting, and a Forensic Accounting Certificate, Class of 2017.

Reference:

https://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2017-18.html

 

 

 

 

 

Rapper Charged With Fraud

Posted by Basil Almubaddil.

On July 14, 2017, a renowned rapper by the name DMX pleaded not guilty to 14 charges against him concerning tax fraud. This was after he had spent a night in jail and later posted a $500,000 bond and he was released. According to the prosecutor, DMX whose real name is Earl Simmons had evaded $1.7 million in taxes during the peak seasons of his career from the year 2002 to 2005. “DMX allegedly went out of his way to evade taxes, including by avoiding personal bank accounts, setting up accounts in other`s names and paying personal expenses largely n cash.” The prosecutor clearly stated that no one  has the right to evade taxes regardless of title or fame. “Celebrity rapper or not, all Americans must pay their taxes.”

In addition, DMX was charged with failing to file tax returns from 2010 to 2015 in the United Bankruptcy Court. The bailed agreement argued that DMX is confined to the New York City area. However, his lawyer, Murray Richman, said that he was going to request permission for DMX to travel and perform his shows during the summer season that followed.

Mr. Simpson is quite a wealthy man.  This is because between 1998 and 2003, five of his albums ranked No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Mr. Simpson has also acted in various films like “Romeo Must Die” and “Belly” among other films. After the hearing on the charges against him, DMX told the reporters that his religious faith had been so helpful to him in dealing with legal troubles. “It`s allowed me not to be scared of the situation and face it head-on.” In addition, DMX told the reporters that his life was in God`s hands.

Basil is a graduate accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Reference:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/16/arts/music/dmx-pleads-not-guilty-to-tax-fraud.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FTax%20Evasion&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection