On February 28 the US Justice Department fined Deloitte & Touche LLP $149.5 million for alleged fraud against the government related to its role as the independent outside auditor of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. Also: The damages phase of the FDIC v. PwC case regarding Colonial Bank is set to begin in Washington DC on March 20.
The KPMG/PCAOB scandal is neither the first or last time a Big 4 firm reminded us that there’s nothing special anymore about being a Big 4 firm professional The firms, and their partners, are not capitalist eunuchs, immune from perverse incentives that advocates for free markets say, if big enough, can corrupt anyone.
I received a threatening email yesterday from Chinese stock promoter Tianbing “Benjamin” Wey, whose New York Global Group (“NYGG”) was closely affiliated with the failed, fraudulent Chinese hog producer AgFeed during the period under litigation by the SEC and shareholders. He did not like my mention of his relationship to AgFeed, its auditor and its executives in a recent post about AgFeed’s audit firms. His claims are not only strange but wrong.
The MF Global Holdings Bankruptcy Plan Administrator filed a lawsuit on March 29 for professional malpractice and breach of contract against PwC as auditor of MF Global Holdings. I will be writing about the complaint and the status of the case early next week. In the meantime, you can review all I’ve written prior. I’ve updated this post with additional links as well as a link to my e-book compilation of MF Global columns from all sources that has material going back to its roots in the Refco fraud.
Here’s a breakdown of some of what’s the same and what’s different about these three cases.
Your first obligation as a professional is to your client, not your firm, your partners, or even your family.
If the JP Morgan “Whale” settlement was a true Sarbanes-Oxley success story, we’d see some bank executives going to jail. For a change.
Pete Brush at Law.com did a story last week about a story about in pari delicto, the adverse interest exception, and holding third-parties like auditors liable for fraud in bankruptcy cases. I was quoted.
Taxpayers are getting killed. I think municipal bondholders are next.
This is the fourth big insider trading case in the least few years against a senior tenured partner that betrayed the public’s trust. In none of the cases did the firm’s “extensive” and “comprehensive” independence compliance programs spot the behavior or the illegal actions. Stay tuned. There will be much more to this story, I guarantee.
This post about Ernst & Young’s aggressive tax advice to audit client Wal-Mart was originally posted October 29, 2007. It’s worth everyone – I’m talking to you SEC and PCAOB – taking another look at this given Wal-Mart’s new Mexican bribery problems and the SEC investigation of Ernst & Young for tax lobbying to audit clients. (Ernst & Young has been silent and left out of most media discussion about Wal-Mart’s FCPA problems in Mexico and elsewhere.)
I was asked to talk about HP and Autonomy tonight on NPR’s “All Things Considered” program.