Ten Things We Hate about Fraud

Fudging revenue is the most popular form of financial-statement crime. And though it seems to be in decline, a Deloitte Forensic Center study finds fraud to be tenacious across a variety of industries.

Corporate fraud schemes may have been on the decline in the past few years, but they remain a tenacious type of crime, according to a new report by the Deloitte Forensic Center.

The study analyzes 344 Securities and Exchange Commission “accounting and auditing enforcement releases,” or AAERs, dealing with financial-statement analysis fraud between 2000 and 2006. The SEC uses AAERs to report any antifraud actions it takes. The Deloitte report found that the number of AAERs doubled between 2001 and 2002, and then rose by an additional 43 percent in 2003, peaking at 77. Since then the SEC has issued an annual average of 50 fraud-enforcement actions.

“Despite increasingly stringent legislation such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act aimed at combating fraud — and despite increased enforcement efforts by the SEC — financial statement fraud remains a public concern,” reported the center, which is part of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Also of concern was the time it takes the SEC to issue its releases after instances of financial-statement fraud occur: on average, 4.7 years from the start of a fraud scheme to the issuance of a release. The longest case took 18 years, according to the report, and the average delay increased by 33 percent between 2004 and 2006.

The most common type of statement fraud involved revenue recognition, in which fictitious amounts were tallied, or in which inappropriate funds from swaps, “round-tripping,” or barter arrangements were erroneously called revenue. Such schemes made up 41 percent of all such frauds. Other popular frauds involved manipulation of expenses, assets, or liabilities.

Meanwhile, many companies were guilty of multiple fraud schemes. Of the schemes detected, 22 of the companies involved had 10 or more fraud cases under investigation, and 4 companies had more than 20 fraud schemes being probed, the report said.

Financial-statement fraud does not discriminate by industry. Technology, media, and telecommunications companies were responsible for 39 percent of all fraud schemes, while consumer businesses comprised 30 percent of such schemes. Manufacturing companies followed with 10 percent of the schemes identified.

Other notable findings from the study, called “Ten Things about Financial Statement Fraud,” included:

— During 2004 the SEC reported a fraud scheme for every working day of the year.

— Technology companies represented the subsector with the highest distribution of fraud cases.

— Occurrence of revenue-recognition fraud schemes fluctuate more drastically than any other type.

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