Sunday, April 15, 2012

Japanese company Olympus's $1.7 billion fraud

How Do You Hide A Multibillion Dollar Loss? Accounting For The Olympus Fraud

"What is the amount of the fraud and time frame?

According to the report, the company had incurred substantial losses on financial investments by 1990. The report indicates that through 1998 very large losses were incurred, but the investments were never written down.

The whole project got started as 2000 approached and new accounting rules would require writing down the investments from book value to market value.

Olympus indirectly loaned money to an off-the-books subsidiary and then sold the investments that had the huge losses to the subsidiary at historical cost, eventually paying a huge premium to buy some other small companies and writing off the underwater investments as if they were goodwill impairments.

A few thoughts here on the auditors’ actions:

How do you perform an audit for a global investor audience in a local economy where intentionally hiding losses is legal? How do you function in a business environment where that is acceptable and normative?

Worth a full read.

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