Forensic Accounting

#1: Collusion and Fraud to Attract Business Investors

Summary of issue: Arxis Financial was retained to quantify the effect of an alleged fraud and breach of contract. The organizers of a new business made multiple and extensive representations about intellectual property that was owned by the business and the prospects of converting that ownership into rather healthy cash flows in the future. Our client was persuaded to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock and then, in subsequent years, over a million more dollars in the form of loans. The loans were convertible to equity.

In the course of attracting investors, the defendants presented an image of success and a high profile celebrity presence. A valuation firm was even retained that opined in writing that the business was worth more than $20,000,000. All of this masked the reality that the business never made a profit. In fact most, if not all, of the revenue was simply business diverted from another business controlled by one of the defendants. The intellectual property that was the basis for the entire business venture was owned by some of the defendants – but not the business that was issuing stock and borrowing money.

Arxis work: Our initial involvement was to re-create accounting records and attempt to identify a pattern of transactions that would suggest or support a case of collusion and fraud. Because of the financial constraints our work was very targeted and limited. Our work was used to support and assist the work of the team of lawyers in depositions, interrogatories, and other discovery. Our work was also useful in identifying the realizable value of the funds loaned to the business. We also calculated the value of the business for purposes of determining the value of the equity investments of the plaintiffs. Needless to say, the value of the debt and equity was zero.

Result: A jury trial was held. Arxis Financial presented testimony at trial that was focused mostly on the valuation of a business and, more specifically, intellectual property. The trial lasted several days and the jury came back with verdicts for the plaintiffs.

#2: Embezzlement – What the Auditors Could Not Find!

Type of Matter: The Board of Directors and senior management of a large company with several divisions began to suspect that a division controller was embezzling significant amounts of cash. They initially brought in the outside auditors to review bank reconciliations and other reporting for the division. The company spent material amounts of money for up to 6 staff members from the outside audit firm reviewing bank reconciliations for over a week. The Board members began to get uncomfortable with the results of that review and decided they needed a focused fraud examination and called Arxis Financial.

Arxis Work: At the initial meeting with Arxis Financial, the bank reconciliations were specifically excluded from the work scope approved for Arxis. While this was understandable due to the enormous cost of reviewing them already, it became a point of significant contention. Ultimately, we refused to take the engagement unless we were allowed to review the bank reconciliations – essentially covering the same territory as the outside audit firm. Either the reconciliations accurately reflected the activity in the accounts or they were being fabricated to hide illicit activity. Either way, it was the logical starting point.

Once we were authorized to review the bank reconciliations we began work. On the first day it was determined that the reconciliations were indeed problematic. What became apparent very quickly was that the beginning cash balance on any given reconciliation did not agree with the prior month’s ending cash balance. The client was relieved that it did not require a week of Arxis Financial’s time to evaluate the reconciliations.

Once we had proof that there were anomalies in the accounting for cash, further investigation was initiated to determine if the discrepancies were the result of human/software error or the result of intentional manipulation and misrepresentation.

Result: We found that material and significant misappropriation of company assets had taken place over an extended period of time. As a result of our fraud investigation, the Controller was terminated, arrested, subsequently convicted, and is serving time in state prison. The method of hiding the embezzlement was so simple that apparently 6 auditors didn’t think to check it, which although disappointing to the company, is a key reason why a professional fraud investigation team should be engaged to investigate such suspicions.

We provided several recommendations for company management in order to minimize the chances of future embezzlement. The company was greatly pleased with Arxis Financial’s expertise, expediency, successful investigation and recommendations.

#3: Comparative Analysis for Family Law Dispute

Issue: Arxis was contacted to assist in a family court matter involving complex tracing matters. There was an ongoing dispute regarding whether certain material assets were separate or community. Determining the nature of the assets affected the division of assets and, because the cash flow associated with those activities were substantial, reimbursement claims would be significantly affected. Both parties came into the marriage with considerable separate assets.

Arxis work: The case had been active for over a year before Arxis was brought into the matter. The correspondence in that year included settlement offers from both sides. Both offers were immediately rejected as preposterous and even insulting. After this “attempt” to settle, forensic accountants were retained and the forces were being marshalled for battle in court. Each side made substantial commitments to preparing tracings to prove respective claims in trial.

Arxis immediately began the work of preparing the tracings for several bank accounts covering the period of the marriage and the year since separation. Based on some of the data and the conclusions becoming evident from the records, Arxis suspended the tracing work and analyzed the two rejected settlement proposals more closely. To understand the two offers, side-by-side marital balance sheets were prepared. On the left was the Petitioner’s version of assets, debts, and reimbursement claims as reflected in their Section 1152 offer letter. Similarly, on the right was Respondent’s version of assets, debt, and reimbursement claims. At the bottom of each balance sheet was a calculation of the net equalization payment due based on each party’s assumptions and conclusions.

Amazingly, what the parties perceived to be a massive gap between the two positions (millions of dollars) was actually, when put in a side-by-side analysis, a relatively narrow difference of a couple hundred thousand dollars. The emotional attachment to some of the issues by both parties and the enormous accounting complexity had masked the proximity of potential compromise.

Result: Arxis approached our client and presented the prospect that staggering legal and accounting fees could be saved if there was an openness to compromise on a much smaller difference than the litigants previously perceived. Our client approached opposing counsel and requested a settlement conference with both sets of attorneys and forensic accountants. It took most of an eight hour day, but the case settled. The two litigants were initially stunned at how close their two seemingly opposite positions actually were. Significant fees were saved and it is likely that at least two years were cut from the dispute resolution process.