Sunbeam Accounting Fraud: A Look at the Before and the After

 “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  - Mark Twain

LST is currently taking a look at a few companies that may have material accounting and/or fraud problems.  It occurred to LST that in a few of these cases,  past may be prelude to future. And so LST took a look at Sunbeam and a few others. Here are a few things that got LST’s attention, in the case of Sunbeam:

  1. Large discrepancies between reported earnings and cash flow from operating activities (“CFFO”) matter;
  2. If management’s explanations for differences between earnings and CFFO do not pass the sniff test, there is a problem.
  3. CFFO less some portion of cash flow from investing activities is a much more reliable measure of true earnings, than reported earnings… this seems true before and after the fraud.
  4. A 10% overstatement in revenue can revise earnings downward at least 50-60+% , depending on how much operating leverage there exists;
  5. Income taxes payable on the income statement is as real as earnings is…it’s not.
  6. Even when there’s no outright cash fraud, the cash & cash equivalent balances may not be accurate.
  7. Cash flow from financing activities seems the most difficult to game. Perhaps it is the only statement (in non-financial/banking companies) one can somewhat anchor to, and maybe even “trust and verify” rather than “verify only”
  8. Fraudulent discrepancies between earnings and CFFO,even after a restatement, seem predictive of very material hits against earnings and CFFO in future periods. See Sunbeam’s 1998 numbers to see for yourself.
  9. And there’s a lot more.

Without further ado,  Sunbeam’s 1997 fraudulent vs. restated numbers:

3 Responses to Sunbeam Accounting Fraud: A Look at the Before and the After

  1. Pingback: Lessons From History « Miscreants' Ball

  2. testdomain says:

    Ha ha… I was just online around and took a look at these reviews. I can’t believe that there’s still this much fascination. Thanks for writing about this.

    • Ivette says:

      That fascination is very helpful for current and future students of accountancy, Mr testdomain, so the more reviews of it the better.

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