March 15, 2010

Ernst & Young staring down the barrel that shot Arthur Andersen

The report on Lehman Brothers' collapse is out, and it apparently includes a smoking gun against the auditor. Prison Planet alleges that "The firm’s auditor, Ernst & Young, one of the four biggest auditing firms in the world, failed in its oversight role:"

In May 2008, a Lehman Senior Vice President, Matthew Lee, wrote a letter to management alleging accounting improprieties; in the course of investigating the allegations, Ernst & Young was advised by Lee on June 12, 2008 that Lehman used $50 billion of Repo 105 transactions to temporarily move assets off balance sheet and quarter end.The next day -- on June 13, 2008 -- Ernst & Young met with the Lehman Board Audit Committee but did not advise it about Lee’s assertions, despite an express direction from the Committee to advise on all allegations raised by Lee.

Ernst & Young took virtually no action to investigate the Repo 105 allegations. Ernst & Young took no steps to question or challenge the non-disclosure by Lehman of its use of $50 billion of temporary, off-balance sheet transactions.

Colorable claims exist that Ernst & Young did not meet professional standards, both in investigating Lee’s allegations and in connection with its audit and review of Lehman’s financial statements.

Now, I haven't read it in depth. But, on first blush, that looks directly analogous to the conditions that wiped out Arthur Andersen. (Agreement on Business Insider.)

The Audit industry will now feel the old Chinese curse: to live in interesting times...

Posted by iang at March 15, 2010 09:25 PM | TrackBack

Any statist government is organized crime because they have the monopoly on force. 40 billion is missing that should have gone to reconstruction of Iraq. Nobody gets in trouble. 2.3 trillion can't be accounted for in the US defence budget in the past. Now it might be up to 3-4 trillion. Nobody gets in trouble.

The SEC fails to do its job. Nobody gets in trouble.

Unless there is at least an intellectual revolution in 2012, the US is screwed.

Posted by: Bob at March 16, 2010 06:30 AM

Obviously, people with the means and the opportunity to sue EY will do so! the motive is irresistable amounts of money. And the auditing profession has been underperforming for decades. It's predominantly full of corrupt and selfish people, like most professions, or institutions (such as the congress, corporations, the church, etc). I guess we should feel lucky that they still provide an avenue for a few good people to do good things.

But the structure and transactions of the investment banks, of global finance, were so obvious and well understood by everybody who paid attention. It would be sheer hypocrisy to pretend that any material losses were attributable to failures of disclosure by Lehman or other institutions. This would rank with the lying and dissembling politicians, treas. secretaries and fed chairmen we watch on TV, year after year, telling us the "derivatives" are too complex for anybody to understand. What hogwash.

Posted by: anon at March 16, 2010 04:20 PM

As an American, America was screwed along time ago. I doubt that anything will come of this because the pain is too deep. They tried to reform the SEC three years ago and the complaining was so loud they backed down from anything that wasn't purely cosmetic. Congress tried to reform the accounting standards board and now that is before the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. In fact, in that regard the timing of the release of this report is

And remember, more than $500 million dollars in Obama campaign funds came from Wa$$ Street.

The most fundamental problem is that America doesn't know how to solve a problem without throwing money at it (see Health Care.) So anything that stops the flow of money stops America.

Posted by: Daniel at March 18, 2010 11:02 PM
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