Monday, March 30, 2009

Selling Your Soul for $186,000 a year

The SEC complaint against Bernie Madoff's auditor, alleges that David Friehling enabled Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme by falsely stating, in annual audit reports, that F&H audited Madoff's financial statements. In fact, the complaint alleges, the defendants did not conduct anything remotely resembling an audit.

Friehling & Horowitz is enrolled in the program but hasn't submitted to a review since 1993, says AICPA spokesman Bill Roberts. That's because the firm has been informing the AICPA -- every year, in writing -- for 15 years that it doesn't perform audits.

Meanwhile, Friehling & Horowitz has reportedly done just that for Madoff. For example, the firm's name and signature appears on the "statement of financial condition" for Madoff Securities dated Oct. 31, 2006.

New York state is one of only six states that does not require accounting firms to be peer-reviewed. Recently, the New York State senate passed legislation that requires such a process.

F&H also allegedly made false representations that BMIS financial statements were presented in conformity with GAAP. Finally, Friehling allegedly falsely stated that he had reviewed internal controls at BMIS, including controls over the custody of assets, and found no material inadequacies.

If properly stated, the Madoff financial statements, along with related disclosures regarding reserve requirements, allegedly would have shown that the firm owed tens of billions of dollars in additional liabilities to its customers and was therefore insolvent. The complaint alleges that Friehling and F&H obtained ill-gotten gains through compensation of $186,000 per year from Madoff. They are also accused of withdrawing $5.5 million from Madoff funds held in the name of Friehling and his family members (with a balance of $14 million as of November 2008).

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