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An Overview of Business Valuation – Part Four

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. This is the fourth of a five-part series in which Anderson reviews the basics of business valuation.

Business valuation experts must undertake a series of preliminary steps to set the groundwork for determining the worth of a business.  Once those steps are complete, valuators must consider three very distinct approaches to valuing a business.

In earlier postings, David Anderson, principal of David Anderson & Associates, explained the first three steps of the business valuation process — determining the standard of value, deciding on the premise of value and normalizing financial statements.

In this fourth installment of the series, Anderson reviews the three most commonly used approaches to valuing a business: The Income Approach, the Asset-based Approach and the Market Approach.

“Professional business valuators are required to consider all three approaches,” said Anderson, a business valuation expert in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  “In the end, a business valuation expert must use his or her judgment to determine the best approach or combination of approaches to arrive at a business valuation that is as fair and accurate as possible.”

The most common approaches a business valuation expert will consider are the three noted below:

  • Income Approach values a business by using one or more methods to convert anticipated economic benefits (earnings or cash flow) into a single present amount. There are two primary methods under this approach:
    • Capitalization of Earnings/Cash Flows Method, which is used when there has been a steady level of historical growth, and the
    • Discounted Earnings/Cash Flow Method, which is used when there have been fluctuations in historical growth and when the company can reasonably project earnings for the next five or more years.
  • Asset-based Approach values a business by calculating the value of net assets, which is the difference between total assets and total liabilities. There also are two primary methods under this approach:
    • The Book Value Method, which calculates the net asset value as shown on the books of the business – typically at historical cost, and the
    • Adjusted Net Asset Method, which adjusts the value of assets and liabilities to the fair market value as of the valuation date.
  • Market Approach values a business by comparing it to sales of similar businesses. There are four primary methods under the Market Approach:
    • Analyze transactions of comparable publicly held companies;
    • Analyze transactions of comparable privately held companies;
    • Analyze prior transactions involving shares of the company itself, and lastly,
    • Analyze the ability of the company to pay shareholder dividends and compare that to dividends paid by comparable companies.

“The specific methods used depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the business being valued,” said Anderson, whose company – David Anderson & Associates – is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. “For example, if there are no comparable market transactions or an insufficient number to be meaningful, the Market Approach may not be useful.”

Once the value of the business has been set under each of the approaches, the business valuation expert must determine whether one of the values is the best representation of the true value of the business or if a weighted blend of the values provides a more accurate final business value, he said.

Anderson gives the example of valuing a startup business with little profitability.  The Income Approach might yield a very low value because the startup hasn’t had time to show historical growth, while the Market Approach might result in a considerably higher value based on the sale of comparable businesses.

“Under this scenario, some valuators would select the Market Approach as being most indicative of value and others might choose a blend of the Income Approach and Market Approach with a higher weight on the Market Approach,” he explained.  “It all comes down to the professional judgment of the business valuator, based on his or her experience and knowledge about the business being valued.”

At this point, the complex process of business valuation is nearing the end.  But there is still one major step remaining before a final determination on the worth of a business can be made: Consideration of certain adjustments for non-operating assets as well as control, marketability and other adjustments.  Anderson will explore these adjustments in the next and final installment of “An Overview of Business Valuation.”

If you require the services of a business valuation expert in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a business valuation expert in Philadelphia.

An Overview of Business Valuation – Part Three

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. This is the third of a five-part series in which Anderson reviews the basics of business valuation.

Determining the worth of your business can be quite complicated. Before the actual business valuation can begin, several steps must be taken.

“The value of a business often depends on the earnings it generates,” said David Anderson, a business valuation expert in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley and principal of David Anderson & Associates.

“Small business owners” he said, “have a fair amount of latitude in choosing how they report the financial operations of their business, often selecting alternative accounting practices that lessen their income tax obligation.”

In two earlier posts, Anderson explained the first two steps of the business valuation process — determining the standard of value and deciding on the premise of value.  This third in a series of articles examines the steps a business valuation expert sometimes must take to bring a company’s financial statement on an equal footing.

Because of these alternative practices, he explained, a business valuation expert frequently needs to adjust the historical financial statements before implementing selected business valuation approaches and methods.  Making these adjustments is often referred to as “normalizing” the financial statements.

“Normalizing the financial statements should provide the valuator with a more economically realistic picture of the value of the assets and the financial operating results of the business,” Anderson explained.

These financial statement adjustments represent estimates and often fall into one of the three categories as noted below:

Comparability adjustments are intended to make the company more comparable to guideline companies or companies within the industry group that were used in comparative ratio analyses.  For example, if the company being evaluated used the last in, first out (“LIFO”) inventory method of accounting while the industry group uses the first in, first out (“FIFO”) inventory method, this adjustment would give a valuator a clearer picture of how the company’s financial statement compares to others in its industry.

Non-operating or non-recurring adjustments are removed from the income statement because they are either unrelated to the business operations or unlikely to recur in the future.  Non-operating assets or liabilities are elements of the balance sheet that are removed so a more appropriate value of the operating company may be determined.

These assets or liabilities are then added or subtracted to the resulting computed value to arrive at the total equity value of the company.  An example of these types of adjustments would be the costs associated with discontinuing a portion of the business.

Discretionary adjustments are those expenses that are usually under the sole discretion of management, or more typically, the owners of the business.  Often these expenses are between the company and the owners of the company (i.e., related party transactions).  These adjustments are most appropriately made when valuing a controlling interest in the company and they generally represent the difference between the actual recorded book expense and the expense that would be incurred if transacted between the company and an independent third party.

Examples of these types of adjustments include: Officer’s and owner’s compensation, owner’s perquisites, entertainment expenses, automobile expenses (e.g., personal use of company cars), compensation to family members, and other related party transactions.

Once these three types of “normalization” adjustments have been made to the financial statements, the business valuation expert can begin to analyze the value of the business under each of the different valuation approaches and methods, Anderson said.

In upcoming weeks, Anderson will continue to explore the process business valuation experts undergo to determine the worth of a business.

If you require the services of a business valuation expert in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a business valuation expert in Philadelphia.

An Overview of Business Valuation – Part Two

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. This is the second of a five-part series in which Anderson reviews the basics of business valuation. 

Knowing how to calculate a value of your business that is fair and accurate is a skill with which every corporate principal should be familiar.

“You don’t want to rely on estimates, gut instinct, or rumored calculation methods to determine business value,” said David Anderson, principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  “When you need to know the true worth of your business, you need to understand the process.  And you need the expertise of a highly qualified business valuation expert.”

In last week’s opening segment of this five-part blog series, Anderson covered the first step of business valuation: Determining the standard of value.

“The second step in ascertaining a company’s worth,” he said, “is to decide on the premise of value.”

The premise of value is the type of transactional circumstances underlying the business or property being valued, Anderson said, adding that there are four premises of value:

  • Going Concern Value
  • Book Value
  • Liquidation Value
  • Replacement Value.

Going Concern Value is the most frequently used premise of value. This method assumes the business is operating and producing revenues . . . and will continue to do so.

Book Value is the difference between a company’s total assets that have been adjusted for depreciation, depletion, and amortization and the amount of total liabilities as listed on the balance sheet.  Assets such as real estate, collectibles, and artwork are recorded at historical cost and therefore may be undervalued on the balance sheet.  Intangible assets such as patents, copyrights and trademarks also may be undervalued.

Interestingly, many buy-sell and shareholder agreements use Book Value to establish share value when a shareholder wishes to sell shares back to the company or when shares are purchased after a shareholder is terminated or dies.  In these cases, disputes often arise when the Book Value of the shares is significantly less than the Going Concern value.

Liquidation Value is the net amount realized if the business is terminated and the assets are sold individually.  Liquidation Value typically results in the lowest of the premises of value, Anderson said.

Replacement Value generally is used for specific assets and refers to the current cost of property equivalent to the property being valued.  Replacement Value is often used in insurance contracts for calculations involving real estate or tangible personal property and in construction or manufacturing agreements.

“Determining these two crucial steps — the standard of value and the premise of value — will allow a business valuation expert to select the appropriate valuation methodology to decide your company’s worth,” Anderson said.

Over the next several weeks, Anderson will post additional articles on the specific methods business valuation experts use to establish value, the effect non-operating assets have on business valuation and discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability. Coming up next in Part Three, an examination of the steps a business valuation expert sometimes must take to bring a company’s financial statement on an equal footing.

If you require the services of a business valuation expert in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a business valuation expert in Philadelphia.

An Overview of Business Valuation – Part I

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. This is the first of a five-part series in which Anderson reviews the basics of business valuation.

Do you know what your business is worth? If not, you probably should.

There are many reasons why it’s important to know. These can range from business reasons, such as calculations related to any acquisitions or mergers, to personal issues of estate planning and resolution to marriage dissolution.  When the time comes, understanding how a fair and accurate business valuation is determined is of paramount importance.

“The first step in valuing a business is to determine the standard of value,” said David Anderson, principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  “This is the type of value that is being requested for the business.  The three most common standards of value are fair market value, fair value and strategic/investment value.”

The IRS defines fair market value as “The price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, when the former is not under any compulsion to buy and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.”

Fair market value is the most widely recognized and accepted standard of value, according to Anderson, a business valuation expert in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  Fair market value is used to establish value for all Federal tax matters, including estate tax, gift tax and income tax, he said.  This standard also is used for many purchase, sale and merger transactions; for buy-sell agreements; for regulatory valuations; and for most litigation matters, including partner/shareholder disputes, divorces and economic damage cases.  Fair market value takes into consideration discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability.

Fair value generally is defined as fair market value without considering discounts, Anderson said.  Fair value principally is used to value the shares held by a company owner with a minority interest when that person believes he is being forced to receive less than adequate compensation for his shares.  Fair value is the standard of value used in divorce cases in New Jersey.  Additionally, fair value with a discount for lack of marketability is used in divorce cases in New York.

Strategic/investment value is the value to a particular investor based on individual requirements and expectations, according to Anderson.  This standard most often is used for a purchase, sale or merger in which the buyer expects to realize certain synergies with the seller’s business.  Strategic/investment value typically is higher than fair market value because of these synergies.

“The standard of value is one of the key components used to determine the valuation methodology to be employed and, ultimately, the business valuation expert’s decision on the value of your business,” Anderson said.

Over the next four weeks, Anderson will post additional articles on the specific methods business valuation experts use to determine value, the effect non-operating assets have on business valuation and discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability.  Up next in “An Overview of Business Valuation – Part II:” Determining the premise of value, the type of transactional circumstances that underlies the business or property being valued.

If you require the services of a business valuation expert in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a business valuation expert in Philadelphia.

Why You Shouldn’t Give a Fraudster a Second Chance

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, forensic accounting, and marital dissolution services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

We are taught to forgive others who make a mistake, and to usually offer them a second chance.  While this philosophy may apply to many of our life experiences, I strongly recommend against it in the case of someone who has committed fraud.

The 2018 Report to the Nations from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found approximately 40 percent of all fraudsters, when caught, are not terminated by their employers.  This 40 percent are:

  • 12 percent reached a settlement agreement, usually confidential, and left the organization
  • 10 percent were permitted to or required to resign without being terminated
  • 8 percent were placed on probation or suspension
  • 6 percent received no punishment at all
  • 4 percent made restitution and stayed with the organization.

The above numbers are higher if the employee is an executive (53 percent):

  • 18 percent reached a settlement agreement, usually confidential, and leave the organization
  • 16 percent were permitted to or required to resign without being terminated
  • 7 percent were placed on probation or suspension
  • 12 percent received no punishment at all

The fact that such high numbers of fraudsters may leave without being terminated or remain with their organizations can have significant implications.  For example, the 22 percent of fraudsters who are permitted to leave without being terminated may be allowed to file for and collect unemployment payments.  This, in turn, raises the cost of unemployment insurance for the organization.

Also, because organizations fear being sued if they provide negative information to a new employer, the new employer of the fraudster may be unaware the employee previously committed fraud.  In fact, the 2018 Report to the Nations noted 6 percent of employees who committed fraud had been previously charged but not convicted and an additional 4 percent had a prior conviction for fraud (these numbers rise to 9 percent and 6 percent, respectively, for executives).  In most of these cases, the second employer found out about the previous fraud only after becoming a victim themselves.

Additionally, insurance companies may decline to pay claims of organizations who allowed a fraudster to remain with the organization and/or commit subsequent frauds.

Let’s also consider what happens when an employee who committed fraud remains with the organization.  In previous blogs, I discussed the Fraud Triangle – the three aspects (Pressure, Rationalization and Opportunity) necessary to enable a fraud.  What really changes when the employee remains?

  • What Pressure did the employee face? Was it an addiction (to drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc.)?  Was it financial (debts, medical expenses, need to maintain an outward lifestyle)?  Despite verbal promises from the fraudster to not commit a future fraud, if the Pressure is not removed, it will continue to impact the employee.
  • What Rationalization did the employee make to justify committing the fraud? Was it that the employee felt underpaid and/or unappreciated?  Did the employee feel that since management ignored the rules, it was okay for the employee to do so?  Did the employee feel the organization could “afford” to lose money through the fraud?  What changes will the organization make to remove the basis for the Rationalization?  If these changes are not made, the Rationalization will continue to impact the employee.
  • What Opportunity allowed the employee to commit the fraud? Will the organization make the necessary changes in controls and oversight, and continue to rigorously enforce them in the future?  Or, will management begin to relax those controls if they start to feel comfortable with the employee?

Two cautionary examples which I have encountered show this problem:

In the first case, an auto dealership sales manager “created” a dealership rebate to help a customer purchase a car.  Instead of discounting the price of the car by $1,000, the sales manager had the dealership write a check to the customer for $1,000.  The customer used the check as down payment on the car in order to obtain a car loan (the bank required that the customer provide a $1,000 down payment in order to show “equity” in the car).

When this fraudulent scheme worked, the sales manager began to regularly offer similar dealership rebates to help customers obtain car loans (in one case, a rebate as high as $5,000).  This helped the sales manager meet his quotas and earn bonuses and higher sales commissions.  Unfortunately, many of these customers who used the dealership rebate as down payment defaulted on their loans.

The higher-than-normal default rate lead to investigations by the lenders who invoked “claw back” clauses in their agreements with the car dealership, and the dealership lost many thousands of dollars due to the claw backs.  Rather than terminating the sales manager, the auto dealer allowed the manager to remain with the promise that he would never again use the dealership rebate scheme.  The sales manager made good on his promise for almost a year.

However, one month, the sales manager was one car short of making his bonus quota for the month.  A customer was $500 short of the required down payment on a car.  The sales manager decided to give the customer a $500 dealership rebate.  He earned his bonus for that month but promised himself this was a one-time only indiscretion.  Because the auto dealer had relaxed his controls and oversight of the sales manager, he never noticed the rebate.

Of course, two months further along, the sales manager decided to offer another customer a dealership rebate, and before long, he was back to regularly using the dealership rebate.  The cycle of customer loan defaults, investigations and claw backs followed.  But this time, the dealership also lost several of its lender relationships, and the total weight of cost to the dealership lead the auto dealer to terminate the sales manager.

In another case, the Controller of a retailer embezzled funds by submitting false (and in most instances, duplicates of the same invoices) employee reimbursement requests.  When caught, the Controller apologized, agreed to make restitution through regular payroll deductions, and stated that she would never commit fraud again.  The business’s owner, who regularly had the business pay personal expenses he directed the Controller to charge as business operating expenses, agreed to let the Controller remain.

After about six months, he relaxed his increased oversight of the Controller.  The Controller then began a series of fraudulent schemes which included ceasing repayment of her restitution; additional submissions of false employee reimbursement requests; and accepting kickbacks from customers in return for processing phony credits against their purchases.  When these schemes were discovered, the Controller was terminated.

The additional frauds ended up costing the company several times the amount taken in the original fraud.  Our investigation also revealed a subordinate of the Controller was aware of the subsequent frauds but was afraid to report them because the Controller hadn’t been terminated after being caught in the initial fraud.

If you require the services of a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson is a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia who has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia.

Substitution Schemes: Fraudsters Want More Than Just Cash

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, forensic accounting and marital dissolution services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

While most fraudsters misappropriate corporate or organizational cash as it is easier to take, more and more institutions are finding their inventory and fixed assets – such as equipment, furniture, computers, vehicles, and other items – being targeted as well.

In this blog, Anderson, a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia, focuses on one key type of such misappropriation – substitution schemes.  Simply put, he explains, the fraudster in these schemes substitutes a less expensive item of inventory or a less expensive fixed asset for the actual item, and then sells the misappropriated item for personal profit.

Here are some examples of substitution schemes:

  • The Parts Department manager of a large auto dealership purchased cheaper aftermarket auto parts and substituted them for the auto parts purchased from the manufacturer. He then sold the manufacturer’s parts to other auto dealers, pocketing the cost difference.
  • The Technology manager at an advertising agency was responsible for implementing a computer replacement program that required him to replace existing high-end Apple computers with new ones every two years. He was supposed to remove the advertising and design software from each replaced computer and sell it to a used computer dealer. Instead, he purchased cheap, older-model used Apple Computers, substituted them for the replaced computers (which were then sold to the used computer dealer), and sold the replaced high-end computers (with the advertising and design software still on each computer) via a website he set up.
  • A trusted employee at a commodities broker was given access to the company’s precious metals safe, and over time replaced dozens of 10-ounce platinum bars (worth approximately $10,000 each) with 10-ounce silver bars (worth approximately $180 each). Part of the reason he could get away with this substitution scheme was that the bars were stacked, looked almost the same to the casual observer, and he made sure that the top several bars were platinum ones.
  • A Fortune 1000 company furnished its New York City sales office with more than $500,000 worth of artwork. Although the company was audited, because there were no financial transactions handled by the New York City sales office, and because its total fixed assets (including the artwork) were low relative to the company’s total fixed assets, the auditors never even visited the New York City sales office. Responding to a tip provided on the company’s fraud hotline, forensic accountants found that employees of the New York City sales office had substituted cheap artwork (including, in one case, a paint-by-numbers piece that had been painted by a child) for the more expensive artwork.  Most of the replaced artwork had been sold off by the employees, although several pieces were found in their homes.
  • The owners of a financially failing paper products company removed tens of thousands of dollars of paper products from their boxes, filled the boxes with trash and used paper, and resealed the boxes. After the bank took over the failed company, it hired an auctioneer to sell off the boxes of inventory. Only after the auction did buyers discover that they (and the bank who had to reimburse them for their purchases) were the victims of a substitution scheme.

So, how can your business avoid becoming the victim of a substitution scheme?  Here are some basic steps:

  • For inventories, implement a scheme of classifying inventory items by their relative value and frequency of sale. High dollar and high-volume medium dollar inventory should have the top classification, followed by medium dollar and high-volume, low dollar inventory, and at the bottom, low dollar inventory. Employees from a separate department (usually the accounting department or, if it is not practical to use internal employees, from an outside company such as a forensic accounting firm) should conduct periodic physical checks of the inventories based upon the classification.  For example, checking the highest classification biweekly or monthly; checking the middle classification bimonthly or quarterly, and checking the lowest classification at least annually.
  • For fixed assets, institute a fixed-asset tracking system. Under such a system, each fixed asset is tagged with a bar coded label. The system will have a database that separately identifies each fixed asset with date purchased, description of the fixed asset, purchase price, location of the fixed asset and the bar code label number.  Then, as in the above inventory checking methodology, institute a periodic checking of fixed assets based upon dollar values (highest dollar value items most frequently, lowest dollar value items least frequently). This regular checking should include retired or replaced fixed assets that are still on the books.
  • For fixed assets that are being disposed/sold, again have employees from a separate department or third-party company inspect the assets prior to sale to ensure that the assets being sold are the correct ones and are in the condition the company expects.

If you require the services of a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson is a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia who has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia.

Without Oversight, Petty Cash Fraud Losses Can Grow Rapidly

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support and expert witness testimony services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

While a company’s petty cash account is designed to quickly and easily provide reimbursement for such small expenditures as office supplies, mileage, and snacks for meetings, these minor amounts can add up to major problems unless your organization has effective fraud deterrence measures in place.

It might be surprising to learn fraud investigations have uncovered cases of petty cash fraud that resulted in major losses, according to forensic accountant David Andersons.  It is, however, not the amount of money available in petty cash at any moment, but the cumulative amount in the account over weeks, months, or years.

“Nearly every business keeps an amount of cash on hand to pay unexpected cash expenses, reimburse employees for small expenditures or provide cash advances to employees who will be traveling,” said David Anderson, a forensic accountant and principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation and fraud deterrence programs in the Delaware Valley.

“I have seen petty cash funds as low as $50 and as high as $10,000,” he said.  “While this might not seem like a lot, consider that companies with multiple locations usually have petty cash at each location.  In addition, the petty cash fund can be replenished as often as several times a week.  This means a company with a single petty cash fund of $1,000 that is replenished twice a week could have petty cash expenditures of as much as $100,000 per year.”

Anderson, a forensic accountant who also is a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia, notes that management usually looks at only the petty cash available at a given time (for example, $1,000) and not the amount of cash passing through the petty cash fund over time.  As a result, he said, the amount of cash at risk is considered insignificant and the petty cash fund is usually maintained by a single “trusted” employee who is responsible for disbursing the funds, obtaining receipts for expenditures and requesting that the petty cash fund be replenished when needed.

“There seldom is any oversight or control over the employee’s management of the petty cash fund, and therein lies the potential for fraud,” said Anderson, a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia who recommends every company enact a comprehensive fraud deterrence program developed by an experienced firm that provides forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

The petty cash fund can be the starting point for an employee to commit fraud, Anderson said.  It often starts off small as the employee simply “borrows” a few dollars for the weekend or until the next pay date.  Initially, the employee may even leave an “IOU” note in the petty cash box or a check made payable to the company, and the employee usually returns the “borrowed” money as soon as possible, he explained.

But as time goes on and the employee realizes no one is watching, the dollar amounts “borrowed” get larger and the time it takes to return the money gets longer until the employee eventually stops returning the money at all, according to Anderson, a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia with experience in conducting fraud investigations.  When the amount of “borrowed” money approaches the petty cash fund limit, he said, the employee will manufacture reimbursable expenses so that the petty cash fund can be replenished.

“I recall one fraud investigation in which I discovered that the perpetrator had submitted multiple photocopies of the same receipt in the petty cash replenishment requests,” said Anderson, a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia.  “In another case, I found handwritten “receipts” from service vendors for cash payments.  Handwriting analysis showed that the signatures of the individuals who signed each receipt call came from the same person – the perpetrator.”

So, how do you combat petty cash fraud?  There are several fraud deterrence measures that companies can implement to lessen the chance that petty cash fraud will occur in their business, explained Anderson, a forensic accountant whose firm provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

First, he said, management should conduct irregular “surprise” checks of the petty cash fund at least once a month during the year.  These mini audits should occur at different times and different intervals.  The day before pay day, late on a Friday and the day before a holiday are all times when the trusted employee might not expect anyone to be looking, Anderson said.  In addition, these checks should be conducted two weeks apart, four weeks apart, or perhaps two checks close together.  It is important that checks be conducted randomly to prevent the trusted employee from anticipating when they will occur, he said.

Next, someone at a higher level than the trusted employee should randomly and irregularly scrutinize petty cash replenishment requests, including comparing the latest request with several earlier requests, said Anderson, a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia.

These two measures will go a long way toward ensuring that petty cash fraud is not occurring at your company, and that the petty cash employee knows that you are watching even this seemingly insignificant fund.

If you require the services of a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson is a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia who has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia.

Tales of Municipal Fraud – Part Two

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support and expert witness testimony services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. 

Last week, in the first of this two-blog series on municipal fraud, Certified Fraud Examiner David Anderson presented the details of several municipal fraud cases that succeeded due to poor internal controls. He also presented recommendations as to how such frauds could have been prevented.  This week, he discusses several more municipal frauds he has investigated and offers additional recommendations for preventing such frauds.

Fraud #1: The newly-hired Township Manager of a large township, in retrospect, appears to have planned to commit fraud from the day he was hired.  He began his tenure by meeting individually with many of the township’s key employees, advising each person that he would be carefully watching the employee’s performance, also advising each person he would terminate the employee if he was unhappy with the employee’s performance.

He then began his fraudulent schemes.  His first involved the relocation reimbursement in his contract.  The township had agreed to pay him $5,000 towards his relocation costs.  Instead, he submitted, among other things, his mileage, hotel bills and meals costs for house hunting trips.  He submitted his entire moving bill.  He then submitted the closing statement from the sale of his old house, requesting reimbursement for all the closing costs. Because of his position, and the fear he had instilled in the township’s employees, he was reimbursed for all these expenses (which were grouped into employee benefits costs so that the Board did not see any of these individual items).

His next scheme involved year-end bonuses.  He submitted a bonus list to the township supervisors which included a $25,000 bonus for him.  The supervisors reduced his bonus to $10,000 and approved the remaining bonuses. No problem. He simply reduced the approved bonus amounts of other township employees (primarily ones whom he did not like) and paid himself the full $25,000 bonus.  He did the same for yearend bonuses each year he was at the township.

He employed several other fraudulent schemes including purchasing Phillies season tickets – allegedly to reward township employees.  Instead, he treated his family and friends to games, and sold some of the individual game tickets online (pocketing the proceeds).  Additionally, he routinely submitted restaurant bills he had paid with his personal credit card for reimbursement, claiming that he was conducting township business (when in fact, he was entertaining family and friends).

An anonymous complaint finally tripped him up.  Our investigation revealed that several township employees were aware of each of these frauds but failed to inform anyone because of their fear that the township manager would terminate them if they came forward.

Fraud #2: The newly hired Director of Finance of a municipal utility authority was not happy that the salary she had accepted was less than the salary she had requested.  No problem.  She simply informed the outside payroll company that her annual pay was the higher unauthorized amount.  And, for years, she collected this increased amount plus the annual percentage salary increases (which resulted in even higher pay than if she had started being paid the authorized salary amount).

This, apparently, was not enough.  She routinely took more vacation and sick days than were authorized.  And, she “gamed” her overtime.  She would take vacation and/or sick days (including time off in lieu of overtime) during a week, and then come in to work on the weekends.  Since her total hours each such week exceeded 40, she earned overtime for extra hours.  However, she never actually worked over 40 hours in any of those weeks.

Her scheme was only discovered after she retired, and the state pension office noticed the discrepancy between her reported pay and her initial authorized pay.

Fraud #3: A township supervisor had the township maintenance crew regularly cut his lawn, snow blow his driveway and sidewalks, and make paving repairs to his driveway and sidewalks.  He also arranged the same for several friends, including one who had his business’s parking lot regularly plowed, repaired and even resurfaced.  In return, the township supervisor regularly pressed and persuaded his fellow supervisors to approve higher than normal salary increases and bonuses for the head of the maintenance crew.

This fraud was discovered when a neighboring businessman saw the resurfacing by the township maintenance crew and asked the township manager (who knew nothing about the fraud) if he could also have his parking lot resurfaced.  The township manager investigated the matter and uncovered the ongoing fraud by the township supervisor and head of the maintenance crew.

Each of these frauds were made possible because lack of adequate oversight.  This points out the need for Board/Commission/Council oversight of senior managers, especially newly hired ones.  Additionally, there should be regular financial review of financial transactions.  Other recommendations include:

  • Implementation of a policy prohibiting fraud.
  • Implementation of anti-fraud training for employees.
  • Implementation of a cost-efficient third-party tip hotline so that employees, vendors and others could provide anonymous tips regarding potential fraud, waste and/or abuse.

(Note these are the same as some of the recommendations that were made to combat the fraud discussed last week in the first part of this series). 

Each of the above recommendations is relatively low cost in relation to the potential fraud losses that municipalities and other local government organizations face.

If you require the services of a forensic accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, or any other financial expert to help with fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, or other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.

Tales of Municipal Fraud – Part One

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support and expert witness testimony services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. . . . In this, the first of a two-blog series on municipal fraud, Certified Fraud Examiner David Anderson shows how an innocent act can grow into a felony theft.

The fraud started almost by accident.

Randy, a maintenance supervisor at a mid-sized Pennsylvania township, was buying personal items at the local Home Depot and had forgotten his credit card.  However, he did have a township-issued Home Depot card which he used for purchasing maintenance supplies for the township.  So, he used the township Home Depot card, intending to reimburse the township for his purchase (and, incidentally saving on state sales tax since the township was exempt).  Randy forgot to mention his purchase to the township treasurer and never was approached about his unauthorized purchase.

A few months later, Randy decided to remodel one of his home’s bathrooms.  He remembered he had never been approached about his previous purchase, so he decided to use the township’s Home Depot card to buy the materials and supplies for his remodeling.  He even had Home Depot ship the materials directly to his home.

He promised himself if the township came to him about the purchases, he would reimburse the township (he figured even if he had to reimburse the township, he would still have saved the state sales tax on the purchases).  But again, no one came after him for the purchase.  Of course, Randy continued to make personal purchases using the township’s Home Depot card.

That’s not all: Randy also had a township-issued gasoline card which he used for purchasing gasoline and other supplies for township vehicles from the local truck stop.   One day, Randy took his F-150 pick-up truck to the truck stop and used the township gasoline card to fill his tank.  Again, he promised himself he would reimburse the township if they came to him about these purchases. Still, no contact from the township.

One time, unbeknownst to Randy, one of his senior employees, Chuck, saw him using the township gasoline card to fill his tank.  He spoke to Randy about what he had seen. Randy told Chuck if he kept his mouth shut, he could use Randy’s township gasoline credit card to fill his own personal vehicle’s tank.  And so, for the next year or so, Randy and Chuck had their personal vehicle’s gasoline paid for by the township.

This might have continued for a longer period, but one night, Chuck had a little too much to drink, and started bragging to his neighbor about how he never paid for gasoline any more.  His alarmed neighbor called the township and left an anonymous message on the township’s answering machine about Chuck’s actions.  The township’s treasurer started to investigate, and, noted the many unusual after hour purchases on Randy’s township-issued gasoline card.

Based upon this preliminary investigation, the Board called in David Anderson and Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, to investigate among other things, all credit card use by township employees, as well as purchasing practices of the township.

Our investigation found Randy’s Home Depot purchases as well as other instances of township employees using township credit cards for personal purposes. Additionally, we noted instances of purchases of equipment and other significant items, including office supplies, which had circumvented the normal competitive bidding practices of the township.

These cases did not involve Randy, but rather the Township treasurer.  In one case, a $77,000 piece of heavy equipment was purchased with 16 different invoices of less than $5,000 each (the expenditure amount which triggered additional levels of approval).  Needless to say, Randy, Chuck, and the treasurer were all terminated.

We determined certain controls were lacking in the township’s procedures.  These included:

  • No requirements that the purchase invoice be submitted for credit card and gas card purchases – only the charge slip;
  • Even with the charge slip requirement, in less than 50 percent of the cases, the person using the credit card or gas card did not even submit the charge slip;
  • No review of credit card or gas card transactions – neither the township treasurer nor anyone else regularly reviewed credit card or gas card transactions. The township merely paid each month’s credit and gas card statements.
  • Lack of oversight and analysis of township financial transactions – none of the supervisors had responsibility for more in-depth oversight of the township’s financial transactions.

Additionally, there was no analysis of year-to-date expenditures against budget.  For example, we found because the heavy equipment purchase was disguised as purchases of maintenance and repair supplies, the township had used over 90 percent of its annual maintenance and repair supplies budget line item in the first three months of the current fiscal year.

In addition to recommending implementation of the above controls, we also recommended:

  • Implementation of a policy prohibiting fraud.
  • Implementation of anti-fraud training for township employees.
  • Regular analysis of financial transactions below purchasing or authorization limits to identify attempts to circumvent purchasing controls (in this case, we recommended reviewing all transactions between $4,000 and $5,000).
  • Implementation of a cost-efficient third-party tip hotline so township employees, vendors and others could provide anonymous tips regarding potential fraud, waste and/or abuse.

Based on these recommendations, the township engaged us to perform the above recommended analysis of township financial transactions (for which we used data mining software to facilitate the analysis) and anti-fraud training.

In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss some additional municipal frauds we investigated as well as the recommendations we made for preventing these frauds.

If you require the services of a forensic accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, or any other financial expert to help with fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, or other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Contingency Planning

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support and expert witness testimony services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

Many businesses have no disaster or contingency plans in place.  Others have only disaster plans to address such natural disasters as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, or earthquakes.  As The Boeing Company learned last month, not having comprehensive crisis and contingency plans in place can cost millions of dollars in damages and lost market value (since the March 8 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 that killed 157 people, Boeing’s stock price has declined by more than 13 percent).

In past blog articles, I have addressed the importance of disaster planning.  However, natural disasters are only part of the potential catastrophes that can impact on a business; such catastrophes can be just as damaging as natural disasters.

A well-prepared, up-to-date business contingency plan addresses a wide range of potential catastrophes and can help a business avoid the significant financial and public relations damages that can result from such issues. Effective contingency planning begins with brainstorming among employees, management and stakeholders at all levels.  Such brainstorming is designed to identify all potential calamities that can affect a business.

Participants in these brainstorming sessions are asked to imagine any scenario that can adversely affect a business, including:

  • Death, disability or departure of key employees
  • Attacks by hackers and/or viruses
  • Major product failures (think Takata airbags or Chipotle food)
  • Criminal or negligent activity by employees (think Volkswagen)
  • Public scandal involving key employees
  • Theft of customers or proprietary information by former employees
  • Hostile takeover attempts
  • Major infrastructure damage or failure (think the 2018 collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University)
  • Major changes in government or regulatory policy (think the Philadelphia soda tax)
  • Major changes in technology (think dial telephones or taxicabs)
  • Loss of a major lawsuit
  • Death or injury of a customer or customers
  • Workplace violence

In the initial brainstorming, no scenario should be immediately rejected to keep a positive focus on the process. This means initially accepting such bizarre scenarios as alien invasions, asteroids hitting the Earth, nuclear war, zombie apocalypse, etc. which can be later culled from the planning process.

Following the brainstorming, teams of relevant employees, management and stakeholders should be created to address, validate responses to, and test plans for each of the scenarios.   Contingency plans are rolled out and all relevant parties are educated as to their roles in such plans.

An effective contingency plan, of course, is a living document.  Instead of merely placing such plans on the shelf to be later “dusted off” when a catastrophe occurs, companies need to regularly review and update the plans for such events as new technology, new government administrations, significant changes in political control of legislative bodies, acquisitions of other businesses, new products and new markets, etc.

While there is a material investment in time and cost to develop such contingency plans, the potential return on investment from savings can be significant.

Imagine the costs that could have been avoided if Boeing had invested in addressing such an incident as occurred last month.

If you require the services of a forensic accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, or any other financial expert to help with disaster planning or other accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.

Fake Vendors Can Steal Real Money from Your Business

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, forensic accounting and marital dissolution services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

A relatively successful and difficult to uncover scheme used by deceptive employees to steal money on the job is creating phony vendors. These non-existent suppliers receive payments for services never rendered or goods never delivered.  There are, however, fraud deterrence steps organizations can take to help find these fictional foes of your business.

“It really is a popular tactic among fraudsters,” said David Anderson, principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation and fraud deterrence programs in the Delaware Valley.  “It’s not easy to root out phony vendors, but there are things you can do to help identify them.  Ultimately, you might need to seek professional help to make sure all your vendors really are legitimate.”

Anderson said it helps your efforts in finding out if you are paying phony vendors if you understand how an employee goes about building this house of cards in the first place.

The first thing a fraudster must do is establish a vendor name, either by creating a new one that has not been entered the accounting system or by using an existing vendor already in the system but for whom there has been no activity for a year or more.  Anderson said savvy fraudsters will invent service or supply vendors because it is more difficult to determine whether the services were performed and because supplies are sometimes expensed and not tracked in a company

Next up, the fraudster sets up a bank account in the name of the phony company, Anderson said.  Because banks require proof that a company exists, fraudsters often use their own home address and phone number or a post office box in their town.  Finally, the fraudster creates and submits invoices from the phony vendor, arranges for the company to pay the invoices, receives and deposits the company’s checks, and withdraws the funds for personal use.

“There are two things you can do to see whether any of your vendors might be bogus,” said Anderson, a Certified Fraud Examiner who encourages companies, non-profits and government offices to enact a comprehensive fraud deterrence program created by an experienced firm that provides forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  “These procedures are not foolproof, but they will uncover most phony vendors.”

First, Anderson said, run a vendor activity report for the past three or four years and identify both new vendors with less than a year of activity, as well as vendors with a gap in activity (for example, a vendor your organization stopped using in 2012 then again started paying in 2014).

Vendors who fit these criteria should be contacted to verify their validity, but the contact should be made by a manager who is not in the accounting department or in the department that purchased from these vendors, or by an independent third party such as a firm that provides forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

Anderson said the second procedure is to analyze three pieces of vendor information against the same three pieces of employee information:  mailing addresses, phone numbers for both landlines and mobile phones, and for vendors with post office box addresses, zip codes.  In large cities, you also will need to look at the location of the post office box.

If an employee used a home address or phone number on the bank account for the bogus company or on the invoice from the phony company, the accounting system will show a match.

Post office box matches often warrant further analysis.  A payment that goes to a bank-owned post office box usually gets sent to the business center in larger cities.  If you find that the post office box is in a small town or in a non-business section of a large city, you will want to investigate further.

“This step in a fraud investigation can take a lot of time if it is performed manually,” said Anderson, who uses special data analysis software to significantly reduce the time it takes to match addresses, phone numbers or zip codes.

If you already suspect your organization is paying invoices to phony vendors, it is likely in the best interest of your company, non-profit or government office to hire a Certified Fraud Examiner to conduct a comprehensive fraud investigation.

“Don’t wait until you have paid out thousands and thousands of dollars to non-existent vendors,” Anderson said.  “Take the time to make sure every vendor in your system really is a vendor.”

If you require the services of a Certified Fraud Examiner or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.

An Unprofitable Business Still Can Have Value

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, forensic accounting, and marital dissolution services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

Uncovering value in an unprofitable business might seem to make as much sense as wringing water out of a rock, but – by putting forensic accounting principles to work – a knowledgeable business valuation expert can do just that.

“Business valuators look to three primary methods for valuing a business: The Income Method, the Market Method, and the Asset Method. Most primarily rely on the Income Method because a ‘hypothetical’ buyer is looking for value from the profits and cash flows of a business,” said David Anderson, a Certified Valuation Analyst and principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of business valuation and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  “It then stands to reason that if a business isn’t making a profit, it would not be of any value to a potential buyer. That, however, is not necessarily true.”

How can this be?  There are several scenarios under which an unprofitable business can have value.

The first is a startup business.  Typically, the costs of starting up a business and ramping up its sales can take several years, according to information provided by David Anderson & Associates, a business valuation expert providing forensic accounting services in Philadelphia. During this time period, the business usually operates at a loss.  However, because of the future earnings potential, investors are willing to give a business value based upon this potential.  Case in point, as described by the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm David Anderson & Associates, is Square – the financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company based in San Francisco, CA.  Founded in 2009, Square has yet to show a profit, but this hasn’t stopped investors from putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the company.  Today, it is publicly traded with a market cap of over $30 billion.

A second example, similar to startup businesses, are those that are in bankruptcy.  Such companies typically have been unable to produce sufficient profits to cover operating costs and debt service (the cost of repaying debt with interest).  Through the bankruptcy process, these companies are able to shed their debt.  That makes them attractive to potential investors who are focusing on the potential future profitability of the debt-free company.  In an example provided by business valuation expert in Philadelphia David Anderson, a Certified Valuation Analyst, iHeart Media (previously known as Clear Channel Communications) filed for bankruptcy last year.  In January, the bankruptcy court approved a reorganization plan to reduce its debt from more than $16 billion to less than $6 billion.  This past week, the company filed an S-1 Registration statement with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) which could result in an IPO in the near future.

A third type of unprofitable business that can have value is one that has assets whose value exceeds the liabilities and debts of the business.  In this case, notes David Anderson & Associates, a business valuation expert in Philadelphia that also serves as a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm, a potential purchaser is less concerned with the profitability of the business it is acquiring because it is focusing primarily on the assets of the business, and the value of incorporating those assets into the purchaser’s business.  Case in point – Sun Pharma, the largest pharmaceutical company in India, has pursued a strategy of buying unprofitable drug makers and merging their operations into its own.  In fact, says David Anderson, a Certified Valuation Analyst offering forensic accounting services in Philadelphia, Sun Pharma has made 10 such acquisitions totaling several billion dollars over the past 15 years.

Unprofitable businesses can have value to the “hypothetical” and real buyer, concludes David Anderson, a business valuation expert in Philadelphia. In each of these scenarios, the purchaser sees the potential for value in the future operations of the business.

If you require the services of a Certified Valuation Analyst, or business valuation expert in Philadelphia, or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Valuation Analyst, and a business valuation expert in Philadelphia.

Technology Startup Fraud – Part Two

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, forensic accounting, and marital dissolution services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

In last week’s blog, I discussed the threat of technology startup fraud and how it occurs.  Additionally, I introduced Theranos and Mozido as two recent examples of technology startup fraud.  This week, I’ll discuss some red flags that could point to technology startup fraud.

The following common issues/red flags pervade these types of frauds:

  • Charismatic but narcissistic personality of the founder – The technology startup is led by a smart, charming person with natural sales ability and a compelling backstory (Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos at age 19, and dropped out of Stanford to pursue her dream; Michael Liberty of Mozido grew up poor, and was essentially abandoned by his parents at an early age), but that person spends the whole time talking about how great he/she is and how much he/she has accomplished instead of providing specifics of how the technology works. Additionally, when their veracity is challenged, the person turns to bullying (Theranos went after the Wall Street Journal and Tyler Shultz).
  • The company surrounds itself with well-known personalities who possess little, if any, relevant technical expertise – Theranos’s Board of Directors included such well-known names as George Shultz (former US Secretary of State), Henry Kissinger (former US Secretary of State), William Perry (former US Secretary of Defense), James Mattis (General, USMC and future US Secretary of Defense), and Sam Nunn (former US Senator). The Board had been criticized for consisting mainly of directors with diplomatic or military backgrounds.  Mozido’s Board of Directors featured Randi Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerberg’s sister), the former CEOs of Priceline, First Data, Interpublic. and MasterCard, and, Shaukat Aziz (former Pakistani prime minister who, Mozido later admitted, never actually joined the Board).  Furthermore, in 2014, Mozido hosted a huge charity event that featured such speakers as James Mattis and Vincente Fox (former Mexican president).
  • The company releases little, if any, detailed information about its finances and/or its technical developments – Theranos had to scrap a multi-million advertising campaign after it couldn’t even provide its own ad agency with adequate proof of its claims. Mozido claimed to have signed more than 20 sales deals in July 2016 and to have brought in more than $100 million in revenues between August 2015 and August 2016 but declined to name any of the companies with whom it made sales deals or to provide documentation of its revenue claims. Furthermore, Mozido touted that its customers had approximately 1.5 billion people who could use its mobile payment app but couldn’t say how many used it.  Additionally, neither Mozido or Theranos released detailed financials, leaving it up to the financial press to “guess” as to the companies’ values based upon announced capital raises.
  • The company resorts to “alternative” methods to show the success of its products – Theranos, instead of using its own machines for blood testing, arranged to have blood samples flown to its headquarters by FedEx and tested the blood on machines it purchased from Siemens (all the while claiming that the blood tests were performed onsite using its own machines). Hampton Creek, a vegan-food company that touted itself like a tech company, had its employees and contractors covertly purchase its products from grocery stores in order to boost sales (although the company claimed that the purchases were for quality control testing).  Zenefits, a human resources software startup, created an in-house computer program to help its employees cheat on mandatory compliance training.
  • The company raises huge amounts of capital and spends too lavishly – Mozido raised over $300 million in 2014 and spent it on such things as the charity event and the costly purchase of other technology companies. Yet by 2016, Mozido was missing payroll dates, had stretched out payments to vendors and failed to pay 2015 end-of-year bonuses to its employees (Michael Liberty was accused of diverting funds for his personal use). Skully, maker of a “smart” motorcycle helmet, closed its doors after it was discovered that the founders had diverted funds for personal use instead of for business operations.

Information on fighting and preventing fraud is available from a Certified Fraud Examiner working with an experienced firm that provides forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. The Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates can be reached by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at david@davidandersonassociates.com.

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting, and outsourced CFO services.  Company principal David Anderson is a forensic accounting expert who has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.