July 25, 2007
Con Agra Settles SEC Accounting Charges
The SEC continues to bring financial accounting cases. Here is the latest:
The SEC filed civil charges against ConAgra Foods, Inc., alleging that it engaged in improper, and in certain instances fraudulent, accounting practices during its fiscal years 1999 through 2001, including the misuse of corporate reserves to manipulate reported earnings in fiscal year 1999. Linda Thomsen, Director of the Commission's Division of Enforcement, noted that "The facts here are particularly troubling because of the number of different improprieties engaged in by Con Agra, the length of time over which they occurred, and the fact that senior management was involved in the misconduct."
In addition, the Commission alleges that during fiscal years 2002-2005, ConAgra's corporate tax department made numerous tax errors, causing the company to improperly account for tax benefits and understate its income tax expense. ConAgra has restated its financial statements for the years 1999 through 2005.
According to the Commission's complaint, without engaging in the improper and at times fraudulent accounting practices, ConAgra would have missed the Wall Street analysts' consensus estimates of the company's earnings per share for at least six of eleven fiscal quarters in fiscal years 1999, 2000 and 2001. To settle the charges, ConAgra has agreed to pay a $45 million penalty, which the SEC will seek to place into a Fair Fund for distribution to harmed investors.
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