Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The SEC charged the auditors of Bernard Madoff's broker-dealer firm with committing securities fraud by falsely representing that they had conducted legitimate audits, when in fact they had not. In its complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan, the SEC alleges that from 1991 through 2008, certified public accountant David G. Friehling and his firm, Friehling & Horowitz, CPAs, P.C. (F&H), purported to audit financial statements and disclosures of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS). According to the complaint, Friehling enabled Madoff's Ponzi scheme by falsely stating, in annual audit reports, that F&H audited BMIS financial statements pursuant to Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS), including the requirements to maintain auditor independence and perform audit procedures regarding custody of securities.
F&H also made representations that BMIS financial statements were presented in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and that Friehling reviewed internal controls at BMIS, including controls over the custody of assets, and found no material inadequacies. According to the SEC's complaint, Friehling knew that BMIS regularly distributed the annual audit reports to Madoff customers and that the reports were filed with the SEC and other regulators.
The SEC's complaint alleges that all of these statements were materially false because Friehling and F&H did not perform a meaningful audit of BMIS, and did not perform procedures to confirm that the securities BMIS purportedly held on behalf of its customers even existed.
Instead, the SEC alleges that Friehling merely pretended to conduct minimal audit procedures of certain accounts to make it seem like he was conducting an audit, and then failed to document his purported findings and conclusions as required under GAAS. If properly stated, those financial statements, along with BMIS related disclosures regarding reserve requirements, would have shown that BMIS owed tens of billions of dollars in additional liabilities to its customers and was therefore insolvent.
According to the SEC's complaint, Friehling similarly did not conduct any audit procedures with respect to BMIS internal controls, and had no basis to represent that BMIS had no material inadequacies. Afraid that his work for BMIS would be subject to peer review, as required of accountants who conduct audits, Friehling lied to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants for years and denied that he conducted any audit work.
The SEC further alleges that Friehling and F&H obtained ill-gotten gains through compensation from Madoff and BMIS, and also from withdrawing returns from accounts held at BMIS in the name of Friehling and his family members.
The SEC's complaint specifically alleges that Friehling and F&H violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, violated and aided and abetted violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and aided and abetted violations of Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Advisers Act, Section 15(c) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-3 thereunder, and Section 17 of the Exchange Act and Rule 17a-5 thereunder. Among other things, the SEC's complaint seeks permanent injunctions, civil penalties and a court order requiring both Friehling and F&H to disgorge their ill-gotten gains.