Saturday, January 10, 2009

Latest Massive Fraud: Satyam Found To Be Swimming Naked

Warren Buffet's famous quote is that "It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked." Over the past few months, the tide has been going out with a vengeance, and we're certainly discovering plenty of folks swimming naked. The latest, of course, is Satyam, the Indian tech company whose CEO admitted that he basically has been making up the company's financial reports for years. It turns out that about $1 billion in cash the company claimed it had... don't actually exist. That's a pretty big problem, because that $1 billion represented about 94% of all the cash the company claimed to have. Oops. It makes you wonder what, exactly, Satyam's auditors have been up to the past few years.

This might explain why the company attempted to do a highly controversial merger deal last month, where Satyam tried to buy construction firms Maytas (Satyam backwards), owned by the sons of Satyam's founders. The deal between companies in two obviously unrelated industries seemed like a pretty clear cash grab for the family -- except most people didn't realize that the cash grab was actually to cover up all the lies on the financial statements.

Of course, there are some amusing side notes to this whole thing. Just a few months ago, for example, Satyam was awarded the "prestigious" Golden Peacock award for (of all things) corporate governance. That award is now being stripped away, but it seems a little late for that. Then, of course, there was the stock analyst who claimed that Satyam was an obvious buy just after the original merger deal fell apart. Considering that the stock dropped 90% today, that seems like an awfully bad call.

No comments: