Home » British Telecom »Consumer News »Public Policy & Gov't » Currently Reading:

BT: The Wells Fargo of Phone Companies Mired In Accounting Scam in Italy

Phillip Dampier January 24, 2017 British Telecom, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

European investors are reeling on news of a massing accounting scam in Italy involving British phone giant BT Group and £500 million in loans designed to cover up phony accounts and major business losses.

BT admitted Tuesday that Italian executives have been engaged in widespread fraud creating fake accounts, borrowing money to cover expected earnings from those accounts and “forgetting” to record the cover-up loans on BT’s books.

Echoing Wells Fargo’s phony accounts scheme in the United States, pressure to achieve sales targets likely created the conditions under which BT’s Italian unit decided years ago to engage in a little accounting fraud. That fraud continued for years until finally going public, wiping nearly £8 billion in value from BT, mostly as a result of its plummeting stock price.

BT has been a part of Italy’s telecom marketplace since the 1990s, but growing competition and changing needs threatened to hurt both BT’s earnings and top executives’ bonus packages, which are based on those earnings.

The unwelcome news of accounting fraud reached the company this past summer when it was approached by a whistleblower. By October, BT publicly downplayed the misadventure as “inappropriate management behavior” that would cost the company £145 million. It took an independent investigation by accounting firm KPMG to reveal the breadth of the fraud.

“The extent and complexity of inappropriate behavior in the Italian business were far greater than previously identified,” KPMG said in its report, noting “improper accounting practices and a complex set of improper sales, purchase, factoring and leasing transactions” had taken place for years before anyone caught on.

Tucked away in a broader restatement by the company about its accounting problems was an admission that £225 million of the £400 million slashed from the company’s EBITDA forecast for the coming fiscal year was the result of a broadly declining business selling telecom products and services to large European corporations.

Intense competition has cut prices, leaving lumbering giants like BT Group unable to quickly respond to protect market share. It turned out that cooking the books was much simpler, and some executives might not have minded much, considering their outsized bonus packages.

Chief executive Gavin Patterson earned £5.3 million last year including an annual bonus of just over £1 million and share awards worth £3 million. Finance director Tony Chanmugam, retiring in July, has already been paid £2.8 million, including a £587,000 bonus. Company officials are now considering whether to claw back some of those earnings as a result of the mismanagement.

The Guardian reports BT’s European head, Corrado Sciolla, reportedly resigned on Tuesday, but the company would not comment on this.

The company’s response to the scandal is likely to prove disappointing to investors who saw BT Group’s share price plummet 21% in one day. A spokesperson said it “needs to reflect” on why the improper behavior was not spotted by BT Italy’s management, the wider group, or by its auditors.







Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Denise Rupert: Class action??...
  • Paul Houle: WatchTV legitimizes the idea of unbundling local channels from cable channels and it is about time. For many consumers, retransmission is a waste, ...
  • Paul Houle: I can believe in AT&T's plan, but not Comcast. For better or worse, AT&T is going "all in" on video and is unlike other major providers in ...
  • Phillip Dampier: Yes, that battle with Northwest Broadcasting, which also involved stations in Idaho-Wyoming and California, was the nastiest in recent history, with s...
  • Doug Stoffa: Digital takes up way less space than old analog feeds - agreed. In a given 6 MHz block, the cable company can send down 1 NTSC analog station, 2-4 HD...
  • Phillip Dampier: Digital video TV channels occupy next to nothing as far as bandwidth goes. Just look at the huge number of premium international channels loading up o...
  • Doug Stoffa: It's a bit more complicated than that. Television stations (and the networks that provide them programming) have increased their retransmission fees ...
  • Alex sandro: Most of the companies offer their services with contracts but Spectrum cable company offer contract free offers for initial year which is a very good ...
  • John: I live in of the effected counties, believe it or not our village is twenty three miles from WSKG Tower, approxiamately eighty miles from Syracuse, WS...
  • Wilhelm: I'm in the Finger Lakes where Spectrum removed WROC-8 last Fall, but we still get other Rochester channels, WHAM-13, WHEC-10 and WXXI-21. I have to wo...
  • dhkjsalhf: "Another classic case of businesses being much smarter than governments." I don't know whether this was sarcastic or not, but I feel it's a sentiment...
  • New Yorker: It makes no sense. I wonder sometimes if raising the limits on how much money rich people giving to candidates could make it more expensive to buy of...

Your Account: