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    剧情简介

    Accounting fraud会计造假Got'em, Gotham抓住他们!哥谭The company-accounts detectives collar another suspect公司财务侦探们抓到了另一位嫌疑犯JENARO GARCiA was an eloquent cheerleader for Gowex, helping to propel the Spanish Wi-Fi firm to European startup stardom. When investors asked detailed financial questions of its founder and boss, however, he would clam up. Short-sellers, who bet against companies by selling borrowed shares, in the hope of buying them back more cheaply later, began to act on this reticence early this year. But the killer blow was a report by an opaque outfit called Gotham City Research, alleging that Gowex had far fewer wireless hotspots than it claimed and that 90% of its sales were bogus. On July 6th, five days after the report's publication, the firm said it would file for bankruptcy and that Mr Garcia had resigned after admitting to fiddling the accounts for at least four years.赫那罗·加西亚,这位口才十分了得的Gowex掌舵人,正推动着这家西班牙Wi-Fi公司成为欧洲一颗冉冉升起的明星。然而,当投资者们想要对公司创始人以及老总的财务细节进行质询之时,他便开始沉默不语。“做空者”,指的是一批在金融投资领域中,由于不看好市场前景而向证券公司借股票先卖掉以后,接着在未来等股票价格跌倒一定水平再买回来的人,他们在今年早些时候就开始对上述的“沉默”做出反应。但其最致命的一击还是来自别的地方—一份来自隐秘机构Gotham City Research的报告,宣称Gowex公司旗下的无线热点远比自己公布的要少,并且该公司90%的销售额是伪造而成的。6月6号,正是这份报告公布的五天后,Gowex公司宣布自己将申请破产,并且加西亚先生在承认进行了至少四年的会计造假后,也随即辞职。Gowex's dramatic collapse marks one of the biggest victories for a relatively new breed of company-accounts “detectives”: small, independent research-and-investment outfits that revel in unearthing alleged book-cooking. Having focused largely on China's fraud-filled market until now, they are branching out. Gotham is a secretive group linked to Daniel Yu, a trader whose motto is, “It is not who we are underneath, but what we do that defines us.” Other firms with which it has locked horns include Quindell and Ebix, two software providers. Both deny wrongdoing.Gowex公司戏剧般的坍塌,标志着一次公司财务“侦探”相对来说的新生,标志着一次新生以来最大的胜利:小型、独立、调查与投资业务并存的机构,在搜索疑似财务造假案当中如鱼得水。现在,这些机构正扩展着自己的针对范围,此前他们一直都将大部分精力放置于充满着虚假财务数据的中国市场当中。Gotham是一个与交易员Daniel Yu相关联的秘密组织,而这位仁兄的座右铭是“我们到底是谁并不重要,而是我们所做的一切才真正定义了我们!”。还有一些别的公司也被Gotham锁定为嫌疑目标,其中包括两家软件供应商Quindell和Ebix。这两家公司均否认自己存在财务造假。Gotham's approach is to short and shout: it takes a negative investment position, then noisily publicises its findings. It is cut from the same cloth as Muddy Waters, which is run by Carson Block, a former self-storage entrepreneur. His biggest scalp to date is Sino-Forest, which went bust in 2012 after Muddy Waters accused it of overstating its forest holdings in China.Gotham手段就是制造舆论与关注,使得目标陷入混乱:它会对目标进行消极的投资,进而大张旗鼓地公布自己的所有发现。它与浑水公司是一路货色,而后者是由卡森·布洛克所运营的,一位之前专注于自助式仓储的企业家。布洛克迄今为止最大的战利品莫过于嘉汉林业,一家于2012年破产的企业,其缘由正是浑水公司指控这家企业夸大自己在中国森林资源的储量。Another such outfit is Citron Research, whose leader, Andrew Left, prides himself on never having been successfully sued for defamation. A few hedge funds like to kick up a similar stink—most notably Bill Ackman's Pershing Square, which is out to prove that Herbalife, a nutritional-supplements firm, is a pyramid scheme.Their lineage can be traced back to the successful shorting of Enron in 2001 by James Chanos, another hedge-fund manager.同种类的另外一家机构Citron Research,其领导人为安德鲁·莱福特,他有一点十分自豪,那就是别人从未成功地因诽谤而将他告上法庭。一些对冲基金也想加入到他们的队伍当中——其中最瞩目的莫过于比尔·阿克曼的潘兴广场,它将对营养补充品公司康宝莱进行调查,指控后者为金字塔式非法传销公司。这些基金公司的财务调查史可以追溯到2001年另一位对冲基金经理詹姆斯·查诺斯对安然公司造假案的成功揭露。Gotham spent eight months studying Gowex, amassing far better information than investment-bank analysts, most of whom were still recommending the shares when it buckled. Gotham spotted that Gowex used a little-known auditor (a classic red flag: see the Bernard Madoff case), whose fees were unusually low, as if they were based on revenue far smaller than Gowex's books stated. Often, the sleuths comb the books for ratios that are hard to manipulate. Gotham also noted, for instance, that Gowex's revenue per employee was implausible compared with rivals'—while the revenue could be inflated, it was harder to fake the headcount.Gotham耗费了8个月的时间来调查Gowex公司,收集了远比其他投行分析师更庞大的数据。事实上,大部分投行分析师在Gowex公司崩溃时,仍在推荐该公司的股票。Gotham发现了Gowex公司聘请了不太知名的审计师,审计费用也异常地低廉,就像是Gowex公司是在一个远比账面价值低的利润基础上经营。通常情况下,侦探们都会在账本里梳理出不容易操控的财务比率。例如,Gotham也发现了Gowex公司里每位员工的平均利润与竞争对手相比呈现不合理的情况—虽然利润容易被拉高,但职工总数是很难造假的。Legwork also helps. Muddy Waters' analysts visit target companies, their suppliers and clients to verify claims about production, staff levels and so on, sometimes posing as prospective business partners. Chinese firms with advance warning of visits by analysts have been known to rent workers and stock to deceive them.四处奔走调查也是一个好方法。浑水公司的分析师们会对一些公司进行拜访,其中包括目标公司的供应商和客户,以辨别该公司的产品反馈、员工水平之类的数据,有些时候还会冒充成潜在商业合作伙伴以进行探访调查。中国公司在得到事先预警的情况下,会在调查人员来临之时租借工人和存货,从而达到欺骗的目的。Courageous crusaders勇猛的征战者Gotham's declaration after Gowex's downfall—“May truth, justice, restoration and redemption prevail”—was somewhat bombastic. But a bit of bravado is justified: taking a big short position requires courage, especially in a rising stockmarket. Since shares have a floor but no ceiling, the upside for short-sellers is more limited than the downside.在Gowex公司破产后,Gotham发布了如下宣言—“愿真相、正义、恢复与救赎恒久于人间”,而这听起来挺浮夸的。但这种小小的虚张声势确实是合理的:做空头寸需要勇气,尤其是在这样一个行情看涨的股票市场里。由于股票有下限而没有上限,对于做空投资者来说,坏的一面会压过好的一面。There have been cases of short-sellers seeking to profit by spreading false alarms, but they probably detect real fraud more often than auditors, regulators and bankers combined. In catching fiddlers while they are still tiddlers, Gotham and its kind are sparing investors Enron-sized nightmares. Nevertheless, market regulators often eye them with suspicion: Spain's at first reacted to Gotham's report by investigating its publisher, not Gowex. China has cracked down on shorts, even imprisoning the writer of one negative report.虽然许多案子当中,都是做空投资者在对市场散播虚假警报以期获得利润,但他们也很有可能调查到真实存在的假账,且其数目要比审计师、监管者和银行家加起来所查出的总数都要多。在这场抓假账的游戏里,Gotham和同类的公司是小鱼,但他们确实免除了投资者要去面对像安然公司如此庞大造假噩梦的疑虑。尽管如此,监管者也在用怀疑的眼光密切留意着这些财务侦探们的动向:西班牙当局对近期Gotham报告的回应并不是着手调查Gowex公司,而是率先找出这篇报告的出版者。中国政府目前正全面封杀唱空者,甚至会把任何书写消极报告的作家扔进监狱里。Even so, China will remain fertile territory. Muddy Waters' latest quarry there is NQ Mobile, the head of whose audit committee resigned abruptly on July 4th. Mr Block is also said to be sniffing around in Africa, where investors are chucking money at little-known firms. Citron's Mr Left reckons corporate fraudsters “can't bullshit [investors] the way they used to,” because “there's so much more accessible information online, in public records, and so on,” with which to disprove their claims. True, but the temptation to give it a try, faced with so many naive punters hungry for fat returns, seems undiminished.尽管如此,中国依旧是一片充满“机遇”的土地。浑水公司最新的调查对象是秦网手机,后者的审计委员会主席在7月4号突然请辞。当市场投资者们对各类小知名度的企业掷下重金之时,布洛克先生在非洲观望着经济态势发展。Citron的莱福特先生认识到,企业行骗者已经不能像从前那样行事了,因为现在人们有更多的手段可以查到网络资讯以及公共记录等等的数据。上述资料都能用以揭穿投资者们的各种声明。诚然,但同时也充斥着太多天真的赌徒,总在期盼着天上能掉下来几块馅饼,而他们总会不厌其烦地想要给予风险家们一次机会。Gerard Zack, the author of “Financial Statement Fraud”, a textbook, reckons that perhaps two-thirds of cases involve improper revenue recognition. New global accounting rules announced in May seek to curb one common ruse, booking sales prematurely, for instance on long-term contracts. But sometimes the revenues are simply invented, often by getting a related party to pose as a customer. Sometimes very closely related: Gotham said in its report on Gowex that it had evidence the firm's biggest customer “was really itself.”据财务教材《Financial Statement Fraud》的作家Gerard Zack估计,或许在三分之二的财务造假案当中,都涉及到不恰当的利润确认的问题。五月,新颁布的国际会计准则设法限制一个常用的造假伎俩—提前确认的账面销售额,例如在长期合同里销售额。但一些时候利润也就是简单地凭空创造出来,比如公司往往会令关联企业伪装成自己的客户来增加销售额。还有些时候,则直接“关联”到自己身上去了:Gotham在报告里表示自己拥有证据,证明Gowex公司最大的客户其实就是“Gowex自己”。Such tricks can be used in any industry: think of the massive fake sales at Parmalat, an Italian dairy firm. But verifying that accounts match reality is often harder in technology businesses, making them “easier candidates for fraud”, says Michael Jones, editor of another book on “creative accounting”. In fast-growing tech industries there is a temptation to exaggerate revenues, to persuade the world that you are the “next big thing” and create enough momentum for truth to catch up with the hype. If this turned out to be the motive with Gowex, it would be no surprise.这样的把戏在各行各业中都能找得出:大家可以联想到意大利乳制品公司Parmalat的巨额虚假销售案。另一本“创意会计”方面的书籍编辑Michael Jones提到,在辨别出科技企业业务当中的会计猫腻要比别的行业困难得多,这也导致了科技企业更容易陷入“假账候选人名录”当中。在快速成长的科技领域,各家企业都在充满着夸大利润诱因的环境中经营,希望令世界相信自己的公司才是那“一下代巨人”,同时也为了创造出足够的社会信任度,与自己铺天盖地的宣传相得益彰。如果这真的是Gowex公司造假因由的话,想必也不会引起多大的震撼。

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