A New York-based financial services company will pay $15 million to settle charges that it used fraudulent accounting practices to inflate reported revenues by $1.3 million to meet analyst expectations.
In an administrative proceeding, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Bankrate Inc. improperly recorded revenue and avoided reporting several expenses for the second quarter of 2012.
As part of the settlement, Bankrate does not admit or deny the allegations.
Hyunjin Lerner, former vice president of finance, will pay a $180,000 fine to settle similar charges. Then-CFO Edward DiMaria and then-director of accounting Matthew Gamsey will continue to fight the charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
According to the SEC complaint, after learning that the company’s preliminary financial results for the second quarter of 2012 fell short of analyst estimates, DiMaria “arbitrarily” decided to increase the company’s revenue to meet expectations for it’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
With Lerner and Gamsey’s assistance, DiMaria allegedly directed Bankrate’s insurance and credit card divisions to book round-dollar amounts of additional revenue without any support.
Bankrate’s insurance division booked the $300,000 of requested revenue to a dormant customer account with no intention of justifying the revenue until it was flagged by the company’s auditor, according to the complaint. The credit card division allegedly resisted DiMaria’s directive to book an additional $500,000, but still reported some improper revenue.
In response, DiMaria allegedly insisted that the remainder of the revenue that he ordered the credit card division to book be recorded by another business unit within the company, resulting in additional unsupported revenue being recorded to two arbitrary mortgage business customers.
After the SEC began to investigate the improper revenue, DiMaria allegedly attempted to conceal the fraud by attributing the revenue to a previously settled contract dispute.
The SEC also alleges that Bankrate improperly reduced $400,000 in expenses and failed to book almost $100,000 of expenses at all in order to meet analyst estimates. According to the complaint, an expense account and related accrual account was used as a cushion to manipulate the company’s financial results for at least a year.