Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fraud case winds down against ex-Nortel top brass

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TORONTO -- Prosecutors in the high-profile Nortel fraud trial wound down closing arguments Friday, telling a Toronto courtroom the former top brass at the defunct telecom giant knowingly breached accounting rules by orchestrating a scheme to "monkey" with numbers and trigger bonuses.

Crown attorney Robert Hubbard alleged the company's balance sheets were not simply inaccurate, but manipulated to trigger big bonuses for the executives and deceive the public about its flagging financial performance.

"You cannot just monkey with the accounting," he said. "That's what's forbidden."

Ex-CEO Frank Dunn, ex-CFO Douglas Beatty and ex-controller Michael Gollogly are on trial for fraud for allegedly falsifying the former technology giant's financial statements in 2001 and 2003. They have pleaded not guilty.

Hubbard said the accused are experienced businessmen, with financial expertise, and should've known it goes against regulations to tamper with financial records to "help the bottom line."

The Crown charges the accused knew that accruals -- or reserves of cash set aside for future liabilities -- were being moved around to show a return to profitability when in fact the company was struggling financially.

Their alleged motivation was the desire to reach internal financial targets that would trigger a total $12.8 million in cash and stock bonus payments when the quarterly earnings stopped bleeding red.

Hubbard said decisions about the financial statements were being made "independent of any economic activity."

The Crown has also charged that the executives dismissed concerns raised by its external auditors, Deloitte & Touche, about the accuracy of Nortel's financial statements, and that the company's financial targets were purposely kept hidden from the accounting firm.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy in 2009. At one point, the Ottawa firm had 90,000 employees worldwide and was one of the leaders in the telecom equipment industry. The accused were fired in 2004.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 B8

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