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经济学人:乐购财务危机

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Tesco's accounting problems

乐购财务危机
Not so funny
不那么有趣
Booking revenues, like comedy, is all about timing
预估收益和喜剧一样,把握时机很重要
IT IS too soon to say whether the accounting misstatement at Tesco was cock-up or conspiracy. The source of the discrepancy is already clear, however, and it is as old as book-keeping itself: the premature recognition of revenue.
乐购财务造假是偶然还是蓄意目前还言之尚早。然而这种差异的来源已经很清楚了,它发生在记账阶段:过早地确认了收入。
Suppliers make payments to supermarkets that meet certain sales targets for their products, run promotions or place the goods in eye-catching places, such as at the end of aisles. Tesco managers appear to have been too ambitious in forecasting these “rebates”. They may also have underreported the costs of stolen and out-of-date produce.
若超市达到一定的产品销售目标,举办促销活动,或是将货物摆放在醒目之处,比如超市过道的两端,供应商会支付给超市一定的费用。乐购的管理层似乎过于高估了这些“回扣”的价值,当然他们也可能是低估了被盗物品和过期物品的成本。
In a study of accounting scandals at American companies by the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations, a business-ethics body, the misrecording of revenues was to blame in 60% of cases. Manipulation generally falls into one of two categories. In the first, involving “timing differences”, the revenue is genuine but, say, sales at the start of a quarter are booked as having been struck in the previous one. The flipside of this is “cookie jar” accounting: pushing today's revenue into tomorrow so it can be dipped into to shore up weak quarters.
据企业伦理机构发起人委员会的研究称,美国公司60%的会计丑闻要归结于谎报收益。操纵行为一般可分为两类。第一种情况涉及到“时差”,收益是真实的,但是季度初始的销售额被列入上一个季度入账。与之相对的是“饼干罐”记账:将当前收益推至将来,以此推高疲软季度的销售额。

In the second, more serious category, the sales are fake: often, a related party poses as a customer to generate phoney invoices. Examples include Gowex, a Spanish technology firm that folded earlier this year, and Satyam Computer of India, whose boss compared the escalation of the $1.5 billion fraud to riding a tiger that was ever harder to dismount without being eaten.

更严重的是第二类情况,即销售额都是假的:通常情况下,业务关联方会装扮成顾客以产生虚假发票。西班牙科技公司Gowex今年早些时候便是因此破产,而印度萨蒂扬软件公司老板身陷15亿美元的诈骗升级案,时局愈发艰难,真真是骑虎难下,无法全身而退。
Working out how much revenue to book and when can be a matter of fine judgment. It is especially tricky in long-term contracts, such as in construction, or when the sale of goods is bundled with a service agreement, as with photocopiers. In a sign of how complex an area this is, only this year—after more than a decade of talks—did European and American standard-setters agree on a common approach to revenue recognition.
应记多少收益以及何时记收益都需要准确的判断力。这在长期合同中尤为棘手,比如建筑合同,或是所售商品捆绑的服务合同。有一个迹象可以表明这个领域到底有多么复杂:经过十多年的讨论,直到今年,欧洲和美国的会计准则制定者方才达成一个确认收益的通用办法。
The complexity of Tesco's promotional deals with suppliers may also have left much room for discretion, and honest mistakes, as well as deliberate distortions. But the risks around accounting for such payments are hardly new. The auditors of several big retailers have amplified their warnings in recent years as rebates have taken up more space on balance-sheets. In its most recent report, in May, Tesco's auditor, PwC, warned of the “risk of manipulation”.
乐购与供应商间复杂的促销协定可能也给酌情权,无心之过,以及蓄意歪曲留下很大空间。但在财务上此类支付风险已不是什么新鲜事物。由于回扣在资产负债表中占据越来越大的比重,几个大型零售商的审计机构近年来已提升警告级别。乐购的审计机构普华永道在5月份最新的报告中已警告其注意“操纵风险”。
If Tesco's books turn out to have been deliberately cooked, it would be the biggest fraud of its type in retailing since the scandal at US Foodservice in 2000-03. Several executives were fined or jailed for creating bogus rebates to boost profits and bonuses—complete with secret side agreements, in which suppliers agreed not to collect the exaggerated rebates. The Dutch parent company, Royal Ahold, settled with shareholders for $1.1 billion. Even if there was no fraudulent intent and the problems stem from a misunderstanding of the rules rather than knowing misapplication, the apparent scale of the error suggests that, at the very least, Tesco's internal controls need a thorough overhaul.
如果乐购被证实是蓄意加工账表,这将是自2000-2003年美国餐饮业丑闻后零售业最大的欺诈骗局。数名高管已因编造虚假回扣以提高利润和奖金的行为被处以罚款或监禁—他们与秘密方签订协议,其中供应商同意不收取超额回扣。位于荷兰的皇家阿霍德总公司为其股东的诉讼花费了11亿美元。即使公司没有欺诈意图,或是由于误解准则产生问题,并非明知不可为而为之,这份过失的显著规模最起码表明乐购的内部控制需要彻底整改了。
重点单词   查看全部解释    
boost [bu:st]

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vt. 推进,提高,增加
n. 推进,增加

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certain ['sə:tn]

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adj. 确定的,必然的,特定的
pron.

 
bogus ['bəugəs]

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adj. 假的,伪造的

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conspiracy [kən'spirəsi]

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n. 阴谋

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genuine ['dʒenjuin]

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adj. 真正的,真实的,真诚的

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related [ri'leitid]

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adj. 相关的,有亲属关系的

 
fraudulent ['frɔ:djulənt]

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adj. 欺诈的,不正的,不诚实的

 
previous ['pri:vjəs]

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adj. 在 ... 之前,先,前,以前的

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apparent [ə'pærənt]

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adj. 明显的,表面上的

 
jar [dʒɑ:]

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n. 不和谐,刺耳声,震动,震惊,广口瓶
vi

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