California-Based Telecommunications Equipment Firm and Two Former Executives Charged in Revenue Recognition Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against a Newport Beach, Calif.-based telecommunications equipment company and two former executives accused of improperly recognizing as revenue more than a million dollars’ worth of inventory that was shipped to a Florida warehouse but not actually sold.
They’re also accused of defrauding an investor from whom they secured a $2 million loan for the company based on misstatements and omissions associated with the inventory shipments.
The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that AirTouch Communications Inc., former president and CEO Hideyuki Kanakubo, and former CFO Jerome Kaiser orchestrated a fraudulent revenue recognition scheme that violated Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which establish that revenue cannot be recognized unless it is “realized or realizable” and “earned.” When AirTouch reported net revenues of a little more than $1.03 million in its quarterly report for the third quarter of 2012, it included approximately $1.24 million in inventory that had been shipped to a company in Florida that agreed to warehouse AirTouch’s products in anticipation of future sales. AirTouch’s revenue recognition was improper because the Florida company had not purchased the inventory, and AirTouch had not sold the inventory to any of its customers. AirTouch would have had zero revenue to report for the quarter if it had not recorded the shipments as purported revenue from the Florida company.
“Kanakubo and Kaiser created a facade of sales activity in AirTouch’s quarterly report to falsely depict a healthy and growing company when in fact it was struggling without any positive revenue,” said Michele Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office. “They also deceptively obtained financing from an investor based on a similar false portrayal of the company’s sales activity.”
According to the SEC’s order instituting an administrative proceeding, AirTouch develops and sells telecommunications equipment, including a product called the U250 SmartLinx that was designed in early 2012 for sale to Mexico’s largest provider of landline telephone services. Later that year, AirTouch contacted the Florida company about the possibility of it warehousing U250 SmartLinx units for potential future sale to the Mexican entity or other AirTouch customers. During contract negotiations for the warehousing arrangement, the CEO of the Florida company told Kanakubo that it would not buy the product from AirTouch, but rather warehouse the U250 SmartLinx inventory and provide logistics for eventual delivery to the Mexican entity or other AirTouch customers who purchased the product. AirTouch shipped approximately $1.24 million of inventory to the Florida company. Despite not receiving any payment from the Florida company or any commitment from the Mexican entity or any other customer that it would actually buy product, Kanakubo and Kaiser reported the shipped inventory as revenue on AirTouch’s Form 10-Q. They also signed certifications falsely attesting to the accuracy of the company’s financial results.
The SEC’s Enforcement Division further alleges that Kanakubo and Kaiser made false and misleading statements and omissions to an investor they solicited for a $2 million short-term bridge loan to the company in exchange for a promissory note and a warrant to purchase common stock. Among other things, Kanakubo falsely told the investor via e-mail that the inventory to be shipped by AirTouch to the Florida company pertained to an existing purchase order from the Mexican entity, and Kaiser did not disclose the existence of the agreement wherein the Florida company agreed merely to warehouse the inventory and provide associated fulfillment and logistics services. On Oct. 17, 2012, AirTouch received the loan of $2 million from the investor, and two days later Kanakubo approved a $15,000 bonus payment to Kaiser for his work on raising capital. The same day, Kanakubo authorized a $15,000 payment to himself in connection with unused vacation time.
According to the SEC’s order, Kanakubo, who lives in Irvine, Calif., and Kaiser, who lives in Chowchilla, Calif., withheld key information about the inventory shipments to the Florida entity from AirTouch’s board of directors and controller as well as its outside independent accountant.
The SEC’s order alleges that AirTouch, Kanakubo, and Kaiser violated the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and asserts that Kaiser’s violations constituted willful conduct.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Peter Altman, Rhoda Chang, and Diana Tani of the Los Angeles office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Amy Longo, Gary Leung, David VanHavermaat, and Mr. Altman.