U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 23003 / May 27, 2014
Securities and Exchange Commission v. DGSE Companies Inc. and I. John Benson, Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-01909-B (N.D. Tex.) (May 27, 2014)
SEC Charges Former CFO of Dallas-Based Jewelry and Collectibles Company with Accounting Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed accounting fraud charges against a Dallas-based company and its former chief financial officer for manipulating its inventory accounts.
The SEC alleges that I. John Benson made repeated false accounting entries that materially inflated the value of inventory on the balance sheets at DGSE Companies Inc., which buys and sells jewelry, diamonds, fine watches, rare coins, precious metals and other collectibles. Benson’s entries made it appear that DGSE owned certain inventory that actually still belonged to customers in consignment arrangements where DGSE held the goods on the owner’s behalf until they were sold. Benson then misled the company’s independent auditors about the journal entries, and DGSE subsequently overstated its inventory by anywhere from 99.1 percent to 227.4 percent in public filings during 2009, 2010, and 2011.
DGSE agreed to settle the SEC’s charges, and Benson agreed to a settlement in which he will pay a $75,000 penalty, be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company, and be suspended from practicing as an accountant on behalf of any publicly traded company or other entity regulated by the SEC.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in the Dallas Division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, deficiencies in DGSE’s accounting systems and controls led to problems that significantly compromised the integrity of the company’s financial data. The deficiencies included the failure to properly record intercompany transactions such as inventory transfers between stores. As a result, DGSE’s intercompany accounts became out of balance by millions of dollars.
The SEC alleges that Benson subsequently made a number of fraudulent accounting entries in order to bring the intercompany accounts and DGSE’s general ledger as a whole back into balance. The entries resulted in a number of errors in DGSE’s financial statements including the large overstatement of DGSE inventory by millions of dollars. Benson concealed the improper entries by manipulating inventory detail listings to improperly reflect the consigned inventory as being owned by DGSE. Benson sent these listings to DGSE’s external auditor, and misled the auditor to believe the consigned goods were owned by DGSE. Benson then knowingly signed misleading public filings by DGSE, including annual reports for the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years as well as quarterly filings. Benson also signed false management certifications that were attached to these filings.
Benson is charged with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) and Sections 10(b), 13(a), and 13(b)(5) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rules 10b-5, 13a-14, 13b2-1, and 13b2-2(a) thereunder, and from aiding and abetting violations of Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13 thereunder. DGSE is charged with violating Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act, Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act, and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13 thereunder. DGSE and Benson each consented to injunctions against future violations of these provisions. DGSE also agreed to the appointment of an independent consultant to review the company’s accounting controls, and DGSE has taken or agreed to take remedial steps to correct its deficiencies.The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Chris Davis, Keith Hunter, and Joann Harris of the Fort Worth Regional Office.