SEC Charges Three Executives at U.S. Navy Shipbuilder Austal USA with Accounting Fraud
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington D.C., March 31, 2023 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged three executives of Mobile, Alabama-based shipbuilder, Austal USA LLC, for orchestrating a fraudulent revenue recognition scheme that allowed its parent company to meet or exceed analyst expectations.
The SEC alleges that, from at least January 2013 through July 2016, Austal USA’s former president, Craig D. Perciavalle, its current director of financial analysis, Joseph A. Runkel, and former director of the Littoral Combat Ships program, William O. Adams, engaged in a scheme to artificially reduce the cost estimates to complete certain shipbuilding projects for the U.S. Navy by tens of millions of dollars. The complaint alleges that Perciavalle, Runkel, and Adams knew that Austal USA’s shipbuilding costs were rising and higher than planned, but they directed others to arbitrarily lower the cost estimates to meet Austal USA’s revenue budget and revenue projections.
The complaint further alleges that Austal USA’s parent company, Australia-based Austal Limited, prematurely recognized revenue and, as a result, met or exceeded analyst consensus estimates for earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), a key financial metric for the company.
"We allege that Austal USA’s executives manipulated its financial results, causing harm to U.S. investors in the securities of its parent company, Austal Limited," said Jason Burt, Regional Director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office. "As the complaint articulates, if the defendants had not fraudulently manipulated the cost estimates, Austal Limited would have missed, by wide margins, analyst consensus estimates for EBIT."
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, alleges that Perciavalle, Runkel, and Adams violated the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and seeks disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, civil money penalties, and officer and director bars.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Kimberly Steckling, Kenneth Stalzer, and Donna Walker and supervised by Ian Karpel, Nicholas Heinke, and Jason Burt. The litigation is being led by Sharan Lieberman and Christopher Martin and supervised by Gregory Kasper.