Home » Operations Management » Former Managers Allege Pervasive Inventory Fraud At Walmart How Deep Does The Rot Go?

Former Managers Allege Pervasive Inventory Fraud At Walmart How Deep Does The Rot Go?

October 2, 2023
Bill Kimball

Another common form of skimming is undertaken by mail room employees who are responsible for receiving payments and can therefore skim the checks received. That is, instead of depositing the checks in the company account and logging the payment into the accounting system, the employees would deposit checks into their accounts and steal the funds. Without a cover-up the scheme is unraveled quickly when the company sends a second bill and the customer furnishes a cancelled check as proof of payment.

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  • As a result of fierce competition, profit margins in retail can be razor thin, making shrinkage a potent—sometimes critical—factor in profitability.
  • Because inventory fraud is often more difficult to prevent and detect than other asset thefts, fraud examiners need to understand the mechanics of inventory accounting and the signs of overstated inventory schemes.
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  • Another type of business that is vulnerable to skimming is off-location rental services, in which the on-site manager usually has much autonomy.
  • Woolworth stores commonly saw total-store overages while the manipulation was occurring, Yake recalled.
  • For example, use of a shell company was discovered when a secretary noticed that the street address of a vendor was the home address of her supervisor.
  • In 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission cited the pharmacy chain Rite Aid for distorting its inventory accounting and misreporting its shrinkage figure by failing to disclose roughly $13.8 million in losses.

Whether it’s to pass that big test, qualify for that big promotion or even master that cooking technique; people who rely on dummies, rely on it to learn the critical skills and relevant information necessary for success. Multi-award-winning investigative journalist Dan McCrum overcame many roadblocks while investigating the Wirecard fraud scandal for the Financial Times.

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If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer- and we will process the deletion of a user’s account. Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site. But as the months progress, his store falls short of projected sales goals, and the loss prevention manager warns him of an alarming rise in shoplifting and suspected employee thefts. Try Veeqo for free, and explore all the tools and services you need to manage inventory and ship to customers. Simply accepting inventory shrinkage and leaving accurate management to chance is a serious mistake. Appropriate inventory storage is crucial to stop products from being damaged while sitting in the warehouse. But it’s worth doing if you routinely find yourself with a lot of unexplained shrinkage that needs to be addressed.

padding inventory

The potential loss to the victim organization of a ghost employee scheme could be enormous due to the recurring nature of the theft. After the perpetrator has successfully created a ghost employee in the payroll system, the regular process of issuing paychecks ensures a steady stream of funds to the perpetrator. When successfully instituted, unlike the schemes of a shell company or skimming, the perpetrator of a ghost employee scheme does not have to engage in any further maintenance of the fraudulent scheme. As there are no recurring actions on the part of the perpetrator, the data shows no unusual patterns. Organizations that engage in cash transactions are vulnerable to skimming by their employees.

Strategies To Minimize Inventory Shrinkage

The shell company purchases the goods needed by the organization from legitimate vendors and then resells to the organization at an inflated price. Sometimes the owner of the shell company could be the spouse or other close relative of the perpetrator, and their names or addresses could be used to set up the shell company.

For years, Walmart’s senior management in North Carolina had been waging a war on shrinkage, Davidson said; it had become a central priority of the company’s local leadership and a source of constant strain for store managers. There, she recalled, she would train district managers on her practices in the presence of the company’s most senior officers for the state.

padding inventory

The management exploited the auditor’s usage of sampling to inflate inventory counts. The employees of the company volunteered to do the auditor’s tedious job of counting inventory items, which were stacked high and deep in the warehouse. As a result, even though the physical count of inventory was technically being taken, the inventory padding schemes of management were still effective in concealing the massive fraud. One former assistant manager, who worked at Walmart stores in Georgia and South Carolina and wished to remain anonymous, said that, as with Cody Champagne, dishonest inventory accounting helped drive him from the company. Yet he was unsure whether the irregular accounting that he described had any effect on his stores’ profitability, and he never saw inappropriate markdowns or deliberate “padding” of inventory. Rather, he said, understaffing created a situation in which employees simply had no time to take an accurate count of inventory.

Indeed, Erica Davidson alleged that producing favorable shrinkage numbers could make a significant difference in a manager’s yearly pay, and that a high shrinkage rate could jeopardize a store manager’s bonus. AOL viewed this marketing campaign as a long-term investment and capitalized the costs —that is, it transferred them from the income statement to the balance sheet where the campaign would be expensed over a period of years. The more conservative treatment is to expense the cost in the period the CDs were shipped. Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Three senior officers at Tyco International were convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from the company.

Investigating the causes of inventory shrinkage can help unravel fraud schemes. Although some amount of inventory shrinkage is routine and expected in the normal course of business, abnormal shrinkage or a pattern of shrinkage are red flags. Normal inventory shrinkage, a random event, should affect all items of the inventory and not just a particular item. Moreover, there should not be any detectable pattern or trend of inventory shrinkage. Such patterns and trends, if identified through statistical procedures, require further investigation. Another type of business that is vulnerable to skimming is off-location rental services, in which the on-site manager usually has much autonomy. The manager may rent out property for cash without making the necessary accounting entry or without reporting the rental revenue to the organization.

Don’t Miss Opportunities To Help Organizations During Fraud Aftershocks

So while losses can be caused by the tiniest of errors, the fallout may be far bigger than you expect. This is why it’s crucial to find ways of minimizing inventory shrinkage as much as possible. No matter the cause, brands must get to the root of any inventory shrinkage as soon as possible in order to prevent it happening in the future. Davidson recalled that there was just one moment in her time with Walmart—in 2009, shortly after the company had fired Sylvester Johnson—when she was told to use restraint in applying markdowns.

padding inventory

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Ways Companies Cook The Books

However, at the end of the year the store apparently meets its goals and Alex receives his fat bonus.1 The loss prevention manager is mystified. He wonders how certain store departments have drastically reduced huge losses. This manager of a chain discount store thinks he’ll be receiving a substantial year-end bonus – if he meets the company’s projected numbers for his store. Giving each product a SKU allows workers across the business to track inventory levels more efficiently. This consists of letters and numbers, and gives units a unique identity to help keep your stock level records accurate. It may be worth contacting previous employers to find out how effective the candidate has proven to be in handling inventory. Any history in inventory management — and doing it well — is a real advantage.

A synthetic lease occurs when a special purpose entity established by a parent company purchases an asset then leases it back to the parent company. However, investors should still know how to recognize the basic warning signs of falsified statements. While the details are typically hidden, even from accountants, there are red flags in financial statements that can point to the use of manipulating methods. Enron, Adelphia, and WorldCom are extreme examples of companies who cooked the books claiming billions in assets that just didn’t exist. Every company manipulates its numbers to a certain extent to make sure budgets balance, executives score bonuses, and investors continue to offer up funding. However, factors such as greed, desperation, immorality, and bad judgment can cause some executives to cross the line into outright corporate fraud. If a user’s personally identifiable information changes , we provide a way to correct or update that user’s personal data provided to us.

Fuller called this a “stretch” for some stores, but stipulated that it was not impossible to achieve through ethical means. For J. David Fuller, a former Walmart district manager of asset protection, inventory manipulation had nothing to do with it. In an interview with The Nation, Fuller stated emphatically that he never saw any tolerance for inventory padding or even consistent overages. “In my many years with the company, up until I left in 2009, I never saw any such thing at Walmart,” he said. Yet the company’s famously hard-driving management goals have also come at a cost.

Common Clues Of Financial Statement Manipulation

In 2012, Erica Davidson, a Walmart veteran and store manager, took on the daunting task of turning around a struggling store on the outskirts of Greensboro, North Carolina. The store had run through its share of managers, Davidson said, and she viewed it as the sort of challenge that could make or break a person’s career. Agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation’s journalism.

She said that her superiors within the company’s Eastern Seaboard Division tolerated and even encouraged managers to falsify inventory accounting records to hide shrinkage losses. A common fraudulent scheme involving payroll is for Human Resource managers or Payroll managers to create ghost employees.

In some cases, the employees keep the store open beyond regular business hours and pocket the sales made at those times instead of properly recording the sales in the accounting records. For merchandising companies, because a sale involves the exchange of goods, skimming results in inventory shrinkage. That is, there is reduction in inventory totals without corresponding sales. Most of the managers interviewed said that irregular accounting practices concealed shrinkage losses and were an effort—tolerated and even promoted by their superiors—to inflate the stated profitability of stores. And a former district asset-protection manager said he had never seen tolerance of inventory irregularities of any kind while working at Walmart.

How To Change The Margin And Padding Of The Inventory Widgets?

High-level employees within an organization with authority over disbursements may create shell companies that they control. These shell companies then bill the organization for fictitious goods and services. The perpetrator usually is in a position to approve charges or has authority over personnel who approve payments on behalf of the organization. As the payment is made to the shell company, the perpetrator has effectively stolen funds from the organization. With the increased popularity of online payments, skimming of receivables is a diminishing threat in most modern organizations. However, for organizations still employing traditional methods of receiving payment by checks or cash, institution of proper internal controls can prevent or lead to early detection of such schemes. In subsequent audits, identifying unusual patterns on customer accounts could also unravel such schemes.