I've become one of those people who requests and then reads the "board packets" for meetings of public bodies. These are fascinating things, generally 50-150 page tomes of memos, spreadsheets, graphs, charts, and news clippings that the staff of a public body will prepare for its board to go into a public meeting.
The fascinating thing from a technical point of view is just how many of these board packets include spreadsheets, and how many of the spreadsheets are presented either as bitmapped images or as text-only documents. In either case, there's no way to know how the spreadsheet is constructed, whether the totals presented really add up to the totals displayed, and what if anything is hidden in the model used to come up with the numbers.
The latest one of these I'm getting clarification on is a spreadsheet where the numbers simply don't add up - one row of expenses where the sum of the figures doesn't jive with the total presented. And I can't look at that without thinking a lot more about what else I might be missing, either by accident or design.
The former CFO of a company that produces electronic databases of archived information from publishers settled charges made by the Securities and Exchange Commission that, with the use of spreadsheet aids, he made fraudulent monthly and quarterly and accounting entries for more than five years.
As part of the alleged scheme, Scott Hirth, who was vice president of finance and CFO of the information and learning division of ProQuest Company from 1999 through 2005, created false documentation to back up the balances in accounts he allegedly manipulated, according to the SEC. His account-reconciliation spreadsheets, for instance, contained "hidden rows" so that false account entries didn't show up when they were printed in hard copy, according to the complaint.
The former finance chief also allegedly covered up false information by rendering it invisible through the use of "white font," or white-colored text, in the spreadsheets, the commission charged.
White font! I guess that beats using white-out on the printouts.