Diamond Foods Fires CEO, CFO After Audit Committee Finds Books Have Been "Cooked" For The Past Two Years

Tyler Durden's picture

First, small momo-favorite companies. Next: entire nations. Finally: the all-seeing, all-dancing central banks. Today, Diamond Foods just fired its CEO and CFO after the audit committee found its books have been cooked, only phrased more politically correct: "the Audit Committee has carefully reviewed the accounting treatment of certain payments to walnut growers. The Audit Committee has concluded that a "continuity" payment made to growers in August 2010 of approximately $20 million and a "momentum" payment made to growers in September 2011 of approximately $60 million were not accounted for in the correct periods, and the Audit Committee identified material weaknesses in the Company's internal control over financial reporting." Cue the class action lawsuits. When everything is said and done, the US investor will find that the Madoff M.O. of "doing business" has simply shifted to corporate America, where courtesy of non-GAAP BS one can report whatever the investing public wants to believe, until it all blows up. In other news, the now fired executives were stunned to discover they are not getting an extra bonus for cooking the books, last heard mumbling "double standard" under their breath. And if anyone wonders why despite the confirmed "bull market" in stocks (driven entirely by the nearly $1 trillion liquidity injection from the ECB in the past 6 months), investors just pulled $1.8 billion out of US mutual funds yet again, this is your answer.

From the press release:

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 8, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Diamond Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq:DMND - News) today announced that the Audit Committee of its Board of Directors has substantially completed its investigation of the Company's accounting for certain crop payments to walnut growers. The Audit Committee has concluded that the Company's financial statements for the fiscal years 2010 and 2011 will need to be restated. Over the course of the last three months, the Audit Committee has carefully reviewed the accounting treatment of certain payments to walnut growers. The Audit Committee has concluded that a "continuity" payment made to growers in August 2010 of approximately $20 million and a "momentum" payment made to growers in September 2011 of approximately $60 million were not accounted for in the correct periods, and the Audit Committee identified material weaknesses in the Company's internal control over financial reporting.

The Board of Directors is taking a number of corrective actions including the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer. Effective immediately, the Board has appointed Director Rick Wolford to serve as Acting President and Chief Executive Officer and Michael Murphy, of Alix Partners, LLP, to serve as Acting Chief Financial Officer. The Company is commencing searches for permanent replacements for the CEO and CFO positions. The Board has also appointed Robert J. Zollars, who previously served as Lead Independent Director, to the position of Chairman of the Board. Michael J. Mendes and Steven M. Neil have been placed on administrative leave from the Company.

"After an extensive and thorough investigation, the Audit Committee concluded that the Company's internal controls were inadequate and that certain grower payments for the 2011 and 2010 crops were not accounted for in the correct periods. As a result, the Company will restate its fiscal years 2010 and 2011 financial statements," said Robert Zollars, Diamond Foods' Chairman. "The Board takes the Company's control and the integrity of its financial statements very seriously, and we are moving aggressively to implement corrective measures, including changes to the Company's leadership."

"I look forward to working with the management team and the terrific employees at Diamond and will be focused on moving the business forward, further driving Diamond's strong brands and helping to find a permanent chief executive," said Rick Wolford, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer.

Diamond is working diligently to complete financial restatements for the affected periods and will file all required reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as soon as possible. While the timing of the restatement is difficult to predict at this time, the Company will endeavor to provide updates on timing and other material developments.

Rick Wolford previously served as Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Del Monte Foods. Mr. Wolford began his career in 1967 in the food industry at Dole Foods, where he held a variety of positions, including President of Dole Packaged Foods. He has served as a Director of Diamond Foods since April 2011.

Michael Murphy is currently a Managing Director at Alix Partners, a leading financial consulting firm. He has more than 20 years of broad and varied financial advisory services experience.