Thursday, January 8, 2009

Satyam Satya …

The recent fraud disclosure by Mr Rama Linga Raju of Satyam Fame just reminds me of one of the classic dialogues of the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind ‘where John Nash (Russel Crow) says “Terrified. Mortified, Petrified. Stupefied... by you “. It really makes me think about the possibility of a new crisis involving ‘Auditing and financial reporting’, which can be prevalent in many more listed companies?

The fraud of this nature was simply unprecedented in Indian history when a BSE 30 company has been fudging its balance sheet by reporting higher profits for years together and the system was unable to detect it. It may cast a dark shadow on the standards of accounting and auditing in India which was once seen as one of the better regulated market in the emerging world.

What was really surprising and a mystery was ‘How can Mr Raju alone do all the innovative accounting without informing or taking the senior management in confidence’ and bigger surprise was how could a company as big as Satyam operating on margins of 3% when the industry margins were hovering around 30%. The basic model of all big IT services companies is same and there is no considerable difference between the bench strength, the billing rates or the salaries of the employees.

Only the future will decide how will this lone incident affect the Indian IT companies , future of beleaguered Satyam employees , financial condition of various institutions like ICICI Prudential, Fidelity , Citi , LIC etc who have considerable equity exposure in Satyam and the confidence of FII / Mutual Fund about investing in Indian capital markets .

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