Typical characteristics of financial statement fraud include misstatement or misappropriation of assets. To keep
the balance sheet balanced, the liabilities and owners’ equity usually are misstated or impacted when assets are misstated
For example, when asset book values are overstated, the owners’ equity is usually overstated. This increases the
book value of owners’ equity and thereby protects the debt to equity ratio. If the debt to equity ratio is not maintained at a
certain level as prescribed by creditors, then the creditors can step in and increase the interest rate or speed up the
repayment schedule. Both of these actions have the potential of pushing an organization into bankruptcy and thereby
jeopardizing the organization’s status as a going concern.
Protecting the organization’s image as a going concern is one motivation for managers to commit fraud. More
motivations will be briefly presented shortly.
Most organizations that have fraudulent financial statements did not have an audit committee. Having an audit
committee is one of the requirements of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. The Sarbanes Oxley Act also explicitly puts the
responsibility for preventing and detecting and correcting fraud on the organization’s management and not on the
Management’s motives to commit fraud are thought to focus on protecting a job or a potential bonus when
performance is evaluated relative to financial statement results. Managers have said that a motivation to commit fraud
was to make the organization appear to be a going concern so that the organization could acquire and keep excellent
employees, suppliers, customers, creditors and investors. The motivation almost sounds good enough to justify the fraud.
Another motivation to commit fraud what is called insider trading, which is discussed next.