The accounting problem was tied to Mattel’s ownership of Thomas & Friends, an animated children’s show about talking trains. The finance team discussed fixing the problem and restating earnings, with the expectation that Mattel would have to admit to shortcomings in its accounting and reporting procedures, said Brett Whitaker, who was Mattel’s director of tax reporting at that time, in an interview.
Instead, senior finance executives and Mattel’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, decided to change the accounting treatment of the Thomas asset, effectively burying the problem, according to Mr. Whitaker and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The executives agreed not to tell Mattel’s then-chief executive or its board of directors, an internal investigation found.
“It was known within Mattel that if we took this approach, at worst we might get a slap on the wrist from the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Mr. Whitaker said. “But if the company disclosed a material weakness, a senior executive said to me it would be ‘the kiss of death.’”
‘Enforcement 40’ for 2020
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