Category: The Weekly Spiff!

Posts related to The Weekly Spiff!

By Marilou Vroman, CPA, CFE

Buying and selling dealership’s is no small task, nor is it something to be taken lightly.  With transactions that can take months to complete and involve tens to hundreds of millions of dollars, both the financial risk and reward can be overwhelming.  Here are some items buyers and sellers should keep in mind as negotiations heat up.

Employee Matters

  • Employee compensation plans – Have there been any recent increases in pay or management?
  • Payroll considerations – Most closings will not occur conveniently at the end of a pay period.
  • Employee Vacations – How are employee vacations and time off accrued and paid?
  • “Sacred Cows” – The Dealer’s daughter or son, the Service Manager’s nephew, etc. Gain an understanding of employee relationships and their roles in the dealership.
  • Non-disclosed, undocumented employee privileges [...]

By Phil Villegas

In the mid-’90s, I drifted among a few self-indulgent jobs (valet, bartender and cabana boy) that were perfect for a young single guy who had just gotten out of the Marine Corps. After a few years of this life and someone very dear seeing some potential in me, I enrolled in St. Petersburg College and started looking for jobs that presented more career opportunities.

While at the time I would have never considered my first dealership job as a file clerk one that I could make a career out of, I now find myself nearly 25 years later feeling grateful for that initial dealership opportunity.

I was reading the Cox Automotive 2019 Dealership Staffing Study earlier this week.  Aside from the retrospective thoughts that the study elicited about my career, it also helped highlight what [...]

By Phil Villegas

We can all agree there is already more than enough paperwork in current vehicle deal files, with the average vehicle retail sale having between 50 and 100 documents with the deal jacket.  While the last thing any of us would want to do is add another document to the deal file, there is a one document that we routinely find missing that can help protect the dealership;  the Third-Party Funds Authorization Form.

It is almost a daily occurrence at many dealerships where the funds being used for a down payment or the purchase of parts and/or service come from an individual other than the person named on the deal, parts ticket or repair order.  While 99% of these payments may be innocent and well-intended in nature, it’s the one’s that are remitted maliciously that can [...]

By Marilou Vroman, CPA, CFE

You may be aware there are ways to monitor the web for content such as “Google Alerts.” This service is an easy way to have relevant news delivered to your in-box.  As a forensic accountant and a passion for dealership internal controls, one of my alerts is set up to provide articles about dealership fraud or embezzlement.  It seems almost every other day I receive an article about another dealership that has been taken advantage of by an employee.  After reading many of these articles, I find myself thinking, this could have completely been prevented with the simplest of internal controls.

Just yesterday I read an article about a Toyota dealership in which a General Manager perpetrated a fraud scheme where checks were diverted for personal use.  According to the article, the General Manager told his dealership employees to make checks in the thousands of dollars payable to a fictitious [...]

By Phil Villegas

When was the last time your General Manager wanted to spread a large gain over a few months or to pick it up during the 13th month entries? Chances are you have never heard these words spoken and likely never will. However, most of us have encountered the situation of a General Manager or Departmental Manager wanting to spread or defer a loss over several months.

Whether the loss is a large shortage in a parts inventory, a legal settlement, an uncollectible wholesale receivable, a warranty audit chargeback, there are multiple reasons which are often presented with an attempt to justify spreading or deferring a loss.  Reasons like wanting to avoid showing a large dip in profitability or to “smooth” the financials, and in some cases wanting to label the item as truly extraordinary and run it through as a 13th month item to essentially completely avoid the financial statement.  In the [...]

By Marilou C. Vroman, CPA, CFE

The quantity of dealers who have annual financial statement audits has been decreasing over the years, and yet we still find dealers who believe their year-end review or audit of the financial statement is sufficient and designed to detect fraud in the dealership. While fraud may be detected in the review or audit process, it is not likely.  Thresholds for materiality tend to limit visibility to the details, and the scope of work is focused on whether the financials are fairly presented and free of material misstatement, not whether occupational fraud exists.

As a Certified Fraud Examiner, I review the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners semi-annual “Report to the Nations” (“Report”) which shows statistics on global occupational fraud stemming from thousands of fraud cases.  Some key findings disclosed in the 2018 report from 2690 occupational fraud cases are quite eye-opening:

  • Internal control weaknesses were responsible for over 50% [...]

By Phil Villegas

I am a collector of vintage watches. For anyone who doesn’t know too much about vintage watch collecting, this might seem like a nice, innocent and stress-free pastime. For anyone who does know about vintage watch collecting, they will know that it is anything but stress-free and innocent.  Vintage watch collecting is ripe with fraud, deceit, and embellishment to name just a few factors.  Original, unpolished, unaltered and as true to the condition of how that watch was first produced means everything in the watch collector’s world.  For vintage watch buyers who don’t have the level of expertise or resources to evaluate a watch, there is one golden rule when considering the purchase of a vintage watch: “You buy the dealer, not the watch.” In other words, you invest in an individual with the knowledge, experience and reputation necessary to qualify them to properly represent and sell that watch.

This concept of [...]

By Marilou C. Vroman, CPA, CFE

A recurring challenge we find in the automotive retail dealerships is what appears to be a general lack of available talent.  Many dealers I speak with have asked me if I know of a good service manager or controller looking for a new opportunity.  Turnover is a reality for most dealerships, whether it is driven by poor leadership, high pressure to perform, compensation or other reasons, there seems to be a revolving door in many stores.

When there is turnover, a silver lining presents itself with an opportunity to seek out a better candidate than the one who we had before.  However, what we often find is “the good ones are already taken.”  At times, a candidate may appear good on paper, with glowing referrals and relevant work history but less than stellar results when immersed into the dealership operations.  Similar to a recently detailed pre-owned vehicle with polished [...]

By Marilou C. Vroman, CPA, CFE

You know them well; the dent guy, your advertising agency, the landscaping crew.  We need them so we can stay focused on doing what we do best – selling and servicing vehicles.  As much as we appreciate our vendors, we also know they can pose a risk to the unsuspecting dealer by slowly diminishing the dealership’s financial health by quietly eroding profitability for personal gain.

How may a vendor take advantage of a dealership? In a high-volume store, sales managers are often so busy closing deals and getting cars “over the curb,” they may delegate the task of inspecting vehicles and authorizing dent or wheel repairs to a porter or a salesperson. If an unethical vendor becomes aware of this delegation of authority, they could solicit a porter with a $100 cash spiff grant the vendor permission to generate an additional $500 in repairs to the inventory than are [...]

By Phil Villegas

We’ve discussed in the past that one of the greatest benefits of working at a dealership is having the ability to buy a car that would be considered below market price.  However, should selling a car through the dealership also be a perk? We are not talking about traditional traded-in vehicles as part of a normal sale but rather the consignment or pre-trading (a car that is traded in and sold before the new vehicle is acquired) of employee vehicles.

While nowhere as common as employee purchases, we occasionally come across transactions where dealership employees will sell their personal vehicle through the store.  When we have come across these transactions, it’s very rare that these transactions have been carried out with the transparency and level of documentation we would expect with an employee or third-party transaction.

For starters, we typically see personnel from the sales department consigning their vehicles. We have yet [...]

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