Be Done With It, Dell

When will Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) finish investigating itself? Not soon, it seems. Thanks to a Thursday night press release, here's what we know now:

  • Dell will delay the filing of its 10-K annual report.
  • A number of accounting errors were made.
  • Financial controls were insufficient.
  • And, worst of all, misconduct was found.

It's the third point that should send even the most diehard value investors running from the room screaming. Read on:

"The Audit Committee is working with management and the company's independent auditors to determine whether the accounting errors necessitate any restatements of prior period financial statements, and to assess whether the control deficiencies constitute a material weakness in Dell's internal control over financial reporting." (Emphasis mine.)

Translation: We don't yet know if we know what we're doing. Awesome.

For the record, CEO Michael Dell says cutting the fat in the supply chain and elsewhere can solve his company's problems. Yesterday's press release suggests there is, indeed, basic management blocking and tackling still to be done.

But I think there are bigger issues at work here. Dell is no longer a quality provider. It no longer leads in the PC market. And its supposed pricing power may have been a complete sham. How does Mike fix all that when he and his team are under investigation by the board, the SEC, and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York?

Here's the ugly truth: We don't yet know how bad it is for Dell. My sense is that it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. If I'm right, then, Mike, allow me to plead with you: enough with the piecemeal disclosures that feel like Chinese water torture. Even value investors have limits.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 724 out of more than 25,200 in our Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence database, hates to see Dell suffer like this, but he also can't claim to be surprised. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. All of his portfolio holdings can be found at Tim's Fool profile. His thoughts on Foolishness and investing may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy will testify on behalf of your portfolio.


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