Last week, I wrote an article about OmniVision Technologies'
Admittedly, I felt like a star-crossed writer when -- about the same time -- OmniVision announced that John Rossi, its chief financial officer, was leaving. Given OmniVision's recent earnings restatement, and the fact that it didn't explain the CFO change, I was a little uneasy. After all, companies usually try to provide good reasons for such moves, particularly if the parting is amicable. I decided to put on my sleuth hat, light up my pipe, and go digging for information.
After sorting through old articles, looking at recent financial statements, and talking to some people in the know, I came up with some mostly reassuring answers.
It turns out that OmniVision has been doing the CFO shuffle for a while. Let's go back to September 2003. Gene McCown, the acting CFO, was eager to retire. The powers that be couldn't agree on a suitable replacement in a timely manner, so Rossi offered to leave OmniVision's board and temporarily take over as CFO. Rossi wasn't planning on an extended stay. But after the financing snafus (leading to the restated earnings), he felt a responsibility to guide the ship through the inevitable riptides. Had he left immediately following the restatement announcement, Wall Street certainly would have assumed the issues were deeply rooted and battered the stock even more significantly than it did.
OmniVision has since filed updated statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission and conducted both internal and independent reviews to improve its accounting. With the ship in calmer seas, Rossi is handing the helm over to Peter Leigh. The parting is amicable, and Rossi will remain as a consultant throughout the transition.
During my fact-finding mission, I came across additional information on the recent restatements. There were two main issues resulting in understated earnings. First, OmniVision incorrectly recorded sales through one of its distributors. Because distributors can return any product they don't sell, OmniVision doesn't recognize revenue until distributors actually sell the product. If OmniVision receives inaccurate information -- as it did from one of its distributors -- its own revenues will be inaccurate.
OmniVision has addressed this problem by developing a plan to ensure that distributors are providing reliable, full-quarter sales information.
Second, OmniVision was recording customer sales at delivery rather than at shipment. Because overseas shipments can take a month or more, late-quarter sales were occasionally recorded in the following quarter. OmniVision has revised its revenue recognition policies as recommended by its auditors. I believe both of these problems are well within the scope of issues growing companies might expect to encounter. I would encourage you to satisfy your own curiosity and questions -- OmniVision discusses the episode and its responses in the "Risks Related to Our Business" section (page 28) of its recent quarterly report.
This story has an important moral: Be skeptical and ask questions. When Wall Street kicks the tar out of a company, as it did with OmniVision, it does so for a reason. Companies that fail to address their problems aren't going to claw their way out of the trash bin (see the recent article on Nortel
For related Fool analysis, click to:
- Growth Stock in Disguise
- OmniVision's No Flash in the Pan
- OmniVision: Smoke and Mirrors?
- Panning for Gold
Fool contributor Jim Schoettler loves all-you-can-eat meals, and as such is a frequent candidate for food poisoning. Still, he maintains that no restaurant tendering such offers has ever made money on him. He owns shares of OmniVision Technologies.