For more than a few years now, OCA (NYSE:OCA) has been a controversial and oftentimes troubled company. With yesterday's news, however, investors might be looking at the writing of the final pages of the story as a public company.

OCA was founded on a solid premise -- providing "back office" business services to orthodontic and pediatric dental practices -- allowing doctors to practice their art. Not only did OCA offer operational and accounting assistance, but it provided advertising, online purchasing systems, and capital to open new practice locations, as well.

That approach worked well. For a while. And then problems came home to roost. On top of major accounting restatements (tied to the treatment of receivables) that significantly lowered previously reported numbers, OCA found itself in the unenviable position of being sued by a significant number of its own affiliated doctors.

Now there's even more bad news. Yesterday, management announced that it would be unable to file the 10-K or 10-Q because of more accounting irregularities. Simply put, management now believes that patient receivables were significantly overstated in the first three quarters of 2004.

Worse still, it seems that the company's COO may have had a significant role in this. He has been placed on administrative leave, and the board of directors has appointed a committee to review certain ledger entries and possible changes that were made to data given to the company's accounting firm. Oh, by the way -- that COO? He happens to be the CEO's son.

The balance sheet also appears quite messy. Looking at the most recent 10-Q (which was for September 2004), nearly half of the company's assets were goodwill, and another 20% were receivables, which were probably significantly overstated. On the flip side, you have $25 million in accounts payable, $10 million in short-term debt, and $84 million in long-term debt -- all very real.

That's not to say that the business is worthless. A close friend of mine who used to follow the company as an analyst calls it the "McDonald's of braces," and there is clearly some value to the business as a going concern. That said, I couldn't imagine ever trusting this management team again -- and buying a troubled stock in the hopes of a buyout can be harrowing.

Fools with a true streak of unbridled speculator may find the flickering flame of OCA enticing, but I'll be watching from the sidelines.

For some other Foolish takes on OCA:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).