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SEC Charges Trump Media’s Audit Firm BF Borgers With ‘Massive Fraud,’ Saying it Faked Audits

The audit firm will pay a $12 million civil penalty to settle the charges, and owner Benjamin F. Borgers will pay a separate $2 million fine.

By Chris Morris, Fast Company (TNS)

The auditor of Donald Trump’s Trump Media has been charged with “massive fraud” by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which says the company “undermined trust and confidence in our markets.”

Audit firm BF Borgers has agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty to settle the charges. And the company’s owner, Benjamin F. Borgers, will pay a separate $2 million civil penalty. Both have also been permanently suspended from acting as accountants before the SEC moving forward.

“Ben Borgers and his audit firm, BF Borgers, were responsible for one of the largest wholesale failures by gatekeepers in our financial markets,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a statement. “As a result of their fraudulent conduct, they … put investors and markets at risk by causing public companies to incorporate noncompliant audits and reviews into more than 1,500 filings with the Commission.”

Grewal also referred to Borgers and his company as a “sham audit mill” whose “deliberate and systemic failures” impacted more than 500 public companies, many of which are small-cap stocks that trade over the counter.

BF Borgers did not respond to Fast Company’s request for comment.

Among the many clients BF Borgers served as an independent accounting firm, none was higher in profile than Trump Media & Technology Group.

Trump Media, in an SEC filing last month, acknowledged that Borgers had audited its financial statements in 2022 and 2023—and had served as its independent accounting firm prior to the merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC). The company had also been approved as the auditor of the upcoming 2024 report. The SEC, in a separate notice, said any publicly traded business that had worked with BF Borgers would now need to find a new independent auditor.

“Trump Media looks forward to working with new auditing partners in accordance with today’s SEC order,” the company told Fast Company.

Trump Media, which yesterday asked Congress to investigate eight firms for short selling its stock, has a current valuation of more than $6 billion, despite reporting just $4 million in revenue last year. It has yet to turn a profit and, according to an April study by Similarweb, has seen its active user count fall recently, despite widespread media coverage of the company.

The SEC made no allegations of wrongdoing on Trump Media’s part in either announcement.

All totaled, BF Borgers had 369 publicly traded clients during the time period examined by the SEC. The regulatory body said its review found that the company had “deliberately and systematically failed to conduct audits and quarterly reviews” and fraudulently issued audit reports falsely representing that those audits had been performed.

The SEC did not look at the company’s work with privately held firms during its examination period, which ranged from January 2021 through June 2023. Trump Media’s merger with DWAC occurred in late March of this year, indicating the SEC did not examine any dealings that BF Borgers and Trump Media might have had.

In the examined period, however, the SEC found that 75% of the filings that incorporated Borgers’ audits and reviews did not comply with the agency’s standards.

“At Benjamin Borgers’s direction, BF Borgers staff copied workpapers from previous engagements for their clients, changing only the relevant dates, and then passed them off as workpapers for the current audit period,” the SEC wrote. “The workpapers regularly documented purported planning meetings—required to discuss a client’s business and consider any potential risk areas—that never occurred.”

While Borgers settled the case and agreed to pay the fees and no longer practice before the SEC, the company did not admit or deny the SEC’s findings.


Fast Company © 2024 Mansueto Ventures LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.