Two former top executives of trucking company Celadon Group face civil and criminal charges for their participation in an accounting fraud scheme that inflated the company’s income and earnings per share.
The charges, announced Thursday, follow a settlement Celadon reached with the Securities and Exchange Commission in April, in which it agreed to pay total restitution of $42.2 million for filing materially false and misleading statements to investors and falsifying books, records, and accounts. It also entered a five-year deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice.
As part of its remedial efforts, the company replaced its executive management team. Furthermore, Celadon created the new position of chief accounting officer and hired an experienced internal audit staff member reporting directly to the company’s internal audit manager.
Now, the government is going after the executives involved. In its complaint, the SEC alleges former Celadon president and chief operating officer William Eric Meek and former chief financial officer Bobby Peavler “sought to conceal losses by engaging in a scheme to buy and sell trucks at inflated prices, in some cases double or triple their fair-market value.” As a result of the transactions with third-party dealers, the complaint alleges, Celadon materially overstated its pre-tax income, net income, and earnings per share in its annual report for the period ending June 30, 2016, and in its subsequent public filings through the period ending Dec. 31, 2016.
The complaint also alleges Meek and Peavler lied to Celadon’s auditor by claiming the pricing in the transactions was “determined and evaluated independently.” They further concealed their roles in negotiating and approving the transactions.
Meek resigned from Celadon in 2017, and Peavler resigned in 2018.
The SEC’s complaint charges the defendants with violating various anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws, lying to auditors, and aiding and abetting Celadon’s books and records and reporting violations. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, monetary penalties, and officer-and-director bars against both Meek and Peavler.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana and the Fraud Section of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division have filed criminal charges against the defendants for related misconduct.