The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered a former principal accounting officer and controller at PPG to pay $100,000 for accounting improprieties aimed at inflating the Pittsburgh-based painting supply company’s earnings per share.
Mark Kelly, who was terminated by PPG in 2018 after an internal investigation into his alleged actions, was barred from practicing as an accountant at any public firm without the right to apply for reinstatement, according to the SEC’s order published Friday. Kelly did not admit nor deny the agency’s findings in reaching settlement.
Kelly inflated earnings during the years 2016-18, according to the SEC.
The irregularities were first flagged by PPG after being reported to the company’s hotline in April 2018, the SEC said. The company later issued a press release disclosing it had identified understated expenses for the first quarter of 2018.
An investigation launched by the audit committee of PPG’s board of directors, outside counsel, and a forensic accountant found the company’s 2018 earnings had been inflated by $1.4 million, plus other discrepancies in 2016 and 2017. The company filed amended Forms 10-K to the SEC, in which it disclosed its misstatements.
A joint SEC and Department of Justice investigation of PPG concluded in 2019 without a monetary penalty.
The SEC’s investigation of Kelly found he willfully violated agency rules regarding falsifying books and records. His activities caused the company’s earnings to be inflated in the fiscal years ending December 2016 and December 2017, according to the order.
Kelly tried to make it appear the company would meet its earnings consensus estimates for those years, violating generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to do so, the SEC said.
From December 2016 through April 2018, Kelly directed subordinates to improperly record or omit recording expenses, including legal fees, property taxes, and performance-based compensation. His team also misclassified income from continuing operations and adjusted income from continuing operations, the SEC found.
Kelly told those working under him to improperly override PPG’s internal controls, the company told the SEC in its restatements. These actions weren’t disclosed to others in senior management or PPG’s auditor.
As a result of Kelly’s misconduct, PPG overstated income on its Forms 10-Q that it filed in four quarters in 2016 and 2017, the SEC said. Income was inflated by more than $10 million on PPG’s second-quarter Form 10-Q in 2017, the SEC found.
“Kelly took advantage of PPG’s insufficient internal accounting controls and circumvented PPG’s policies and procedures that were designed to ensure appropriate financial reporting and disclosure,” the agency’s order said.
PPG did not return a request for comment.