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Holli Dawn Coulman yesterday (August 27) pleaded guilty to defrauding Hewlett-Packard of almost $1 million between 2008 and 2012. She was an executive assistant to a senior vice president of a San Diego branch of the company. She had access to American Express corporate credit cards.

She admitted that instead of using the cards for legitimate company purposes, she used them to support her luxurious lifestyle — $100,000 spent at La Costa, more than $43,000 at Pebble Beach, thousands on air trips to Hawaii and Europe, more thousands to purchase items at Apple stores, and more than $350,000 to pay for her brother's business expenses.

As revealed in U.S. Court, she was skillful at covering up her expenditures: she intercepted and deleted emails that questioned her expenses, and she fabricated receipts, invoices, and even letters from her boss justifying her expenditures.

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Comments

MURPHYJUNK Aug. 28, 2014 @ 8 a.m.

sounds like she would fit in with the sacramento gang if she ran for office.

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2014 @ 8:22 a.m.

Murphyjunk: A key question is this: what does this episode say about Hewlett-Packard internal controls and auditing? H-P, once a high tech hero, has had problems in recent years. One reason is the decline of personal computers. But could another reason be internal controls? Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 28, 2014 @ 8:07 a.m.

Some folks are very clever embezzlers, and usually come across as too dumb to know how to steal. But this points out how poorly run HP has been for a long time. That she could rip off so much for so long is outrageous, and reflects very badly on the internal controls a corporation of that size and putative sophistication should have.

Fifteen years ago, Wall Street had HP separate its instrumentation business with an IPO to "increase shareholder value." That created Agilent Technologies. What it did was take away profitable niche company that had some cash cow businesses and make HP totally dependent upon computers and peripherals. In the intervening years, HP could have made good use of that cash flow to weather its downturns and stay viable. But, hey, a million is pocket change to a company like HP, isn't it?

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2014 @ 8:25 a.m.

Visduh: Good points. I agree wholeheartedly with them. Does this reflect on H-P's auditing process? I don't see how it can't. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 28, 2014 @ 9:42 a.m.

Yes, what does it say about the outside audit firm, whichever of the "Big Four" that handles that for HP? If you have a small company, they're all over you about the tiniest mistakes and gaps in armor. But when it gets to big corporate America, they are blind to huge frauds, in the hundreds of millions or billions. Sigh.

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2014 @ 11:33 a.m.

Visduh: That's because big corporate America pays so much to its auditing firms. And in so many cases, the firms can get away with overlooking an egregious fraud. Best, Don Bauder

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