Analysis: Accounting risk clouds big U.S. business bets in China $CAT $YUM
Concern is growing about risks to U.S.-based multinationals in a country where American audit regulators are locked out by the Chinese government and bribery and fraud are routine.
Questions about transparency and integrity weigh heavily on China, the world's second-largest economy, as it assumes greater economic leadership and responsibility. These doubts test its ability to adhere to international standards.
Stories of business deception - confirmed by corporate sleuths, former business executives, court filings and experts on accounting in China - are commonplace.
There was the Chinese company that billed itself as a high-tech television screen manufacturer, but had a factory that turned out to be a man selling fireworks from a shack.
Or there was the Chinese biodiesel plant that sat idle for months, then sprang to life one day - when investors showed up for a tour - only to fall silent again.
Last month, there was the scandal at a Chinese unit of Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), the world's largest construction equipment manufacturer, based in Peoria, Illinois.
On January 18, Caterpillar disclosed "deliberate, multi-year, coordinated accounting misconduct" at the Siwei unit of ERA Mining Machinery. Caterpillar said it would write off most of the $654 million it had paid to acquire ERA only months earlier.
Caterpillar's Siwei stumble was not the first for a U.S. multinational in China, but the scope of the problem stood out.
Caterpillar has provided few details, but it has disclosed inventory discrepancies, inflated profits and improperly recorded costs and revenue at Siwei."