Business Ethics, 8e Jennings
8. Leslie Fay Companies was a clothing conglomerate that produced lines of women’s clothing and
lingerie under the brand names Leslie Fay, Joan Leslie, Albert Nipon, Theo Miles, Kasper, Le
Suit, Nolan Miller, Castleberry, and Castlebrook. In early 1993, it was discovered that senior
Leslie Fay executives, in an effort to inflate profits and to mask an actual loss of $13.7 million,
had perpetrated an accounting fraud. Paul Polishan, Leslie Fay’s chief operating officer, was
placed on leave without pay in January 1993, along with Donald F. Kenia, the corporate
controller. Mr. Kenia had first alerted the company to the accounting manipulations and worked
with auditors to untangle the books.
By April 1993, Leslie Fay, under intense pressure from creditors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
(reorganization) in Manhattan. Both Mr. Polishan and Mr. Kenia were fired. Mr. Kenia, charged
with two counts of filing false statements with the SEC, has entered into a plea bargain with the
U.S. Attorney in exchange for his cooperation in the continuing investigation of the Leslie Fay
Also in April 1993, two new outside directors were named to the Leslie Fay board. The audit
committee of the board discovered, through continuing investigation, that accounting irregularities
had inflated the company’s profits for at least five quarters beginning in the fall of 1990.
As Leslie Fay continued its climb from bankruptcy, it was discovered that its law firm, Weil
Gotshall & Manges, had failed to disclose its close ties to two board audit committee members. A
federal bankruptcy judge ordered the law firm to pay fines totaling $800,000, which was the cost
of having an independent review of the law firm’s representation and conduct in the case.
In March 1995, Leslie Fay placed its flagship dress and retail business up for sale and offered its
CEO a success fee of $1.5 million if those businesses were sold.
Also in March 1995, a report detailing accounting improprieties was released by the audit
committee of the Leslie Fay board. The board found that when executives realized they would not
meet pre-established goals, they would ship goods out to a Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, facility to
inflate sales. The executives also forged inventory tags, multiplied the value of inventory,
developed phantom inventory and altered records to meet sales target. Some goods were
invoiced to be shipped in the final day of a quarter even though they were not actually shipped
until the next quarter. Numerous shareholders have filed suit against the Leslie Fay board and
BDO Seidman, the company’s auditor during this period.
John Pomerantz continued as CEO from 1993 onward. The company has tried to find a buyer
but has remained unsuccessful in doing so.
a. What signals about the importance of earnings at Leslie Fay were sent to the officers who
committed the accounting improprieties?
b. Wouldn’t employees have been aware of the financial fraud? Why didn’t they speak up?
Why didn’t they tell someone?