The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday charged Haskins & Sells, one of the "Big Eight" accounting firms, with "deficiencies" in its auditing of four corporate clients. The commission also cited three H&S partners.
The four clients are FISCO, Inc., Falstaff Brewing Corp., Oceanography Mariculture Industries, Inc., and Ampeco Securities, Inc.
"Each of these cases involves deficiencies in the conduct of audits by H&S," the SEC said in an administrative proceeding against the firm. "Proper application of quality control procedures could have prevented most of these deficiencies."
H&S and its three partners signed a consent decree with the SEC, neither admitting not denying the commission's allegations.
H&S joins four other Big Eight firms that have been disciplined by the SEC in recent years. The disciplinary actions are the implementation of an SEC policy that accountants share culpability with their clients if they fall to discover and disclose fraud and questionable payments.
Last month, Price Waterhouse & Co. was charged with failing to discover that two of its corporate clients were making fraudulent claims of profitability to stockholders.
In August, the SEC filed a civil injunction against FISCO, an automobile insurance holding company and five former FISCO officers and two lawyers.
The commission charged that in 1972, the year H&S was hired as its accountant, FISCO hid a "substantial loss" by understating loss reserves.
Justice Department sources say a grand jury in Philadelphia is reviewing FISCO's business affairs and considering possible criminal fraud indictments.
In the case of Falstaff, the SEC said H&S was aware of "omissions and misstatements in the (1974) financial statements included in the proxy statement, (yet) nothing was done to assure that the adequate disclosure was made, as required by generally accepted accounting standards."
The SEC said that H&S failed to give proper warning to stockholders of the critical condition of OMI, against which the SEC filed an injunctive order last September.
As of July 31, 1972, the commission said, OMI's current liabilities exceeded assets by more than $900,000. The SEC said H&S should have realized "a diversion of OMI funds was occurring, and these facts should bave been disclosed to investors."
In the case of AMPECO Securities, the SEC said a report the company filed with it in December, 1976, contained inadaquate disclosures.
Along with the firm, the SEC named three partners, Eugene Cogaugh, Timonthy Fitzgerald and Bill R. Thomas. All three agreed to abstain from certain activities in the firm for various periods of time.