Mississippi Retirement System sues the carpet maker
In January, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi filed a lawsuit claiming accounting fraud at Mohawk (MHK). The suit did not get a lot of attention at the time, but new filings submitted in late June add significant details about the allegations.
According to analysts, the filing includes testimony from a former Mohawk employee who claims the company has used fictitious sales to artificially boost revenue since 2017.
JPMorgan analyst Michael Rehaut noted earlier that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, as part of a consolidated class action complaint filing dated June 29, gave “significant incremental details” regarding claims that Mohawk engaged in channel stuffing at the end of the quarter and intentionally overproduced product.
While “the veracity of these accusations will likely not be determined until after an extended legal process” of several months if not longer, Rehaut sees the lawsuit as likely to remain an overhang on the stock until this matter concludes.
He also sees the “fairly granular level of detail across the allegations” and quotes from interviews with several former employees creating a higher level of risk for the company from this lawsuit, added the analyst, who keeps a Neutral rating on Mohawk shares.
A shareholder lawsuit filed earlier this year has recently added new court filings that allege multiple issues inside Mohawk Industries, the most damaging allegation being its revenue recognition practices which included shipping goods on the last day of the quarter and then having those as returns in the following quarter, SunTrust analyst Keith Hughes tells investors in a research note.
The allegations being made during the company’s quiet period “have hamstrung any response,” says Hughes, who admits “it is hard to say as an outsider whether these have merit at this point.” However, given the size of Mohawk, it would need “widespread practices to boost revenues via the method” alleged, adds the analyst, who keeps a Buy rating on Mohawk with a $119 price target.
Wells Fargo analyst Truman Patterson notes that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi has filed a Class Action Complaint against Mohawk and CEO Jeff Lorberbaum, claiming the company engaged in a “fraudulent scheme to fabricate revenues through fictitious ‘sales’ of products that were not delivered to customers and to conceal from investors the true reasons for the company’s ballooning inventory,” damaging shareholders between April 2017 and July 2019.
While Mohawk stakeholders have known about the lawsuit since early January, filings have only recently become publicly available, which the analyst believes drove shares down on Wednesday. Patterson expresses no opinion on the validity of the allegations against the company, but acknowledges that they would clearly be a negative if proven to be true, likely damaging shareholder confidence in management. The analyst has an Underweight rating and an $80 price target on the stock.
The stock is down 19% to $74.10. The question now shifts to whether the allegations will result in a full SEC investigation.
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