Former COO Of Publicly Traded Biopharmaceutical Company Sentenced For Accounting Fraud
Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that WILLIAM TAYLOR, the former chief operating officer of MiMedx Group, Inc. (“MiMedx”), a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to one year in prison for orchestrating a multimillion-dollar scheme to fraudulently inflate MiMedx’s revenue. TAYLOR and co-defendant Parker H. Petit were found guilty on November 19, 2020, following a four-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who imposed today’s sentence. Judge Rakoff sentenced Petit to one year in prison in a separate proceeding yesterday.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Strauss said: “William Taylor and his co-defendant used secret agreements and corrupt financial inducements to materially misstate quarterly and annual sales revenue of MiMedx. They deceived the SEC, auditors, and the investing public. Now Taylor, like Parker Petit yesterday, has been sentenced to prison for his crimes.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment and the evidence presented at trial:
MiMedx was headquartered in Marietta, Georgia, and its securities traded under the symbol “MDXG” on the NASDAQ. MiMedx sold regenerative biologic products, such as skin grafts and amniotic fluid, both directly to end users, such as public and private hospitals, and to various stocking distributors, which, in turn, resold the product to end users.
One of the most critical financial metrics disclosed in MiMedx’s public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), and touted in MiMedx’s accompanying press releases, was MiMedx’s quarterly and annual sales revenue. Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and SEC guidance, a company like MiMedx that engages in the sale of products through a distributor may recognize revenue upon transfer of the product to a distributor if certain requirements are satisfied, including that delivery has occurred or services have been rendered, the seller’s price to the buyer is fixed or determinable, and collectability of payment is reasonably assured. TAYLOR and Petit, MiMedx’s former chief executive officer, repeatedly demonstrated and touted their understanding of these rules governing revenue recognition. They also publicly identified revenue as the principal metric reflecting MiMedx’s growth, and touted MiMedx’s consistent record of quarter-over-quarter revenue growth and meeting or exceeding revenue guidance in 17 consecutive quarters, from 2011 through year-end 2015. By 2015, however, it became increasingly difficult for MiMedx to reach its revenue guidance due to decreased demand from certain distributors and the increasingly aggressive revenue targets that MiMedx had publicly announced.
Confronted with the difficulties faced by MiMedx in meeting its quarterly and annual revenue guidance by legitimate means, TAYLOR and Petit orchestrated a fraudulent scheme to falsely recognize revenue upon the shipment of MiMedx product to four stocking distributors, CPM, SLR, Stability Biologics (“Stability”), and First Medical, in the second through fourth quarters of 2015. TAYLOR and Petit caused MiMedx to report fraudulently inflated revenue figures to the investing public in order to ensure that the reported figures fell within MiMedx’s publicly announced revenue guidance, and to fraudulently convey to the investing public that MiMedx was accomplishing consistent growth quarter after quarter, as TAYLOR and Petit had falsely touted to the investing public. The fraudulent scheme involved the following central features:
- As to CPM, in the second quarter of 2015, TAYLOR and Petit caused MiMedx fraudulently to recognize $1.4 million in revenue by (1) making a $200,000 sham “consulting” payment to CPM’s owner to bribe CPM to buy MiMedx product and (2) secretly agreeing to send CPM approximately $1.1 million of product it did not want and did not intend to sell, while promising that CPM could return the product to MiMedx and swap it for different product in a subsequent quarter. TAYLOR and Petit entered into the sham “consulting” agreement to conceal that the payment was a bribe to purchase product, and CPM’s owner performed no consulting work for the payment. Neither TAYLOR nor Petit disclosed to MiMedx’s outside auditors the “consulting” payment or product swap.
- As to SLR, in the third quarter of 2015, TAYLOR and Petit caused MiMedx fraudulently to recognize $4.6 million in revenue by booking the revenue despite understanding that SLR would not make a timely payment for the product, and certainly would not do so within contractual terms. To hide from MiMedx’s auditors that the collectability of payment from SLR was questionable, during the fourth quarter 2015, Petit arranged for his adult children to use a shell company to loan money to SLR (money that came from a trust fund established by Petit for their benefit), with the understanding that the loan proceeds would be used in substantial part to pay down SLR’s debt to MiMedx.
- As to Stability, in the third and fourth quarters of 2015, TAYLOR and Petit caused MiMedx improperly to recognize $2.6 million of revenue, where they (1) failed to agree with Stability on the essential terms of the deal, including when payment was due; (2) reached a secret understanding that Stability could swap or return unwanted product in subsequent quarters; and (3) understood that Stability could not pay for the product in a timely fashion. In fact, TAYLOR later signed a sham distribution agreement to hide the fact that the original sale had been made without agreement on the essential terms.
- As to First Medical, in the fourth quarter of 2015, TAYLOR caused MiMedx improperly to recognize $2.2 million in revenue by making an undisclosed promise to First Medical that it could return any product that it could not sell and that MiMedx would not leave First Medical with any losses. To carry out the scheme, TAYLOR sent two emails four seconds apart to First Medical. The first was a “cover story” that purported to require payment within a fixed period, as required by MiMedx’s accountants. TAYLOR forwarded the first email to MiMedx’s accounting department. The second email, sent only four seconds after the first, memorialized the true terms of the deal, which involved an agreement to defer payment and take back product if it could not be sold. TAYLOR hid the second email from MiMedx’s internal accountants and outside auditors. TAYLOR also arranged for a false audit “confirmation,” which falsely represented that First Medical was required to pay within a fixed period and omitted the true terms of the deal, to be provided to MiMedx’s outside auditors.
TAYLOR and Petit’s fraudulent manipulation of MiMedx’s revenue caused MiMedx to report materially inflated revenue in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2015, and for the full year 2015. In its 2015 10-K, MiMedx reported annual revenue that was fraudulently inflated by approximately $8.2 million. Absent this fraudulent inflation of revenue, MiMedx would have missed both (1) its quarterly revenue guidance in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 and annual revenue guidance for 2015 and (2) analyst revenue consensus for the second through fourth quarters of 2015 and the full year 2015. As a result of the fraud, shareholders sustained losses of approximately $35 million.
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In addition to his prison term, TAYLOR, 52, of Marietta, Georgia, was ordered to pay a fine of $250,000.
Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the United States Postal Inspection Service and thanked the SEC, which brought a separate civil action.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward A. Imperatore, Scott A. Hartman, and Daniel M. Tracer are in charge of the prosecution.