Dutch financial reporting watchdog the Foundation for
Investigation of Business Information (Stichting Onderzoek Bedrijfs
Informatie – SOBI) has filed a €30 million ($44.5 million) claim
against Deloitte Netherlands. SOBI plans to file an additional
claim against Deloitte US within the coming weeks, the watchdog’s
chairman, Pieter Lakeman, told TA’s sister publication
International Accounting Bulletin.

While the total compensation sought by investors currently involved
in the claim is about €30 million, Lakeman expects more claimants
to join and the final total sought to be much higher.

The claim led by SOBI is open to all shareholders who bought their
shares after 7 March 2001, when Deloitte Netherlands signed off on
Ahold’s annual report for 2000. SOBI is filing the claims on behalf
of a group of shareholders who suffered losses in Dutch retailer
Royal Ahold’s 2003 fraud scandal.

In February 2003, Ahold’s share price crashed after investigations
revealed large-scale fraud, concerning the overstatement of vendor
allowances at its former subsidiary, US Foodservice. Deloitte
Netherlands was Ahold’s auditor at the time and signed off on its
annual report. Deloitte US audited the figures from US Foodservice,
which was then consolidated into Ahold’s results and signed off by
the Dutch firm.

Hearing continues

Following the revelation of the fraud, SOBI made a series of
complaints against Deloitte Netherlands before the disciplinary
board in the Netherlands. In March 2007 the board handed down its
findings, which ruled against Deloitte in one part of the four-part
case. At the time, Lakeman said the ruling against Deloitte found
the Big Four firm had done a “bad job” auditing the report.

Deloitte has appealed the findings and the appeal is set to go
before the court later this month.

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A Deloitte Netherlands spokesperson said that it had always acted
professionally and with integrity in the Ahold case. As soon as
Deloitte got a suspicion of side-letters at Ahold and fraud at US
Foodservice, the Big Four firm did what it had to do, the
spokesperson said.