UPDATED with company statement. A former financial analyst at Disney has alleged in SEC whistleblower filings that the media giant routinely overstated its revenue, according to a report in business website MarketWatch.
Sandra Kuba, who worked for 18 years in Disney’s revenue operations unit before being fired in 2017, said in the filings reviewed by MarketWatch that company revenue was over-reported by as much as $6 billion in a single year. The exaggerated figures, she claimed, were arrived at through several means, including recording made-up revenue for free rounds of golf or guest promotions; or recording the full face value of $500 gift cards even if guests paid a significantly discounted rate. Exploiting weaknesses in the company’s accounting software enabled the inaccuracies to remain undetected, she contended.
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Disney reviewed Kuba’s claims and determined they were without merit, MarketWatch reported. A Disney spokesperson criticized not only Kuba but also MarketWatch in a statement provided to Deadline.
“This former employee, who was fired for cause, has persistently made patently false claims for over two years,” the statement said. “The claims she made to the company were thoroughly investigated and found to be utterly baseless. It is unfortunate that MarketWatch, which has been aware of the facts for months, knowingly and deliberately chose to give Ms. Kuba’s unfounded claims a platform.”
Filing claims with the SEC, which receives thousands of them a year through its whistleblower program, does not necessarily mean that the agency will open a formal investigation into the matter. A spokesman for the regulatory body did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment.
According to MarketWatch, Kuba first surfaced the irregularities internally in 2013 but her indications of concern did not elicit a response. In a series of exchanges in the ensuing years, she made additional disclosures and in late 2017 filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging retaliation by the company. Disney told Labor officials that Kuba was fired because she “displayed a pattern of workplace complaints against co-workers without a reasonable basis for doing so, in a manner that was inappropriate, disruptive and in bad faith.”
The media company told MarketWatch that Kuba had withdrawn her retaliation claim in 2018.
Since leaving the company, Kuba has filed two additional whistleblower claims laying out allegations of misstated revenue, the report said.