Voodoo Accounting

Definition of 'Voodoo Accounting'


Creative rather than conservative accounting practices. Voodoo accounting employs numerous accounting gimmicks to artificially boost the bottom line by inflating revenue or concealing expenses or both. The origin of the term “voodoo accounting” probably lies in the fact that once the accounting gimmicks come to light, the purported profits disappear like magic. Investor reaction to news that a company has been engaged in voodoo accounting depends on the magnitude of the offense. While minor, one-time accounting gimmicks may be ignored by investors, substantial repeat offenses would affect the company’s market value and reputation.

Investopedia explains 'Voodoo Accounting'


Some of the voodoo accounting practices identified by former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt at the height of the dot-com bubble in September 1998 include:

  • “Big bath charges,” in which a company improperly reports a one-time loss by taking a huge charge to mask lower-than-expected earnings.
  • “Cookie jar reserves” used by a company for income smoothing.
  • Recognizing revenue before it is actually collected.
  • “Merger magic,” whereby a company writes off all or most of an acquisition's price as “in process” research and development.
For example, a company may employ voodoo accounting to prematurely recognize $5 million of revenue and conceal $1 million of an unexpected expense. These tactics enable it to report net income of $2.5 million for the quarter. But a diligent auditor discovers these items in a year-end audit, and the company is forced to restate its results to show a net loss of $500,000, rather than the net income of $2.5 million reported earlier through voodoo accounting.



comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Yield Burning

    The illegal practice of underwriters marking up the prices on bonds for the purpose of reducing the yield on the bond. This practice, referred to as "burning the yield," is done after the bond is placed in escrow for an investor who is awaiting repayment.
  2. Marginal Analysis

    An examination of the additional benefits of an activity compared to the additional costs of that activity. Companies use marginal analysis as a decision-making tool to help them maximize their profits. Individuals unconsciously use marginal analysis to make a host of everyday decisions. Marginal analysis is also widely used in microeconomics when analyzing how a complex system is affected by marginal manipulation of its comprising variables.
  3. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities - TIPS

    A treasury security that is indexed to inflation in order to protect investors from the negative effects of inflation. TIPS are considered an extremely low-risk investment since they are backed by the U.S. government and since their par value rises with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, while their interest rate remains fixed.
  4. Gilt-Edged Switching

    The selling and repurchasing of certain high-grade stocks or bonds to capture profits. Gilt-edged switching involves gilt-edged security, which can be high-grade stock or bond issued by a financially stable company such as the Blue Chip companies or by certain governments.
  5. Master Limited Partnership - MLP

    A type of limited partnership that is publicly traded. There are two types of partners in this type of partnership: The limited partner is the person or group that provides the capital to the MLP and receives periodic income distributions from the MLP's cash flow, whereas the general partner is the party responsible for managing the MLP's affairs and receives compensation that is linked to the performance of the venture.
  6. Class Action

    An action where an individual represents a group in a court claim. The judgment from the suit is for all the members of the group (class).
Trading Center