Former Disney accountant turned SEC whistleblower says Disney overstated revenue by billions for years

A former Walt Disney Co. accountant says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the company has materially overstated revenue for years. Sandra Kuba, a senior financial accountant analyst in Disney’s revenue-operations department who worked for the company for 18 years and says employees working in the parks-and-resorts business segment systematically overstated revenue by billions of dollars by exploiting weaknesses in the company’s accounting software. Ms. Kuba says she has met with officials from the SEC on several occasions to discuss the allegations. The whistleblower filings were reviewed by MarketWatch which reported that they state several ways employees allegedly boosted revenue, including recording fictitious revenue for complimentary golf rounds or for free guest promotions. Another alleged action Kuba described in her SEC filing involved recording revenue for $500 gift cards at their face value even when guests paid a discounted rate of $395. Kuba also alleges that employees sometimes recorded revenue twice for gift cards, both when guests bought the gift card and when it was used at a resort. Sometimes, revenue was recorded even though a gift card was given to a guest for free following a customer complaint, for instance, according to the whistleblower’s allegations.

Kuba’s filing alleges that in just one financial year, 2008-09, Disney’s annual revenue could have been overstated by as much as $6 billion. The parks-and-resorts business segment reported total revenue of $10.6 billion in 2009, according to its annual report filed with the SEC.

Kuba told MarketWatch she first reported the alleged revenue-recognition issues to management in 2013. She said that no one responded to her at that time. She said that she escalated her concerns to a more senior executive in 2016 and that Disney’s corporate audit group contacted her once in November 2016 but never followed up.

Kuba said she brought her concerns to the SEC in August 2017. She was fired from Disney about a month later.

In October 2017, Kuba filed a whistleblower-retaliation complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Disney’s response to the department’s whistleblower office investigator’s inquiry said that Kuba’s employment was terminated 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.”