A senior finance manager in Oracle’s cloud business has complained to a federal court that she was terminated from her job because she refused to go along with, and threatened to blow the whistle on accounting principles that she considered to be unlawful.
In a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Svetlana Blackburn has stated that her superiors instructed her “to add millions of dollars in accruals to financial reports, with no concrete or foreseeable billing to support the numbers, an act that Plaintiff warned was improper and suspect accounting.” The former employee is said to have warned her supervisor that she would blow the whistle if ordered to proceed further in the same manner.
Blackburn alleged in the complaint that upper management was trying to fit "square date into round holes" in a bid to boost the financial reports of the cloud services business, which would be "paraded" before the leadership of the company and investors.
A Certified Public Accountant, Blackburn had received a positive performance review in August 2015, but in the following month her supervisors had “charted a course that veered from legal, ethical and company standards.” Her employment was terminated within weeks, on Oct. 15, after she “continued to resist and warn of the accounting improprieties,” according to the complaint.
“We don't agree with the allegations and intend to vigorously defend the matter,” said Oracle spokeswoman, Deborah Hellinger, in an email.
Blackburn alleged in her complaint that executives above her went ahead and added accruals on their own, despite her objections. She was told by a supervisor that her statements were “irritating” after she warned about the dangers of a lack of billings, and the history of bad accruals that never resulted in billings. As a result, she had come to be viewed as "more of a roadblock than a team player who would blindly generate financial reports using improper bases in order to justify the bottom lines that her superiors demanded to see," according to her complaint.
Blackburn accuses Oracle of unlawful retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which is legislation that aims to prevent corporate accounting fraud and errors. She said she had engaged in activity that is legally protected under the Act by reporting, resisting and refusing to engage in conduct that she reasonably believed violated or would violate the law and the Act’s requirements.
The former employee also claims to be protected under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which provides that an employer may not discharge or otherwise discriminate against an individual who makes disclosures required or protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Blackburn is suing Oracle for punitive damages and a ruling preventing the company from retaliating against other similar objectors, among other measures.