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Jocelyn Paine

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

An Excel Bonus

February 15, 2009

More spreadsheet deceit and deception. Following on from my two Salami postings, here's a different variety of salami attack.

This one was posted to the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group mailing list by Ralph Baxter of ClusterSeven, who sell software for making spreadsheets easier to audit by monitoring and recording changes. Ralph does not say whether this particular fraud was one that his software detected...

A trader takes a large operational spreadsheet which will contribute to the pricing of his deals and hence his bonus. He finds a cell buried somewhere high up (or low down depending on your perspective) in the detail of the calculation process. He then adds a small amount each day for 60 days. Of course the changes to the bottom line are very small, so there is little requirement to follow up. Surprise, surprise, at the end of the period his profit is just sufficient to trigger his bonus. Then over the next 60 days, he takes the same small amount out of the cell every day. After 120 days, the current version of the spreadsheet shows no evidence of the fraudulent manipulation.

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