spreadsheet errors

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I just can’t resist this one. Vista Equity Partners is paying around $100 million less than expected for Tibco Software Inc because Goldman Sachs got the number of shares wrong in the spreadsheet that did all the calculations. OK, $100 million isn’t much in the context of a $4 billion deal, but it’s an awful lot […] Read more

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The next time you notice something being done in Excel where you work, take a moment to question whether it’s the right tool for the job, or whether you or someone in your organisation is a tool for allowing its use. No, not my words, but from the FT’s consistently excellent Alphaville blog. The point […] Read more

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There’s a bit of a furore going on at the moment: it turns out that a controversial paper in the debate about the after-effects of the financial crisis had some peculiarities in its data analysis. Rortybomb has a great description, and the FT’s Alphaville and Tyler Cowen have interesting comments. In summary, back in 2010 […] Read more

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In January 2006 it was discovered that there was a deficit of $5 million in the budget for Nevada City. The budget spreadsheet was the same as the one for 2005, updated for 2006. Apparently it was working correctly until sometime in late December, when it developed a problem. The difference was a $5M deficit […] Read more

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In November 2005 Kodak restated its Q3 results by $9 million. The restatement was attributed to restructuring and severance costs, plus a real estate gain. The restructuring costs were apparently because they got the accounting treatment wrong; we were told that “the magnitude of the worldwide restructuring program the company is undertaking imposes significant challenges […] Read more

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In 2004 a paper on “Financial Modelling of Project Financing Transactions” was presented to the Institute of Actuaries of Australia Financial Services Forum. It’s well worth a read if you are involved in any sort of financial modelling, whether or not you are an actuary and whether or not you are modelling project financing. The […] Read more

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It appears that a bug crept into the final release of Excel 2003 that wasn’t present in the betas. The RAND() function in Excel 2003 was apparently upgraded so that it produced a better distribution of pseudo-random numbers between 0 and 1. The trouble is that the numbers it produces may be more random, but […] Read more

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In October 2003, about 2 weeks after releasing their third quarter earnings figures, Fannie Mae had to restate their unrealised gains by $1.2 billion. This was apparently the result of “honest mistakes made in a spreadsheet used in the implementation of a new accounting standard.” Honest mistake or not, $1.2 billion is a lot of […] Read more

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Next time you paste some figures into a spreadsheet, be afraid. Be very afraid. Someone at TransAlta Corporation managed to lose $24m (Canadian) through a “clerical error” in pasting into an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet in question was used to submit bids to the New York Independent System Operator (New York ISO) for May 2003 […] Read more

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In June 2003 a pasting error was discovered before it was too late. The error came to light in a university examiners meeting: the spreadsheet containing the marks for a small joint degree (3 or 4 students) was found to be wrong. The numbers just didn’t make sense, as the average marks were inconsistent with […] Read more

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