Question: AUSA Life Insurance Company and others were institutional investors in
AUSA Life Insurance Company and others were institutional investors in the securities of JWP, Inc., a company that went belly up, resulting in nearly a 100 percent loss of their investments. Ernst & Young served as auditor for JWP from 1985 to 1992. During most of that period, JWP was in a period of rapid expansion that was financed by private placements of debt securities, and it became increasingly leveraged. By 1991, it was losing an average of $10 million per month. Ernst & Young knew of “accounting irregularities” from at least 1988 through 1991 but did not insist on their correction. Ernst & Young issued unqualified financial opinions for all of those years. One of the irregularities was recording anticipated future tax benefits of net operating loss in violation of GAAP. AUSA and its fellow investors sued Ernst & Young for their losses. The federal district court dismissed the case and AUSA appealed. Should AUSA be able to recover? Explain your answer. [AUSA Life Insurance Co. v. Ernst & Young, 206 F.3d 202 (2d Cir. 2000), 119 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), aff’d in unpublished opinion]
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