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Stora Enso: Accounting mistake was "human error"

Forest Industry firm Stora Enso says that its accounting procedures have changed to ensure that a mistake that raised questions in a documentary film cannot happen again. No individual employee has taken responsibility, although whistleblower Gerard Goodwyn was fired.

Stora Enson lippu logoineen yhtiön pääkonttorin katolla Helsingin Katajanokalla.
Stora Enso is the target of fierce criticism from shareholders. Image: Timo Jaakonaho / Lehtikuva

Stora Enso says that an accounting glitch was an honest mistake.

"It was human error, which started off small and was repeated every year,” said Stora Enso’s country manager Lauri Peltola. ”It was not a large, one-off mistake.”

The mistake relates to Stora Enso’s ownership of the Consolidated Papers company. The American firm made large losses, and some investors now say that Stora Enso’s share price was artificially inflated for five years from 2001. Stora Enso released a report on the matter on Monday.

"These accusations are completely groundless,” said Peltola. ”It’s highly improbable that any over-valuation would have remained, they were corrected in connection with the 2008 writedown at the latest.”

Stora Enso made a surprise announcement in 2009 that there had been a mistake in previous years’ accounting and that dividend payments were suspended. The firm’s share price halved, and it has not risen to previous levels since.

Peltola denies that the company’s share price has anything to do with the mistake. He also said it was wrong to hold individuals accountable for the error.

Gerard Goodwyn, the company’s head of accounting who spoke publicly about the mistake, was fired in 2010. He died of an illness earlier this year.

Some shareholders are not satisfied with Stora Enso’s report. Swedish Shareholders’ association Aktiespararna is demanding an independent investigation, along with consequences for Stora Enso’s senior leadership.

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