Presto, Change-O: CFO Calls It Quits

The finance chief of National Presto leaves after nearly five years of fighting with the SEC and Grant Thornton over whether his company is in the ...
Sarah JohnsonJuly 12, 2007

After several years of defending his company to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Randy Lieble, CFO of National Presto Industries, is calling it quits.

Lieble will leave the Eau Claire, Wisconsin-based company as finance chief, vice president, secretary, director, and treasurer to become a financial adviser on August 24, the company announced this week. He has worked for the company, which makes pressure cookers and other kitchen appliances, for the past 30 years, including nearly eight as finance chief. He did not return’s request for comment.

If all goes according to plan, Lieble will leave National Presto, which is searching for his successor, after filing the company’s overdue annual reports with the SEC. In its announcement of Lieble’s resignation, the company largely blames its former auditor, Grant Thornton, for the delay in filing its 2005 and 2006 annual reports. Grant Thornton had withdrawn its audit opinion for the years ending December 2005, 2004, and 2003, after the SEC told National Presto to include a footnote in its regulatory filings identifying the company as an investment company.

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National Presto’s disagreement with the SEC began in 2002, when the regulator said the company should have been registered as an investment company for the previous eight years, a mandate that National Presto has fought since. Saying National Presto was in violation of the Investment Company Act, the SEC claimed the company’s investment securities made up more than 40 percent of its total assets, which basically means it should have been following the same rules as a mutual fund. The company had garnered those securities after divesting several subsidiaries in the 1970s and 1980s and reinvesting the cash to buy and hold investment securities. More than 45 percent of the company’s net income between 1994 and 2001 was derived from investing, holding, or trading in securities, according to the SEC.

After National Presto lost one round in federal court and reluctantly agreed to identify itself as a investment company, a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge reversed the lower court decision in May, saying that the appliance maker was not an investment company. By that time, however, Grant Thornton was no longer the company’s auditor and declined to reinstate its opinions on the three years of financial statements. The new audit firm, Virchow Krause, has been re-auditing Grant Thornton’s work.

Now registered as an operating company again, National Presto has scheduled an annual shareholder meeting for November in anticipation that the new reports will be filed with the SEC by the time Lieble leaves in August.