The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has suspended three former BDO USA accountants for misrepresenting that an audit of a client’s annual report had been properly completed after the audit team fell behind schedule.

One of the accountants, Lev Nagdimov, was BDO’s senior manager on the audit of AmTrust Financial Services’ 10-K for fiscal 2013. Shortly before AmTrust filed the report, he allegedly instructed the audit team to sign-off on all their work papers and audit programs — regardless of whether their work was finished — to make it appear that the audit had, in fact, been completed.

At Nagdimov’s direction, the SEC said in an administrative order, the audit team also “predated” documentation “to conceal the failure to complete necessary procedures and obtain sufficient audit evidence” for data in the report.

The order announced the suspensions of Nagdimov, engagement partner Richard J. Bertuglia, and engagement quality review partner John W. Green.

According to the SEC, Bertuglia and Green did not know the audit team had failed to complete necessary procedures but if they “had properly exercised due professional care, they would have identified these deficiencies before they released the report.”

“Public accountants who manipulate their files to conceal audit deficiencies represent a serious breach of those professional obligations, and the Commission will impose suspensions to protect investors,” Shamoil T. Shipchandler, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office, said in a news release.

The BDO audit team’s work on the AmTrust 10-K was due to be completed by Feb. 28, 2014. But according to the SEC, a status report sent to Bertuglia and Nagdimov on Dec. 18, 2013 showed the team was roughly 14 weeks behind schedule.

After Bertuglia met with the team on Feb. 21, Nagdimov allegedly ordered the “predating,” which involved creating “misleading audit documentation that did not accurately reflect the dates when audit procedures were actually completed and audit evidence was actually obtained.”

After finishing their work following the release of the report, the team “documented the additional procedures performed and subsequent evidence obtained by overwriting or supplementing the existing audit documentation in the predated work papers,” the SEC said.

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