Despite my well-documented revulsion at reality shows andmindless celebrity mania in general, in full disclosure, I will tell you at thesupermarket checkout, I routinely flip through the latest issues of such augustliterary stalwarts as The National Enquirer, US, OK and, of course, People.

I suspect that I'm not alone in that tradition.

As you can imagine, celebrities and our publication don'tintersect all that often, save for when said stars suddenly unveil catastrophictax or financial problems and suddenly our "Taxes of the Rich andDumb" channel on WebCPA receives a surge of visitors.

I'll admit to a certain schadenfreude when I read or seesome Hollywood knucklehead given a platform and allowed to pontificate on howto fix the country's ills and then learn that he/she is battling the IRS or hasfallen victim to some financial scam that would have left a middle-schoolerjustifiably skeptical.

It's sort of like driving up to a tollbooth andconvincing the collector the guy in the car behind you is going to pay.

I was somehow reminded of this when last week the SEC andthe Financial Industry Regulatory Authority warned investors to beware of anumber of stock scams that advertise easy profits from cleanup efforts stemmingfrom the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf.

Both the SEC and FINRA advised that some companies mayissue releases, or send faxes or spam emails highlightingproducts or technologies that areeffective in remediating oil spills or restoring the eco-system and subsequentlyinvestingin them.

I've long ago stopped being surprised by the magnitude orincredulity of financial scams, or the shocking lack of basic due diligence bynaïve investors.

I once knew a colleague who lost close to five figures ona mining stock that reaped little more than iron pyrite as opposed to theprecious metals the company promised. Had he done a modicum of research, hewould have quickly learned that the company had been the target of severalinvestigations by regulators.

But those stories of average folks don't draw nearly theonline reader traffic as do the ones showcasing celebrity investments gone bador tax naivete.

If one could select a celebrity poster child forfinancial illiteracy it would, by near-unanimous consensus, have to be actorWesley Snipes. First, the action star was convinced by a tax protestor groupthat he was legally a "non-taxpayer" and failed to file income taxesin 1999, 2000, and 2001.

Following a trial, he was spared a prison term butconvicted on three misdemeanor counts. It should be noted that the leader ofthe tax protestor group received 10 years in prison while Snipes' accountantreceived four and a half years.

Then last month, Snipes was duped again, this time bymoney manager Ken Starr, who allegedly ran a mini-Madoff scam and swindledroughly 30 celebrities and high-net-worth individuals.

This despite a high-profile suit eight years ago in LosAngeles brought by actor Sylvester Stallone, who claimed Starr cost himmillions in bad stock advice and investments.

Investor education is apparently on a very slow learningcurve - not just for ordinary folks but Hollywood as well. But as an editor Iknow it makes for great reading on our portal - or the supermarket checkout.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access