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Old 06-07-2007   #1
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Default High End Speaker Company Works To Distance Itself From “Belgian Enron” Connections

Final Loudspeakers is a little-known, high-end loudspeaker company that specializes in making physically flat and visually transparent loudspeakers designed to match the look of today’s most popular flat HDTVs. Their products solve a very unique problem for the two million flat HDTVs sold in the U.S. monthly by providing high-resolution sound to both aurally and visually match the HD picture found on today’s televisions.

Before Final was reorganized into a new company only a few years ago, the man behind the company’s early success was Gaston Bastiaens. Bastiaens is now embroiled in what the European business media is calling the “Belgian Enron” case. Prior to leading Final, he was an executive at the now scandal-ridden Lernout and Hauspie, a Belgian technology company that specialized in, among other technologies, voice recognition software.

Six years after filing bankruptcy under suspicion of large-scale accounting fraud, Lernout and Hauspie closed its doors.

At the core of the controversy were claims of Enron-like improprieties relating to the way the booming company was reporting its income. By 2004, their independent auditor, KPMG, paid out a nine-figure settlement to shareholders, yet the founders publicly claimed they did nothing wrong. The trial for alleged wrongdoing by L&H started last week.

Bastiaens brought many of his L&H cronies into the mix at Final in the early stages and, to this day, Bastiaens still works with Final Loudspeakers as an independent consultant. He was spotted wearing a Final badge as recently as the winter Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007.

Representatives for Final in the United States suggest that Bastiaens helps the company as an independent consultant on technical issues and that all of the other employees with L&H ties no longer work for Final. In the reorganized company, there is a completely new management team in place, including a new CEO and CFO. They say most of their new hires come from Philips, a company where Bastiaens was a vice-president during the compact disc era, years before he worked with L&H.

The trial has a ways to go before a verdict is determined. Online sources suggest that, if convicted, many of L&H’s executive team face years of jail time. When asked if the new Final will retain Bastiaens going forward, Final’s U.S.-based general manager Marc Mombourquette said, “As far as I know, we don’t have a plan for Mr. Bastiaens if he were to be convicted. Right now, we wish him all the best. As for going forward, if we thought hiring [Enron’s] Jeff Skilling as a consultant would help our company, we would consider it.”

Sources: Beurs.nl, Wall Street Journal
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