June 24, 2019

Sealed Air fires CFO as SEC investigation continues

Bubble Wrap maker being questioned about accounting practices for income taxes, financial reporting, and disclosures.

By DC Velocity Staff

Bubble wrap vendor and packaging solution provider Sealed Air Corp. has fired its chief financial officer (CFO) in the midst of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into its accounting practices, the company said Thursday.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Sealed Air said it had "terminated the employment of William G. Stiehl as Chief Financial Officer for cause, effective immediately." Stiehl had been named to that position only 12 months ago, having joined Sealed Air in 2013 after serving in leadership roles at United Technologies Corp.'s Aerostructures business unit and at Goodrich Corp.

The firing is related to an internal review by the company's audit committee of its board of directors, in connection with a previously disclosed investigation by the [SEC]. "This review followed the company's receipt of an additional subpoena for documents and information on May 2, 2019, relating to the process by which the company selected its independent audit firm for the period beginning with fiscal year 2015, and relating to the independence of that audit firm," Sealed Air said.

The company did not provide further details, but according to published reports, Sealed Air switched auditors to Ernst & Young LLP in 2015, and the SEC soon requested information including its accounting for income taxes, financial reporting, and disclosures.

Stiehl has been replaced as CFO by James M. Sullivan, who had held the same title at mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global from 2012 to 2017, Sealed Air said. "Jim brings a wealth of financial and leadership experience to Sealed Air. He joins us at an exciting time as we execute our Reinvent SEE strategy to drive earnings power," Sealed Air President and CEO Ted Doheny said in a release. "Having worked alongside Jim at Joy Global, I have seen firsthand his ability to lead top-notch finance organizations. With his deep industry experience and outstanding track record, Jim will add significant value to our company at this pivotal time."

The change in the executive suite comes just weeks after Sealed Air announced plans to reinvent its brand through an initiative called "Reinvent SEE." In a blog post, Sealed Air Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Sergio Pupkin said June 10 that the company would not simply protect products from damage or food from spoilage, but will also guard shipments against pathogens and foodborne illness, shield brands against reputational risk, and help customers reduce waste and unnecessary cost from their operations. "We have a responsibility to wield the power of packaging to ensure food safety for all consumers, reduce the gap between food that is wasted and people who go hungry, to stop carbon waste before it occurs and to create new infrastructure for the collection and reuse of the world's plastic," Pupkin said in the blog post.

Sealed Air has been growing through acquisition in recent months, buying automated bagging systems manufacturer Automated Packaging Systems Inc. (APS) for $510 million in 2019, and acquiring packing supplies fabricator AFP Inc. for an undisclosed amount in 2018. The company reaffirmed this week that it is on track to log earnings of $925 million to $945 million for its fiscal year 2019, as previously predicted in a conference call with investors.


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