You can tell we're in digital world when employees are altering information not by erasing it on paper, but by hiding columns in Excel. The New York Times ran a story today called "N.Y.S.E. Executive Tells of Altering Documents to Hide Grasso's Full Payout." In it, Dale B. Bernstein, the former Executive Vice President for Human Resources at the N.Y.S.E., said,
she was instructed by her boss, Frank Z. Ashen, to hide, in an Excel spreadsheet, two columns of data that provided additional detail about Mr. Grasso's 1999, 2000 and 2001 compensation. She said she hid the columns with the bonus and total compensation information in documents that were provided to the compensation committee, but included that information in documents given to the finance department, which had to make the appropriate bookkeeping entries.
"I clicked 'hide column,' " she said in the deposition, which was provided by a person close to the case.
The digital trick here was to refer to the hidden compensation in a footnote ("In 1999, Mr. Grasso will receive 50 percent of his variable compensation in the capital accumulation plan.") but make sure the compensation committee didn't see the $18 million in bonus money as they scanned down the spreadsheet columns in their meeting.
So if you're into fraud, embezzlement, or otherwise shading the truth, throw out your Liquid Paper, and make sure you know all the esoteric tricks in Excel.