By Matthew Goldstein
In some ways, the story of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is one of those quirky only in Vermont business stories, with a founder who made a small fortune in the 1970s selling rolling papers to potheads and a board member who helped invent the sports bra. Yet at the same time, Green Mountain is very much a Wall Street saga, with all the requisite highs and lows for its stock and questions about where the fast-growing company is going.
And right now, with shares of Green Mountain trading around $20–down sharply from the all-time high of $115 reached last September–it’s the Wall Street story that matters most.
Critics of the company question whether Green Mountain can maintain a stranglehold on the market for single-cup coffee products with other competitors joining the fray and some patents expiring. And, of course, there’s questions about that ongoing SEC investigation into the company’s accounting practices and how it recognizes revenues.
On Monday, Emily Flitter wrote a story that began taking a close look at the SEC probe and in particular focused on the little-known distribution company, M. Block and Sons, that’s responsible for processing about 40 percent of Green Mountain’s single-cup coffee product.
One thing Emily found was that on at least two other occasions, the SEC investigated accounting practices at two M. Block customers and in both cases M. Block executives were deposed by SEC lawyers. In neither case did the SEC charge M. Block or its employees with any wrongdoing, but regulators did file civil fraud charges against executives of M. Block’s customers.