Happy Halloween! Five Scary Spreadsheet Errors

To help get you in the Halloween spirit, here are five scary stories of real-life spreadsheet errors:

Public Health England (PHE)

Nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases went unreported in England when PHE’s developers used an older version of Excel which can only support 65,536 rows of data (the current versions of Excel can support 1,048,576 rows of data). The workbook was simply not capable of holding all of the data and almost 16,000 records were excluded, putting citizens at risk because the contract-tracing process had been delayed.

Canopy Group

Canopy’s stock fell almost 4 percent after a spreadsheet formula error in the EBITDA loss calculation required the company to refile. Under the refiled MD&A was submitted to the Canadian Securities Administration, the EBITDA loss totaled CA$155 million.


A simple spreadsheet data entry error forced Conviviality, one of Britain’s most successful alcohol and beverage vendors, into Britain’s bankruptcy court. When the error was discovered and revealed, the value of the company dropped from approximately £307.50 to under £100 in less than two weeks. A failed attempt to raise £125 million from investors gave corporate leadership no option except to seek legal protection behind the bankruptcy curtain.


When Barclays acquired assets from Lehman Brothers, it included a spreadsheet with hidden rows detailing 179 contracts they did not want. The case went to court and Barclays lost, costing the company dearly.


Spreadsheet errors cost Tibco shareholders $100M. Goldman Sachs Group, Tibco’s adviser in a deal where the company sold to Vista Equity Partners for $4B, used a spreadsheet that overstated the company’s share count by $100M.

If you’re using a spreadsheet to make major business decisions, or sharing the spreadsheet with someone, it doesn’t have to be scary. Get visibility and create confidence in your spreadsheet data with Incisive spreadsheet management solutions.

Happy Halloween!

About Diane Robinette

Diane RobinetteDiane Robinette is President and CEO at Incisive Software, a company helping risk executives reduce exposure in critical business and financial processes. Prior to Incisive, Diane served in executive and senior level positions at companies including BroadVision, Contivo (acquired by Liaison Technologies), Covigna (acquired by ProQuest/Snap-on), Perfect Commerce and Proximex (acquired by Tyco). She also held management positions at KPMG and EY. Diane believes that by taking a modern and automated approach, risk teams can move towards a risk resilient posture that allows them to anticipate and reduce exposure, no matter what is thrown their way.