Happy Halloween! Six Scary Spreadsheet Errors

Happy Halloween! Six Scary Spreadsheet Errors


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


An asset depreciation accounting error, among others, led to the restating of years of earnings, impacting shareholder confidence and leading to the CEO’s resignation.


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.

JP Morgan

Created a new value at risk (VaR) model for their hedging strategy based on a spreadsheet. The model was used, but there was a lot of copying and pasting over several spreadsheets, which impacted their formulas and lowered the perceived risk of assets. The company posted losses of $2B that year.

Debt and Austerity

Research by Harvard that paying down debt was important for economic recovery was embraced widely by politicians. That notion was weakened by the authors’ acknowledgment that they made an error in a spreadsheet. The findings went from an average growth in high-debt countries of -0.1 percent to 2.2 percent growth.


Earlier this year one particular spreadsheet infamously made headlines when a frustrated husband kept a list of the number of times he and his wife had sex over two months. While this isn’t a technical error, it is a frightful error in judgment.


Just last month, 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.