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Even the most organized attorney can be caught by the occasional slipup, whether it’s forgetting a meeting or misplacing a file. But what happens if a general counsel fails to process $1.4 million worth of invoices on time? If the GC is Michael Mocniak, and he works for Calgon Carbon Corporation, he’s out of a job. Pittsburgh-based Calgon Carbon announced Mocniak’s departure in March through a press release and a conference call with analysts. The company, which employs 900 people, makes carbon-based environmental purification products. Calgon Carbon first noticed it had an accounting problem when it was finalizing its books for 2005. According to media reports of the conference call, CEO John Stanik explained that “certain invoices for legal services … were not reported in a timely fashion … [or] were not reported in the correct quarter, in some cases.” Stanik said that dual investigations by the company and its audit committee “determined that the problem was limited to one area and one individual, our general counsel. When the investigations were completed and the facts understood, [Mocniak] was separated from the company.” Because of the invoice problem, Calgon Carbon said in its press release that it had restated its financials for the first three quarters of 2005. Company officials did not responded to requests for comment for this article. Mocniak could not be reached for comment. In the conference call, Stanik also told investors, “Unfortunately, we did not learn about the [invoice] problem through our internal control systems.” The CEO added, “We have already designed a corrective action and are in the process of instituting it with the pertinent professional service vendors.” According to Rees Morrison, a consultant at Hildebrandt International who advises law departments, Stanik’s comments most likely mean that Calgon Carbon used a paper-based invoicing system. Morrison also speculates that an external auditor or whistle-blower called Mocniak out. Morrison says that if the former GC was simply stashing the invoices “in a drawer, there should be law firms screaming bloody murder.” Representatives of two Pittsburgh-based firms, Reed Smith and Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, said that their firms did work for Calgon Carbon but would not comment on any problems with the company. Two other large Pittsburgh firms, Buchanan Ingersoll and Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellot, did not return calls seeking comment. Calgon Carbon’s mishap doesn’t surprise Jeffrey Hodge, a senior executive at DataCert, Inc., a Houston-based company that specializes in electronic billing systems. Hodge says, “I can only guess that this [problem] happens pretty frequently.” He adds that in his experience, invoicing is often the last thing to get attention in a corporate law department. “It’s right at the bottom of the pile,” he says.

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