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Risk is real

Spreadsheet errors are ubiquitous. But, relative to their occurrence frequency, few spreadsheet errors become public. When an organization's spreadsheet errors are publicized, the revelation is seldom made by choice.

Nonetheless, there are many examples of spreadsheet errors being public. Some errors have been widely reported in the media, due to their substantial impacts.

Real newspaper headlines

For example, the following is a sample of real newspaper headlines relating to the use of spreadsheets:

  • Brakes hit on Wellington speed reduction plan after $250m error spotted, Stuff.
  • Excel spreadsheet error leads Austrian party to announce wrong leader, Washington Post.
  • An alarming number of scientific papers contain Excel errors, Washington Post.
  • Reinhart, Rogoff, and the Excel error that changed history, Bloomberg.
  • $1.5M went missing as staff managed "monstrous spreadsheets", Metro West Daily News.
  • Accountant omits minus sign on a net capital loss of $1.3 billion, The Risks Digest.
  • £4.3M spreadsheet error leads to resignation of Mouchel chief executive, Daily Express.
  • $15 million mistake: that representative doesn't work for the company anymore, Technology Marketing Corporation.
  • Clallam County cashier hides rows in a spreadsheet to cover up theft, Peninsula Daily News.
  • $182M blunder in cashflow forecasting spreadsheet model, Stuff.

This is just a small sample of major spreadsheet errors. Most problems are never reported publically.

For a selection of more spreadsheet errors, have a look at the EuSpRIG Horror Stories.