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Luckin Coffee Accounting Fraud


One of the most notable scandals in recent business history happened to Luckin Coffee, known at one point as China’s rival to Starbucks. The company was established in 2017 and quickly became famous amid the intensely competitive Chinese coffee market dominated by many other firms with high expansion rates that promise growth at an aggressive pace. However, in April 2020, Luckin Coffee owned up to falsifying sales figures that affected the entire financial realm. This essay focuses on the organization’s history, how it committed fraudulent activities uncovered and reported, what damages have been inflicted on this company due to internal control deficiencies, and provides recommendations to remedy these issues.

Summary of the company’s history and background

Luckin Coffee Ltd., founded in 2017, is headquartered in Beijing, China, and is a formidable coffeehouse chain compared to Starbucks Co. Luckin Coffee, which Jenny Qian Zhiya established, focused on a technological approach that made ordering and payment of coffee outside easier through online order delivery services and cashless payments. The company pursued an aggressive growth plan, opening thousands of stores quickly throughout China and generating significant capital raise in the process. The IPO of Luckin Coffee on the NASDAQ in May 2019 intensified its growth aspiration (Stevenson, 2019). Luckin’s meteoric rise made investors and consumers fall in love with it, making the company establish itself as a disrupter of coffee. Nevertheless, underneath the façade of victory were fraudulent actions meant to artificially hike financial performance and generate better stock value for the company. This background creates a platform for the later unravelling of the Luckin Coffee scandal that would rock upon financial markets and dent its growing status.

Description and analysis of the fraud committed

The demise of Luckin Coffee revolves around the falsification of sales figures to create an illusion that they are performing well. The company resorted to “channel stuffing,” a practice where it reported phantom transactions and overstated sales performance to simulate exponential growth and market domination. Senior executives, such as the CEO and COO, demanded that employees sell products inconsistently while rewarding them using performance-based bonuses. Through round-tripping transactions, fictitious discounts, and forged documents, employees were directed to falsify sales (Stevenson, 2019). The fraud occurred over a long time because the internal controls were sidestepped. Therefore, Luckin Coffee management’s dishonest and coercive culture focused on short-term financial gains rather than ethics or compliance with applicable laws. The fraud assessment depicts a systematic violation of internal controls, corporate governance and ethics at Luckin Coffee. Management relied on fraudulent practices not to preserve integrity principles, transparency and accountability. The effect of the fraudulent practices was devastating to Luckin Goffee and various other stakeholders, with severe financial losses, legal repercussions, and damaged credibility.

How the fraud was detected and reported

Luckin Fraud was finally found and reported by external audit oversight, whistleblowing, and investigative journalism. However, a report by Muddy Waters Research in January 2020 claimed that Luckin had faked its revenues through invented transactions and inflated expenses. This report caused a significant slump in Luckin’s stock, and investigations by regulatory bodies were initiated. The allegations of fraudulent activities were found true by subsequent forensic audits and internal investigations. As a result, top executives involved in the scandal were sacked. The admission of guilt and the promise to remedy by Luckin Coffee drove home even more how extensive this fraud was (Chung, 2021).

Moreover, reporting employees within the company was essential for revealing such unlawful activities, stressing the importance of ensuring the reliability of internal disclosure systems and whistleblower protection. The case became a subject of significant media attention, which enabled investigative journalists to delve into the problems associated with Luckin Coffee’s company fraud. It is only with the combination of external pressure, regulatory oversight, and internal whistleblowing that a public outcry was finally unveiled, from which legal actions against company executives were taken. Transparency, accountability, and self-regulation were brought into focus by detecting and publicizing fraud.

Information about the damages/losses caused by the fraud

The Luckin Coffee scandal caused heavy losses and damages among stakeholders, such as investors, shareowners, etc. After the disclosure of fraud in early 2020, Luckin’s share price declined by more than eighty percent, wiping out billions of values from market capitalization (Feng, 2021). Shareholders suffered significant economic losses because the stock had become almost worthless, resulting in lawsuits for securities fraud against Luckin and its executives. Additionally, the ethics issues blemished Luckin’s image and credibility, causing a loss of consumer goodwill and investor confidence. In addition to regulatory scrutiny and enforcement actions from Chinese and U.S. authorities, the company faced penalties, including fines by Luckin for its fraudulent activities. The financial impact of the fraud meant that Luckin Coffee had to rethink its business model, which resulted in closed stores and cost-cutting measures for damage minimization minimization. The company had liquidity issues and could not recover its footing after the scandal acted on its dollar values, long-term prospects for growth, and market value. To conclude, the Luckin Coffee fraud resulted in widespread damages that highlight a broader impact of corporate misdeeds on financial markets and consumer trust.

 Internal control deficiencies that allowed the fraud

The Luckin Coffee scandal revealed numerous internal controls, governance processes, and ethics failures, creating the perfect breeding ground for fraud. Instead of proper governance and oversight, the company’s management promoted aggressive growth and profitability, leading to a short-term-oriented culture built on risk-taking mode for quick returns. The lack of independent board oversight and internal control functions enabled the executives to influence decision-making more than necessary. Furthermore, Luckin Coffee had inappropriate risk management functions to identify fraud risks and respond accordingly (Feng, 2021). Management’s attention to the high-expectative sales targets made them ignore risks and leave risk management strategies incomplete. Vulnerabilities, such as responsibility allocation across accounting and finance functions, enabled individuals to commit transactions without the necessary controls, which paved the way for collusion schemes. Besides that, inadequate internal controls over financial reporting with reconciliation lapses led to manipulation of records and misrepresentation of sales. SOX and the COSO internal control framework provide guidelines to help public companies improve controls, governance, and accountability; they explain how to implement controls compliant with SOX while following. Raising the degree of governance structures, setting sound risk management procedures, and developing robust internal controls are fundamental to reducing fraud exposure risks rather than protecting shareholders’ interests.

Recommendations for Remediation and Corrective Actions

The company should conduct a comprehensive strategic planning process to remediate and correct the internal control deficiencies identified in the Luckin Coffee scandal. This process should include improved governance, better risk management processes, and adequate implementation of internal controls. To improve governance, Luckin Coffee should place independent directors on the board and make sure that supreme bodies like audit committees consist of autonomous members only. Developing a code of ethics, conduct, and whistleblower systems will provide ethical standards and compliance. A full-scale fraud risk assessment must be carried out and prioritized, and the actions to combat risks should be determined (Chen, 2021). Continuous monitoring systems will enable the detection of abnormal patterns or variations from what had been forecast. Restructuring processes to ensure segregation of duties for accounting and finance functions fulfil SOX requirements and implementing an internal audit or engaging third-party auditors regularly ensures that sound control systems are ingrained. The description of progress in remediation efforts and the external assurance on sound governance, effective risk management practices promoting integrity that ultimately safeguards shareholder interest mitigating fraud schemes will be a true sign. These indices ‘ continuous monitoring and proper modifications will be necessary for their efficacy and adherence.


The LuckinCoffee scandal is a conspicuous case illustrating the perils of corporal misbehaviour, highlighting sound internal processes, control structures and compliance procedures. Luckin can recover and reinforce itself as a credible corporate entity accountable for unethical activities by identifying elements of fraud and corresponding actions. However, the gargantuan task of restoring trust and respect relies on undivided commitment and unwavering honesty coupled with an absolute observance of the rules of good governance.


Stevenson, A. (2019, May 17). Luckin Coffee, Chinese Rival to Starbucks, Jumps in Its U.S. Trading Debut. The New York Times – Breaking News, U.S. News, World News and Videos.

Chung, E. (2021, August 27). Case study: Luckin Coffee accounting fraud. Seven Pillars Institute.

Feng, Y. (2021, May 5). A Case Study of Luckin Coffee. Atlantis Press | Atlantis Press Open Access Publisher Scientific Technical Medical Proceedings Journals Books.

Chen, R. (2022, June 8). A Case Study of Luckin. SHS Web of Conferences.


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