ProQuest is well known in the genealogy world as the provider of HeritageQuest Online, a large database containing images of original U.S. census records, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, Freedman's Bank records, more than 20,000 genealogy and local history books, and more. On Wednesday the company cut 40 to 50 of its Ann Arbor, Michigan-area employees, or about 5 percent of its local work force.
ProQuest recently discovered accounting inaccuracies that a spokesman said masked the company's actual expenses. The job eliminations took place at ProQuest's Information and Learning division, the same local unit where the company said it found the accounting irregularities.
On Feb. 9, the company said it may have under-reported its expenses related to royalties and overstated revenues at the division. It said the company's financial statements going back to 1999 could no longer be relied upon. See my earlier article about the financial irregularities at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2006/02/proquest_to_res.html
While ProQuest has not yet issued any earnings restatements, spokesman Mark Trinske said the company has received enough information from auditors and forensic accountants to know expenses were higher than previously recorded.
"As the restatement (inquiry) is progressing and we're getting a clearer picture of the actual numbers, we needed to rebalance our expenses to reflect that,'' Trinske said, referring to the layoffs.
Trinske said all of the laid-off employees have been offered severance pay and benefits, plus job outplacement help. He could not rule out additional layoffs tied to the accounting issue until the accounting matter is resolved, but he said the company is hopeful it will not need to conduct further layoffs. With the layoffs, ProQuest employs about 650 workers in Scio Township and Ann Arbor area offices.
Trinske said the company still plans to move into its new Ann Arbor headquarters in May or June.