What kind of work can a forensic accountant do in divorce cases? Tracy Coenen talks about the work of a CPA, including calculating income, evaluating financial disclosures, valuing assets, and completing a lifestyle analysis.
One of the common statements made by people in favor of multi-level marketing is that it is just like corporate America. We call MLM a pyramid scheme, and corporate America is a pyramid too! That’s simply not true.
While the SHAPE of the hierarchy of people looks like a pyramid in MLM and in corporate Amercia (one person at the head of the company, a few below, managing several below them, and so on)… that is where the similarities end.
Once a forensic accountant completes a lifestyle analysis for a divorce case, how does the family lawyer use it? Attorney Miles Mason explains how he uses the lifestyle analysis to evaluate the lifestyle and the reasonable needs of a spouse.
Tracy Coenen talks about her book, “Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets.” The book was published by the American Bar Association
shares her insight on uncovering financial details to ensure that divorce settlements are fair and equitable. A forensic accountant and fraud investigator, Coenen wrote the book to arm lawyers with a powerful tool when valuing and dividing property in complex divorce cases.
Defenders of multi-level marketing (MLM) will tell you that some companies “do it” right, while some companies “do it” wrong. One such example is John Hempton, a clown who thinks that Herbalife is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He says the following in an article about Nu-Skin:
Disclosure: I am predisposed to believe that multi-level-marketing schemes like Avon, Herbalife or Nu Skin are likely to be good cash generative businesses. I have done much looking at Herbalife and got very long. I do not think a negative interpretation of Herbalife is sustainable. Herbalife’s business is legal, sustainable and will generate vastly more cash in five years. Nu Skin does not lend itself to such definitive opinions. History is littered with MLMs that no longer exist – and a few like Avon, Nu Skin, Herbalife, Amway and Mary Kay which have lasted decades.
The fact that a multi-level marketing company like Mary Kay Cosmetics has been around for more than 50 years does not define whether it is a fraud or scam. Remember Enron (in business more than 15 years prior to the fraud being discovered) and Bernie Madoff (whose investment firm was in business for more than 40 years before his Ponzi scheme was revealed)? Length of time in operation has nothing to do with whether something is a scam or a fraud. Being traded on the New York Stock Exchange is not an indicator of legitimacy either.
More than ever, competent and dynamic expert witnesses are critical to winning legal cases. Even if a case doesn’t go to trial, a credible expert can be the key to settling the case for your client. I believe that an expert witness has the opportunity to make or break a case. We all know that there are few chances to fix a bad opinion when you go to court. There is one chance to express the correct opinion and support it fully. A faulty opinion, or one with little reliable support, can doom a case.
Some attorneys have their preferred experts, while others get referrals from colleagues. Each attorney works with an expert witness in the way that she or he is comfortable. However, it never hurts to hear about it from the other side. This is my perspective on best utilizing your expert witness to her or his full value.
Finding the Right Expert
The most critical part of working with an expert witness is finding the right one. Naturally, the selection of an expert involves the evaluation of education and credentials. The examination of an expert’s credentials is a particularly critical process.
There are credentials that are earned through a bona fide process, such as the CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CFF (Certified in Financial Forensics), CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), and CVA (Certified Valuation Analyst). Then there are credentials that are meaningless because they are simply purchased, none of which are even worth mentioning. It is important to research which credentials truly enhance the credibility of the expert.
When a divorce is pending, it is not uncommon for one of the parties to manipulate the finances. Tracy discusses some common items that can be manipulated such as salary, selling assets to related parties, and more.
Despite all the warnings about tax scams, consumers are still falling victim to these types of fraud. Tracy Coenen talks on CNBC about the top five tax scams that consumers should be aware of.
Some MLMs release income disclosures or earnings disclosures. These numbers are not required to be disclosed in the United States, but some of the companies do it anyway to appear transparent. The disclosures theoretically provide insight into how much distributors earn in commissions or overrides, but they are generally worthless. They are worthless because of what they do not disclose.
Multilevel marketing companies purposely omit important information that would allow potential distributors or investors to have real insight into these plans. In general, earnings disclosure statements often fail to provide the following information that is critical to understanding the plans and the results:
Income tax returns and supporting information such as W-2s and pay stubs are the most common and basic documents which evidence income in family law cases. This article discusses the sources of income that are disclosed on a personal income tax return (Form 1040), and some ways the items can be evaluated to search for hidden income and hidden assets.
- Wages – The figures reported on the income tax return should be matched to the W-2. The W-2 and the pay stubs will provide additional information on the employers, pay rates, total pay, certain benefits, and taxes withheld. Additional analysis may include tracing bank deposits to ensure that all wages were used for the benefit of the family.
- Taxable Interest and Tax Exempt Interest – These items of income must be considered when calculating income available for support. They are also important because they can point to bank, investment, and brokerage accounts that may not have been specifically disclosed in the family law case.