CPA, Detective, or Both?

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The Biz – A publication of The Business Journal
By Becca Mader

Tracy Coenen is both a certified public accountant (CPA) and a detective, of sorts. She is a forensic accountant. Looking beyond the numbers, Coenen digs into records, asks questions, forms an opinion and stands by it, testifying in court, if necessary, as an expert witness about what she’s discovered.

Forensic accountants work with the legal and insurance industries to provide damage calculations for contract disputes or lawsuits, search through documents to find or dispute evidence of insurance or business fraud, and calculate and place values on businesses that are being bought or sold or are collecting on an insurance claim.

Coenen’s interest in forensic accounting was sparked while she was enrolled in a white collar crime class as a criminology major at Marquette University, Milwaukee. She became interested in accounting and started taking classes. After working as a probation officer, she returned to Marquette to pursue a master’s degree in business administration and eventually became a CPA. Coenen opened her own consulting business, Tracy L. Coenen S.C. last year.

She credits her investigative skills to her inquisitive nature and criminology background. “I had a knack for it right off, maybe because I’ve always been nosy,” Coenen said.

An inquisitive mind and attention to detail are critical for a forensic accountant. “I have to check and recheck the numbers,” Coenen said. “The last thing I want is to be nailed on where I got the numbers from.”

While there are currently few forensic accountants in the state, Coenen sees great potential for growth. “I see a lot of opportunity in the Milwaukee area as more attorneys become aware of experts out there who work with both sides and do it with integrity and accuracy.”

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