A competent expert witness is vital to cases involving economic damages and other financial calculations. However, the expert must be much more than just a mathematician, market analyst, economic guru or forensic accountant. The job of the expert is far from over once the facts are analyzed and the calculations are completed.
Traditional accounting and finance skills are not enough when it comes to litigation. A financial expert witness must qualify as an expert in court and must convey the findings to non-accountants on paper and on the witness stand.
Probably one of the most important yet difficult parts of being a financial expert is relaying the findings without using accounting lingo. Accountants often forget that not everyone speaks their language. They are not used to explaining their findings to people outside the finance environment. Creating a meaningful understanding for readers and listeners can be an art form unto itself, and the best financial expert witnesses do it easily.
Although attorneys are educated in many facets of the law, they are not necessarily numbers experts. That is why it is so important to find the right expert who can help legal counsel fully understand the financial data and its implications. A competent forensic accountant or other financial expert is mindful of the needs of non-accountants when reporting on the findings of a financial examination.Continue reading
An expert witness can provide services in litigation as either a consultant or a testifying expert. Tracy explains the difference, and talks about being very careful as a consultant, in the event that you are later required to provide testimony.
Forensic accountant Tracy Coenen and attorney Miles Mason discuss the likeability of an expert witness and how important this is to a court case. The important factors also include good judgment and confidence.
Tracy walks through the process of calculating a business interruption insurance claim, also called a business income loss. When a company is unable to operate for a period of time due to a covered loss (a fire, for example), its insurance policy may provide coverage that pays for lost profits while the business is closed. Tracy explains how to calculate net income plus continuing expenses in cases such as this.
Cases with high volumes of bank data, such as money laundering, high net worth divorce, securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, tax fraud, and white collar crime, present special challenges for forensic accountants. High volumes of financial data can be overwhelming. How do you manage the data? How do you ensure the integrity of the data? How do you get usable intelligence from the data? An attorney’s results in such a case will be directly related to how well the expert can put that data to work and make it mean something to the case.
Getting the Data
The process of discovery can be long and agonizing for everyone. There is often a push and pull between the parties in the discovery process, as opposing counsel rarely wants to voluntarily give up damaging financial data. It often takes several rounds of requests to get the information we seek.
Counsel has to be careful to ask for the right data in the right format. Not properly identifying the information we are seeking can lead to denials that the information exists. One of the goals in discovery is to be specific enough that we get targeted data, but general enough that we still get other important data we didn’t know existed.Continue reading
A CPA who focuses on traditional tax work or auditing services might be a great fit to branch out into litigation support work. Attorneys are always looking for expert witnesses with certain areas of expertise, and accountants doing general work might fit the bill.
What is your focus? Do you specialize in a certain industry or work frequently with certain accounting and tax rules? Litigation work is often interesting, but you have to be able to explain your work to non-accountants and testify in depositions or at trial.
The video below offers Tracy Coenen’s commentary on this topic.
Attorney Miles Mason talks about qualifying someone as an expert witness. How does he demonstrate an accountant’s training, experience, and credentials so that the court will permit him or her to testify as an expert?
In the below video, Tracy Coenen talks about three common methods that are used to calculate lost profits in commercial litigation: the before and after approach, the yardstick approach, and hypothetical profits. In general, these methods are aimed at determining the profits a company would have realized if the incident giving rise to the litigation had not occurred.
There are a number of expert witness referral services out there, several of them with high profiles and long lists of available experts. It seems like a good value proposition: An attorney needs an expert in a particular specialty, and the expert witness service does the legwork to find qualified candidates.
However, having worked as a forensic accountant and an expert witness for twenty years, I will tell you that attorneys should NOT use these services. There are a few simple reasons why:
You can find your own expert: In the “old days,” it was a great idea to turn to expert witness referral services, who kept lists of available experts. There were not a lot of expert witness directories, and there wasn’t an internet you could consult. But today it is easy to find very qualified experts with the help of the internet. An attorney can have a paralegal or associate start the search process to find potential candidates, and then the attorney in charge of the case can interview experts and make a selection.
The expert witness referral service does not add value: What value does the expert witness referral service provide other than essentially keeping a list? Sure, they make some phone calls and send some emails to find out who is qualified and interested, but that service is of limited value. While expert witness referral services claim to vet the professionals they present to the attorneys, they often do little more than collect CVs and conduct brief phone interviews. This is not worth the money the services will charge if you hire one of their experts.Continue reading