25 Sep

A Practical Fraud Investigation Course

My biggest criticism of the courses on fraud investigation at the college level or in the continuing education space are that they are not practical. They all focus on theory and teaching about different types of fraud schemes. But who is teaching about how to actually do the investigation?

I am! Next month I am co-presenting a webinar series for National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA) called Scams, Schemes, and Swindles: Fundamentals and Techniques for Conducting Fraud Investigations.

It’s 3 hours a day for five days, October 14-18, 2019. These are live webinars, and you’ll be able to ask questions and participate in the discussion. Fifteen hours of learning how to REALLY do a fraud investigation from start to finish.

The focus will be on the nuts and bolts of conducting a fraud investigation, teaching practical forensic accounting techniques to prove what happened, who was involved, how much money is gone, and where the money went. Evidence management, analytical tools, presentation of findings, and testifying in court will also be covered. Watch this video to learn more, and please join us.

23 Sep

Financial Investigation Software

At the heart of every financial investigation is a trail of money. And in many cases those trails are complex. They involve multiple bank accounts and thousands of transactions that are intertwined.  This voluminous financial data must be culled, analyzed, and presented in a way that proves the case, and therein lies the difficulty.

For the last forty years, investigators have relied primarily on manual processes to evaluate financial evidence. They compared accounting data to source documents, ultimately trying to prove the source and use of funds.

But this gets complicated in large cases because of the number of involved people and bank accounts. The process of understanding and organizing the flow of funds is complex, and it can take months before the parties to a case know exactly what happened to the money.

Over the last decade, advances have been made with technology to help fraud investigators analyze large volumes of financial data much faster, more efficiently, and more accurately than they can using only traditional investigative techniques. Read More

05 Sep

Conducting Corporate Fraud Investigations

The unthinkable has happened. We have good employees. Our people are honest. They don’t steal from us. They’re like family. We trust them. So it goes when a company discovers a fraud from within.

Then what happens?

After the initial shock wears off, it’s time to start investigating the situation. The company must know who did it, how the fraud was committed, and what controls can be put in place to stop fraud from happening again. This is all accomplished with an effective fraud investigation. Read More

28 Aug

Quicken Software Should Not Be Used For Lifestyle Analysis

Forensic accountants and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts often use Quicken personal financial software to complete the lifestyle analysis in divorce cases. Unfortunately, Quicken is not the best option for accurately and thoroughly analyzing a couple’s finances before and during divorce.

Why is it used so often? For years, Quicken was one of the better options available for compiling and analyzing personal finances. Also, since a fair number of consumers use Quicken to manage their finances, divorcing spouses sometimes provide a Quicken file to the attorney, which may be used as a starting point for the lifestyle analysis. The drawback to this is that clients don’t always keep accurate records, and the Quicken file is often incomplete or just plain wrong.

Quicken software should not be confused with QuickBooks software, which is a software package used for small business accounting. QuickBooks can be used effectively in divorce financial analysis, while Quicken is much more limited and does not produce as good a result in terms of accuracy or usability. Note, however, that even QuickBooks may not be the best option for litigation purposes. Read More

20 Aug

Red Flags of Divorce Lies

Experienced family lawyers are familiar with the common ways spouses attempt to commit financial fraud in divorce: hiding or undervaluing assets, overstating debts, concealing income, and inflating or fabricating expenses. All of these are done in an attempt to get more than the spouse’s fair share in the property division, and to influence the amount of support that will be paid or received.

Successfully advocating for your client involves more than just knowing that these things occur during the divorce process. You must also be able to identify the red flags that indicate the financial issue(s) must be investigated further. Some are easier to spot than others, but once you have identified two or three red flags, it is time to get a forensic accountant involved. The financial analyst’s experience with fraud and deception will be invaluable in evaluating the red flags and determining if there is something of substance to investigate further.

Undisclosed Accounts
The most straightforward red flag is the discovery of undisclosed accounts. This could be direct evidence of a spouse attempting to conceal assets. However, the nature of the undisclosed account should be examined. Is it an old account that hasn’t been used in a long time? Is there little to no activity in the account? Is the balance in the account insignificant? In these situations, little weight should be given to the non-disclosure, since it is more likely an oversight. Read More

16 Aug

Fraud at GE Alleged by Harry Markopolos

Harry Markopolos, the whistleblower in the Madoff case (who was telling people for NINE years that a fraud was in progress), just released a report on General Electric (GE) saying that it is a bigger fraud than Enron.

It’s a massive (175 page) report that highlights problems with:

  • hiding $400 billion of losses in the insurance business
  • accounting in the oil and gas unit
  • liquidity

A web page set up to feature the GE report highlights the work and the findings:

  • The investigation of the financial statements and the accounting practices of General Electric has been in process for more than a year
  • 17 years of 10-Ks (2002 to 2018) were analyzed cover-to-cover
  • GE’s approach to business is called “Enronesque”
  • The accounting fraud has been going on for decades, with the company providing only top line revenue and bottom line profits for its business units (not reporting all sorts of expense line items)
  • GE changes financial statement formats every few years so people can’t compare numbers across multiple years

Read More

09 Aug

Ocrolus Software Review

Ocrolus PerfectAudit SoftwareA few years ago, I reviewed data analysis software sold by Ocrolus called PerfectAudit. The software captures data, analyzes the data, and assists with fraud detection

Recently the company abandoned the Perfect Audit brand, and now just calls the product Ocrolus. The old website www.perfectaudit.com forwards to the Ocrolus website. PerfectAudit as a brand has essentially been scrubbed from the internet. This might correspond with a recent round of venture capital that was raised.

My unfavorable review of Ocrolus was met with requests from company representatives to remove it from my site. They were disappointed that my review of the Ocrolus software ranked well in Google searches.

Some improvements have been made to the Ocrolus investigative software, but some of my concerns are still valid. Have a look at my PerfectAudit software review if you want all the details, but here’s a summary of the concerns I still have: Read More

26 Jul

Financial Analysis in White Collar Crime Cases

White collar crime cases tend to focus on the flow of money. Government investigators analyze the finances of a company or individual to determine where money came from and where it went. It is this trail of money that leads to evidence of a crime.

Sometimes the financial evidence is direct, but often it is indirect. Consider a case of alleged tax fraud, in which the government is trying to prove that a person or business had unreported income. The evidence may be large unexplained deposits to a bank account. If the source of the funds is unknown, the government may consider the deposits indirect evidence of unreported taxable income. Making such assumptions is often necessary when investigating financial frauds, as those committing fraud deliberately try to hide the true sources and uses of funds. Read More

11 Jul

Follow the Money, Find the Fraud

Forensic accounting existed quietly for a long time before the general public started to become aware of it. Twenty years ago when the frauds of Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco became big news, the work of forensic accountants was finally given the spotlight. It has been a slow evolution, but the general public is becoming more and more informed about what we do.

Would it surprise you to know that many of the techniques used by forensic accountants to investigate fraud and analyze the numbers are the same today as they were decades ago?

Computers have made things easier, as we can track, sort, and manipulate data faster. While software solutions for analyzing data, managing documents, and following the money are being used in investigations, they’re not being used to their full potential. This is obviously a missed opportunity for clients. Read More

09 Jul

Bank Deposits Method to Find Unreported Income

When the Internal Revenue Services suspects that a taxpayer has unreported income, the agents can use one of several methods to uncover that income. These methods can also be used to help calculate hidden income in a divorce or child support case. One such method used to determine unreported income is the bank deposits method, in which the forensic accountant analyzes bank deposits. In the video below, Tracy explains how this is done.