The notes to financial statements are often lengthy and boring. But they can provide very important information about a company. On the most basic level, they provide details behind the company’s numbers. But they can also provide clues to fraud or other irregularities that may be occurring. Tracy gives a brief overview and a few examples of things you might find in these notes.
Forensic accounting is already a specialty within the broader field of accounting, so some people never consider that you can narrow down your practice even more. We focus on investigating numbers, but that doesn’t mean we have to do every sort of investigation out there.
I’m a firm believer that narrowing your focus helps you be better at what you do and get more (and better!) business. Read More
You are only an expert if the judge says you’re an expert. No matter how many times you may have testified in court as an expert witness, each time you must prove all over again that you’re qualified to provide expert testimony.
In this video, Tracy Coenen talks about how she presents herself to the court as a forensic accountant so that she will be qualified to provide expert testimony. It is a combination of education, credentials, and experience.
How do I become a fraud investigator? What skills does a forensic accountant need? I get asked these questions a lot, so today I’m going to give my thoughts on some of the important qualifications and skills a fraud investigator might have.
The educational background of a good fraud investigator can fall into a wide range of disciplines. Fraud investigators have degrees in accounting, finance, police science, law, and criminal justice. There is no widely accepted course of study for fraud investigators, although those degree programs that offer a strong foundation in accounting and finance seem to prepare students well for the numerical component of investigations.
Many excellent fraud examiners have a work history that is far more important than their educational background. On-the-job experience as a police detective, federal agent, insurance claims analyst, financial statement auditor, or financial analyst can lend itself well to a career in fraud investigations. It’s not unusual for practical experience in the field to play a much bigger part in the fraud investigator’s skills than any type of classroom training. The field of fraud examinations has an extremely varied range of educational and work experience. Other careers often have a few well-defined career paths, but the road to success as a fraud investigator can lead in many directions. Read More
It wasn’t an accident that Tracy Coenen became a forensic accountant. She always had an interest in the criminal justice system, with an eye toward becoming a prison warden.
While attending Marquette University, a specialty class in the criminology program called Financial Crime Investigation was enough to hook Tracy.
She worked as a financial statement auditor at the “Big Six” firm Arthur Andersen before moving to a small forensic accounting firm to learn the art of fraud investigations. Tracy stepped out on her own more than 18 years ago to start Sequence Inc., where she works exclusively in the area of forensic accounting. Read More
It’s important to think about why your clients work with you. It can guide your marketing efforts and it can help you refine your service offerings.
My clients like the fact that what they see is what they get. I’m the forensic accountant who will do all the work on their project. They don’t have to worry about someone inexperienced learning the art of forensic accounting on their dime or possibly even botching their case. Experience is key, and my clients know that they get my experience.
My clients also like that: Read More
Making complex transactions easy to understand is no small task, but it is part of the job of any good fraud investigator. You can find the most earth-shattering proof of fraud, but if you cannot articulate your findings in a report that others can understand, your investigation results are not worth much.
Use graphs, charts, and tables to help illustrate your points. Even though you may not need a graph or chart to demonstrate your findings, consider that the reader of your report might benefit from it. Remember that people learn and comprehend in different ways, and that fact could be very important if your case ever goes in front of a jury.
One juror might understand your written words best, so it is important to make the report very reader-friendly with short, well-organized paragraphs. Other jurors might understand the most by listening to your court testimony, which should support and reiterate the written report. Other jurors might be most receptive to pictures or charts that demonstrate what you have found. Read More
I spend lots of time telling people what I do in my role as a forensic accountant. Put simply, I do fraud investigations (often for the victim, but sometimes the accused hires me), divorce financial analysis, and damages calculations for insurance and litigation matters.
But sometimes I find it’s fun (and necessary!) to talk about what I do NOT do. Here are a few things I don’t do: Read More
With a fixed fee, a client is paying for a result, rather than buying my time. In most of my cases, the “result” is an expert report.
The following things go into the fee:
What kinds of things can forensic accountants be involved in relative to construction fraud? A common area of fraud involves a general contractor using funds from a project to fund other projects. Also common is the construction company claiming a project is further along than it really is in order to get paid more than it is entitled to.
Hear more in this video: