30 Aug

Qualifying as an Expert Witness

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.

10 Aug

Skills of a Fraud Investigator

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

06 Aug

Faces of Milwaukee: The Face of Forensic Accounting

From the Faces of Milwaukee 2018 special feature in Milwaukee Magazine:

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

03 Aug

Why My Clients Work With Me

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

19 Jul

Keeping Forensic Reports Simple

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

11 Jun

What Does This Forensic Accountant Do?

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

16 Feb

Questions to Ask at the Start of a Fraud Investigation

In order to properly plan a fraud investigation, a fraud examiner needs to be able to ask good questions that extract valuable information about what needs to be done. The specific questions vary with each investigation, but the following are some basic areas that an investigator should strongly consider exploring.

What happened?

  • How did this situation come to light?
  • Who was involved with the discovery?
  • Who is aware that a potential fraud occurred?

Evidence

  • What evidence has already been found?
  • How conclusive is it?
  • Are there multiple pieces of evidence?
  • Might there be other easily discoverable pieces of evidence?
  • How much does the evidence tell us about the methods of fraud and the parties involved?

Read More

27 Dec

Fraud Investigation for Small Firms

Minnesota Society of CPAs Footnote Magazine
February/March 2017

The growth in forensic accounting and fraud investigation specialties has led accounting firms of all sizes to expand their practices to these areas. Experts agree that this practice area will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Is it as easy as it sounds to add forensic accounting to your firm’s competencies? Traditional audit staff may have excellent foundational knowledge that could be applied to fraud investigations, but offering consistent and reliable services to clients in the area of forensic accounting will take some work.

Here are areas your firm — especially if it’s small — should focus.

Service focus

It is a simple decision to start providing accounting services. The next step is deciding which specific services to provide. Many types of engagements can fall under the forensic accounting umbrella, so it is important to develop a focus. Read More