As victims of occupational fraud reflect on crimes committed against their companies, they wonder if there were any signs that a fraud was occurring. They wonder how a trusted employee could steal from the company. Sadly, frauds are committed by people in positions of trust. What is it about those people that leads them to commit fraud?
Corporate thieves have many things in common with one another. There are many tell-tale characteristics about people and their lifestyles that signal the potential for fraud. These range from personal financial circumstances to attitudes on the job. A few of these traits alone do not indicate the potential for fraud, but the probability rises as we identify more of the characteristics.
Employees who steal from their employers often appear very dedicated. They work long hours and seem willing to take on extra responsibilities. For a normal person, these would be desired traits. An employee who helps accomplish more is seen as an asset to the company. For someone with the potential for fraud, however, these characteristics are worrisome.
Defendants in criminal cases such as tax fraud, money laundering, or embezzlement often need forensic accountants to help evaluate complex financial situations. Should you provide expert witness services to criminal defendants? Tracy discusses the work and some of the issues that should be considered.
You thought only people experience identity theft. Only individuals become victims of dumpster diving or poor computer security. Someone gets a credit card in your name, and you’ve become a victim. You didn’t even consider that a company could have an “identity” that could be stolen.
Corporate identity theft is becoming all too common, and one of the most troubling aspects of it is how little owners, executives, attorneys and business advisors know about it. Without a basic knowledge of even the existence of corporate identity theft, people are powerless to prevent it.
It can be perpetrated in a number of different ways, but each type of corporate identity theft has one thing in common. It can destroy the reputation of a business quickly.
Credit Risks The type of corporate identity theft people think about most often is the use of a company’s credit profile, either to fraudulently obtain credit for themselves or to make purchases in the name of the company.Continue reading
While investigating fraud for more than a decade, I have consistently been amazed by the disparity among criminal sentences in financial fraud cases. Of course, there are many facts that go into a sentencing decision, and so it is difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison of sentences between cases.
However, it’s clear to me that there is a wide range of sentences that are not necessarily fair to either the victims or the fraud perpetrators. We can’t discount the fact that determining a sentence is a complex process. There are many factors that come into play, so simply assessing the number of years at the end of the process is a little simplistic.
Yet the fact remains that disparities in sentencing should be examined closer. Lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors owe it to consumer and victims to work toward a system that is fair and equitable to all parties.Continue reading
Several years ago, I got called for jury duty. Unlike almost everyone else who complains when called for jury duty, I was thrilled. I wanted to be on a jury.
If I was going to have to do my civic duty, I wanted to get something out of it, rather than just sit in the jury pool room all week. After spending time testifying as an expert witness in front of juries, I would now have a chance to be the jury and get a real-life look at what happens in the jury room.
My wish was granted and I was seated on a jury for a misdemeanor criminal case that lasted about a day, then came the moment of truth. The jurors sat down in the jury room and looked at each other. It was clear that at least 10 of the 12 had no idea what was supposed to happen next.
I appointed myself foreperson and began leading the discussion. The facts of the case were pretty clear. The evidence was somewhat limited, and the case really came down to the testimony of the defendant and one witness. The defendant had almost no credibility.Continue reading
One of the key parts of Sarbanes-Oxley, the legislation created to address the problem of massive financial statement fraud at public companies like Enron and WorldCom, was the increased prison sentences for executives participating in fraud.
Supporters of the legislation cheered harsher potential punishment for executives as one of the keys that would help prevent fraud.
Others weren’t so sure that longer prison sentences would really do anything to deter executives who want to commit fraud. If you’ve studied corporate fraud for any length of time, you have seen that fraud by executives is often fueled by feelings of arrogance and entitlement. These are important pieces of the fraud puzzle for executives, and they are part of the reason why executives may be unphased by penalties for committing fraud.Continue reading
Of all the fraud schemes perpetrated in our world today, financial statement fraud seems to get the least air time. That makes no sense, as financial statement fraud happens to be one of the most costly types of fraud.
The problem is that involved parties, both inside and outside the company, rely on the information provided in the financial statements. They assess the financial results and make predictions and decisions about the future of the company based on those results.
Financial statements are the measuring stick that numerous parties use to assess the financial health of a company. Falsified financial statements can mean only one thing – those assessments are faulty.
Financial statement fraud causes a median loss of $2 million per fraud scheme, according to the most recent occupational fraud study done by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. That amount dwarfs asset misappropriation schemes, which only cause median losses of $150,000 per scheme.Continue reading
It’s easy to assume that upper-level executives in companies with fraud scandals were always bad people. By assuming that they were inherently bad people, we don’t have to confront the issues related to trusting people who seemed trustworthy. We don’t have to explore the idea that people can turn bad or choose a bad path or give in to greed.
Yet the fact remains that many executives who committed fraud were at one time considered rising stars with good values. If it was recognized that their ethics were a little lower than preferred, some were still promoted because those in charge believed the results were more important than the methods.
Many may look at executives like Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron infamy, and believe that they were bad people long before Enron. The role of the villain is sometimes easy to fill when you have someone like Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, who was busy buying unusually lavish items with company funds. Certain people just make good villains in our minds.Continue reading
The Federal government wields a big stick when it comes to business-related crimes. Violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), fraud in the delivery of health care services or in the receipt of federal money for those services, and other whitecollar crimes can open up companies and their executives to harsh penalties under the United States Sentencing Guidelines.
Companies and executives can get reduced sentences if certain mitigating factors have been identified. One of those mitigating factors is having an effective compliance and ethics function within the company that attempts to prevent fraud and proactively identify criminal activities.
An additional way that companies have sought to mitigate their sentences is through confessing their violations of law to federal prosecutors.Continue reading