Litigation Disasters: Making Mistakes With Expert Witnesses


There is little doubt that litigation can be stressful for clients and attorneys alike. With filings, briefs, and deadlines, the litigator has little time to worry about whether her or his expert witness is getting the job done. The attorney usually has one shot for the expert to get the case right. If the expert witness fails, it can have wide-reaching implications for the entire case.

Experts aren’t perfect. Mistakes can be made and deadlines can be missed. Pertinent documentation can be overlooked, and erroneous conclusions can be drawn. These can be fatal errors for the litigator.

Managing the expert witness is a critical part of litigation. It becomes even more important when the attorney is working with a less experienced expert or one with which she or he hasn’t worked previously.

Proper management of the expert witness process will help ensure that the attorney receives relevant, accurate, and reliable results from the expert. Continue reading

Book Review: Financial Advice for Blue Collar America


financial-advice-for-blue-collar-americaI recently had an opportunity to read Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer. The book is positioned as a practical guide for the average American who needs to get straight to the important topics, and the it definitely delivers on that promise.

The book starts out with the premise that being a blue collar worker actually CAN offer you an opportunity to gather wealth. Blue collar as used in this book means a job which doesn’t require a college degree, but requires a certain level of skill and training. This includes trades like carpenters, truck drivers, auto technicians, police, and skilled manufacturing workers. A sampling of current annual earnings for these jobs ranges from $40,000 to $82,000, which might be surprising to some.

Early on we learn about basic financial concepts such as net worth and cash flow, which are explained well. Also included are information on debt, budgets, saving, investing, the many types of insurance, taxes, and wills. These topics are covered briefly, but there is enough information for it to be valuable. Continue reading

Crime and Punishment: Sentencing in Financial Fraud Cases


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

Fraud Investigation For Small Firms: Selling the Services, Managing the Staff


Firms of all sizes are interested in expanding their practices to include forensic accounting and fraud investigation. Experts agree: This practice area is growing and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Yet adding forensic accounting to a firm’s portfolio of services might not be as easy as it sounds. While traditional audit staff might have a good foundational knowledge to branch out into fraud investigation, offering reliable service to clients in this area takes a little more work.

Focusing Services
While the decision to provide forensic accounting services may seem simple, the next step is deciding specifically which services to provide. There are many types of matters that may fall under the forensic accounting umbrella, and it is important to develop an appropriate focus.

A firm’s services could be geared toward a variety of fraud-related matters, including corporate embezzlement, financial statement fraud, and insurance claims fraud. The business could alternately be focused on litigation matters like contract disputes, shareholder lawsuits, business valuation, and bankruptcy consulting. There are many more types of cases that could fall under one or both of these headings, so it’s clear that there are a great deal of choices to be made. Continue reading

Expert Witness Looks at a Jury From the Inside


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

GoFundMe Fraud Exposed by GoFraudMe Site


gofundme-fraudGoFundMe scams seem to be growing by the day. While the GoFundMe fundraising site can be a great resource for people who need to raise funds for legitimate charities and needs, it has also become a hotbed of fraud. And with the site taking a nice 5% cut of every dollar that is donated through GoFundMe, it seems the company’s motivation to shut down fraudulent campaigns may not be too high. After all, the site makes money whether or not a campaign is legitimate.

GoFraudMe was started by Adrienne Gonzalez to keep the company and the site’s users accountable. It all started when Adrienne reported a fraudulent campaign, and GoFundMe did nothing about it. She knew the campaign was fraudulent because all costs for Bart (the zombie cat) were covered by the Tampa Bay human society, yet someone was raising funds to cover for the care (that didn’t need to be paid for). While the company does shut down some apparently scammy campaigns, it doesn’t seem to be all that aggressive in doing so. The Bart campaign is still active as of today! Continue reading

Executive Prison Sentences and Fraud Deterrence


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

Preventing Fraud in a Law Practice: Active Partner Involvement


There are two inexpensive and simple steps that can be taken to provide more oversight for the disbursement function at a law office. First, a partner needs to be actively involved in the process of issuing checks and payments. It’s not enough to simply glance at checks to vendors and immediately sign them.

Before any check is signed or sent out, it should be compared to an invoice, credit card statement, or other documentation that will help verify the legitimacy of the payment. This reduces the risk that an employee pays a personal credit card with company funds or otherwise improperly issues a payment from the firm’s checking account.

The second step to increase oversight at a law firm is involving at least one other person in some of the functions. If the office manager is disbursing funds, another employee should do the bank reconciliation. This provides a natural checks-and-balances situation, in which the second employee is verifying the work of the office manager. Continue reading