18 Jan

Dividing MacKenzie Bezos’s Fortune

We keep hearing about the divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos and how “his” fortune of $135 to $140 billion related to Amazon will be divided.

People are speculating that there is no pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. Amazon was started after the couple was married, so the assets may be owned jointly and subject to a 50/50 split.

As we often see in cases in which the husband is the “moneyed” spouse (the one with the business involvement and the one whose name is on the paychecks), people talk about how much he will have to “give” his wife in the divorce. But where community property is involved, the spouses own the property jointly. Neither is “giving” property to the other. Instead, the property is divided. Read More

16 Jan

Manual Cash Disbursements and Fraud

Companies typically have a standard way of initiating cash disbursements like payments to vendors or employees. Often this involves entering an invoice into the accounting system, ensuring proper approval for payments, and then generating the electronic transfer or check. Sometimes invoices are entered at scheduled intervals and payments are issued on certain days of the week.

Any disbursement that falls outside of these procedures could be considered a manual disbursement. That is, it is initiated manually and issued under special circumstances.

Probably the most common type of manual disbursement occurs in a company that has an accounts payable process through which all vendor payments should flow. Suppose a vendor drops off materials and needs to be paid immediately for that delivery, and there is not a chance to get the vendor payment through the regular accounts payable process. A check will be cut directly to the vendor, and the accounting system is updated later. This is a classic example of a manual disbursement. Read More

14 Jan

Documents Needed to Investigate Business Interests in a Divorce

When a spouse owns a business, it can create some of the most complicated financial issues in a divorce. It is extremely important to dive into the financial records of the business in order to value it and to determine where the money is REALLY going. Tracy Coenen and Miles Mason discuss what documents a forensic accountant needs to evaluate the business.

11 Jan

Why Do a Business Lifestyle Analysis?

I often talk about doing a lifestyle analysis in divorce, where I go through the personal spending of the parties in detail and make calculations surrounding the spending. But what about doing the same type of lifestyle analysis for a business? Why would we want to do that?

Closely held businesses present special challenges in the family law setting. Typically, only one spouse is actively involved in the business. Therefore, not only does the spouse control the family’s finances, he or she also controls all of the records of the business. When a spouse is attempting to quantify the income from the business or the value of the business, the spouse who works actively in the business can purposely (and often very effectively) obstruct attempts to get accurate and complete data. Read More

08 Jan

How to Perform Analytical Review

When investigating fraud, I often find it useful to perform analytical review on the financial statements of a company. Even when management is certain that they know where the fraud occurred within the accounting system, analytical review can help identify unsual things about the numbers that may warrant further investigation.

Ratio analysis and analytical review procedures are very familiar techniques for financial statement auditors. While analytical procedures may seem elementary, they can be very important in giving clues to areas of the financial statements that may contain fraud.

Analytical review involves comparing changes in numbers between accounting periods (horizontal analysis) and the relationships between certain financial statement line items (vertical analysis). The numbers for a business typically have certain predictable patterns, and when the financial results fall outside those parameters, it may be cause for concern.

Typical sets of data to be compared during analytical review can include: Read More

02 Jan

Rebuttal Reports for Lifestyle Analysis

divorce financial analysisWhile a financial expert may be retained to proactively complete a lifestyle analysis in a divorce case, one might also be retained to do a rebuttal report focused on the analysis of an expert retained by opposing counsel.

The process is no different than if the lifestyle analysis is being done proactively. Income and expenses are tabulated, categorized, and allocated using the methodology I describe on this blog and in my book, Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce. Read More

27 Dec

Finding the Best Expert Witness

More than ever, competent and dynamic expert witnesses are critical to winning legal cases. Even if a case doesn’t go to trial, a credible expert can be the key to settling the case for your client. I believe that an expert witness has the opportunity to make or break a case. We all know that there are few chances to fix a bad opinion when you go to court. There is one chance to express the correct opinion and support it fully. A faulty opinion, or one with little reliable support, can doom a case.

Some attorneys have their preferred experts, while others get referrals from colleagues. Each attorney works with an expert witness in the way that she or he is comfortable. However, it never hurts to hear about it from the other side. This is my perspective on best utilizing your expert witness to her or his full value.

Finding the Right Expert
The most critical part of working with an expert witness is finding the right one. Naturally, the selection of an expert involves the evaluation of education and credentials. The examination of an expert’s credentials is a particularly critical process. Read More

21 Dec

Surviving an Income Tax Audit

Income tax audits are intimidating whether you are being audited personally or as a business owner. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle an audit by a state or federal taxing authority. It is easy to dig a hole for yourself, but awfully hard to get out of that hole.

Whether you attempt to handle an audit on your own, or opt to involve a professional who is experienced in these matters, there are some things you should know as you embark on your journey. I don’t ever suggest that a taxpayer submit to an audit alone. It is very helpful to have an experienced professional along for the ride. Not only can the accountant or attorney help you complete records requests, she or he can also act as a buffer between the taxpayer and the IRS.

The process of an audit is often one big negotiation. It is a give and take between both sides. Ultimately, both sides want the case closed, and the faster we can get to that point, the better. (Preferably with the least amount of pain for everyone involved.) Read More

18 Dec

Things I’ve Learned About Fraud

After more than 20 years conducting fraud investigations, I have learned a lot about fraudsters, their methods, and the companies they work for.

Hotlines cut fraud losses in half.
Anonymous reporting mechanisms like fraud hotlines decrease the cost of internal fraud. Employees are excellent watchdogs, and are more likely to report wrongdoing if they have a confidential way to report the information they possess. Research shows that companies with hotlines discover fraud schemes sooner and therefore lose less to internal fraud.

Sarbanes-Oxley mandated anonymous reporting mechanisms like hotlines for public companies. Private companies should do the same, since the hotlines have been proven to be effective. However, companies should not get a false sense of security from a hotline. There are many other fraud-prevention measures that companies should also implement.

Employees are very receptive to anti-fraud training.
As I’ve mentioned, employees are typically very good watchdogs. They don’t like to see someone else on the take while they are putting in honest work. If they know what to look for, employees are likely to report misdeeds to management. Read More