The idea of performing a “fraud examination” sounds interesting to many. They don’t necessarily want to deal with the numbers that a forensic accountant wades through, but they like the idea of someone sleuthing and digging through records.
I’ll admit that the work I do is pretty darn interesting. Each case has its own intricacies and unusual spin.
In contrast, the idea of an accountant performing an “audit” on a company’s books doesn’t sound half as exciting. I’ve done both, and from my perspective, audits are far less noteworthy. They’re both necessary evils in the business world, and it’s important for executives, attorneys, and consultants to know the difference between the two. Buyer beware of what services a client is really buying.
Defining an Audit
There are many different types of audits that are all properly named, but they must be differentiated from one another. A typical bank audit for lending purposes is generally a limited scope examination of certain financial statement items. Each bank has its own guidelines for performance of those audits, and generally they are aimed at verifying the value of collateral.Continue reading
The best financial expert witnesses help win cases by artfully and simply communicating the facts through written reports and oral testimonies. And you can learn how to do it.
While waiting in the hallway outside the courtroom to testify as an expert witness, I thought of all the ways my testimony could go wrong. I had hours to contemplate opposing counsel’s questions for me. It was my first time testifying, and I didn’t want to blow it. But I relaxed as I eased into the witness chair and stole a glance at the jury. They were ordinary people who were just hoping to understand my calculations. I led them simply through the financial matters. From the looks on their faces, I think they understood.
In my testimony, I closely followed the main points of my prepared report. The counsel who had hired me showed large exhibits from my report, which illustrated my points. We easily walked the jury (and the judge) through the numbers. Opposing counsel tried but failed to confuse the jury members. I knew I had hit a home run when I saw the foreman nodding each time I made a point. His new understanding of the issues would prove invaluable during jury deliberations.
Competent and convincing expert witnesses are a vital part of cases involving economic damages and other financial calculations. Traditional accounting, financial and fraud examination skills just aren’t enough when it comes to litigation. A financial expert witness must be able to qualify as an expert in court and then effectively communicate in a written report and oral testimony to an opposing lawyer, a judge, and a jury who probably aren’t accountants or fraud examiners.Continue reading
It might be hard to believe, but each and every day companies are losing money because they not only give employees opportunities to steal, they encourage it.
How? By not providing adequate oversight. A clerk, for example, sees that an error in an account wasn’t caught by anyone. A purchasing manager notices that no one is watching over his vendor relationships, and won’t know it if he establishes a fake account. Employees are not stupid. They know when they are being monitored and when their work is being checked. They know when they are working in an environment ripe for fraud.
But you have honest employees, you say? You’re probably right. If we thought job applicants were criminals, we wouldn’t hire them. But situations occur where the temptation to steal simply becomes too much. Imagine owing money to a hospital or having an expensive (and necessary) car repair that you can’t afford. What if your child needs clothing or food? There may come a day in your life when your morals are challenged because you have a financial need and an opportunity at the workplace that seems too good to pass up.Continue reading
A new bill is making its way through Congress, and it’s titled “Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act of 2016.” What’s it all about? It is an attempt by the Direct Selling Association and multi-level marketing companies to make sure that their pyramid schemes are never shut down. It is a bunch of fluff that is designed to look like it protects consumers, while the bill is really protection for MLMs. It makes inventory loading (getting recruits to buy inventory to “qualify” for commissions, regardless of the fact that they will likely never be able to sell that inventory) perfectly legal under basically all circumstances.
Attorney Douglas Brooks has analyzed the bill and dubs it the “Pyramid Legalization Act of 2016.” This is his analysis:
In the guise of an “anti-pyramid” bill, the proposed legislation would more accurately be called the “Pyramid Legalization Act of 2016.” The bill would make it extremely difficult if not impossible to prosecute the most pernicious forms of deceptive multi-level marketing programs and product-based pyramid schemes.Continue reading
Companies devote significant time and money to the task of making sure that their customers don’t steal from them. But how much time do they spend considering the risk that their own employees are stealing from them?
That risk is great, so great that the annual internal fraud losses in the United States total an estimated $652 billion, according to the most recent study completed by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Each year, the average company loses 5 percent of revenues to internal fraud. This adds up quickly, especially for companies that are operating with little or no profit margin. Five percent of that company’s revenues can mean the difference between being in business or filing bankruptcy. It pays to implement aggressive fraud prevention techniques because they can save the company significant money in the long run.
The cost to implement procedures to monitor and restrict activities is far less than the fraud risk that companies face each day.Continue reading
FOCUS – Newsletter of the AICPA Forensic & Valuation Services Section
Forensic accounting and fraud investigation are hot specialties in the accounting world. Experts agree that the need for fraud detection services is growing, creating opportunities for small and midsized firms that are looking to start or expand a forensic accounting practice. Building a stable forensic accounting practice takes time because the services and clients are unique. The key to becoming a real competitor in the area of fraud investigation to focus your firm’s strengths on the right quality services and clients to enhance your brand.
Forensic services are usually divided into two subsets: fraud investigation (financial statement fraud, corporate embezzlement, bribery, and insurance fraud) and litigation support services (contract disputes between corporations, shareholder divorces, intellectual property infringement, business insurance claims, bankruptcy consulting, business valuation, and family law issues). Within both service areas exists a variety of potential clients, including attorneys, corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals. Those clients can be divided further according to the industries in which they specialize or the types of matters in which they’re involved.Continue reading
Private and public records offer a wealth of information to fraud investigators
On Balance – The Magazine for Wisconsin CPAs
Without information, a fraud investigation goes nowhere. There are abundant sources of information on people and companies, and as the Internet continues to expand, so does the accessibility of the information.
Doing a thorough fraud investigation often goes beyond just analyzing documents produced by the client. The best forensic accountants and fraud investigators are able to find additional sources of information to help crack the case. There is plenty of art to finding clues in an investigation, and it all starts with knowing what to look for and where to find it.
Private records Fraud investigations rely heavily on the availability of private records. In the typical business fraud case, helpful internal records could include financial statements, tax returns, sales and receivable records, expense documentation, proof of payments to vendors, or other information from a company’s accounting system.Continue reading
One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make in relation to fraud prevention at their companies is doing nothing. They often think that fraud prevention is too extensive and too expensive, so they opt to do nothing proactive to reduce fraud. The idea that fraud prevention is too difficult or too costly is simply not true.
While it is true that a full-blown fraud prevention plan at a company can be expensive to develop and implement, there are many inexpensive things small business owners can do to reduce their risks of fraud. So even if they can’t afford the best or most expensive fraud prevention solutions, there are still steps they can take to improve.Continue reading
Why should a taxpayer use the services of a forensic accountant when being audited or under criminal investigation? Tracy Coenen talks about the expertise a forensic accountant can bring to the case, specifically in evaluating the methods used by the IRS for determining income.
Ask a random group of attorneys what they think of social media, and you’ll get some funny looks. Several of them will turn up their noses, while an equal number will have only a vague idea of what you’re talking about. Although more attorneys are participating in social media, there is still a good bit of reluctance to get involved.
The phenomenon called social media is simply a category of online resources used by people to communicate with one another, research topics of interest, stay on top of current events, and market their businesses. It includes blogs, which may be used by professionals to write about news affecting their industries, promote their businesses and expertise, and engage in dialogue with others in far away places.
Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are considered to be more pure social media than blogs. A blog can be created and maintained without interaction with other people, if that’s what the writer chooses. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites require interaction with others to make them worthwhile. On these sites, you will “connect” with people you know or are interested in, and you’ll be able to see updates they post about themselves and their companies, articles they’ve written, and articles they find interesting. You will be able to “like” or comment on their updates, and often engaging discussions follow.Continue reading