Finding and Preventing Corporate Fraud

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Internal fraud is a huge risk to companies. Experts estimate that on average it costs companies 3% to 5% of revenue each year. When profit margins are thin, internal fraud can literally put some companies out of business.

Executives are prone to underestimating the amount of fraud that exists within their companies. They want to believe that their internal controls are better, their employees are more honest, and their ability to stop fraud is more effective than that of executives at other companies.

The truth is, they are often unaware of all the frauds committed within their company’s walls. Indeed, fraud is often hard to find and may be hidden among the seemingly more trustworthy employees, those who are necessary for keeping the business running. They are the ones putting companies at risk; they have access to assets and information and the opportunity to steal and cover up fraud. Continue reading

NBA Players’ Health And Welfare Benefit Plan Defrauded

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Last week Thursday, 19 people were charged in federal court with defrauding the National Basketball Association Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan of almost $4 million. The charges are conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. One defendant, Terrence Williams, is also charged with aggravated identity theft.

The health and welfare benefit plan for the NBA players  was launched in 2017. It offers benefits to retired players who were in the league for at least 3 years., but who are not yet eligible for Medicare. It gives the former players medical, hospital, and prescription drug coverage, and offers players with more years of service lower out-of-pocket costs and possible coverage for spouses and children.

Between 2017 and 2020, the defendants made fraudulent claim submissions for medical and dental services that were never rendered. These false claims totaled nearly $4 million. Continue reading

Failure Rates in MLM (Multi-Level Marketing)

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More than 99% of people lose money in multi-level marketing (MLM). In Chapter 7 of Dr. Jon Taylor’s book, The Case (For and) Against Multi-Level Marketing, he details the failure rates of participants in multi-lievel marketing companies. In order to analyze the true failure rates and to calculate actual profits or losses from participation in these (improperly termed) “business opportunities,” it is necessary to wade through confusing and incomplete disclosures and to estimate figures that are critical but not provided by the companies.

Dr. Taylor completes a thorough analysis of the numbers. Of the hundreds of multi-level marketing companies active in the United States, Dr. Taylor could find income disclosure statements for only 30 of them. What are the others hiding?

The analysis of these 30 income disclosure statements was completed through the following process:

1. Obtain Average Earnings Statistics – These purport to show the average earnings by distributor level.
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Making Mistakes With Expert Witnesses

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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

Winning Auditor Malpractice Cases

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Winning a case against an auditing firm when there is a sizeable fraud (such as the Koss Corp. embezzlement) or the collapse of a Ponzi scheme (such as the Bernie Madoff case) is not easy. Simply because there is a fraud, a business failure, or a pyramid scheme collapse, the auditors are not necessarily at fault.  The auditors may have carried out their professional responsibilities exactly as they should have, but they still did not uncover the fraud.

How does a fraud go undetected by auditors? The first thing to remember is that audits are not designed to find fraud, so they rarely do. Equally important, is the fact that frauds are deliberately (and often effectively) covered up by those perpetrating them. Particularly in the case of executives embezzling or perpetrating financial statement fraud, they are keenly aware of exactly how the auditors do their work, and take careful steps to avoid detection.

Technically speaking, auditors are not engaged to find fraud. They are engaged to give an opinion on the financial statements, and whether they are fairly stated. The auditors are required to perform certain procedures related to fraud, essentially assessing the risk of fraud and increasing the testing of the financial statements as there is a greater perceived risk of fraud. The auditors are not specifically engaged to (or expected to) find fraud, under the current auditing standards. Continue reading

Preventing Fraud in a Law Firm

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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

Hollywood Ponzi Scheme Guilty Plea

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The big news in Hollywod is a D-List actor named Zach Avery (legal name Zachary Horowitz) who is set to plead guilty to a Ponzi scheme in which he collected $650 million from about 250 investors. That’s a lot of money! And that’s an impressive scam.

Over the years, I’ve written a bunch here about Ponzi schemes:

The fraud went like this: Horowitz started a company called 1inMM Capital, LLC. In his plea agreement, he admits to a seven year scheme in which he told investors that this film company was purchasing foreign distribution rights to movies. The movies were then licensed to Netflix, HBO, and other streaming platforms so they could be streamed online outside the U.S.

Zachary had no distribution or streaming deals, and the contracts he showed potential investors were all fake. Here’s where the fraud should have been obvious to any of the investors: Zach promised them 25% to 45% returns on their money within a year. Continue reading

MLM Income Disclosure Statements Updated Again

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For years I’ve been collecting income disclosure statements issued by multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. These are the proof that you have almost no chance of making money in MLM, no matter what the company or product.

Across the board, you see that the vast majority of the distributors make almost nothing in commissions. The “average earnings” for a company as a whole sometimes looks decent (who wouldn’t want to make an extra $2,000 per year!), but the averages are skewed by the handful of people at the top of the pyramid who make big money (at the expense of the many at the bottom).

I have updated our library of disclosure statements to include new disclosure statements for 2020. The newest ones include Amway, Beachbody, Inteletravel (PlanNet Marketing), Herbalife, LuLaRoe, Mary Kay, Melaleuca, Monat, Optavia, Paparazzi, Rodan + Fields, and Xyngular.