Finding Hidden Income in Divorce Cases

Divorces and child support cases often focus heavily on financial issues. Whether the parties to a case are of modest means or great wealth, both sides want their own version of what is fair. Unfortunately, this can lead one or both parties to hide income and assets. With the help of a financial expert, counsel can identify income and assets that might otherwise go undiscovered, and hopefully reach an equitable end to a divorce or child support case.

Sources of income and assets owned can be identified with the right documentation. Attorneys need to be familiar with some of the most common financial documents so they know what to request. Attorneys with financial knowledge can also help identify issues that may need further analysis in a family law case.

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LuLaRoe Class Action Lawsuits

In the past couple of weeks, multi-level marketing company LuLaRoe (the seller of weirdly patterned leggings) has been hit with two class action lawsuits and a whole bunch of negative publicity.  The first LuLaRoe class action lawsuit was filed on October 13 in federal court in California, and the lead plaintiffs are Stella Lemberg, Jeni Laurence, Amandra Bluder, and Carissa Stuckart. The complaint has all kinds of words I like: scheme, bait, lure, and cheating.

The focus of this lawsuit is a promise LuLaRoe made in April 2017. The company said that consultants (who spend upwards of $5,000 to sign up and purchase an initial inventory package) could cancel their agreements and receive a 100% refund of the wholesale value of the inventory they purchased with no exceptions or conditions. Distributors would also get free shipping for the inventory they returned. The policy had no expiration date, but the lawsuit alleges that on September 13, 2017 the company changed the policy to offer a 90% refund (at most) with lots of conditions and exceptions, and no free shipping.

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Financial Investigations With High Volumes of Data

Cases with high volumes of bank data, such as money laundering, high net worth divorce, securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, tax fraud, and white collar crime, present special challenges for forensic accountants. High volumes of financial data can be overwhelming. How do you manage the data? How do you ensure the integrity of the data? How do you get usable intelligence from the data? An attorney’s results in such a case will be directly related to how well the expert can put that data to work and make it mean something to the case.

Getting the Data
The process of discovery can be long and agonizing for everyone.  There is often a push and pull between the parties in the discovery process, as opposing counsel rarely wants to voluntarily give up damaging financial data.  It often takes several rounds of requests to get the information we seek.

Counsel has to be careful to ask for the right data in the right format. Not properly identifying the information we are seeking can lead to denials that the information exists.  One of the goals in discovery is to be specific enough that we get targeted data, but general enough that we still get other important data we didn’t know existed.

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Preventing Fraud in Small Businesses

Cost-saving measures are always attractive to businesses. If a company with annual revenue of $10 million could eliminate a $500,000 expense, would management be interested? Internal fraud prevention could be the key to saving money in precisely this way.

Experts estimate that companies lose about 5% of their revenue each year to fraud committed by employees. Of course, this is just an estimate, as we have no idea how much fraud goes undetected. But assuming the experts are right, 5% could be substantial. Some companies have such thin profit margins that 5% could be their profit for an entire year. (And the 5% loss figure doesn’t even include all of the secondary costs that go along with internal frauds, such as personnel costs, investigative costs, and legal fees!)

The key to preventing internal fraud is proactive fraud prevention techniques. Fraud prevention is not about putting out fires as they spring up. True prevention is about fire-proofing a company to eliminate the risk of fire. So measures must be taken in advance to prevent problems down the road.

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Fraud Investigations and Fire Drills

Fire drill training in grade school always included the mantra, “Stop, drop and roll.” This was the prescribed course of action if a child was on fire. Professionals sometimes refer to tragedies in companies as fire drills. When a major internal theft occurs, it is akin to a fire, and needs to be met with swift action.

Where there is smoke, there might be fire. Numerous red flags can point to internal theft: missing or altered documentation, unexplained accounting entries, excessive customer complaints about account balances, and disregard for policies and procedures.

While one red flag alone does not necessarily mean a fraud has occurred, numerous questions increase the suspicion of internal fraud. It is important to quickly identify the red flags, determine who might be responsible, and take quick action to extinguish the problem.

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The Face of Forensic Accounting

Tracy Coenen recently appeared in Milwaukee Magazine’s Faces of Milwaukee feature. When you need to find lost or hidden money, forensic accountant Tracy Coenen is the detective you want on your side. She doesn’t just add up the numbers, she digs into the details to find out what really happened with the money and who … Read more The Face of Forensic Accounting

Recreating Books and Records For a Tax Audit

You are being audited. These are some of the most dreaded words an individual or business will ever hear from a state or federal tax auditor. They invoke fear, panic, and sometimes anger.

Most of all, they create a need for documentation. Every number could be scrutinized. That means documentation must be produced to support the amount of each expense and the business purpose of the item.

Some of us are meticulous in our documentation, but if you are like most taxpayers, you have pockets of misplaced or destroyed data. Even worse, you may be in a situation where documentation was completely destroyed by a fire or flood. If you don’t have documentation, does that mean your deductions are automatically disallowed? Not necessarily.

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Evaluating Businesses for Divorce: Using the General Ledger

When a divorce involves a business, we often ask for a copy of the general ledger, which is part of the company’s accounting records. The general ledger includes the details of transactions for a specified period of time. What can we find in the general ledger? Tracy Coenen explains in this video: