Lately I’ve been thinking about professional certifications. A financial expert on the opposite side of a case came to the table with 10 certifications listed on his curriculum vitae (CV). And I had to wonder what was the purpose of that?

There was lots of overlap. Three of the certifications were of the “CPA” variety. Three of them were related to forensic accounting. A couple of them were related to bankruptcy consulting. And a couple other miscellaneous ones were thrown in for good measure.

This gentleman has been in the industry for a long time, so he certainly has established a reputation by this point. When an accountant is younger and less experienced, certifications might help him or her look like a stronger witness. But as you mature in the field, multiple certifications just seem like a waste of money.

There are so many certifications out there these days. Running membership organizations is big business. Some of these organizations exist only to turn a profit. They come up with a cleverly named certificate that sounds fancy, charge a fee to get it, charge annual fees to renew, and charge for “necessary” continuing education.

More is not better. I encourage my clients (attorneys) to look for experts with certifications that actually mean something. You want to see certifications that are awarded based on demonstrated knowledge and that are from reputable organizations.

In the world of #forensicaccounting, the ones that really matter are:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) OR Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
  • Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA)
  • Master Analyst in Financial Forensics (MAFF)

There are various forensic and divorce “certifications” that mean little to nothing. While the organizations may require an exam to get their certification (lending some sort of legitimacy to them), the certifications are either not widely recognized or they do not mean what you think they do.

Attorneys should be skeptical when looking at the qualifications of a financial expert. Look at the certifications in conjunction with the education and experience.  I’ve seen professionals with limited accounting background get a certification or two, and then present themselves as if they have the same expertise as a forensic accountant with a strong accounting education and work experience. Buyer beware!

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