Why Auditors Do Not Find Fraud

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needle-in-a-haystackEven with all the publicity surrounding the issue of financial fraud in the last twenty years, most auditors, investors, and other professionals still do not “get it” when it comes to detecting fraud. Traditional financial statement audits were never designed to detect fraud.

The audit is simply a process by which auditors check the company’s math and application of accounting rules. Auditors examine a very small percentage of transactions. Fraud is rarely detected by financial statement audits because they are not aimed at doing so. However, sometimes fraud is detected by auditors, and they can increase their chances of finding fraud if they are so inclined. There are opportunities during each financial statement audit to find fraud, if only the auditors are diligent. One of the keys to becoming better at detecting fraud is by understanding why auditors so often do not find fraud. Continue reading

Blaming the Auditors for Fraud

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magnifyprintWhen a company discovers an internal fraud, it’s not uncommon for owners and management to look for a party to blame. After all, someone should have known that a fraud was in-progress, right? Often, the blame is cast in the direction of the auditors.

The auditors are an easy target. Not only do they usually have professional liability insurance policies to fall back on, the auditors initially seem like the logical culprit.

Management often believes that the auditors worked very closely with the financial information; therefore, they should have discovered the fraud. Continue reading

Why Audits Don’t Find Fraud

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This video is a little longer than usual. Tracy Coenen talks about the reasons why traditional financial statement audits don’t find fraud. It is very rare for fraud to be uncovered during the year-end audit, but stakeholders often rely on audits to do just that.

Tracy walks through these 9 common reasons why audits are not effective at detecting the fraud. Watch the video for the details of each.

  • Reliance on internal controls
  • Doing predictable audit tests
  • Using sampling of transactions
  • Employees working around scope and materiality
  • Inexperienced auditors
  • Dynamic business environment
  • Inadequate follow-up by auditors
  • Looking for a needle in a haystack
  • Use of estimates by management

Fraud Investigations vs. Traditional Audits

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After management becomes aware of a potential fraud and decides that a fraud investigation is necessary, the process of creating a team, mapping the investigation plan, and requesting information begins. An organized approach is the best way to ensure that all facets of the investigation flow smoothly, that staff is properly assigned and supervised, and that all critical evidence is analyzed.

Many of the administrative parts of a forensic accounting or fraud investigation project are similar to those in a traditional auditing assignment. For those who have played an active role in managing audit engagements, some of this information will be familiar. Continue reading

Net Worth Method of Proof for Unreported Income

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When an IRS auditor or criminal investigator suspects that a taxpayer has unreported sources of income, he or she looks for ways to calculate that unreported income. One way is the net worth method of proof.

Forensic accountants and fraud investigators can use the same method to calculate unreported income in other types of cases, such as divorce. In this video, Tracy describes how the calculation is done and how the results may be used.

Changing Auditors: What Does It Mean?

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The firm that audits a company’s financial statements is very important. Audited statements are used by shareholders, lenders, and other interested parties to make decisions about the company and its future.

When companies change auditors, it can signal a few different things. There may be legitimate business reasons for making a change, but there could instead be problems within the company. Learn more in this video.

Fraud Investigation Work Programs

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If you’re familiar with the process of a financial statement audit, you know all about audit work programs. They’re basically the checklists and guides that auditors use to make sure they follow all the required steps for auditing the financial statements. Because these audits are fairly standardized, the work programs ensure that all critical work is completed, all important questions have been answered, and all key concerns are documented.

In contrast, fraud investigators have very little that resembles work programs or investigation guides. Each investigation is unique, which makes it difficult to create a one-size-fits-all approach to performing the engagement. Fraud investigators are more likely to rely on some basic checklists to guide the engagement in general, with specific investigation procedures being developed and performed as the engagement progresses. Continue reading

Financial Statement Fraud: The Damage Inflicted

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Financial statement fraud impacts any person or organization that has a financial interest in the success or failure of a company. A manipulation of the company’s reported earnings or assets can affect a bank that extends credit to the company, a shareholder who invests money in the company, and those organizations that enter into contracts or agreements with the company.

The manipulation of financial statements also affects employees. It has the power to put employees out of work once the fraud is exposed or collapses. It also has the power to enrich employees – mostly those involved in the fraud, but potentially those who are not. Good financial results (actual or fabricated) can be linked to promotions, raises, enhanced benefit packages, bonuses, and the value of stock option awards. Continue reading

Changes to Sarbanes Oxley?

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This week an article in the Wall Street Journal explored whether there might be some changes coming for Sarbanes Oxley. With President Trump talking about rolling back regulations, business groups that want Sarbanes Oxley softened may get their way.

Sarbanes Oxley requires management to assess the internal controls over financial reporting (those things which are supposed to help prevent errors and fraud). Section 404(b) requires the auditors to evaluate that assessment and provide an opinion on it.

Some say the rule is too costly for smaller companies, while those in support of it say that it has helped ensure financial reporting integrity. Companies with a market cap under $75 million have never had to comply with Section 404(b). Possibly legislation could raise that threshold to $250 million or even $500 million. Continue reading

Suing Auditors for Malpractice (And Winning!)

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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