18 Nov

Lost Profits Calculations in Litigation

In the below video, Tracy Coenen talks about three common methods that are used to calculate lost profits in commercial litigation: the before and after approach, the yardstick approach, and hypothetical profits. In general, these methods are aimed at determining the profits a company would have realized if the incident giving rise to the litigation had not occurred.

16 Oct

Getting the Best Results With Your Expert Witness

gavel-moneyMore than ever, competent and dynamic expert witnesses are critical to winning legal cases. Even if a case doesn’t go to trial, a credible expert can be the key to settling the case for your client.

I believe that an expert witness has the opportunity to make or break a case. We all know that there are few chances to fix a bad opinion when you go to court. There is one chance to express the correct opinion and support it fully. A faulty opinion, or one with little reliable support, can doom a case.

Some attorneys have their preferred experts, while others get referrals from colleagues. Each attorney works with an expert witness in the way that she or he is comfortable. However, it never hurts to hear about it from the other side. This is my perspective on best utilizing your expert witness to her or his full value. Read More

19 Jun

Reasonable Certainty in Damage Calculations

chartmagnifyOne of the common issues raised when an expert calculates damages is “reasonable certainty.” It is not uncommon for opposing counsel to suggest that the expert’s calculated damages are speculative.

The calculation of damages necessarily requires estimates and assumptions. Something has happened, and a company or individual is claiming that there are lost profits because of it. We can never know with complete certainty what revenue or profits would have been if that incident or action had not taken place. Mathematical precision is not possible. Thus, the expert must make certain estimates in order to calculate damages. Read More

04 May

NACVA Value Examiner: Practicing Solo

Earlier this year I was interviewed by Rod Burkert for NACVA’s magazine, Value Examiner. Practicing Solo is a feature on solo practitioners, with the idea that it will help others who are solo or considering going solo.

Snapshot:

  • My credentials: CPA, CFF
  • I’m located in: Milwaukee and Chicago (I got my start and live in Milwaukee, but I do about half of my work in Chicago)
  • I’ve been on my own since: January 2000
  • Name of my firm: Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting (www.sequenceinc.com)
  • My practice sweet spot is: Exclusively forensic accounting

Rod: So the BVFLS profession isn’t exactly a calling. Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are today.

Tracy: For me, it absolutely felt like a calling. I am fascinated with the criminal justice system and I wanted to be a part of it. I majored in Criminology and Law Studies at Marquette University, and I saw myself becoming a prison warden someday. As a sophomore, I took a class called Financial Crime Investigation, and I was hooked. I started taking accounting and economics courses so that I could work toward a forensic accounting career. I worked as a probation officer while I worked on an MBA at night, finishing up the requirements needed to sit for the CPA exam.

My first job in the accounting world was as an auditor for Arthur Andersen. I got as much experience as I could while I was there, and then I moved to a small forensic accounting firm so I could get started in my desired specialty. After a couple of years, I left to start my own practice. I had visions of growing my practice by adding staff, but after working with a few employees, I decided that I liked the solo practitioner life better. I’ve been solo for years now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I like being responsible for everything on my cases. I have excellent quality control, and I know the numbers inside and out. When it comes time for depositions and trial, I can answer the questions about the numbers confidently. Read More

25 Apr

Expert Witnesses and Social Media

Ask attorneys what they think of social media, and you’ll get a wide range of responses. Some are actively involved, others are avid readers, and some stay as far away from it as possible. There is still a fair amount of reluctance to get involved, whether it is a more “social” type of social media (like Facebook or Instagram) or a more professional one (like LinkedIn or possibly Twitter). Also included in social media is blogging, something that has been around since the late 90s, but which many lawyers and experts still refuse to be actively involved in.

Social media is an opportunity to write about what you know and promote your business and expertise. You can engage in dialogue with people people from far away places. There is so much that can be learned from interactions on social media, and so many relationships that can be developed (which would have previously been nearly impossible).

But of course, there are pitfalls. There is a common bias against social media: That it’s simply a waste of time because it is mostly about socializing and games. While there is definitely a very personal component to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, their utility goes far beyond being a neat way to kill some time.

Social media is being actively and aggressively used by people who have a business reason to be there. Many participate because they love the exchange of knowledge and are eager to fill others in on current events, industry happenings, or interesting news stories. Others participate mostly to promote their companies and brands in some way. Some join in the discussion to raise their professional profiles and to gain credibility in their fields. Read More

26 Feb

Forensic Accounting Certifications

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. Read More