11 Nov

Fraud Investigation Myths

It’s fun to talk about myths related to fraud investigations and forensic accounting. People get wrong ideas about what I do for a living, so let’s set the record straight on a few of the myths:

  1. Any accountant can do a fraud investigation. No, the art and science of a fraud investigation is different than traditional CPA services. Experience with fraud methods, investigative techniques, and presenting the results of investigations are necessary. A forensic accounting engagement isn’t the same thing as financial statement audit or preparing a tax return. It takes different skills.
  2. A forensic accountant will help me get my money back. Nope. I find where the money went. An attorney helps get the money back. Sadly, most victims of fraud don’t get their money back. People don’t steal to save. They steal to spend. So when they are caught, there is no pile of money that can be given back to the victim.
  3. This is an “easy” investigation. Even when a project seems straightforward, many details need to be cross-checked and explanations to be ruled out. There is also a certain amount of due diligence that I have to do before I can render an expert opinion. Also, when something is “easy” for me to do, it’s likely because I have more than two decades of experience doing fraud investigations.
  4. Software will do the fraud investigation. Software packages provide a lot of help with my projects. But investigations still require the eyes of a human to direct the work and interpret the results. I don’t simply push a button and end up with valid results. There is  still lots of legwork required, whether that is preparing data for the software, reconciling data that was processed by the software. or working with the data after the software does its thing.
  5. The client can do the fraud investigation and I can just check the work. If a good fraud investigation could be done by anyone, we wouldn’t need experts like me. Oftentimes, checking the work of a civilian takes more time and effort than doing the investigation myself. I can appreciate that clients want to save money, but most of the time there is only limited assistance that a client can provide in a fraud investigation.
  6. All forensic accountants are equal. Nope. Forensic accountants have different approaches to cases, skill levels, methods of investigating, and ways of presenting the results. It is wise for clients to talk to a few experts before making a choice. You want to find something that you think you can work well with. And most likely, after talking to a few fraud investigators, you’ll get a feel for who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t.
08 Nov

How to Investigate a Cash Business

Closely-held businesses often create problems in divorces, as they need to be valued for the property division and the income needs to be evaluated for support purposes. It can be difficult to examine the income of a business that transacts with its customers primarily in cash. However, there are ways to verify whether the income being reported is reasonable.

Some of the ways that the income of cash businesses can be examined and verified include:

1. Find out the normal mark-up or profitability of the product or service being sold, and see how recently reported figures of the company compare. Read More

28 Oct

Ways to Hide Income and Assets in Divorce

While it is common for one spouse to have control over the money in a marriage—be the major breadwinner, manage spending, and maintain control of financial documentation—family lawyers and their clients can increase the chances of finding hidden assets during a divorce by being aware of some of the schemes used to hide money.

Understanding the common schemes that may be used to hide assets and income can help the spouse in the lesser financial position protect himself or herself in the divorce; and, by knowing about these schemes, you can look for signs and hopefully limit the success your client’s soon-to-be-ex-spouse will have with them. Some of the more common schemes used to hide money in divorces include: Read More

25 Sep

A Practical Fraud Investigation Course

My biggest criticism of the courses on fraud investigation at the college level or in the continuing education space are that they are not practical. They all focus on theory and teaching about different types of fraud schemes. But who is teaching about how to actually do the investigation?

I am! Next month I am co-presenting a webinar series for National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA) called Scams, Schemes, and Swindles: Fundamentals and Techniques for Conducting Fraud Investigations.

It’s 3 hours a day for five days, October 14-18, 2019. These are live webinars, and you’ll be able to ask questions and participate in the discussion. Fifteen hours of learning how to REALLY do a fraud investigation from start to finish.

The focus will be on the nuts and bolts of conducting a fraud investigation, teaching practical forensic accounting techniques to prove what happened, who was involved, how much money is gone, and where the money went. Evidence management, analytical tools, presentation of findings, and testifying in court will also be covered. Watch this video to learn more, and please join us.

23 Sep

Financial Investigation Software

At the heart of every financial investigation is a trail of money. And in many cases those trails are complex. They involve multiple bank accounts and thousands of transactions that are intertwined.  This voluminous financial data must be culled, analyzed, and presented in a way that proves the case, and therein lies the difficulty.

For the last forty years, investigators have relied primarily on manual processes to evaluate financial evidence. They compared accounting data to source documents, ultimately trying to prove the source and use of funds.

But this gets complicated in large cases because of the number of involved people and bank accounts. The process of understanding and organizing the flow of funds is complex, and it can take months before the parties to a case know exactly what happened to the money.

Over the last decade, advances have been made with technology to help fraud investigators analyze large volumes of financial data much faster, more efficiently, and more accurately than they can using only traditional investigative techniques. Read More

05 Sep

Conducting Corporate Fraud Investigations

The unthinkable has happened. We have good employees. Our people are honest. They don’t steal from us. They’re like family. We trust them. So it goes when a company discovers a fraud from within.

Then what happens?

After the initial shock wears off, it’s time to start investigating the situation. The company must know who did it, how the fraud was committed, and what controls can be put in place to stop fraud from happening again. This is all accomplished with an effective fraud investigation. Read More

28 Aug

Quicken Software Should Not Be Used For Lifestyle Analysis

Forensic accountants and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts often use Quicken personal financial software to complete the lifestyle analysis in divorce cases. Unfortunately, Quicken is not the best option for accurately and thoroughly analyzing a couple’s finances before and during divorce.

Why is it used so often? For years, Quicken was one of the better options available for compiling and analyzing personal finances. Also, since a fair number of consumers use Quicken to manage their finances, divorcing spouses sometimes provide a Quicken file to the attorney, which may be used as a starting point for the lifestyle analysis. The drawback to this is that clients don’t always keep accurate records, and the Quicken file is often incomplete or just plain wrong.

Quicken software should not be confused with QuickBooks software, which is a software package used for small business accounting. QuickBooks can be used effectively in divorce financial analysis, while Quicken is much more limited and does not produce as good a result in terms of accuracy or usability. Note, however, that even QuickBooks may not be the best option for litigation purposes. Read More

20 Aug

Red Flags of Divorce Lies

Experienced family lawyers are familiar with the common ways spouses attempt to commit financial fraud in divorce: hiding or undervaluing assets, overstating debts, concealing income, and inflating or fabricating expenses. All of these are done in an attempt to get more than the spouse’s fair share in the property division, and to influence the amount of support that will be paid or received.

Successfully advocating for your client involves more than just knowing that these things occur during the divorce process. You must also be able to identify the red flags that indicate the financial issue(s) must be investigated further. Some are easier to spot than others, but once you have identified two or three red flags, it is time to get a forensic accountant involved. The financial analyst’s experience with fraud and deception will be invaluable in evaluating the red flags and determining if there is something of substance to investigate further.

Undisclosed Accounts
The most straightforward red flag is the discovery of undisclosed accounts. This could be direct evidence of a spouse attempting to conceal assets. However, the nature of the undisclosed account should be examined. Is it an old account that hasn’t been used in a long time? Is there little to no activity in the account? Is the balance in the account insignificant? In these situations, little weight should be given to the non-disclosure, since it is more likely an oversight. Read More

16 Aug

Fraud at GE Alleged by Harry Markopolos

Harry Markopolos, the whistleblower in the Madoff case (who was telling people for NINE years that a fraud was in progress), just released a report on General Electric (GE) saying that it is a bigger fraud than Enron.

It’s a massive (175 page) report that highlights problems with:

  • hiding $400 billion of losses in the insurance business
  • accounting in the oil and gas unit
  • liquidity

A web page set up to feature the GE report highlights the work and the findings:

  • The investigation of the financial statements and the accounting practices of General Electric has been in process for more than a year
  • 17 years of 10-Ks (2002 to 2018) were analyzed cover-to-cover
  • GE’s approach to business is called “Enronesque”
  • The accounting fraud has been going on for decades, with the company providing only top line revenue and bottom line profits for its business units (not reporting all sorts of expense line items)
  • GE changes financial statement formats every few years so people can’t compare numbers across multiple years

Read More

09 Aug

Ocrolus Software Review

Ocrolus PerfectAudit SoftwareA few years ago, I reviewed data analysis software sold by Ocrolus called PerfectAudit. The software captures data, analyzes the data, and assists with fraud detection

Recently the company abandoned the Perfect Audit brand, and now just calls the product Ocrolus. The old website www.perfectaudit.com forwards to the Ocrolus website. PerfectAudit as a brand has essentially been scrubbed from the internet. This might correspond with a recent round of venture capital that was raised.

My unfavorable review of Ocrolus was met with requests from company representatives to remove it from my site. They were disappointed that my review of the Ocrolus software ranked well in Google searches.

Some improvements have been made to the Ocrolus investigative software, but some of my concerns are still valid. Have a look at my PerfectAudit software review if you want all the details, but here’s a summary of the concerns I still have: Read More