Milwaukee Public Schools: It Has NEVER Been About the Children

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In 2008, I started writing here about Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) because the district was presenting the numbers in a dishonest way, complaining that they were underfunded.

I was appalled that a school district could waste $1 billion a year and repeatedly say that they just don’t have enough money. Despite massive spending, the district has some of the worst educational outcomes in the country:

For the 2018-19 school year (they didn’t produce any data for last year), MPS had 18.4% of its students proficient in English language arts (i.e. reading and writing) and 14.8% proficient in math.

Let that sink in for a moment. More than 80% of MPS students cannot read and write at grade-level. Continue reading

Clues to a Company Being Ripped Off

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How would you know if your company was being ripped off by a dishonest employee? Most companies miss all of the warning signs that could help stop a fraud early. Studies suggest that the average fraud scheme within a company lasts 18 months. That’s a year-and-a-half that one or more employees are stealing from the company without being caught. The average internal fraud leads to average losses in excess of $100,000. The longer the fraud goes on, the more that is stolen.

There’s not always science behind finding fraud. Frauds committed by employees are most often discovered because of a tip from someone else. Or they are discovered by accident. (Accident? Yes. That doesn’t say much for a company’s checks and balances.)

So in reality, companies rely on the observations of employees to help detect fraud. It therefore is important to be aware of some warning signs that the company might be the victim of occupational fraud and abuse. Continue reading

Dreams of Being a Prison Warden…

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Hear the story of my dream of being a prison warden… that got derailed when I discovered financial investigations. And now I spend my days finding money as a forensic accountant!

Listen to me on The 1958 Lawyer Podcast with Ron Backstahler and Kirsten Mayfield of Amata Law Office Suites.

We also talk about how Encyclopedia Brown inspired me. And a bit about the work I do as a fraud investigator and the approach I take to my forensica ccounting engagements. You also get to hear me use one of my favorite phrases, “investigative intuition.”

Amata Blog: https://ablog.amatacorp.com/blog/posts/1958-lawyer-podcast-ep-17-tracy-coenen/

Apple Podcast Page: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tracy-coenen-fraud-investigator-investigative-intuition/id1514231695?i=1000509228765

Spotify Podcasts: https://open.spotify.com/show/66vtl4wFvVbIqL7LjAEjQj

Google Podcasts: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5zaW1wbGVjYXN0LmNvbS9MQm9JZHBCQQ

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-1958-lawyer

Defending Tax Fraud Cases

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Government investigations of white collar crimes almost always have one thing in common: They rely heavily on the analysis of financial information. Often, this includes combing through bank statements and credit card statements, as well as scrutinizing accounting records.

Some people think that analyzing this kind of data is simple. It seems like it is only a math exercise in which we’re checking dollar amounts and verifying the addition and subtraction. But there is much more involved, and it gets exponentially more complicated (pun intended) when there are large volumes of data.

Expertise in financial and accounting crimes is necessary to fully understand the issues and the potential criminal or civil charges that the government brings against a company or individual. To properly defend such a case, it is necessary to have a forensic accountant involved to help evaluate the data and the issues the government will raise. Continue reading

How Can a Company Recover From a Fraud Loss?

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Fraud committed by employees can have devastating effects on a business. The company’s finances suffer, employee morale may drop, and the company’s reputation could be affected by negative publicity.

Following the investigation of an internal fraud, owners and managers of companies need to rethink how they do business. It is the perfect time to carefully analyze the operations and create procedures and an environment in which ethical behavior thrives.

A fraud by a trusted employee is often devastating to management, both financially and emotionally. A company can be thrust into turmoil because of a significant theft, and it’s important to approach the situation methodically in order to mend the damage and prevent future occurrences. The company can recover from an internal fraud by focusing on three key areas, in addition to completing a thorough investigation of the fraud. Continue reading