Category: COVID -19

First Civil Settlement for Fraud on Cares Act Paycheck Protection Program

On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced the first civil settlement with a borrower for allegedly committing fraud in obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan, in violation of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (“FIRREA”).

The FCA allows the government to recover damages and penalties for presenting false claims for payment to the United States. FIRREA allows the government to impose civil penalties for violations of enumerated federal criminal statutes, including those that affect federally-insured financial

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Board and Fraud: SEC and Goodwill Impairment

Background

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) today charged New York-based brand-management company Sequential Brands Group, Inc. (“Sequential or “SQBG”) with failing to impair its goodwill as required by accounting

COVID-19 – Fraud On The Rise is No Surprise!

Last week, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (” ACFE”) published the results of a survey taken by more than 1,800 anti-fraud professionals in late April and early May 2020, while we were deep into the Covid-19 crisis.  The findings, for the most part, are not surprising, but does reveal some disappointing information.  While I have not seen a raw copy of the survey, I was surprised the ACFE didn’t ask if the company’s fraud risk assessment was reviewed and modified accordingly.

In addition, the survey highlights trends in the overall level of fraud. Survey respondents provided information about their current observations and expected changes regarding ten (10) specific types of fraud.

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The Next Level of Investigations

Many investigations are currently being performed remotely, in concert with the general counsel, the chief compliance officer, the chief audit executive, and depending on the how the allegation was triaged, with outside counsel, a forensic accounting firm, and the board.  Even government prosecutors are interviewing witnesses remotely.

The primary goal of the interview is to elicit information in a non-coercive manner. My personal preference is always to conduct interviews face to face because I can control the subject and the environment, and evaluate the nonverbal behavior of the interviewee.  But, if performing a face-to-face interview is not possible, I suggest using video over the telephone.

This writing provides some suggestions for techniques to consider when conducting internal investigations remotely.

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Tone from the top: Leadership’s challenge during a crisis

Leaders must find ways to engage with their people to motivate them, and this becomes increasingly important during uncertain or trying times. If done correctly, talking can be incredibly powerful. It can help relieve anxiety and help people find the strength they didn’t know was in them. Studies have shown that talking shuts down the brain’s fear center.

As Dr. Judson A. Brewer stated in a recent New York Times article, “Anxiety is a strange beast. As a psychiatrist, I have learned that anxiety and its close cousin, panic, are both born from fear.”

Fear and anxiety can be debilitating. Without proper communication in a crisis, it’s easy for people to spin and spread stories of fear, creating social contagion. To balance this tendency, in a crisis, leaders need to take their “tone from the top” to the next level.

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Fraud, Compliance & Integrity Risk During a Crisis and a Downturn

As a crisis unfolds, like Coronavirus, and markets decline globally, fraudsters will be adapting and new risks will emerge and some risks will increase. 

Remember, white collar criminals adapt by profiling us, so they can exploit our weaknesses. That being said, companies need to develop a strategy that enables the deployment of appropriate tactics to manage these new or increasing risks.

This writing explores some fraud, compliance, and integrity risks and is intended to provoke discussion.

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COVID-19 – Coronavirus: Crisis Management, Business Continuity, Fraud, and More!

Crisis Management: Some of the biggest mistakes made when handling a crisis are not dealing with the problem head-on, thoughtless or insincere comments, lack of communication with stakeholders, unprepared spokespeople, getting defensive after receiving backlash, or, sitting back and letting the problem grow. Domino’s, Sony, Samsung, BP, United Airlines, Equifax, KFC, are all good examples of companies who stumbled with crisis management. Companies should study these crises and learn from the mistakes!

In addition, fraud, compliance, and integrity risks may change. A crisis situation can and often does increase the pressure on senior management and of course salespeople to meet their sales targets! Deviant behavior is easily justified.

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Tone From the Top, the Next Level

As a result of COVID-19, the Board of Directors and Senior Management are challenged to monitor the cultural shifts of their organization and adjust their sensitivity and the frequency of communications as appropriate.

Leaders should always try to find ways to talk and engage with their people to motivate them, especially during these uncertain and trying times. If done correctly, talking can be incredibly powerful. It can help relieve anxiety (defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”) and help people find the strength they didn’t know was in them. Studies have shown that talking shuts down the brain’s fear center.

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