Category: Fraud and Forensic Investiagtions or Accounting and Compliance

Recent ACFE Survey Indicates Increase of Fraud Now and Tomorrow

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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Fraud Tip Friday: Internal Investigations and Keywords

Investigative search terms are specific to each situation and are a primary tool used by the investigation team to identify possible relevant information in a data set. However, overly broad or poorly chosen terms or keywords can produce excessive and irrelevant results, or worse, miss the  “smoking gun” e-mail or document. Additionally, have you thought about the list of search terms or keywords being privileged or protected opinion work product in the context of an internal investigation?

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COSO Releases Thought Leadership on Risk Appetite

Organizations encounter risk every day as they pursue their objectives. In conducting appropriate oversight, management and the board must deal with a fundamental question: How much risk is acceptable in pursuing these objectives? Added to this, regulators and other oversight bodies are calling for better descriptions of organizations’ risk management processes, including oversight by the board.

COSO has released a thought leadership piece to help understand and communicate risk appetite, an amorphous concept to many.

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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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Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system? Here’s how to win them back

Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system? Here’s how to win them back.

Anonymous hotlines and tip-reporting structures are useless, of course, if informants don’t trust them. Employees won’t blow the whistle if they fear reprisals. So, their concerns often don’t enter case-management systems and frauds continue. Here’s how to earn back their trust, take them seriously and transform raw tips into valuable fraud examinations.

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Whistleblowers: A Fraud Triage System

As the use of whistleblower programs continues to grow, many organizations find themselves struggling to manage burgeoning caseloads. As a result, serious fraud investigations can be delayed (with mounting losses) while less consequential complaints are being investigated. The lack of a timely, systematic and repeatable process for evaluating and prioritizing whistleblower tips that contain allegations of ethical breaches can also expose an organization to increased regulatory risk.

While there is no single, “right” method for following up on whistleblower complaints, the most effective approaches often resemble the medical triage programs that hospitals and first responders use to allocate limited resources during emergencies, or a crisis situation.

Here are some useful guidelines for designing and implementing a fraud triage system.

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Board Overconfidence: An Often Unrecognized Risk

Directors on corporate boards are – almost by definition – men and women who are accomplished and successful. So it is only natural that most board members also are highly self-assured and confident in their judgment and abilities.

When that self-confidence is misplaced or overstated, however, the consequences can be costly. This is particularly true when overconfidence causes board members to underestimate or overlook the risks associated with fraud or management incompetence. Moreover, when board overconfidence is compounded by management overconfidence, the risks can multiply quickly.

Once the dangers of overconfidence are understood and appreciated, board and management teams alike can begin taking proactive steps to mitigate the risks. Knowing the warning signs of board overconfidence is an essential first step.

The Role of the Board of Directors in Compliance Oversight

Under the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in order to receive credit for having an effective compliance program, and thereby reduce the fines imposed on the organization, a Board of Directors must be “knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program,” and must “exercise reasonable oversight with respect to the implementation and effectiveness of the compliance and ethics program.” In addition, in criminal actions against a business organization, including the FCPA, the DOJ’s Justice Manual instructs prosecutors to ask and answer several questions, including: 1) Do the Directors exercise independent review of the company’s compliance program? and 2) Are Directors provided timely and accurate information sufficient to enable the exercise of independent judgment?

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Crisis Management with Jonathan Marks

Welcome to Forensically Speaking

This podcast covers fraud, forensic accounting, investigations and technology topics for professionals in the legal, insurance and corporate markets.

Follow the Forensically Speaking series on Apple

The Compliance Shift – Now for Tomorrow!

Where is compliance headed in the 2020’s? Certainly, technological solutions will be a big part of the future of compliance programs and controls. Compliance is rapidly emerging and being viewed as a critical business process. Moving away from the days in which it was driven by legalese and where lawyers are responsible for crafting compliance policies and procedures.  These advances provide opportunity for innovation, and enable compliance to recede from being viewed as a cost center led by the “head of business denial”, to being viewed as value added function to the business. Simply put, a more effective compliance program contributes to more efficient business processes, which leads to greater profitability.

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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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Take Your SOx Off

On March 12, 2020, the Securities & Exchange Commission adopted a controversial rule that exempts more categories of public companies from auditor attestation of management’s internal control over financial reporting required by Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, despite strong opposition by investor protection advocates.

The rules are intended to benefit low revenue companies even if the funds raised in the public stock markets are not small, according to, Release No. 34-88365, Amendments to the Accelerated and Large Accelerated Filer Definitions. The amendments become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which normally occurs a few weeks after a rule is posted on the SEC’s website.

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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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Five Men Indicated for Worldwide Cryptocurrency Fraud Scheme

On December 10, 2019, three men were arrested in connection with an alleged $722 million cryptocurrency mining fraud scheme.  An additional defendant was arrested following the Department of Justice’s press release, and another remains at large.

From April 2014 through December 2019, Defendants solicited investments in its BitClub Network, a purported bitcoin mining pool that was operated by Defendants.  They are charged with exploiting unsophisticated investors with “false promises of large returns for investing in the mining of Bitcoin.”  The “complex world of cryptocurrency” allowed Defendants to take advantage of investors, which Defendant Matthew Brent Goettsche referred to as “dumb” investors, “sheep,” and “morons.”  Defendants manipulated the daily mining earnings amounts reported to investors in order to attract new investors and to encourage reinvestment of earnings, amassing at least $722 million in ill-gotten gains.

Read more to better understand how others exploit this perplexing concept, what the SEC has to say about the matter, and what the consequences are.

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Bribery Schemes and Their Compliance Responses

This writing will highlight some of the more unusual bribery schemes described in 2019 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions and also consider their impact on compliance programs, what they mean for the compliance professional and how the government could potentially use these cases to require more effective compliance programs going forward.
Fraudsters are always looking for loopholes and weak spots to exploit. The same is true for those engaged in bribery and corruption. The role of every compliance professional is to prevent, detect and remediate. By following some of the approaches I have outlined, you can move towards more robust detection.

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