Category: Fraud

SEC & DOJ Release Second Edition of the Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The SEC and DOJ Resource Guide is intended to provide information for businesses and individuals regarding the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The guide has been prepared by the staff of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The key changes to the Second Edition reflect developments and issues that are well-known to experienced practitioners. Nevertheless, the updated Guide emphasizes the importance of effective (and “adequately resourced”) compliance programs, risk-based diligence efforts, and voluntary self-disclosures.   

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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 Pentagon – Enhancements to the Three Conditions Under Which Fraud May Occur

Today’s fraudster is clever and operates in an environment ripe for criminal activity. Economic unrest is making it easier for employees to find ways to set fraud in motion – and a new breed of offenders is finding cunning ways to do so. After more than 60 years, the classic fraud triangle of three elements or events that motivate an employee to cross the line has morphed into the Fraud Pentagon.

Company boards and senior management must take an offensive stance against the five conditions that precipitate fraud with a clear plan that limits the opportunity for fraud and minimizes the impact when fraud does occur.

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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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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Speaking and Training on Fraud, Compliance, Ethics, and More…

Welcome to my site. I have spoken and been the keynote speaker for many conferences, including the ABA, ACC, ACFE, IIA, and IMA to name a few. I have designed customized training for the board, senior leadership, legal, compliance, internal audit, and others for some of the world’s largest organizations.

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Fraud: Department of Justice (DOJ) Announces Procurement Collusion Strike Force

On November 5th, the Department of Justice announced the formation of the new Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) “focusing on deterring, detecting, investigating and prosecuting antitrust crimes, such as bid-rigging conspiracies and related fraudulent schemes, which undermine competition in government procurement, grant and program funding”.

The Strike Force is an inter-agency partnership comprised of prosecutors from the Antitrust Division, and prosecutors from thirteen (13) U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.  Aiding in the prosecutors’ efforts are investigation partners such as the Offices of Inspector Generals from the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, U.S. Postal Service, and General Services Administration Office. The Department of Justice’s announcement proclaimed that investigating and prosecuting those who “cheat, collude and seek to undermine the integrity of government procurement” will have more to concern themselves with when executing their crimes. Prosecutors and investigators alike expressed enthusiasm to be working as a part of this new team.

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Skepticism – A Key Tool in the Fight Against Fraud

“Trust but verify” could be a downright dangerous approach when applied to audit procedures in particular. A much better slogan for fraud deterrence would be, “Trust is a professional hazard.”

The implication is that because financial management plays a leading role in detecting financial fraud, it is incumbent on executives – not just auditors – to exercise appropriate levels of professional skepticism. Board members and particularly audit committee members also must take care to exercise a skeptical approach to financial reports and supporting information.

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