Category: White Collar Crime

Ethics and Compliance: Active Board Involvement Is a Must

Establishing and supporting a corporate compliance program is widely recognized as one of the fundamental responsibilities of a corporate board of directors. But merely seeing that there is a compliance program in place is by no means an adequate effort. The Board must also actively oversee that function.

Active oversight is essential if a company’s business plan includes strategies, practices, or other elements that could be considered high-risk. Such situations call for even more involvement and active engagement by the Board.

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FCPA – The Role of The Board and More!

One of the FCPA themes for 2020 has been hiding in plain sight all along. The FCPA requirement that “reporting companies to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that, among other things, transactions are executed following management’s general or specific authorizations, and access to assets is permitted only in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization.” But what if the violation of this requirement occurs in a non-foreign (IE., the U.S.) and in a non-bribery situation.

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Common Pitfalls – Fraud Risk Assessment

Risk assessments are part of the discipline of risk management, where enhanced frameworks and techniques have emerged. Risk management comprises the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks followed by the coordinated and efficient use of resources to monitor, minimize, and otherwise control the organization’s risks.

Risks arise in many forms and range from uncertainty in financial markets, operational failures, natural disasters, and pandemics to legal liabilities and reputational harms.

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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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SEC’s Enforcement Powers Increase!

In summary, The Amendments double the SEC’s statute of limitations for disgorgement to 10 years in intentional fraud cases, grant the SEC 10 years to seek equitable relief in all cases, codify the SEC’s ability to obtain disgorgement in federal court proceedings, and make other changes that expand the SEC’s enforcement authority.

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Transparency! The New Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)

On December 11, 2020, the Senate passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA” or the “Act”) – DIVISION F of the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2021 (the “NDAA”). The House of Representatives had previously passed the measure on December 8, 2020.

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Congress Approves Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) Measure

Money laundering issues have haunted many over the years.  To promote greater transparency, the U.S. Sen­ate has ap­proved leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing com­pa­nies in the U.S. to reg­is­ter their true owners. This change would help com­bat money laun­der­ing and the fi­nanc­ing of ter­ror­ism.

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SEC and its New Silent Whistleblower: Risk Based Data Analytics

The SEC just announced its first actions arising from investigations generated by the Enforcement Division’s EPS (Earnings Per Share) Initiative, which utilizes risk-based data analytics to uncover potential accounting and disclosure violations caused by, among other things, earnings management practices.

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DOJ Unravels a Decade-Old Scheme that involved Kickbacks, Money Laundering, Sham Shell Companies, and Fake Invoices

According to evidence presented at trial, Aleksandr Pikus, 45, of Brooklyn, New York, and his co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme through a series of medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens over nearly a decade.   The clinics employed doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and other medical professionals who were enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  In return for illegal kickbacks, Pikus referred beneficiaries to these health care providers, who submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Pikus and his co-conspirators then laundered a substantial portion of the proceeds of these claims through companies he controlled, including by cashing checks at several New York City check-cashing businesses.  Pikus then failed to report that cash income to the IRS.  Instead, Pikus used the cash to enrich himself and others and to pay kickbacks to patient recruiters, who, in turn, paid beneficiaries to receive treatment at the medical clinics.  The evidence further established that Pikus and his co-conspirators used sham shell companies and fake invoices to conceal their illegal activities.

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Are you ready? New EU Whistleblower Protection Law!

Soon all public and private organizations in the EU with more than fifty (50) employees will soon be required to comply with a new EU Whistleblower Protection law. The new law highlights the importance of responsive, transparent, and timely whistleblowing case management. So just implementing a hotline is not enough. Organizations must consider confidentiality, acknowledgment of the tip or compliant, response times, the competence of persons receiving the reports, communication with the whistleblower, and feedback on how the case is being processed. The new law also includes the right to report concerns externally while remaining legally protected. That’s a risk organizations must avoid. With the December 2021 deadline fast approaching, there is no better time for management and boards to act. 

Read more!

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Webinar – July 28, 2020 – Best Practices for Conducting Remote Internal Investigations

In this pandemic era, global companies have been challenged to maintain a reliable and effective internal investigation program. Companies have relied on remote investigation strategies to collect and review documents and conduct interviews. In conducting remote investigations, companies have to ensure that they follow investigation requirements, maintain the confidentiality of the process, and comply with applicable data privacy rules and security requirements.

In this webinar, Jessica Sanderson, Partner at The Volkov Law Group, and Jonathan T. Marks, Partner| Leader of the Global Forensic Investigation, COmpliance & Integrity Practice at Baker Tilly, will discuss best practices for conducting remote internal investigations. They will outline strategies for collecting and reviewing documents, analyzing financial data, and conducting interviews using remote technologies.

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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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DOJ Revises its Guidance on the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs

Without any fanfare, the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division has once again revised its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“ECCP”).  The ECCP  remains  organized around three overarching questions that prosecutors ask when evaluating compliance programs, with some revisions, which are in bold text below:

Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?
Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith? In other words, is the program being implemented adequately resourced and empowered to function effectively?
Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

While most of the document is identical to the 2019 Guidance, there are subtle and noticeable revisions.  The revisions appear to be designed to help provide additional clarity when answering the above three questions. 

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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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Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system?

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.

Ovem lupo commitere!

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Whistleblowers: A Fraud Triage System to Manage Burgeoning Caseloads

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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