Forensic Accountants: Fraud Busters
Dr. Brian Collins
The field of forensic accounting is a profession that is in high demand because of the technological and financial complexity of today’s companies. Because of the Enron scandal forensic account has come to the forefront with some major universities even offering it as a major. There are several skills that are required in forensic accounting and they include an expertise in accounting, investigating, excellent oral and written communication, and critical thinking. A forensic accountant must be an expert in the material but must also convey their findings clearly as they are often called upon to be expert witnesses in court hearings. While the field is growing it has been around for a long time. One of the most famous criminals of all time, Al Capone, who was being pursued by the FBI and CIA was brought down by a forensic accountant. It is an exciting and diversified field. Required Skills of a Forensic Accountant
A forensic accountant must be proficient in accounting. They must have a degree in accounting and also have a CPA certification. A large portion of the job is analyzing financial statements and documents to uncover any misrepresentations. These statements and documents were composed by financial professionals, and they use a very complicated series of transactions to disguise their actions (Digabriele, 2008). A forensic accountant must be able to not only understand the data they are looking at, but also be able to work backwards and derive where the numbers originated. Forensic accountants must also be good investigators. They need to use methods and theories much like a detective to uncover fraud (Digabriele, 2008). A good forensic accountant can profile and think like the perpetrator (Digabriele, 2008). Depending on the case or situation the forensic accountant may only analyze past documents and statements or they may need to do some surveillance and interviewing to uncover new data.
An understanding of the legal system and court process is also very necessary. A forensic accountant is often called upon to be an expert witness so they need to know how to present information in a courtroom setting. During the investigation process a strong understanding of law and legal procedure is important because if it is a criminal case the accountant will not the information that is important to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. A legal background is especially helpful when interviewing to gather information. The forensic accountant would know the proper questions to ask and how to ask them to get the most relevant information. This is very important when trying to uncover fraud in large companies because employees will not volunteer information in most cases (Bawaneh, 2011).
Critical thinking is a skill that a forensic accountant must have. After the data is gathered and analyzed the investigator must apply knowledge of concepts and principles in order to be able to make a decision or to recommend an action. Mastering critical thinking is beneficial because businesses are constantly changing because of technology and competition (Bawaneh, 2011). Without critical thinking all of the work that went into the investigation; analysis of financial statements, interviewing employees, and gathering other quantitative and qualitative data would have been a waste of time (Bawaneh, 2011).
Communication, both written and oral, is a skill that a forensic accountant must be exceptional at. Record keeping and documentation are important during the entire process of investigation and the information that is recorded needs to be clear and concise. The notes kept by the forensic accountant are needed to refer back to and need to be analyzed by others. The presentation of the findings that are reported needs to convey the conclusion effectively. In a situation where the accountant is an expert...
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