7 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Earn Your CFE Credential


John Loftis, CFE
ACFE Membership Communications Manager

I recently saw a discussion in the CFE Exam Preparation community about people who are resolving to earn their CFE credential in 2017. According to statistics, more than 30 percent of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions after the first two weeks of January. Many resolutions like better health, better finances or finding the love of your life are things that I unfortunately cannot help you with, but I can help you to create a plan that will put you on the path to passing the CFE Exam.

I read an article in Forbes this week called, 7 Secrets of People Who Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions. I noticed how many of these secrets could apply to the CFE Exam. Based on that article, below is a quick framework to help you avoid becoming one of the 30 percent and earn the CFE credential.

1. Specify your goals

One of the trendy concepts you have probably heard of is creating SMART goals i.e. making your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based. You want to earn your CFE credential in 2017, but did you pick a deadline yet? Review the 30-, 60- and 90-day study plans. Pick one and stick with it.  

2. Break it down

You have to study for the exam, complete the application process and finally take the exam. That can be intimidating. However, the process is much more manageable if you break it down into small chunks. Create mini-goals to help you along the way.

Here are some examples:

  • Complete the Pre-Assessment by 1/24/2017
  • Submit the CFE Exam application before 1/31/2017
  • Answer all the questions in the Fraud Prevention section by 2/8/2017

The 30-, 60- and 90-day study plans include a checklist of deadlines that will help you create these mini-goals.

3. Schedule it

When I studied for my CFE Exam, I decided I would study during my lunch hour. Every day for about three months, I packed my lunch, sat at my desk and studied. Maybe studying at lunch will not work for you, but it is important to choose a time and place, and study consistently.

4. Measure progress

The CFE Exam Prep Course includes tools for tracking your study progress. You can also use this chart to keep track of the time you spend studying.

5. Share your goals in the CFE Exam Preparation Community

Stop by the CFE Exam Preparation Community and share your goals. As the Forbes article mentions, social support is critical. Who better to share your goals with than colleagues around the world who are preparing to pass the CFE Exam?

6. Something is better than nothing

At the most recent Principles of Fraud Examination course taught by the ACFE, I was discussing CFE Exam preparation with a member. I told her that even if you only have time to answer 10 questions a day in the Prep Course, you are still moving forward. Some progress is better than no progress and you will be surprised how many questions you answer after you knock out those first 10 questions.

7. Get up when you slip up

If you miss a day, week or even a month of studying, do not give up. Revisit your mini-goals, adjust your deadlines and get going. You can do it!

Because I am a quote person, I will leave you with this:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” -Confucius

Volkswagen Exec Arrested: Dissecting the Fraud Triangle


Mandy Moody, CFE
ACFE Content Manager

Steve Morang, CFE, CIA, CRMA, Senior Manager at Frank Rimerman & Co LLP, began his session at the ACFE Global Fraud Conference last June asking attendees to raise their hands if they believed the Volkswagen executives didn’t know anything about the fraudulent emissions tests built into more than 11 million of their diesel cars. Only one person raised his hand. That one person may have a hard time defending himself today since the FBI arrested a Volkswagen executive (a compliance head) on conspiracy charges.

No matter if you think the executives did know about the manipulation or not, there are lessons to be learned from dissecting what could have possibly led to an ethics failure that cost $35 billion in market capital in just five days.

One way to analyze the scandal is to place it into the Fraud Triangle. Identifying the pressures, rationalizations and opportunities, as Morang did, shines a light on the dark areas that plague many companies' ethical cultures.

According to Morang, the former CEO’s management style was ruthless. Martin Winterkorn wanted the German car giant to be the No. 1 car maker in the world and that meant making it into the U.S. marketplace with their diesel engine cars. The tone at the top was to get it done and get it done now.

In a 2015 CNBC article, Bernd Osterloh, a supervisory board member for Volkswagen, was quoted as writing in a letter to staff, "We need in future a climate in which problems aren't hidden but can be openly communicated to superiors. We need a culture in which it's possible and permissible to argue with your superior about the best way to go."

The article goes on to reference former company executives describing “a management style under Winterkorn that fostered a climate of fear, an authoritarianism that went unchecked partly due to a company structure unique in the German motor industry.” Upon Winterkorn’s resignation in September of 2015, he said that he was “not aware of any wrongdoing.”

To the people responsible for the manipulation of the engines, Morang said the tampering was done for what the employees under pressure thought was the greater good. They were using the same utilitarian ethics that I described in a previous post. There was a mentality that it was okay to bend the rules so that Volkswagen, and the investors, could come out ahead. In other words, the ends (larger profits, notoriety and reputation) justified the means (fraudulent emissions tests).

When an employee or group of employees (the investigation is still ongoing) discovered that the diesel cars could be wired to cheat emissions tests, the legs of the Fraud Triangle moved quickly into place. By adding the pressure to enter the U.S. market with the rationalization of putting the company above all else, in addition to the opportunity to fool emissions tests, the slippery slope soon looked like an easy path to take.

By understanding the pressures, rationalizations and opportunities that contributed to the actions taken either by a few or many, the top, middle or the bottom, anti-fraud professionals can take away practical tools to use when examining their own company’s ethical culture.

Nordic Compliance Professionals Prefer Web-Based Whistleblowing Channels


Karin Henriksson, Founding Partner of WhistleB, Whistleblowing Centre
Whistleblowing and compliance expert

For many years, telephone hotlines have been considered the most popular form of reporting whistleblowing issues. However, WhistleB’s recent client experience in Scandinavia has indicated that reporting through online channels is equally effective.

Research conducted by the ACFE seems to corroborate this trend. For the first time, tips submitted via email (34.1%) and web-based or online form (23.5%) combined to make reporting more common through the internet than by telephone.

Against the backdrop of increasing regulation across Europe aimed at strengthening whistleblower protections, we were curious about the potential of online whistleblowing systems, based on the experience of Nordic organizations.

At the 3rd Summit on Anti-Corruption (Nordics Edition) in November 2016, we took the opportunity to ask compliance professionals directly about their preferences of whistleblowing reporting. Here is what we found:

  • Nearly 80% of respondents receive the majority of their whistleblowing reports through a web service.
  • More than three-quarters of compliance professionals surveyed said they preferred to receive reports through a web service, whereas only one in 10 preferred to receive them by phone.
  • Nearly 70% said that they manage whistleblowing cases internally; approximately 30% handle them both internally and externally.

We also surveyed our own customers during the summer of 2016. The request went out to approximately 100 organizations who told us that approximately half of the reports they received led to an anonymous dialogue between the whistleblower and the employer.

What can we learn from these results?

  1. The anonymity and security of web-based reporting channels appeals to whistleblowers, for whom blowing the whistle remains an uncomfortable step to take. Additionally, web platforms that are increasingly optimized for smartphones enable whistleblowers to more easily record and report evidence of misconduct.
  2. We believe that one of the key reasons that compliance officers prefer online reporting systems is that an online system enables them to capture information more efficiently, and subsequently handle cases more effectively with the help of a structured online process. 
  3. Nordic companies clearly prefer an internal investigation team, and the advantages thereof: the ability to extract and combine information from multiple reports and sources to find a pattern; more secure handling of information; and, cost-effective solution.
  4. Online reporting is invaluable in bringing about anonymous internal dialogue between the organization and the whistleblower.

Online whistleblowing has a firm position in the prevention of fraud. As one of our customers wrote in our summer survey, "We see that reporting increases when the employees can report with guaranteed anonymity and in their own language."

Karin Henriksson, Founding Partner of WhistleB, Whistleblowing Centre is a whistleblowing and compliance expert. Karin has previously worked in the European Union bodies, as well as at the Nordic Council of Ministers. She has for many years worked as a senior consultant in the area of ethics and compliance, helping customers set up whistleblowing centers as a part of their governance and compliance model. She is also a member of Transparency International’s whistleblowing group in Sweden.

Skype: WhistleB Karin Henriksson
E-mail: karin.henriksson@whistleb.com