Jump-Start Your Fraud Examination Career With Internships and Study Abroad Programs

MEMBER PROFILE

Jacob Flournoy, CFE
Chief Audit Executive
University of Arkansas

Before beginning his career in bank examination, and later internal audit, Jacob Flournoy wishes he would have done more of one thing: listening. “I was probably told everything I needed to succeed by my trusted advisors. I just wish I had listened more to their advice,” said Flournoy, a CFE, and the Chief Audit Executive at the University of Arkansas System. In addition to listening more, he encourages young professionals to find internships and take advantage of many schools’ study abroad programs. “During my college days there were not as many internships and study abroad programs available, and the ones that existed were not as well funded as they are today,” he said. “The programs that exist now provide amazing experiences and contacts for young professionals seeking to start their careers.”

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
After graduating college, I accepted a job with the Federal Deposit Insurance Cooperation (FDIC) and was assigned to a bank examination team in Oklahoma. In those days, the FDIC performed joint exams with the state bank examiners and the banks were almost all small, locally owned banks. The state bank examiners, in particular, had a passion for rooting out the dishonest bankers from the honest bankers because the dishonest ones were stealing from their friends and neighbors (ranchers, small business owners, teachers, retirees and other individuals). These customers often had a significant portion of their savings invested in their local banks and communities. I have not forgotten those bank examiners’ passion for protecting their home state from the financial devastation that unchecked fraud can cause to private citizens.

What are the most important skills you have learned throughout your career?
|In addition to becoming an expert in areas of fraud examination, accounting and financial reporting, data analytics and IT auditing, the most important skillsets I have developed are in the areas of communication, supervision and collaboration. Effective verbal and written communications skills are vital to the success of any fraud examination, and are used in conducting interviews, developing clear and concise reports and presenting results. Effective supervision skills include the ability to mentor and coach team members. And in today’s work environment, another critical skill is the ability to work in collaboration with multigenerational and multicultural teams to achieve the goals of the examination.

What value do you see in mentorship, and what advice do you have for someone looking for a mentor?
I have been very fortunate to have mentors over my career. The best mentorships are a two-way relationship. If you want leaders to take the time to mentor you, they have to first see value in your work. Once you have gained their trust and respect for the quality of your work, they will take the time to share with you invaluable advice and counsel for meeting your life goals.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on —one that made you feel especially proud?
I have worked on a great number of fraud cases over the years and several of them have been memorable for a variety of reasons. I believe, as a group though, the ones that I am most proud of have come from calls/tips through the phone and online hotlines. There is something very satisfying in helping a true whistleblower resolve an ongoing fraudulent situation. Often their concerns have been rebuffed, stone walled or ignored, sometimes for years. Then one day, they have the courage to contact the hotline and we move forward with stopping the fraud, recovering the funds and assisting law enforcement in bringing the perpetrators to justice. When that happens, you know you have earned your pay as a CFE and it is a good day!

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
My spouse and I are avid readers. She prefers mysteries and novels, while I prefer biographies, history and international policy. As a result, we both like traveling as a hobby because our travels give us a more in-depth understanding of the people, customs, cultures, societies and locations we read about.

Read Jacob's full profile and find more career resources in the Career Center on ACFE.com.

Fear Not the Deposition Hot Seat

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

James D. Ratley, CFE
ACFE President

Depositions are grueling. Let’s say you’re an expert witness for the defense. As you walk into the conference room of the plaintiff’s counsel your heart rate ascends, your palms sweat and you reach for a glass of water as you sit at the table. You know what’s coming: incessant, pointed questions from attorneys as you give sworn testimony. You also know that all parties will use your words in court as evidence or as weapons to attack your inconsistencies.

Eric A. Kreuter, Ph.D., CFE, CPA, CGMA, the author of Fraud Magazine's latest cover article, feels your pain, and he wants to help relieve some of it. He’s testified in scores of depositions and knows how hot that seat at the table can get.

Kreuter writes that the primary reason for an attorney’s aggressive demeanor, of course, is to place a witness on the defensive and trip them up. In all depositions and court cases in which I’ve been involved the defense and prosecution will use belligerent and even bellicose tactics to get what they want.

The author writes that he maintains his composure during a deposition through mindfulness and relaxation. “I allow examining attorneys to be themselves, and I stay fully in command of my sensibilities and remind myself that I’m prepared and ready,” he writes. Attorneys’ decibel levels rising? Your voice stays even and calm. Attorneys questioning your facts, career background and even character? You remain professional as you present your meticulously prepared evidence.

Kreuter says that when he first walks into a deposition room he tries to sense the moods of all the participants — additional attorneys, clerks, opposing expert witnesses — so he can be independent of their subtle, distracting influences.

“This tactic is similar to a basketball player who attempts a free throw in a crowded arena: They must tune out distractions like crowd noises, music and people waving signs,” he writes.

During my years as a police officer and fraud examiner, I discovered that reading the moods of all players in a case could determine my success or failure in gathering evidence. I would use this skill when it came time for me to answer the questions. I’d work to control my temperament as the mercury began to rise in the deposition room. As the author writes, I wouldn’t attempt to build rapport with the examining attorney; I’d just answer the questions with (hopefully) unbiased answers.

You don’t have to be afraid of testifying as an expert witness, Kreuter writes. Although the stakes might be high, you can teach yourself to read the room and cope with common stressors of the process and flow of a deposition. “The road to becoming an effective expert witness certainly isn’t easy, but it can be professionally rewarding even if your seat at the deposition sometimes heats up,” he writes.

Cryptocurrency in 2018: Cautiously Embracing the Future

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GUEST BLOGGER

Dennis Lawrence CFE, CAMS

Lawrence is a corporate investigations and anti-money laundering professional in Washington, D.C.

2017 was a year of unprecedented progress for cryptocurrencies. From the Japanese government’s decision to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender to the overall cryptocurrency market cap exceeding $500 billion, it is a safe bet to argue that this revolutionary digital asset class is here to stay. With cryptocurrencies quickly becoming both a speculative investment and payment method, certain names in the space are gaining credibility. Ripple is helping banks move money internationally at speeds and costs far superior to wire transfers. Ethereum is being used to build a decentralized commercial platform that will execute smart contracts. And Bitcoin is regarded as a store of value more precious than gold.

As a result of their increased popularity amongst millennials and East Asian markets, cryptocurrencies have now attracted Wall Street and a mainstream following. Perhaps expectedly, their use in illicit activity has transformed since the early days of the Silk Road, with bad actors being compelled to change their modus operandi and create new methods to unjustly enrich themselves. Regardless, the potential long-term benefits of cryptocurrency far outweigh the risks, and its future looks increasingly bright.

Once reveled as the easiest means to move dirty money, shadowy figures seeking high levels of anonymity are relying less on Bitcoin since transactions can be forensically traced on a blockchain. Instead, they are now turning toward privacy coins such as Monero which advertises its built-in money laundering protocols designed to “obfuscate the amounts, origins, and destinations of all transactions.” The criminal underworld has reason to be paranoid, as law enforcement has partnered with consulting firms to build databases of Bitcoin wallets used in Dark Web transactions tied to real world actors. Meanwhile, cryptocurrency exchanges in the U.S. and several major world markets are abiding by stricter levels of regulation focusing on AML/KYC compliance. Other major concerns such as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which serve as fertile grounds for pump and dump schemes, are rightly receiving scrutiny from regulators worldwide seeking to protect novice investors from financial predators.

Despite its shortcomings, all signs point to the long-term survival of cryptocurrency albeit with significant regulation in free market democracies. With that said, of the more than 1,300 cryptocurrencies in existence today, it is likely that over 99% will disappear in the long run, perhaps bearing some similarity to the post dot-com bubble. The few prominent names that remain will become integrated into our daily lives, either as of direct use to individuals or corporations. The next technological wave to hit our society is upon us and it will pay to cautiously embrace the future.