Coming Soon: New Report on Measuring In-House Fraud Investigation Teams

FROM THE RESOURCE GUIDE

Andi McNeal, CFE, CPA
ACFE Director of Research

Proving ROI on anti-fraud initiatives can be incredibly difficult. Measuring the amount of fraud that’s been prevented, determining whether investigations are being performed as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, evaluating whether frauds are being detected and responded to quickly and thoroughly enough — we frequently hear our members express how challenging these types of assessments are to perform. And the effort of explaining these issues to management, who is pressing for formal metrics, can make this area even more challenging in many organizations.

But anti-fraud teams need to be held accountable, just like every other team within the organization. One of the best ways for any team to measure and report its effectiveness is to benchmark its structure and performance against industry norms. Organizations often have historical data about their own investigation teams, but lack access to similar data from other organizations that can be used for benchmarking purposes. In 2015, we released our first benchmarking report for fraud investigation teams, and the response was incredibly positive. We knew there was a need for this type of data, but we heard from so many people — both members and non-members, from all over the world, from numerous industries, from all over the organizational chart — that this was the information they had been waiting for. Two years later, we are excited to release our next edition of this members-only resource, which has been expanded from the first to include additional benchmarking angles. 

Some insights from the upcoming In-House Fraud Investigation Teams: 2017 Benchmarking Report include:

If you want to learn more about how other fraud investigation teams are structured and how your investigation team measures up, you can see the full benchmarking report next month on ACFE.com. We hope this report helps support your team’s effectiveness and highlights its success to your organization’s decision-makers. And if there are benchmarking metrics or questions you’d like to see covered in future ACFE benchmarking research, send your ideas to Research@ACFE.com.

Find out more about the ACFE's latest resources, products and events in the most recent Resource Guide.

Dissecting the Minds of Fraudsters

FROM THE PRESIDENT

James D. Ratley, CFE

During my years in investigative work, I’ve often pondered why perpetrators commit their crimes. Working as a police officer in the Dallas Police Department, I witnessed just about every type of transgression from fraud to child abuse to murder. As fraud examiners, we use the Fraud Triangle — pressure, opportunity, rationalization — to begin analyzing wrongdoings. Regardless, we find it difficult to pry open a fraudster’s mind. But Eugene Soltes is trying.

Soltes, a Harvard Business School professor, wants to know why some C-suite executives appear to risk everything to commit fraud. Middle management and employees further down corporate ladders might do it because they’ve found a ready source of cash to ease their economic problems. However, top-flight business people seldom lack for anything; their organizations often reward them spectacularly. Why would they need to steal?

Beginning in 2008, Soltes began to write prison letters to several convicted white-collar criminals whom you know — Madoff, Fastow, Kozlowski, Stanford — and some you might not — Richards, Waskal, Drier, Hoffenberg. He asked them the first dozen questions that came to mind. What were the most significant pressures they faced? How did the way they were compensated influence their decision making? What were their intentions once they were released?

He combined the material from close to 50 fraudsters with his criminology research into the 2016 book, “Why They Do it: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal” (PublicAffairs). Soltes was a keynote speaker at the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 18-23.

Soltes says he realized after interviewing these white-collar criminals that they failed to see the personal and professional consequences of their choices because they never deeply felt that their decisions were harmful to themselves or others. (The ACFE commonly calls that “diffusion of harm.”)

He says that stealing money from a victim’s wallet involves a high degree of intimacy. But executives who manipulate corporate conduct never need to get close — physically or psychologically — to their victims. Modern “arms’ length” transactions, Soltes says, have made it perilously easy to wander into that “gray zone” between right and wrong.

Soltes doesn’t condone the fraudulent behavior, but he says that studying these men (and they were all men) with the scarlet “F” on their chests changed him

“I became a lot less confident about how I’d respond to every difficult situation,” Soltes writes. “I think I’m more humble now that I’ve realized I have limitations much like anyone else, and I need to be diligent to watch those. Moral hubris is a remarkably easy trait to acquire and not realize when one actually has it.”

You can read more about Soltes in the cover article in the latest Fraud Magazine

From Fighting in the Cage to Fighting Fraud

MEMBER PROFILE

Josh Eckmann, CFCI
Registration Compliance Analyst, Allstate
Lincoln, Nebraska 

Many CFEs pride themselves on being fraud fighters, but it’s rare for a fraud fighter to also be an actual professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter; Josh Eckmann is one of those few crossover talents. While not yet a CFE, Eckmann is currently participating in the ACFE 90-Day Challenge — a sprint to prepare for, and pass, his CFE Exam. Eckmann has worked in the insurance anti-fraud field for years and finds that pinning down fraudsters in an investigation is more similar to facing down opponents in the cage than one might think.

What steps led you to your current position?  
I started off in the company’s national catastrophe claims team and during that time discovered I had a knack for investigation. I was fortunate enough to find, and be mentored by, a retired Marine Corps counter-intelligence expert who taught me most of what I know. I was promoted to my company’s life insurance division where I found a home for my investigative skillsets. I discovered a large, and vastly unrecognized, problem with the use of life insurance policies to commit multi-lien fraud for mortgages and SBA loans.

It was during that time that I decided to go back to school and earn certification for my investigation skill sets and completed the CFCI program at Utica College in Utica, New York as a distance learner. Eventually I felt a stagnation in my growth as an investigator and worked hard to find a position within my company that would allow me to test my abilities, learn another facet of the business and expand my skillsets and knowledge base. That brought me to my current position that required that I secure the FINRA Series 6 license. Preparing for, and passing, the exam opened my eyes to a whole new world of applications and knowledge for my investigative skill set.

Are there any comparisons between MMA and fighting fraud? Or, has one profession affected the way you see the other? 
There are very few sports or professions in the world that are more taxing on body and mind than MMA. It requires passion, perseverance, and an undying obsession to continuous learning, improvement and results. When the price for giving up or being ill-prepared quite literally could mean your life, you must be tenaciously vigilant. That mindset translates into fighting fraud. When failure and giving up are not options, you seek out additional expertise, angles, insights and details that will get you closer to your goal. MMA is so different from other combat sports in that there are so many options, so many techniques, so many ways to win and so many different styles. Mentally treating a fraudster like my opponent in the cage drives me to study, experiment, trust my instincts, be willing to accept when I am wrong, try a different approach and persist until I am victorious. (Chances are pretty good that said fraudster is not actually going to try to punch me in the face … but even if so, I’ve spent my life preparing for those moments).

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work? 
Outside of work, I spend much of my time training. I have gyms that I frequent and I have made a habit seeking out and training at new gyms that practice different styles of the same martial arts. If I am not in fight camp (eight weeks of extensive training for a specific fight or tournament), then I train three to four days a week. I take one day to focus on getting stronger and all the other days are MMA-specific. During fight camp I train six days a week: four of which are MMA-specific; one day is focused on strength training and one day is focused on endurance training. I specialize in submission wrestling and I spend a considerable amount of my time training in that style. I do like to travel as well, which I get as a two-for-one deal with MMA. Last October I was in Minsk, Belarus at the United World Wrestling Grappling World Championships representing Team USA, where I won the Bronze Medal at 92kg.

I also enjoy reading, mainly nonfiction. I love reading investigative case studies, the different sciences (physics is my favorite) and business journals. Latin dance is a fantastic way to bring body and mind together as well!

Read Josh's full interview in the Career Center on ACFE.com.