Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects


Selected by Jacob Parks, J.D., CFE
ACFE Associate General Counsel

The ACFE Bookstore offers hundreds of resources including books and manuals, self-study CPE courses, the CFE Exam Prep Course, merchandise and more. In this interview, ACFE Associate General Counsel Jacob Parks, J.D., CFE, offers his suggestion on one must-have ACFE resource to help you in your fight against fraud.

What is your professional background and current role at the ACFE?
I started in the ACFE Research Department almost six years ago, where I focused on course review and development, especially with our materials involving legal issues. Since then, I moved to the role of Associate General Counsel, where my role is to provide day-to-day legal advice for staff and help ensure compliance with applicable laws.

Why would CFEs be interested in the online self-study, Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects?
This self-study course offers a step-by-step overview of interviewing witnesses and fraud suspects, which is beneficial both for those with little to no experience interviewing, as well as seasoned veterans who would like to enhance their interview style. The course focuses on improving the types of questions fraud examiners ask during an interview, how to react to different behaviors of the subject and obtaining the cooperation of the subject.

How is the information in this product useful for CFEs in their professional roles?
I think interviewing is one of the most difficult skills to master in fraud examination because there are so many ways that an interview can go poorly. Unlike some errors that can be revised, such as a typo in a report draft, the harm from mistakes made during an interview might be immediate and irreversible.

One improper question could violate the rights of the interview subject, while another poorly worded question concerning a sensitive topic might cause the subject to be less cooperative. Every interview opportunity — especially with the subject of an investigation — could be the last chance available, so it is important to enter the interview knowing what information is needed and the best ways to get it. This course lays out what the procedural and psychological obstacles are to obtaining that information, and how to maneuver around them.

Read more about Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects.

Clare Rewcastle Brown to Discuss Money-Laundering Controls Learned from 1MDB Scandal


Sarah Hofmann
ACFE Public Information Officer

“I think this whole offshore financial structure that’s been allowed to grow like a canker … the whole thing’s got out of control,” said investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown in an interview with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). 

Rewcastle Brown founded The Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak in 2010 to disseminate news that concerned the Sarawak region of Malaysia and eventually, news surrounding the emerging 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) scandal. In August 2015, a warrant for her arrest was issued by a Malaysian court for "activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy" and the "dissemination of false reports."

“I think we’re seeing a swing of the pendulum and I think 1MDB’s just kind of cropped up perhaps at the right place at the right time … governments across the world have started to realize that they’ve lost control and populations have lost patience,” she said.

Rewcastle Brown will address anti-fraud professionals from across Europe at the 2017 ACFE Fraud Conference Europe in London, March 19-21. Despite having an arrest warrant issued for her by a Malaysian court, Brown remains optimistic that corruption on a global scale can be defeated. She said, “I do think we’re seeing a lashback and 1MDB is going to be just one example of enforcement agencies hitting back.”

Despite not being able to attend the 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Asia-Pacific last November in Singapore due to safety concerns, she is committed to speaking in-person at the conference in London. She plans to lay out the intricate timeline of the 1MDB scandal that allegedly began in 2009 and runs through present day.

1MDB is currently being investigated by Swiss, Singh and U.S. authorities. In a question-and-answer session after her prepared remarks in Singapore, Rewcastle Brown addressed what controls she thought could help prevent this type of large-scale money laundering. “I think this case is really an opportunity to hold banks and players in these actions seriously to account. And to make the actors who have broken the rules pay the penalty, seriously. [They should be] absolutely exposed, shamed and embarrassed because we need to put off future, potential situations like this arising again,” she said. “I think that’s the best we can hope to come out of this. By showing at last, that the financial regulators have teeth and that they’re catching up to the global criminal element who have been using our offshore system and far-too compliant financial organizations. If we can get ahead of them, maybe that’s the best way to deal with this particular problem.”

Find out more about the upcoming 2017 ACFE Fraud Conference Europe, and register by February 17 for early registration discounts, at

New Data Tools for Your 2017 Fraud Examinations


Jeremy Clopton, CFE, CPA, ACDA, CIDA
Director, Big Data & Analytics, Digital Forensics
BKD, LLP | Forensics & Valuation Services

“New Year, New You” can be found everywhere from email subject lines to magazine covers to marquees at local fitness center. January is the time to begin new things. With that in mind, here are a few of the new items to consider in your next fraud examination.

First, let’s talk about some new methods to consider:

  • Advanced analytics: Rather than relying on sampling and rules-based queries alone, take your analytics to the next level. Incorporate correlation across disparate data sets, outlier detection based on multiple attributes and look for patterns across data sets that indicate anomalous activity. 
  • Text analytics: Easily one of my favorites and one of the most overlooked. There is a lot of value to be extracted from text —names, places, events, topics and even tones of communication may be extracted. These elements can help build the foundation of a case and enhance interviews and interrogations.
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence: The more cutting-edge of the recommended approaches, machine learning and artificial intelligence are increasingly valuable in complex and large-scale investigations. These are the foundations for predictive coding, which allows you to review a large set of documents, communications or transactions in a manner that is both efficient and effective. Supervised machine learning allows you to “teach” the computer what to look for and return similar results. Whereas, unsupervised machine learning allows the computer to “teach” you what trends, patterns and anomalies exist in the data set. 

Last, here are some data sources you may not have considered in the past:

  • Communications Data: You’re likely thinking that communications data isn’t something new to consider—  you have used email, phone records, text messages and others for years. Applying text analytics and machine learning to email can help you learn about the dynamics, happenings and relationships in an organization before you interview a single individual. What’s more, leveraging tone detection may uncover the conversation about a scheme that isn’t explicitly discussed as such.
  • Internet of Things: The Internet of Things is all the rage. With robots, voice recognition technology and artificial intelligence being incorporated into more and more products, there is data being captured in places we never thought possible. For example, Amazon Echo’s Alexa was recently subpoenaed in a murder case  in Arkansas. This example shows just how much data we have surrounding us each and every day.

These are just a few of the new items for you to consider as you embark on your examinations in 2017. As the year progresses, I will include posts on each of these in the context of examinations, as they make news and describe how you can incorporate them into your approach. I will also discuss other emerging technologies that may reshape how a fraud examination is performed.

Bringing Down FIFA: 'The dogged obsession of a single reporter'


James D. Ratley, CFE
ACFE President

Sports are an obsession for many fans around the globe. Team owners, promoters and gear manufacturers know their customers are loyal (sometimes rabid), unpaid publicists. So we're talking about boatloads of cash coursing through sport systems — and sometimes surreptitiously into fraudsters' pockets.

Andrew Jennings, an independent investigative journalist, has spent more than 15 years laboriously examining the economic intricacies of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). His reporting of entrenched FIFA corruption — bribes, kickbacks, vote rigging and ticket scandals — eventually caught the attention of the FBI. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted scores of FIFA-related officials under the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the U.S. Travel Act. As of publication, the U.S. had convicted 21 on various racketeering and corruption charges with 42 defendants publicly charged.

Simon Jenkins of the Guardian newspaper wrote that credit for the routing of FIFA "should go to the dogged obsession of a single reporter, Andrew Jennings."

Jennings has been chasing bad guys around the globe for decades. He's investigated corruption in Scotland Yard, the Sicilian Mafia and the International Olympic Committee, among many others.

The inscription on the ACFE's Guardian Award reads: "For Vigilance in Fraud Reporting." That phrase defines Jennings's work. And that is why we're presenting him with the award at the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 18-23 in Nashville.

Jennings says that from his teen years, he wanted to become an investigative reporter. He attended university for a couple of years, but he was chomping at the bit to get to his investigations. He worked for some of the U.K. national newspapers, but he was bored. He went to the BBC where he worked on a TV documentary about corruption in Scotland Yard, but the BBC pulled it at the last moment. He quit and went home to write a book about it. And then a public-affairs TV show — "World in Action" — called him and he re-made the film.

From there he made several documentaries and wrote a couple of award-winning books on Olympic corruption, which prepared him for rooting out "the rot," as he calls it, in FIFA.

Even today, at 73, he's still sniffing for bad smells in large institutions. Read more about Jennings in the latest issue of Fraud Magazine.

And, sign up for the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference to hear this fascinating man and many other fraud fighters.

10 Infamous Fraud Cases of the 21st Century


ACFE Staff

A seemingly endless stream of fraud stories hits the headlines every day. On Monday you could read that an Ivy league-educated financier defrauded his victims of more than $38 million and by Friday, a European soccer star is spending his day in court.

It can be disheartening to see these stories splayed across your computer or TV screens. There is, however, a silver lining. If we’ve learned anything from taking history classes in school it’s that understanding the past helps to avoid repeating it. 

In a new ACFE online self-study course, 10 Infamous Fraud Cases of the 21st Century, we do just that. By exploring 10 notable fraud cases of the 21st century, fraud examiners can identify the methods the major players used to conduct their schemes, and analyze the aftermath and impacts of various frauds. Learning from past cases means you can help protect your clients, employers and the general public from similar schemes in the future.

In 2002, the WorldCom scandal became one of the largest accounting frauds in history when the company revealed its wrongdoing and was subsequently forced to file bankruptcy and write off $50 billion in losses. The scandal began when WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers employed a business strategy of achieving growth through acquisitions. He acquired MCI Communications and then proposed a merger with Sprint, but was forced to abandon the Sprint merger in 2000. Determined to show increased revenue despite a slow-down in mergers and acquisitions, Ebbers manipulated the books to satisfy Wall Street’s expectations. The scheme was detected when a capital expenditures audit revealed suspicious journal entries. WorldCom’s internal audit team discovered improper accounting in expenses over five quarters. The WorldCom accounting scandal was a situation in which corporate governance failed and the board of directors were caught unaware. WorldCom’s accounting system was faulty and Ebbers’ close relationship with external accounting firm Arthur Andersen presented a conflict of interest in which the auditors were unable to exercise professional skepticism when performing their audits.

High-profile sports are big business in many countries. Unfortunately for the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), alleged corruption and money laundering means its big business operated with little or no oversight. The FIFA scandal involved the collusion between FIFA executives, sports marketing executives and officials of continental football bodies. The scandal erupted in May 2015 when Swiss authorities raided a hotel in Zurich and several FIFA executives were arrested. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has cited more than 40 defendants in the FIFA scandal. Some charges involved bids for World Cups and for marketing and broadcast deals that amounted to nearly $150 million. Future World Cups are now in question — the scandal has caused the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup to be suspended. Proposed changes have been made, but only time will tell in an organization that has historically dealt with bribery and corruption.

In 2012, British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was at the center of the largest health care fraud settlement in history when the company agreed to pay $3 billion in fines to U.S. regulators. The crime? According to the U.S. Justice Department, GSK unlawfully promoted certain prescription drugs, failed to report safety data, paid kickbacks to health care professionals and engaged in fraudulent pricing practices. The settlement arose from a number of GSK policies and practices that largely involved the promotion of prescription drugs, like Paxil and Wellbutrin, for off-label use. While doctors may prescribe drugs for off-label use, it’s illegal for pharmaceutical companies to promote or market off-label uses. The U.S. government also claimed that GSK paid unlawful kickbacks to health care professionals to encourage them to prescribe certain drugs. Although much of GSK’s misconduct was unique to the pharmaceutical and health care industries, the case contains broad lessons. A company’s culture should stress compliance and ethical conduct. The nature and prevalence of GSK’s misconduct suggest that its culture rewarded profit rather than compliance and patient safety. That type of culture is a recipe for fraud. 

The Target data breach in late 2013 was the largest in U.S. retail history and resulted in the exposure of approximately 40 million credit card numbers and the personal information of 70 million customers. Unidentified hackers — thought to be from Eastern Europe or Russia — surreptitiously installed malware into Target’s computer networks. The hackers accessed Target’s systems using the credentials of a third-party heating and air conditioning contractor.

Before the company was hacked, Target had installed a security system that caught five instances of malware graded at the highest severity. Members of corporate headquarters were notified, but apparently ignored the alerts. In this day and age when cybersecurity has become a hot topic thanks to the increasing advancements in technology, the Target debacle shows that companies need a strong response plan to deal with alerts of possible network intrusions.

The Olympus financial scandal exploded in late 2011 when then president and CEO Michael Woodford came forward with information exposing fraudulent accounting practices in the organization. Woodford had only served as CEO for two weeks when he revealed the financial malfeasance. The fraud is one of the most significant corporate corruption scandals in the history of Japan. In 2000, standards in Japan changed significantly after the failure of Yamaguchi Securities in 1997. The new accounting standards required losses on certain assets to be noted at the end of each accounting period. Rather than comply with the standards and disclose mounting losses, Olympus constructed a complicated system of hiding its bad assets. The company began selling bad assets for exorbitant prices to newly created entities under its control without recognizing losses from the sales. The Olympus fraud shows that tone at the top matters. Woodford wrote letters to the board about his concerns and was subsequently fired. This exemplified the company’s unethical culture. C-level executives must act according to the principles expected of employees at all levels and across the enterprise.

Learning by Example
These are just five of the 10 cases covered, and here we only scratch the surface of what can be learned from these schemes. 10 Infamous Fraud Cases of the 21st Century contains analysis from experts and experienced fraud fighters. It dives deep into each case to interactively explore the pressures, opportunities and rationalizations of the fraudsters, and how fraud examiners can take these lessons into the field.

Find more products and events in the latest ACFE Resource Guide