Fraud Examiners Not Immune from Ethical Dilemmas


Dawn Taylor, CFE
ACFE Research Specialist

One of the toughest decisions I've ever faced was whether I should disclose to a children's welfare organization certain morally questionable activities in a friend's household or feign ignorance. Telling all that I knew came with the possibility of my friend’s children being taken from her — perhaps permanently. Yet, holding back information meant that the children might be put in harm’s way.    

Would it be ethical for me to withhold information from the investigator? Did the situation justify the mother’s children being taken from her? Were the children actually in harm’s way, and would lying keep them there? How might the children suffer if they were taken from their mother? How might the mother suffer as a result of having her children taken from her custody?

As you can see, I had a lot to think about.

We all face ethical dilemmas at some point or another, including in our professional lives. As CFEs, we owe it to ourselves, the profession and society to do the right thing. But when ethical values collide, the right course of action isn’t always clear. Where can we turn for guidance?

One valuable resource is the ACFE's new online self-study, Ethical Issues for Fraud Examiners. The course helps us to understand what constitutes an ethical dilemma and assists us in developing a greater awareness of ethical issues faced by fraud examiners. Included in the course are several interesting and thought-provoking fictional scenarios involving potential ethical dilemmas that pertain to fraud examinations.

Although there is no approach that will provide us with an automatic solution to our ethical dilemmas, Ethical Issues for Fraud Examiners can guide us as we deliberate on the issues for ourselves, explore important considerations and finally come to our own resolutions.

And, as an added bonus, the two CPE available allow CFEs to meet the new 2011 ethics-related CPE requirement.

Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma as a fraud examiner? How did you resolve it?