How to Write a Solid Fraud Examination Report that Will Stand Up in Court


John Gill, J.D., CFE
ACFE VP of Education

At our 2008 ACFE Annual Fraud Conference in Boston, ACFE President and CEO James D. Ratley asked me to teach a Pre-Conference workshop on fraud examination report writing that included tips on writing a solid, easy-to-read report that would stand up in court. To prepare for this, I sent an e-mail to some CFEs I knew, asking them for sample reports. After receiving many responses, I, along with ACFE senior staff, reviewed all of them and created a sample report that could serve as a template for other fraud examiners. This report would be the foundation for that Pre-Conference workshop three years ago and for our new Report Writing Manual.

A fraud examination report must be accurate and understandable so that others may know what transpired without having to speak to the report’s author. In other words, the report must speak for itself. It will exist for many years as an official record of that case. An important point to remember is that a good investigation can be ruined by a bad report. A report that is poorly written may lead the reader to doubt the skills and conclusions of the fraud examiner.

The Report Writing Manual is designed to help both those who like to write and those who don’t. We have provided a standard format that will work well for most fraud examination engagements. The format is flexible enough that it can be easily revised for just about any purpose.

It may help to keep in mind the three most important purposes of a report:

  • Conveys evidence — A well-written report conveys all evidence necessary for evaluation of the case.
  • Adds credibility — Because the written report is completed in a timely manner, it adds credibility to the investigation or examination and can be used to corroborate earlier facts.
  • Accomplishes the objectives of the case — The knowledge that a written report must be issued after the examination is completed forces the examiner to consider his actions beforehand.

Additionally, we included some of the common mistakes of report writing and some of the secrets for writing well. We also inform you about the legal issues regarding reports and provide suggestions for protecting your report from attack. Expert reports are also covered, and we explain the key elements required.

If you enjoy writing, you will find some useful tips and ideas that we have accumulated from experience and from the shared comments of ACFE members. If you despise writing, you will find helpful suggestions and templates to make the task of putting together a good report easier and more efficient.

To read more about the ACFE’s new Report Writing Manual or to order a copy, go here.