Accounting Malpractice and the Auditor’s Responsibility to Detect Fraud

Accounting Malpractice and the Auditor’s Responsibility to Detect Fraud

In the case of Livent, Inc. v. Deloitte & Touche the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a 2014 decision ordering Deloitte & Touche (Deloitte) pay $118 million in damages to a theater company (Livent, Inc.) for which Deloitte performed auditing services. Why was Deloitte held accountable for such a large sum?

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

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

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.

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CFE Determined to Bring Government Closer to Citizens

MEMBER PROFILE

Nicole Galloway, CFE
Missouri State Auditor 

Few things are as important as ‘the follow through.’ In many respects, following through is as important as beginning the task itself. This practice is what essentially led Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, CFE, to obtain her credential. “I didn’t want to just start the case,” says Galloway. “I wanted to put the pieces together and see it through to the end.” Galloway believes that the state auditing process provides an opportunity for review, investigation and recommendations in pursuance of making government better for its people. “I believe strongly that the work we do is critical,” says Galloway. “I want others to understand how we can bring government closer to citizens.”

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud? 

When I worked as an actuary at Allstate Insurance I would review internal case studies that provided real-world examples of recently discovered fraud attempts. In one case, an individual filed a claim for his home, which he claimed was destroyed in a tornado. But when the adjustor went to investigate, she found the home was just fine. I would check these listings every day – I found it so incredible that there were people out there that would try to perpetrate these frauds and actually thought they could get away with it. Shortly after, I started taking accounting classes and I realized that it was more than just people who tried to get away with something. Of course, there were bad actors, but there were also circumstances — the opportunities for fraud — that allowed these activities to occur. I found this interesting, and it sparked my interest in fraud and fraud investigations.

Why did you decide to become a CFE?

As an internal auditor at an insurance company, I saw the impact that the company's CFEs had. They seemed to be doing the most interesting things! I remember when I first started using Audit Command Language (ACL) I found a number of insurance policies in our records that had the same P.O. Box listed as the address. It was an interesting discovery, but then I had to hand the information off to a CFE in the company to lead the investigation. I didn't want to just start the case, I wanted to be able to put the pieces together and see it through to the end.

What is your current role and what does it entail?

As the 38th Auditor of the State of Missouri, I am responsible for the operations of an office that provides oversight and independent review to hold government accountable. My office works to ensure the proper use of public funds and to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Missouri government. Audits examine financial practices to identify potential waste, opportunities for fraud, cybersecurity weaknesses and whether government organizations and programs are operating efficiently and transparently.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?

My team completed an audit in December of Hope Academy, a charter school in Kansas City that's no longer operating. It actually closed during the course of our audit work, which demonstrates the extent of the issues we found there. What we saw at Hope Academy — manipulated attendance records to get more state funding, students getting credit for non-academic work like dog walking and babysitting — was frustrating. The school was designed to serve as a second chance for students who were working to make positive changes in their lives, instead taxpayers were defrauded out of millions of dollars and, most importantly, the school failed these kids. Since our audit, a lawsuit has been filed against Hope Academy seeking the $3.7 million owed to the state. We can't get back the opportunities that these students lost, but it's good to see that steps are being taken to hold officials accountable, and I'm proud of the work we did there.

What do you hope to personally pass on to the next generation of fraud fighters?

I hope to pass on a real interest in public sector auditing. I believe strongly that the work we do is critical, and I want others to understand how we can bring government closer to citizens. I know that there can be a general distrust of government, but the auditing process provides for review, investigation and recommendations designed to make the system better. By shedding light on how government operates at every level, we can get away from distrust and move to a place of healthy skepticism. Questioning how government works is a good thing; it's healthy. But we need citizens to be engaged in the process and make suggestions to ensure government operates more efficiently.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?

My husband and I have two sons: 4-year-old William, and 2-year-old Benjamin. They make sure many of my hobbies are now family events. We spend time cooking together most evenings. I'm pretty sure that if they start early enough, one of them is bound to surpass my skills and become the family chef. At least I can dream, can't I?

This week we will be highlighting female fraud fighters from all over the world in celebration of International Women's Day, March 8. Read Galloway's full member profile in the Career Center on ACFE.com.

What to Do When the Authorities Just Aren’t Interested

GUEST BLOGGER

Mary Breslin, CFE, CIA
President, Empower Audit

Sometimes stopping a fraud and terminating an employee are all you can do. Even though those are two accomplishments in themselves, they can leave you wondering, “What do I do when the authorities are not interested in criminally prosecuting an internal fraud?”

One of the easiest fraud cases I ever worked was also one of the most frustrating. My team and I did solid work and had iron-clad evidence, but we couldn’t convince the local authorities to do anything with the information. Unfortunately, it was one of those scenarios where the executives really wanted to prosecute and make a clear example of the situation.

As the chief audit executive, I reported to the general counsel for my organization. It was a great arrangement in my opinion, and I enjoyed working for him. We were a large international organization with operations in many developing nations. My team was routinely involved in fraud investigations, often on multiple continents simultaneously. But this fraud — this fraud was close to home. Literally in the office next door. The general counsel’s paralegal had been committing expense reimbursement fraud for two years, and the general counsel took it personally. Wouldn’t you?

A perceptive accounts payable clerk noticed some issues with the paralegal’s expenses and informed us of the inconsistencies. After a little research and some data analytics, we quickly found tens of thousands of dollars in purchase card (pcard) and expense reimbursement fraud. She had two major schemes. First, she paid for things with her pcard and then listed the items for cash reimbursement on her personal expenses. She always had a receipt! The opportunity had presented itself to her when she realized the general counsel did not closely review her expenses. Second, she charged a considerable amount of personal items to her company pcard. I won’t get into details, but I do believe she had everything ever made by Victoria's Secret.

Understandably, the general counsel felt a lot of things —anger, frustration, betrayal and a little foolishness for trusting her and not reviewing her expenses in detail. As a result, he wanted her charged criminally. She was not getting special treatment — we wanted to follow our normal process to prosecute for internal fraud. However, while there was approximately $30,000 in fraud, the local authorities were not interested in prosecuting. Why? Like most things in life, it was mostly about timing. At that particular moment in time, the local authorities had bigger cases they were concerned with and did not believe they could spare the resources to deal with our fraudster.

The final outcomes of even successfully executed investigations can be very frustrating and less than satisfactory. So how can this be prevented? It is always a potential problem, but if you do the following you are less likely to run into this issue:

  • Make sure your case is ready to hand over to the authorities, including ensuring that you have solid evidence that was properly handled.
  • Use experts. Bring in external assistance if you do not have fraud investigation and examination experts in-house.
  •  If the authorities feel they are too busy, remember you have time. Understand what the statute of limitations is for the crime. Ask the authorities if it would be acceptable to check in periodically to see if their schedules allow your case to be addressed at a later time.
  • You can initiate a civil suit to recover losses.

Remember: Catching the fraudster and ending the fraud is a deterrent to other fraudsters, so do not allow yourself to get too frustrated. Stop fraud and carry on!