Fraud Examiners Follow the Money
Department: Business, Accounting, & Economics
Movie detectives always find the misdeed. And the misdeed almost always involves cold, hard cash.
“Follow the money,” was the dictum of Deep Throat to Woodward and Bernstein about the late 1970s campaign finance corruption that brought down a presidency. “It’s all about the money” was Jerry Maguire’s approach to being a sports agent in the movie of the same name.
Watching the money trail works well for examiners hunting financial fraud hidden in the books of corporations or individuals. Think Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Charles Ponzi. Caught by a financial detective -- a fraud examiner. Forensic accountants investigate white-collar crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement; complex criminal financial transactions, including money laundering by organized criminals; and bankruptcies and contract disputes.
Forensic accountants and fraud examiners combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine whether an activity is illegal. Many examiners work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.
Otterbein University’s MBA Program now offers a concentration in the high-demand and rapidly growing area of Fraud Examination. Students are exposed to the world of forensic accounting and fraud examination. This includes the social factors behind fraudulent behavior, how to define fraud, and how to detect and deter fraud, says Henry C Smith, III, associate professor of accountancy, who developed the concentration.
A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) Smith explains the difference between an auditor and a fraud examiner. “An auditor is looking at what’s there. A fraud examiner is looking at what‘s not there,“ he says. “Based on an assessment of risk and a hypothesis, a fraud examiner begins to ask questions. He or she will look specifically for fraud.”
“We teach students how make assess the risk using a corporate handbook and from that they will create a hypothesis. We help them learn what to look for, how to investigate, how to interview, who to interview and in what order to conduct the interviews, he adds.”
The specially-designed series of courses fulfills the elective credit requirements for the MBA program, can serve as a concentration or a graduate certificate. Students should have an understanding of financial accounting, either through experience or university coursework prior to beginning the Fraud Examination courses. The 12-hour concentration consists of four courses: Fraud Examination, Investigative Methods and Interviewing, Criminology and Legal Aspects, and Forensic Accounting.
Josh Murray, an MBA student working with Smith decided being a CFE would be beneficial to his career. He took an Independent Study course in Fraud Examination that focused on studying for and completing the certification requirements to become a CFE. He enjoyed the course, became certified, and is earning his master’s degree. He is looking forward to spring graduation.
“The course was very straightforward. It’s a prep course from the ACFE. They sent me a disc which tracked by progress in each of the sections and laid out exactly how the exam itself would be presented. It took some time to complete, especially with the other two classes I was taking at the time, but was not too difficult to manage,” he says. “My background in criminal justice certainly helped me with the course.”
Murray chose the Otterbein MBA program because “it was affordable and convenient but not accelerated. I did not have a business undergraduate degree, so I needed to take some prerequisites, which Otterbein offered. Also, I did not have a business background, and I wanted a program that would allow me to work through the program at my own pace, which Otterbein afforded. In comparing Otterbein to other similar programs in the area, I felt that it was the best choice for me both financially and academically,” he adds.
As Murray pushes toward graduation, he’s working through the Capstone project, written about in the last newsletter and then…
“I plan on using my new found MBA and business knowledge to look for a more suitable position. I would like to combine my criminal justice undergrad degree and work experience with my MBA knowledge to find an interesting position. We shall see!” he says.