23 Sep

Financial Investigation Software

At the heart of every financial investigation is a trail of money. And in many cases those trails are complex. They involve multiple bank accounts and thousands of transactions that are intertwined.  This voluminous financial data must be culled, analyzed, and presented in a way that proves the case, and therein lies the difficulty.

For the last forty years, investigators have relied primarily on manual processes to evaluate financial evidence. They compared accounting data to source documents, ultimately trying to prove the source and use of funds.

But this gets complicated in large cases because of the number of involved people and bank accounts. The process of understanding and organizing the flow of funds is complex, and it can take months before the parties to a case know exactly what happened to the money.

Over the last decade, advances have been made with technology to help fraud investigators analyze large volumes of financial data much faster, more efficiently, and more accurately than they can using only traditional investigative techniques. Read More

19 Sep

Why and How to Do a Lifestyle Analysis in a Divorce

In this video, Tracy Coenen explains the purpose and process behind doing a lifestyle analysis in a divorce case. There are three main reasons why a lifestyle analysis may be done:

  • To determine the amount of money needed to continue living a lifestyle consistent with the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage (This relates to child support and alimony.)
  • To find hidden sources of income
  • To find hidden assets

17 Sep

Identifying Fraud Red Flags

Would you recognize the clues that your client has been ripped off by one of its employees? Or would management conduct business as usual, blindly trusting their employees?

Companies make the mistake of not actively searching for fraud. They tend to trust their employees and trust the procedures in place to safeguard company assets.

It may be good business to trust employees and empower them to make real contributions to the growth of the company. However, it is not wise to turn a blind eye to signs that a trusted employee may be stealing. Read More

11 Sep

InteleTravel MLM “Opportunity”

PlanNet Marketing Inc. offers the InteleTravel MLM opportunity. They avoid language that would give away the fact that it is MLM, but since people recruit a downline into multiple levels, it is indeed multi-level marketing.

Participants are referred to as “independent representatives” (IR). They pay upfront and monthly fees to have an “online travel agency.” Small commissions are made from selling travel services and packages, but the amount earned on the travel sales is quite low.

According to the InteleTravel compensation plan as of September 2019: Read More

09 Sep

Protect Yourself in Your Divorce

divorce financial analysisYou know a divorce is in your future, and you owe it to yourself (and your children, if you have them) to protect yourself financially. Money isn’t everything, but it is very important when you consider your future apart from your spouse. You may or may not have the ability to support yourself. Retirement may be near, and that will require you to think carefully. You have a right to a share of the assets and income generated during the marriage, and you must take steps to protect yourself.

1. Secure funds for attorneys, other professionals, and living expenses. If you are not in control of the family’s money, it may be difficult or impossible for you to get access to funds during the divorce. It is not uncommon for the moneyed spouse (the one with the majority of the income and/or the control over the family’s money) to cut off the money so the other spouse will agree to a quick divorce settlement. Read More

05 Sep

Conducting Corporate Fraud Investigations

The unthinkable has happened. We have good employees. Our people are honest. They don’t steal from us. They’re like family. We trust them. So it goes when a company discovers a fraud from within.

Then what happens?

After the initial shock wears off, it’s time to start investigating the situation. The company must know who did it, how the fraud was committed, and what controls can be put in place to stop fraud from happening again. This is all accomplished with an effective fraud investigation. Read More

28 Aug

Quicken Software Should Not Be Used For Lifestyle Analysis

Forensic accountants and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts often use Quicken personal financial software to complete the lifestyle analysis in divorce cases. Unfortunately, Quicken is not the best option for accurately and thoroughly analyzing a couple’s finances before and during divorce.

Why is it used so often? For years, Quicken was one of the better options available for compiling and analyzing personal finances. Also, since a fair number of consumers use Quicken to manage their finances, divorcing spouses sometimes provide a Quicken file to the attorney, which may be used as a starting point for the lifestyle analysis. The drawback to this is that clients don’t always keep accurate records, and the Quicken file is often incomplete or just plain wrong.

Quicken software should not be confused with QuickBooks software, which is a software package used for small business accounting. QuickBooks can be used effectively in divorce financial analysis, while Quicken is much more limited and does not produce as good a result in terms of accuracy or usability. Note, however, that even QuickBooks may not be the best option for litigation purposes. Read More

22 Aug

Detecting Overrides of Internal Controls

Where can employees, outside consultants, and board members look for evidence of override of internal controls? This isn’t a simple list of numbers or documents that must be checked off. Instead, looking for improper override of controls requires looking for red flags that point to something being amiss.<!–more–>
<ul>
<li>Complete an analytical review, looking for unusual changes between periods in terms of dollars and percentages.</li>
<li>Look for large, round numbers that enhance the financial position, especially if these numbers just happen to occur at the end of an accounting period</li>
<li>Examine reversing entries at the beginning of an accounting period, looking for evidence that these entries relate to an improper entry at the end of the previous period</li>
<li>Determine whether transactions have been completed on an arms’ length basis, and with legitimate business partners</li>
<li>Look for evidence of undisclosed relationships or agreements</li>
<li>Listen carefully to employees who may be reporting wrongdoing or hinting that there is a problem</li>
</ul>
When examining these things there are three critical items which are the most troublesome:
<ul>
<li>Missing or altered documentation</li>
<li>Withholding of information</li>
<li>Unexplained variances in numbers</li>
</ul>
All three of these suggest something is not right. If there is nothing to hide, why are things being hidden? That is often the first clue to a much larger problem.

<strong>Trust but Verify</strong>
The key reason why employees are able to steal from companies is that the employees are trusted. That trust is obviously inherent to being able to operate a business. If you don’t trust employees to do their jobs, the business cannot accomplish anything.

However, that trust should not be blind trust. Skepticism is an essential element for everyone involved in the process of ensuring that a company’s assets are protected and the financial statements are accurate.

The skepticism must go beyond simply acknowledging that fraud risks are present in every company. Professionals must be alert to the most likely risks and must be willing to ask difficult questions and required support for the answers given. The process of asking questions might be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to get to the bottom of things.

Remember that if an executive is intent on overriding controls to cover dishonest or unethical behavior, she or he has also likely taken steps to conceal the override. These instances won’t just jump right out at you and announce themselves. Detecting the override of controls and the associated fraud or malfeasance will take a lot of work and a bit of luck. But it is nonetheless important to make the search for the override controls a regular (and important) part of the financial management of a company.

21 Aug

Auditioning For Paid Work

Do you audition for paid work?

A forensic accountant does a preliminary analysis for free. An author writes an article for free. A professional speaker gives a speech or facilitates a session at a conference for free.

We can probably all agree that SOMETIMES it makes sense to do a free gig. There may be a group you haven’t been able to get access to before or an opportunity to earn money in other ways

But how many people abuse the privilege? They think their “exposure” is enough for you to spend your precious time and not get paid or your ability to provide pro bono services is unlimited. Read More

20 Aug

Red Flags of Divorce Lies

Experienced family lawyers are familiar with the common ways spouses attempt to commit financial fraud in divorce: hiding or undervaluing assets, overstating debts, concealing income, and inflating or fabricating expenses. All of these are done in an attempt to get more than the spouse’s fair share in the property division, and to influence the amount of support that will be paid or received.

Successfully advocating for your client involves more than just knowing that these things occur during the divorce process. You must also be able to identify the red flags that indicate the financial issue(s) must be investigated further. Some are easier to spot than others, but once you have identified two or three red flags, it is time to get a forensic accountant involved. The financial analyst’s experience with fraud and deception will be invaluable in evaluating the red flags and determining if there is something of substance to investigate further.

Undisclosed Accounts
The most straightforward red flag is the discovery of undisclosed accounts. This could be direct evidence of a spouse attempting to conceal assets. However, the nature of the undisclosed account should be examined. Is it an old account that hasn’t been used in a long time? Is there little to no activity in the account? Is the balance in the account insignificant? In these situations, little weight should be given to the non-disclosure, since it is more likely an oversight. Read More